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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

May 2022




Longbox Junk - Elfquest #1

109 views • 12 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog packed FULL of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

Not long ago, I did several reviews based around the meat and potatoes of your average bargain bin.  Those title you're practically guaranteed to find at least one representative of in just about any dollar box at just about any comic shop you might find yourself Longbox Junkin' in.  Let's return to that idea for a moment, shall we?
The comic at hand is definitely one of those ubiquitous bargain bin finds.  If you're digging through a longbox of cheap comics, I would be perfectly willing to bet you a buck you'll find an Elfquest comic. . .and I wouldn't worry one bit about losing that bet. 

Oddly enough, despite there being SO many Elfquest comics out there, I've never read one.  UNTIL TODAY!  Today, I'm going to see what's going on with the Elfquest.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this Elfquest comic, I ask an extra moment or two of your time for a little background that may or may not interest you. . .
I did NOT get this comic from the bargain bin.  It's one of the more unusual items in my collection.  Not because it's "worth" more than usual, but because of the way I came across it. 
I have a copy of  Elfquest #1 that is slabbed and graded (9.8) for some reason.  I found it at a yard sale about 5 or 6 years ago.  It was the only comic the people had at the yard sale, and they had no idea where it came from.  They didn't have any kids and they weren't in the least bit interested in comic books.
I found it extremely odd that I would come across a slabbed comic book at a yard sale in the first place, let alone one single slabbed comic that the people putting the sale on had no idea of how it got there. 
 And then there was the comic itself. . .a 1980's reprint of a series that could easily be found in the bargain bins.  WHY was it slabbed in the first place? The process of grading the comic obviously cost more than the comic is "worth".  WHO went to the trouble to do this? WHY did they decide to slab a "worthless" reprint? HOW did it end up in a Utah yard sale?  SO MANY QUESTIONS!
The people doing the yard sale had no idea how much to charge me, so I gave them five bucks and took home my odd treasure.  I know that this comic isn't "worth" the plastic it's slabbed in, but I've never been able to make myself break it open.  And so there it sits in my collection, along with the other four slabbed comics I own (which are significantly more "valuable") as a mystery I ponder for a moment each time I see it.
I recently came across another copy of this first issue in a bargain bin and decided to finally see what's inside, now that I don't have to crack open a slab to read it.  Are we ready? LET'S DO THIS!


Marvel/Epic (1985)

SCRIPT: Richard Pini & Wendy Pini
PENCILS: Wendy Pini
INKS: Wendy Pini
COVER: Wendy Pini
Honestly, it's a little too busy for my taste.  It's nicely drawn and the figures themselves are interesting, but the colors are a bit bland and there's just too much going on.  It's not a BAD cover, but there's nothing in particular that draws my eye. Nothing that really hooks me in.  Well. . .I guess they can't ALL be winners.  Let's get inside!
We begin our tale in the far distant past of a world not unlike our own, inhabited by primitive mankind.  During a furious storm, a remarkable event happens.  A gigantic shining structure of some sort drops through a hole in the sky!
As the massive structure lands, the primitive humans investigate.  The doors open and strange beings emerge!  They appear to be just as stunned by their arrival as the humans who witnessed it. . .
As the equally frightened primitive humans and strange aliens confront each other, the humans attack! 
The terrified beings from the mysterious structure find that their magical powers are weak on this world, and they are unable to defend themselves as the humans brutally slaughter them!  A few survivors manage to flee into the surrounding forest, never to return. . .
We move forward in time, through uncounted generations of conflict between the ancestors of the surviving elves and the brutal humans who hunt and kill them.  

We find ourselves witnessing a band of humans preparing a ritual sacrifice. . .a captured elf.  Watching from the forest are a band of would-be rescuers.  Wolfriders, led by an elf called Cutter.  On his command, the band of elves and wolves rush forward on the attack!

Taken by surprise, the battle against the humans is short and brutal.  The captive elf, Redlance, is rescued.  Cutter leaves the leader of the men alive as a warning to others, before fleeing back into the forest to return home. . .
But while the news of Redlance's rescue is cause for celebration among the elves, the humans mourn the deaths from the raid, and the shaman that Cutter spared swears by his savage that he will have revenge on the elves!
Later that night, while Cutter and his friend, Skywise, ponder the events of the raid, they are alerted to danger by the howling of wolves!  They learn through their ability to telepathically communicate with their animal allies that a band of men are coming to attack the elven stronghold!
Cutter quickly uses telepathy to summon elven warriors to defend against the coming attack. . .
As Cutter and his Wolfriders confront the approaching humans, he tries to warn them away. . .if the forest is burned, then both human AND elf will suffer greatly.  But the human shaman has sworn revenge in the name of his and refuses to listen to reason!
A short, brutal battle ensues.  The human shaman is killed, but not before he and his followers set the forest ablaze!  Cutter rushes ahead of the fire back to the elven camp and frantically tries to help his tribe evacuate as the flames approach. . .but the fire spreads quickly and their escape is cut off!
They have no choice but to try and make it to the mysterious caverns of the trolls if his tribe is to survive. . .

The desperate elves arrive at the caverns, only to find the door guard reluctant to let them in.  Cutter manages to force his way inside as the fire rages behind them, destroying their home. . .
As the door to the cave is closed behind them, the elves mourn the loss of their home, and are guided through the twisted tunnels of the caverns to meet the King of the trolls to explain the reason they've trespassed on his secretive kingdom. . .

The elven refugees are led deep into the underground kingdom by their reluctant guides, until they finally arrive in a vast hall and find themselves before the throne of Greymung the Shiftless, Mighty King of the Trolls!

To Be Continued. . .
Okay then.  There it is.  Elfquest #1.  Let's break it on down!
When it comes to first issues, there's a bare minimum level of what I expect to find.  Two things. . .just TWO things.  First, does it introduce the characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way?  Second, does it make me want to read more?  Is that too much to ask?  I don't think so.
As far as introduction goes. . .not bad.  Not great, but I've seen worse.  You don't really learn too much about Cutter and his band of elves in this issue.  It's a little lacking in that area.  But where this issue DOES do a great job of introduction is to the world itself and the general conflict between man and elf. 
I really found it interesting that the elves are actually aliens to this world.  It's only mentioned in the first couple of pages, but THAT'S the story that I'm interested in.  I'm not sure if it's covered in future issues, but that's what interested me most about this story.  The rest of it was pretty much setup to get Cutter and his tribe out of a settled place and on the move.  
Thinking about it, the general story here resembles a sort of fantasy Battlestar Galactica, if you will.  A small band of survivors forced to flee their homes after an apocalyptic attack, searching for a new home while being pursued by a brutal enemy.  The good news is, I'm a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, so the resemblance (whether intentional or not) is okay with me.
But does it make me want to read more?
Wellllll. . .maybe?  I wouldn't mind reading more of this story, but at the same time, this first issue doesn't exactly make me want to run right out and find more Elfquest.  Like I said, it follows a very familiar story path with a coat of fantasy paint slapped on.  
This series has been around for a long time and there's a LOT of Elfquest comics out there. . .so logic tells me that there's SOMETHING here that people have enjoyed.  But is it the art? More on THAT in a bit, but most of what I see when I do a bit of internet research on this series revolves around the art and not the story.  Does the story get any better?  Does it step off of the "Fantasy Battlestar Galactica" trail that this issue firmly sets it out on?  Do I want to find out?
You know what?  I think I might.  I'd give the next few issues a read, anyway.  I like this world enough to give the story a chance.  Maybe not a BIG chance, but like I said. . .a few more issues would let me know if I wanted to get deeper down the massive 30+ year and running Elfquest rabbit hole.
SO. . .
The story mostly meets the expectations I have for a first issue.  Let's talk about the art.
Like I said above, when you look up Elfquest on the internet, you're going to get mostly talk about Wendy Pini's art.  So generally, the art is considered the star of the Elfquest show.  I guess I can say that the art DOES deserve top billing in this issue.  It's actually pretty unique and interesting.
It's cartoony, yet detailed.  There are nice cinematic angles and interesting character designs.  Overall, the art style is certainly eye-catching.  But judging from the amount of praise heaped on Wendy Pini online, one would THINK that she's one of the greatest comic artists out there. I disagree.
 I'm not here to knock anyone off their pedestal, but I'm also here to be honest.  For THIS comic, Pini's art is great.  I'm not sure it would work very well outside these pages.  And to be fair, Pini seems to have not strayed far from Elfquest in order to find out.  
To compare, I do have the "Beauty and The Beast: Portrait of Love" one shot tie in to the late 80's Beauty and The Beast T.V. show, which features some of Pini's fairly infrequent non-Elfquest work. . .
From the looks of it, I'm thinking she's very smart to just stay in her fantasy lane.  
Pini's art in THIS comic is interesting, engaging, and quite enjoyable.
The colors, on the other hand, vary wildly from bland to gaudy.  The Marvel/Epic Elfquest series is a reprint of the original series, which was in black and white.  Honestly, it probably should have stayed that way. 
I went online and took a look at Elfquest in black and white and, even though I'm not much of a fan of black and white comics, I think that something was actually lost by "improving" the art with color.  


