Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Story Thus Far...

Captain Thunder and Blue Bolt Vol. 2 #2 (Hero Graphics, November 1992, $3.50)
"Hard Targets" Writers/Creators: Roy and Dann Thomas, Artist: E.R. Cruz, Letterer: Jean Simek, and Editor: Dennis Mallonee.

This is an impressive comic book published by a Long Beach, California-based imprint that also published Windraven Adventures, Tigress, Murcielaga She Bat, and Flare. The "Back Issue Department" on the inside back cover suggests that there were 10 issues in the first volume of this series, and the inside front cover is dedicated to a full page of text, "The Story Thus Far..." so a lot has come before this issue.

Story aside -- and I'll return to that below -- this comic book is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Cruz's black-and-white artwork is crisp and stunning, a real find in a little-known (to me) comic like this. His extremely finely inked illustrative style would be at home almost anywhere: commercial and book illustration, pulp fiction magazines, sf digests, even the horror magazines of the '70s. What a wonderful surprise. Cruz is a Filipino artist who did a lot of mystery and war comics for DC in the '70s and '80s. Most of his work seems to be centered on G.I. Combat, House of Mystery, and The Unexpected. He is a wonderful artist, and this book is worth checking out just for that -- astonishingly detailed black-and-white comics. Pages 13, 19-20, and 26 are particularly impressive.

The story by Roy and Dann Thomas, a husband and wife team, then, is worthy of Cruz's artwork. Captain Thunder and his son are after the Merchants of Menace, causing the villains' plane to crash and catching its leader as he parachutes to safety. He leads the two heroes to a secret compound, where he bargains away the other Merchants before unleashing some sort of monstrosity, a "living vacuum cleaner," an energy-siphoning Mantis-Tank dubbed the Critical Mass.

Blue Bolt's energy is drained and Captain Thunder trapped in the construct. The issue ends with Blue Bolt revitalized and about to attempt a rescue. Even newcomers to the series and involved plot line will be impressed by Cruz's artwork, the highlight of the issue. Apparently, there was no #3.

Availability: This issue has not been collected. We recommend Alter Ego: The Best Of The Legendary Comics Fanzine and The Best of Alter Ego Vol. 2.

Nightveil #3 (Americomics, 1985, $1.75)
Script: Steve Ringgenberg, Pencils: Mark Heike, Inks: Doug Hazlewood, Colors: Reb Black, Letters: Walt Paisley, and Edits: Bill Black.

This issue was a pleasant surprise in the art department, as well. I don't know the back story of Nightveil as a character, but Americomics, or AC Comics, is Bill Black's imprint, which is still active publishing Femforce and Golden Age reprints. (Apparently, Nightveil is a member of Femforce.) At the time this was published -- this issue advertises Femforce #3, and the series is now up to #188 -- Americomics published series such as Captain Paragon, Sentinels of Justice, Black Diamond, and others. Black's comics are still worth supporting, and his reprints, though black and white, are glorious.

As is Heike's artwork in this color issue. The page layouts are inventive from the very first page, and Heike's style combines the best of '80s independents and Golden Age artwork. Heike's drawing style is extremely energetic, and his pages ably capture action as well as awe-inspiring scale and points of view. Pages 7-14 and 16-21 are exceptional -- most of the book, making this comic a need to read.

Additionally, Reb Black's coloring is also excellent, contributing to the force and impact of Heike's artwork. The whole visual package just sings in this comic: page layout, artwork, coloring -- a treat.

The story sets that all up, however, and Ringgenberg's writing doesn't disappoint. Nightveil, "mistress supreme of the white sorceries," is confronting N'Shuggoth the Unspeakable, a Lovecraftian horror that can also take the form of a man, and which plans to subjugate the Earth.

The bulk of the issue is Nightveil locked in magical and physical combat with N'Shuggoth, even in the form of Urouborous, the "never born, master of the Chthonic force." She succeeds in binding N'Shuggoth and must then face men who might be human soldiers or cultists. Pages 16-19 are just awesome.

This is a beautiful book that might interest fans of Dr. Strange or Doctor Fate. It's worth looking for. The issue also includes a letter column featuring six letters and a six-page backup story featuring the Scarlet Scorpion ("Nighttime with Nirvana," partially penciled by Erik Larsen). In that piece, the Scorpion tries to rescue Judge Diskin from some sort of BDSM session gone wrong. Looks like some kind of frame up!

While I wasn't intrigued by the Scorpion story, Nightveil definitely has potential. If all the issues are like this, it must be a mind-blowing series.

Availability: This series has not been collected, but the AC Comics store offers many Femforce and Nightveil-related titles.

Thrill Kill #1 (Caliber, 1991, $2.50)
Creator/Storyteller: Mark Winfrey and Letters: Dan McKinnon.

This issue collects material that was originally published in the first four issues of Caliber Presents. Thrill Kill, or Tyrelius Belizonz, is a curator of public safety -- kind of a Judge Dredd-like law enforcement officer -- who finds himself on the Planetentiary. He rescues Thump and his mistress Laana from some cronies of the Reverend Father, or the Faceless One. Everybody seems interested in Thrill Kill's gun, the Centuri Special.

Thrill Kill learns that Laana is the first lady of the Planetentiary's natives, who enlist him to even the odds in their struggle against the high priest. No-Noids are pretty creepy creatures!

I would read more of this. It reminds me a little of Judge Dredd, only with the tenor and tone of Nexus. Winfrey's art, though rough, is passable, and there are a few excellent moments: Laana and Thump's character designs, the group's entrance to the Eltrite city, the sketch-style flashback on page 28, and the somewhat looser goofiness of part four, "Last Rights."

Apparently, there was a three-issue series scheduled for 1991. It doesn't seem to have been published.

Availability: This issue doesn't seem to have been collected.

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