Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fandom at Its Finest

Marvel Tales #146 (Marvel, December 1982, 60 cents)
"The Man Called Electro" Written by: Stan Lee, Illustrated by: Steve Ditko, Lettered by: Art Simek, Colored by: Andy Yanchus.

Yep, this is the same comic as Spider-Man Classics #10, reprinted 12 years prior. I actually prefer the Marvel Tales reprints because of the color and paper combination—the palette is closer to that of the original comics. Also, later reprints are often reprints of earlier reprints—rather than the original comic. (For example, check p. 1 of this issue and of Spider-Man Classics #10, and look for the reprint notice caption box. In the latter comic, they kept the box but nixed the text!)

The letter column is awesome... people commenting on 1960s comics based on the '80s reprints. This is fandom at its finest.

Read Also: Marvel Tales #145.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

As Perfect as Comics Can Be

Spider-Man Classics #5 (Marvel, August 1993, $1.25)
"Nothing Can Stop the Sandman!" By: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Coloring: Andy Yanchus.

This comic reprints Amazing Spider-Man #4, a 29-page story that introduces the Sandman. After being frustrated by a handful of hoodlums who've "got larceny written all over you" but don't actually commit a crime, Spider-Man approaches a man climbing up a fire escape ladder—only to meet the Sandman. His mask torn in the scuffle, Peter Parker has to get away so he isn't recognized.

The Sandman robs a bank, and a news announcer recounts his origin on the TV news. On the run from the police, the villain hides in a nearby high school, where he again meets Spider-Man, who tricks and traps the criminal.

Lee and Ditko's early Spider-Man issues are about as perfect as comics can be. They've been reprinted widely over the years, and this series—while worth reading—is no better than the Marvel Tales reprints. Chris Marrinan contributed a new cover for the newsstand, and the original cover is reproduced after the story. The new cover doesn't make the comic any better, and the color-paper combination is not as strong as Marvel Tales.

Regardless, what a comic!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Early Adventures

Spider-Man Saga #1 (Marvel, November 1991, $2.95)
Written: Glenn Herdling, Colored: Renee Witterstaetter, Cover: Steve Lightle.

Herdling's the guy to write this summary comic, for sure. Even though he was more of a Hulk fan than a Spider-Man reader, he first encountered Spidey in Marvel Team-Up #27—and later served as Jim Salicrup's assistant on the Spider-Man books. As such, he researched all of the character's early adventures in Marvel Tales and Marvel Masterworks, as well as via the Official Marvel Index to the Amazing Spider-Man.

This issue, the first of four, covers the history of the comic up to #100. More similar to The Marvel Saga series' design and layout than Secret Invasion Saga, the comic combines summary text and exposition with panel reproductions. The art draws on work done by Steve Ditko, John Romita, John Buscema, Don Heck, Fred Hembeck, and others.

Overall, it's an easy read. While slow and patchy in parts—not all years of a comic's run will be important or interesting years, and not all runs have key issues—the panel reproductions are particularly worthwhile. My one recommendation for future Saga projects is that panel art be credited with issue number references. Comics like this could inspire back issue sales, as well as digital comic sales.

I don't think a comic like this would work today, however; such information is more freely available. But as a way to catch up on a character's history, as a way to dive right in, this is a wonderful resource. Regardless, I'd rather read the actual comics.

Availability: This comic has not been collected. We recommend Amazing Spider-Man: Official Index to the Marvel Universe.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Nanotech Warsuits

The Shield #1 (DC, November 2009, $3.99)
"Kicking Down the Door, Part 1" Script: Eric Trautmann, Pencils: Marco Rudy, Inks: Nick Gray, Colors: Art Lyon, Letters: Sam Cipriano.

While I was aware of DC's 1991-1992 Impact Comics line of MLJ comics licensed from Archie, I missed the late 2000's license, which revived the Shield—now named Joe Higgins—and another hero, the Web. In this first issue, the Shield skydives into the Al-Hadidiyah Mountains on the border between Bialya and Kahndaq. He tries to approach a village undetected, but is ambushed by a young soldier.

The soldier takes the Shield to the mullah, who directs him to the stronghold of the insurgents—and asks him to leave the village alone. "Our culture is in ruins... but at least the Americans have brought us comic books." The Shield encounters a small team of Americans who've gone missing, and they fire on him—just before Magog shows up.

