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Longbox Junk Retro Review The Lone Ranger #35 (1951)

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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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

 
Lately I've been going outside my usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds to shine the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics sitting unread in my collection.  It's been a lot of fun for me, and I've been able to learn a little here and there in the process.  Case in point: the comic at hand.
 
I know next to nothing about She-Hulk beyond the obvious. . .she's a female version of The Hulk.  I've never read any of her ongoing series, and have only come across her occasionally in other comics she pops up in.  In other words, I know She-Hulk as more of a guest star than as a main character.
 
I bought this comic at a flea market for ten bucks because (despite my lack of knowledge about the character) I knew just from hanging around comic sites that I had a good find on my hands that was definitely "worth" more than a ten-spot.  That and it has a pretty sweet cover.  But I didn't have much interest in actually READING the comic, so it got bagged, boarded, and forgotten.
 
UNTIL NOW!
 
When I was digging through my collection for some "Before 1986, please" (nods to the fine people over at Old Guys Who Like Old Comics) comics to review for this batch of Longbox Junk retro reviews, this was a natural choice for me. . . A popular character that I had little actual knowledge of with a bangin' Bronze Age cover.  
 
So I did a bit of research before writing this and found that there's an interesting story BEHIND the story to be found.  Maybe more interesting than the actual comic itself (to ME, anyway).  Bear with me just a minute.  YOU might already know the story behind She-Hulk, but maybe others reading this might not. 
 
SO. . .
 
Just to sketch it out a little, what we have here is a character that was created for a very specific purpose.  It seems that the Powers That Be running Marvel in the late 70's were looking closely at the runaway success of the Incredible Hulk T.V. show.  But what they were ALSO looking at was the successful spinoff of another show. . .The Bionic Woman, which came out of the wildly popular Six Million Dollar Man series.
 
The Marvel Executives came to the conclusion that if one show could just spin off a female version of a character, another show could do the same.  And so they tasked Stan Lee with coming up with a female version of The Hulk so that if  CBS DID decide to throw out a female Hulk, Marvel would own the rights.
 
This would be Stan Lee's last major character created for Marvel, and because of the urgency of the job, the issue was written in an extremely short period of time (sources vary, but agree it was just a few weeks). 
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Enough of that.  Let's get into this comic!

THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK #1

MARVEL (1980)

 

 
THE SHE-HULK LIVES
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Chic Stone
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE COVER:
It's just a great Bronze Age comic rack eye catcher!  I'm a sucker for monochromatic backgrounds like this one, and I like the way it's split between the stark white and the cityscape below.  I really like the contrasting colors between the title and She-Hulk as well.  They both pop very nicely against the plain white background.  The thing I like best about this cover is the figure of non-hulked Jen Walters.  John Buscema drew some of the best female figures out there, and he doesn't disappoint here.  It's kind of funny that he drew her wearing purple pants.  All around, a great cover!  Let's get inside and see what's going on. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
Our tale begins as Doctor David/Bruce Banner begins to feel the isolation and loneliness of being a wanted man and decides to visit his cousin Jen, a Los Angeles lawyer who Banner hasn't seen since she was young. . .
 

After a joyful reunion between the two, Banner tells her the real reason he's come to her. . .to confess he's the Hulk and to tell his side of the story.  This leads into an abbreviated recap of The Incredible Hulk's origin. . .
 

Jen sympathizes with her cousin and is determined to help him if she can.  On the way to her house, she confides that she's working on a case defending a hoodlum being framed for murder.  She know his boss committed the murder and has planted a rumor that she has evidence of his crime.  Banner is concerned for her safety, playing such a dangerous game, but Jen isn't worried.
 
But maybe she should have been.  As they arrive at her house, gunmen attack Jen, shooting her down in her driveway!  Banner fights off the gunmen as they close in to finish the job.
 

 
Banner desperately seeks help for his badly-wounded cousin. . .trying to keep his emotions in check so he doesn't turn into the Hulk.  He eventually finds a doctor office, but nobody is there.  He decides extreme danger calls for extreme measures, so he breaks into the office and gives her a transfusion of his own blood. . .
 

After the worst danger has passed and Jen is stable, Banner calls the police so that she can be taken to the hospital.  Unfortunately, the police are suspicious of Banner and take him in for questioning.  He turns into the Hulk and makes his escape. . .once again becoming a fugitive.
 
 
In the meantime, as Jen recovers in the hospital, the mobsters who put her there return disguised as doctors to finish the job by poisoning her!  Jen tries to fight, but they are too strong.  She feels rage begin to build inside!
 

A strange transformation comes over Jen!  She turns into a giant, green-skinned monstrosity! To the horror of her attackers, Jen Walters has become some sort of. . .SHE-HULK!
 
 
The newly-born She-Hulk fights off her attackers, who flee in panic.  She-Hulk pursues them through the hospital, wreaking havoc with her new strength! 
 
 
The chase ends in the parking lot as She-Hulk wrecks the mobster's getaway car.  As the police arrive on the scene, She-Hulk forces a confession out of the gunmen that they were behind the attack on Jen.  Seeing that the police have witnessed the confession, She-Hulk flees the scene!
 
 
As She-Hulk feels her anger and strength fade, she makes her way back into the hospital before changing back into Jennifer Walters.  She realizes that her cousin's blood transfusion was behind the change. . .but instead of seeing it as a bad thing, Jen decides to embrace her new abilities as She-Hulk and put them to good use!
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
All righty then. . .there it is.  The origin of She-Hulk.  Let's break it on down!
 
When I was doing my little series of "First Issue Fun" Longbox Junk entries just a little while ago, I laid down the TWO basic requirements that make me consider a first issue a success. First, it has to introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way.  Second, it has to make me want to read more.
 
This comic does a great job in introducing She-Hulk to new readers.  Stan Lee delivers a quick and concise origin story that makes sense in the context of fitting in with the existing Incredible Hulk stories.  It's a well-written, fast-paced, and extremely simple story that's over with before you know it. . .but it gets the job done it's supposed to do very well.  Stan Lee was tasked with quickly creating and introducing a female version of the Hulk and that's exactly what you get here.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
But does it make me want to read more?  Well. . .not really.  
 
This is a pretty good little "One and done" origin story written for a specific purpose, and it succeeds at that purpose.  But it's just missing something.  I'm not sure exactly what, but there's just not enough here to hook me into the next issue.  I guess I can't help but think that any story with She-Hulk could probably be done just as well with the original Hulk.  Maybe it's because I'm looking back from 40 years down the road and know the blatantly commercial origin of this character. 
 
In itself, this isn't a bad story at all. . .it just doesn't really have much reason to exist beyond its reason to exist.  Does that even make sense? Maybe I would have a different opinion if I hadn't done any research into the character before reading this. 
 
