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Longbox Junk Halloween Jonah Hex (vol. 2) #24

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

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Longbox Junk - Marvels Snapshots: Captain America

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where comics are worth more than money.  That's my way of saying that if someone broke into my house to steal my comic collection, they'd find it more trouble on their back hauling them out than what the job would be worth  . . .BUT I DIGRESS!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. . .I'm a sort of patriotic guy.  I come from a long line of military men, and as a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps myself, I tend to be a bit of a flag waver and I ain't ashamed to admit it. And with times the way they are, maybe we need to wave the flag just a little.

Wait! Wait. . .don't go!  I'm not gonna get political.  I'm just introducing the Longbox Junk "theme" for July!  It's Captain America, okay? I'm going to be looking at some Captain America comics through this month. 

BUT. . .

It IS Captain America, so if you aren't the kind to tolerate a little "AMERICA, %$#& YEAH!" in your funny books, then maybe you might want to skip the next few posts. But come back in August!

Okay, everyone in that's staying in?

Let's start this off by stepping outside of the usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds with a little something brand new and on the shelves right now.

DC gets a bit of flak for squeezing every possible drop out of their seminal "Watchmen" series by constantly trying to add to something that doesn't really need anything added to it. But never let it be said that Marvel isn't just as guilty of the exact same thing with their own critically acclaimed series, "Marvels".

What we have here is the first of a new series of one shots trying to capitalize on what little magic is left in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' masterwork of seeing superheroes through the eyes of the common man.

The series is called "Marvels Snapshots", and the first one out of the gate features Captain America (and The Falcon) in a continuation of Jack Kirby's 1970's "Madbomb" storyline. . .the first issue of which (Captain America #193 from 1976) got a a fine Longbox Junk Retro Review  HERE .

SO. . .

We've got a one shot walking the tightrope of adding to a fan favorite series that doesn't really need anything added to it AND trying to continue a classic Bronze Age story from one of the giants of the comic world.  It's got some work cut out for it.  Let's take a look!

CAPTAIN AMERICA:

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS

MARVEL (2020)

 
SCRIPT:  Mark Russell
PENCILS: Ramon Perez
COVER: Alex Ross

THE COVER:
Marvels was the series that put superstar artist Alex Ross on the mainstream map, so it's a good call in my book getting him on board to do the covers of the "Snapshots" one shots.

As far as the cover itself, it's a great portrait shot of Cap painted in Ross' trademark hyper-detailed and realistic style.  I love the determination in Cap's eyes and the grim set of his jaw!  I don't know who's about to get punched, but I can see by the look on Cap's face that they definitely deserve it.  Alex Ross is a fantastic visual storyteller and in this simple shot of Cap getting ready to deliver a New York Special, there's a story being told.

It's not the greatest Captain America cover ever, but this is definitely worthy of a turn up on the rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside and see what else is going on here.
 
THE STORY:
Felix Waterhouse is a teenager living in a poor South Bronx neighborhood.  Extremely gifted with electronics, he's working in his father's television repair shop and trying to earn enough money to escape poverty and go to college.

BUT THEN. . .

The Madbomb attack hits Manhattan.  Felix's neighborhood is on the edge of the attack, but it is still devastated by the ensuing riots before Captain America manages to destroy the device causing people to go mad and attack each other.

 
In the aftermath of the Madbomb attack (during which Felix's mother kills his little brother), life returns to normal for most of the city.  The superheroes of New York turn their attention to new threats as the city begins to rebuild.
Unfortunately, conditions in Felix's neighborhood only get worse as the devastation of the Madbomb causes businesses to leave and gangs to move into the blocks of  abandoned and burnt out buildings.  Crime is rampant and even worse, loss of business at the T.V. repair shop means that Felix has to spend his college savings just to keep his family going.
 
 
Things are looking bleaker and bleaker for Felix until one day a mysterious man comes into the shop with a strange offer. . .he represents an organization interested in Felix's talents with electronics and will give him a good job, as well as pay for his college education.  The catch is that the organization he represents is A.I.M.  A well-known part of the villainous Hydra!
 
Felix declines at first, but as he sees repairs being made to the wealthier sections of the city while neighborhoods like his are ignored, he decides to take the man up on his offer.  He is taken to an elaborate secret research base hidden beneath Manhattan to begin his new life.
 
 
Felix quickly fits in with his new A.I.M. colleagues and his extraordinary talents with electronics gain the attention of his superiors.  Because of this, he is one day taken to the most restricted level to assist with problems plaguing an ultra-secret project.  When he arrives, Felix is amazed to see that A.I.M. is trying to build a massive Madbomb of their own!
 
As he joins the Madbomb project, Felix slowly begins to realize that by helping to create a weapon of mass destruction, his talents aren't helping make a better future for anyone, and that his whole life is now built on lies.  He decides to sabotage the Madbomb, but is caught in the act.
 
 
After Felix is informed that he knows too much and has to die, he desperately activates a pulse meant to destroy the Madbomb, but his unfinished device is stronger than he expected and the resulting effect is enough to attract the attention of Captain America, The Falcon, and Iron Man, who quickly make their way to the hidden A.I.M. base and attack!
 
 
During the battle, the Madbomb is destroyed and Felix is rescued by the superheroes.  He informs them that he is the one who disabled the bomb and Iron Man is impressed by the young man's technical know-how.  A few days later, Felix is surprised to receive a job offer from Stark Industries.  
 
 
In the end, Captain America and The Falcon help with the long-overdue reconstruction of Felix's devastated neighborhood after realizing that simply defeating a problem and then ignoring what comes afterward doesn't solve anything and sometimes makes things worse. 
 
 
Lesson taught.  Lesson learned.  The end.
 
THE REVIEW:
What we have here is less of a Captain America story and more of a Felix Waterhouse story. . .which is a little disappointing right out of the gate considering the giant picture of Captain America on the cover and the fact that this is sold as a Captain America story.

SO. . .

Let's look at this from the angle of it being the story of a young man seduced by Hydra with Captain America and friends in a supporting role.  On THAT side of the coin, it's not a bad story.  I do like the way that it looks into the aftermath of the original Madbomb attack from Captain America #193, so as an epilogue to "Madbomb" I think this story actually does a good job.

Felix is a pretty interesting character. Seeing him put his morals aside to try to make things better, realizing that he's been seduced by lies, and finally trying to make things right is a pretty good character arc.  Yeah, it's been done before and done better, but sometimes a little "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is okay if it's done well.  Here, it's done well.

The story DOES get a little preachy toward the end as we get a healthy dose of "Superhero is forced to realize that the little people count too" moralizing.  It's not QUITE to the point of being cringeworthy, but it's pretty close to that edge.

So this story works as a sequel to Madbomb that digs in and takes a close look at the consequences of the original 1976 story from the perspective of one individual. . .but as a "Marvels" expansion, not so much.

The story of Marvels is rooted in an ordinary man's lifetime of observing Godlike beings around him without his really understanding them.  Here, the ordinary man understands MORE than the heroes.  It sort of defeats the whole point of Marvels in that these are extraordinary beings in the world of ordinary people when the ordinary person is ALSO the extraordinary in this story.

Marvels put the reader in the shoes of an ordinary person.  It made us feel the awe and wonder of seeing a man fly, or throw a car.  This story has none of the magic of Marvels and makes Captain America feel small and unimpressive as a teenager teaches him a lesson.  Maybe it was the writer's intention to make Captain America seem small instead of the powerful force rushing through an ordinary world he appeared as in Marvels. . .

 
I said at the top that I wasn't going to get political, but it seems to me like Captain America being humbled by a black teenager about what parts of the city got repaired first after an attack has a definite whiff of recent social justice trends to it.  It makes Captain America less of a hero and more of a representative of "privilege".  This perspective might not sit well with some readers.

CONCLUSION

In my introduction I said that this one shot had some pretty heavy work cut out for it.  Not only is it expected to add to a fan favorite story that doesn't really need anything added to it, but it ALSO is trying to be an epilogue to ANOTHER fan favorite story.
 
As an epilogue to "Madbomb" it works pretty well as it tells a story set in the aftermath of the original attack and after the heroes turn their attention elsewhere.  It has an interesting main character and follows a pretty good arc for a one issue story.
 
BUT. . .
 
As a "Marvels" supplement, it doesn't stick the landing.  Where Marvels is a timeless story about the awe and wonder of superhumans in the ordinary world, THIS story is firmly rooted in this particular moment in time by reducing Captain America to a representative of "privilege" that needs to be taught a lesson in social justice by the teenage protagonist.
 
It's not a BAD story.  But it certainly won't sit well with many Captain America fans that prefer to see the Star Spangled Avenger painted in a more heroic light.  If you are one of those fans. . .I'd say steer clear.  But if you are of the mind that there's some room in your superhero stories for a little social justice agenda, then definitely check this one out.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
More Captain America!
 
Steve Rogers is America's only "Super Soldier", but he hasn't been tested in the field yet.  Join me as I take a look at the story of Captain America's first N azi-Bustin' combat mission in 2011's Captain America: Fighting Avenger one shot.  SPOILER: Everything goes wrong!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed absolutely FULL of comic reviews that nobody ever asked for!

Here we are.  Month four of The Apocalypse.

Things are trying to get back to "normal", but we're not quite there yet.  There's new comics back on the shelves, but not many I subscribe to. . .which is good news for my local comic shop because I spend about three times as much money during deep dives into their back issue bins than I did on my subscription pulls.

Here at Longbox Junk, I've been taking a look at some first issues I've been buying lately. . .trying to find a new series or new character I can get into, with varying degrees of success.  But I noticed that my "First Issue Fun" has been pretty light on Marvel comics.  Only one out of nine reviews.

SO. . .

Let's remedy that shortage with a bit of Mighty Marvel style First Issue Fun, shall we?

We shall!

FIRST ISSUE FUN
(Part 5)

ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER #1
MARVEL (2014)

 
ENGINES OF VENGEANCE (Part One)
SCRIPT: Felipe Smith
PENCILS: Tradd Moore
COVER: Tradd Moore
 
THE COVER:
It's a pretty unusual art style here. There's a great sense of movement and some very nice, brilliant colors. The muscle car instead of a motorcycle is interesting, but Ghost Rider (Ghost Driver?) himself looks a little strange.  Overall a real eye catcher.
 
THE STORY:
Our tale begins in East Los Angeles, where young auto mechanic Robbie Reyes is struggling with trying to make enough money to move somewhere safer, where he can better take care of his physically and mentally handicapped little brother.

One fateful night, Robbie decides it's time to make it or break it.  He steals a car from his employer's shop and enters an illegal street race, hoping to win the $50,000 cash prize.  Robbie is a skilled driver and quickly finds himself in the lead. . .until the police show up.

Terrified by the thought of being arrested and sent to prison, leaving his little brother in state custody, Robbie runs from the police, leading them on a long chase through the streets of L.A. until he is finally cornered.

Robbie surrenders to the police, but instead of arresting him, he is gunned down!  As he lies dying, Robbie sees the SWAT team retrieving duffel bags full of drugs from the trunk of the stolen car before dowsing it with gasoline and setting it on fire.

As Robbie dies, engulfed in flames, a mysterious transformation changes him into an inhuman, skeletal creature.  The stolen car is also transformed into an unearthly flaming version of itself. Robbie Reyes is now the Ghost Rider! We last see him leaving a fiery trail behind as he speeds into the city on a mission of vengeance.

To be continued. . .

THE REVIEW:
Okay.  Not bad. . .not bad at all.  A good start to this Mighty Marvel-focused bit of First Issue Fun! There's really not too much to this first issue.  The story is pretty light and mainly directed toward introducing the reader to Robbie Reyes and his situation.  Ghost Rider (or should it be Ghost Driver?  He's in a car, not riding anything) only shows up on the last couple of pages.  We literally learn NOTHING about Ghost Rider. . .but you know what? It's okay.  It just makes me want to read more of this story.
 
There's TWO things I look for in a first issue.  The first is if it introduces characters and their situations in a new reader-friendly way.  Since this issue is almost entirely concerned with introducing Robbie Reyes to the comic world, it easily hits that first mark.
 
The second thing I look for in a first issue is if it makes me want to read more.  Yes! I want to know more about this crazy new version of Ghost Rider!  I'm already a big Ghost Rider fan, but until now I've passed on reading any comics with the "New Ghost Rider" because if the old Ghost Rider ain't broke, why fix him?  NOW I want to dig in and see what's going on.  This is just a great introduction for a new (to me) character.
 
Let's talk about the art.  It's certainly unique and it's going to be one of those "make or break" sort of things for anyone reading this series.  Compared to my usual Longbox Junk, this is a VERY heavily reviewed issue and opinions are definitely mixed on the art style.  I'm sort of half and half on it myself.
 
The sharp, angular, exaggerated art gives even mundane scenes of Robbie and his brother eating dinner a twisted, nightmarish feeling that distracts from the character-building moments.  On the other hand, during action scenes the unique style really shines with unusual panel layouts and a fantastic sense of movement.  It's pretty clear to see what the artist enjoys drawing more.  His action scenes are truly great and are the best part of the comic.  It's unfortunate that he couldn't have toned it down a bit for the quieter moments.
 
 
Overall, All-New Ghost Rider #1 is a great introduction to the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider (Driver?).  It takes its time to introduce the main character through most of the issue and leaves Ghost Rider himself until the end, making me want to jump right into the next issue and find out more.  The art is a bit hit and miss for my taste. . .not really suited for character moments, but delivering in a big way on the action.  
 
