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As I've stated before on this blog, I LOVE the Aliens franchise.  One of my favorite movies is the much-hated Alien 3.  You know anyone who publicly confesses a love for Alien 3 without a single bit of shame is a true Alien fan. 

AND. . .

When it comes to DC comics, Batman is pretty much my favorite character of them all.  I have 36 longboxes in my comic collection.  5 of them are nothing but Batman comics.  I have more Batman comics in my collection than a lot of people have in their TOTAL collection.

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Welcome one and all to another "Retro Review" edition of Longbox Junk, where I take a look at some of the older and more "valuable" single comics in my collection, and give YOU yet another review you never asked for!

This time out, we travel back to 1966 and take a look at an early madcap adventure of everybody's favorite Merry Marvel Mutants. . .The X-Men.  Let's do this!

THE X-MEN #23

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I've never been a fan of Cloak and Dagger for a couple of reasons. . .first and foremost is that I'm generally not interested in "Gimmick" mainstream superheroes, so I don't really seek out comics starring them.  The second reason is pretty much the last part of the first. . .because I don't seek out "Gimmick" mainstream superheroes, I've read very little about Cloak and Dagger.

Most of what I know about the characters comes from the few issues I have of "Strange Tales", a short-lived Doctor Strange/Cloak and Dagger split book Marvel put out in the 80's, and their small role in the recent "Secret Empire" story.

BUT. . .

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If you (like me) are fond of digging through bargain boxes at your local comic shop, trying to find those nuggets of comic gold among the Longbox Junk, then you have more than likely spotted at least one issue of this four part mini. 

As far as I know, those shiny hologram-enhanced covers are as much a fixture of dollar bins as anything Image ever put out during their "Gotta be like Marvel!" 90's Heyday.  They must have printed a billion issues of this series because I come across them all the time.

So let's take a closer look at this common Longbox Junk find. . .

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Welcome one and all to another "Retro Review" edition of Longbox Junk!

This week, we travel back to 1964 to take a look at DC's long-running team up title, The Brave & The Bold.  I've previously dipped into B&B here on Longbox Junk, but more toward the end of its run during the 80's.  I found the issues I reviewed (with a couple of exceptions) to be pretty weak and not seeming to have much effort put into them.  It was obvious that the title was about done for.

THAT SAID. . .

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When I discovered these issues bundled at my local comic shop for 5 bucks, I had no idea who the Human Bomb was.  I just knew Longbox Junk when I saw it and forked over Mr. Lincoln.  After a bit of research, I discovered a character with a long and illustrious history as a DC C-Lister. . .mostly on a team of heroes known as "Uncle Sam and The Freedom Fighters".  

I've seen a few issues of the series here and there, but to be completely honest, DC sort of sucks at patriotic comic heroes.  Except for the Big Blue Boy Scout, who else do they really have?  No. . .when I want a dose of AMERICA, HELL YEAH! I go straight to the original Star Spangled Avenger, Captain F*CKING America.

But I paid 5 good American dollars for these four comics. . .what was I going to do, just let them sit there in a longbox unread?  Let's do this!

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A dollar box is like a junkyard. . .hence the title "Longbox Junk".  You do some digging and sometimes you find just the thing you need. Sometimes you discover something you never knew you wanted.  But most of the time you just find junk.  

Let's do this!

BLACK AND WHITE

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I have to admit that I'm not very familiar at all with Star Spangled War Stories.  What I DO know about it is from later issues featuring The Unknown Soldier, which is a great character. . .but really, as far as war comics go, I've always been more of a Sgt. Rock and Weird War Tales kind of guy.


I found this issue at a flea market last year in pretty good condition for the measly five bucks I paid for it, and it's been sitting lonely and unread in a longbox ever since. . .the only pre-1974 issue of this title in my collection.  

BUT. . .

Since "Longbox Junk" is all about reviewing comics that have probably never been reviewed before, and these "Retro Reviews" are about taking a look at some of the older comics in my collection, I decided to crack the plastic on this lonely outcast and see what's going on under the cover. 

Let's do this!
 




STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES #120

DC (1965)
SCRIPTS: Robert Kanigher
ART: Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
COVER: Joe Kubert

First off, we have a cover by the great Joe Kubert.  Unfortunately, it's not that great of a cover.  His trademark sparse/primary color background make it pop nicely, and the tank is great, but other than that it just seems sort of. . .phoned in.  The creature seems very generic.  The purple and green coloring of it is just not good. The positioning is kind of strange.  A mediocre cover by Kubert is STILL better than a good cover by a lot of artists, but this is certainly not one of his better efforts.

MOVING ALONG!

The interior art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito is. . .okay.  It's not great, but it's not bad, either. The art tells the story in a competent way, but it doesn't have a single really good moment in the entire issue.  The coloring brings the art down another notch with pink and purple dinosaurs.  

The art in the backup story (Dryland PT Boat) is actually better than what's up front because it takes place in a darker and more realistic setting than "Dinosaur Island", and it looks like the inker (Esposito) had more of a hand in things.  