On the art side of things, I have to admit I was a little disappointed.
 
I'm a fan of John Buscema.  As far as I'm concerned (and I think maybe a lot of others as well), he's a  superstar who very much deserves the pedestal he stands on in the hall of comic book history.  I can confidently describe his work on Conan as "definitive", and not worry about much disagreement on the point. 
 
BUT. . .
 
His outstanding cover aside, Buscema's work here looks as obviously rushed as it was.  As I mentioned above, this comic was done in what was probably record time. . .available sources vary but agree on it being just a few weeks. . .and you can definitely tell.  The art isn't BAD at all, it's just not quite up to what I would expect from John Buscema.  A bit of a shame.  Given a little more time, I'm sure the art would have been a lot better.  As it stands, I'll just say it's not the best example of John Buscema's art, and I'll leave it at that.
 

CONCLUSION

What we have here is a comic book that was written for a specific purpose. . .introduce a female version of the Hulk in order to protect Marvel's rights to the character. . .that was done in a very short period of time.  

Stan Lee does a great job of introducing She-Hulk with a quick reading and well-written origin story, but he falls flat in making her interesting enough to make me want to read more.  John Buscema's art disappoints, looking rushed and pretty rough in spots.  I'm pretty sure a bit more time would have smoothed that out, though.

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews that nobody ever asked for!

Once again, I'm sorry for a bit of delay between entries this time of year.  I manage a hotel and we're fully in the swing of Utah tourist season right now. . .even though I've been assured by the fine folks on my television screen that it's SO unsafe to venture out of your home and stand in a line that we need to vote by mail this year.  I look at my packed parking lot, raise an eyebrow, and mutter, "Well, if you say so, I guess."

ANYWAY. . .

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

Sorry for a bit of delay.  The challenges of trying to run a hotel on a skeleton crew while having typical summer tourist sellout guest traffic aren't what most people would call "fun".  It's made worse because at the same time people are getting out and about on their normal summertime travels, we're having a hard time hiring new employees because our government has decided that, for some strange reason, it's a GREAT idea to pay people more to sit home on unemployment than to come back to work full time.  

BUT ENOUGH OF THAT. . .

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I do comic reviews that nobody ever asked for!

I've decided to mix things up a little by stepping outside of my usual bargain bin fare and taking a look at a few of the older and more "valuable" comics in my collection.  They may not be "Longbox Junk" as far as collector "value" goes, but nobody ever asked for reviews of them either, so there's that!

The comic at hand is a perfect example of how I usually come to own the older comics in my collection.  I bought it for the cover, period. 

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find more comic reviews that you never asked for than you could ever ask for!  Read it again. . .it DOES make sense!

 
Every now and then I like to take a step back from my usual bargain bin fare and shine the spotlight on some of the older and more "valuable" comics I own.  I crank up the old Longbox Junk paper time machine and see what's going on in the Bronze, Silver, and Golden Age corners of my collection.  It's a nice little occasional diversion from the dollar box.
 
The comic at hand is a very recent addition to my collection.  As of this writing, I just got it last week for my birthday from my comic-lovin' daughter.  She took quiet notice of me admiring that sweet cover every time we hit the comic shop for our weekly fix of four color fun over the past year or so that it's been hanging up among the "premium" comics behind the counter.  It was a great birthday present!
 
BUT. . .
 
I can't actually read it.  See, I had to cheat a little on this particular Longbox Junk Retro Review because the copy I have is encased in a plastic prison.  Slabbed and graded at a very nice 8.0. I might one day break it free, but for now it's "cover only" for my actual copy of this comic.
 
What that means is that the pristine pictures to follow are from the digital version of the comic.  Like I said, I had to cheat a little and go online to do this review. . .but with a cover like that, I just HAD to see what the story was!
 
SO. . .
 
Disclaimers aside, let's see what this comic has to offer.  Step into the paper time machine with me and travel back to 1967 when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were hard at work on "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine"  Ready?  Let's do it!
 
FANTASTIC FOUR #58
Marvel (1967)
 
 
THE DISMAL DREGS OF DEFEAT!
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: Jack Kirby
INKS: Joe Sinnott
COLORS: Stan Goldberg
COVER: Jack Kirby
 
THE COVER:
The cover of this comic is what caught my eye and convinced my daughter to buy it for me, so let's linger here for a moment.  Awwwwwwwwwww. . .Yeah!  Just look at that.  Nice.  VERY nice.  Do I really need to say much about this Silver Age spinner rack eye-catcher?  It's just so. . .great.  The colors, the composition. . .there's nothing I don't like about this cover! THIS is the kind of cover that makes me want a comic book.  Let's move on before I just sit here all day. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
Our story begins with Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, and The Thing on top of the Baxter Building, where the lightning flashes of a strange thunderstorm reveal images of their enemy, Doctor Doom!
Little do our heroes know that (in the previous issue) Doctor Doom has vanquished and imprisoned the mighty Silver Surfer and somehow stolen his cosmic powers.  Doom was using the storm as a test of his new powers.  Satisfied, he begins planning to destroy the Fantastic Four!
 
Later that day, Reed and Sue Richards (AKA Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman) leave for a quiet weekend alone together at a cottage they've rented upstate, leaving Ben Grimm (AKA The Thing) to keep an eye on things at the Baxter Building.  But shortly after the newlywed Richards couple leave, Doctor Doom attacks!
 
The Thing puts up a good fight, but his brute strength is no match for Doom's new cosmic powers, and Doom stands victorious!  The Thing is placed in a state of suspended animation. . .helpless and unable to speak or move.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
Johnny Storm (AKA The Human Torch), Wyatt Wingfoot (AKA normal human supporting character), and the giant teleporting dog called Lockjaw (Who belongs to the Inhumans, but is temporarily providing the Fantastic Four Deus Ex Machina travel support) suddenly appear in New York.
 
The stop is an unintended interruption to their continued attempts to breach the Negative Zone barrier trapping the Inhumans so that Torch can be reunited with his new Inhuman girlfriend, Crystal. . .But THAT'S another story!
 
Torch and Wingfoot don't understand why Lockjaw has brought them to New York when there's more important business to tend to, until they notice the gaping hole in the side of the Baxter Building!  Johnny Storm quickly investigates. . .
 
AT THAT VERY MOMENT. . .
 
At the quiet upstate cottage Reed and Sue Richards are spending the weekend at, the couple's mild bickering over Reed's inability to stop tinkering with machines long enough to have a weenie roast with his new wife (Hey-O! But seriously. . .it's just a cookout) is rudely interrupted by Doctor Doom!
 
