Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!
I've said it before and I'm gonna say it again. Of all the different kinds of comic books out there, I'd have to say that my ultimate favorite is the one-shot. To me, the one shot is a supreme test for a creative team.
By giving a team one and ONLY one issue to tell a complete tale, their storytelling ability is put to the test. There's nowhere to hide. No room for error. To fail the test is easy, and actually pretty common. There's PLENTY of bad one-shots haunting the bargain bins. But when a team succeeds? It's often pure Longbox Junk gold!
So let's take a look at a random handful of one-shot comics rescued from the bargain bin and given a moment in the Longbox Junk spotlight. Will they pass the test of giving the reader a good story in such a limited space? Or will they fail to make the grade?
Let's find out!
ONE-SHOTS (Part 1)
STAR WARS SPECIAL: C-3PO
COVER: Tony Harris
The Phantom Limb
SCRIPT: James Robinson
PENCILS: Tony Harris
If you're a big Star Wars fan like me, I think you'll agree that this cover is one SWEET piece of art! A simply fantastic painted portrait of C-3P0 with warm colors that grab the eye and don't let go. I really like how Tony Harris left some of the brush marks visible on the painting, making it imperfect, yet perfect at the same time. This is just a great Star Wars cover! Let's get inside.
After their ship crash lands on a hostile planet, leaving no human survivors, C-3P0 and a motley group of droids (including a captured First Order protocol droid with vital information leading to the location of an important Resistance prisoner) must work together as they make their way across the dangerous world to a homing beacon that will lead the Resistance to their location.
During the journey, C-3P0's companions fall one by one to the creatures and natural hazards along the way, until there is only him and the First Order droid left. Finally in sight of the homing beacon, but prevented from reaching it by a deadly acid rain, the First Order droid gives Threepio the information the Resistance needs, then sacrifices himself by going into the rain to activate the beacon.
When the Resistance shows up to rescue him, C-3P0 takes the only thing left of the First Order droid, his arm, and uses it to replace his own (which was torn off during a battle with a creature during their journey) as a way to pay tribute to the enemy that became his friend.
So there's a tiny moment in "The Force Awakens" when C-3P0 is first shown and he has a red arm and he points it out. It's never mentioned again. This is basically the story behind that 10 seconds of film.
Star Wars has always been a little strange about having to have a background for EVERY character and thing that shows up on screen, but despite this being created to fill in a tiny little detail that's never mentioned again, James Robinson delivers a really good story!
The scenes where Threepio and his First Order protocol counterpart discuss how their memories have been wiped so many times over the decades that the wipes no longer completely work and they have been left with vague memories of past lives is really interesting, and is something that made me think of the droid characters in Star Wars in sort of a whole new way. Not bad for a one-shot comic meant to fill in a tiny plot hole that nobody really asked (as far as I know) to be filled.
As far as the art goes, Tony Harris does a stellar job! Get it? Stellar? Never mind. His thick inks, wonderful colors, and interesting, cinematic angles really bring this story to life! I was a big fan of Harris' (And Robinson's) work on Starman, and this comic reminds me why.
Overall, this first one-shot knocks it right out of the park! An emotional story with unusual characters backed up by some great artwork makes this comic something that any Star Wars fan should enjoy very much. If you're not a Star Wars fan, you might not get as much mileage out of this, but as far as I'M concerned, this one is a pure nugget of Longbox Junk gold!
COVER: Norm Breyfogle
SCRIPT: Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle
PENCILS: Norm Breyfogle
A great painted cover with an interesting composition and some very nice, muted colors. It's mysterious, moody, and makes me want to jump right into the story. This is the sort of thing I always keep my eye out for when digging for comics to take a turn up on my "Wall O' Covers" rotating display in my office at work. I like this cover a lot!
Batman is drawn into a government conspiracy when he investigates the strange deaths of three scientists. The daughter of the last victim claims that her father told her that he had proof that aliens and the government were working together at a hidden base called Area 51.
Batman discovers that all of the victims are tied together by a connection to a mysterious "Doctor Staines". Following leads to a former criminal recently released from Arkham Asylum with the power of mind control named Franklin Selly (alias The Kook), Batman discovers that he is working with the daughter of the murdered scientist to try and solve the same mystery. Batman declines a team-up because, well. . . he's Batman.
We next find Batman in Nevada, infiltrating the high-security precautions of Area 51. At the same time, the scientist's daughter and Selly are taking a more direct route into the base using Selly's mind control powers to go right through the front gate. Their ruse is quickly discovered and they are taken prisoner.
As Batman makes his way through the base, he discovers that Dr. Staines is involved with a project to wipe people's minds and rebuild them into slaves. He also discovers Selly and the Scientist's daughter, and his focus changes immediately to a rescue mission.
After letting himself be taken prisoner, Batman and Company escape and fight their way through Area 51 to a waiting off-road Batmobile hidden in the desert. In the end, Batman leaks the information he downloaded at Area 51 to the media and government authorities, but it's treated like just another conspiracy theory and Doctor Staines goes unpunished.
This one was pretty average. Not the best Batman story I've read. . .but not the worst. Just sort of riding down the center line. I found it a bit strange that in this story, Batman doesn't believe in aliens. . .but he regularly works with Martian Manhunter (not to mention Superman) on the Justice League.
The Selly/ Scientist's Daughter team seemed unnecessary to the story. It looked like padding to pump this one shot up to "Prestige Format" page count (and dollar count) and could have been cut completely to make this a leaner, tighter, solo Batman story. That said, it's still a decent read.
As far as the art goes, Norm Breyfogle is always a reliable choice for good 90's/early 2000's Batman art. I like his sleek lines, slightly exaggerated figures, and the way that Batman is always partly hidden in shadow. He's not my number one Batman artist, but I know I'll at least be sure to enjoy the pictures when I see Breyfogle's name on a Batman story.
