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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

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Longbox Junk Halloween - Piecemeal

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Welcome to the Longbox Junk 2021 Halloween Horror Party!
 
It's that time of year again!  That's right, 'tis the season to go to Wal-Mart and buy Halloween candy while listening to Christmas music on the overhead speakers as you shop! FA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!
 
But here at Longbox Junk, we know that Halloween is for HORROR!  So I'm taking the opportunity to shine the spotlight on some new horror comics that have come out in the past couple of years.  Up next is a thick one-shot from Aftershock Comics that asks the question. . .what happens when five kids find a human brain in a jar?  Ready to find out?
 
Let's do it!
 
SPOILER ALERT!  This comic has been out for a while, but it's still pretty new, so I'll keep spoilers to a minimum.  If you want NO spoilers, then scroll on down to the "Conclusion". END SPOILER ALERT.
 

PIECEMEAL

Aftershock Comics (2020)

 
SCRIPT: Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Szymon Kudranski
INKS: Szymon Kudranski
COVER: Szymon Kudranski
 
THE COVER:
 
I really like this one!  Now HERE'S a nicely-done horror comic cover.  The colors really catch the eye, with the strange purples, and pinks perfectly complimenting the deep shadows.  The composition of the kids standing around a jar with a brain in it just makes me want to buy this comic and see what the heck is going on!  All around a great cover.  One of the best I've seen for this little Halloween Horror Party.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
Our story takes place in 1989. . .
 
Five kids, all about to graduate high school and follow their own separate paths, are having one last party together in the local haunted house.  The bittersweet occasion is interrupted when one of them finds a human brain in a jar!  
 
One of them (the main character, named Jamie) heads back alone to the house in the middle of the night to retrieve the jar.  As the days go by, Jamie begins to have horrific visions of death and black magic.  
 
His senile grandfather finds the jar and tells Jamie that the brain belongs to an old friend of his.  Not long after, Jamie's friends begin to violently die one by one.  Jamie is convinced that his visions and his grandfather's stories are true.
 
Eventually piecing things together, Jamie learns that a serial killer discovered a way to return from the dead through an unspeakable ritual, and that he has been luring kids to the haunted house for decades, feeding off them in order to be reborn, piece by piece.  
 
Determined to stop the deaths, Jamie and his one remaining friend return to the house and confront the reborn serial killer, who is a disgusting, half-formed creature.  After a desperate battle, they manage to destroy him.  In the end, Jamie now knows that there are strange things lurking in the shadows of the normal world around him.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay. . .not a bad little story at all.  It's definitely derivative of Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" (or Hellbound Heart, the book the movie was based on) with a corrupt soul calling on the powers of darkness to be reborn after death, but coming back piece by piece and needing more and more blood to properly form his body.  The only thing missing is the Cenobites.  There's also a fairly strong whiff of "Stranger Things" in the nostalgic framework of five friends growing up and growing apart in the late 80's.
 
That said, the story is interesting and well-written.  The derivative nature of the story is softened by the way the writer makes it his own, making it feel more like a homage than a copycat as things go on.  Eventually, I was able to put aside the comparisons to other work and enjoy this creepy tale for what it is.
 
As far as the art goes, here we have the REAL star of the show.  It's dark and heavily-shadowed, almost monochromatic, but shaded with a strange mix of pink and purple.  The bright colors don't feel like they SHOULD work, but they do.  The unusual color choices give this whole comic a unique look that really captures both the eye and the imagination.  
 
I didn't recognize the artist at first, but a bit of research showed me that he was also responsible for the dark neo-noir look of DC's Penguin: Pain and Prejudice mini-series that I also really enjoyed, as well as the most recent (and excellent) run of Marvel's Punisher.  I'll definitely keep my eye out for more work from Szymon Kudranski!
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, a very nice horror one shot!  The story IS pretty derivative of Clive Barker's Hellraiser, but leaves aside the psycho-sexual elements in favor of mixing in some Stranger Things late 80's nostalgia instead.  Thankfully, despite the obvious influences, the writer is able to make it enough of his own story to keep it from being a blatant copycat.
 
The art is where this comic really shines.  It's dark and nightmarish, shaded with pinks and purples that shouldn't work, but do.  This comic has a unique look to it that is very interesting and makes me want to find more of the artist's work.
 
I can definitely recommend this one to anyone looking for a creepy (if somewhat derivative) horror story with some excellent and unusual art.  I give Piecemeal the Longbox Junk gold seal of approval!
 
Up Next. . .
 
What's a Halloween Horror Party without some aliens?  Let's head on over to Area 51 and see if we can get to the bottom of what's REALLY going on, shall we?  We shall!  
 
It's Zenoscope's Conspiracy: Area 51.
 
Be there or be square!
 

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Welcome to the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party!

 
It's October!  It's that special season where the vegetable nobody cares about any other time of year suddenly costs three bucks a pound.  But here at Longbox Junk, we aren't carving pumpkins, we're reviewing comic books!
 
This year, I decided to go trick or treating down a different street than usual by spotlighting some NEW horror comics that are out on the shelves right now (or were, pretty recently).  We started the party off strong with a couple of very nice treats. . .but then we started to go downhill a bit when we came across a couple of pieces of candy corn.
 
So what will we get this time?  Let's find out!
 
SPOILER ALERT!  This series is finished at this time.  But since it's also pretty new, I'll keep the spoilers to a minimum. If you don't want ANY spoilers just scroll down to the "Conclusion".  END SPOILER ALERT

SEA OF SORROWS #1

IDW (2020)

 

 
SCRIPT: Rich Douek
PENCILS: Alex Cormack
INKS: Alex Cormack
COVER: Alex Cormack
 
THE COVER:
 
I'm sort of a sucker for a monochromatic background on a comic cover, and the bold darkness of this one does catch the eye.  BUT. . .I think it might be just a little TOO stark.  It's well done, but there's a lot of empty space and barely a bit of color for variety.  I know it's supposed to evoke the darkness of the ocean depths, and it does that very well, but there's really not much else to it. Let's see what's inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
Our story takes place off the coast of Newfoundland, 1926.  A former German naval officer hires the SS Vagabond and her somewhat unsavory crew to go in search of a sunken U-Boat rumored to have been carrying a cargo of German gold at the end of the war.
 
On board the Vagabond, tensions mount between the crew of the ship and their employer's partners.  Danger and double-crosses are in the air as the two groups plot against each other.  
 
Below, in the darkness on the ocean floor, the salvage team's deep sea diver discovers the wrecked submarine and confirms the valuable cargo in the hold. . .but he also encounters a strange creature that seems to be watching him!
 
The crews celebrate as the diver brings up a gold bar as proof that their hunt is successful, but as the party continues into the night, we learn that there's more to the naval officer than what we think, as he begins to tell the diver the strange tale of how the U-Boat was sunk. . .
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
All right. . .not bad.  Not bad at all!  This comic hits the sweet spot that I expect a first issue to hit. . .it makes me want to read the next issue.  The story is more of a pulp adventure tale with some horror elements, but that's fine. 
 
I like the character-driven slow burn introduction, the feeling like each character has their own agenda.  I like the post-WWI era setting a lot.  It's a great choice for a pulpy horror story like this!  And then there's the ending, with the grizzled naval veteran beginning to drunkenly regale the diver (an army veteran who served a nightmarish tour in the trenches) with the REAL story.  It hooked me into the next issue in a big way!
 
The art on this story is nothing short of amazing!  The artist not only portrays the scheming expedition members as flawed individuals that are easily distinguished from each other, but he also perfectly embodies the darkness and isolation deep under the sea.  His style was a great choice for this early 20th century pulp/horror tale!
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
I was getting a little worried after hitting two clunkers in a row, but Sea of Sorrows came to the rescue with a pulp adventure/horror story that delivers some great character work and a narrative that hooked me into immediately wanting to read the next issue.  The art perfectly evokes the post-WWI setting above the waves, as well as the darkness and isolation at the bottom of the sea.
 
Overall, this one's a winner!  If you're interested in some good pulpy horror, then definitely take a look at Sea of Sorrows.
Up Next. . .
 
What happens when five kids find a human brain in a jar?  Let's find out!
It's "Piecemeal" from Aftershock Comics. . .
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk Halloween - Hotell #1

90 views • 10 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to the Longbox Junk 2021 Halloween Horror party!  It's that special time of the year when I feel the need to do my civic duty and remind the larger ladies out there that just because there IS a skintight sexy kitty costume, that skintight sexy kitty costume might not be for YOU.  Just sayin'.  