What we have here is a pretty decent first issue.  It introduces the world of Elfquest nicely.  Character introductions maybe not so much, but there's enough there to like.  It doesn't exactly grab me and make me want to read more, but the story is JUST good enough to make me want to pick up more Elfquest and check it out if I come across some. . .and I will, because there's a LOT of these comics out there in the bargain bins.
The art backing up the story is interesting and enjoyable, but the amount of internet praise heaped on the artist seems a bit out of proportion to what's actually here.  It's good, but not great.
All in all, I'd definitely recommend fans of fantasy comics to check out Elfquest, if they haven't already.  They're easy to find in the bargain bins, there are several collections, OR you can read the first issue for FREE (in a very nicely re-colored online version that makes me reconsider my remarks about the art being better in black and white above) at https://elfquest.com/ , courtesy of the creators!
Up Next. . .
Let's do a Longbox Junk Retro Review!
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - Dragon's Claws #1

203 views • 4 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk!  If you want comic reviews you never asked for, you're in the right place!

First, my sincere apologies for the delays between posts. 

 I had a nasty case of COVID several months ago and it seems that it's not going to entirely be letting go of me any time soon.  My doctor tells me I'm one of the "lucky" COVID  "long haulers".  I feel like I have no energy or motivation. . .even for something as simple as sitting down to write a comic review.  I also still have pretty frequent problems breathing and just generally have a constant light-headed feeling and hardly any appetite, along with random hot flashes several times a day.  It ain't fun, folks!  

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I keep writing comic book reviews even though nobody asked me to!

Here at Longbox Junk, I like to step outside of my comfort zone from time to time, just to keep things interesting.  The comic at hand is a fine example of one of these times.  Generally-speaking, I've never been a fan of "funny" comic books. 
Sure, I like a good issue of MAD Magazine or some Archie comics from time to time, but other than that, I've just never found "funny" comics that. . .well. . .funny.  The humor never really hits the mark for some reason.  Don't get me wrong.  There's some great comedy to be found in comic books (anything by Garth Ennis comes to mind), but for the most part, the laugh out loud moments are pretty few and far between (for me, anyway).
BUT. . .
Here at Longbox Junk, EVERY comic deserves a fair shot. So let's step outside of my comic book comfort zone and give Captain Carrot a fair shot, shall we?  WE SHALL!



DC (1982)


SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: Scott Shaw & Ross Andru
INKS: Bob Smith
COVER: Scott Shaw & Ross Andru
This cover is what caught my eye as I dug through the bargain bin a couple of weeks ago.  It's got SO much color, action, and just plain FUN that I had no choice but to bring it home!  I don't know what I'm in for when I open this thing up, but this great cover is definitely worth the price of admission!
The story begins in progress (Continued from a 16 page insert in New Teen Titans #16 that I'll sorta summarize below) with Superman finding himself stranded on a strange world populated by humanlike animals.  
Strange rays from the planet Pluto had been causing humans on Superman's earth to exhibit animalistic behavior.  During his investigation, he smashed through an invisible barrier in space that led to him discovering this odd version of earth where intelligent animals rule.
Superman quickly discovers that the same rays from Pluto are also affecting this other Earth, causing the animals to behave like. . .well. . .animals.  Enlisting the aid of a rabbit that gained super powers from a piece of a glowing meteor that followed Superman through the invisible barrier (One Roger Rabbit, now calling himself Captain Carrot), the two heroes try to find a way through the barrier in order to save both of their worlds.
But when they arrive at the barrier, neither Superman or Captain Carrot are able to cross it.  Suddenly, Superman is drawn through the mysterious barrier against his will and vanishes, leaving Captain Carrot alone!
Captain Carrot returns to Earth, but quickly discovers that he's better at super-hopping than super-landing.  He's rescued from certain death by a strange metal pig. . .who introduces himself as "Pig - Iron" and tells Carrot his origin story.  It turns out he gained his powers from the same sort of glowing stone Captain Carrot got his from.

Captain Carrot realizes that if the glowing meteor fragments gave the two of them powers, then the same thing must have given the four OTHER superpowered heroes he's been seeing on the news their powers as well. . .and one of them might be able to get Captain Carrot to Pluto!  
And so Pig-Iron and Captain Carrot set off on a journey to find and recruit other heroes to their team.  First stop, Mew Orleans!  There, they quickly find "Alley-Kat-Abra", a cat who gained magical powers from one of the meteor fragments.  
After hearing her origin story, the growing team moves along to find other heroes, using Alley-Kat's magical teleport powers to travel to Kornsas. . .
Once the team arrives in Kornsas, they quickly find "Fastback", a turtle who gained the power of amazing speed from one of the glowing meteor fragments.  After he gives us ANOTHER origin story, Fastback agrees to join the group of heroes as they make their way west to Follywood, where the final two meteor fragments landed. . .
In Follywood, the new team joins up with a dog called "Yankee Poodle" (who fires stars that push from one hand and stripes that pull from her other) and a duck (who can stretch and form shapes with his body) called "Rubberduck", helping them with taking care of a riot caused by the mysterious rays from Pluto.  
After two MORE origin stories, Captain Carrot has gathered a fine team of superheroes and they're ready to try to travel to Pluto and get to the bottom of what's happening!
Using Ally-Kat-Abra's magical powers, the team manages to penetrate the invisible barrier and find themselves on another world.  They've made it to Pluto!
Upon finding and entering a hidden fortress, the team discovers Superman held captive by a bizarre creature calling itself "Starro".  
And then it's time for ANOTHER origin story as Starro describes how after being defeated by the Justice League on Superman's Earth, a small piece of himself made its way to Captain Carrot's universe, where it regrew into Starro, a creature determined to become master of everthing. . .after it destroys Superman and his friends!

Despite Superman telling them to run for their lives, Captain Carrot and his team attack Starro!  Unfortunately, they don't do a great job of it and mostly just get in each other's way until Captain Carrot manages to get them to work TOGETHER to finally score the victory!
After defeating Starro and freeing Superman, the team decides to stick together and fight injustice on their Earth, while Superman returns to do the same on his own.  Taking on the name of "Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew", a new superhero team is born!
BUT. . .
Even as they celebrate their first victory as a team, a mysterious new threat emerges!
The End. . .To be continued.
I'm gonna be honest here and tell you right up front that this hasn't changed my mind about "funny" comics.  That said. . .it ain't bad.  It might not be as funny as it wants to be, but it's definitely fun, so credit where it's due, because sometimes you just want a comic to be FUN.
Most of the humor here is derived from (pretty bad) puns and clever wordplay, as well as a couple of running jokes. Origin stories are the biggest running gag. . .there's SEVEN of them in this issue and the writers lean into that ridiculous number pretty hard, with the characters cracking jokes every time another origin story starts up.  The best part of the joke is that ALL of the origin stories are pretty much exactly the same.
Another running joke is Captain Carrot never getting Superman's name right.  It's not quite as funny as they try to make it, but it's amusing.  Speaking of the Man of Steel, they were smart bringing in Superman as the straight man in this first issue.  His befuddlement at the rest of the characters cracking wise through the story shows that DC isn't afraid to let one of their tentpole characters be the of the joke in order to promote this strange little comic and set it firmly in the DC "universe".
On the art side of things, I liked the look of this comic quite a bit.  It's colorful, it's exaggerated, it's FUN.  The art here isn't going to win any awards, but it's a style well-suited for the wacky story being told.  From what I read, Ross Andru drew Superman only. . .making him stick out like a realistic sore thumb and leaning into the Man of Steel being the straight man outsider in a world of comedy.  It's a great visual gag!


I'm not a fan of "funny" comics, but I liked this one. . .even though it was more fun than funny to me.  But like I said above, there's nothing wrong with a comic just being fun now and then.  It wasn't the greatest comic I've ever read, but it was better than I expected.  The jokes weren't as funny as they wanted to be, but they weren't bad either.
This series lasted a respectable 20 issues, and I've come across several of them in the bargain bins over the years. . .but if you don't want to go Longbox Junkin' for single issues, the whole series (along with a later mini-series and the original Teen Titans preview) has been collected in a big, chunky DC Showcase Presents volume.
Overall, I can certainly recommend Captain Carrot to parents for younger readers, as well as older readers who are just looking for something lighthearted and fun to read.  Unfortunately, if you're already iffy about "funny" comics (like myself), Captain Carrot is a decent read, but it isn't going to change your mind. 
Up Next. . .
Let's get DEEP down in the bargain bin, shall we?
It's prolific artist Brian Stelfreeze's FIRST comic work. . .
It's a 1988 3-issue miniseries from a publisher better known for early comic industry magazines, "Comics Interview Group". It's CYCOPS! 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - Blindside

306 views • 13 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk! It's the blog with more comic reviews you never asked for than you could ever ask for! No need to thank me. . .it's just what I DO!

