Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews that nobody ever asked for!
This time out, I'm going to take a look at another handful of one shot issues that were included with my recent purchase of a massive pile (about 600 issues) of non-DC/Marvel comics. I've let my daughter pick the ones to review, and I have to say that I was a little disappointed with what she gave me last time.
I'm crossing my fingers for better luck with this batch. . .so enough introduction, let's get right into it!
Arcade Comics (2005)
SCRIPT: Rob Liefeld & Brandon Thomas
PENCILS: Jon Malin
COVER: Jon Malin
Hmmm. . .okay. Not bad. Not great, but it's pretty good in that signature "in your face" 90's-Tastic way. Rob Liefeld is the writer on this one and not the artist, but I can definitely see his influence here in all the straps, spikes, giant guns and all around shiny metal look of things. . .as well as in the general composition and posing of the characters. This cover simply screams "THE 90'S!!" at me.
Wait. What? This comic isn't from the 90's, it's from 2005? Ohhhhhh. . .okay then. My mistake. Ha-Ha! You got me! Heh. . .heh. *sigh* Let's take a look inside.
The Nitros, a team of young superpowered heroes, have rebelled against the morals of the past generation of heroes that taught them to use their powers for the good of humanity. Instead they have embraced the path of power and follow the commands of hero-turned villain Zang.
Under Zang's ruthless leadership, the younger generation uses their intimate knowledge of the older heroes to easily defeat them. . .but in their overconfidence, they don't understand that there were things that the older generation never taught them or told them about because they were too dangerous.
One of the few remaining heroes of the past uses this knowledge and desperately opens a hole in the time-space continuum through which a horde of strange beings come through to confront the young rebels.
The End. . .to be continued?
As I read this comic, I was struck by the similarities between it and "Jupiter's Legacy", by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. . .which came out 8 years after this in 2013. The resemblance is mostly in the subject of a younger generation of heroes turning against their mentors, and Jupiter's Legacy is a superior look at the subject, but I still found it pretty interesting to see a Rob Liefeld-written version of Jupiter's Legacy that came out a decade earlier.
THAT SAID. . .
Rob Liefeld isn't exactly known for his great writing, and he's certainly no Mark Millar. The writing on this isn't great. It's not awful, but it's not great. It's just sort of "pretty good". Reading this will take you right back to the 90's like it's a paper time machine. People shout about their powers to each other in the middle of fights, for example.
I have to admit that the plot itself was pretty interesting if you can look past all the shouting, but even though it ends on a "To Be Continued" note, this is it. It seems to be the first issue of an unfinished project. Sort of a shame because there's actually some potential to be good here.
As far as the art goes. . .it's even more of a trip back to the 90's "We want to be like Marvel!" Image team books than the writing. Rob Liefeld isn't given any art credit here, but he probably should have been for inspiration alone!
Like the cover, Liefeld's influence is all over the place in the exaggerated proportions, overly-elaborate costumes, spiky hair, and constantly-exposed teeth of the characters. The pages are so cluttered with action that it's sometimes hard to keep track of what's going on. The art is actually well done for what it is. Simply put it's 90's-Tastic in every good AND bad way that it can be.
Overall, I actually enjoyed this one. It's not the best-written comic ever, but it does have a decent premise, some nice 90's-style art, and the potential to be a good story. Unfortunately, this is all there is of it, so there's really no way to see where it went.
I'll give this one 3 out of 5 costumes with useless straps and gigantic shoulder pads.
SCRIPT: Christina Z.
PENCILS: Leonardo Manco
COVER: Leonardo Manco
I'm a big fan of Leonardo Manco's art, and seeing his name on the cover of this makes me very happy. . .BUT. . .this cover isn't his best work. It's dark and muddled and the main character's face just looks strange. There's a lot of wasted space in the frame and logo area. This isn't the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic book. I hope whatever's inside is better. Let's check it out!
When a desperate young man seeks aid from the mysterious Alexandre Darque to save his dying mother, he is taken on a nightmarish and dangerous journey to the darkest edges of the Valiant Universe to retrieve three artifacts.
Unfortunately, even though his mother is saved, he learns that he was just a in Darque's twisted games. The artifacts he risked his sanity for weren't to save his mother at all, but to give Darque a glimpse into the future end of the world and what part Alexandre Darque will play in it.
The End. . .to be continued.