 
This year I've been shining the spotlight on some fresh NEW horror comics out there that you can still find on the stands.  Comics ain't cheap these days.  I tell you true, this hobby gets more expensive all the time.  If you're going to have to shell out four bucks for a single floppy issue, it might be nice to get an idea of what's inside.  You didn't ask me to do this, but you're welcome anyway!
 
So without further ado (wait. . .did we have any ado to start with?) let's get into the next Halloween Horror Party offering.  It's the first issue in a new horror anthology based around the strange events taking place in the rooms of a mysterious roadside hotel.  Ready?  Let's do it!
 
SPOILER ALERT! This series IS finished, but it's still on the stands, so if you don't want any spoilers, just scroll on down to the "Conclusion".  END SPOILER ALERT!

HOTELL #1

AWA/ Upshot (2020)

 

SCRIPT: John Lees
PENCILS: Dalibor Talajic
INKS: Dalibor Talajic
COVER: Kaare Andrews
 
THE COVER:
 
It's interesting, I'll give it that.  Offering glimpses into the windows of the mysterious hotel (and possibly into the stories of the four issues), this cover draws me in, but it's not the sort of thing I'd want to showcase on the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We follow a woman named Alice, pregnant and on the run from her abusive husband, as she discovers the mysterious Pierrot Courts Motel and checks in for a night of much-needed rest.  
 
She begins to have increasingly strange dreams about her unborn baby, and finds herself drained of energy and unable to leave the motel as several days go by.
 
At the end of the story, she comes to realize the creature she's been dreaming about isn't her baby, but a vampiric being, leading into an ending so confusing that I can't even figure out what the heck was going on. . .something about an eclipse and an explosion and her abusive husband taking the monster from her.  I don't even know.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This story started off very strong.  An interesting neo-noir horror story about a woman trying to escape a monster and finding herself fighting another one.  It's well-written and a real page turner.
 
Until the end.
 
The final two pages of this story swing SO far away from the tight, gripping story told in the rest of this comic, that they are almost incomprehensible.  The final events taking place have absolutely no explanation as to what is actually going on.  The ending basically ruins the story, which is a shame because the rest of it is really good!
 
The art in this comic is perfectly-suited to tell the story at hand.  It reminds me a lot of the dark lines and thick inks of Eduardo Risso. . .and that's a good thing!  The great facial expressions are what's needed for a noir (ish) story of an escape from abuse gone wrong.  Too bad the great art is in service to a story that goes flying off the rails in the end.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, this is a story that starts strong and ends up flying off the rails into an extremely obtuse ending.  It's well-written and the art is really very nice, but I can't recommend this comic. It's a shame because I like to try and spotlight some of the lesser-known publishers from time to time.  They deserve a decent chance to get their stories read just as much as the big boys.  Unfortunately, this isn't a story that puts Upshot Comics in a very good light.  With so many other great new horror comics out there for your money, I'd say give this one a pass.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's keep the Halloween Horror Party going with a trip under the sea in search of gold aboard a sunken German U-Boat.  Does it go wrong?  It's a horror comic! Of COURSE it goes wrong!  
 
It's the first issue of IDW's 2020 undersea horror story, Sea of Sorrows.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party!  It's that special time of year when I wonder just HOW many things can be Pumpkin Spice.  Every year, I'm somehow surprised to realize the answer is: Almost EVERY thing can be Pumpkin Spice.

 
I've decided to spotlight some NEW horror comics out there for the 2021 Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party, and so far, I think there's been some pretty good stuff.  A little bit of slow burn mystery.  A little bit of hard rockin' horror.  For my third offering, I present a tie-in comic to a very popular horror movie franchise. . .The Conjuring.
 
The Conjuring "Universe" consists of 3 main movies and 5 prequels, with 2 more movies announced as still coming down the pipeline, for a total of EIGHT existing movies that I haven't seen.  Yep.  I'm going to review a comic book tie in to a series of movies I haven't seen a single one of.  Wish me luck!
 
Not that it means much to me, but this comic ties in to the most recent movie in the franchise (released in June of this year), The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, for those who are keeping track. 
 
To me, it seems strange to have a prequel comic series running 5 months (The final issue coming in November) after the movie came out. You'd THINK the prequel would come out BEFORE the movie. . .as suggested by the word "prequel".  But I'm not the one in charge of these things, so there's that, I guess.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Ready?  Let's do this!
 
SPOILER ALERT!  This series is still ongoing (Currently on issue 4 out of 5), so I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but there will be some spoilers in this review.  If you don't want ANY spoilers, just skip on down to the "Conclusion".  END SPOILER ALERT.

DC HORROR PRESENTS:

THE CONJURING: THE LOVER #1

DC (2021)

 
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
 
THE COVER:
 
Bill Sienkiewicz delivers a dark and disquieting piece of art in his signature style that really grabs the eye (This cover is why I picked up this series at all).  The shades of black, white, and grey give this cover the look of a creepy old photograph.  All around a predictably great job from one of the living legends of comic art.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
We get TWO stories in this issue for our four bucks!  The first is the movie tie in.  The second is a series of standalone stories set in the same "universe", but only loosely connected to it by being about various items in an arcane museum.  Let's look at each one in turn!
 
THE LOVER (PART 1)
 
SCRIPT:  David L. Johnson-McGoldrick & Rex Ogle
PENCILS: Garry Brown
INKS: Garry Brown
 
It's 1981 and Jessica is returning to college after having a bit of a nervous breakdown during the last semester.  Jessica suffers from severe social anxiety, is struggling to cope with the stress of an unsympathetic mother, and has a former one night stand trying to get back together with her.
 
As Jessica tries to navigate her fears and insecurities, she begins to feel that she's being watched and followed by a sinister, unseen presence that only she can feel.  But is it real, or just part of her struggle with mental problems? As the story progresses, we (the readers) see that Jessica is indeed being stalked by some sort of terrifying being.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I have no idea how this comic connects with "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" film, so I just have to say it as I see it.  It's. . .okay.  This story rides down the middle line of being neither great or terrible.  It's pretty good.  
 
It's creepy in a few places. . .like the silent series of panels below where Jessica is studying in the library and the unseen presence slowly makes itself known to the reader, but not her. . .but overall, this introductory issue just didn't have the horror hook that makes me want to read the next issue like the previous two entries I've done for this little Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party.
 
The art does a good job of helping tell the story.  Not the best comic art I've seen, but dark and heavily-inked. . .scratchy and ambiguous.  It definitely helps sell what creep factor there is to the story.
Overall, this isn't bad.  It's just not good enough to hold my interest.  Maybe if you're a fan of the movies and can see the connections, you might get more mileage out of this than I did.
 
NEXT!
 
TALES FROM THE ARTIFACT ROOM:
THE FERRYMAN
 
SCRIPT: Scott Snyder
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Denys Cowan
 
After stealing a coin from a dead woman's mouth meant for the Ferryman of the dead on a dare as a child, a man spends his life looking for the coin as those he loves keep dying horrible deaths.
 
On a stormy night, he finally comes within reach of his goal. . .but in a terrifying twist, he discovers that a curse can't be ended so easily.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
There's not much to this short little tale, but it's got a decent "Gotcha" ending.  It really reminds me of the short stories that used to fill the horror anthologies of the past, so for that, I give it extra points.  This story would be right at home in "Unexpected" or "Chamber of Chills".
 

Once again, I'm not able to see the connections between this and the movies, so fans of the Conjuring movies might get a little more out of this than I did, but all in all it's a decent little throwback to the horror anthologies of days gone by.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, this is a comic that is just "okay".  The stories aren't bad. . .but they aren't particularly great or memorable in any way.  The main story that ties into the most recent Conjuring movie is a decent enough introduction with a few creepy moments (to be fair, mostly coming by way of the art), but it's just not interesting enough to hook me into the next issue.
 
The shorter backup story is a nice little throwback to the "Gotcha" ending horror anthology stories of the past, so I enjoyed it more for nostalgia's sake than anything else.
 
Never having seen the Conjuring movies, I couldn't see the connections in either story, which might have dropped my opinion down a notch or two compared to someone who might know more about the Conjuring "Universe", so based on my own humble opinion, I can't really recommend this series with so many other great new horror comics out there. . .BUT, if you're a Conjuring fan, you might get more out of this, so go ahead and give it a look.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's keep the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party going with a tale of the strange things happening at a roadside hotel in the middle of nowhere.  It's Upshot Comic's "Hotell"!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party!  It's where for one month out of the year, you're actually ENCOURAGED to take candy from strangers. . .