This was a little pricey compared to my usual back issue bin finds (Paid ten bucks for my copy), but if you don't want to shell out the "collector" price for the individual first issue, it's also been collected in trade and you can get the first five issues for about fifteen bucks. Definitely give this one a chance if you like your comics with some supernatural flavor.
 
NEXT!

ALL-NEW INVADERS

MARVEL (2014)

 
GODS AND SOLDIERS (Part One)
SCRIPT: James Robinson
PENCILS: Steve Pugh
COVER: Mukesh Singh
 
THE COVER:
A pretty darn good team portrait!  There's a lot of interesting detail and I like the muted color scheme (maybe a bit TOO muted for the Torch). The smug look on Namor's face is just great.  Captain America, on the other hand. . . maybe he needs a bit of Metamucil? Just sayin'.  He IS 102 years old.  But even with Cap looking a little constipated, this one's a winner!
 
THE STORY:
Jim Hammond is the world's first synthetic human.  A person trapped between the world of humans and robots that fought in WWII as the original Human Torch alongside Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and Namor The Sub-Mariner in the team informally known as "The Invaders".

But that was a long time ago.  Hammond now seeks to move past his identity as a superhero and embrace humanity by living a normal life in a small, normal town as an auto mechanic.

But one day, Jim Hammond's peaceful life comes to an end.

When a Kree Warrior Assassin attacks and kills Hammond's employer and friend, Jim is forced to reveal his identity as the Human Torch in order to save the rest of the town.  During the battle, the assassin reveals that she's there for information locked and hidden in Hammond's android brain.  She shoots him with a strange weapon that seemingly throws him back in time to the war.

Hammond watches his own memory as an observer, seeing himself and the Invaders on a mission he doesn't remember involving Baron Strucker and a being named Hela that he seemingly had summoned.  To his surprise, Hammond senses that the other Invaders are also there observing the past with him.  After Hela kills an ally of the Invaders named Major Liberty, the vision fades and Hammond returns to the present day.

The Kree assassin reveals that she now has what she came for. . .the location of a part for a mysterious device that can summon and control Godlike beings that was hidden in three separate locations by The Invaders long before. . .information Hammond didn't even know he had.

Still not knowing the full story, but determined to stop the Kree from leaving with the information she had somehow gained from him, Hammond rejoins the battle, but is quickly overpowered.  As the assassin readies to strike the killing blow, Captain America and Winter Soldier show up just in time and ready to join the fight!

Epilogue:  We see Namor has somehow been taken captive and is being tortured on the Kree homeworld.

To be continued. . .

 
THE REVIEW:
Okay then. . .hmmm.  Not bad.  Not great, but not too bad.  Unlike Ghost Rider, this comic isn't presenting new characters, but established characters re-forming as a team.  I'm familiar with these characters (especially Captain America and Winter Soldier), so I sort of had to put myself in the shoes of a reader who might not be in determining if this hits the mark of introducing characters and their situations in a new reader-friendly way.

It sorta halfway succeeds.  As far as an introduction to Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, goes, this comic does an outstanding job!  99% of this issue is focused on Hammond, with the rest of the Invaders barely appearing outside of a couple of flashback pages and two pages at the end with their modern versions.  In other words. . .the cover lies!

This is not so much a Invaders comic as it is a Original Human Torch comic.  That being said, for what it is, it does an excellent job of introducing a classic character to new readers who might not be aware that there even IS an Original Human Torch.  As a big Captain America fan, I was a little disappointed in what amounts to a cameo role, but I did enjoy learning more about Jim Hammond.

On to the next thing I look for in a good first issue. Does the story make me want to read more?  Welllllll. . .no, not really.  Not that it's a BAD story, but it follows the rutted and extremely well-traveled path of "Former (insert profession here) forced to return to action against his/her will".  As soon as I saw the thought boxes of Jim Hammond on the first couple of pages musing about how much he liked being just an ordinary guy with an ordinary job in an ordinary town, I KNEW where the story was going.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  I don't mind a good old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" story framework holding up a first issue of my funny books, but then Marvel doubled down and made it crystal clear that upcoming issues would be headed down the well-worn road of "Gettin' The Team Back Together For A Location-Hopping MacGuffin Hunt".  One cliche story prop is okay. . .two in one issue is a deal-breaker.

On the art side of things, Steve Pugh delivers some solid superhero art.  Nothing spectacular, but very nicely done.  Since this issue deals mostly with the Human Torch, there's a LOT of fire involved, and Pugh does an outstanding job not making multiple pages of fiery scenes look alike.  He also does a great job with the initial quiet character-building dialogue heavy scenes which are basically people sitting/standing around talking in a garage and a diner.  Not the best comic art I've ever seen, but good and solid.
 
 
Overall, I have mixed feelings about All-New Invaders #1.  It introduces Jim Hammond, The Original Human Torch in an extremely new reader-friendly way.  Unfortunately, the rest of the Invaders play little more than cameo roles.  The story is well-written, especially in the earlier character-building scenes introducing Hammond, but on the other hand,  it's propped up by not one, but TWO overused story frameworks that really don't make me interested in reading more.
 
Don't get me wrong.  There's nothing really BAD about this comic.  I don't have any other issues, so there might be some great moments for the other heroes coming up.  As an introduction to a character I don't have a lot of knowledge about, this was a great issue. . .so if you're interested in the Original Human Torch, I can heartily recommend this comic.  But for me, the double cliche framework this story is leaning on doesn't make me interested in picking up more issues of the series.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

STORM #1

MARVEL (2014)

 
STORM
SCRIPT: Greg Pak
PENCILS: Victor Ibanez
COVER: Victor Ibanez
 
THE COVER:
I really don't like the X-Men in general, but I bought this one just for the cover.  It's an outstanding character portrait with an unusual pose, combined with great colors and lightning effects that really give this one a feeling of motion and power.  Very nicely done, and definitely worthy of a turn on the rotating office "Wall O' Covers" at work.
 
THE STORY:

Our story begins on the tropical island of Santo Marco, where Storm. . .a powerful mutant able to control the weather. . .uses her abilities to save a small coastal village from a tsunami.  As the villagers celebrate, military vehicles arrive and Storm is told that mutants are not welcome on Santo Marco.

Not wishing to instigate an international incident, Storm reluctantly departs, but finds herself needed for another emergency. . .this time at the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, the school where Storm teaches. . .a place where young mutants learn to control and use their powers.

A student named Marisol Guerra (AKA Flourish) has taken over the school cafeteria.  She has used her powers of plant growth to fill the room with mold and mildew.  She informs Storm that she has changed her mutant name to Creep because that's what the kids who have been bullying her call her.

As Storm tries to talk to Marisol, she learns that the girl sees the school not as a safe place to learn, but as a place where children are taken from their families and indoctrinated into the X-Men's particular ideology.  Marisol feels that she was taken away from the place where her powers could do some actual good instead of simply doing what she's ordered to do by Storm and the other teachers.

Storm loses her temper when her purpose is challenged by Marisol, and she flies into the night.  Daybreak finds Storm over Santo Marco again. . .where she gets an enthusiastic greeting from the villagers she saved the day before.  Storm uses her powers to help the villagers clean up the aftermath of the tsunami, but once again the military shows up.

This time, they have brought construction vehicles and tell the villagers that they have to move because a company has bought their land to build a resort on.  Storm intervenes and a one-sided battle ensues.  Storm's powers are more than a match for the military and her example leads other villages to rebel against the corrupt government as well.

Back at the school.  Storm reluctantly apologizes to Marisol, and they fly to Mexico to reunite the young mutant with her family.  Storm has come to realize that a path can be shown to someone, but they have to want to follow that path instead of being forced down it.

The End.

 
THE REVIEW:
As I said above. . .I'm not a fan of the X-Men and I basically bought this comic for the awesome cover.  That said, I REALLY liked this story a lot!  It's the first issue of a (sort of short) series, but it stands alone very nicely as a one-shot story about an extremely powerful hero that has played many roles in the past, but is now forced to re-learn an important lesson now that she's a teacher. . .that a person must be guided down a path instead of forced.

It's a great little story with a lot of heart.  I may not like X-Men much, but I liked THIS X-Men story. It sort of stuck with me after I read it.  Especially the part where Storm apologized to the student.  I know from personal experience that sometimes a simple "I'm Sorry" are some of the hardest words to spit out.  Nobody wants to be wrong.  It's hard to admit when you're wrong, especially when you're in a position of authority over the person who was right.  Credit due to the writer for absolutely nailing the difficulty of something so simple.

So let's take a moment for the two things I look for in a good first issue.

Does it introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way?  I give this one a big yes!  I'm not overly-familiar with Storm beyond knowing she's an X-Man who controls the weather.  The story here DOES introduce that aspect of her, but digs deeper into the character than that.  Based on this story I don't know EVERYTHING about Storm, but I liked discovering what I know now about the character.

The second thing I look for in a first issue is if it tells a story I want to read more of.  Well, this is basically a one-shot, so it seems that there's not much more to the story at hand.  That said, with such a good dig into the main character, I DO want to read more. . .especially if the writer can keep delivering such though-provoking material built around the main character of the series.  So that's a yes. . .two for two!  It's a winner!

Before I wrap this up, let's talk about the art a bit.  The story here is great, but the artist really does his half of the work selling it!  Yeah, there's a few action scenes and they're nicely done, but where Victor Ibanez really shines here is in the facial expressions of the characters!  Sometimes you get a comic where the art is the star of the show, sometimes it's the writing.  This one combines the two equally to give the reader the best of both worlds.


Overall, for someone who tends to avoid almost everything X-Related from Marvel, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself reading what might be my favorite comic story in quite a long time!
 
From a story that is simple, but full of heart, to some incredibly expressive comic art, Storm #1 is a Longbox Junk gold nugget in almost every way.  I heartily recommend this comic to anyone looking for a thoughtful superhero story that isn't afraid to give an extremely powerful character some vulnerability that is relatable to even those of us who can't control the weather.  Very nicely done!
 

CONCLUSION


I forgot to mention it in the introduction, but as you can probably see from the covers of these comics, the were all part of one of Marvel's multiple soft reboot efforts in recent years called "All-New Marvel Now!", which was sold and advertised as a jumping-on point for new readers.  

So based on this small sample, did they succeed?

I'd say yes.  All-New Ghost Rider presented an intriguing twist on the familiar supernatural anti-hero, while giving the reader a great introduction to a completely new character.  Storm presented an established character with a long history in a way that made even a Non-X fan like myself take notice and want to read more.

 All-New Invaders was the only disappointment in that it was more of an Original Human Torch comic than a Defenders comic, with the other characters on the team playing cameo roles only. Plus the story was propped up by two overused story crutches.

That said, even though Invaders was a bit disappointing compared to Ghost Rider and Storm, it wasn't a BAD comic.  I was just expecting a little more than what I got.

Overall, I'd recommend any of these three comics. . .with the warning that you're not going to get much Invaders in your All-New Invaders #1.  My favorite of the bunch was Storm #1, which completely took me off guard with how much I liked a character I never paid much attention to before.

Up Next. . .

I think that after five posts of First Issue Fun, it might have run its course for now.  So next time out something different.  I'm not sure exactly what that will be right now, but I invite you to join me on whatever trip I decide to take into the back issue bins.  So until next time. . .

Be there or be square!

- read more

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

The Good News is that there's new comics on the shelves! The Bad News is that it's barely a trickle (and only a few series I regularly subscribe to - Doctor Aphra, Batman and Detective).  Well, I guess that means I'm still back issue diving for new-ish comics for a while yet. . .

SO. . .

As you know (or if you're a new reader, you will soon. . .and welcome!), I've been taking a look at single first issues of series I've pulled from the back issue boxes (not the bargain bins) of my local comic shop during this new comic drought.  I call this series of Longbox Junk entries "First Issue Fun".

Reading back over the 3 First Issue Fun entries I've done so far, I notice that almost all of them involve established characters being presented to new readers with varying degrees of success.  But what about some completely new characters?  Characters without any baggage?  Fresh and shiny, with that new character smell?  Aren't there any NEW characters out there for me to try to get into?

There are!

A while back, I saw lots of ads for a bunch of new DC comics falling under the imprint of "The New Age of Heroes".  They were promoted as being new characters and teams spinning out of the "Dark Knights Metal" crossover.  But since I'm not a fan of bloated multi-title crossover "Events", I never paid any attention to them.

BUT. . .

Digging through the back issue bins at my local comic shop, I came across whole runs of almost every "New Age of Heroes" title (6 full runs out of 8 total titles) and decided to grab the first issue of every one of them the shop had and give them an honest chance because why not?

So, let's take a look at a few and see what's happening with this "New Age of Heroes" thing!

FIRST ISSUE FUN
(Part 4)

THE SILENCER #1
DC (2018)

 
CODE OF HONOR (Part One)
SCRIPT: Dan Abnett
PENCILS: John Romita Jr.
COVER: John Romita Jr.
 
THE COVER:
John Romita Jr.'s art has always been a bit hit or miss to me. Fortunately, this cover is a hit!  It's a simple character portrait, but the pose, the action, and especially the colors come together and make this one a cover that makes me want to check out the comic.  Very nicely done!
 
THE STORY:
Honor Guest is just an average ordinary woman, living an average ordinary life, on an average ordinary street, with her average ordinary husband and son.  But things weren't always this way.

Just five short years ago, Honor was known as The Silencer. . .one of the top assassins in Talia al Ghul's Leviathan organization.  She paid her dues and managed to get out with her skin intact and with Talia's blessing to start a new life.

