Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I review comics that nobody asked me to!
The comics I've been reading lately, I don't think ANYBODY has ever been asked to review. From what I can see, I'm writing the first (and probably the last) reviews of most of them. . .but truthfully, that's the fun part!
What we have here are what I've been calling "Off-Brand One Shots". They're single issue stories pulled from a recent massive purchase of roughly 600 NON-DC/Marvel comics bought on the cheap from a closing comic shop.
I've put a little twist in things by letting my comic lovin' daughter pick the one shots I've been taking a look at, and so far she's done a pretty good job at mixing things up. Everything from straight superhero stories, to horror, manga, comedy, and everything in between.
Let's see what she's given me this time!
ONIBA: SWORDS OF THE DEMON
ASPEN COMICS (2015)
SCRIPT: Vince Hernandez & Paolo Pantalena
PENCILS: Paolo Pantalena
COVER: Paolo Pantalena
Now THAT'S a pretty impressive cover! The colors are amazing, the main character and the dragon are very nicely detailed, and everything really pops up against the plain background. It's a little bit -tastic, but it's not done in an exploitative way (like the other covers below), so I think I can get away with putting this one up on the "Wall O'Covers" at work (I have to think twice about ANY cover with a female I put up there). I really like everything about this cover! Let's hope the story is as good.
In feudal Japan, Daimyo Nobunga Oda is a powerful and ruthless ruler. Expert swordswoman and assassin Yukiko is his most feared and trusted warrior. After helping decimate a rival clan, Yukiko begins to have doubts about her powerful Master when she secretly witnesses him sacrifice two of his own warriors while praying to something unseen.
After confiding what she's seen to a fellow warrior and friend, Akechi, he also confides that these dark doings are partly what is behind a planned coup he will be leading. Yukiko declines to join Akechi in his rebellion, but also keeps what she knows secret from her Master.
Shortly afterward, the attack Akechi warned Yukiko about comes, and after a brutal battle, Akechi confronts the fleeing Nobunga, but the fight between the two goes badly for the rebel leader. Yukiko secretly strikes the killing blow, stabbing her own Master in the back during his moment of triumph, leaving Akechi victorious. . .but the betrayal of her Master is too much for Yukiko to bear.
Beacause of her shameful secret, Yukiko leaves the clan to wander the land as masterless warrior. . .a Ronin.
I really liked this comic a lot! It has a well-written story full of action and intrigue that hints at a darker supernatural center that I want to know more about. Likewise, the main character is interesting and I want to know where her journey takes her. Unfortunately, this looks like a project that never got past this single introductory issue, which is a shame because there's a lot of great story potential here.
Admittedly, this is a story that's been told before. . .Many times before. That said "Wandering Warrior carrying a dark secret" is a classic story framework for a good reason. It's a narrative hook a writer can hang almost any kind of tale they want on. The journey of a disgraced warrior through a supernatural-tainted version of Japan is a comic series I want to read.
On the art side of things, the excellence of the cover is carried through to the inside pages. I love the uninked, sort of watercolor style the artist uses. The colors are great. The elaborate character designs are fantastic. This comic is simply a feast for the eyes! EVERY page is worth lingering over.
Overall, this comic is pure Longbox Junk gold! It has an interesting story I want more of (and sadly will never get), backed up by some incredible art. It's a shame that this is the only issue of this series that was ever put out, because I'd be on the bargain bin hunt for the rest if there were more.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one FIVE out of FIVE Yojimbo homages.
A GREAT start! Let's see what's next. . .
WITCH HUNTER #1
SCRIPT: Laurie Sutton
PENCILS: Joyce Chin
COVER: Renee Paniccia
COLORS: Roberta Conroy, Camelia , Sharleen Gaertner, Lucy Koeoeian, Edie Moses, Rebecca Maiden, Renee Paniccia, Kim Pettijohn, Alicia Rodriguez, Sheri Rohrbacher, Jacquie Roman, Serina Sahakian, Carolyn Shaver, Jennifer Schellinger, Kelli Young.
I just thought I'd point out that there's FIFTEEN color artists credited for this ONE issue! That's gotta be some sort of record. . .