The comic addresses some interesting ideas: Superheroes as threats and killers rather than saviors, nanotech warsuits, and the use value—or lack thereof—of cultural propaganda. This issue also includes a 10-page backup story featuring Inferno (interesting!), written by Brandon Jerwa and drawn by Greg Scott; as well as a six-page preview of REBELS Annual: Starro the Conqueror #1.

Availability: This issue was collected in The Shield Vol. 1: Kicking Down the Door.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The History of the Skrulls

Secret Invasion Saga (Marvel, April 2008, free)
This freebie context setter would have been useful while reading New Avengers: Illuminati and Incredible Hercules #120—and will be useful to anyone exploring or revisiting the Secret Invasion event from a decade ago. Written by John Rhett Thomas based on research done by Jeph York, the 32-page synopsis incorporates exposition in the form of a briefing compiled by SHIELD's Maria Hill for Iron Man, combined with reproduced art from the original comics.

The text is laid out in pretty horrible computer typography, but it's still interesting reading. The issue covers most of the history of the Skrulls, at least in terms of how it relates to the Secret Invasion storyline. The artwork, a mix of new and old—with some original work for the framing introduction—has been edited and recolored, so it's not entirely true to the original publications. Artists range from John Byrne to Jim Cheung, with plenty of creators in between.

Similar in style to Marvel Saga, this kind of approach to a forthcoming event is an interesting idea, akin to best-of books like Wolverine Vs. the Marvel Universe.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Accosted by Aliens

Pitt #1 (Image, January 1993, $1.95)
"Fight and Flight!" Pencils and inks: Dale Keown, Writer: Brian Hotton, Letterer: Chance Wolf, Colorist: Joe Chiodo.

The Detroit chapter of the Vipers motorcycle gang are "makin' the rounds" when they encounter a broad-shouldered mysterious figure who ends up having glowing red eyes, claws—and the ability to toss around motorcycles and take a blast from a shotgun. This, it seems, is Pitt.

Meanwhile, a young boy in Connecticut wakes from a nightmare. Police officers are investigating a superhuman they think might be a "Youngblood," examining a train car damaged in a fight—when they are accosted by aliens.

Having just come off working on The Incredible Hulk with Peter David before joining Image, Keown's book is a little heavy on the Hulk-style character design and action, but the alien assassin plot line seems promising, if underdeveloped in this first issue. (Who is the Seer? What are the Creed?)

Hotton's writing works well with Keown's art, and the issue is capped by a couple of pinups, including one by Sam Kieth.

Read Also: Youngblood #4.

Availability: This issue was collected in Correspondence of William Pitt Volume 1. You can check out Keown's start on the Hulk in Incredible Hulk Visionaries - Peter David, Vol. 5.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Trained Bird

Hawkman #17 (DC, December 1966, 12 cents)
"Ruse of the Robbing Raven!" Story: Gardner Fox, Art: Murphy Anderson.

The first of two stories in this issue, this 12-page piece riffs off of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," featuring a Poe scholar named Eddie Powe and a silly villain called, well, the Raven. For 16 years, Joey Makk has nursed a grudge against Powe for showing "me up before my gang" and not letting him steal his family's rent money using a trained bird. Makk, now a costumed villain—"Now to put on this raven outfit I use to conceal my identify rom the gang I've gathered around me—so they can never betray me."—has given Powe a trained bird as a gift... and to eavesdrop on his activities.

Once Makk learns that Powe possesses a heretofore undiscovered Poe manuscript, he plans to steal it. Hawkman intervenes, and Makk embarrasses Powe on television, discrediting him as a scholar. Makk tries to sell the manuscript to a fence, but Hawkman—with the help of Makk's trained bird, oddly—intervenes again. The Poe theme is slightly off putting, but if it turned on at least one reader to check out Poe in 1966, more power to Fox. Anderson's artwork is able and workmanlike.

"Enigma of the Escape-Happy Jewel Thieves" Story: Gardner Fox, Art: Murphy Anderson.
Another 12 pager, this story features Hawkman and Hawkgirl's encounter with four thieves who seem particularly adept at eluding capture. In the end, it's as simple as hired decoys: "We're members of the City Cycle Club. Some man paid us ten bucks each to race to the Mumford Art Gallery—go in the doorway—then after a while race out and speed off in four different directions!"