But now the past has returned to haunt Honor.  After having to fight off an attacker at the grocery store, Honor gets a personal visit from Talia al Ghul, warning her former assassin that Leviathan is in shambles and that Honor's life (as well as her family's) is in danger.

Honor insists that she no longer wants any part of Talia or Leviathan, but another attack drives home that the former assassin doesn't really have a choice in the matter, she's back in whether she wants to be or not.

To be continued. . .

 
THE REVIEW:
Based on the cover, I was sort of expecting "Female Punisher", but this tale of a former assassin's previous life coming back to haunt her is more along the lines of a Black Widow story.  Either way, this first issue of The Silencer follows a very well-worn path.  Maybe a little TOO well-worn in this case.  It's well written and the dialogue flows very nicely through the story, but the direction the narrative is going was pretty obvious to me from just the first few pages.

I usually don't mind a good "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." classic story hook to get things up and running in my funny books, but at the same time, it just feels a bit lazy and predictable here.  The only real surprise was the Talia al Ghul angle.

THAT SAID. . .

A predictable start still leaves room for improvement, so let's take a look at things from my personal expectations of the two things I want from a first issue.  Does this introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way?  Yes it does.  Honor Guest (AKA The Silencer) is very nicely introduced and the reader doesn't need any additional background material beyond this issue to understand her.  There IS an expectation that the reader knows who Talia al Ghul is. . .but even that expectation is fairly minimal through a bit of exposition in the story.  So well done on the introductions.

As for the second basic thing I expect from a good first issue. . .does it tell a story that makes me want to pick up another issue?  Welllllllll. . .not really.  Like I said above, The Silencer follows a well-worn story path that I've already been down many times in comics, novels, movies, and T.V. shows.  There might be surprises down the line, but this first issue doesn't really make me want to invest in discovering them.  I'm not saying it's BAD.  I liked this issue.  I'd just rather see what other stories there are out there.

As far as the art goes. . .it's John Romita Jr.  He's one of those instantly-recognizable artists that you're either going to love or hate. JRJ's art has always been equally hit or miss for me.  On The Silencer, it's more on the "Hit" side of the dial, so this is a pretty good looking comic.  I think this is some of Romita Jr's best work I've seen in quite a while.

 
Overall, what we have here is a first issue that nails introducing a new character to readers, but in following an overly-familiar narrative path it stumbles in telling a story I want more of.  It's not a bad issue by any means.  I'd say definitely give it a try if you spot it in the back issue bins. . .just prepare to know exactly where things will be going from just the first few pages.  
 
NEXT!

DAMAGE #1

DC (2018)

 
OUT OF CONTROL (Part One): LET LOOSE
SCRIPT: Robert Venditti
PENCILS: Tony S. Daniel
COVER: Tony S. Daniel
 
THE COVER:
I'm a fan of Tony S. Daniel's art. . .I loved his work on New 52 Detective, so I'm VERY happy to see his name on this series.  Unfortunately, the cover is a bit underwhelming.  It's nicely-detailed in Daniels' signature style, but it just seems a bit generic. I'm afraid based on the cover alone that I'm going to be reading a DC knockoff of the Incredible Hulk.  Please let me be wrong. . .
 
THE STORY:
Ethan Avery joined the military because he believes that regular people can become heroes, even if they don't wear capes.  After serving honorably, he volunteered for a top-secret project. . .a serum that would give him the power to become a REAL hero.

But instead of a hero, he was turned into a living weapon capable of mass destruction, used by a black-ops government organization for dirty clandestine missions against his will.  Ethan is now a man who changes into a brutal monster code-named "Damage" once a day for one hour, destroying anything in his path.

Returning from a mission, Avery summons up the willpower to change into Damage and make his escape from a transport plane over Atlanta, Georgia.  As the inner soldier tries to mentally control Damage's destructive rampage through the city, he is pursued by Major Liggett, the sole survivor of the unit tasked with guarding Damage during transport.

After defeating and severely wounding Liggett, Ethan manages to convince Damage to go into hiding.  Colonel Jonas, the head of the project that turned Ethan into Damage, arrives on the scene of the crashed plane and the creature's destructive rampage, blaming herself for the deaths and for failing to control her pet monster better.

As Colonel Jonas surveys the damage caused by her failure, Amanda Waller and her superhuman Task Force XL "Suicide Squad" arrives to take command of finding and killing the escaped Avery before he changes into Damage again.

To be continued. . .

 
THE REVIEW:
Looking at the cover, I was afraid that I would be reading a DC knock-off version of The Incredible Hulk. . .and that's pretty much what I got.  There are a few differences here, with the military "super soldier" angle, the one hour time limit on Ethan's transformation to Damage, and the internal dialogue between the heroic Ethan and the brutal Damage fighting for control.  But even those differences are pretty obvious grabs from Red Hulk (the time limit), Agent Venom (the military experiment gone wrong), and Jekyll & Hyde (the internal struggle for control).

In other words, like The Silencer, Damage is a story that follows an extremely well-worn path that should be already intimately familiar to most comic readers.  In this particular case you CAN judge a book by its cover.

But does that make it bad?  Not really.  This first issue is mostly action, showing Damage's escape from his military handlers and the following battle with Liggett trying to recapture him.  There is enough information given during and between the action to successfully hit the first issue mark of introducing characters in a new reader-friendly way.  The only expectation put on readers to know anything outside of this issue is in the appearance of Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad at the end.

What about the second mark I look for in a good first issue?  Does it tell a story I want to read more of?  Also like Silencer, not really.  Again, this isn't a bad comic at all, it's just that I've already seen this story several times.  There might be some surprises yet to come, but this first issue doesn't really make me excited to read more of what has been presented to me as basically a DC version of existing Marvel characters.

 If I want to read about a man struggling against turning into a monster as part of a military experiment, I can just read some Agent Venom comics.  If I want to read a modern day Jekyll & Hyde mental battle of conflicting personalities trapped in one body, I can just read some Immortal Hulk comics.  So  on and so forth.  Anything to be found here can already be found elsewhere.

As far as the art goes, no complaints from me about Tony S. Daniels' fine work here.  If there's anything that would make me continue to read this series, it would be the art.  It's finely-detailed and features interesting angles and great, kinetic action scenes, many of which are spread over numerous double-page spreads.  If nothing else, Damage is a great looking comic!

 
Overall, what we have here is a story that is basically a combination of Marvel's Incredible Hulk and Agent Venom.  It succeeds in introducing the character for new readers very well, and it's backed up by some great art, but in telling a story I want to read more of I can't get past thinking I could just read the original stories that this stands on the shoulders of.
 
Once again, it's not BAD at all.  If you spot it in the back issue bin, give it a read for yourself if you're a DC comic fan looking for an Incredible Hulk/Venom story set in the DC Universe.   For filling that particular niche, this comic does a good job.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

THE CURSE OF BRIMSTONE #1

DC (2018)

 
INFERNO (Part One)
SCRIPT: Justin Jordan
PENCILS: Philip Tan
COVER: Philip Tan
 
THE COVER:
WOW! Great colors on this one! A real eye-catcher. Philip Tan definitely hits a home run with this bright, fiery character portrait.  You can almost feel the heat from the flames coming off the page.  Outstanding work!
 
THE STORY:
Joe Chamberlain is young man with problems.  He's trapped in the small town he was born in, York Hills. . .formerly a mining town until the mines played out, then a factory town until the factories moved.  Now it's just a dead end he can't escape.  No education, no money, no jobs.
 
The only things Joe really cares about at this point is his sister, Annie. . .who is working her way through a nursing degree, and is the only person with any real prospects of escaping the dying town. . .and his father, who lives in a medicated haze on disability after an accident at one of the closed factories, barely able to keep up the mortgage payments on his meager pension.
 
Joe Chamberlain is a young man with problems and no way out.
 
UNTIL. . .
 
The cold night a mysterious stranger picks Joe up on the side of the road after his pickup breaks down.  He introduces himself as "The Salesman" and, after listening to Joe's problems, he makes him a strange offer. . .become an Agent for The Salesman's "Company" and Joe's (and York Hills') problems will be over.  All it will take is an agreement and a handshake.
 
Joe (obviously never having seen any episodes of The Twilight Zone) shakes The Salesman's hand and immediately searing flames begin to consume the terrified young man as the grinning Salesman gloats about how his "Agents" never ask any questions.  
 
Joe is quickly and painfully transformed into a flaming , but still living, figure that The Salesman dubs "Brimstone" as terrifying visions of fiery death and destruction fill Joe's mind. 
 
To be continued. . .
 
 
THE REVIEW:
Okay, okay. . .not bad.  Of the three "New Age of Heroes" comics I read for this post, I think I like this one the best.  It seems a little derivative of Marvel's Ghost Rider (and maybe Image's Spawn), but not nearly as obvious as Damage's Incredible Hulk/Venom influences.  
 
There's not really much to this story in this issue. . .most of the comic is spent establishing the miserable life of Joe and setting the scene of the dying town of York Hills.  With a lot of dialogue and scene-setting and not much action (just a couple of pages of Joe's transformation into Brimstone at the end), what this comic reminds me a lot of is something that Vertigo would have put out. . .and as a big fan of the sadly-departed Vertigo imprint, that is definitely a good thing!
 
Since most of the comic IS devoted to dialogue, character development, and scene setting, I'd say that Curse of Brimstone nails the first marker of introducing characters in a new reader-friendly way.  That's really all that this first issue is!  We don't get to know much of anything about Brimstone, but we get to know Joe and the misery surrounding him, his family, and the town of York Hills very well.
 
Does the comic tell a story I want more of? Yes!  Admittedly, there are echoes of Marvel's Ghost Rider or Image's Spawn here. . .and the "When you deal with the devil, you better deal carefully" story path was a well-worn one before comic books were even thought of.  That said, it works here.  I want to see what happens next.  Like I said above, this reminds me of the darker, more character-driven Vertigo comics I used to love from DC as opposed to Damage and The Silencer's connection to the regular DC superhero universe.  
 
As far as the art goes. . .Philip Tan's dark and sketchy style also fits the appearance of this being a Vertigo comic.  It's not the greatest comic art I've ever seen, and I've actually seen better from Tan in other places (Like Spawn: Godslayer), but it's interesting and definitely helps sell this in my mind as a throwback to the more experimental art that was often found in Vertigo titles as compared to the slick superhero style of Tony S. Daniel in Damage, for example.
 
 
Overall, what we have here is a surprisingly good first issue that REALLY throws me right back to the glory days of DC's Vertigo comics.  It leans heavily into character development and scene-setting, with very little action to speak of.  In doing so, it nails both introducing characters in a new reader-friendly way and telling a story I want more of.  If you're a fan of supernatural-themed comics or if you (like me) miss Vertigo, then definitely pick this one up if you spot it in the back issue bins.  I'm not sure where the story is going to go from here, but this is a very nice start.
 

CONCLUSION

 
So. . .DC's "New Age of Heroes".  Interesting. . .
 
Based on these three issues, my main takeaway from this short-lived imprint (The only title of the 8 that hasn't been cancelled and is still ongoing is "The Terrifics".  None of the cancelled series made it past 18 issues.  Three of them lasted only 6 or 8 issues) is that all of them remind me of something else. . .
 
The Silencer's "Former assassin whose past returns to haunt her" story reminds me of Black Widow.  Damage's "Mental struggle between two minds trapped in one body/ Military Experiment turns man into monster" story reminds me of Incredible Hulk and Venom.  Even the best (in my opinion) of the three, The Curse of Brimstone, reminds me a bit of Ghost Rider (or maybe Spawn).
 
Taking just these three titles into account, I can sort of see why the whole "New Age of Heroes" didn't make enough of an impression for most of the titles to even last a year.  It's a bit of a shame, because there's some pretty good talent in these comics.  None of the three are BAD by any means, and are all worth a read.
 
It just seems to me to be a wasted opportunity for DC.  They had a chance to bring some new characters and stories to comic fans, but sort of fumbled  the ball (based on these three issues) by making everything so derivative of things already existing that it seems that nobody really embraced any of it.  I'm not sure if they were trying to play it safe by keeping things familiar, but if that's the case, they played it TOO safe and failed.
 
But like I said, none of these three comics are bad.  The Silencer looks like it would appeal to someone looking for an action-packed espionage/superhero tale.  Damage takes the more traditional misunderstood man/monster superhero route for fans of straight-up comic book battles.  Curse of Brimstone is a dark, character-driven tale of the supernatural that's should make readers who miss Vertigo happy.  Of the three, I can give the strongest recommendation to Curse of Brimstone.
 
STILL. . .
 
We NEED some new characters and stories from DC.  I was excited to think I would be getting something new here and sort of came away disappointed, with a "Been there, done that" feeling.  DC tried, they played it safe, they failed.  Now I'm sad.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Even MORE First Issue Fun!
 
I have three more "New Age of Heroes" titles I WAS going to do next. . .but I have the sad feeling that they will just be more of the same.  But looking over the First Issue Fun entries so far, I notice that of nine issues, only ONE has been from Marvel.  So I'm gonna have some Mighty Marvel First Issue Fun to even things out a bit next time.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find more comic reviews that you never asked for than you ever asked for.  What? Well it makes sense to me!

Although things are slowly getting back to something resembling normal in the great state of Utah, my work schedule is still just flappin' in the wind.  It seems that the government in their "wisdom" has decided to pay an unemployment bonus that lets people make more money by NOT working than they usually make on the job.  I'm not gonna get political here, but it's created an interesting situation where my hotel has full-time jobs available, but nobody wants them.