Using his stolen cosmic powers, Doctor Doom not only takes Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman by surprise, he is able to easily counteract their abilities.  As Reed and Sue Richards fight for their lives against Doom.
 
Back in New York City, The Human Torch has discovered the Thing.  He remembers a device in Reed's lab that might work to bring his friend out of suspended animation.  He decides that's a job for Wyatt Wingfoot as he rushes to Reed and Sue's rental cabin to warn them that something's going on.
The Human Torch arrives in time to hear Doom ranting about his new powers and the havoc he's going to be able to wreak.  Johnny rushes in on the attack, heroically intending to sacrifice himself to give Reed and Sue Richards time to escape and come up with a plan to defeat Doom.
 
Torch quickly realizes he's outmatched by Doom's new powers, and in a last-ditch effort, causes a massive explosion that Reed and Sue barely escape.  Meanwhile, back in New York City, Wyatt Wingfoot uses Reed Richards' "Metabolism Accelerator" on The Thing, bringing him out of suspended animation. . .
 
Back at the cottage, Johnny Storm is defeated and frozen by Doom. . .but somehow manages to summon the strength to release one last massive blast of fire to free himself!
 
As The Human Torch escapes to regain his strength, The Thing and Wyatt Wingfoot arrive to join the battle!  Wingfoot is armed with Reed's experimental "Anti Grav Disrupter", and he wastes no time in using it on Doom, causing a massive explosion but seemingly having no effect on Doctor Doom!
 
 
Reed Richards realizes that there's nothing they can do against Doom with the stolen powers of the Silver Surfer and orders his team to stand down and surrender.  The Fantastic Four have been beaten!
 
Doom gloats that Richards has made the right choice, and although he WAS planning on destroying the heroes, a more fitting punishment will be to let them live, knowing that they no longer even matter to Doom.  As the mocking villain makes his exit, Reed lets the rest of the team know that he was just buying time and will never give up!
 
The End. To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I've mentioned it before, but I'm not really a fan of The Fantastic Four (or super-team comics in general).  Don't get me wrong. . .I've read some mighty fine individual FF stories here and there over the years.  I just can't get into their adventures on a continuing basis for some reason.  I guess I just prefer my FF in small doses.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I liked this story a lot!  A while back, I did another Fantastic Four Retro Review on the superb issue #50 (You can read it RIGHT HERE ), also by the original Stan Lee/ Jack Kirby creative team.  What impressed me most about #50 was that it was an unusual story for the time in that the title heroes actually LOST the fight and were pretty much useless through the issue. . .and in the next issue, Reed Richards was consumed with what almost seems like PTSD brought on by the experience of being helpless in the face of a cosmic powerhouse like Galactus.
 
We sort of have the same thing here.  As the cover and title indicate, this is a story where the heroes basically are beaten down and have to admit that they are helpless in the face of a superior enemy.  This was NOT the typical Silver Age comic book superhero story!  There are those who like to bag on Stan Lee's writing, but I give him credit for being able to write a story that steps outside the box a bit (for that time) and gives us a tale of superheroes defeated!  
 
It's a simple story at heart. . .basically Doctor Doom using his new powers to attack his worst enemies until they ultimately surrender and become the object of Doom's scorn and pity.  But within that simple framework, Stan Lee fills the pages of this comic with one little moment after another that kept even someone that's not a fan of the Fantastic Four turning the pages.  And when I got to the last page, I wanted more! It's a testament to the storytelling ability of Stan Lee that I started off reading one comic to review and ended up reading forward six MORE issues (since I was online anyway)!
 
I'm not going to go so far as to say it made me a Fantastic Four fan, but there for a short while, I totally got it.  It passed after a half-dozen issues, but this issue's tale of demoralizing defeat gave me enough of a starting point that I was able to enjoy what comes next as Reed once again fights through the depression and anxiety of being helpless and figures out a way to come back out on top. . .then moves on to the next challenges with his family and friends at his side.
 
I'd say that's a job well done on the story side of things.  
But in comics, the story is only half of the equation.  Let's take a look at the art. . .
 
I admitted in that same Retro Review of Fantastic Four #50 (that I've mentioned several times now, sorry to keep bringing it up)  that I've never really liked Jack Kirby's art much.  I realize that Kirby stands SO tall in the minds of many comic fans that ANY criticism is pretty much ignored. . .no matter how honest it may be.  And so it won't matter to a lot of people that in MY extremely humble opinion, I find most of Kirby's art that I've seen to be pretty basic compared to some other Silver/Bronze Age artists when you take a good hard look at it.  It's a sort of unpopular opinion, but please don't hurt me.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
While Longbox Junk isn't a comic idol worship blog, neither is it the place to try and topple said comic idols from their well-deserved pedestals.  At Longbox Junk, EVERY comic deserves a fair chance, whether it costs a buck from the bargain bin or it's a slabbed and graded "collectible".
 
So taking a fair look at this comic, I'd say that Kirby's art holds up its end of the bargain and more! 
 
 Most of my comics with Kirby art are actually from the 70's when I've been told he was on a bit of a decline . .this is only the third comic from the 60's I have with Kirby art and I can definitely tell the difference.  Where Kirby's later Bronze Age efforts seem lazy, here his art crackles with energy and motion!  
 
Thanks to Kirby's simple, clean lines and sparse backgrounds, the characters practically leap off the page and right into your face as you read this comic, especially in the action scenes.  I have to give some credit due to the extremely sharp inking of Joe Sinnott and the glorious colors by Stan Goldberg as well. . .even though I AM looking at a modern digitally-recolored version on a computer monitor, so I can't speak for the actual coloring on my slabbed-up copy.  Still. . .a big round of applause for the whole art team on this comic!
 
From the eye-catching cover to the final cliffhanger, this is one great-looking comic!  Between this issue and #50, I can certainly catch a little glimpse of why Kirby is held in such high regard.  I'm still not a fan of his later work, mind you, but THIS is some good stuff!
 
CONCLUSION
 
What we have here is a perfect storm of writing and art delivering an unusual story that makes the reader want more.  Stan Lee throws down some trademark Mighty Marvel bombast that makes even a tale of superheroes taking a beating great.  Jack Kirby ups the ante with artwork that practically jumps off the page.  In this issue alone it's easy to see why the Stan Lee/ Jack Kirby combination has gone down in comic history as one of the greatest creative teams.
 
I said above that Longbox Junk isn't in the business of comic idol worship, but Lee and Kirby deserve a well-earned round of applause from me for hooking me in to the story of a superhero team I don't even particularly like, and doing it with a tale of them getting a solid beatdown!
 