 
This year, I've decided to take a look at some fresh NEW horror comics.  Nothing older than 2019 fresh.
Last time out, I spotlighted a bit of  slow burn character-driven horror centered around fear of the unknown.  This time around, let's get into a little bit of more traditional horror in the first issue of a great new anthology series from Image, with a story that reminds us to be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. . .
 
Ready? Let's do this!
 
SPOILER ALERT!  This series is still ongoing (on issue #5 at this writing), and there will be spoilers.  But since this is an anthology series with a different writer and story in each issue, it probably doesn't matter as much as with something continued from issue to issue.  Still, if you want NO spoilers, just skip down to the "Conclusion". END SPOILER ALERT

THE SILVER COIN #1

Image (2021)

 

THE TICKET

 
SCRIPT: Chip Zdarsky
PENCILS: Michael Walsh
INKS: Michael Walsh
COVER: Michael Walsh
 
THE COVER:
 
You can tell this is gonna be a dark story right from the cover.  You can see it in the horrified eyes of the guitar player as he literally plays his fingers to the bone.  The blood streaks on the fret board are especially chilling! It simple, but in its simplicity it's a real eye-catcher. Just a great cover.  Let's get inside and see what's going on here. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
In 1978 disco is king, which is unfortunate for rock guitar player Ryan and his band, barely scratching along by playing opening gigs at empty bars early in the evening before the disco bands show up.
 
But Ryan's luck is about to change!  When he finds an old silver coin while going through some old boxes at his father's house, he decides to use it as a pick during practice.  To the entire band's astonishment, they play better than they've ever dreamed of!
 
Realizing that there's something strange about the coin, they decide to use it at their regular gigs.  In only a few weeks the previously empty bar begins to fill with cheering customers.  They're bringing in so much business that the owner of the bar tells Ryan that he's got a friend from Polygram records he's going to invite to one of their shows!  
 
The record company rep tells Ryan that he's great. . .but rock is dead and disco is king.  Ryan leaves his band and joins a disco group, playing to bigger and bigger crowds with single-minded determination to be the very best.
 
But then, one fateful night, Ryan plays to a wild, packed house and he discovers to his horror that he CAN'T stop playing!  As he shreds his fingers to the bone on his guitar strings, the crowd keeps dancing, even as the building burns down around them!
 
Later, we see firefighters in the ashes of the club commenting on how strange it was that nobody even tried to escape the fire.  We end with a fireman discovering and keeping the silver coin.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Now THAT was a sweet little nugget of Longbox Junk!  It's a pretty straightforward story of a guy who wants to be the best and getting what he wished for. . .but not for long, and at a steep price.  It follows a tried and true story path that's been around longer than most, but the late 70's setting gives the story an interesting feel that gives the old "Be careful what you wish for" a bit of new life.
 
Zdarsky's writing in general gives this well-worn story path new life, with characters and dialogue that ring true even though we only get to know them for such a short time.  But be warned. . .there's a lot of profanity in this one.  I guess that's one of the hallmarks of this new wave of horror comics on the stand now.  Realistic dialogue means lots of F-Bombs.  So, like the first comic I reviewed for this Longbox Junk Halloween party. . .if you don't like naughty words in your funny books, you probably won't like this very much.  They're on just about every page.
 
On the art side of things, Michael Walsh's kinetic style is PERFECT for this rock-n-roll horror story!  The figures have a sense of motion and life that almost moves across the page!  His lines are dark and nightmarish, the colors are bold, and every page is worth lingering over.  
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, we have a story that follows the tried and true path of "Be careful of what you wish for", but given a spark of new life with an interesting 70's setting and well-sketched characters with great dialogue.  Once again, be warned that there's a lot of profanity to be found, but it fits in with the rock-n-roll setting of the story.
 
The story is perfectly backed up with some dark and nightmarish art that serves to compliment, rather than distract.  Every page in this comic is worth lingering over for an extra second or two.  This first issue is a practically perfect storm of words and art.
 
In my humble opinion, The Silver Coin is one of the best new horror series out there right now.  If you check out ANY of the comics I spotlight during this year's Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party, check out THIS one.  If you're a horror comic fan, take my advice and seek this series out.
 
Each issue has its own story, loosely connected by the mysterious silver coin (and the 5th issue has the origin of the coin), and each issue is an almost perfect little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  I'm a big fan of anthology comics of the past, and this series stands right there with the best of them.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
I'm keeping the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party going!
 
It's a comic series based on the hit horror franchise, and a prequel to the latest movie in the series, it's DC's The Conjuring: The Lover.  Comic book movie tie-ins are usually hit or miss, without much in between.  Which one will this be?  Let's find out!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!
 
It's October!  There's a chill in the air that means it's time for some spooky fun here at Longbox Junk! This time of year, I like to take a look at some of the darker comics in my collection as we head toward Halloween.  
 
Last year, I had a lot of fun spotlighting some of my older Halloweeny (Is that a word? It is now!) comics and threw a big handful of Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Reviews into the candy bucket.  This year, I'm going to do the opposite and check out some new stuff. . .as in nothing older than 2019 stuff.
 
Rummaging through my collection for some dark and spooky modern comics to review, I realized that sort of out of nowhere, horror comics have been making a comeback. . .and in a big way!  As I look at some of the "Values" of these comics, I have to say that I'm a bit surprised!  A lot of these new horror comics are NOT Longbox Junk at all!  
 
As a big fan of horror comics in general (just hit the "Halloween" label on the quick link bar to get an idea of what I mean), I couldn't be happier to see them coming back so strong.  Maybe not so happy about jacked-up back issue prices, but if that's what it takes to keep new horror comics coming, who am I to say?
 
But enough introduction! Let's get this Longbox Junk Halloween party started!
 
First up is an offering from DC's Black Label.  Looking through the stack of horror comics I've pulled from my collection, I realize that they are pretty heavy on the Black Label imprint, so credit to DC where credit is due for keeping the horror comics alive and kicking.  Don't get me wrong. I've got some stuff from other companies too, but DC is definitely coming on strong with the modern horror.
 
Ready? Let's take a look!
 
SPOILER ALERT! The comic at hand is still ongoing (it's on issue #4 as of this writing).  I'll keep spoilers to a minimum, but there will still probably be a few.  If you don't want ANY spoilers, just skip down to the "Conclusion". END SPOILER ALERT!

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #1

DC Black Label (2021)


SCRIPT: James Tynion IV
PENCILS: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
INKS: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
COLORS: Jordie Bellaire
COVER: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
 
THE COVER:
 
It's dark.  It's moody.  It's creepy!  This is the kind of cover that makes you wonder just what the heck the story is about.  It's simple, but it grabs your attention.  Very nicely done.
 
THE STORY:
 
A mysterious man named Walter invites a group of ten friends and acquaintances to a luxurious lake house for a relaxing week.  But after they arrive, they soon discover that things are a little TOO perfect.
 
When they finally hear news from the outside world, the group is horrified to learn that they have been living comfortably while an apocalyptic disaster is destroying civilization, and that the United States has ceased to exist!
 
When they demand answers from Walter, he tells group know that he has chosen them to be safe, that they will be living there for the rest of their lives, with all their needs taken care of.
 
After giving them this startling information one of the group attacks Walter, but he reveals himself as some sort of inhuman being and vanishes, leaving them to wonder what happens next. . .
 
To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Allrighty then. . .it's the end of the world as we know it.  This issue was mostly introduction until the shocking events toward the end.  It makes a lot of use of "social media" to tell most of the story, but where something like that would be awkward elsewhere, here it fits very nicely with the young, hip group that the mysterious Walter has chosen to ride out the apocalypse at the titular Nice House On The Lake.
 
I found the story very well written, the large cast of characters are varied and interesting, and the big twist was a genuine surprise.  I was thinking this was going to be some sort of murder mystery or revenge tale, and we get a full-on apocalypse!  Very well done. 
 
 Fair warning, though. . .there is literally not a single page in this comic without at least one F-Bomb (I had to edit one to post it for this review).  It matches the young crowd of characters, but if you don't like a lot of cussin' in your funny books, you probably won't like this one much.
 