ANYWAY. . .

Because my schedule is still pretty chaotic (and to make it worse, I've also been a bit sick. . .not "the virus"), I'm still sticking to some shorter reviews of single first issues I've picked up recently during my dives into my Local Comic Shop's back issue bins.  I call this little effort to keep the Longbox Junk posts coming on a somewhat regular basis "First Issue Fun".

When I read the first issue of a series, I look for TWO things:  Does it introduce characters 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.

So let's take a look at a couple more first issues and see what happens, shall we?

We shall!

FIRST ISSUE FUN

(Part 3)

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA #1

Dynamite (2013)

 
MEMORIAL - Part One
SCRIPT: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
PENCILS: Cezar Razek
COVER: Alex Ross
 
THE COVER:
If you're a big Battlestar Galactica fan like myself, this cover is as good as it gets!  A real stunner by the legendary Alex Ross that not only perfectly captures likenesses of the T.V. show's characters, but also gives us a taste of the sci-fi combat action that Battlestar Galactica fans expect. I love everything about this cover!  Let's get inside and see what else is going on. . .
 
THE STORY:
Our story takes place many years into the Battlestar Galactica's long search for the fabled planet "Earth".  After a ceremony commemorating the human defeat at the hands of the Cylon Empire that led to the Galactica being the caretaker of the last known remnant of humanity, the fleet is taken by surprise by a massive Cylon attack!
 
By using the same nebula that Galactica had used to hide from Cylon pursuers, multiple Cylon basestars are able to take the human fleet completely unaware, forcing the Galactica to take the brunt of the attack in order to give the rest of the fleet time to escape.  
 
After Galactica is severely damaged by Cylon suicide attacks, Commander Adama reluctantly agrees to allow the young scientist Zee's experimental temporal weapons to be used as a last resort.  Ace pilots Starbuck and Apollo are pulled from the battle and are quickly given two heavily-modified Vipers with instructions to take down the Cylon base ships with the temporal weapons at any cost.
 
As the two pilots fight their way through the desperate battle, another suicide attack hits the Galactica, heavily damaging Zee's temporal generator onboard, causing an overload and wave of temporal energy that leaves Starbuck and Apollo alone in space without the Cylons, the human fleet, or Battlestar Galactica anywhere to be found. 
 
To be continued. . .
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
As a big fan of Battlestar Galactica, I really liked this story a lot!  It explores an area I haven't seen stories going into before. . .the gap between the original Battlestar Galactica series and the later short-lived Galactica: 1980 series (which took place about 10 years later).  There's really not too much to it. . .a bit of exposition to set the scene and then a Cylon surprise attack that calls for desperate measures to escape that go wrong and sets up a cliffhanger going forward. . .but for a fan like me, this was pure candy!
 
And therein lies the problem with this issue.  Although it tells a story I definitely want to read more of, it utterly fails to present itself in a new reader-friendly way.  This is a story written for existing Battlestar Galactica fans ONLY.  It makes absolutely no effort to introduce any characters to new readers, instead assuming out of the gate that if you're buying this comic, you're already a fan and know who everyone is.
 
It's a well-written story with surprising nods to Galactica: 1980 characters like Zee, but if you don't understand what that means, this comic isn't going to do much for you.  
 
The art inside doesn't come close to matching the brilliance of Alex Ross's cover (but there's not many artists who can, so no foul there), but the style is well-suited for the story at hand.  It's darkly-inked and dramatic, really shining during scenes of space battles with some panels that are borderline great.  The quality dips a bit for character scenes, but not so far as to bring the story down at all.
 
Overall, what we have here is a great first issue for fans of the original Battlestar Galactica.  It explores an unusual area of BSG continuity and tells an interesting, action-packed story that ends on a cliffhanger practically begging me to pick up some more issues.  It's backed up by some really good art and sits under a cover that's practically worth the price of admission alone.
 
BUT. . .
 
If you aren't already a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica, this is NOT a good introduction at all.  This is a story written only for existing fans, which is a bit of a shame because the original series and Galactica: 1980 only made up 34 episodes total between them.  Comics are a great way to continue the story of the last Battlestar guiding the remnants of humanity toward the fabled planet Earth.  To not reach out even a little bit to new readers with this first issue just makes me sort of sad.
 
In other words, definitely grab this one from the back issue bin IF you're a Battlestar Galactica fan.  If not, you can pretty much safely leave it for someone else and not be missing much.
 
NEXT!
 

MAGNUS: ROBOT FIGHTER #1

Dynamite (2014)

 
SCRIPT: Fred Van Lente
PENCILS: Cory Smith
COVER: Gabriel Hardman
 
THE COVER:
I really like the dark and moody feel of this cover a lot, and it's very nicely detailed, but between the giant title taking up most of the real estate up top and the pile of robot bodies down below, the main character seems a bit small and insignificant.  Maybe that  fits the theme of the story inside of one man against a world and was done on purpose, but it kind of takes an otherwise great cover down a notch, in my extremely humble opinion.  
 
THE STORY:
Our tale begins with Russ Magnus, a respected schoolteacher and martial arts instructor, living a life of peace and fulfillment in the sleepy mountain town of Maury's Peak with his wife Moira.  
 
After receiving the good news that Moira is pregnant, Magnus goes on a celebratory fishing trip with the town's benevolent Artificial Intelligence Overseer, A1. . .who raised Magnus from the time he was a child after the loss of his parents.
 
BUT THEN. . .
 
Magnus' peaceful life is violently interrupted by a mysterious attack on Maury's Peak! As Magnus rushes into town to his wife, he is confronted by robotic soldiers, whose attacks cause Magnus to wake up in a completely different place!
 
Confused by the sudden change from the idyllic mountain town to a network of filthy tunnels, Magnus is commanded by A1 to escape and try to find the Overseer at "The Central Network".  After evading a team of pursuing robotic soldiers, Magnus finds an exit from the tunnels, but when he emerges, he finds himself in the middle of a crowded, futuristic city!
 
As the overwhelmed Magnus tries to get his bearings, he realizes that somehow he can see THROUGH the faces of the surrounding crowd, revealing them all to be humanoid robots.  He manages to make his way to the Central Network Building towering over the city, where he is quickly identified as an "Unregistered Human" and attacked by robotic security guards intent on capturing him.
 
As Magnus fights his attackers, he discovers that he can somehow see the weak spots on the robots, and that his bare hands have become destructive weapons that can easily destroy his mechanical enemies. As the newly-empowered Magnus tears his way through the robot security guards, he is confronted by another human. . .his surprise at seeing the first human in the city makes him pause long enough for her to shoot, knocking Magnus unconscious and ending the battle.
 
To be continued. . .
 
 
THE REVIEW:
I'm not really familiar with Magnus: Robot Fighter.  I've read a few of the old Gold Key comics and have seen him here and there in some 90's Valiant Comics, but I've never been interested enough to seek out more than the few bits I already have.  He's a guy named Magnus. . .he fights robots.  That's pretty much what I know about Magnus: Robot Fighter.  I was a bit nervous about this issue because this is a character that started in the 60's and has been through several different versions over the years, with a Wikipedia page leaning toward a long and convoluted history.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
Dynamite does a great job in this issue of presenting characters in a new reader-friendly manner AND giving me a story that I want more of!  All I ask of a first issue are those two things, and Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 gives me both of them.
 
Like the Supergirl #1 issue I reviewed for the last Longbox Junk First Issue Fun post, the writer introduces Magnus by letting the reader share the character's confusion. . .one minute he's in a peaceful mountain town, the next he's on the run in a far future New York City populated by robots!  I really like this introduction to Magnus, even if it IS a bit derivative of The Matrix.  
 
I don't have to have any knowledge of past continuity or other versions of the character, I can just get right on board with this first issue and base my opinion on this and this alone.  And my opinion is that I want to read more! I like that Dynamite got it right with this one.
 
The art is a perfect compliment to the story.  It starts off with a muted color palette during Magnus' false idyllic life in the mountain town. . .
 
. . .and then switches to a darker, heavier, more colorful style when Magnus is awakened to reality in far future New York City. . .
 
 
It's a  great storytelling device that just made me like this first issue even more.
 
Overall, what we have here is a great first issue!  It gives a character with a long and tangled comic book history a fresh start geared toward new readers.  It tells an action-packed science fiction story about a man who discovers that he has been living a lie and finds himself surrounded by enemies in a strange place, ending on a cliffhanger that makes me want to get right into the next issue and learn more.  It's backed up by some pretty darn good hard-edged Sci-Fi comic art.  
 
Really, what more could you ask for in the first issue of a series?  Not much, in my extremely humble opinion.  You don't need to be an existing fan of Magnus: Robot Fighter to enjoy this.  If you're a science fiction comic fan and spot this one in the back issue bin, check it out!
 

CONCLUSION

Two pretty good first issue picks this time out. . .both from Dynamite, even though I didn't really plan it that way.  
 
 Battlestar Galactica doesn't hit the mark of being very new reader-friendly, but for existing fans it has an interesting story that you're going to want more of (SPOILER ALERT: I picked up the next few issues and it's a great little time-twisted Battlestar Galactica version of Star Trek's "Mirror Universe" stories).  It's a solid comic worth a read for fans.  If you're not a fan, you might not get much mileage out of it.
 
On the other hand. . .
 
Magnus: Robot Fighter is a great example of a comic that nails not only introducing a character for new readers, but also telling a very nice hard-edged science fiction "man on the run" story that makes me want to see what happens next (I haven't been able to find any other issues of this one yet).  You don't have to be an existing fan of long-time comic character Magnus to enjoy this story at all.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Even MORE First Issue Fun!
 
Can the next couple of picks manage to tell a good story I'll want more of AND start off in a new reader-friendly way?  Join me and we'll both find out.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog packed absolutely FULL of comic reviews that nobody ever asked for.  No need to thank me. . .it's just what I do!
 
My work schedule is still pretty chaotic (but I still have a job at least, so I'll keep complaints to a minimum), so I'm TRYING to suppress my long-winded nature a bit in order to keep the Longbox Junk shorter and coming on a somewhat regular basis.
 
To help with this, I'm stepping outside of the usual Longbox Junk zone and shining the spotlight on some single issues instead of full runs or complete mini-series.  For now, that spotlight will shine on the #1 issues I've recently been pulling from my Local Comic Shop's back issue bins as I do my part to try and help them out by spending the same amount every week on back issues (not the bargain bin) that I normally would on new comics. . .and may I take this opportunity to humbly suggest anyone reading this to do the same, if possible?  
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
First issues. Are they a good introduction to the characters?  Do they make me want to keep reading more?  These are the main questions I ask myself when I read a first issue.  Let's take a look at a couple and find out the answer!
 

FIRST ISSUE FUN (part 2)

JUDGE DREDD #1
DC (1994)

 
JUDGE DREDD
SCRIPT: Andrew Helfer
PENCILS: Mike Avon Oeming
COVER: Mike Avon Oeming
 
THE COVER:
That's a lot of blood right there on the cover, considering this comic still sports the CCA seal up in the corner.  Tiptoeing beyond THAT, I like this cover a lot!  It's a little cluttered, but the bright primary colors on Dredd and the title really pop in a big way against the background of carnage. I also like the downward perspective, like it's from the view of a security camera.  Probably not work safe for the "Wall O' Covers", but very nicely-done.
 
THE STORY:
In the grim, crime-ridden future of America, the Federal Government has authorized the militarization of the police force into heavily-armed "Street Judges", who act as on the spot judges, and possibly executioners, of criminals as they patrol the blocks of gigantic "Mega-Cities".
 
We begin our story as one of Mega-City One's harshest Judges, Dredd, takes down an unauthorized flight smuggling contraband "Cybernarc" cartridges in his usual explosive and very publicly-violent style.  Unfortunately, later investigation reveals that all the Cybernarc has disappeared from the wreckage of the craft.  Dredd is called into headquarters to explain himself.
 
Dredd believes in upholding the law, no matter the cost in either lives or property.  His superiors disagree and come to the decision that Judge Dredd is a public relations nightmare and needs to be re-assigned.  His first new job. . .street training for a trio of new recruits fresh from the Academy and getting them ready for patrol.
 
Chafing at being forced to babysit, Dredd takes the opportunity to "train" his new recruits by dragging them along as he begins an unauthorized investigation into exactly what happened to the missing drugs that got him into trouble with his superiors.
 
Dredd (his terrified recruits in tow) quickly follows a trail of clues straight to a conspiracy involving corrupt Judges working for a gangster known as "Mickey The Stump".  He wastes no time in tracking down The Stump's headquarters and shooting his way through the guards, but as he pursues the fleeing gangster, Dredd falls into an ambush and finds himself surrounded, facing dozens of heavily-armed thugs alone.
 
For Judge Dredd this is just an average Tuesday. . .
 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I have a somewhat sketchy knowledge of Judge Dredd based on the two movies, a few issues of 2000 A.D. and some Dredd mini-series (mostly the set of Batman/Judge Dredd crossovers) in my collection. I wasn't aware that DC had the rights to the character for a while.  A bit of research gave me very little information on this series beyond that it has nothing to do with the continuity of 2000 A.D. or the movies, and that DC's time with Judge Dredd was pretty short. 
 
This series only lasted 18 issues and a sister series called "Legends of The Law", which was a "Legends of The Dark Knight" sort of anthology starring Judge Dredd by multiple creative teams, also only lasted 13 issues.  Neither series seems to have been popular enough to have been collected, and barely any mention of either can be found beyond raw publication data on various collecting and sales sites.  
 