Overall, Batman: Dreamland is a decent, but ultimately pretty forgettable, solo Batman tale that falters over some poor story choices that seem to be aimed at padding out the length. Even so, Dreamland is still a pretty good read with some nice, solid art.
GODZILLA COLOR SPECIAL
Dark Horse (1992)
COVER: Arthur (Art) Adams
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
SCRIPT: Arthur (Art) Adams & Randy Stradley
PENCILS: Arthur (Art) Adams, Gracine Tanaka & Steve Moncuse
I really like the "In your face!" composition of this cover. . .but for some reason, Godzilla doesn't look as menacing as he should. It's a very nicely drawn portrait with some great colors, but it's just not hitting me the way I think the artist intended it to. Maybe Godzilla looks a bit too "cartoony" here? I can't put my finger on it.
Our story begins with a race against time as a unit of the special anti-Godzilla task force called "G-Force" speeds toward the small Japanese island of Kiryoku to warn the inhabitants, who have turned their backs on 20th Century technology, that Godzilla is approaching and to help them evacuate.
As the United States Navy desperately tries and fails to delay Godzilla, G-Force hastily assembles the residents of Kiryoku and tries to convince them to leave their home. They refuse to go, and instead lead G-Force to a shrine with a giant statue of an ancient demon warrior they claim is actually the stone form of the warrior (named Gekido-Jin) held in place by the spirit of a monk until needed.
As Godzilla begins rampaging across the island, the priestess performs the ritual to rouse Gekido-Jin from his stone slumber, and to G-Force's surprise, the statue comes to life and attacks Godzilla! A brutal battle between the two giant titans ensues, but Godzilla is ultimately victorious.
In the end, Godzilla heads back to the ocean, leaving the island in peace because of the fierceness of their ancient protector.
Hmmmm. . .okay. Interesting. A little research shows me that Dark Horse had a whole Godzilla continuity I never knew about, which is probably why this one-shot seems to start in the middle of an ongoing story and ends a bit abruptly.
It's well-written and is actually a pretty good read, but I was a bit lost on the G-Force characters that the writers expected me to know about already. I prefer a one-shot to tell a complete story that doesn't rely much on being connected to continuity, so this one didn't really hit the mark.
That said, when you boil it down to the broth, this is basically an extended fight scene between two giant monsters. And for THAT, it's not bad at all. At the end of the day, the story doesn't seem to matter as much as this one-shot being a showcase for the fantastic artwork of Art Adams. . .and a fine showcase it is!
Adam's finely-detailed linework has a great sense of motion. The cinematic angles and interesting staging of the action make the figures almost seem to move across the page as they battle! The story may be a bit iffy, but the fantastic artwork is the REAL star of the show here.
Overall, this one-shot is a bit too connected to ongoing continuity to stand on its own. But taken just as a fight between two giant monsters with some really great comic book artwork, it's not bad at all.
AND FINALLY. . .
CONAN THE BARBARIAN: EXODUS
COVER: Esad Ribic
SCRIPT: Esad Ribic
PENCILS: Esad Ribic
A fantastic painted cover in Ribic's signature "Sorta Frazetta" style! I really like the sense of a moment of action frozen in time here, but as much as I generally enjoy Ribic's art, he never really seems to get human faces right. Maybe it's just me. In any case, this is a really good comic cover that tells a story before you even open the book.
A young Conan sets forth from Cimmeria for the first time to see the world. Along the way, he encounters savage wolves, mountain lions, and a giant bear. Sometimes fighting, sometimes running for his life.
Once he has left the Cimmerian wilderness and begins to encounter inhabited lands, the young barbarian quickly learns that his fellow man are the most savage creatures to be found on his journey as he is taken prisoner and left for dead, hanging beside the road to a castle as a warning to thieves.
Conan manages to escape and kill the nobleman who sentenced him to death, then continues on his journey, now well aware that the dangers of the wilderness are nothing compared with the dangers of civilization.
As a huge Conan fan, I really enjoyed this tale of young Conan leaving home and encountering the dangers of civilized lands for the first time! It's completely silent (except for a sparse handful of dialogue balloons written in undecipherable runes), leaning on Esad Ribic's painted art to tell the story.
In the hands of a lesser artist, this could have gone badly, but luckily Ribic's art has the expressive nature and cinematic ability to allow the reader to understand the flow of a story without words.
That said, it ain't perfect. Like I said in the look at the cover, above, Ribic is an extremely talented artist, but he's always had a bit of a problem with human faces and expressions. That problem is amplified in a story that relies on expressions to help tell a story. Fortunately, there are only a few places it's REALLY bad.
One other small thing that nags me about this story is that it is supposedly a tale of fifteen year old Conan on his first journey outside of Cimmeria. . .but through the comic, Conan is depicted as burly and mature. Look at the page scanned below. Does that look like a teenager? Once again, it's just an effect of Ribic's art style, but it did take me out of the story a bit.
Overall, this is a fantastic one-shot tale of young Conan discovering the dangers of civilization. It's told completely through art, and each page is a feast for the eyes. There are a few problems with facial expressions and Conan being drawn older than he should be, but other than those couple of bumps, this one-shot is a nugget of Longbox Junk gold.
All in all, a pretty fine handful of one-shot comics! Not a single stinker in the bunch, and all of them worth keeping an eye out for in the bargain bins. I'd say that Star Wars: C-3P0 was probably my favorite, with Godzilla coming in last (just because it has in-continuity elements that don't stand alone very well), but overall, I'm happy with each comic in this batch of one-shots.
Up Next. . .
How about some more one-shots?
Kid Colt, Fantastic Four, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars!
Be there or be square.