The art isn't the best I've seen in a comic, but it fits the ambiguous nature of the story, being nicely detailed in places and very sketchy and unfinished in others.  See the page I scanned below for an example of both in one place.
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, I found Nice House On The Lake to be a great introduction to a story that seemed like it was going to be one thing and turned out to be completely different.  It has a large cast of diverse and well-drawn characters that are thrown together in an almost unimaginable situation. The writer gives them all pretty realistic voices, but be warned about the large amount of profanity in this dialogue-heavy tale.
 
 Going forward, the series digs into the characters and the central mystery, doling out little bits in each issue that keeps me wanting to see what happens next.  It's not traditional horror by any means, but horror for today's social media obsessed generation.  The only monster to be found (so far) is the unknown.  
 
It's a dark, character-driven mystery with a horrific angle, and it has me hooked and waiting for each issue to come out!  Give it a try if you're looking for a horror story that's different and unpredictable.
 
Up Next. . .
 
What happens when a mysterious silver coin seems to be the answer to a young musician's dreams?
 
Well. . .I'm reviewing the comic for the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party, so you can probably guess it ain't gonna end well.  It's Image's "The Silver Coin".  Let's check it out!
 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - The Night Man #1

119 views • 22 days ago • (1) Comment

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!

 
A few weeks ago, I got inspired to return to my Longbox Junk roots and review some. . .well, some Longbox Junk!  Early Bronze Age Green Arrow keys and Golden Age Lone Ranger comics and the like are great, but you're not gonna run into them out in the wild every day.  
 
But HERE'S a comic you won't have much trouble at all finding.   I can practically guarantee that you're going to find at LEAST one Night Man comic in any random bargain bin you might find yourself digging through. 
 
And if, for some strange reason, there's no Night Man comics in that bin, I'd be willing to bet cash that there's going to be SOME sort of representation of Malibu's Ultraverse in there. . .Mantra, Prime, Hardcase, and UltraForce are probably the most common. 
 
I don't know how many Ultraverse comics Malibu printed, but they definitely leaned HARD into their shared superhero universe.  I'm saying there's a LOT of these comics out there.  If you go Longbox Junkin' then you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Ultraverse comics aren't exactly rare.
 
But are they good?  Let's take a look at one and find out!

THE NIGHT MAN #1

Malibu/Ultraverse (1993)

 
 
THE NIGHT MAN
 
SCRIPT: Steve Englehart
PENCILS: Darick Robertson
INKS: Andrew Pepoy
COVER: Darick Robertson
 
THE COVER:
 
I LOVE this cover!  I actually own 4 copies of this comic because that cover catches my eye every time and I forget I've already got it in my collection.  It's got an obvious Batman vibe to it, but the character has his own sort of personality that sets it apart from being an outright pastiche.  
 
But what REALLY catches my attention here are the glorious colors! The pink and purple early evening sky, the blue highlights on Night Man's costume, the red hair, the deep black inks contrasted with the backdrop of a huge full moon.  It's dark, it's moody, it's just a fantastic comic book cover, period.
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale following Night Man on his first outing as a new super hero.  As he jumps to attack a gang breaking into a house, he muses on the events that have brought him (and us) to this point. . .
 

We learn that Night Man is actually one Johnny Domino, a famous saxophone player who was involved in a traffic accident that left a piece of metal lodged in his head and eyes that are hypersensitive to light.  
 
After being released from the hospital, Johnny is shocked to discover that he can hear the thoughts of a passing man. . .evil thoughts of murdering a woman!  Johnny thinks that he might be crazy, but then considers the possibility that he's not, and he might be the only person who can save the woman from death.  He decides to follow the man.
 

After following the man to a knife store, Johnny tries to tell the police.  Without evidence, they laugh him off.  Johnny decides to continue the investigation on his own.  
 
He follows the man to a beach-side restaurant, where he listens in as the man flirts with his waitress, revealing his name to be Victor Omar.  As Johnny listens in, Omar asks the waitress out on a date that coming Saturday.  Omar discovers Johnny spying and forces him to make his escape.
 

Later, Johnny questions his sanity as he thinks back on the events of the day, but when someone takes a shot at him through the window, Johnny's resolve to save the waitress is hardened as he realizes that it was probably the mysterious Mr. Omar who had followed him home.
 

 
Which brings us back to the beginning of the story as Johnny, now Night Man, confronts the gang of burglars as part of his training to try and save the waitress from Omar.  Unfortunately, Johnny's inexperience is no match for the hardened criminals and he finds himself fighting for his life. . .
 

Only his extensive martial arts training manages to save Johnny, who barely makes it out of the encounter alive before being forced to flee once the police arrive on the scene. 
 
 The next day, he decides to take another angle to saving the waitress by going to the restaurant and using his fame to try and seduce her into going out with him instead of Omar.  The waitress (named Ginger) is suitably seduced, but won't break her date with Omar.
 

With time running short before Ginger's date with Omar that night, Johnny visits with his father. . .a former police officer now in charge of security at a run-down amusement park.  While there, he learns that a shady real estate developer is trying to buy the park against the wishes of the owner.  
 
After a brief confrontation with the developer, Johnny returns home with what he REALLY went to the park for. . .his father's old access codes to the police database, so he can continue his investigation into Mr. Omar.
 

Using his father's police database codes, Johnny discovers that Victor Omar is listed as a missing person. This cements his determination to save Ginger.  That night, he returns to the restaurant as Night Man, using the knowledge gained from his failed mission the previous night to improve his costume so as to protect him better in a fight. . .
 

As Night Man sees Ginger leave the restaurant, he tries to warn her that she's in danger, but to his surprise, it's not Ginger at all!  It's an insanely- grinning man who introduces himself as "Death-Mask" wearing a wig and Ginger's clothes.  He attacks Night Man with a knife and the two begin to fight!
 

During the fight, Night Man is knocked over an embankment and onto the beach below, where he is horrified to find Ginger's dead body. . .WITH HER FACE CUT OFF!  He also makes the gruesome discovery of Victor Omar's face next to Ginger's body, and he realizes that Death-Mask wears the faces of his victims!  Night Man doesn't have long to ponder this terrifying fact as he hears a boat motor and sees Death-Mask making his escape.  Night Man commandeers another boat and gives chase!
 

Night Man manages to catch up to the fleeing killer and jumps to attack him, enraged by the gruesome death of Ginger.  Death-Mask taunts Night Man during the fight, forcing him into defending.
 

As Death-Mask and Night Man fight, the murderer tries to escape by jumping in the water and swimming to the other boat, but as he does, he is attacked by a shark!  
 
Believing Death-Mask to be dead, Night Man decides that he was given his power to hear evil thoughts for a reason, and he reflects on his new powers. As he returns to shore in the boat, we see the hand of Death-Mask rising out of the water. . .it looks like he's survived the shark's attack!
 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay.  There it is.  Night Man #1.  Let's break it on down!
 
What we have here is a pretty straightforward story introducing the new hero, Night Man.  My overall impression is that it seems a bit rushed and a little too compacted.  
 
Steve Englehart is generally a good writer, and I'm not sure what sort of constraints he was working under here, but it just seems like one issue wasn't really enough space to devote to the transformation of Johnny Domino, saxophone player, into Night Man, vengeful hero of the dark.
 
Don't get me wrong.  The story isn't BAD.  It's actually very readable. It's nicely-written and fast-paced, with some interesting ideas and moments to be found.  I just think it could have been better with a bit more room to breathe, so we could get to know our new hero a little better.  
 
The sudden transformation of Johnny Domino into Night Man over the course of TWO DAYS (including somehow gaining a spandex superhero costume complete with telescopic infrared lenses)  requires a bit more of a stretch of my comic book suspension of disbelief than I'd like.
 
The overly-compacted narrative aside, the story also suffers in one part from a bit too much reliance on story beats from Frank Miller's seminal Batman origin story "Year One".  Night Man's initial outing being a miserable failure requiring improvements to his costume is just a little TOO familiar to be coincidence.  
 
Other than those two things, the story is fine.  The sudden horrific turn toward the end was actually a bit of a surprise that I liked a lot.  I'm not sure where things go from here, but I wouldn't mind reading a few more issues to find out, especially if the story keeps leaning toward the horror end of superhero comics.
 
So that's the story.  Let's talk about the art.
 