I believe this might be the only review of this issue that has been (or probably ever will be) written, so there's that.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
I really enjoyed this first issue.  It has a tight story that reads like a T.V. cop show on the printed page.  It introduces Judge Dredd and his harsh world very nicely for new readers without a lot of exposition, it sets up future stories, and ends on a cliffhanger that makes me want to read the next issue. . .so it hits the marks I expect a first issue to hit.
 
I think DC might have been in a strange situation here.  By ditching the long and involved A.D. 2000 continuity and starting fresh, they did a great job in reaching out to new readers. . .but at the same time, I have the feeling that established fans turned their noses up at the fresh start and didn't support this series enough to last beyond 18 issues.  Personally, I liked their decision. . .but if you are a die-hard Judge Dredd fan, this might seem a little "Basic".  
 
Like I mentioned above, the story has a snappy, cinematic pace and style that feels like you're reading a T.V. show on the page.  For some, the "cop show" story might feel a bit TOO familiar and procedural, but for me it's one of the best parts of the comic and I could easily see this being adapted as a television series.
 
The art also lends itself well to the cinematic style of the story, with varying "camera" angles and interesting "shots" as the characters move across the page.  The sequence below is a very nice example of what I'm trying to say.  It's not the greatest comic art I've ever seen, but it does a great job telling the story at hand.
 
 
Overall, what we have here is a first issue that does exactly what I expect a first issue to do. . .introduce characters in a new reader-friendly manner and tell a good enough story that I want to read more.   Established Judge Dredd fans might be put off by the complete disregard for all previous continuity, but if you just want to read a dark Sci-Fi "cop show" comic with a bit of humor splashed in, then this is a great place to start.
 
NEXT!
 

SUPERGIRL

DC (2011)

 
LAST DAUGHTER OF KRYPTON
SCRIPT: Michael Green & Mike Johnson
PENCILS: Mahmud Asrar
COVER: Mahmud Asrar
 
THE COVER:
A very nicely-done character portrait!  I like the muted color scheme quite a bit on this one.  Supergirl's face looks just a little strange, but other than that there's nothing I don't like about this.  I don't normally like Supergirl (or generally any title in the DC Super-Family, for that matter), but this cover made me buy this comic, so job well done.  Let's check out what's inside!
 
THE STORY:
Our tale begins as a mysterious piece of space debris lands in a desolate Russian field.  From it emerges a strangely-dressed young woman.  She is confused and doesn't remember how she came to be there or what has happened, or why she is dressed the way she is.  The last thing she remembers is coming home after visiting her friends.  We the reader are given clues through her thoughts that she is from another planet called Krypton and her name is Kara Zor-El.
 
As the confused girl tries to get her bearings, a group of men wearing power armor suits surround her and attack!  Their communication among themselves tells us that they intend to subdue and capture the mysterious stranger on the orders of the leader of the unnamed organization they work for.  They seem to have the upper hand at first, but then the sun rises and Kara realizes that she is no longer on Krypton as her body undergoes a change, giving her superhuman strength and the ability to project rays of heat from her eyes.
 
The tide of battle turns in Kara's favor as she uses her new powers to quickly decimate her attackers. . .but just as quickly as the fight began, it ends with a rush of wind as a flying man wearing the same colors and symbol as Kara does arrives and orders her in Kryptonian to stop fighting!
 
It's a Super-Cliffhanger!
To be continued. . .
 
 
THE REVIEW:
What we have here is an extremely simple story that is mostly a fight between Supergirl and her mysterious attackers.  Beyond that, there is very little past a few clues to who she is and where she is from.  The simplicity of the story lends itself quite well to a first issue in that the reader shares a bit in the confusion of the main character as she tries to get her bearings.
 
One would think that such a bare-bones introduction isn't much of an introduction at all, but oddly enough in this case it works.  I liked the fact that we don't learn EVERYTHING about Kara Zor-El in her first issue. It's probably the thing I liked most about this issue.
 
 Like I said in my look at the cover, I'm generally not a fan of ANY character in DC's Super-Family.  I can enjoy individual issues and stories about Super-Man/Boy/Woman/Girl/Dog/Etc. . . but I've never followed any of them on a regular basis.  I like that this first issue seems to be reaching out to new readers such as myself in a big way by not making me deal with any past information or continuity beats beyond general assumed basic comic fan knowledge of who Superman is and the doomed planet of Krypton . .and if you don't know at LEAST those two things about comic books, you might want to stick to crossword puzzles as a hobby.  Just sayin'.   
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Unlike some other New 52 "introductory" issues I've read recently that seem to be little more than extensions of (then) existing continuity with a few cosmetic changes, Supergirl #1 seems to embrace the idea of being a whole new start for readers that the entire New 52 was SUPPOSED to be.  I don't like Super-Comics much, but I liked THIS Super-Comic because it does exactly what a first issue needs to do. . .Introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way and tell a story that makes me want to read more.
 
With such a simple story, the art is necessarily going to have to carry a lot of weight.  Thankfully, Mahmud Asrar is well up to the task.  It's not the greatest comic art I've ever seen, but it's interesting, dynamic, and colorful without being cartoony.  It's hard for me to take a character like Supergirl seriously, but the art here definitely helps me decide that I wouldn't mind reading a few more issues to see what happens next.
 
Overall, despite my general dislike of DC's Super-Family of comic characters, I liked this issue quite a bit.  The story was extremely simple, but it gave me just enough meat on the bone to want to see what happens next and to learn a little more about Kara Zor-El.  
 
The art did a lot of the heavy lifting in an issue that's pretty much an extended fight scene with a few story bits thrown in for introductory flavor, but I like the art style and it did a lot to help me decide that I MIGHT decide to like a Super-Comic for once, and that maybe I'll pick up a few more issues next time I hit the LCS to see where the story goes.
 
I can't speak for the rest of the series, but I can heartily recommend THIS issue if you want a good example of a first issue doing it right.  If you are an established Supergirl fan, you might find this story extremely basic and not what you were wanting, but if you're a new reader like myself it's a great little piece of Longbox Junk.  Give it a try if you should spot it in the bargain bin.
 

CONCLUSION

 
All in all, not a bad couple of first issues!  Not bad at all.  Both of them hit the marks I expect a first issue to hit. . .introducing characters in a new reader-friendly way and telling a story that makes me want to read more.  Neither one of these comics are GREAT, but both are good.  I couldn't find much wrong with either one of them.
 
If you're looking for some dark sci-fi police action with a little humor thrown in, then Judge Dredd #1 is a good place to start.  Just be warned that if you are already a Judge Dredd fan from other sources, the DC version is going to seem extremely basic, and probably will be a little disappointing.
 
It's the same with Supergirl.  If you're already a Supergirl fan, the complete reboot aimed specifically at new readers might not make you happy.  But if you're looking for a comic that introduces a new character by making you learn about her through story instead of exposition, then Supergirl #1 is surprisingly good.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE First Issue Fun.  
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

I've noticed something recently.  Chalk it up to the strange times we're living in right now, but it seems like EVERY comic review site has suddenly transformed into a Longbox Junk franchise.  There's reviews of back issues all over the place these days!  How can a humble Longbox Junker like myself stand out when EVERYBODY has gone off the shelf and into the bins for material?

And so I ponder the question as I browse the shiny new Longbox Junk franchises I normally read my current comic reviews at.   And as I ponder, I realize the answer is right up at the top of this very page!

Those other guys are doing reviews of Batman, Nightwing, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Avengers, Thor, X-Force, Wolverine, Deadpool, Spider-Verse, and so on and so forth. That's cool.  Keepin' the lights on, at least.

BUT. . .

Who's doing reviews of New 52 Blackhawks?  Who's gonna review Marvel's New Universe Justice?  Who's digging deep enough to suffer through Acclaim's Gawd-Awful sequel to Waterworld. . .Children of Leviathan?  Does anyone even know there IS a Gawd-Awful comic sequel to Waterworld? Who's writing reviews that NOBODY ever asked for? WHO?

You know who.  And I'm taking this opportunity to thank you for reading.  I really do appreciate you fine folks who take a bit of your precious time to come here and (hopefully) enjoy what I do.  It means a lot to me.

ANYWAY. . .I'm not complaining about the other guys doing what they have to do.  Just something that I've been thinking about lately.  And seriously, thanks for reading!

Enough of that.

Due to my strange new work schedule (I don't even want to try and describe it), I have lots of time to READ comics, but finding time to write about them has become a bit challenging.  So I'm going to break away from what I normally do. . .mostly limited series. . .and focus on some single issues for a little while.  And so with that, we (FINALLY) come to the comics at hand. . .a pair of #1 issues I recently pulled from the back issue bins. One from Marvel, one from DC.  Let's do it!

FIRST ISSUE FUN - PART ONE

 

YOUNG ALLIES #1

MARVEL (2010)

 
 
 
Now, Not Tomorrow - Part 1: No Turning Back
SCRIPT: Sean McKeever
PENCILS: David Baldeon
COVER: David Lafuente
 
THE COVER:
A very nice fold out team action shot!  Great colors, great composition, a nice sense of movement.  I like this cover a lot. It's a real eye-catcher and pretty much the reason I picked up this issue in the first place, because I had no idea who any of these characters are.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
We begin our tale with a prologue set in Columbia, where a young boy named Benito is kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier.  Later, we see that he is also forced to undergo strange experiments meant to raise his strength and make him resistant to damage.
 
Moving forward into the present day, we find Rikki Barnes (AKA Nomad) and her best friend, Anya Corazon (AKA Arana/Spider-Girl) stopping the robbery of a grocery store.  This leads to an extended rooftop conversation/ exposition dump about their background and current status. . .Nomad is from another dimension where she was the companion to that world's Captain America.  She's now trapped in this world trying to connect with THIS Cap.  Arana used to have super powers and was Spider-Girl, but now she's lost her powers but is still trying to be a super hero without them, and not doing very well at it.
 
We then change scene to the campus of a local college for another extended info dump, where we are introduced to Greg Willis (AKA Gravity), a young superhero who has some pretty hardcore ideas about what to do with supervillains. . .on the spot execution.  We are also introduced to his more liberal foil/friend, Angelica Jones (AKA Firestar), a young mutant that was once tricked into working for villains and is now trying to make up for her mistake.  She's a more experienced hero, having served alongside the X-Men and Avengers.
 
AND THEN. . .
 
Now that introductions are over, an explosion rocks downtown New York, attracting the attention of all of the young heroes we've just met.  As they all rush toward the commotion, Firestar arrives first and discovers a team of young super-powered villains laying waste to downtown property and killing any civilians in their path. 
 
As the rest of the heroes arrive, a super-powered brawl in the streets of New York ensues where (through shouted exposition between punches and power blasts) we learn that the deadly troublemakers are: Aftershock (daughter of Electro), Ember (son of Pyro), Mortar (daughter of Grey Gargoyle), Singularity (son of Graviton), and Warhead (son of Radioactive Man). . .collectively known as "The Bastards of Evil", a team of unwanted children of various supervillains. 
 
During the fight, Spider-Girl is blasted away from the battle by Singularity's gravity powers and thrown into the Statue of Liberty, where she is rescued by a mysterious boy that changes into a hulking figure.  We learn that he is the kidnapped child soldier from the prologue. . .Benito Serrano (AKA Toro).
 
The battle slowly begins to turn in favor of the heroes. . .even though it goes mysteriously unnoticed by The Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Defenders, and probably a half-dozen other New York-based super-teams and heroes I can't think of off the top of my head. . .BUT I DIGRESS!  
 
Seeing their impending defeat, the villain Warhead makes his way to the Ground Zero Memorial at the site of the former World Trade Center, where he detonates himself with a gigantic nuclear explosion!
 
To be continued. . .
 
Maybe the Avengers will notice THAT.
 
THE REVIEW:
Hmmm. . .not bad.  Not great. . .but not too bad.  What we have here is a #1 issue that pretty much does what a #1 issue should.  It introduces the heroes, the villains, and the conflict.  It doesn't try to reach beyond that, and as a new reader that's something I can appreciate because it's pretty clear to see from the amount of exposition presented that all of these characters have a pretty deep back story.
 
Marvel also reaches out to new readers who might want a little more information on these established characters with a biography page for each of them (including back issue info for more reading!) in the rear.  A VERY nice touch that kept me from having to hit Wikipedia.
 
 
It's not very often that you see that kind of interest in bringing in new readers, so definitely credit for Marvel where credit is due.  Too bad it was in service to a series that only lasted six issues.  Still, a surprisingly strong effort.
 
Beyond the very nice outreach to new readers, this issue is pretty basic in nature.  It's about half introduction and half superhero vs. supervillain battle.  The writing is fast-paced and the art is kinetic and brilliantly-colored, matching the youthful direction of this title quite well.  It's not the greatest writing or the best comic art I've ever seen, but both do a great job of getting this series off the ground and running.
 
 
Overall, I liked this comic.  Like I said above, it doesn't have the greatest writing or art I've ever seen, but it's fun and everything fits together nicely for a solid introduction.  Marvel's reach for new readers on this series deserves another round of applause as well.  
 
Unfortunately, I'm personally not a fan of superhero team books and even less so of teen superheroes.  But I'm not really the audience Marvel was trying for here.  My comic lovin' daughter gave this a read and LOVED it!  She liked the "Marvel-Style Teen Titans" vibe of it a lot.  My LCS has the other 5 issues in their bins and she plans on buying them next trip out.  
 