Overall, I have to say that this has been one of the best Silver Age comics I've read in quite a while and I give it two thumbs-up and a Longbox Junk seal of approval.  It might be a little pricey to find the original in decent shape, but I see it's been collected, reprinted, and available online, so check it out!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Another Longbox Junk Retro Review!
But which one is the question. . .
 
Phantom Stranger? Black Lightning? Savage She-Hulk? The Shadow? Iron Man?  SO MANY MORE! I might just have to roll a die or something.  In any case. . .
 
Be there or be square!

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

Normally here at Longbox Junk I like to keep things in the bargain bin. . .sort of shine a bit of light on some of the comics you might pass by without a second thought while you flip through the back issues.

But every now and then, I step outside the cheap stuff and focus on some of the older and more "valuable" comics in my collection. I call them "Retro Reviews", and I'm gonna do a few over the next month or two, just to mix things up a little bit.

On to the comic at hand. . .

I bought this comic for a measly TWO DOLLARS from an antique store (really more of a junk shop) last year when I spotted that sweet painted cover in a stack of unbagged random comic books thrown in an old wooden laundry basket in a corner of the shop.  There were only a few comics in decent condition in that forgotten stack of comics, so I grabbed this one, a couple of Roy Rogers comics, and a Casper the Friendly Ghost. 
 
Imagine my surprise when I was later adding them to my comic collection database (Thanks to Comic Book Realm!) and discovered that this comic I'd bought for the cover for Two Bucks was worth a pretty penny!  Just HOW pretty a penny depends on where you look.  But in any case, it's of interest to collectors because it features the second appearance of Turok and is therefore not quite what one could call "Longbox Junk", as far as "value" goes.
 
BUT. . .
 
After a quick flip through to confirm that, yes. . .the interior art didn't even come close that that great painted cover (something I've come to expect from Dell/Gold Key comics), I bagged it, boarded it, and put it away unread. . .like I do with most older comics I buy for their covers.
 
UNTIL NOW!
 
I'm crankin' up the Longbox Junk paper time machine and setting the dial to 1955!  Join me as I read this very "collectible" comic and throw down what seems will be the one and ONLY full review ever written on it. Ready?  
 
Let's do it!

FOUR COLOR #656
TUROK, SON OF STONE
DELL (1955)

 
 
The Mystery of The Mountain & The Missing Hunters
 
SCRIPT: Du Bois
PENCILS: Bob Correa 
INKS: Bob Correa 
COVER: Robert C. Susor?
 
THE COVER:
I couldn't find any solid information on who painted the cover, but the physical appearance of Turok is very similar to that on the covers of a couple of other early Turok comics I have in my collection (from his later solo series) done by Robert Susor, so that's who I'm going with.  If I'm wrong, please feel free to mock me publicly in the comments.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  The painted covers done by companies like Dell and Gold Key are hands-down the BEST covers in comic history, in my extremely humble opinion.  This one is no exception.  The colors are what caught my eye. . .with the stunning burnt orange sunset contrasting with the yellow title.  The flying dinosaur threatening Turok is a little rough, and he's holding his ax sort of awkwardly,  but those little things don't keep this cover from being a fantastic Golden Age eye-catcher!
 
Too bad the interior art doesn't even come close to matching the awesome cover.  But that's sort of to be expected from this comic publisher. But enough about the cover, let's get inside this thing!
 
THE STORY:
There's two stories in this comic, but really they're just the first and second parts of one long story through the whole issue. . .a little odd for comics of the time, which tended to feature multiple unrelated (except by character) stories in each issue.  Still, they're titled as two separate stories, so I'll run them down that way.
 
MYSTERY OF THE MOUNTAIN
Turok and his brother, Andar, are teaching the primitive tribe of humans they have discovered in an isolated valley full of strange creatures how to make and use bows to hunt with.  They are having some success, but one warrior, Sinak is not doing well.
 
 
After Sinak breaks his bow and tries to steal Turok's, the tribe's chief punishes him by making him stand watch that night on the cliff above the canyon.  To Turok's surprise, the burly warrior shows fear of this task.  That night, Turok and Andar lay awake and discussing the days events when they hear Sinak scream in the darkness!
 
 
The tribe rushes to the sound of the screams, but there's no sign of the warrior.  Turok scours the area, but even he finds no clue as to where Sinak might have gone.  With the mystery unsolved, the tribe goes about their business until, that night, more screams come in the night and yet another sentry vanishes!  Determined to get to the bottom of the disappearances, Turok and Andar volunteer to stand guard duty during the coming nights.
 
 
On the second night of Turok and Andar's watch, they are attacked by a giant, silent flying creature!  After narrowly defeating the flying beast with poisoned arrows, Turok and Andar gather supplies and investigate the cave that it came from the next morning. . .
 
 
The two brothers discover a gigantic cave full of the flying creatures!  After a brutal battle, Turok and Andar manage to defeat the creatures using torches and poisoned arrows. Their new friends now safe, the brothers pursue one of the surviving creatures deeper into the cave. . .
 
 
Turok and Andar follow a maze of passages leading to another, even larger cave.  From there, they follow a stream and manage to find an exit that leads to another valley that is much bigger than the one they had been exploring!
 
 
As Turok and Andar begin to scout the new valley, they witness a battle between a huge flightless bird and a gigantic cat. . .and then encounter a bison that has someone trapped in a rocky cleft.  The brothers decided to come to the rescue and bring down the bison with their poisoned arrows. . .
 
 
The brothers discover that they have rescued a woman.  They are able to communicate with her and learn that she is hunting because all the young men of her village have been missing for several weeks.  Turok and Andar help her carry the meat from the bison to her village.
 
 
 
The End. . .to be continued.
 
THE MISSING HUNTERS
 
Continuing directly from the end of "The Mystery of The Mountain", Turok and Andar arrive in Yellana's (the woman they had saved from an attacking bison) village.  They are greeted by hungry women, children, and old folk glad to see them bringing food to eat.  Indeed, as she had told them, there are no young men to be seen. . .
 
 
After a few days, the meat they had brought has almost run out.  Turok and Andar decide to go hunting, and Yellana insists on coming with them.  The trio climb back down the treacherous cliffs to the huge valley below.  Yellana guides the brothers toward the tribe's hunting grounds.  On the way, they spot several gigantic creatures too large and strong for the small party to take down. . .
 
 
Later, while hiding from a battle between a stampeding pack of mastadons and the saber tooth tigers hunting them, Turok discovers the skeleton of a bear that has been killed with a stone-headed spear.  Upon examining the spear, Yellana begins to sob.  She recognizes the spear as one belonging to her brother. . .one of the village's missing hunters.
 
 
When Turok and Andar investigate the area, they discover human tracks.  They follow the prints to the edge of a steep cliff leading to a cavern below.  As they consider whether or not the village's hunters might have somehow fallen down the cliff, a black panther attacks!
 