Darick Robertson is an artist that I became a fan of from his fantastic work on "The Boys".  This is some of his earlier work and I can definitely see the progression through the years.  The art in this comic certainly displays a lot of style and flair that I really like, mostly in Robertson's unusual panel arrangements and figures that break the boundaries of their panels.  
 
It's quite a bit different visually than the art I know Robertson from, but I think I can chalk that mostly up to his doing his own inks these days compared to having someone else ink his pencils in his earlier work.  That's not to say the art is bad at all.  It's really very nice, and the mentioned inker (Andrew Pepoy) brings the depth and shadow needed for a story like this.
 

CONCLUSION

 
This is another comic that I didn't really have high hopes for.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find underneath that fantastic cover a pretty good story backed up with some really interesting artwork.
 
The story is overly-compacted. . .two issues worth of story packed into one. . .and it's a bit derivative of Frank Miller's "Year One" in places, but Steve Englehart does a decent job of introducing a new character and setting things up so that I want to read the next issue.  That's pretty much the basic expectations I have for the first issue of a series, so that's a big plus.
 
The star of the show here for me, though, is Darick Robertson's art.  It's interesting in many ways and each page has something new for the eye to linger on.  I really enjoy his panel layouts a lot!
 
Overall, this isn't a GREAT comic book. . .but it's a good one.  If you're a fan of the more "street level" comic heroes, then Night Man is worth a look, especially if you also enjoy comics that throw a little horror into the superhero mix.
 
It doesn't look like the series was ever collected in trade, and I don't see it on ComiXology, so the back issue bins are probably the best place to pick Night Man up from.  But like I said at the beginning, it's not a very hard series to find.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's time for some spooky Longbox Junk October fun!
 
Last year, I leaned into the older spooky comics in my collection by featuring all Retro Reviews.
 
This time out, I'm shining the spotlight on NEW horror comics that have come out over the past couple of years.  Nothing older than 2019.  Let's see what sort of spooky stuff is on the stands these days!
 
Be there and be scared.

- read more

Longbox Junk - Wetworks #1

183 views • 25 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked anyone for!

 
I've mentioned it before, but when you dive into a cheap box of back issues, there are certain things you're practically guaranteed to find.  The comic at hand is one of those things. 
 
 If I were standing next to you at a comic shop, I'd feel safe betting you five bucks sight unseen that you would come across at LEAST one issue from this series while digging through the bargain bin.  Maybe not this one, but at least one from the run.
 
It's just one of those things. Don't fight it.  It's gonna happen.
 
What we have here is a relic of Image's early years on the comic scene.  These days, Image has carved out a very nice little niche as the publisher you want to go to when you get tired of reading about superheroes.  But in their early days, Image was ALL superhero ALL the time.  
 
They put out such a flood of superhero comics. . .throwing anything and everything at the wall to see what would stick. . .that bargain bins to this day are still full of them, and I don't see the supply of Image 90's superhero comics coming up short any time soon.  As in ever.  Early Image comics are practically the definition of Longbox Junk.
 
So let's take a look at one of these leftover comics from Image's early "We wanna be Marvel!" days and see what's going on in there.  Strap in, folks. . .we've got Covert Ops, Alien Symbiotes, and Vampires!  
 
Ready?  Let's do it!
 

WETWORKS #1

Image (1994)

 
 
And folded out in all its 90's gimmick cover glory!
 

SCRIPT: Whilce Portacio & Brandon Choi
PENCILS: Whilce Portacio
INKS: Scott Williams, John Tighe, John Dickenson & Rick Johnson
COLORS: Joe Chiodo, Monica Bennett & Martin Jimenez
COVER: Whilce Portacio & Scott Williams
 
THE COVER:
 
We've got a 90's special gimmick triple fold out cover here, folks! And it's. . .pretty impressive!
 
Yeah, it's got straps a-plenty.  It's got gun arms.  It's got bandoliers everywhere.  There's those strange 90's head thingy's that aren't really a mask, but sort of are?  Is there even a word for them?  But even though there's a checklist of everything people hate about 90's comics, it works here.  
 
The cover is basically a hero pose montage of the main group of characters, and I have to admit, it's a pretty good one.  I think it's the great colors that makes this work so well. The shiny gold of the symbiotes really catch the eye and make this cover stand out. 
 
 It ain't the greatest comic cover ever, but it's not bad for what it is.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale aboard a high-tech stealth transport over the Balkans.  Inside is America's most elite covert ops squad, Team 7, on their way to a secret mission they know little to nothing about. . .
 

As they discuss their possible reasons for being over Transylvania, the leader of Team 7, Lt. Col. Jackson Dane, gives the team a more detailed briefing.  Their mission is to infiltrate a terrorist faction's secret base and retrieve a highly-contagious biological weapon that they plan on unleashing on Europe at any cost.
 
 
MEANWHILE, IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
 
Miles Craven, leader of I.O. (International Operations) and the world's most obvious villain, is arguing with Admiral Halsey (Commanding officer of Team 7) over the lack of information being given to his Team.  Craven informs him that there's much bigger stakes than Halsey can imagine, and when the Admiral sees the information Craven gives him, he agrees that Team 7 is expendable, if need be.
 

BACK IN TRANSYLVANIA. . .
 
Team 7's Cyber-Enhanced liaison officer (Code Named "Mother One") observes the squad as they deploy near their target and begin their recon of the area.  We learn that she is also in charge of a "Cleaner" unit that is tasked with disposing of anyone, enemy OR friendly, that makes it out of the secret base alive.
 

As Team 7 makes their way into the hidden terrorist base, they're surprised to discover that someone has gotten there before them.  The base's defenses are down and there's evidence of a massive battle having recently taken place.  
 
As they investigate, the demolition charges they are carrying suddenly activate on their own!  Seeing that they only have 10 minutes before the explosives go off, the team hurries toward the main laboratory, determined to accomplish their mission in the short time they have. . .

As the team bursts into the seemingly-deserted laboratory, they discover large tubes filled with some sort of golden liquid. Dane suspects the team has been led into a trap, but continues with the mission, ordering his squad to set the charges, which are still counting down to detonation. . .
 

 
As Team 7 goes about the task of setting the demolition charges, a mysterious woman pops out of a vent and shoots one of the tubes, rupturing it and causing the golden fluid to splash onto Claymore, one of Team 7's heavy weapons experts!
 

As the mysterious fluid covers Claymore with a golden skin, two gunmen attack Team 7!  Their bullets bounce harmlessly off of Claymore, enabling the rest of the team to quickly take down the ambushers.  But they soon discover that the attackers aren't Transylvanian terrorists. . .from the damage they were able to take before they died, Dane has doubts they are even human!
 
 

Before they can investigate further, they are attacked by a larger force.  Dane decides that there's too much going on that they don't know about and decides to scrap the mission and fight their way out of the base before the demolition charges detonate.   The team quickly realizes that they are surrounded and they're going to have to resort to desperate measures to make it out alive. . .
 

As Claymore uses his new bulletproof skin to try and clear a path for the rest of the team, the Demolition charges finally detonate!  He is horrified to realize after the massive explosion that he is probably the only one who managed to escape the laboratory. . .
 

 
 
BUT. . .
 
The rest of Team 7 soon arrives to help Claymore finish fighting his way through the strangely-inhuman fighters that have him surrounded.  Realizing their impending fate, Dane took a risk and commanded the other tanks be destroyed. Now each member of Team 7 is coated with the same shining gold skin as Claymore!
 

As the team fights their way through the surrounding inhumanly-strong attackers, they barely manage to make it out of the hidden base before the secondary charges they'd set earlier explode, completely obliterating the base along with the remaining defenders.
 
Dane and the rest of Team 7 have survived, but now they want some answers!
 

 
Learning that Team 7 has made it out of the base alive, Craven orders Mother One and the I.O. Cleaner team to finish them off!  Realizing that they are under attack by I.O. gunships, Dane orders Team 7 to try and escape the area, but they are unable to elude their pursuers. . .
 

Knowing that even with the added protection of the mysterious symbiote fluid Team 7 won't be able to withstand the firepower of the I.O. gunships, Mother One turns on her allies and attacks the gunships, destroying them and enabling Team 7 to escape.
 
She reveals herself, clad in the same shining golden skin as Team 7, and reveals that they have been betrayed by their superiors and sacrificed.  Mother One informs the team that the supernaturally-tough opponents they have been fighting are actually vampires!  
 