Given her enthusiastic reception and my admiration for Marvel's attention toward new readers on this one, I think I can safely say that if you're a fan of teen super-teams, you'll probably like this series if you're looking for something fun and a little under the radar.  Pick it up if you spot it in the back issue bins and give it a try. It's only 6 issues, so it should be pretty easy to collect.
 
NEXT!
 

THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN

DC (2011)

 
HAWKMAN RISING
SCRIPT: Tony S. Daniel
PENCILS: Philip Tan
COVER: Philip Tan
 
THE COVER:
Normally, I'm a bit of a sucker for covers with monochromatic backgrounds, but for some reason the plain white doesn't really do it for me on this one.  The portrait of Hawkman himself is very nicely done, though.  It has great colors and a nice sense of "in your face" forward movement.  I'm a little cool on the white background, but I'd still give this one a turn on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin by being introduced to a man named Carter Hall, driving alone through upstate New York and filled with dark thoughts of regret. He walks into the woods and tries to burn a strange costume, but the fire grows out of control and a gigantic flaming bird of prey looms over Carter as the flames consume him.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .
 
Off the Bermuda coast, an expedition led by a Professor Ziegler has pulled up a large piece of wreckage from the sea floor.  Upon inspection, the Professor believes it is part of an alien craft!  He orders the strange wreckage shipped to his laboratory.  Noting some markings on the wreckage he'd like translated, Ziegler tries to locate his resident Cryptologist (none other than Carter Hall) but is informed that nobody has seen him for weeks. . .
 
LATER. . .
 
We return to Carter Hall as he slowly wakes up on the floor of his apartment.  After being engulfed in flame, Hall wonders how he is alive, let alone back home hours away from where he was.  Before he can ponder the mystery for long, his friend Terrance arrives to inform Hall that Professor Ziegler has an assignment studying the mysterious alien wreckage waiting for him.  
 
Soon afterward, Hall and Terrance arrive at Professor Ziegler's laboratory.  The Professor informs him about finding the alien wreckage, as well as a new development.  Since bringing it to the laboratory for further study, the wreckage has revealed an exciting find. . .some sort of mummified alien body!  
 
WHEN SUDDENLY. . .
 
As Ziegler's scientists proceed with tests on the alien mummy, a biological sample of fluid from the mummy comes alive and envelopes the terrified scientists in black goo.  As the scientist is quickly transformed into  a bizarre creature that breaks free from the containment cell and begins to wreak havoc, Carter Hall jumps into action!
 
As he tries to hold back the creature while Ziegler and the rest of the scientists make their escape, Hall quickly discovers that small pieces of the creature he is knocking off with an ax are growing into duplicates!  Outnumbered and seemingly defeated, Hall's skin begins to bubble and the Hawkman armor he thought he'd burned grows through his skin to protect him. Somehow the "Nth Metal" the armor is made of is now somehow inside him!
 
This strange new development seems to turn the battle's tide to favor Hall. . .now once again Hawkman!  That is until the controlling alien entity introduces itself as "Morphicius" and takes an interest in the properties of Hall's armor, bringing the duplicates back into itself and becoming a single huge enemy that quickly overwhelms Hawkman and begins absorbing his life force. . .transforming Morphicius into a bizarre Alien/Hawkman hybrid as Hawkman lies helpless!
 
To be continued. . .
 
This MIGHT be a bit of a problem. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
Hmmmmm. . .okay then.  
 
Unlike the first Young Allies issue reviewed above, Savage Hawkman #1 doesn't make the slightest effort to reach out to new readers. . .which is not only unfortunate in that I'm not overly-familiar with Hawkman except through his B-List Justice League role, but also in light of the New 52 SUPPOSEDLY being a complete re-start and jumping on point for all of DC's comics at the time.  I'm not going to get too negative, but Savage Hawkman pretty much fails in being an introduction to this character's solo adventures for new readers.
 
So that's the bad.  Let's talk about what's good in this comic.
 
Beyond expecting readers to already be completely familiar with Hawkman, the story itself is pretty good.  It's more than a little derivative of Marvel's "Venom", or any other "The mysterious alien goo is takin' over!" storyline for that matter, but I can dig a little "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" in my funny books.  
 
It's not the greatest comic story I've ever read, but it is well-written and gets this series off to enough of a running start that I wouldn't mind picking up a few more issues to see where things go. . .There's 19 more regular issues plus a "zero" issue (which were the New 52's annuals for one year), so there's definitely more room for development going forward, despite the start being a bit shaky for new readers.
 
While the story is pretty good, the art is almost worth the price of admission by itself!  Philip Tan does a stellar job of selling this comic with a style that really shines during action scenes, giving static images a cinematic flair that almost seems to move on the page!  Combined with some fantastic colors that really make individual elements of the panels pop in a big way, the art is definitely the best part of Savage Hawkman.
 
 
Overall, what we have here is an introductory issue that's a bit disappointing in that it's not a great introduction to Hawkman for new readers.  Beyond that, it has a well-written (if a bit derivative) story backed up by some really great art.  
 
I was hooked JUST enough to want to see more, but I think this would appeal more to established fans of Hawkman, and that's who I would really recommend Savage Hawkman to.  For anyone else, I'd say give it a fair try if you spot it in the bargain bin, but definitely don't pay full price for it because you might not feel like you got your money's worth.
 

CONCLUSION


The two issues at hand are sort of a study in contrasts.  One is a brightly-colored team book aimed at younger comic fans and making an admirable effort at drawing in new readers.  The other is a dark and violent tale aimed at mature readers that doesn't even make a token effort to provide any background for the main character.
 
Both of these issues are good in their own way.  Young Allies was fun and did a great job introducing characters I didn't know.  Savage Hawkman is the sort of darker story I enjoy and it had some outstanding art.  
 
Both issues were also a little disappointing as well.   Young Allies was a little TOO light and youthful for a guy in his 50's and Savage Hawkman was a pretty lousy introductory issue.  But these small problems weren't nearly enough to keep me from enjoying both issues enough to want to read more.
 
Overall, I'd recommend both for a decent bargain bin read.  Young Allies will probably appeal more to fans of teen superhero teams, and Savage Hawkman will probably appeal more to established Hawkman fans, so keep that in mind, but neither one of these issues have enough problems that I'd say to pass them up entirely.   They're  both pretty good.  Give them a shot if you spot them in the bin.
 
Up Next. . .
 
More "First Issue Fun" as I spotlight a couple more #1 issues I've recently grabbed from the back issue boxes.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk - Spider-Man/ Human Torch

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

Once again, apologies for the time between my posts being pretty random these days.  As the head of a skeleton crew at my job, I'm doing the work of 3 people and my schedule is just sort of swingin' in the wind.  But at least I still have a job, so I'll keep the complaints to a minimum.  I've been READING a lot of comics, I just don't have as much time as I'd like to write about them.

ANYWAY. . .

I'll tell you true. . .things ain't great out there.  Every time I turn on the news, I feel like taking a Xanax and climbing UNDER the bed.  My gut gets sour just looking at the headlines of a newspaper these days.  Forget toilet paper. . .I need to stock up on TUMS!

I don't have the stomach to add to all the negativity in the air, so I've temporarily decided to make Longbox Junk a place to come and relax a bit as I take a journey through the lighter side of the comic book world.  I'll get back to grinding through some rotten comics eventually. . .but not just yet.

THAT SAID. . .

I've come to discover that my comic collection tends to lean quite a bit to the darker and dramatic side of things. . .which is sort of a problem when deciding to spotlight some fun comics for Longbox Junk readers.

Luckily, my comic-lovin' daughter has come to the rescue!  Since she's out of school for the time being, and generally likes her comics to be on the fun side of things, we've been having a great time digging through her collection together and finding some stuff to bring a smile to both of our faces, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Case in point. . .the comics at hand.

A five issue mini-series put out by Marvel in 2005 showcasing five stand-alone (but loosely connected) tales featuring the High-Flyin' Human Torch and your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man in light-hearted adventures paying homage to various eras of Marvel Comics from the Silver Age to the Modern Age.

DISCLAIMER. . .

These issues assume a familiarity with Marvel Continuity I don't really have, and don't specifically say when the stories are set or what creative teams they are paying tribute to. . .which will be part of the fun for readers that are established fans of these characters.  I'm NOT a big fan of these characters, so if the bit of research I did do is wrong, feel free to shame/correct me in comments for my own good.

Okay? Ready? Let's do it!

SPIDER-MAN/ HUMAN TORCH

MARVEL (2005)

 
SCRIPTS: Dan Slott
PENCILS: Ty Templeton
COVERS: Paul Smith
 

ISSUE ONE

PICTURE PERFECT

 
 
 
THE COVER:
A nice homage to the good old "heroes fight until they don't" character crossover cover hook.  Overall, it's a fun cover with some great colors that puts both main characters firmly in the spotlight.  I'd definitely give this one a turn on the "Wall O' Covers" on my office wall at work.
 
THE STORY:
This story seems to be set at the beginning of Spider-Man and Torch's careers in the early 1960's and pays homage to their Silver Age adventures.

When Johnny "The Human Torch" Storm decides he isn't getting the publicity he deserves, he hires his sometime pal Peter "Spider-Man" Parker (but without knowing Peter is the "menace" known as Spider-Man) to follow him around for a few days as a personal photographer.

On the first day, Peter gets on Torch's bad side when during a bank robbery he steps in to help as Spider-Man.  Torch (not knowing Peter is Spidey) is convinced that Peter tipped off Spider-Man in order to steal his glory for stopping the robbery.  He almost fires Peter, but gives him another chance.

On the second day, Peter decides he'll shadow Torch as Spider-Man without him knowing in order to get better shots and keep his alter-ego out of trouble.  After a brief encounter with Paste Pot Pete laying in wait for the Torch, Spider-Man follows the High-Flyin' hero to the Latverian Embassy, where Torch plans on confronting Doctor Doom by himself!

Of course, Doom is prepared for Torch's ill-advised one-man assault and freezes him in a block of ice. . .leaving the secretly-watching Spider-Man as the only one able to come to the rescue.

Spider-Man pretends to be willing to join Doctor Doom as a fellow villain, and agrees to kill Torch, but at the last moment Spidey makes his escape with the frozen hero, earning Doctor Doom's promise of  future revenge in the process.

Later, Spider-Man accidentally breaks off Torch's frozen hair while chipping him out of the ice, leaving the vain hero bald!  Even though Peter secretly snaps a picture of the humiliated Torch, J.J. Jameson at the Daily Bugle decides to run a picture of Spider-Man together with Doctor Doom instead, further cementing Spidey's reputation as a menace.

In the end, Torch is bald and Peter Parker made things worse for Spider-Man.  Nobody can catch a break in the big city.  The End.

 
THE REVIEW:
Like I said above, I'm generally not a fan of either the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man, but I really enjoyed this story a lot!  Dan Slott really channeled some goofy Silver-Age fun and nonsense into this little comedy of errors.  I especially liked the "Nobody wins" ending, that almost had me hearing the "Wha-wha-whaaaaaaaaaaaaa" sad trombone sound on the last page.  Spidey's encounter with Paste Pot Pete, where he basically laughs the villain into leaving without a fight (because of his ridiculous name), is also a great moment.

The art really helped sell the story as well.  It's got some nice dark lines and beautiful, bright colors.  There's a great sense of motion in the action scenes, and the facial expressions in the more comedic scenes are perfect.  The artist DOES make Peter look a lot older than a teenager, but I think Peter Parker looking like he's 30 years old is part of the Silver Age homage, if I remember from the very few Spidey comics I have from the 60's, so I can give it a pass.

 
Overall, a silly story backed up with some very nice artwork makes this first issue a lot of fun!  As a standalone story, I'd recommend  this one even if (like me) you aren't a big Torch or Spidey fan for a good lighthearted comic to read.  But this is only the first issue. . .Let's get to the next one!
 

ISSUE TWO

CATCH YOU ON THE FLIPSIDE

 
 
THE COVER:
I'm not going to get too negative here, but this cover is just sort of "Meh".  It's not BAD, but it's not really that good, either.  It's just sort of. . .there.  It seems a bit cluttered and isn't the kind of cover that would have made me pick this issue up off the stand for a look.
 
THE STORY:
Based on Captain George Stacy (1st appearance 1968 - Death in 1970) appearing in this issue, I'd say this story is set in the late 1960's and pays tribute to the late Silver Age adventures of our heroes.

After a disagreement between Peter Parker and Johnny Storm, Spider-Man and The Human Torch decide to switch places for a day. . .with Spidey going along with the Fantastic Four on a trip to another dimension while Torch watches over the streets of New York City.

Of course, things quickly begin to go wrong for both heroes.  Spider-Man finds himself on a terrifying journey that barely fazes his Fantastic Four companions while Torch discovers that his super-powers are TOO powerful when trying to take down street thugs instead of alien menaces.

In his panic, Spider-Man ruins most of Mr. Fantastic's experiments as he tries to "save" the Fantastic Four from the dangers of what would have normally been a routine mission.  In the meantime, Torch finds himself in conflict with Kraven The Hunter.

In the end, Johnny Storm comes out on top by defeating Kraven, breaking his drug ring,  and earning the key to the city in the process.  But he also learns that his powers are more suited for the alien threats he normally faces and gains new respect for the street-level heroics of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  As for Spidey, he learns that he's not likely to be invited on more trips with the Fantastic Four any time soon. . .The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
Another great issue!  This one has even more humor than the first issue, as well as a little dose of heart as our heroes learn a bit more about each other when they switch places for a day.  It's a great idea for a story and Dan Slott pulls it off very nicely.