 
The panther's attack takes them by surprise, and as they fight the cat the three hunters tumble to the bottom of the cliff.  After defeating the panther using their poisoned arrows, the three of them are greeted by the shouts of men as they run from the darkness of the cave. . .Yellana is overjoyed to find her brother, Marok, among them!
 
 
Marok explains that a herd of pigs had driven them over the cliff and that they had taken refuge in the cave, where they had found food and water to survive on during the weeks they had been missing, but could discover no way to climb back up the cliff. 
 
 Turok and Andar quickly fashion a rawhide rope out of the skin of some dead animals that had fallen down the pit, amazing the primitive hunters who had never seen rope before.  It's not long before Turok, Andar, Yellana, and the village's missing hunters have all climbed back up the cliff and out of the pit.
 
 
At the top of the cliff, they are attacked by the same herd of gigantic pigs that had driven the hunters into the pit.  Turok and Andar manage to drive the boars away using their poisoned arrows.  Turok teaches the amazed hunters the secret of making the poison powder he coats his arrowheads with, then they all head back to the village, loaded down with meat.
 
 
After once again using his homemade rawhide rope to help climb the cliffs surrounding the village, Turok, his brother, and the missing hunters are greeted with much celebration and joy.  Turok and Andar have now found a place to call home. . .but Andar still hopes to one day return to their own home and hunting grounds outside of this strange new valley they have discovered.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
I've discovered that when doing these "Retro Reviews", I sort of need to separate my opinion into two parts:  First, what I think of the comic as a modern reader. . .and second, to consider it from the point of view of who it was originally written for.  And from there to try and find a middle ground.
 
As far as my opinion as a modern reader goes. . .this comic gives me a feeling of mediocrity.  This is written and illustrated in such an utterly average manner that I wonder just how the character of Turok managed to survive for over 65 years.  The IDEA behind this story is a great one. . .Ancient Native Americans discover a series of lost valleys where dinosaurs and humans live together.  It's a narrative path with a lot of possibility for action and adventure.  Unfortunately, while the idea is great, the execution is lacking. 
 
The writing is just. . .bland.  This story is pretty much a series of "They went there and then they did that" told with a narrative voice that is  so level and straightforward that reading this comic is almost like watching a documentary.  Information is presented, but there's not much "punch" to it.  Disappointing in a story involving rampaging mastodons, saber tooth tigers, and exploring mysterious caves.
 
Likewise, the art is also bland.  It's not BAD, but it can certainly be described as "workmanlike".  It tells the story and that's pretty much it.  There are moments here and there that manage to reach a little higher than the rest, but overall nothing here ever really goes above "pretty good".  Once again, disappointing in a story featuring elements like a surprise black panther attack and a battle against a cave full of hungry pterodactyls.  
 
So as a modern reader, I found this to be pretty disappointing.  Not bad, mind you, but it could have been a lot better.  It's just sort of. . .there.
 
BUT. . .
 
This story wasn't written for me.  It was written for boys in the 1950's.  So how does this story look from that perspective (or at least my best try at it, anyway)?  It looks better.  Still not great, but better.
 
There's a lot to like here for a kid spending a dime on a comic book in 1955.  I'm mostly speaking about dinosaurs and Indians.  I think I can boil down the good stuff in this comic from a 1950's kid view as dinosaurs and Indians.  Westerns were king in the 1950's.  At heart, this is a western comic.  It has a sort of unusual viewpoint in that the main characters are Indians instead of Cowboys, but it's pretty much a western comic when you get right down to it.  
 
And then you throw in dinosaurs.  It doesn't matter WHAT decade you're talking about, kids love dinosaurs! Heck, I loved dinosaurs growing up in the 70's.  I STILL like dinosaurs!  Does it matter that the dinosaurs aren't drawn that great?  Not really because it's still dinosaurs! And Indians! It's Dinosaurs and Indians!
 
In other words, the kid in me sees a comic about dinosaurs and Indians.  Not much more than that.  The modern me wants a better story and art.  These two things come together in the middle and I say that this is a pretty good comic book for what it is. . .something written for 50's kids that puts a western twist on the old "Lost World" style story.
 
CONCLUSION
To the modern reader, this is a pretty disappointing comic.  The writing is bland and unexciting.  The art is decent, but very workmanlike.  The cover is honestly the best thing about this comic.
 
But looking at it as best I can from the point of view of who it was written for, it's better.  It's a story about dinosaurs and Indians.  Does a kid really need anything more than that?
 
Both of those viewpoints together say that this is a pretty good comic that could have been better, but really didn't need to be.  
 
I'm glad I have this comic preserved in my collection and that I gave it the only full review that's ever been written of it. . .and I hope that the information here is of interest to people who might be trying to find anything on this comic besides that it has the second appearance of Turok.  But I'm gonna be honest here with the bottom line that this isn't bad, but there's a lot better comics in my collection that are "worth" a LOT less.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
Another Longbox Junk retro review!
 
I just got this comic last week for my birthday, so why not give it a read?
 
Longbox Junk time machine set back to 1967. . .
It's Stan Lee and Jack Kirby with "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!"
Fantastic Four #58 . . .The Dismal Dregs of Defeat!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where the opinions are free and if you don't like 'em you get a full refund!

July isn't quite over yet, so there's still time for a little more flag wavin' Captain America Longbox Junk. If you don't like a bit of "AMERICA $%&# YEAH!" in your comics for whatever reason, I can dig it. Just be sure to come back next month for whatever I pull out next. Fair?

The comic at hand is one of a series of seven Captain America one shots that came out through 2008 - 2010 under the collective banner of "Captain America - Theater of War". They tell single issue tales that cover a variety of time periods, styles and stories. . .everything from straight up WWII action to Captain America as the embodiment of the American Spirit. Most of them are good. A few are great. A couple are awful. This is one of the good ones.

It's Captain America vs. Ratzi flying saucers! Let's do it!

CAPTAIN AMERICA 
THEATER OF WAR: 
OPERATION ZERO POINT 
Marvel (2008) 

 
 
SCRIPT: Daniel & Charles Knauf
PENCILS: Mitch Breitweiser
COVER: Mitch Breitweiser

THE COVER:
Cap's face is a little strange, but I really like the feeling of motion coming from this cover! The eerie greenish tone gives a nice retro sci-fi feel to the action. Not the greatest Captain America cover in my collection, but still very nice. Let's get inside! 


THE STORY:
We begin our tale in 1944, flying over Southern Poland as Captain America ponders the mission at hand. . .meeting with a member of the Polish Resistance, who will guide Cap to a secret Ratzi base where they have supposedly invented some sort of anti-gravity aircraft. From there, he'll extract a Ratzi scientist who wants to defect with the anti-gravity secrets and then blow the base sky high. In other words. . .just another day for America's Super Soldier.