I've mentioned it before, but I have sort of a soft spot in my comic-lovin' heart for early Image comics.  These days, Image has carved out a great spot for themselves as the company you go to when you get tired of superhero stories, but in their early days they were ALL superhero ALL the time.  And it was in the most obviously desperate "We wanna be the new Marvel!" way possible.
To accomplish their goal, Image flooded the market with a LOT of new superhero comics.  There was a point in time in the 90's that they were pretty much throwing anything they could at the wall to see what would stick.  That point in time was around 1996. . .which brings us to the comic at hand!
Blindside was one of the comics that did NOT stick.  It's one of several projects from Image that didn't last more than one issue, even though there were more planned and advertised.  So let's take a look at this unloved and abandoned relic of the 90's and see if there's something here to like, shall we?  WE SHALL!


Image Comics (1996)


I Spy With My Little Eye
SCRIPT: Marat Mychaels & Robert Loren Fleming
PENCILS: Marat Mychaels & Leo Jimenez, with Chuck Drost
INKS: Al Vey & Sean Parsons
COVER:  Marat Mychaels & Al Vey
Not bad, in that special 90's-Tastic way.  I'm always a bit of a sucker for monochromatic backgrounds on a comic cover, and the stark white of this one sets of the character portrait very nicely.  I like the bold colors a lot as well.  The logo looks like it was created with the '96 version of Windows Paint, though.  Not good.
Blindside himself is SO 90's that the 90's are like "Can you tone it down a bit?"  Between the gritted teeth, bulging muscles, the McFarlane-Lite twisted pose and tangled rope, and the "It's a mask. . .but with HAIR!", this cover IS the 90's.  Still, not too bad.  Let's get inside!
We begin our tale alongside Richard Kemp. . .a highly-trained top agent of the ultra-secret "Orion Sector" intelligence agency.  He's observing a meeting between Criminal Mastermind Ronald Quinn and a scientist who has developed some sort of device built into a helmet.  
Quinn demands that the device be immediately tested on one of his henchmen, despite the Professor's insisting that it isn't ready. . .

As the device seemingly malfunctions, killing Quinn's henchman, Richard is discovered in his hiding place. . .
Using the man who found him as a human shield, Richard jumps down from his perch and leaps into action, easily dispatching Quinn's thugs. . .but as he fights, Quinn himself takes the agent by surprise from behind, knocking him out!
When Richard regains consciousness, he finds himself Quinn's prisoner!  He witnesses Quinn kill the Professor for delivering a faulty device.  Then Quinn puts the helmet on Richard and turns it on. . .promising the captive agent an agonizing death!

But Richard doesn't die!  Instead, he wakes up handcuffed to a hospital bed and surrounded by Orion Sector agents, including his Uncle Bud. . .who had taken Richard in after his father's death and been his Orion Sector mentor for many years.
 After reporting what happened during the stakeout, Richard is shocked to learn that Quinn has an alibi, there was no helmet found, and no other dead bodies. . .just the Professor, killed with Richard's gun and no other prints to be found.
He's been set up!
After the Orion Sector agents leave, Richard ponders his situation.  He knows too much to stand trial.  He'll just. . .disappear.  He's devoted his life to Orion Sector, as did his father before him.  Richard sees himself as a patriot and doesn't want to go down without a fight.

As he agonizes about how to clear himself of the false murder charge, Richard suddenly has some sort of painful mental attack.  As the pain fades, Richard realizes that he can see through the walls!  There are three men with guns outside his room, and they're coming in after him!

As the armed men burst into the room, Richard is ready for them!  During the fight, he learns that they are Orion Sector agents, sent to terminate him!  
Not believing that his Uncle Bud could ever stand by something like this, Richard makes his escape by smashing through the hospital window, declaring that he would take Orion Sector down as he falls, still firing at the men who attacked him. . .

But somehow, the fall doesn't kill him!  Richard is amazed to find himself unharmed. . .but there's more Orion Sector men below, and he's still under fire.  Richard makes a desperate escape through the hospital parking lot, finally managing to steal a motorcycle. . .
Knowing that he didn't have a chance of eluding his highly-trained pursuers, Richard decides to make use of his own training and attack instead of running, managing to destroy a truck full of Orion Sector agents with a single shot, using his new powers to guide the bullet to his target!
But there's more agents where they came from!  Richard goes into a kind of combat frenzy, attacking the remaining pursuing agents and stealing their car. . .

After wrecking the car, Richard manages to escape on foot.  He makes a gritty promise to destroy Orion Sector and anyone behind his betrayal. And from the looks of it, he means it!

To be continued. . .wait. . .never mind.  There was never a second issue.  The End, I guess?
Okay then. . .there it is. The one and only issue of Blindside.  Let's break it on down!
I really hate to say this, but there's not much to like here.  I can see why the plug got pulled on Blindside so quickly.  There's some decent art here and there, but overall, this comic is so utterly average that I had to read it three times in order to write this review because I kept forgetting the details of the story.  And when you've got such a simple story as the one here, that ain't a good thing.
The framework of the story itself is pretty solid. . .secret agent on the run after being framed for murder and discovering that he's somehow gained some unusual powers.  The powers add a little curve on a well-worn action hero story path, but not enough of a curve to make me want to read more.
The dialogue is pretty stilted and full of exposition.  You can really tell that the writer is actually more of an artist when you read this.  It's definitely a bit of a slog reading this comic. . .and like I mentioned above, it's so utterly average that you forget it almost as soon as you're done reading.
On the art side of things, 90's nostalgia pins this one JUST on the good side of bad.  There are actually some really interesting moments to be found (The stark white background page of Blindside attacking multiple gunmen I scanned above is definitely a standout), but there's just not enough of them to elevate this comic much.


Every comic is a labor of love for someone.  The letters page in Blindside tells me that Marat Mychaels created this character when he was 14 years old and had been waiting years for a chance to bring his idea to the comic world.  Unfortunately, the actual execution of Blindside when he finally got that chance didn't do Mychaels' enthusiasm for the character any justice.
From what I see, he took the character elsewhere, where it didn't fare much better. . .2 issues of an aborted mini-series and a couple of guest appearances.  I give Mychaels credit for trying, but I guess sometimes things just don't work out.
In my humble opinion, Mychaels isn't much of a writer. Blindside might have worked if he had recognized this and let someone else write his character. . .but the early days of Image are littered with failed projects where one guy tried to wear all the hats.  This is a fine example of exactly that.
Unfortunately, I can't really recommend Blindside, except as a curiosity. . .an abandoned relic of the 90's that may interest someone just for that.  The writing is somehow overblown and forgettable at the same time.  The art has moments, but not enough of them.  There's really not much to like here.
Up Next. . .
It's the origin story of one of DC's most unusual superheroes and his team. . .
Guest Starring Superman because he must have lost some sort of bet.
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - Black Condor #1

250 views • 14 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk!  It's the blog packed FULL of comic book reviews nobody asked me to write!

Digging through bargain bins as much as I do, sometimes I can't help but be a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of unloved and unwanted comic books out there.  It seems that if a comic doesn't have "value" to collectors. . .the possibility of being "worth" some money, then the comic doesn't have any value at all!
Sometimes I wonder why THIS comic ends up in the bargain bin and THAT comic doesn't.  I've reviewed comics with high collector "value" that are pretty underwhelming.  On the other hand, I've reviewed comics "worth" cover price (if that) that have been really enjoyable.  
Which brings us to the comic at hand.  It's the first issue of a short-lived series that seems to have been mostly-forgotten.  It introduces a new character to the DC roster, has an excellent creative team behind it, and was put on the stands by one of the biggest comic publishers in the world.  So why can a diligent Longbox Junker find every issue of this series by digging through bargain bins?
Let's take a look and see if we can find out, shall we?  We shall!


DC (1992)

SCRIPT: Brian Augustyn
PENCILS: Rags Morales
INKS: Rags Morales
COVER: Rags Morales
Okay, not a bad cover at all.  I like it!  It's basically just a nicely-done character portrait, but I like the design of Black Condor, the heavy inks, and the logo is just really great.  The "First Issue" badge is a little intrusive, but that doesn't keep this from being a very solid and eye-catching cover that makes me want to read this comic.  Let's get inside!
We begin our tale with a short one page prologue.  We are introduced to a young man named Ryan, who seems to be the willing participant in an experiment taking place at the direction of Ryan's Grandfather.  The experiment is being done by a mysterious "Society" and has been in preparation for years.  The purpose of the experiment is to make Ryan fly. . .