Like Nitrogen above, I was actually reminded of another story while reading this hefty double-sized issue. This time it was DC's 1990 Books of Magic mini-series, where fledgling magician Timothy Hunter is led through the occult side of the DC Universe by characters like John Constantine and Phantom Stranger, with cameos of various other DC mystic characters along the way.
The mysterious, mystical, self-serving title character resembles John Constantine in a very obvious way (even in appearance). The resemblance is barely copyright-dodging enough that this could have EASILY been a Hellblazer comic as Darque leads an unsuspecting young man through mystical realms and meets characters like Shadowman, The Eternal Warrior, and Turok.
Setting aside the very obvious. . .I'll kindly call them "influences". . . this isn't a bad story at all. Like Books of Magic, it serves as a good introduction to the dark corners of Valiant's recently (at the time) rebooted universe through the eyes of a relatable non-powered character. The ending makes it clear that there is a lot more to the tale (there was a follow-up 4 issue series called Darque Passages), but despite that, this is a complete and pretty enjoyable story in itself.
When talking about the cover above, I mentioned that I'm a fan of Leonardo Manco's art, but that the cover was disappointing. The good news is that the interior art here is simply amazing! Manco's signature darkly-inked and supremely-detailed style is definitely the star of THIS show, and (in my extremely humble opinion) is reason enough alone to pick this comic up! Just look at the awesome full-pager above and know that Manco was the PERFECT artist for a story like this.
Overall, even though the story is highly derivative of Books of Magic and the main character is a discount version of John Constantine, I liked this issue for the guided tour through the dark side of the Valiant Universe. Throw in some fantastic artwork that fits the mystical and sometimes horrific story perfectly and this one's a winner!
I'll give this one 4 out of 5 copyright-dodging differences.
SON OF THE BEAST
Antarctic Press (1997)
SCRIPT: Miki (Miljenko) Horvatic
PENCILS: Esad Ribic
COVER: Esad Ribic
Yep. . .there it is, front and center, folks. The Boo-Tay!
I actually like this cover quite a bit for the way the main character is contrasted against a plain background. I've always liked covers that use this method. Shotgun Mary is nicely-painted and detailed as well. I also like the unusual pose of her looking over her shoulder. I'd let this one take a turn on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" on my office wall at work, but I don't feel like having to go to an awkward HR appointment to talk about it.
BONUS: Good News! I seem to have come into an extremely-limited "Gold Seal" Variant of this comic, of which I am now the proud owner of 1 of only 100 copies out there! The bad news is that nobody cares and it's still not worth a (less than 10 bucks). *sigh* Moving along. . .
Renegade former Warrior Nun "Shotgun" Mary Delacroix follows a trail of victims with their hearts torn out into the desolate desert after learning that the sacrificial murders are meant to attract her attention. After purposely walking into a demon's trap, Mary is offered a chance to join the forces of . She declines with a combination of faith and firepower, defeating the demon and moving on to the next target in her lonely mission. . .
I'm familiar with Shotgun Mary from Antarctic's "Warrior Nun" comics, and I generally like the character. She's a bit derivative of Marvel's Punisher, but with a Catholic religious angle that sets her against demons instead of criminals.
This one shot puts Mary in full violent "Religious Punisher" mode in a fast-reading, action-heavy story that moves from point A to B to C very quickly and without any background material at all. . .so this one is NOT for new readers, but for existing fans. If you don't already know what Shotgun Mary is about, this ain't the place to start.
That said, despite the extremely thin story, I liked this quite a bit. It's fast. . .it's simple. . .it's not deep or complicated. It's Shotgun Mary purposely walking into a trap in order to kill a demon. That's it. Sometimes you just want a simple story and this one shot serves up just that.
On the art side of things, I was pleasantly surprised to find this to be a fully-painted comic. I'm a bit more used to Manga-Style artwork in Antarctic comics. . .especially their earlier offerings from the 90's. The art here is nicely-detailed and richly-colored. It's not the BEST painted art I've ever seen, but it looks great and definitely takes the issue up a notch in quality.
Overall, this is a fast-paced and simple page-turner with some unusual (for Antarctic) painted art. As an existing fan of the main character, I liked it quite a bit. If you're not familiar with Shotgun Mary, this isn't a great introduction.
I'll give this one 4 out of 5 scorched Rosary Beads.
AND FINALLY. . .
Rock-It Comix (1993)
THE QUEEN OF HEAVY METAL
SCRIPT: Lita Ford, Laurel Fishman & Roland Mann
PENCILS: Jim Balent
COVER: Jim Balent
Allrighty, then! It's a nicely painted depiction of 80's rocker Lita Ford proudly showing off the OTHER two reasons she's famous beyond her ONE hit song! Okay, two songs. . .if you count her sappy duet with Ozzy Osbourne where he's singing like he's reluctantly paying up on a lost bet.