Oh, boy. Nope. This one ain't going up on the office wall. It's WAY too -tastic, and not in a somewhat excusably artistic way (Like Oniba, above), but in a straight-up exploitative 90's "LOOK AT THE !" Sort of way. Setting aside the , it's a decent cover, but not great. . .like a lot of 90's covers, it definitely has the stench of Rob Liefeld's influence on it in the stretched-out proportions, impossible hair, and cybernetic arm.
Maria Delorentti (AKA Witch Hunter), an agent of the mysterious supernatural watchdog agency known as The Seventh Sign, follows a trail of clues across the city as she searches for a missing Seventh Sign agent.
Eventually, she learns the location of the agent, but must work quickly to rescue him. He is due to be sacrificed at the height of the moon, mere minutes away! Leaping into action, Witch Hunter disrupts the ceremony in progress and finds herself fighting a cult of female vampires.
Knowing that her blood is poison to vampires, Witch Hunter allows them to drink. To block out the pain, she reflects back on her life before she joined Seventh Sign. . .
Massachusetts, 1936. On her 21st birthday, Maria is attacked by evil spirits that open a portal to another world and attempt to pull her in. An agent of Seventh Sign who had been watching the house breaks his instructions to observe and report in order to save her. . .but not before her youngest sister is pulled into the portal, her mother dies from the horror, and her other sister falls comatose.
Upon hearing the news of the devastation her family has suffered, Maria swears vengeance and immediately accepts the offer to join The Seventh Sign as an agent against evil forces.
Returning back to the present, the minions of the Vampire Queen lay dead around Witch Hunter, poisoned by her blood. She confronts their leader, who knew not to drink from her, and they join in battle. After a brutal fight in the skies above the city, Witch Hunter manages to behead the Vampire Queen with her holy sword. With the cult defeated, Witch Hunter returns with the kidnapped agent to headquarters.
What we have here is a pretty lackluster story. It has a main character I just couldn't get interested in, with vaguely-defined powers that seem to match whatever the story needs her to have. The story is weak and forgettable, and is obviously just a hook to hang a comic filled with pictures of half naked women on. I always tell my daughter to never judge a comic book by its cover. . .but in this case, the cover tells you exactly what you're going to get.
Unfortunately, for a comic where the story is in service to the art, the art isn't even that great. It's okay, but lacks a sense of motion needed for a story that's basically a long fight scene with a flashback thrown in the middle. Characters look like they're posing more than moving. It's pretty obvious that posed pictures of scantily-clad women is the focus of the artist. . .and indeed, the focus of the comic in general.
Overall, what we have here is a comic book laser focused on the lowest common denominators for young men. . . and violence. The sad part is that they don't even get THAT completely right. This comic is an utterly forgettable relic of the 90's "Bad Girl" trend. There was never a #2 and it's not hard to see why.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one 2 out of 5 Liefeld-Inspired Cybernetic Arms.
One good. . .one bad. NEXT!
HOUND COMICS (2013)
SCORPIO RISING! . . .OR WAS THAT FALLING?
SCRIPT: Marcelo Bravo
PENCILS: Jed Dougherty
COVER: Jed Dougherty
In case you haven't noticed, my daughter has given me a theme with this handful of one shots. It's . She gave me all -tastic comics this time. . .Thanks, kid. Laugh it up.
That said, this isn't a bad cover. It's just one I can't even think about putting up on the office wall. It's a decent Action Comics #1 homage. I like how colorful it is, and the main character is pretty well done. Of course ALL the focus is on her (and her gigantic ultraboobs, of course), so the rest of the cover is a bit sketchy. I don't know what the is going on with the purple-faced guy on the left, but I guess as long as that impossible ultracleavage is perfectly done, the rest doesn't really matter. . .
Meteor City's local superhero, UltraVixen, goes about her daily business of keeping the city safe, fending off her rabid fan club, and keeping her secret identity as Vivian Vincent, scientific assistant, safe from discovery by her co-workers at Saber Tech Industries.