We move forward a bit and see that the experiment was successful. Ryan is flying over the lush forest of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  He reflects on the great gift he has been given, but we learn that at some point, Ryan became disillusioned with his Grandfather's secret society and he abandoned them.  Further, he plans to destroy them. . .
After being introduced to our hero, we shift focus to a gang of outlaws on the run.  They've just pulled off a payroll robbery and have eluded the police, but they don't get along, and as they argue with each other they wreck their van while speeding through the Pine Barrens. . .
A Park Ranger spots the wreck and offers assistance, only to be taken hostage by the gang as they hijack his truck to continue their getaway. . .

Ryan (AKA Black Condor) senses trouble below, and using the heightened senses that were part of the "gift" of his Grandfather's experiment, he comes to the rescue of two lost hikers. . .

But when he goes to the Ranger station to report his rescue of the hikers, he discovers that his best friend, Ned (the head Ranger), has gone missing. Condor immediately senses something is wrong. . .

The escaped criminals find themselves stranded in the thick forest of the Barrens when the truck they hijacked runs out of gas.  The stress of constant setbacks breaks the gang down to the point where some of them just want to take their cut and make their own way.  Enraged, the gang's leader guns one of them down in cold blood!

In the skies above the Barrens, Black Condor is searching for his missing friend.  He reflects that it was Ned who showed him that he didn't have to live up to the destiny that his Grandfather had wanted him to, and that he owed his life as a free man to the kind Ranger.  Suddenly, he hears gunshots!

Below, the cold-blooded killing of one of the gang members throws the rest into panic.  The leader orders one of the others to kill their hostages so they can head through the forest on foot.  When he refuses, the leader guns him down as well. 
Black Condor arrives on the scene in time to witness the second killing.  Condor uses his mental powers to control the mind of the gang leader, keeping him from shooting again. . .

A short fight later, and it's over.  Condor saves the hostages and it's not long before the police arrive on the scene and arrest the remaining gang members. . .

Ned expresses his gratitude to Condor for saving him, as well as his astonishment at Condor's increasing powers.  Condor admits that there's still a lot he doesn't understand about the powers his Grandfather's experiment gave him.  Condor clears out before the reporters arrive and all's well that ends well.
In a short epilogue the following day, reports of fugitives captured by a flying man reach Ryan's Grandfather.  He immediately sets into motion some sort of plan that surely can't be good!

The End. . .To be continued. 
All righty, then.  There you have it.  Black Condor issue #1.  Let's break it on down!
When I read the first issue of a series, I look for TWO things:  Does it introduce characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way?  Does it tell a story that I want to read more of?  
Is that really too much to ask for?  I think it's actually a pretty low bar, but for some reason, it seems that a lot of first issues somehow manage to fail at one or both of those two little things.
Fortunately, Black Condor #1 hits both of the marks very nicely.  We're introduced to Black Condor, his supporting cast, his situation, and his antagonists in a well-written and engaging way that gives JUST enough information to let us know that there's still more to come. . .which makes me want to get right into the next issue!
The story itself is extremely simple.  Basically, Black Condor rescues his friend from a gang of criminals that have taken him hostage.  But the simplicity of the story is one of its strengths.  Within the admittedly bare bones narrative there's plenty of room to make that new reader-friendly introduction I find important in a first issue.  Brian Augustyn does a great job in writing what is pretty much a fast-paced one shot story introducing his new character in a way that I want to read more.
On the art side of things, Rags Morales' unique style is what really makes this issue shine!  It's exaggerated, but detailed, with dark inks, great colors, and a lot of attention to facial expression.  I'm more familiar with Morales' more recent work (such as Identity Crisis), but I've discovered here that I enjoy his earlier style much more.  
Overall, this is all I could want from a good first issue of a comic series!  Very nicely done.


In my introduction to this review, I wondered why this series and this character are all but forgotten.  To be fair, Black Condor DID outlive these 12 issues in guest appearances (Mostly in The Ray and Starman) and as a member of mostly-forgotten superhero team Primal Force, as well as a few other appearances here and there until his death in DC's Final Crisis event (Later to be briefly resurrected as a Black Lantern).  But despite these appearances, there just didn't seem to be much interest in Black Condor.
This first issue is a well-written introduction with some great art.  The rest of the issues of this series managed to keep the same creative team on board, so the writing and art are consistent and very solid through the whole run, yet Black Condor could only carry 12 solo issues before being relegated to a supporting character role in other titles. 
Maybe some characters just do better as supporting cast? I've seen other characters that seem to have this same "problem".  Black Canary is one that jumps immediately to mind.  She's a great supporting character that has problems carrying a solo series.  
That's really the only good reason I can think of to explain the relative obscurity of Black Condor. Maybe he just got caught up in the overwhelming glut of 90's comics? That was probably part of it as well. Whatever the reason might be, I found Black Condor to be an interesting character that deserved a bit more attention than what he got.
Overall, I can definitely recommend Black Condor to anyone looking for a good, solid superhero story with some interesting angles (he's not really interested in being a superhero) and some great art to back it up.  This first issue is a good introduction, but the whole series is worth a look.
Black Condor has never been collected (and I don't see it on ComiXology) so if you want to check it out, you'll need to hunt down the individual issues.  Fortunately, they seem to be pretty easy to find in back issue/bargain bins. . .which is where I've found 11 of the 12 issues.  Give Black Condor a try if you should spot one while out Longbox Junkin'!
Up Next. . .
Let's take a look at one of the most obscure characters to come out of Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios during Image's "We Wanna Be Marvel!" superhero days.  I'm talking about BLINDSIDE!
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - Aquaman: Rebirth

283 views • 17 weeks ago • (1) Comment

Welcome to Longbox Junk! It's the place where you can find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

SO. . .

It's been a while. My apologies. I had what I THOUGHT was a pretty bad case of the flu (because I've been vaccinated) that was actually a nasty dose of Omicron-Style Covid (which I guess doesn't really care if you've been vaccinated or not). It's had me down for almost two months now and I'm STILL not entirely over it (I'm gasping for a decent breath of air as I write this). Needless to say, I've been doing a lot more Nyquil sleeping than working or comic book reviewing.  In other words: Worst paid vacation EVER!

On the bright side, I didn't end up in the hospital, and I'm feeling much better now, so there's that.

A belated Welcome to 2022!  My wishes for a happy and prosperous year for everyone reading this!
You may have noticed by now that the Bruce Lee mini I promised last time out is NOT what this Longbox Junk entry is featuring.  I got most of the way through the review before I realized that I was missing the last issue.  Not only was I missing the last issue, but the series ITSELF is unfinished. . .which I find strange, since the publisher has the incomplete story for sale on their website as a trade paperback!  That just doesn't seem right.  I don't really want to promote an unfinished story being sold as complete.
BUT. . .
There's plenty more Longbox Junk out there!  So let's take a look at a superhero that has only recently started to move past a sort of strange reputation as a joke, despite his being one of DC's most reliable characters, carrying several solo series over the years, as well as being a recognizable mainstay hero in most versions of the Justice League.  I'm talking about Aquaman!
The comic at hand is a bit new, as far as Longbox Junk goes.  It's part of a series of one-shots DC put out just before they rolled out their "Rebirth" initiative after they ended the "New 52" after a five year run.  They were meant to re-introduce DC's characters and their new status quo going forward from the abandoned New 52 continuity.   
Truthfully, I'm not much of an Aquaman fan.  Like Marvel's Moon Knight, it seems that EVERY writer that comes onto an Aquaman project wants to leave their mark by making significant changes. 
Unfortunately (and also like Moon Knight) this leaves the reader with a sort of schizophrenic experience. . .with no two versions of Aquaman being alike beyond the basic framework of the character.  You have dark and gritty Aquaman.  You have political Aquaman.  You have fun and friendly Aquaman.  So on and so forth.  It's kind of hard to get a handle on Aquaman, going from one series to the next.
So we have a comic that's meant to re-introduce Aquaman to comic fans.  Now the question becomes: What version of Aquaman is DC re-introducing here?  Let's find out!


DC (2016)

SCRIPT: Dan Abnett
PENCILS: Scot Eaton & Oscar Jimenez
INKS: Mark Morales & Oscar Jimenez
COVER: Ryan Benjamin (variant)
This is the variant cover for the issue (not that it makes this comic "worth" any more), and I have to say that I like it a lot!  I'm kind of a sucker for monochromatic backgrounds on a comic cover and the plain white here really sets off the boldly-colored character portrait nicely.
Aquaman himself is in the classic costume, advertising right on the front of the comic part of the direction DC is going before you even read a single page.  This is just a great cover.  It's simple, but the simplicity is what sells it to me.  Let's get inside!
We begin our tale in the Western Atlantic Ocean, where Aquaman speeds toward a suspected Atlantean terror group called "The Deluge" as they move in for an attack on North America's East Coast.
What a fantastic opening splash page!
As the self-proclaimed "Protector of The Seas" heads for his target, he is given mission updates from his wife, Mera, and the crew of "Spindrift Station", Atlantis' first dry land embassy. . .