Then she offers them a chance at a new life.  Since Team 7 is believed to be dead, she tells them that her employer is engaged in an underground war with the vampires and could use skilled soldiers like them.  Having nowhere else to go and needing more answers, Dane reluctantly agrees.
 

 
EPILOGUE:
 
In the ruins of the laboratory, we find one of the leaders of the vampires, Prince Drakken, enraged at the destruction of the base and the theft of the symbiotes.  We leave the story with him vowing to take the fight to the humans and once again teaching them to fear the night!
 

 
 
The End. . .To Be Continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Allrighty then! There it is. . .Wetworks #1.   Let's break it on down!
 
I have to admit that I wasn't very confident that this comic was going to be good.  I figure there's a reason (besides Image printing knows how many issues of all these early superhero titles) that this series is consistently found in the bargain bin.  But truthfully, it ain't too bad.
 
Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't a great comic.  It's sort of hovering right around the "pretty good" center line of the comic dial. But it's better than I thought it would be coming into this review. 
 
 It's surprisingly readable where many other early Image efforts are basically just a hot mess screaming past the reader on a straight-line drag strip of style over substance.  An early Image hallmark of banking on a "Hot" artist being able to sell a comic and just sort of hoping nobody notices the story underneath the frantic artwork.
 
To be fair, it DOES look like Image was mostly banking on Whilce Portacio's art to do the heavy lifting for Wetworks, and he's actually up to the task. . .but the strange mashup of military action, science fiction, and the supernatural offered up by Portacio and Brandon Choi is actually a pretty compelling start to what seems to be shaping up as an interesting take on the typical high-tech superhero story.
 
It makes me want to see what happens next and maybe pull a few more of these comics from the bargain bin next time I go Longbox Junkin' instead of almost unconsciously passing them by like I normally do.
 
So the story is actually interesting and not an afterthought.  Refreshing for an early Image superhero title.  Let's take a look at the art side of things.  
 
Like I said above, it's pretty clear that Image was (as Image does) banking on Whilce Portacio's art to carry Wetworks, so the art is definitely the star of the show here and Portacio doesn't disapppoint!  Is it the greatest art I've ever seen in a comic book?  Not even close.  But it DOES have a dark, gritty style to it that is perfectly matched to this strange science fiction/military/supernatural mashup.  
 
I give a credit due to the inking team (all FOUR of them!) for really bringing out the detail in Portacio's pencils and making the colors pop in contrast to rich, deep blacks through the whole issue.  
 
Beyond that, Portacio gives us some really interesting character designs and a unique look for this series where a lot of early Image stuff sort of blended together in a forgettable mess.  Simply put, the artwork throughout Wetworks #1 is 90's-Tastic in a GOOD way!
 

CONCLUSION

 
I didn't have high hopes for this comic coming in.  I basically picked it because I've always just passed Wetworks by in the bargain bin, assuming it's just another Image superhero title that's got some flashy art but a weak story.  I just decided it was time to actually READ an issue.
 
I was pleasantly surprised to find an interesting mashup of genres backed up by some very nice, gritty artwork, and a first issue that delivered on my expectations of introducing a story and new characters in a way that makes me want to read the next issue in the series.
 
Wetworks isn't the greatest comic I've ever read.  But it's a long way away from the worst.  In my humble opinion, it ain't half bad!  If you are a fan of "hard" military stories with some science fiction flavor then Wetworks will definitely be worth your time to give it a look.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
More of the kind of Longbox Junk I ALWAYS spot in the bargain bin.
I think I'll head on over to Malibu's Ultraverse and see what's happening.
Night Man?  Yeah. . .why not? Night Man!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!

 
Lately, I've had a pretty good run of luck while out Longbox Junkin' at the local flea markets.  There's been some unexpectedly sweet finds coming my way, and ain't THAT the truth!  
 
In my last Longbox Junk post, I took a look at a great Golden Age Lone Ranger comic that I bought for a couple of bucks.  So I thought to myself, "Why not show off another one of those Fantastic Flea Market Finds?"
 
And so here we are. . .ready to crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for a trip back to 1969 and a look at another surprise find I made back in early August that cost me a measly TEN BUCKS at the flea market!
 
It's a comic featuring the iconic artwork of the great Neal Adams and the introduction of his Bronze Age makeover for Green Arrow.  When I spotted this comic in the shape it's in (I'd grade it at a 7.5/8.0, but I'm no expert) for the price they wanted, I couldn't believe my good fortune!
 
So strap in, because it's time for another Longbox Junk Retro Review! 
 
Ready?  LET'S DO IT!

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #85

DC (1969)

 
 
 

THE SENATOR'S BEEN SHOT!

 
SCRIPT: Bob Haney
PENCILS: Neal Adams
INKS: Neal Adams
COVER: Neal Adams
 
THE COVER:
 
Now THAT'S a nice cover!  A Bronze Age beauty by the Legendary Neal Adams at the top of his game.  Green Arrow is the star of the show on this one, sporting his new (at the time) look front and center.  I really like how Batman's cape serves to frame the Emerald Archer.  The tilted logos and  bright splashes of color also really catch the eye. There's nothing I don't like about this cover.  It's the sort of thing that grabs my attention and makes me want to buy a comic book!  Let's get inside and see what's going on. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
After witnessing the attempted assassination of newly-elected Senator Paul Cathcart, a staunch supporter of a pending anti-crime bill, Batman fails to capture the gunman.  Later, in the hospital as the Senator lays in critical condition, Bruce Wayne is shocked when the Governor asks him to take over the Senator's term in order to push the anti-crime legislation through!
 
Meanwhile, as Bruce Wayne ponders his decision, we find multi-millionaire Oliver Queen discussing his bid on an important building project meant to keep the state and Gotham City from bankruptcy.  His opponent for the project is Argonaut Incorporated, headed by Miklos Minotaur. . .a man Oliver knows is the head of a powerful criminal organization (thanks to his other identity as the Green Arrow).  
 
As he wonders whether or not he can do Gotham more good as Oliver Queen or as Green Arrow, he is suddenly attacked!  After narrowly escaping the assassination attempt, Oliver realizes that he's been targeted by Minotaur.
 
The next day, Bruce Wayne, still agonizing over the decision to take over the Senator's term and fight crime through legislation, or to continue to fight crime as Batman, he reveals his secret identity to his psychiatrist, Edmond!  Sworn to secrecy, the psychiatrist  isn't really much help, telling Bruce/Batman that this is a decision he's going to have to make by himself.  
 
Later that day, we learn that the psychiatrist that Bruce Wayne revealed his identity to is ALSO Oliver Queen's psychiatrist as we follow Edmond and Oliver while they survey the contested land development project and Oliver Queen reveals his identity as Green Arrow!  Edmond is either the luckiest, or the unluckiest psychiatrist on the face of the earth!
 
That night, Green Arrow and Batman both decide to visit Edmond's office to continue their respective discussions with him.  After they get over their surprise at running into each other in such a seemingly random way, they find that Edmond's office has been broken into and the psychiatrist is missing!  
 
Both heroes realize that Miklos Minotaur is trying to get to their public identities through their mutual psychiatrist. The suspicion is confirmed when they review Edmond's office recording and they hear the kidnapping in progress.  Green Arrow and Batman agree they have to team up and rescue their friend. . .
 
The following morning, realizing the lengths Minotaur will go to, Bruce accepts the task of completing Senator Cathcart's term. . .and so becomes Senator Bruce Wayne!  In the meantime, on a small volcanic island in the Mediterranean, Green Arrow is hot on the trail of Edmond's kidnappers. . .
 
As Green Arrow pursues Minotaur's men, vicious animals are released in the maze of rocky tunnels leading to the crime lord's hidden base.  Green Arrow manages to fight them off, and shortly after is joined by Batman, who followed the signal of Green Arrow's Justice League transmitter to his location.  The two heroes continue on together to rescue their mutual friend. . .

 
In the meantime, Miklos Minotaur reveals to his prisoner that he plans to have agents destroy both Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen for their interference with his schemes.  At that moment, Batman and Green Arrow burst onto the scene!  Minotaur takes Edmond hostage. . .
 

Minotaur believes he has the upper hand, but he didn't count on Green Arrow's superior bow skills, which give the heroes the chance to attack and easily subdue Minotaur's men.  Unfortunately, in the confusion of the fight, Minotaur himself manages to escape!  
 