The initial setup will probably appeal a bit more to fans who can appreciate the appearances of the many supporting characters that show up, like Captain Stacy, Flash Thompson (on leave from Vietnam), and the Inhuman Crystal. . .characters I have very little knowledge of.  But once the story itself gets going, it's pure fun!

My favorite parts were Spider-Man's fish out of water terror as he travels to another dimension with the Fantastic Four.  Even though the story really focused more on Johnny Storm, the occasional flashes to Spidey were comedy gold!

And once again, the art delivers the perfect compliment to the story. . .even giving a bit of signature "Kirby Crackle" during Spider-Man's terrifying ride with the FF.  A nice touch.


 
Overall, I'd have to say I liked this issue even more than the first.  It has a great story hook and some really funny moments.  Once again, the story pretty much stands alone, so that makes it even better in my book.  So far we've had two for two great issues in this series, which is saying something for someone who isn't really a fan of either starring character.
 
NEXT!

ISSUE THREE

AUTO MOTIVES

 
THE COVER:
Like the cover on the previous issue, this one also seems pretty cluttered.  The art itself is good, but the cover is just sort of busy.  Extra points for the Spider-Buggy, though!  That's enough of an oddball nostalgia hook that I would have at least taken a look at this issue when it was on the stands.
 
THE STORY:
Based on Spider-Man's depression over the death of Gwen Stacy (1973) in this issue, I'd say it's set in the middle 1970's and is a homage to the early Bronze Age adventures of Spidey and Torch.

Peter Parker takes on an internship with Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four in order to try and get out of the funk he's in over the recent death of his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.

While there, he meets a fellow intern, a beautiful Russian woman named Nina Pushnikov. . .who is actually a Soviet spy working for the villain Red Ghost, who is after one of Reed Richard's inventions, the "Gravity Localizer".  A device that can create small anti-gravity fields that can be controlled.

In the meantime, Johnny Storm (AKA the Human Torch) has been helping Spider-Man with a new project. . .the Spider-Mobile.  It's a spider-themed dune buggy being sponsored by a car manufacturer as part of an ad campaign featuring Spider-Man.

Unfortunately, during Spider-Man and Torch's test run of the vehicle, they quickly realize WHY no New York superheroes drive around in cars when Daredevil has to take down Stilt-Man after the Spider-Mobile gets stuck in downtown traffic.

The pair of hapless heroes decide to "borrow" Reed Richards' Gravity Localizer in an effort to improve the Spider-Mobile, not realizing that the Red Ghost and his trio of super apes are after the device.  As Torch and Spidey joyride around on the sides of Manhattan's skyscrapers, Red Ghost breaks into the Baxter Building and discovers the device is missing.

Red Ghost tracks Torch and Spider-Man down and lays a trap for them, managing to steal the Spider-Mobile and the Gravity Localizer.  The heroes quickly go into pursuit, and Spider-man is able to stop and capture the villains without a fight using the flaky crust and delicious fruit filling of "Mostess" fruit pies. The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
Although this one starts off on a somber note (with Spider-Man reflecting on the death of Gwen Stacy), it's really played for laughs even more than either of the previous issues.  The whole thing is just light nonsense that has a couple of good chuckles and a lot of heart (as Spidey confesses to Torch that he's his only REAL super-friend).

I REALLY enjoyed the nod to the old Hostess (here as Mostess) fruit pie ads as the final chase is ended in a way that's sure to bring a smile to any Bronze Age comic fan reading this!

The art in this one seems a bit more rushed and incomplete than in the previous two issues.  I'm not going to say it's bad, just that it could clearly be better.  Not sure if there was a schedule problem that caused a rush or something, but I hope it improves in the next issue.
 
Overall, I got a big delight in every bite of this issue!  The art looked a bit rushed and sketchy in places, but that didn't stop this from being a story full of humor, heart, and delicious fruit filling. . .making this one three for three good issues in this series so far.  Let's get into the next one!
 

ISSUE FOUR

CAT'S PAWS

 
THE COVER:
I like this cover a lot!  The contrast between the dark outfits of the characters and the bright red background really makes things pop.  Also, you can just tell there's gonna be lovestruck comedy shenanigans of some sort to be found inside.  This is the kind of cover that makes me want to check out a comic!  I plan on snagging this issue from my daughter to give it a turn on the "Wall O' Covers" next February.
 
THE STORY:
Based on She-Hulk being a new member of the Fantastic Four and Spidey's inexperience with his new "Alien Costume" in this issue, I place this story immediately after "Secret Wars" in 1985.  Paying tribute to the late Bronze Age/ early Modern Age adventures of our heroes.
 
Our story begins with an argument between Spider-Man and his newest love/ crimefighting partner, Black Cat, over her wanting his help getting into an exclusive showing of Wakanda's greatest national treasure. . .a jeweled tribal mask belonging to the first ruler of Wakanda.  
 
He is disappointed that Black Cat seems to be slipping back into her criminal ways and refuses to be part of it.  She is disappointed that Spidey won't break his rigid moral code and walk on the wild side now and then with her.
 
Later, at the Wakandan embassy, Peter Parker (there on assignment from the Daily Bugle) is surprised to see his girlfriend enter Red Carpet Style on the arm of none other than Superstar Superhero and friend, Johnny Storm (AKA The Human Torch).
 
Peter is determined to stop Black Cat's theft of the jeweled mask and save his friend from being used by Black Cat.  Using his symbiote suit's ability to change appearance, he infiltrates the Embassy disguised as a guard as he tries to follow them.  Unfortunately, the security team has been hand-picked and his disguise quickly fails, raising the alarm and putting both Black Panther and his Royal Guard in pursuit of Spider-Man.
 
The battle between Spider-Man and Black Panther (who assumes that Spidey is the villain the newspapers claim him to be) provides the perfect diversion as Black Cat uses her skills and Torch uses his super powers to break through the tight security measures surrounding the Wakandan Mask!
 
After Spider-Man makes his escape and tracks down Torch and Black Cat, it's revealed that the mask is still safely in place.  All Black Cat wanted was a lock pick left behind by her father when he tried to steal the same mask years before.  It really was just a little walk on the wild side, with no real crime committed.  Spidey and Black Cat make up and Torch leaves, a little confused but having had an interesting night out.  The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Yet another great issue!  I really enjoyed the "comedy heist" feel of this story as Spider-Man blunders through a comedy of errors and misunderstandings while unwittingly providing the distraction for Torch and Black Cat to be able to pull off their end of things.  
 
I'm not very familiar with Black Cat as a character, but based on this issue I wouldn't mind reading more about her and Spidey's adventures together.  They seem to have been an interesting couple.  Black Panther's guest appearance here was also great.
 
My concerns about the art's slipping quality from the last issue are relieved here with a return to fine form, with the expressive faces, dynamic movement, and great colors providing a perfect compliment to the light-hearted comedy heist story at hand.
 
Overall, we have yet another very entertaining issue here, with an engaging comedy heist story backed up by some very nice comic artwork.  What I liked most about it was that this is the fourth really good issue in a five issue series. . .which is something that, in my Longbox Junkin' experience, doesn't happen very often at all. There's usually at least ONE clunker.  
 
Can this thing possibly go five for five?  Let's find out!

ISSUE FIVE

TOGETHER AGAIN

 
THE COVER:
They saved the best for last!  Great colors, great composition, a very nice sense of movement, and an equally- shining spotlight on the two star characters of the series make this cover one I have no hesitation deciding that it deserves a turn up on my office "Wall O' Covers" rotating comic cover display. 
 
THE STORY:
 
Based on Peter Parker being a high-school teacher, I place this story right before "Civil War" (2006), and bringing the story right into the time this mini was originally put out in 2005 for a look at the (then) current versions of Spidey and Torch. 
 
When an assembly of students at Peter Parker's High School featuring The Human Torch is taken hostage by a Maggia boss seeking revenge for the death of his son in prison by killing a student that is the son of the District Attorney who convicted his son.   Peter is finally forced to reveal his identity as Spider-Man to Torch in order to stop the crime boss and his armed thugs.  
 
The pair team up to save the day, but later at a meeting on top of the Statue of Liberty, Torch vents his anger at Spider-Man for keeping his identity secret from him for so long. . .and it gets worse when Spidey reveals that Reed Richards (and many others in the super hero community) knew who he was while Torch was in the dark.  
 
The two heroes make up after a heartfelt discussion where they both reveal how envious they've always been of each other (and how many of Torch's adventures with Spidey were actually with a clone).  
 
After everything is sorted out, Torch invites Spider-Man to bring his family to the Baxter Building for dinner with the Fantastic Four, so that everyone can finally get to know each other better.  It's shown at the end that Peter Parker and family are accepted as members of the extended Fantastic Four Family and Torch and Spidey's friendship continues to grow.  The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Simply a great ending for a great series!  This issue has a little action, a little comedy, and a lot of heart as Spidey and Torch reminisce about past adventures and we see them get closer as they are finally able to let their two families come together.
 
It's not as "stand alone" in nature as the previous four issues, as it looks back through previous adventures and also brings things forward into the (then) current continuity of the characters, so established fans will probably get a bit more out of it than new readers like myself, but that said. . .it's still a great read that packs a nice emotional punch into a small space as we see Spider-Man and Torch become more like brothers than friends.
 
 
Overall, this is a fine finish to this outstanding series.  It digs deep into the heart of Spider-Man and the Human Torch's friendship in a way that makes me want to read more comics featuring these two heroes together.  There's probably more here for established fans, but that doesn't stop this from being the delicious cherry on top of a very nice sundae of enjoyable comic books.

CONCLUSION

I've been Longbox Junkin' for a while now and it doesn't happen very often that I can get through a mini-series without at least ONE clunker in it.  Well. . .Spider-Man/Human Torch is that rare occasion when every issue is good!  
 
This series is simply a pleasure to read.  It features well-written stories told with humor and heart.  These light-hearted adventures were EXACTLY what I needed to read right now to bring a bit of a smile to my face, and I heartily recommend Spider-Man/ Human Torch to anyone who just wants to read some really fun comics during these troubling times. . .whether you're a fan of these characters or not!
 
Is this a PERFECT series?  No.  Nothing is perfect.  The art gets a bit sketchy from time to time, it's really written more for established fans than new readers, and some of the humor doesn't quite hit the target.  But for all the fun to be found in these pages, those are extremely small complaints.
 
All in all, I highly recommend this series for some silly, heartfelt fun.  I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who needs a bit of that these days.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
With my current work schedule it's taking WAY too long for me to write up full comic series, so I think I'm going to throw down some single-issue reviews for a while.  Still on the lighter side for now, of course.  Not sure exactly what.  
 
I've been grabbing a lot of #1 issues from my comic shop's back issue boxes lately as I try to spend the same amount of back issues weekly as I normally would on new comics (not the bargain bin, although I still dig through there as well).  Maybe I'll feature a few of those. . .
 
In any case, be there or be square!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed FULL of comic reviews you never asked for!

Before we begin. . .

Sorry my posting schedule has become a bit spotty lately.  As the chief bonehead managing a skeleton crew running a hotel, I'm working various shifts 6 days a week for the time being.  It's a bit chaotic but at least I still have a job, which is more than a lot of people can say these days, so I ain't complaining.

ANYWAY. . .

The past couple months haven't exactly been a party, to say the least.  There's no news but bad news.  Heck, it's gotten to the point that I don't even want to read the paper or watch the news any more.  I've got about 60 rolls of toilet paper in my house, and I don't even know why.

Keeping that in mind, I've decided to try and keep things on the lighter side here at Longbox Junk.  There's not much that I can do about everything going on in the world, but hopefully MY small corner of the internet can be a place to visit and get your mind off of things for at least a few minutes.  I think we can all sort of use a place like that now and then these days.

SO. . .

How about we take a look at a Pulp-Tastic IDW/DC  intercompany crossover adventure featuring a team up between two of my favorite characters of all time. . .The Spirit and The Rocketeer?

It's The Spirit and The Rocketeer! Two of the most fun comic characters ever created.

How can this NOT be good?

LET'S DO IT!

THE ROCKETEER/ THE SPIRIT:

PULP FRICTION

IDW/ DC (2013)

 

ISSUE ONE

 
SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: Paul Smith
COVER: Paul Smith
 
THE COVER:
It's great to see two of my all-time favorite heroes together on a comic cover!  I think the Rocketeer is better done, but then again, I love the design of the Rocketeer in general.  Overall, this is a great cover that shines the spotlight (literally) on both main characters in a big way.
 
THE STORY:
The Year: 1941.  The body of a man is discovered in California, which begins the mystery of how a dead Central City Alderman who had just been seen at a city council meeting on the East Coast ended up 3000 miles away in only eight hours.

Since the victim was a friend of Central City police commissioner Dolan, he recruits resident vigilante detective, The Spirit, to get to the bottom of things.  Dolan's daughter (and Spirit's sorta-girlfriend) Ellen insists on going as well (for some California sun), and Dolan grudgingly agrees to accompany them.

IN THE MEANTIME. . .

We see that the model who discovered the body is Betty, girlfriend of pilot Cliff Secord (AKA The Rocketeer), and that millionaire tycoon Benjamin Trask (on the West Coast) and elusive criminal "The Octopus" (on the East Coast) were behind the mysterious death.

Upon arrival in California, mistaken identity shenanigans ensue as Cliff's friend, Peevy, accidentally overhears the masked stranger (The Spirit) talking about taking care of business and assumes he's there to kill Betty.