Aquaman arrives and finds himself confronting Corum Rath of the Ninth Tride, a lower Atlantean house, but still a noble one.  Aquaman tries to appeal to Rath's honor, but finds himself being rebuked as a false king and a lover of the surface world more than his own. . .
Aquaman quickly discovers that the Deluge have Atlantean fusion bombs that they plan to use to destroy Boston with.  He leaps to the attack!  On Spindrift Station, the crew monitoring the Sea-King's battle are disappointed to see their leader fighting his own kind to save surface dwellers.
Mera defends her Royal husband. . .letting the crew know in no uncertain terms that a terrorist is a terrorist, no matter where they come from, and that to not stop the attack could lead to another war between Atlantis and the United States, destroying all that their King has tried to achieve.
As the battle against the Deluge continues, our unseen narrator muses on how Aquaman is seen as a bit of a joke to many on the surface world. . .the hero that talks to fish.  But the truth is that the Sea King is a supremely powerful being and most surface dwellers have never seen him use his full powers. . .
On the OTHER hand, there are also many surface dwellers that see Aquaman as a dangerous figure. . .leader of a secretive and powerful nation that has attacked the surface world several times, often leaving behind death and devastation. 
Our unseen narrator continues. . .revealing that Aquaman is actually a man of two worlds.  His mother, Atlantean royalty.  His father, a human lighthouse keeper. The self-proclaimed Sea King doesn't really belong in either world, and isn't particularly liked by either one in turn.
After defeating the enslaved sea creatures and the lesser minions of the Deluge, Aquaman finally is able to battle Corum Rath in a one-on-one fight.  Aquaman easily defeats the once-noble Rath and calls for the security forces of Spindrift Station to secure him as a prisoner.

We then follow Aquaman to his favorite seafood restaurant, where he meets with Mera as the unseen narrator continues to speak of the dual nature of the superhero. . .belonging to two worlds, and yet neither.  Constantly trying to bring the two together.  A man of peace ever at war. . .with himself, with his royal duties, with the surface world.  

Mera and Aquaman discuss the day's events. . .wondering why the Deluge are so hostile just because the King wants peace with the surface dwellers.  Mera understands both sides of the conflict, but of course takes her beloved husband's side by revealing that more terrorists have been found, as well as one of their hidden bases.  The rebellion is growing and is larger than they suspected.
As the two royal lovers speak, we learn that they are under surveillance by none other than our mysterious unseen narrator.  We learn of plans to destroy Aquaman. . .first through Mera, then through the destruction of Spindrift Station and the end of the uneasy peace between Atlantis and the Surface World, and finally ending the hero himself.

At the end, we see that the unseen narrator that has been guiding us through the strengths and weaknesses of Aquaman is none other than his old foe, Black Manta!  And he is set on revenge for the death of his father by the Sea King. . .

The End. . .To be continued.
Okay, then.  There it is.  DC's re-introduction of Aquaman moving forward into the "Rebirth" era of their titles.  Let's break it on down!
Like I said above, I'm not a big fan of Aquaman, so I came at this with an open mind and tried to let this comic serve its purpose as an introduction (or re-introduction) to the character instead of trying to compare it to any other Aquaman comics I might have read before.  I'm looking at this like it's the FIRST Aquaman comic I've read.
Annnnnnd. . .It's not bad.  I'd say that if I were trying to introduce someone new to comics to Aquaman, this would be a pretty solid starting point. It does a good job of giving the reader a basic sketch of Aquaman as a hero with a foot in two worlds and wanting to bring those worlds together.  It leans into the character's reputation as sort of a joke, but at the same time, shows that he and his people are regarded as dangerous by many.
The framing story of Aquaman taking down Rath and his Deluge cell is okay.  Pretty much an excuse to throw some action into the mix while we learn about Aquaman and his trouble trying to keep a handle on ruling over a nation that doesn't really like him, while trying to be a heroic ambassador to a surface world that. . .well. . .they don't really like him either.
 It looks like moving forward THIS version of Aquaman is going to be a little more involved in the political side of things.  I haven't read any of the regular issues of the series, but it seems like a good direction to start off in. . .especially since his enemy, Black Manta, immediately spots that Aquaman's diplomatic efforts are an obvious weak point he will be able to attack.
Speaking of Black Manta, the twist reveal that our narrator singing the praises of Aquaman's power is actually his worst enemy was a surprise that makes me want to read the next issue of the series.  
SO. . .
Going by my usual expectations for the first issue of a series, this comic introduced Aquaman aand his situation in an interesting way, and it made me want to read the next part of the story.  What more could you want from a first issue?  Not much, I say!


Overall, I found Aquaman: Rebirth to be a good single issue introduction to the seafaring superhero.  I'm not much of a fan of the character, but this had just enough meat on the bone to make me interested in maybe giving Aquaman another chance.
The story itself is pretty much a loose framework to hang exposition from, but it's well-written and engaging.  The art tells the story nicely and even has a few great standout moments. . .the opening splash page of Aquaman and the ending splash page of Black Manta are two really good ones that come to mind.
All in all, I say that even if you're not an Aquaman fan, there might be enough here to make you consider taking a look at his ongoing series, so give it a shot if you spot it in the bargain bin.
Up Next. . .
I'm not sure!  It took me almost a month to write this, but like I said above, I'm starting to feel better.  Hopefully, I'll be able to get back up to speed soon and start getting the Longbox Junk going a little better than it has been.  So until next time. . .
Be there or be square!

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318 views • 149 days ago • (0) Comments

 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all!

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who spends a bit of their valuable time here reading my ramblings about comic books that nobody ever asked me to write.

I'll tell you true, folks. . .life in America is getting a little strange to say the least.  And trust me, it's gonna get worse.  There's some pretty important political stuff that's going to be happening in 2022, and it's sure to make the cracks between us grow even wider than they are now.  Worse, there's going to be NO way to escape it without going completely off the grid.  

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Longbox Junk - Silver Surfer/ Superman

513 views • 154 days ago • (1) Comment

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

There's been a bit of sad news lately in the world of comics.  The great George Perez has announced that he won't be with us for much longer, due to terminal cancer.  I'm very sure that I'm not alone in considering Mr. Perez to be a living legend among modern comic creators.  He's regarded by many as one of the greatest modern comic artists, and rightly so.  
Judging from the outpouring of fan support and tribute I'm seeing on the internet lately, it's clear that Perez is a man and a talent that will definitely be missed.  I would also like to show my appreciation for George Perez by setting aside my originally-planned review for now and taking the time to spotlight some of his work here. . .but with a bit of a Longbox Junk twist!
Most of the tributes I'm seeing focus on Mr. Perez's fantastic art.  And why shouldn't they?  It's what he's known for. . .fantastic scenes packed SO full of characters and detail that they invite lingering on the page just to take it all in.  It's his trademark and what put him on a well-deserved pedestal among the great modern comic artists.
SO. . .
I'm gonna spotlight a comic without ONE SINGLE PANEL of that signature Perez art everyone loves him for!  That's right. . .I'm going to take a look at George Perez the comic WRITER in this edition of Longbox Junk!  
I want to show another side of this great, multi-talented creator that fans of his art might not be so much aware of by taking a look at a 1996 collaboration between DC and Marvel wherein the two rival companies came together to tell a cosmic tale of titanic trickery across two universes involving two of their mightiest heroes. . .Superman and The Silver Surfer!  
Ready?  Let's do it!


Marvel/ DC (1996)

Folded out to show the villains on the back side
SCRIPT: George Perez
INKS: Terry Austin
COVER: Ron Lim & Terry Austin
I'm actually not a huge fan of Superman (or Silver Surfer, for that matter), but just LOOK at that cover!  Superman is my favorite part of it!  He's a bright image of strength, power, and heroism as he boldly flies across the front of this comic!  And then there's the Silver Surfer. . .a gleaming, powerful being capturing the power cosmic as he speeds along the bottom of the page!  Such a great cover, giving both heroes a their own chance to shine.  Ron Lim knocks it out of the park before we even get to the first page!  
We begin our tale with Superman in the skies over Metropolis, enjoying the end of an uneventful patrol of the city. . .

. . .And with the Silver Surfer, exploring the galaxy and being surprised to discover a planet where once there was only a barren asteroid.
Superman finds himself transported in the blink of an eye to what seems to be Krypton!  The people seem to be in some sort of panic and Superman is attacked by Kryptonian security forces, who believe the strangely-clad man who just appeared among them is part of an invading force!

Superman tries to fight off the security forces, a bit more of a task than he's used to, with his powers greatly reduced by the Red Kryptonian sun. . .

As Superman tries to escape, the leader of the invading alien force shows himself, a strange, hybrid creature who calls himself "Super Skrull".  There are several odd things, such as Super Skrull knowing Superman's Kryptonian name of Kal-El and that the creature speaks English, but Superman doesn't have time to ponder them as the Super Skrull challenges him to one on one combat!

The Silver Surfer is surprised to find himself yanked from deep space and onto the planet Earth, where he once made his home.  But the city he finds himself in is unfamiliar, and his cosmic powers are somehow going out of his control!