Unfortunately, Cap's thoughts are interrupted as his plane is attacked by mysterious saucer-shaped aircraft. It's a little sooner than expected, but Cap's officially on the clock!



On the ground after escaping the crashing bomber, Cap avoids Ratzi patrols as he makes his way to the rendezvous with the Polish agent. . .


Cap and Lior (the Polish Agent) Make their way to the secret Ratzi base, working their way through a junkyard of downed aircraft. . .proof of the effectiveness of Hitler's newest weapon. Upon arrival, the team's recon of the base gives Cap his first look at the imposing commander of the facility's SS guards. . .a giant of a man called "Der Metzger", The Butcher, who is rumored to have lost an eye fighting a bear with his bare hands.

Their recon also reveals Jewish prisoners, who Lior informs Cap are forced to not only work on building the base, but are also used for horrible experiments inside. Cap changes the mission on the spot to include rescuing the prisoners.



Unfortunately, Cap's plans are interrupted as their position is discovered and the base's guards attack, supported by the Ratzi saucers! Captain America puts up a good fight, but they are quickly overwhelmed, with Lior killed and Cap taken prisoner. . .



Cap regains consciousness strapped to a table with Der Metzger and a Ratzi scientist examining him. They inform their prisoner that the whole operation was a trap. They intercepted the defecting scientist's communication and Lior was a double agent. The true prize was the Ratzi capture of America's Super Soldier! Cap is taken to a cell after being told that experiments on him would begin the next day.


But Captain America isn't just going to sit in a cell and wait for Ratzis to experiment on him! After discovering that the man in the cell next to him is Fleischer, the Ratzi scientist he was sent to retrieve, Cap decides that the mission is still on and is going just fine.

Using his enhanced strength and a bit of trickery, Cap breaks the two of them free, retrieves his equipment, and then plans a coordinated attack with Fleischer, with the scientist destroying the saucer's power source while Cap rescues the Jewish prisoners. Afterwards, joining up to escape before Cap destroys the base. Simple, right? What could go wrong?


As the base's alarms go off, Captain America begins fighting his way toward the Jewish prisoners, causing as much commotion as he can in order to give Fleischer time to sabotage the saucer's power source. . .



Unfortunately, Fleischer's efforts weren't quite quick enough, and Cap is attacked by the Ratzi saucers! Using all of his skills, he manages to disable the attacking aircraft.


Cap sees that Der Metzger has captured Fleischer as he escaped the Ratzi base. Metzger mocks the American hero, telling him that in order to save Doctor Fleischer, Cap will have to go through him. Captain America wastes no time in taking up the giant Ratzi's challenge!



A brutal one-on-one battle ensues, with Captain America barely managing to hold his own against the giant Ratzi commander. . .but eventually, Cap's grit and determination wins the day and Der Metzger is defeated!



But as Cap and Fleischer make their escape, Metzger summons the last of his strength and shoots the defecting scientist in the back, making sure the allies will never learn the secret of anti-gravity!




But Metzger's victory is a hollow one as Cap frees the Jewish prisoners and they make their escape while the Ratzi commander is engulfed in the flames of the exploding base.



In the end, Cap didn't get the scientist out of Poland, but he freed some prisoners, destroyed a secret base, and beat a smug SS Commander half to death. All in all, it was a decent day. The End.




THE REVIEW:

Not bad! Not bad at all! I really liked this story. I've said it before and I'll say it again. . .One Shots are my favorite kind of comic because there's nowhere for the creative team to hide. They have one and ONLY one issue to tell a complete story. There are a LOT of bad one shots out there where the creative team fails the test. This isn't one of them.

The story itself is an extremely simple framework. . .Captain America vs Ratzi Flying Saucers. But in that simplicity the creative team delivers in a big way, giving the reader a modern-day throwback to the Golden Age "Point Captain America at the target and let him go" sort of stories. It's not very deep, but it IS fun!

Sometimes you want your Captain America stories to delve a little into the deeper meaning of him being a symbol of a flawed nation. . .but sometimes you just want Cap to punch some Ratzis. This is definitely a Ratzi-Punchin' story and a pretty good one at that!

I think the thing that I liked most about the writing here was the characterization of Captain America himself. It's a grittier version that still paints him as a true hero (changing his mission mid-stream to include rescuing prisoners), but also gives us a good dose of his Lower East Side roots by showing Cap as someone willing to break a few eggs to make an omelet. In this story, he even carries a gun in a few scenes and isn't afraid to use it.

This Captain America actually reminds me a lot of Marvel's "Ultimate" version of Captain America. I happen to be a fan of Ultimate Captain America, so to me that's a good thing. If you didn't like Marvel's Ultimate take on their characters, you might not get as much out of this story as I did.

But writing is only half of the equation in comic books.

Fortunately, the art side of the creative team holds up their end of the effort very nicely, with Mitch Breitweiser delivering one great-looking comic! Just LOOK at that picture of Cap at the end, above. I'd LOVE to have a poster of that full-pager! His dark and gritty style perfectly matches the grittier take on Captain America that the story gives us. It's a style that I enjoy a lot. . .detailed and realistic, but at the same time dark and sketchy. It's the sort of style that reminds me of Tommy Lee Edwards or Butch Guice, two of my favorite artists.

CONCLUSION 

 
Overall, this is a great little Captain America story! The creative team delivers a nugget of Longbox Junk gold with a modern throwback Ratzi-Punchin' adventure featuring a gritty, cocky Captain America and some very nice artwork that makes every page of this one shot a feast for the eyes. This one issue gives me almost everything I could ever want in a short Captain America story!

If you're a Captain America fan looking for a good story, then this one is definitely for you! Grab it from the bargain bin if you should spot it. I come across all of the "Theater of War" series of one shots pretty often while Longbox Junkin', so it shouldn't be too hard to find. It's also been collected in trade and is available on ComiXology, if that's more your lane.

BUT. . .

If you're not a fan of Marvel's Ultimate version of Captain America, then this might not be your cup of tea. This really reads like a story of Ultimate Cap, and Bucky isn't anywhere to be seen, so even though it isn't advertised as an "Ultimate" story, I'm thinking that's what the writers had in mind when they did this, especially since the Ultimate line was still going strong at the time. I might be wrong. I often am.

Up Next. . .

Well, that's it for July. Time to stop wavin' the flag.

So what's next? Hmmmmmm. . . .

You know what? It's been a while since I did some "Retro Reviews".
I think I'll dust off the Longbox Junk time machine and check out some of the older comics in my collection. Yeah. . .Retro Reviews! Let's do it!