Overall, the art in this issue isn't really bad. . .it just seems somewhat workmanlike and uninspired, especially considering the science fantasy elements featured in the main story.

So, that was the art.  Let's consider the writing. . .

There's two stories in this issue, both by writer Robert Kanigher. Unfortunately (Like the art), there doesn't seem to have been much effort or inspiration put into either of them, although of the two, I found the backup story to be better than the main.  Let's take a look at both.

THE TANK EATER

The lead is a "War That Time Forgot" story involving two members of DC's proto-Suicide Squad on a secret mission to deliver and test a new tank that can do just about everything but fly.  On the way to their destination, they are attacked by a flying dinosaur and end up stranded on Dinosaur Island after a mid-air battle where they are rescued from falling to their death by a baby dinosaur they themselves had rescued during an earlier mission (in a previous issue).

On the island, their tank is attacked by another creature and dragged underwater.  They manage to escape, but the tank ends up on a Japanese submarine.  They decide to find the submarine's lair and destroy the tank, and during their search, they come across a young caveboy fighting a giant dinosaur.  They save the caveboy and he joins up with them.

While tracking the submarine, they are attacked by ANOTHER dinosaur and are dropped into the water by their friendly flying dinosaur baby.  While the Suicide Sqad members fight off Japanese frogmen, Caveboy plants explosives on the sub.  They make their escape as the sub and tank explode, then the baby dinosaur carries them to safety.

Ooooookay. . .hmmmmmm.

If I had to describe this story in one word, it would have to be "Juvenile".  

Like the art, it doesn't seem as if much effort was put into this story at all.  It has interesting elements, but the execution of those elements are so simplistic and uninspired that one has to wonder if this was written as part of a bet over whether or not a comic book story can be written in 60 minutes or less.  

Okay, maybe I'm being a bit harsh.  I completely understand that in the 1960's, comic books weren't exactly written with a 50 year old reader like myself in mind.  They were being written for kids.  Given that, I suppose that the writer did the job he was hired to do.  Unfortunately, that was all he did.  Now, I'm not going to say this story was terrible.  It's not.  But it's definitely not good, either.

DRYLAND PT BOAT

The backup story involves the son of a famous naval officer being put in command of a PT boat that is almost sunk during his very first mission.  He is told that he needs to rescue some army officers on the other side of a peninsula, but there is to many mines and enemy patrols to get there by sea, so his PT boat needs to be trucked overland to the other side.

On the way, the truck carrying his boat is attacked by Japanese planes and tanks, which he fights off by commanding his boat like he was on the water instead of on a trailer, eventually destroying a pursuing tank by dropping a depth charge on a bridge.

Once back on the water, he is faced with an overwhelming enemy in the form of a destroyer, but hoping to live up to his father's famous deeds (He rammed a battleship with a cruiser during WWI), he goes on the attack and risks his life diving into the water to repair his last torpedo, winning both the battle and gaining the respect he had not been given living in the shadow of his father.

I found this backup story to be the better of the two.  The art, the subject matter, and the writing were all a notch above "The Tank Eater".  That's not to say it's a great story. . .it still seems as if not a great deal of effort was put into it. . .but it holds up better to a modern reading than the Dinosaur Island shenanigans of the lead story.  I thought the idea of a PT boat commander having to wage a battle from the deck of his boat while on a trailer driving across dry land was pretty clever.  And like I said above, the art was a bit better with a more realistic story to illustrate.

CONCLUSION

Overall, even though there were some good elements to be found, this issue was pretty mediocre.  It wasn't like the artists and writer didn't have some interesting stuff to work with, it just seems like they were doing their jobs and nothing more than that.  Even the great Joe Kubert's cover was uninspired and average!

I know that there are pretty good issues of this title later on with Unknown Soldier, but if all I had to go on was THIS issue, I'd probably just take a pass on the whole thing.  

Up Next. . .

Back to Longbox Junk business as usual with a trip back to 1994 and Image's "We REALLY want to be Marvel!" Superhero overload glory days.  Black & White three issue mini.

Be there or be square!

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I'm a pretty big fan of Predator.  I love the movies. . .yes, that includes the Alien vs. Predator movies everyone hated.  Not my favorites, but not nearly as bad as some people seem to think.  The first movie is, of course, an action movie classic that has been one of my favorites ever since I saw it in the theater as a young man, grinning as Arnold told that alien bastard that he was "One UGLY motherf***er".

BUT. . .

That's the movies.  What about the comics?

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Let's get this out of the way. . .I'm a HUGE fan of the Mass Effect video games. 

I'm even going to go ahead and put my nerd cred on the line and say that despite my initial misgivings, I liked the much-hated and presumed series-destroyer Mass Effect: Andromeda to the point that I played it until there was literally nothing left to do!  And I didn't like Andromeda nearly as much as I liked the original trilogy of games.

In other words, when it comes to the Mass Effect video games, I'm a fan.

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