As Batman rushes back to the United States in order to vote on the anti-crime bill as Senator Wayne, Green Arrow concocts a plan to capture and arrest Miklos Minotaur for his crimes by inviting him to a posh party at the U.S. Embassy in his public identity of Oliver Queen.
 
 
At the party, Oliver Queen informs the smug crime lord that he's to be arrested and taken back to the United States to stand trial.  Minotaur is shocked when he realizes he's fallen into a trap. . .the embassy is legally U.S. territory and he's taken into custody. . .
 

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., Batman arrives just as the voting for the anti-crime bill has begun.  As he rushes toward the Capital, Batman discovers and defeats an assassin waiting for Bruce Wayne.  He manages to arrive just in the nick of time to deliver the deciding vote in favor of the anti-crime bill!
 
 
At the end of the day, Edmond is safely returned to the U.S., where he learns that Oliver Queen has decided to fund the land development project AND continue fighting crime as Green Arrow.  
 
Later, Edmond discovers that Bruce Wayne plans on giving up his Senate seat now that the anti-crime bill has passed.  Wayne prefers to fight crime as Batman.
 
In a final scene, we see that Edmond has decided to undergo self-hypnosis in order to wipe the knowledge of the true identities of Batman and Green Arrow from his mind.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then, there it is.  Let's break it on down!
 
What we have here is a pretty typical example of early Bronze Age DC "One and Done" storytelling.  They weren't quite as tuned in to the continuing storylines as Marvel was at this time, and this story shows it.  This is a tale that needs just a LITTLE more room to breathe.  I think this would have made a fine two-parter.  Anything more than that would probably have been too much, but one issue just seems like it's too little.
 
That's not to say it's a BAD story.  It's not.  Bob Haney does a great job in the space he's given.  The story is well-written and interesting.  It just seems a bit rushed and overly-compressed.  
 
What I liked most about the story was the spotlight on both the public AND heroic personas of the two main characters.  With limited space to tell comic stories during this time period, the secret identities of the heroes often fell to the wayside in favor of the more action-oriented superhero side of things.  In this story, Haney makes great use of Batman and Green Arrow's public identities, and truthfully, the scenes with the heroes out of costume were the more interesting to me.
 
The central conflict of this story was very engaging, with two superheroes grappling with the question of how to better serve the public. . .as themselves, using their money and position to fight crime. . .or as costumed crimefighters able to do what the authorities are unable or unwilling to do.  
 
This kind of superheroic introspection was just becoming popular at DC, and it's a welcome change from the usual supervillain of the month punch-ups that were more characteristic of DC comics at the time.  This story is a great example of the more mature storylines that would begin to come out of DC in the following years to come.
 
So the story is good. . .an early example of the more socially-conscious, or "relevant" comics to come.  I just wish that it had a little more room to move around in.  Let's talk about the art side of things.
 
In my humble opinion, Neal Adams is a living legend and a national treasure.  His fantastic art is always a joy to see in a comic.  His writing?  Not so much.  But THAT'S something for another review!
 
What we have here is Adams at the top of his Bronze Age game.  The pages of this comic are FULL of superb Neal Adams artwork, featuring his trademark realism and interesting "camera" angles.   Like the story, the art is at its best when spotlighting the characters out of costume, but every single page of this issue is worth lingering over for an extra moment before turning to the next.
 

CONCLUSION

 
From the fantastic cover to the final panel, this is comic that delivers in a big way!  It has an interesting story based around heroes conflicted about how best to serve the public and is backed up by some great Neal Adams artwork.  
 
Sure, the story is a little rushed and could have been better served by having an extra issue to tell it in, but I don't blame that on Bob Haney. . .I blame it on DC thinking that every comic book had to tell a complete story in one and only one issue at that time.  As a modern reader used to comics being a bit more decompressed, it just seems like a missed opportunity to make a good story great.  
 
If you are a Batman fan or Green Arrow fan or a Neal Adams fan in particular, you'll love this comic! But I can certainly recommend it for just about ANY comic fan that wants to see a somewhat unusual story (for the time) that focuses not just on superheroics, but also on the men behind the masks.  
 
Me finding this actual issue in good shape at a flea market for ten bucks was just lucky, but a bit of research shows me that this one has been reprinted many times, and is available on ComiXology, for those who like to read their comics online, so it's not hard to find at all.  Give it a look!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Spotlighting a few of my more "valuable" lucky flea market finds has been fun, but I've been inspired by Ed Gosney at COOL COMICS IN MY COLLECTION to return to my Longbox Junk roots by taking a look at some. . .Longbox Junk!  
 
By taking a short look at 1987's "G.I. RAMBOT" from Wonder Color Comics in his blog, I was reminded that not everyone is going to be able to snag a 1950's Lone Ranger comic, but there's plenty of forgotten and "worthless" comics lurking in the bargain bins that need a little love too!
 
And not for nothin' but if you're looking for a place that keeps comics fun and gives you JUST enough bite-sized pieces of comic goodness to make you want to come back for more. . .check out Cool Comics in the link above or on Facebook.  
 
Okay, plug time is over!  See you next time with some ACTUAL Longbox Junk.
 
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog that's just FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me to write!

 
To me, comic collecting is all about the hunt.  Finding unexpected comic book treasure in a forgotten back issue bin way down on the bottom shelf back in the corner. . .or sitting in a pile of unbagged comics with the pages flapping in the wind on a folding table at the flea market. . .or hiding in the middle of a pile of old Life Magazines in a milk crate at a little antique shop. 
 
Maybe it's just me, but I think the internet has sort of ruined comic collecting a little bit.  The easy access and ability to specifically pick and choose which comics you want to buy have brought a little bit too much focus on "Value" and "Grade" of comics and taken away some of the joy of discovery.
 
CASE IN POINT. . .
 
I'm a huge fan of The Lone Ranger.  Unfortunately, older Lone Ranger comics are a little hard to come by in "The Wild".  Yeah. . .I could just jump on the internet and buy whatever old Lone Ranger comic catches my eye, but where's the fun in that?  
 
So imagine my joy when I discovered not one, not two, but FIVE Golden Age Lone Ranger comics in decent condition sitting in a cardboard box mixed up with a bunch of battered Richie Rich and Archie comics at the local flea market about a month ago for a lousy TWO BUCKS each!
 
Now THAT'S the sort of find that keeps me excited for hunting comics in "The Wild" right there!
 
SO. . .
 
Since I've found these great old Lone Ranger comics, why not take a closer look at one?
 
Let's strap on a set of ridiculous steampunk goggles and crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for a trip back to 1955. . .when westerns were at the top of the pop culture pile and characters like The Lone Ranger cast a long shadow over the imagination of young Americans.  That's right, it's time for a Longbox Junk Retro Review!
 
Ready? Let's do this!

THE LONE RANGER #84

DELL (1955)

 

COVER: Sam Savitt
 
THE COVER:
 
Let's get this much straight. . .the cover of this comic is worth the admission no matter WHAT is inside.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  In my humble opinion, Dell/ Gold Key comics have some of the greatest covers in comic book history.  Unfortunately, the interior art rarely ever even comes close to matching what's on the cover.  This comic is no exception.
 
But that cover, though!  Now THIS is one awesome Golden Age comic rack eye-catcher!  I haven't owned this comic for long, but it's already among my top ten favorite covers in my collection.  Heck, I'd say top five.  
 
Just LOOK at this cover! Feast your eyes on the rich colors! This beautifully-painted piece of western art perfectly captures the motion, the spirit, the energy of The Lone Ranger and Silver.  It's just a wonderful moment of action captured in art!  I could go on, but let's get inside. . .
 
THE STORIES:
 
Never let it be said that a kid didn't get his money's worth from a Golden Age comic!  Under that awesome cover rests three full length comic stories, an illustrated text story, and a couple of one page non-fiction information pieces.  That's a nice amount of western fun for one thin dime!  Let's take a look at each story in turn. . .
 
THE GHOST RIDERS
SCRIPT: Paul S. Newman
PENCILS: Tom Gill
 
When the town of Weston is plagued by a series of robberies carried out by what seem to be glowing ghost men, the entire town is terrified except for the sheriff.  Tales of the ghostly gang reach The Lone Ranger and Tonto, who arrive in town to help the sheriff get to the bottom of the strange happenings.
 
During their investigation, while taking shelter from a rainstorm in a cave outside of town, the Ranger discovers the secret of the glowing robbers. . .a phosphorescent sludge that the criminals are soaking their clothing in to fool the townfolk into thinking they are spirits!
 