Be there or be square.

- read more

Longbox Junk - Marvel Fanfare #18

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

So it's still July, and I'm still wavin' the flag a bit because I'm a guy who likes to wave the flag a bit in July.  Don't read too much into it.  It just means I'm looking at some Captain America comics this month.  If you don't like a little "AMERICA, #$%&, YEAH!" in your comics. . .fair enough.  Come back next month and I'll be on some other random tangent.

This time out, I'm taking a look at a strange little relic from the edge of the Bronze Age.  A 1985 Captain America story from the Marvel Anthology series, Marvel Fanfare.

Marvel Fanfare is sort of an interesting series.  It was intended to appeal directly to comic collectors by being sold in the direct market only and featuring non-code-approved stand-alone stories by a wide range of comic talent.  It was printed on glossy paper usually reserved for comic covers of the time, without ads,  and cost more than twice the price of the average comic in 1982 ($1.50 compared to .60).

I've pulled a handful of these comics from the bargain bins over the years, and I'm always impressed by the quality of both the physical presentation of the comic and what's inside.  But in an ironic twist, a comic series designed specifically to appeal to collectors is basically 60 issues of Longbox Junk, as far as collector "value" goes.

The stories from Marvel Fanfare have been reprinted in various collections, and there is a collected trade of the first seven issues as well.  But THIS story seems never to have been reprinted anywhere else for some reason.  A bit strange, considering this is the only Captain America story illustrated by Frank Miller.

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THAT. . .

It's Captain America vs. Homegrown Terrorism tucked away in a random issue of a somewhat interesting experiment in targeting comics directly at collectors.  Let's do it!

MARVEL FANFARE #18

Marvel (1985)


 
HOME FIRES!
SCRIPT: Roger Stern
PENCILS: Frank Miller
COVER: Frank Miller
 
THE COVER:
In general, I like Frank Miller's earlier art quite a bit more than his later stuff, but this cover just isn't doing it for me.  It feels like it SHOULD be great, but the execution of this piece is lacking.  Cap's face is a bit strange. . .maybe it's the lazy eye?  Now you can't unsee it, right? His hand is also a bit odd.  The thumb looks like it's detached. There are certainly worse covers than this one out there, but overall it's just pretty disappointing.  Let's get inside.
 
THE STORY:
Our story begins in Brooklyn at the scene of a raging fire.  Captain America has come to assist in saving lives, then joins the grateful firefighters as they battle the blaze. . .
Later, talking with the Chief of Police, Cap learns that the fire was just one of a series set by an arson ring attempting to extort the city.  A note signed "We The People" demands six million dollars or six more fires will be set.  Captain America immediately declares that the arsonists WILL be caught.
 
That night, Cap wastes no time in working his way through the seedier parts of the city, following a trail of clues gained from thugs and lowlifes along the way until he finally ends up on the docks at the hideout of a low-level crime boss called "Injun Joe".
 
After fighting his way through Joe's henchmen, Cap's trail of clues comes to a dead end when he interrogates Joe and discovers that nobody in the criminal underworld knows who "We The People" are. 
 
 
The next day, we are introduced to Hal Brady, just your average everyday working man who ALSO happens to be the leader of a group of frustrated average everyday working men that are behind the string of fires.  They believe that the government is robbing them of their fair share of the American Dream and have turned to extreme methods to protest. 
 
When Hal reveals that their next target is a nursing home, one of his followers tries to leave the group, but Hal forces him back at gunpoint.
 
That same night, at Sunset Manor nursing home, Cap once again joins the firefighters of Brooklyn as they battle yet another blaze set by "We The People".  Cap rushes into the burning building to save a woman who was left behind, but despite the hero's best efforts, she dies from smoke inhalation.  Cap's frustration at losing her makes him all the more determined to find the arsonists and make them pay. A fireman gives Cap a new clue to follow with a badge found the scene of the fire. . .
 
Quickly following up on the badge found at the fire, Cap confronts a police officer named Don who confesses that he's part of "We The People", and that he was at the fire, but tried to leave and was forced to be part of it.  Cap gets the name and location of the group's leader and tells Don to turn himself in to the authorities. . .
 
Cap rushes to Hal's home and forces him to take Cap to "We The People's" Headquarters at the "Knights of Brooklyn" fraternity club.  Cap confronts the rest of the group and Hal tries to explain their reasons for setting fires. . .they blame welfare recipients for their being denied what they "deserve" through their hard work.  Cap ain't having any of that nonsense!
 
Determined that he'll never go to prison, Hal ignites a stack of gas cans, killing himself and setting the building ablaze.  Cap rescues the rest of the terrified men as the building burns, but then runs back in. . .
Moments later, Cap emerges from the blazing inferno carrying the American flag from the meeting hall, risking his life to save Old Glory from the flames! He informs the gathered arsonists that nothing comes free in America but hope.  Bless America. . .The End.
 
 
THE REVIEW:
Well now.  That was. . .interesting. 

Like I said in the introduction, I'm a flag wavin' kind of guy and I don't mind a little "AMERICA $%&# YEAH!" in my comics, but this was pretty darn close to the line where patriotism becomes nationalism.  I can sort of understand why this story has never been reprinted anywhere. 

Okay, it's not a BAD story.  Let's get that straight.  It's well-written and illustrated, and it's a decent little tale as far as the framework of it goes. . .but the amount of American flag draped over that framework is enough to make even a conservative Marine Corps veteran like myself take a step back and raise an eyebrow at it.  It's just a little too preachy and "in your face" for my taste.

THAT SAID. . .

While the story may have a mild whiff of jingoism to it, Frank Miller's art is great!  Miller's earlier art has a heavy John Byrne influence to it and in this story you can definitely see it on full display. . .especially in images like the one of Captain America saving the flag from the burning building.  I like the traditional style and sharp, clean lines Miller gives us here a lot.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
It's a strange little relic tucked away in a strange little place.  It's not a bad story, but if you are even a LITTLE left of center politically, you'll probably want to steer clear of this one because it is so "AMERICA %$#@ YEAH!" that even a conservative guy like me found it a bit much.  
 
The star of the show here is Frank Miller's artwork.  If you're a fan of Miller's and want to check out some of his more traditional Byrne-influenced art on his only Captain America story, then definitely pick this one up.  It's never been reprinted, so you'll have to hit the bargain bins or ebay to find it.  Even ComiXology skips this issue entirely in their digital collection of Marvel Fanfare.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I think there's still time in July to squeeze in another Captain America entry.
Not sure which one, though.  I've got three or four in mind to choose from.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Comic Book Realm. . .I love ya.  But your word filter is a pain in my rear sometimes, especially in a review of a WWII comic with lots of N-azis in it.  Oh well. . .guess I'll have to go back through and change them all to Ratzis (with credit to my grandpa - RIP- because that's what he always called them).