When an experimental (and unstable) Saber Tech fusion engine goes missing, the nefarious criminal organization Scorpio is the prime suspect and UltraVixen is on the case! She immediately discovers that her old enemy Doctor Faustus is the culprit and she attacks his underground base.
During the battle, Doctor Faustus unleashes the Cyborg supercriminal Stranglehold to destroy UltraVixen. Unfortunately, Stranglehold is no match for her and is easily defeated, forcing Doctor Faustus to flee the base as it collapses.
UltraVixen uses her powers to keep the fusion engine from exploding, but is unable to prevent the collapse of the underground base and the buildings above. She is buried in the wreckage, but barely manages to dig her way out. Meteor City's hero lives to fight another day!
To be honest, based on the cover I didn't really expect much from this comic. I was surprised to find myself enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would! This is actually pretty good, for what it is.
Basically, what we have here is a decent parody of sexy superhero tropes. . .hence the impossibly -tastic nature of the main character. Scattered through the whole comic are great little scenes poking fun at sexy superhero comics and their readers.
Some of my favorites include UltraVixen in her secret identity still being a 6'6 stacked blonde sporting a pair of 58 Double-Deltas that nobody pays attention to thanks to a pair of glasses. Another good one is UltraVixen's fan club that has members that jump off buildings just so they can be rescued by her (and get close up pictures of her UltraCleavage to post on the internet).
It's a very simple story, and it reads really quickly. It's not the best-written or the funniest thing I've ever read, but it's far from the worst and it got a chuckle or two out of me, which is a lot more than I can say for other comics that try to be funny. Not every joke lands, but enough of them do that this comic is a pretty good read.
On the art side, this comic has a very nice cartoony style to it. It's bright, it's clean, the colors are bold, and everything is nice and sharp. This is the perfect kind of art for a light, humorous story such as this. Yeah. . .it's extremely focused on the gigantic of UltraVixen the whole way through, but that's part of what makes this particular story good. It's gratuitous on purpose because the story itself is poking fun at comics that are nothing but gratuitous and those who read them.
Overall, this comic looks like just another gratuitous -tastic sexy superhero comic on the surface. But once you read it, you discover it's actually a parody of exactly that. It's not the best story I've ever read, but it's a decent comic that gave me a few chuckles. A nice surprise worth checking out if you should spot it in the bargain bin.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I give this one 3 out of 5 obvious Power Girl references.
WARRIOR NUN AREALA
MAXIMUM PRESS (1996)
SCRIPT: Rob Liefeld & Robert Napton
PENCILS: Dan Fraga & Michael Chang
COVER: John Stinsman
*Sigh* Well. . .at least this time things switch up a little by giving me a healthy dose of to go with my . Listen. . .I'll read comics in front of my wife. After 20 years with me, she knows what she bought into. BUT. . .that doesn't mean I want to endure any of my wife's silent mockery of my funny book habit by reading this around her.
All that aside, this is actually a pretty decent 90's style cover with an obvious Liefeld influence (Pouches!) For what it is, it's not bad. Unfortunately, it's doomed to be hidden away in a Longbox after I get done reading it for this review because it's just sort of embarrassing.
Fallen Angel Avengelyne and Catholic Warrior Nun Shannon are accidentally thrown together as they both pursue the powerful demon Sojourn as he jumps through time and space to escape them.
Eventually, the pair manage to corner Sojourn in a future version of Tokyo and are able to defeat him by combining their skills and powers. Unfortunately, Avengelyne and Shannon are trapped in a time and place not their own.
In the end, Shannon contacts Japanese Warrior Nuns who have time travel technology that can send the two Holy Warriors back to their own worlds and time.
Not really much to this story when it comes down to it. Basically, it's an extended chase/fight scene that just sort of throws the two main characters together. It's actually pretty well written, for what it is, and does a good job introducing the characters to new readers.
I'm familiar with Warrior Nun, but haven't read any Avengelyne. I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the basics of the character through the exposition given here. I think if I didn't know anything about Warrior Nun, I could say the same about her as well.
Unfortunately, aside from doing a decent job of introducing the two main characters, the enemy they are fighting and the rest of the story in general is extremely generic and just sort of bland. It's the kind of story that you completely forget about not long after you read it.