The Ranger and Tonto work with the sheriff to set up a trap, and manage to catch the bandits flat footed in the dark, where their glowing clothes make them easy targets.  Their work done, the Ranger and Tonto ride off to their next adventure.
 
The End.
 

Not a bad little story to start things off with.  Not bad at all.  I like that this short tale shows us the Lone Ranger as an investigator, solving a mystery.  It's a simple story, but it still reads well 66 years down the road, so there's something to be said for simplicity.  
 
The art is also surprisingly nice for a Dell comic.  I usually have a pretty low bar when if comes to Dell/Gold Key comic interior art, but the art here is actually very nicely done, with rich dark inks, plenty of detail, and with none of the sloppy coloring issues that often turn up in Golden Age comics.  It doesn't hold a candle to the fantastic painted cover, of course, but the art is quite a bit better than I expected.
 
Overall, a fun little western tale showing off the Lone Ranger as a detective, with unexpectedly good art.  This comic has gotten off to a fine start. Let's see what else is in here. 
 
NEXT!
 
THE IMPOSTER
SCRIPT: Paul S. Newman
PENCILS: Tom Gill
 
After the Lone Ranger and Tonto rescue an unconscious man laying on train tracks from certain death, they discover that he's a recently-discharged soldier who was attacked by another man, who stole his discharge papers and clothing and left him for dead after changing clothes with him.
 
Searching the man's clothing, they find an envelope addressed to a wanted killer named Mac James that the Ranger and Tonto have been tracking.  They realize that James has stolen the soldier's identity in order to try and escape their pursuit.  They head to the nearest town, Trail City, to try and catch the killer.
 
In Trail City, Mac James' disguise quickly falls apart when the Sheriff recognizes him.  James shoots the sheriff and escapes by jumping onto a moving train, but Tonto sees him circling back around to Trail City and heading into a hotel that is a suspected safe house for criminals on the run.
 
Thinking that the soldier is dead, James decides to finish off the sheriff so that he can safely use his new identity.  The Lone Ranger learns of this plan from the crooked innkeeper and rushes to the doctor's to save the sheriff.  The Ranger arrives just in time to shoot the gun from James' hand.  After taking the killer into custody, the sheriff deputizes The Lone Ranger and he leaves to arrest the innkeeper.  And with that, all is well in the town of Trail City.
 
The End.
 
 
There's a little more meat on the bone of this story, compared to the simplicity of the first. . .with this tale of identity theft and murder requiring just a bit more of the reader's attention.  Once again, this story shows the Lone Ranger as more of an investigator than a gunfighter.  As a matter of fact, reading back over the story, the Ranger fires a total of ONE shot (to knock the gun out of the killer's hand) through the entire narrative.  
 
I find it interesting that both of the Lone Ranger stories in this issue focus more on the investigative side of the famous masked vigilante.  And when I say I find it interesting, I mean I like it a lot.  It seems an unusual path to follow in a 1950's western comic, where one would normally expect a lot of rootin' tootin' pistol shootin' action.
 
The art in this story is a little weaker than in the first, even though both are done by the same artist.  I chalk it up to the first story mostly being set at night, allowing a lot of deep inks and silhouettes, where this story is set mostly in broad daylight.  That's not to say the art is bad.  It's still surprisingly good for a 1950's Dell comic.
 
Overall, an interesting story about identity theft and a killer desperately trying to elude the Lone Ranger, showing the Ranger as more of an investigator and less of a gunfighter, backed up by some more unexpectedly good art.  It's a decent little western story that still holds up well, even after 66 years.
 
And that's it for the Lone Ranger in this Lone Ranger comic.  Let's see what else we've got here.
 
NEXT!
 
MAVERICK KING 
SCRIPT: ??
ILLUSTRATIONS: Tom Gill (?)
 
Next up, we have a two page text story with some very nice spot illustrations.
 
It's about a man and his son hunting for a stolen herd of cattle and talking about an old maverick bull that's never been captured.  When they finally find the herd, they are amazed to find that the maverick has already driven off the rustlers by himself.  You can read the whole thing below.
 
 

Usually, unless I'm reviewing a comic, I just skip by the text stories.  But this one was actually pretty interesting in that about half of it is told from the point of view of the maverick bull.  An unusual storytelling choice. The illustrations are also very nicely done.  Overall, I expected filler.  What I got was a pretty good little read.
 
NEXT!
 
YOUNG HAWK - THE GIANT TURTLE
SCRIPT: Du Bois
PENCILS: Rex Maxon
 
Young Hawk and his brothers, Little Buck and Strong Eagle make camp beside a river.  Their rest is interrupted by a bear and a wolverine fighting over the meat the brothers have left hanging. 
 
After driving off the bear and killing the wolverine, the brothers continue their journey down the river. . .noticing the strange lack of young ducks, even though it's the season for them.
 
As their pet dog, Tumbleweed, swims through the river, he is suddenly pulled under water! Young Hawk dives in to save him and is astounded to see a gigantic snapping turtle.  He kills the turtle by cutting off its head, saving Tumbleweed.  The monstrous turtle will no longer trouble the animals or travelers along that part of the river again.
 
The End.
 

 

This story just didn't do it for me.  I have to admit that I'm not a fan of Du Bois' writing in the first place, so I'm a little biased going in.  That said, I can give anything a fair chance, and given a fair chance, this one still falls flat.  
 
To be fair, the simplistic narrative, with its "This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. The End" story path IS well-suited for the younger audience this comic was written for, and is characteristic of Du Bois' style in ANY comic he's written that I've ever read.  But where the simplicity of the opening Lone Ranger story gave it a snappy character, the simplicity here just makes the story feel like it's being written down to the lowest level of reader.
 
The art doesn't help.  After the surprisingly well done art in the first two stories, the art here feels like a big step backward and more into the territory I would expect in the interior of a Dell comic.  Compare the page above with the pages I scanned for the first two stories and you'll see what I'm talking about.  The art here isn't BAD. . .it's just a little disappointing.
 
Overall, this one was the weak point of this comic.  An overly-simple story backed up by some disappointing art just makes it feel like this effort was aimed squarely at a juvenile audience.  To be fair, on that front it succeeds. . .but it doesn't read very well to a modern reader because of it.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
To finish things off, we've got a couple of short page space fillers.  
 
The first is about Native American gourd lamps. . .
 

The most interesting thing about this little half-pager is that it was written by an actual Native American tribal Chief. . . Red Thunder Cloud of the Catawba Nation, who was a pretty interesting (and sort of controversial) character, according to his Wikipedia page.  So I liked this one not so much for the gourd lamp information (which was okay), but for the direction it took me reading about Chief Red Thunder Cloud.
 
The second page space filler is a little synopsis of the tragic history of the Black Hills.  It basically reads like an encyclopedia entry (For my younger readers, they were big sets of books we used to look things up before Google existed. . ., I feel old).  Interesting, but ultimately there just to take up some unused space.  The "Dell Pledge" below it was actually more interesting to me.  It basically gives the justification as to why Dell comics never sported the CCA seal.
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
And there you have it, Lone Ranger #84 from 1955.  
 
Overall, I found this to be a quite enjoyable read.  The first two stories showcase the Lone Ranger as more of an investigator than as a gunfighter, and I really liked that a lot.  The third story wasn't to my liking, but taking a step back and trying to put myself in the shoes of a kid in 1955 paying a dime for this comic, it's not really that bad.  Heck, it's got a bear fight, a giant turtle, and Indians! What more could a kid ask for?
 
A lot of Golden Age comics don't age very well.  This one still reads pretty good even 66 years down the line, with the exception of the Young Hawk story. But even that wasn't enough to keep the grin off my face as I transported myself back to 1955, when westerns were at the top of the pop culture pile and The Lone Ranger stood strong and tall as one of the great American heroes.
 
If you are a Lone Ranger fan, you will love this comic!  Heck, the cover alone should be enough to make you love this comic.  But this comic will also appeal to fans of Golden Age western comics in general.  This was a lucky find for me, and it's a little more "valuable" than my usual Longbox Junk fare, so finding a copy in decent shape might be a bit difficult.  That said, keep your eye out!  I found this in "the wild" so there might be more of them out there just waiting to be found.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I'm thinking I'll spotlight another one of my recent great flea market finds.
 
But which one?  Stick around and find out. . .
 
Be there or be square!

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