As Silver Surfer tries to regain control of his powers, the citizens of Metropolis panic as they realize they have been somehow cut off from the rest of the world.  Lex Luthor's successor, The Contessa, pinpoints the alien Silver Surfer as the cause and is determined to either gain his power for herself, or destroy him. . .

Contessa send robotic minions to take down the Surfer, and as they fight, he realizes he still doesn't have complete control over his powers.  Not wanting to harm civilians, Silver Surfer makes a dash for outer space in an attempt to end the fight. . .

. . .But he is confused when he flies past what should be the limits of Earth's atmosphere and he finds that he still isn't in space, but crashes into an invisible barrier! 
The story shifts back to Superman as he battles The Super Skrull.  Weakened by his exposure to Krypton's red sun, Superman finds himself being badly beaten by the alien creature.  But Superman isn't one to back down from a fight when innocent lives are at stake, even a losing one!  

The Super Skrull offers to lower his defenses and give Superman one good punch.  As the alien creature gloats about winning some sort of game, Superman takes the punch, but is thrown back by the Skrull. . .whose body becomes living elastic!

When Superman crashes into a wall and debris showers down on the onlookers, a strange thing happens!  Super Skrull begins to rage about how harming innocent bystanders is against the rules, and he uses his elastic body to save them!
Superman realizes that something is definitely wrong.  The Kryptonians begin to flicker and change form.  Superman now understands that he's been under some sort of mental control and he's not on Krypton at all!  

After crashing through the invisible barrier above Metropolis, the Surfer is astounded to discover himself standing in a strange place, with a glass-encased miniature city of Metropolis in front of him.  A hole in the glass case is where he must have broken his way through. . .

As he ponders the strange scene before him, the Surfer is attacked by the automated defenses of something called "The Fortress".  He grabs the bottled city of Metropolis and tries to fight his way out, all the while being taunted by a mysterious voice!  As he battles his way through the defenses, he comes to realize that the voice is actually a living being playing a deadly game with him!

The illusion of Krypton dispelled, Superman takes on the Super Skrull with his full powers. . .but as they fight, Superman reveals that he knows that he's actually fighting his old foe, Mr. Mxyzptlk!  But the joke is on Superman when his opponent instead reveals himself to be a strange little creature calling himself The Impossible Man!

Impossible Man tells Superman that he and Mr. Mxyzptlk met in the space between dimensions and became friends.  They agreed to play a game where the two tricksters would swap their greatest adversaries into their own different universes, with the winner being the one who convinced their opponent they were fighting their own enemy first.  Superman had believed he was fighting Mr. Mxyzptlk, so Impossible Man declares himself winner!

Now that he understands he's been used as part of an interdimensional game, Superman demands to be returned to his own universe.  Impossible Man tells him that won't be possible until a winner has been declared and he combines his powers with Mr. Mxyzptlk to swap Superman and the Silver Surfer back to where they belong. 
 Impossible Man leaves to inform Mr. Mxyzptlk of his victory, leaving Superman stranded on the strange planet.  Shortly afterward, Superman is horrified to discover an ACTUAL Skrull invasion force on its way!
When Impossible Man teleports to Superman's universe, he discovers an enraged Silver Surfer protecting Metropolis from Mr. Mxyzptlk.  As he declares himself the winner of their game, Impossible Man realizes that Mr. Mxyzptlk has broken the rules by putting innocent lives in danger.  As Mxyzptlk mocks Impossible Man for being so easily tricked, he flies into a rage and the two begin to fight!

The two tricksters battle, quickly shifting in and out of the forms of their respective universe's greatest heroes. . .Hulk vs. Doomsday, Plastic Man vs. Super Skrull, Wonder Woman vs. Wolverine, Giant Man vs. The Atom, Cyclops vs. Batman, Spider-Man vs. Mister Miracle, Namor vs. Aquaman, and finally Lobo vs. Galactus!  

The battle finally ends when Silver Surfer steps in and uses his powers, demanding that the game be ended and he and Superman be switched back to their own universe.  Impossible Man brings Superman to the Fortress of Solitude so that he can testify Impossible Man won the game, forcing Mr. Mxyzptlk to concede. . .

With all four of the players now in the same space and the game ended, Superman and Silver Surfer agree to help Impossible Man and Mr. Mxyzptlk clean up their mess by taking care of the Skrull invaders and putting Metropolis back where it belongs. . .while the two tricksters agree to send Superman and Silver Surfer back to where they belong.

And so, working together, Metropolis is returned to its normal place. . .

. . .And the Skrull invasion force is sent into retreat.

At the end of it all, Superman and Silver Surfer have a moment between themselves to reflect on the strange adventure.  They part as friends and hope to meet again, but have been told by Impossible Man and Mr. Mxyzptlk that their memories of this encounter will soon disappear completely.  

The End.
Okay, there it is.  Superman and Silver Surfer being used as pawns in a game between two interdimensional tricksters.  Let's break it on down!
I'm gonna be totally honest and up front here.  I intended this review as a tribute to the great George Perez with a bit of a Longbox Junk twist, and the takeaway here is that Perez is known as one of the greatest comic artists and not as one of the great comic writers for a reason.
Hold on! Don't get me wrong here!  I'm not saying his writing is bad at all.  I'm just saying that there's a reason he's better known as a legendary artist.  This is actually a really fun story!  
I love a good "one and done" comic story and this one definitely fits the bill.  It's not deep.  It's not particularly memorable.  The status quo (at the time) of the two heroes doesn't budge an inch.  It just tells a fun tale of two heroes being caught up in a strange game.  
The way that Perez gets Superman and Silver Surfer into each others' universes IS a bit convoluted, and I feel that there must have been a more straightforward story to be told on that end, but other than that, this is just a colorful, action-packed, FUN comic!  And really. . .when it comes down to it, isn't being fun sometimes enough reason to like a comic book?  In my humble opinion, I say YES!
So George Perez does a decent job writing this thing, let's take a look at the art.
So, Ron Lim has a mighty hard row to hoe being the artist on a comic where George Perez is involved.  Let's face it, when most people see Perez's name on the cover of a comic, they're gonna assume he's got something to do with the art.  Nope. . .not here.
Fortunately, Lim steps up to the plate with confidence and knocks it right out of the park!  This comic is simply gorgeous to look at!  Lim has a simple, classic style with nice clean lines and a great touch on facial expressions that brings a lot of character to this comic. 
 There are plenty of little "wow!" moments to be found here. . .Just scroll up and look at some of the pages I scanned to see a few.  My favorites mostly revolve around the Silver Surfer.  His introduction to the story, flying through the stars right into the readers face is simply fantastic!


George Perez the writer isn't quite on the same level as George Perez the artist, but overall, this is a comic that is so much fun to read that I don't even care.  The story is fun, the art is fun, this is just a FUN comic from cover to cover!
Sometimes we get so caught up in the dramatic stories of our four-color heroes. . .their loves, their losses, their titanic conflicts, their inner angst. . .that we forget that comics can be FUN.  This story is a perfect breath of fresh air.  A nice little break. 
 Is it the best story ever written?  No.  Not even close.  But is it FUN?  Yes.  And for that, I give George Perez credit where credit is due.  He may be known more as an artist, and he's definitely going to be remembered that way by most comic fans, but he can sure write a fun story when he wants to!
All in all, I found this one shot story to be a nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  Check it out if you just want to read a fun little story that shows a different side of superstar artist George Perez. And not for nothin' but let's not forget page after page of some very nice art by Ron Lim.  It's just a really good comic from end to end.
Up Next. . .
The review I ORIGINALLY had planned. 
A four-issue series that ponders the following question:  What if legendary martial artist Bruce Lee didn't actually die, but was frozen in suspended animation and revived today?  Join me next time and we'll find out!
It's Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises from Magnetic Press (Yeah, I've never heard of them either)
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews that nobody asked me to!
When it comes to comic books, I'll admit that I'm much more of a fan of non-superhero characters.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to be said for a great Batman or Captain America story, but give me a Lone Ranger, Green Hornet, Spirit or Zorro story and I'm a very happy man!
Conan The Barbarian is right up there in the top ten list of my favorite non-superhero characters.  I think one of the things I like best about Conan is that he's a deceptively simple character that can be used in almost ANY kind of story!  
Conan fits right into horror stories, comedy stories, epic adventures, small character pieces, mysteries, heck. . .at the time of this writing, Marvel even has Conan teaming up with superheroes in the mainstream Marvel Universe (in the ongoing "Savage Avengers" series) and they're STILL great Conan stories!
Marvel's impressive original 275 issue (plus 12 annuals) run on Conan The Barbarian is a pretty good testament to just how versatile the character is.  Even better for a Longbox Junker such as myself, a hefty run like that means (with the exception of the earlier, more "valuable" issues) you can find a LOT of great Conan comics in the bargain bins.  Maybe not as ubiquitous as other dollar box fillers, but there's plenty of them out there to be found.
Which brings us to the issue at hand!
Coming in at roughly the halfway point of Marvel's run on the series, we have a tale that leans toward the horror genre, wherein we find Conan the Barbarian during his days as a wandering mercenary encountering a savage beast with a tragic secret.  Let's take a look, shall we?