As far as the art goes, it's. . .okay. Not great, not bad. It's pretty typical 90's art that is about as forgettable as the story itself. There's a few standout panels scattered throughout, but not enough of them to make this story visually memorable as the tale of two Holy Warriors chasing a demon through time and space SHOULD be.
Overall, what we have here is a pretty forgettable comic. It's written well and does a decent job introducing the characters, but beyond that it doesn't try too hard. Likewise, the art is decent and even has a few good moments here and there, but doesn't really try to be excellent in any way.
Unless you're an Avengelyne or Warrior Nun completionist, I'd say you'll be fine if you skip this one.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one 2 out of 5. . .I forget what I was going to say here.
And finally. . .
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
SCRIPT: Marat Mychaels & Robert Loren Fleming
PENCILS: Marat Mychaels
COVER: Rob Liefeld
I have to admit that for a 90's Liefeld cover, this one isn't bad at all. I'm still not reading it in front of my wife and it's way too -tastic to go on the wall at work, but I like this one. It has some great colors that really pop against the dark background, and by focusing on one character it's not as cluttered as many of Liefeld's covers tend to be.
Once a member of Super-Team Brigade, the warrior called Lethal has been thrown into a strange possible future world of peace and love, where she has been slowly going crazy for lack of action and adventure for the past three years.
Determined to escape back to her own world, Lethal has been building a super-computer to help her find anyone working on time travel. She finally discovers a "Project Chronos" and decides to investigate.
As she infiltrates the top secret project, Lethal finds herself battling her way through deadly combat robots instead of the non-violent robot police she is used to dealing with, which convinces her she's on the right track.
Finally arriving at the time machine itself, Lethal intercepts communications letting her know that the creator lured her there on purpose to test the device before using it to change the past. Lethal ponders destroying the machine, even though it would trap her forever in the strange possible future she's been living in. Suddenly, she is attacked by a mysterious woman!
The End. To be continued?
This is a strange little relic. It's part of Image's (then) ongoing superhero continuity spun off from the "Brigade" series that is supposed to tell what happened in the years between the main character disappearing during a battle with a villain called Crypt and when Image brought the character back (Thanks, Wikipedia!) But this issue is all there is, even though there's an obvious "To be continued" tag on the final page. In other words, yet ANOTHER off-brand unfinished project.
So what we have here is basically just a sort of story fragment that assumes that the reader knows everything about (then current) Image continuity and the main character. There's a bit of exposition to be had, but without hitting Wikipedia, this comic is pretty much unreadable except for the bare-bones understanding that you've got some sort of scantilly-clad warrior woman kicking and stabbing ninja robots in order to steal a ride in a time machine.
The art here is decent. Nothing great, but there are a few pretty nice panels here and there. It's Liefeld-inspired Image House Style straight from the publisher's "We want to be Marvel!" days, which is to say that there's a major focus on Lethal's crotch as she kicks her way through the various battles that makes this comic even less office-readable than the others in this handful.
Gratuitous crotch shots aside, the WORST part of the art is the -Awful coloring. The coloring in this comic is so garish on most pages that it sort of made me want to just not read it at all.
Overall, this comic is practically unreadable. It fills a hole in Image continuity that casual readers probably won't even be aware exists, and even if you DO find yourself interested, the story is unfinished. The art has colors that make your eyes bleed and just makes you wonder how the that tiny strip of floss stays in place on Lethal's crotch during battles. Look. . .never mind. Just skip this one. Trust me.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I give this one 2 out of 5 mysteriously clingy strips of spandex.
First, I would like to thank my daughter for handing me a batch of comics I couldn't read at work or in front of my wife because of their covers alone. Expect some form of hilarious (to me) revenge at an unspecified future date long after you've forgotten reading this.
THAT aside, this was a pretty mixed bag. There were some really unexpected surprises to be found in Oniba and UltraVixen, which were both a lot better than I thought they would be, but the rest were pretty forgettable stories hanging firmly on the hook of the lowest common denominators of and violence in the artwork.
Up Next. . .
That's right. MORE off-brand one shots!
I'm hoping for less and more story this time.
Be there or be square!