Cliff flies to the "Rescue" as The Rocketeer and fights with The Spirit in the sky over the airfield until Peevy and Dolan recognize each other from the war (WWI, that is) and realize that there's been a big mistake.

On the ground, strained introductions are made and Cliff takes The Spirit to talk to Betty. . .who immediately falls for the square-jawed detective, much to the consternation of both Cliff and Ellen.

To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:

This issue is pretty much concerned with setting up the central mystery, bringing the two main characters together, and introducing conflict between the two reluctant allies.  That's a lot to pack into a single issue, but veteran writer Mark Waid handles it all with ease.  The dialogue is snappy and everything moves at a fast pace. . .but not too fast.  Waid definitely keeps a steady hand on the wheel here as he pushes the pieces into their initial places.

Okay, the old "Heroes fight until the realize they're on the same side" crossover hook IS a very well-worn path, but sometimes you just have to go with a "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude.  I've seen it done a lot worse in other comics.  It actually fits the story here instead of feeling forced.

The art here makes a good story even better with sharp, realistic lines and great facial expressions that make even scenes of characters standing around talking interesting to look at.  The action scenes are dynamic and have a great sense of movement.  The backgrounds are sparse, allowing the artist to draw the reader's focus to the detailed characters. The style serves this particular story very nicely.
Overall, a very nice first issue!  It quickly introduces the characters and conflicts in a very readable way. . .despite reliance on the good old "Heroes mistakenly fight each other" crossover hook.  The art style fits the story perfectly. 
 
I would have liked a little more information on The Spirit and The Rocketeer for new readers (but reading ahead I can see that's covered in upcoming issues, so no harm no foul) but other than that very small complaint, I call this one a winner!
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

 
SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: Loston Wallace
COVER: Paul Smith
 
THE COVER:
As big a fan of The Spirit and The Rocketeer that I am, I find this cover to be a bit "Meh".  Once again, it's great to see two of my favorites together on a comic cover, but this one just seems underwhelming.  Not that it's bad.  Just sort of. . .average.  Not really the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic.
 
THE STORY:
Now that our heroes are reluctantly working together, they head into the city to see if they can gain any clues from the autopsy of the dead Central City Alderman.

Since morgues are more in Dolan and The Spirit's wheelhouse, Ellen and Cliff find themselves making an unexpected connection while the two detectives meet with the coroner.  Dolan and The Spirit make the incredible discovery that the organs of the dead man are scrambled beyond recognition. . .another mystery!

Meanwhile, back at the airfield, Peevy and Betty discover an image of the dead man burnt into the screen of Peevy's experimental homemade television set. . .adding yet more to the mystery at hand.

Cliff, Dolan, Ellen, and The Spirit rush back to the airfield to check out the new wrinkle in the case.  Shortly after they arrive, the airfield is attacked by two airplanes armed with machine guns!  Cliff jumps into action as The Rocketeer, and The Spirit insists on helping.

After a tense mid-air battle, the attackers are taken down.  Dolan and Peevy interrogate the captured pilots and discover they are working for Millionaire Tycoon Benjamin Trask.  Deciding to follow up on this new clue, the pair of heroes make plans to follow Trask to Central City.

IN THE MEANTIME. . .

While the airfield is being attacked, Betty is auditioning for a producer that is promising to make her the first star of America's newest form of entertainment, television.  It turns out that the producer is none other than the newly-discovered villain, Benjamin Trask.  DUN-DUN-DUN!!

To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
Now that the two heroes are in the same place and on the same side, Mark Waid begins adding layers to the mystery with an issue that is mostly the characters finding and following clues. . .with a nice bit of aerial action thrown in.  The dialogue remains snappy and light, making the story move along at a very nice pace.  We get to see both The Rocketeer and The Spirit doing what they do best. . .The Spirit as a detective and Rocketeer in high-flyin' action, with both characters getting their own moments in the spotlight.  All in all, very nicely done.

We get an artist change in this issue as well.  The style is a little lighter, less realistic and more cartoony than in the first issue, but I think it fits the story even better!  I've never heard of Loston Wallace, but a quick dive into the Wiki-Well tells me that he's mostly known for illustrating "all ages" comics for DC.  I really enjoy his art style a lot and his work here is excellent.  I wish he had more regular comic work on his resume I could keep an eye out for!


Overall, we have a great second issue here.  It adds to the mystery at hand, gives The Spirit and The Rocketeer both time in the spotlight, and features some really enjoyable art.  There's nothing I can possibly complain about here!  This is the kind of comic book that really makes me want to jump right into the next issue.
 
So let's do it!
 
 

ISSUE THREE

 
SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: J Bone
COVER: J Bone
 
THE COVER:
J Bone is an artist I don't really know, but his chunky cartoon style works a lot better on the delightful interior art than it does on this cover.  It's not BAD. . . I love seeing two of my favorite characters together on a comic cover, and it's sort of fun, but there's just something missing. . .
 
THE STORY:
Moving from sunny Hollywood to the cold and snowy streets of Central City, we begin the story inside The Spirit's crypt hideout where he is recounting his origin to The Rocketeer, who is understandably disturbed by hearing such a strange story from a dead man in the middle of a cemetery. . .
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
Betty and Trask have also arrived in Central City, and Betty is put up in a suite at the swankiest hotel in town.  Their arrival has not gone unnoticed by Commissioner Dolan's informants.  The Spirit, Dolan, and The Rocketeer make ready to confront Trask.
 
While the heroes make their plans, the full scope of the villainous plot is finally revealed as Trask meets with Central City Crime Lord, The Octopus in a dockside warehouse.  
 
It seems that Trask and Octopus have been working with a German scientist named Goessel and have discovered a way to use the new technology of television to transmit not only images, but matter!  A secret that Trask demonstrates during a television meeting of various powerful American crime figures by firing a machine gun at them through their television screens!
 
After Trask's demonstration seals an alliance among American organized crime, he returns to the hotel where Betty is staying, along with Goessel and the television/teleportation equipment.  He reveals to Betty that he was merely using her as bait to lure The Spirit and The Rocketeer to him.
 
As the Rocketeer attacks the hotel, Goessel uses the teleportation camera on Betty, teleporting her to the warehouse where The Spirit is attacking The Octopus' gaurds.  Unlike the dead Alderman at the heart of the original mystery, Betty survives the teleportation intact and alive, but her mind is practically blank and leaves her completely open to suggestion.
 
As The Rocketeer battles his way through the streets of Central City in pursuit of Trask, The Octopus' minions subdue and capture The Spirit in the warehouse.  The story ends with Octupus and Goessel preparing to have the mind-controlled Betty kill The Spirit live on television for the viewing pleasure of their new organized crime allies. 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
As we head into the big finish of Pulp Friction, this issue very nicely sets up the final confrontation between our heroes and the villains by revealing the master plan behind everything that's happened so far.  Yeah. . .it's kind of corny when you think too hard about it, but on the other hand, it's also a lot of fun!  
 
Mark Waid channels his inner Golden Age and gives us the kind of story you'd expect if this comic were actually written on the edge of an emerging technology like television.  It's complete fantasy based on speculation and possibility. . .but those kind of stories were common in the years when this comic is supposedly taking place.  A bit of modern suspension of disbelief is needed, but I think Waid pulls off bringing the reader into the Golden Age quite well.
 
All that AND we get a great little retelling of The Spirit's origin story!
 
We also get ANOTHER artist change with this issue.  Like I said in the look at the cover above, I'm not familiar with J Bone (and wasn't really impressed with the cover), but his chunky, exaggerated, darkly-inked art style is a great look for this issue!  I have to confess that I'd rather have seen more of Loston Wallace's work on this, but with J Bone's art and the great sense of movement it has, I can easily imagine this story as an animated feature!  
 
 
Overall, writer Mark Waid very nicely sets things up for the big finish with an action-packed issue that brings the Golden Age of comics onstage in a big way.  Another art change gives us a glimpse of what this would look like as an animated movie.  It looks great, but I wish that they would have stuck with one artist through the whole series.  That very small complaint aside, this issue is a winner in my book, and everything is standing strong heading into the final issue.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ISSUE FOUR

 
SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: J Bone
COVER: J Bone
 
THE COVER:
This cover by J Bone actually works a lot better than the one he did for the previous issue.  His cartoony animation style art perfectly fits this "Damsels in distress" shot.  The colors give a great contrast to the two leading ladies of the story.
 
THE STORY:
Continuing from last issue, The Spirit manages to break through Betty's mind control and she frees him.  As the Octupus sets his henchmen on Betty and The Spirit, the police and The Rocketeer arrive on the scene in time to win the fight. . .but just a moment too late to prevent The Octopus from escaping.
 
With everyone safely reunited, The Octopus' and Trask's henchmen arrested, and the mystery of the dead Alderman solved, it seems that all that is left is to track down Trask, Goessler and The Octopus in order to bring them to justice.  
 
But as the heroes ponder what their next move will be, they suddenly realize that the plot goes much deeper than they thought as they see on a television screen running at the warehouse that Trask is filming President Roosevelt live on television at the White House!
 
Knowing they have to take action quickly in order to save the President, the heroes use the teleporting equipment at the warehouse to transport Roosevelt to them. . .but they also accidentally teleport a squad of Ratzi (BECAUSE I JUST NOW DISCOVERED THAT CBR'S FILTER WON'T LET ME WRITE N-AZI) soldiers that Trask was teleporting from Europe (in partnership with a Ratzi General) to assassinate Roosevelt.
 
The heroes manage to get President Roosevelt to safety before the fighting begins by strapping The Rocketeer's jet pack on him and shooting him out of the warehouse. . .and then it's Ratzi Punchin' Time!
 
As The Rocketeer and The Spirit take down the Ratzi assassination squad, Trask's Ratzi General ally destroys the teleport connection between Europe and kills Trask by transporting explosives through the television. . .erasing the evidence of the Ratzi plot to assassinate Roosevelt.
 
Later, at the White House, President Roosevelt allows The Rocketeer to keep his jet pack (which IS officially stolen government property) in exchange for keeping the secret of The President's polio, which was discovered by The Rocketeer during the warehouse battle.  The Spirit and Rocketeer say their goodbyes before departing to their respective cities, having earned each others respect and becoming friends and allies during their adventure together.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
And everything wraps up very nicely in an action-packed final issue that takes time at the end to slow down and pay a lot of respect to two of my favorite heroes as the bow on top of the package.  I really couldn't ask for anything more.  The end of this issue just brings a smile to my face.  In these times, that's something that's sort of rare these days.  Mark Waid definitely hit it out of the park with this issue.  No. . .with this whole series!
 
J Bone stays on art for this final issue, and everything good about his chunky animation-style art from the third issue stays good here.  You can almost imagine seeing these panels in motion on a T.V. screen.  I think I'm going to keep my eye out for some more of his work now.
 
Overall, this was a great finish to a great series!  Everything wrapped up nicely and as a big fan of The Spirit and The Rocketeer, the ending made me happy and wanting to see more adventures with them teaming up.  The only complaint I have is that this is probably the only time I get to see these two great heroes in the same comic.  Other than that, I've got nothing bad to say about this.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I have to confess that I cheated a little on this one.  
 
Most of the time when I do a Longbox Junk review, it's either my first time reading a comic or the first time in so long that I don't really remember much about it.  This time out, I picked a series that I ALREADY knew was good and have enjoyed reading several times.

I just didn't have it in me to throw out anything too negative right at this moment.  I'll get back to gritting my teeth through some lousy comics soon enough, just not right now. Fair?
 
ANYWAY. . .

As you can tell from the reviews of the individual issues, I don't have much bad to say about this series:   The Rocketeer didn't get much background information compared to The Spirit, which doesn't matter to a fan such as myself, but might be an oversight when it comes to new readers who might not know these characters.  A couple of the covers are "So-So".  Some people might think the whole "Heroes fight until they realize they're on the same side" crossover setup is a golden oldie that needs to be retired (I thought it worked here better than it usually does).  Some people might think that Ratzis being the ultimate villains is a bit tired (okay. . .maybe they're right).

BUT. . .

Those are small complaints when you take in the overall view of this series:  It has a pretty good story bringing together two great pulp heroes for the first and probably only time.  It showcases some great art.  Most of all. . .it's FUN!  Mark Waid  successfully brings the nonsense of the Golden Age into the Modern Age and it's just a plain old good time!

If you are a fan of pulp adventures or are just looking for some fun comics, then I heartily recommend this series. I bought this one off the rack when it was coming out, but I've seen the issues in back issue bins and it's been collected in both hard and soft cover.  It's also available on Comixology for you high-tech folks out there.

Up Next. . .

I'm not really sure.
I've been digging through my daughter's comics for some Marvel-Style fun.
Right now, I'm reading a pretty good Spider-Man/ Human Torch five-issue mini that might be just what Longbox Junk needs to stay on the light side of comics next time out.  Until then. . .

Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - Black Canary (Part 2)

617 views • 17 weeks ago • (1) Comment

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for that you could ever ask for!  Wait. . .does that even make sense?  It does to me!

So here we are at the back half of DC's short-lived 1993 attempt at a Black Canary solo title.

I was a bit disappointed with the first six issues.  It's not that they're BAD, it's just that they could have been a lot better with a bit more effort by a stronger creative team.  As it stands coming into the second six issues, things are pretty average and not very memorable.  It's a decent read, but I just want a LITTLE more.

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Longbox Junk - Black Canary

1334 views • 21 weeks ago • (1) Comment

Sorry about the delay on this one.  I actually had it done last week, but I accidentally deleted the draft and had to completely re-write it!

ANYWAY. . .

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

- read more

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