Marvel (1984)


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher & John Buscema
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Rudy Nebres
COVER: John Buscema
The late, great John Buscema was a Bronze Age heavyweight and he doesn't disappoint with this cover! The colors are rich and inviting, the composition is perfect.  I really like the contrast between the background and the shadows, which give us a hint of the story inside.  
This cover tells a story in ONE single image and it immediately grabbed my attention when I spotted it in the bargain bin.  It's just an amazing cover all around and I'm glad I have this in my collection!  Let's get inside and see what's going on. . .
We begin in the desert, witnessing a strange scene. Two horsemen pulling a box with a captive woman inside across the sand as she cries out for help. . .
Luckily for her, Conan the Barbarian just happens to be passing by within earshot of her cries and decides to investigate.  As the woman begs for her life, Conan demands she be freed.  A fight breaks out and Conan easily dispatches her captors before letting the woman out of the box.
Not long after rescuing the woman, her father arrives on the scene.  He initially thinks Conan was one of her captors, but she tells him of Conan's brave rescue of her.  
Her father informs Conan that a certain Sheik Abdul Zu Fadh has been obsessed with gaining the hand of his daughter for over a year and has become enraged at her rejection of him.  This is not the first time he's had her kidnapped.  
They all return to her father's camp and prepare for a celebration in Conan's honor.
Later, at the celebration, we learn the girl's name is Kahlima and her grateful father is Ali Maksoud.  After dancing for her barbarian savior, Kahlima departs for the evening. . .
Not long thereafter, eerie howls rend the night air.  Conan is unconcerned, but Ali Maksoud seems to be mysteriously more worried than he should be.  After he departs to check on the noise, the back of the tent is ripped open and a huge wolf-like creature attacks!
As Conan fights for his life against the supernaturally strong creature, Ali Maksoud and his men rush to his aid, barely managing to pull the monster off of him.  The creature flees into the night.  Conan is ready to give chase, but Maksoud convinces Conan to leave it be, as he fears an ambush that might cost him more men.  Conan reluctantly agrees.
Come the dawn, Conan is roused by shouts of alarm.  Kahlima is missing again!  All signs point to another abduction by Sheik Abdul Zu Fahd.  Conan joins Ali Maksoud and his men as they set off to follow the trail of the kidnappers. . .
After a long chase through the day and into the evening hours, Conan and company finally discover the camp of the kidnappers, as well as Kahlima bound to the rocks.  Conan is wary of an ambush and his misgivings come true as a large band of armed men appear, led by none other than Sheik Abdul Zu Fahd!
Conan mocks the Sheik for having to kidnap women he wants to marry.  But Zu Fahd protests that he doesn't want to marry Kahlima, but that she's responsible for the death of his only son. . .
A battle between the two armed bands breaks out, but as they clash and the moon rises, Conan finally learns the truth of things as Kahlima begins to transform into the same horrific beast that attacked him the night before!
The enraged beast breaks free of its bonds and begins to attack both Zu Fahn and Ali Maksoud's men indiscriminately, sending the men into a fearful panic as Conan desperately tries to fight the creature.
Sheik Zu Fahd cries out to his men to bring him an arrow tipped with a deadly black lotus poison, but Ali Maksoud prevents him from shooting it at his transformed daughter.  Instead, he uses the arrow on her himself. . .
As the deadly poison takes effect and the creature changes back into human form, Ali Maksoud cradles his beloved daughter in his arms one last time as he tearfully explains that she was born from a night spent with a demon in disguise, and that he tried to conceal Kahlima's true nature because of his love of her.  
Conan walks away from the tragic scene without a word and rides into the desert night, reflecting that this is an event that will live on in the tales of these desert people, but as for him. . .it's just another thing to put behind him on his journey through life.
The End.
All right, there it is. . .Conan the Barbarian and The Night of The Wolf.  Let's break it on down!
Prolific comic legend Roy Thomas wrote the lion's share of Marvel's Conan run, so it was interesting to see an issue written by someone else.  Thankfully, Michael Fleisher does a great job filling Thomas' shoes on this story!  
It's simple, it's action-packed, and it's a good, solid adventure story that leans a little into horror.  Fleisher doesn't get fancy here, and because of that, this story has the timeless feel that is a hallmark of any good Conan story.  It doesn't matter that this was written 37 years ago, it reads like it was written yesterday. . .or in the 1930's, for that matter.  A good Conan story should have that timeless feel to it, and Fleisher captures it very nicely.
To be fair, there ARE a few places where the overblown dialogue has a faint whiff of Bronze Age Marvel bombast, but it's not really distracting from the simple story at hand.  All in all a very solid "one and done" story.
Now let's talk about the art. . .
The story is solid and well done, but it's the art that's the REAL star of the show here!  Like I observed in my look at the cover of this comic, the late John Buscema was a Bronze Age heavyweight and fully deserves a place of honor in the hall of comic book legends.  It's his work that REALLY makes this story shine!
The first handful of Conan issues are a bit pricey and considered more "valuable" to collectors because of the Barry Windsor-Smith art. . .and rightly so.  But in MY extremely humble opinion, Buscema's long run as artist on the title was superior.  
When I think of Conan, it's Buscema's work that immediately comes to MY mind.  His detailed, kinetic artwork breathed life and energy into Conan's world in a way that's rarely been matched to this day.
Just LOOK at the pages I scanned above!  Every panel of this comic is a feast for the eyes!  This single issue alone is a master class in visual storytelling that a lot of modern artists could definitely take a lesson from.


A simple, action-packed story with that timeless feel needed for a good Conan tale, backed up by page after page of fantastic artwork from a comic book legend. . .what more could you want?
If you're a fan of Conan the Barbarian, you'll love this story!  If you're not a fan, this probably won't change your mind because it hits just about everything that a good Conan story should have in it.  
I hate to make myself sound old, but they just don't make comics like this anymore.  From page one to page done, this is a great example of why Bronze Age comics still hold such a big place in the heart of many comic book fans. . .and I'm one of them.
Up Next. . .
I haven't decided yet, but I WOULD like to take this opportunity on the eve of Thanksgiving to thank each and every person reading this for spending a little bit of your precious time here with me.  I am indeed sincerely thankful that there are fellow comic fans out there who like to read these reviews that nobody asked me to write.  I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

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Longbox Junk - Justice #1

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely PACKED full of comic book reviews nobody asked me to write!
Lately, I've been getting back to the roots of Longbox Junk by focusing on some, well. . .Longbox Junk! These are the comic books that you are practically guaranteed to find while digging through just about any decent bargain bin in just about any comic shop you might find yourself in.  These forgotten relics of the 1980's and 90's are the space-filling meat and potatoes of dollar boxes across America. 
This time out, I'm taking a look at the first issue of a comic series that was part of an interesting and somewhat infamous experiment by Marvel Comics in the late 80's.  Let's talk about that for a moment before we get into the main event, shall we?  Yes, we shall!
Boiled down to the sauce, the story behind the New Universe was that Marvel Editorial was trying to come up with something big to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Marvel as we know it.  Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter came up with an outrageous idea. . .a complete shutdown of the Marvel Universe and a fresh start at issue #1 of ALL their titles (an idea later used by DC for their New 52 reboot, but THAT'S another story).
Shooter's idea was rejected because Marvel was doing pretty good at the time and why fix what ain't broken (YET. . .the 90's were just around the corner).  So he did the next best thing and suggested a whole NEW Marvel Universe. . .8 titles with new heroes and villains coming out at the same time with issue #1 that readers could jump in on at the beginning and not worry about years of past continuity.  Even better, THESE stories would be set in a more realistic world, where superheroes were extremely rare. . .a world like the one outside your window.
And so the New Universe was born!
The new line was heavily promoted, but there were problems almost from the start.  The budget was originally quite generous, but it wasn't long before Marvel's parent company (Cadence Industries at the time) decided it would rather spend money elsewhere and the budget was severely slashed to the point that almost none of the New Universe titles could maintain a consistent creative team or shipping schedule.
Within the first year of the New Universe, four of the original titles were cancelled.  The rest of the titles were so inconsistent in tone and look due to the constantly-shifting creative teams that the entire project was scrapped in 1989 with a total of 170 published issues across the line.  Jim Shooter was replaced as Editor-in-Chief by Tom De Falco halfway through the run of New Universe, and it is pretty much a given that Shooter's resignation was heavily-influenced by problems with New Universe.
Although the New Universe had its fans, and the four remaining titles after the purge of half of the line during the first year sold fairly well, it never really found a solid footing.  Today the New Universe is generally regarded as a weird relic of the short space between the end of the Bronze Age of comics and the beginning of the Modern Age of comics.  A space where more realistic stories were starting to be told for older readers, but the general comic industry (and readership) wasn't fully on board with them just yet.
And so we come to the comic at hand!
Justice is generally regarded as one of the worst New Universe titles.  Mainly because it violated the rules of a more realistic world without superpowers right out of the gate with this first issue.  Despite this, it survived the first year purge of half of the New Universe titles and went on to the finish with 32 issues. . .one of the longer-running series.  The main character also popped up here and there in Marvel comics (most notably in 1993's Spider-Man 2099) even after the end of New Universe, unlike the rest of the characters who were quietly forgotten for the most part.
 Personally, when the New Universe was on the stands, Justice was really the only title in the line I liked, which is why I decided to re-visit it for this review.  Does it still hold up after 35 years?
Let's find out!