The gang plans to kill Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but a jeweled pistol dropped by our heroes—and picked up by the villains—on p. 2 leads our crimefighters to the criminals. This series of crimes seems a little down market for a prince of Thanagar, but who can say. The issue also features a one-page letter column including four letters of comment.

Availability: Both stories were collected in Showcase Presents Hawkman TP Vol 02.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Deadpool #19-21 (Marvel, April-May 2010, $2.99)
"Whatever a Spider Can" Writer: Daniel Way, Penciler: Carlo Barberi, Inkers: Juan Vlasco and Sandu Florea, Colorist: Marte Gracia, Cover artist: Jason Pearson, Letterer: VC's Joe Sabino.

I'm not the biggest fan of Deadpool. I don't find the idea behind the character compelling, I don't often need Impossible Man or Ambush Bug-like comic book slapstick as a reader (although I like both those characters!), and I've avoided much of the character's publication history. Regardless, I sometimes dip into the comic to reaffirm whether my take remains the same. This three-issue Spider-Man crossover is actually worth reading.

It helps that Spider-Man is in the book. It also helps that... Hit-Monkey is in the book. Yes, Hit-Monkey. First appearing in an online comic that was later published in print—and then appearing in these three issues, as well as three-issue miniseries—Hit-Monkey is a little used character that could have longer legs. I hope we see more of him.

The cover to #20 is particularly fun, as is p. 14, and pp. 19-22 of that issue. In #21, p. 13 is wonderful. Way's writing is fun and light throughout, focusing primarily on gastrointestinal humor. "Why are you so sad?"

Read Also: Amazing Spider-Man #611 and Deadpool #10.

Availability: These issues were collected in Deadpool, Vol. 4: Monkey Business. We also recommend Hit-Monkey.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Puritan Pistolier

Solomon Kane: Red Shadows #1-2 (Dark Horse, April-May 2011, $3.50)
"Skulls in the Stars" Script: Bruce Jones, Artist: Rahsan Ekedal, Color artist: Dan Jackson, Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft, Cover artist: Guy Davis, Cover colors: Dave Stewart.

Based on the work of Robert E. Howard, these comics—whole numbers 10-11 in a series, and the first two parts of "Red Shadows"—adapt the short story "Skulls in the Stars," which was originally published in Weird Tales in January 1929. In #1, Solomon Kane is on his way to Torkertown, when he comes to a fork in the road. One path leads through the moors, and the other meanders along a longer route.

Locals avoid the shorter, more direct path because of "certain death by night" and "something unspeakable." Of course, the Puritan pistolier Kane takes the less-traveled route, encountering "some hellish figure" that flees when provoked by mentions of God and heaven—and presented with the shadow of a cross. A young boy helps Kane to the hut of a miserly hermit named Ezra, who conspires to steal his gold necklace.

In #2, Kane vows to track down Le Loup, a bandit and rapist. This issue is based on the story "Red Shadows," first published in Weird Tales in August 1928—the first Solomon Kane story. Le Loup almost escapes.

Truth be told, these comics are worth getting for the Guy Davis covers alone—wonderful images, and suggestive that he'd be a good fit as penciler generally. As it is, Ekedal's artwork is fine, with #1 including several solid pictures of the three-skulled wraith in the moor and a wonderful p. 20. #2's p. 5 and 19 also resonate, but the artwork is a little too cartoony-realistic for what could be a darkly dense and brooding noir fantasy... closer to Howard's original writing.

Availability: These two issues were collected in Solomon Kane Volume 3: Red Shadows. We also recommend The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, which highlights Howard's original short stories.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Multi-Team X-Book?

Cyberforce #2 (Image, March 1993, $1.95)
"The Tin Men of War, Part Two": Pencils/inks: Marc Silvestri, Script: Eric Serge Silvestri, Colors: Joe Chiodo, Letters: Mike Heisler, Color Separator: Olyoptics, Editor: Cynthia Sullivan.

Bounty hunters (including Ballistic and Killjoy) threaten Velocity's wellbeing just before Cyberforce arrives to rescue her, and the two groups clash. During the combat, Stryker finds two lost children, Chip and Timmie. There are a couple of false endings to the battle—Stryker getting the drop on Ballistic, then Megawatt on Stryker, and then Heatwave snatching Velocity—but in the end, Cyberforce is not defeated.