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

I'm continuing my flag-wavin' month of July theme with another Captain America one shot.  We started off with a mild bit of social justice (and there's nothin' wrong with a little of that), but this time out we get Cap in his full on wartime Ratzi-Punchin' mode.

Captain America was MADE to punch Ratzis and in this one, punch Ratzis he does. So fair warning: If you don't like Ratzi Punchin' stories, you might want to skip this one. . .but if you do, then travel back to the days of WWII with me for a look at Captain America's first field combat test.

Does everything go as planned? What do YOU think?

Let's do it!

CAPTAIN AMERICA:

THE FIGHTING AVENGER

Marvel (2011)

 
 
SCRIPT: Brian Clevinger
PENCILS: Gurihiru
COVER: Gurihiru
 
THE COVER:
I REALLY like this cover!  It has a sharp and clean "animated" look to it and I'm sort of a sucker for Cap in a more rugged combat gear look for his early adventures.  His costume under the G.I. gear is an unusual look, but a good one.  The screaming eagle on Cap's arm IS just a touch too much "AMERICA, $%#@ YEAH!", but since I'm a flag wavin' kind of guy and it's July, I'll just chuckle and give it a pass.
 
THE STORY:
Our story begins in Germany, 1942.  We are introduced to a highly-skilled four man Special Forces team in the middle of a covert operation. . .
 
 
Later, at headquarters, the team is informed that they will be taking a secret weapon out for a test run.  That secret weapon is America's new super-soldier, who has completed his military training but has never been tested under actual combat conditions.  The team reluctantly accepts their orders and begin planning their next mission. . .
 
 
Not long thereafter, the team (as well as their unwanted new member) parachute behind enemy lines into Germany for what seems to be a simple mission. . .blow up an unguarded bridge.  The veteran close-knit team relegate their Super-Soldier to lookout duty as they prepare to accomplish the easy mission at hand. . .
 
 
Unfortunately, the unguarded bridge is a trap!  Ratzi Panzers take the unit by surprise!  As the Germans take the team prisoner, Captain America springs into action, providing them with a distraction that enables them to escape and take control of one of the Ratzi tanks. . .
 
 
Between the team with their captured tank and Cap's attacks, the German unit is quickly subdued.  Unfortunately, their victory is short-lived as Ratzi reinforcements arrive in the form of a gigantic super tank commanded by Baron Von Strucker. . .evil Ratzi scientist and weapon master. 
 
 
The unit is captured and imprisoned in Von Strucker's headquarters at Hexenhammer Castle, where Von Strucker and his partner, Doctor Schmidt, are intrigued by the seemingly indestructible shield and strange uniform of their new prisoner. . .
 
 
But as the two Ratzi scientists prepare to interrogate their unusual prisoner, the team breaks out of captivity and fight their way to the heart of the castle.  Schmidt leaves Von Strucker in charge of recapturing the prisoners as he flees to the secret laboratory with Captain America in pursuit. . .
 
 
As Captain America confronts Schmidt in the laboratory, the scientist reveals that he knows about the American Super-Soldier program and who Captain America is, and that he has dosed himself with the Super-Soldier serum he had been working on for Germany. . .enhancing his strength enough to fight Captain America on equal terms. . .
 
 
A brutal hand to hand battle ensues between the two Super-Soldiers, and it seems that Schmidt has gained the upper hand. . .but then something goes wrong and he begins to writhe in pain, burning from the inside!  As a horrified Captain America watches, Schmidt's skin burns away and the skeletal figure collapses. . .
 
 
With Schmidt defeated, Cap returns to his team, who have been recaptured by Baron Von Strucker and his men.  Jumping to the attack, it isn't long before they escape again. . .rushing to leave the castle before the explosives planted by Cap in the laboratory go off. . .
 
As the team make their escape from the exploding castle, they don't see that Dr. Schmidt is still alive.  Instead, they congratulate their new team member on a job well done. . .even if it wasn't exactly the job they set out to do. 
 
 
 
The End. . .or is it?
 
THE REVIEW:
All right, all right. . .not bad!  You know, sometimes you just want a fun comic with some action and adventure that doesn't get too deep.  This one shot delivers just that in a big way!

The story is simple, with a tried and true "capture and escape" plotline mixed in with some "new guy joins the team and has to prove himself" character building along the way.  But it's well written, with a lot of humor. . .I liked the running gag that Steve Rogers hadn't been named Captain America yet, so nobody knows what to call him. . .and snappy dialogue that moves the story along at such a quick pace that even for a double-sized 48 page one shot, it ends before you really want it to, and end up wanting more.

Between the snappy, humorous writing and the crisp art style (more on that in a minute), what I see MOST in this comic is something that could EASILY be translated into an animated movie or series!  Now that's something I'd really love to see. . .an animated series focused on a very inexperienced Captain America learning the ropes with a gang of goofy veterans.  The Ratzi imagery would likely be pretty problematic, though.  Still. . .it's a nice thought, and that thought is a testament to the solid foundation laid down here making me want more adventures set in Cap's early career.

So let's talk about the art a bit.

As you can see from the scans above, this comic has a pretty unusual art style that really took me by surprise by how much I liked it. It's crisp and clean, with minimal backgrounds and a mild anime influence lending it a very fluid sense of movement and exaggerated facial expressions that REALLY make it seem like one is reading something based on an animated series like the Batman Adventures comics.  Is it the best comic art I've ever seen?  Not even close. . .but it DOES give this comic a really fun feel.

CONCLUSION


Overall, what we have here is a comic that can be described with one word: FUN.  Like I said at the beginning of the review, sometimes you just want a little fun in your comics and this one delivers big time!
 
The story is extremely simple and is one you've seen already many a time, but it's well-written, humorous, and moves at a snappy pace.  The art is clean, crisp, and extremely cinematic.  The two come together perfectly to give the reader a fast-paced story long on action and humor and short on depth and drama. 
 
Yeah. . .there's Ratzis , but here they're more stock movie villains than depraved white supremacists.  Basically they're punching bags for the best Ratzi Puncher in comics. . .Captain America.  So like I said in the introduction, if you DON'T like Ratzi Punchin' stories, you'll probably want to skip this one.  On the other hand, if you're just looking for a fun comic with a few chuckles and some good old fashioned Ratzi Punchin' then definitely keep your eye out for this great little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's still July, so MORE Captain America!
 
Let's step back a few decades to 1985 for a tale of Captain America fighting home-grown terrorism. It's Marvel Fanfare #18. . .straight from the dollar box with a mighty patriotic punch!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

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