Marvel - New Universe (1986)


SCRIPT: Archie Goodwin
PENCILS: Geof Isherwood
INKS: Joe Delbeato, Jack Fury, Joe Rubenstein
COVER: Geof Isherwood
Not bad!  I like it!  The bold colors really make this one pop.  The blues and purples of the background really set off the main character and the title, which has a really interesting style. . .even though it makes it look like the comic is called JVSTICE.  The signature black New Universe border that makes these comics so easy to spot in the bargain bin frames everything very nicely.  Let's get inside!
We begin our tale in Alphabet City, a crime-plagued area of Manhattan.  Three young hoods have just mercilessly robbed and killed an innocent woman.  We follow them as they make their escape back to their hideout. . .

As they go through their ill-gotten loot, a mysterious and oddly-dressed man suddenly arrives.  Despite the taunts of the criminals, he doesn't speak a word, and seems to be studying them with eyes that glow with a strange red light.  
When threatened by one of the hoods with a knife, the stranger blasts the three of them with a bolt of power from his hand, finally speaking, declaring "I am Justice".

As the strange man leaves and begins moving through the decaying landscape of urban New York, the scene shifts to Los Angeles, California.  
A powerful man named Damon Conquest receives an urgent telephone call informing him that someone (the reader assumes it is the strange man in New York) has survived an ambush meant to kill him, and not only did he live, but somehow he has "crossed over". 
 Damon is told that outside help is being brought in to find the man and finish the botched assassination attempt.

Returning to New York, we follow the mysterious stranger as he wanders through an East Village park.  He is confused by a world that seems to be a harsher shadow of his own, and he struggles to remember his name and purpose.  He knows he is a warrior, and that he serves the cause of Justice, but doesn't understand anything else that has happened to him.  
As the mysterious warrior interferes in a fight between a drug dealer and a prostitute, he learns about a place called "The Factory", which runs organized crime in the area.  The stranger becomes convinced that if there is a place of power nearby, then that's where he should begin trying to find answers. 

We once again shift scenes to St. Marks Place in the East Village, outside of a popular nightclub called "The Factory".  We join Rebecca Chambers and Hoyt Pittman. . .two undercover Department of Justice agents as they infiltrate the club disguised as a socialite and her chauffer.
The mysterious warrior arrives at the club at about the same time, and is somehow drawn to Chambers.  He manages to talk his way in, not realizing that Chambers' partner is following him after noticing his strange interest in her.

Upstairs, we find Chango Villalobos, the boss of the local crime family, interrogating one of his men.  We discover that they know about the Department of Justice's investigation and know the identity of Rebecca Chambers thanks to them turning another agent to their side.  They plan to set her up.

Meanwhile, down on the floor of the club, the mysterious stranger has found Chambers, dancing with a man who we learn is another agent that has already infiltrated the crime family. . .the same agent that Villalobos believes they have turned to their side.  The sight and the music triggers a flashback, where we see the warrior dancing with a woman in another time and place.  
We learn that his name is Tensen, and her name is Shamora.  As the two lovers dance alone, they are attacked by assassins!  He is struck by an unknown power. . .a blinding white light. . .and then he remembers nothing except waking up in this strange dark mirror of a world.

We return to Rebecca Chambers and Jean-Paul, the agent who is helping infiltrate the gang.  Unfortunately, they are overheard discussing their plans on a hidden camera and are attacked by Chango and his gang members!  
Tensen arrives as a shootout begins.  We see that he can form a sort of energy shield with one of his hands as he tries to protect Chambers from gunfire.
Not realizing that Jean-Paul is one of her partners, Tensen destroys him with an energy blast during the fight!  

As Chango makes his escape during the confusion of the fight, Chambers gets the drop on Tensen and takes him prisoner, intending to arrest him for the murder of her undercover partner.  
As they leave the club, Chambers' other partner arrives on the scene after hearing the gunfire.  Tensen takes advantage of the distraction and uses his non-lethal shield power to escape custody.

We follow Chango as he tries to escape the club, only to be murdered by one of his own men, who intends to take his place.  As the murderer gloats about his big future plans for the crime family, Tensen arrives and executes the mobster with a blast of energy.  Rebecca and Pittman arrive on the scene to witness the killing and once again take Tensen into custody.
At the end, we return to California, where news of the attack on the nightclub has reached Conquest.  Now that Tensen's location is known, assassins are dispatched to finish him off. 

To be continued. . .
Okay, there it is. . .Justice #1.  Let's break it on down!
With any first issue of a comic series, I expect two things.  First, does the story introduce new characters and their situations in a reader-friendly manner?  Second, does the story make me want to read the next issue?  Just TWO things.  I don't think that's too much to ask.  You'd be surprised how many first issues fail one or both of these simple things.
For the first point, Justice #1 does a good job of introducing Justice Warrior Tensen and his arrival in this strange new world.  The late, great comic legend Archie Goodwin keeps a nice aura of mystery around the character, while feeding the reader JUST enough tiny little bits of information that let you know there's more to come.  
All we know right now about Tensen is his name, that he's from another place that resembles our own world, someone tried to kill him and he somehow ended up here, and that he has some pretty brutal powers he's not afraid to use on anyone he sees as deserving it.  That may seem like a lot, but as the series moves forward, it's just scratching the surface.  There's a lot more to learn about Tensen.
The story itself is pretty simple. . .a mysterious warrior from another world arrives in our own and immediately starts leaving a body count behind as he searches for answers while running afoul of the law.  It reads almost like a Punisher story with a super powered twist.  It works in its simplicity.  Goodwin didn't try to get fancy, he just told a straightforward tale of a stranger in a strange land looking for answers.
On to the second point.  Does this first issue make me want to read the second?  Yes it does.  The simple, fast paced tale reads quickly and definitely leaves you wanting to know more about this mysterious warrior who isn't shy about blasting anyone who stands in his way.  As the series goes on into a rotating roster of writers and artists (a general downside of the entire New Universe line), things get a little shaky, but this first issue in the hands of comic veteran Goodwin certainly gets the series off to a good start.
On the art side of things. . .
To be honest, the art is a little bland.  Not bad, but not great.  It tells the story, but doesn't really try any harder than that.  Generally-speaking, the art on all the first issues of the New Universe line shared a sort of generic look that probably didn't do the line any favors.  Justice is no exception.  The art isn't really a high point (Yet. . .there is a short run of later issues with some work by Keith Giffen that really stand out).
All that said, there IS one facet of this issue's art that I REALLY like a lot, and that is Geof Isherwood's portrayal of Tensen's powers.  The energy blasts that he uses to dispatch his enemies aren't some little puny beams of light. . .they're huge, brutal explosions that completely engulf their target, knocking them off their feet and literally disintegrating them into piles of dust!  
Take a look at the scans above to see what I mean.  The way that Tensen's powers are illustrated make them look, well. . .powerful!  They definitely don't look like something any average human could possibly survive.


Thanks to the writing of legendary comic veteran Archie Goodwin, Justice #1 is a pretty darn good read.  It's a simple, fast-paced story about a stranger with brutal powers somehow arriving in our world and searching for answers.  Goodwin leaves an aura of mystery around the main character, making me want to read the next issue and learn more.
The art isn't anything special, with the exception of the portrayal of the main character's powers, but it isn't bad.  It tells the story, but doesn't reach any higher beyond that.  
Overall, Justice #1 is a great first issue.  It's not the best comic I've ever read, but it's nowhere near the worst.  It's a simple and solid opening for a comic series that I'll recommend to anyone looking for a brutal Punisher-style story with a super power twist.  
Justice was never collected in trade form, but from my experience, you can find almost every issue in the bargain bin.  The later issues are a little harder to find, but they're out there.  
The series takes a LOT of twists and turns as the New Universe in general struggled to survive (The main character goes through two complete overhauls in the course of 32 issues), but all in all, it's worth checking out.
Up Next. . .
How about I surprise myself by reaching into a random box of my collection and reviewing whatever I pull out?  Is it gonna be a retro review?  Is it gonna be a mini-series?  A mainstream superhero comic? Some strange relic?
Let's find out!
Be there or be square.

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