They decide to relocate Cyber-Tek's Advanced Robotics Division given the attack, and readers—who perhaps haven't read #1—learn that Timmie is an android. "A truly intelligent machine like Timmie couldn't function without [feelings]." Meanwhile, having obtained two small computer disks, Splitzkrieg, Wyldfyre, and Slam pretty much bump into Velocity and Timmie at the grocery store—deciding to kidnap them. "You never know when we might need some hostages."

Not having read #1, this issue is mostly an exercise in learning the characters for me. Who are these people? What the heck are they doing? Having come off of Wolverine to join Image, Silvestri's art is very similar to what one might expect from an X-Men book, and the series largely feels like a multi-team X-book. At least so far. Silvestri's art does please with several one- to three-panel pages and two-page spreads, and it's neat to see so many large-scale panels.

Notable and worth reading because of Image's history and evolution over time. There's also a four-page letter column that features fan art. They even offer fan art guidelines to encourage submissions: "We can only consider Cyberforce characters in black and white for publication. Please do not send originals unless you do not want them back! Good photocopies are OK!"

Availability: This issue was collected in Cyberforce: The Tin Men of War.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Demonic Dimensions

The Darkness: First Look (Top Cow, November 2007, 99 cents)
"Empire, Part One: Nightfall" Writer: Phil Hester, Penciler: Michael Broussard, Inker: Ryan Winn, Colorist: Matt Milla, Letters: Troy Peteri, Design: Chaz Riggs, Editor: Rob Levin.

This 16-page inexpensive comic is a preview of the 2008 Top Cow/Image series featuring the character created by Marc Silvestri, Garth Ennis, and David Wohl. Mafia hitman Jackie Estacado becomes possessed by the Darkness, an elemental force that can bridge to demonic dimensions. Dating back to the Christian creation story, the Darkness has existed since there was light, resenting it and "looking for purchase in the hearts of men" throughout history.

Estacado finds himself in Sierra Munoz, entertaining "a little friendly company"—though reluctant—over dinner before his waiter explodes and the Darkness is yet again called on. Broussard's artwork is standard early Image fare even 15 years in, reminding me of Rob Liefeld and Marc Silvestri. There's a fun Solomon Kane-like character in pp. 2-3's spread, and the hand holding on p. 8 reminds me a little of Tim Vigil. But I don't really find the character concept compelling.

I find characters like this strange. The title must have sold because it lasted for awhile, and artists and writers other than the creators took on the work for subsequent series. But did the Darkness really warrant so many Marvel and DC crossovers, and a video game? I don't get it.

Availability: This one shot is collected in The Darkness Accursed Volume 1. The character debuted about a decade prior, now collected in The Darkness: Coming of Age, Vol. 1.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Trial By Fire

Daredevil #511 (Marvel, December 2010, $2.99)
Writer: Andy Diggle, Art: Roberto De La Torre, Colors: Matt Hollingsworth, Letters: VC's Joe Caramagna, Cover Art: John Cassaday and Laura Martin.

Published during the fourth month of the Shadowland storyline, the story arc was already well underway, so this issue is kind of a trial by fire. In Hell's Kitchen, the Hand has withdrawn to their castle, and citizens are rioting. Mayor Jonah Jameson sends in the riot police as Dakota North, private investigator ("One side, jackholes!"), looks for Foggy Nelson in the crowd. She meets up with NYPD Detective Alex Kurtz, and they discuss what's been happening in the city—helpful exposition—before North remembers a friend needing help.

Wheelchair-bound Becky tries to get out of a building filling with gas fumes while Nelson bravely scales the walls and roof of the castle to save his friend Matt Murdock. North rescues Becky, but Nelson encounters the White Tiger (p. 19, last panel, meow!), who takes him before what seems to be a possessed Daredevil.

Despite its island in the stream nature as a standalone read, the issue is a fun read. De La Torre's art is grittily realistic and adequately dark for the subject matter, and the action passable without the longer story arc.

According to a U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation in this issue, Marvel printed about 46,000 copies of each monthly issue of Daredevil in the 12 months leading up to Sept. 30, 2010.

Availability: This issue has been collected in Daredevil: Shadowland Omnibus and the trade paperback Daredevil: Shadowland. We also recommend the original Dakota North: Design for Dying miniseries.

This issue comes from the Henry's Green Cape collection of comics. Thank you for your donation!