I have to admit that this IS a pretty metal cover. Too bad Lita Ford ain't metal. Still, I'm liking all the skulls and the general throwback album cover look of it. Wait. . .is that a WIENER DOG bottom left? What the ?
Good news! My copy of this comic is signed by writer Roland Mann.
Bad News! A signed copy of this comic STILL isn't worth !
Shortly before a concert at Madison Square Garden, rocker Lita Ford breaks her guitar but is given a new one by a mysterious stranger who claims the guitar has unusual powers. In the meantime, Libby Snore. . .head of the P.M.R.C. and wife of Congressman Al Snore. . .is plotting to destroy the sinful Lita Ford at the very same concert.
As Lita and her band take the stage, Libby Snore uses black magic to open a gate to , releasing demons that possess her Young Republican followers. . .who attack the band and their fans. As the demons attack, Lita's guitar transforms her into a heavy metal super-hero!
Using her new powers, Lita is able to defeat the Young Republican Demons and confront Libby Snore, forcing her to close the gate to . Lita transforms back to her regular self and Libby Snore promptly has her arrested for starting a riot. Lita's manager bails her out of jail and we are assured that the story hasn't ended yet.
The End. . .to be continued?
Oh Lawd. What the did I just read?
I don't even know where to begin with just how bad this is, but here goes.
At the heart of it, this is less of a story and more of a protest rant against the PMRC, which (for anyone under the age of 45 reading this) was an organization started in 1985 by Elizabeth (Libby) Gore that is responsible for those "Parental Advisory" labels that still adorn album covers today and the main censorship supervillain for heavy metal and rap music at the time.
The PMRC is practically forgotten today, except in some songs from the era protesting it and relics like this comic. But at the time, it was a pretty big deal complete with congressional hearings and all the associated hoopla censorship generally garners when it rears its ugly head in the US of A.
In other words, this is a comic that is stuck so firmly in a specific political moment in time that it's practically unreadable today. It doesn't help that even if it wasn't a heavy-handed censorship protest thinly disguised as a comic book, it's very poorly written. The "plot" is forced to fit the message instead of writing the story around the message in a more natural way.
Things happen for no reason except to address specific points of PMRC censorship, so the whole thing just feels forced and preachy. . .which is just strange for something that's supposedly AGAINST an organization that's forced and preachy!
To make matters worse, unless you're someone who even REMEMBERS the PMRC, what little narrative drive this comic does have will be completely meaningless because all that's left of the PMRC are those little parental advisory stickers.
As far as the art goes. . .it's okay. It tells the story, but beyond a hard focus on Lita Ford's mostly-naked body, there's nothing remarkable about it. It's not the worst art I've ever seen, but it certainly doesn't try too hard either.
Overall, this comic book is a sort of embarrassing relic of the time. It features a one hit wonder fighting against a censorship organization that nobody cares about today and leans pretty heavily on being full of pictures of a scantily-clad woman drawn in an extremely average way. Just read Red Sonja instead. . .at least you usually get a decent story that doesn't preach at you along with your sexy pictures.
Beyond the story, there's a pretty extensive interview with Lita Ford that's actually pretty interesting, as well as a discography. . .who knew she had enough songs to fill not one, but TWO "greatest hits" albums? So if you're a Lita Ford fan, you might get some extra mileage out of this. But if you just grab this from the bargain bin because of the -tastic cover and expect a good story or great art, you're gonna be pretty disappointed.
I give this one 1 out of 5 spiky leather bras.
Hoo-Boy. My daughter gave me a mixed bag with this batch!
I'd say the theme this time was reading one thing and being reminded of another. From Nitrogen being a 90's-Tastic Liefeld version of Jupiter's Legacy, to Master Darque being THIS close to being a Valiant version of Books of Magic starring a bargain bin John Constantine, to Shotgun Mary basically being a Religious Female version of The Punisher that kills demons instead of criminals.
Of the four, I'd say my favorite was Master Darque. Yeah. . .it's really close to being a straight up copy of Books of Magic, but that Leonardo Manco art though! The worst was Lita Ford. It's amazing just HOW bad that comic is. But that one bad apple aside, the other three were actually decent reads.
Up Next. . .
only knows what my daughter will give me next.
MORE off-brand one shots!
Be there or be square.