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LONGBOX JUNK The World of Krypton

  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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

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

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #85

DC (1969)

 
 
 

THE SENATOR'S BEEN SHOT!

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

- read more

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

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

THE LONE RANGER #84

DELL (1955)

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

- read more

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

 
As usual, during the summer things get a little crazy in my corner of the world.  I do these Longbox Junk reviews in my spare time at work, and since that work is managing a hotel, that spare time is kind of sparse during the height of the tourist travel season.  What I'm trying to say is that I apologize for the random delays this blog experiences during summer.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Since I was delayed even more than usual during July and only managed to get out one Captain America review, I thought "Why not just spotlight some Cap in August?" and here we are!
 
I've had the first issue of the series at hand for several years (bought for that great cover), but have never been able to completely read the story until recently when I came across the rest of the issues in a box of comics at the flea market.
 
So we've got a story about Captain America meeting Black Panther for the first time during WWII, with Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos in the mix.  Sounds like a good time, right?  Let's find out!

CAPTAIN AMERICA/ BLACK PANTHER:

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS

MARVEL KNIGHTS (2010)

 
ISSUE ONE
 
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Klaus Jansen
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Klaus Jansen
 
THE COVER:
 
I like this one a lot!  I'm not normally a fan of Denys Cowan's sketchy art style, but there's a dynamic feel to this cover that can't be denied. It showcases the two main characters in a couple of great hero poses and has an explosive background that really makes the whole cover pop.  This one's a winner!
 
THE STORY:
 
As World War II rages, the elite commando unit known as "The Howlers", led by the tough as nails Sgt. Nick Fury, encounters the Allies' new secret weapon for the first time. . .the brightly clad super-soldier called Captain America!
 
In Berlin.  Adolf Hitler's scientists have discovered what they believe is the solution to creating an intercontinental guided missile capable of hitting the United States from Europe. . .a rare metal known as Vibranium that is only known to come from one place, the mysterious African nation of Wakanda.  Hitler places Baron Von Strucker in command of the important mission to retrieve the Vibranium from Africa.
 
Meanwhile, the Howlers are assigned to back up Captain America on a secret mission to (You guessed it) find out what Von Strucker and his men are searching for in Africa.  Shortly after arriving, Cap discovers the grisly remains of a squad of Germans who have been slaughtered.  He finds himself surrounded by Wakandan warriors and confronting their masked leader. . .the Black Panther. . .and being told to go home.  
 
Captain America demands answers from Black Panther.  He is told the Germans are there to steal the Vibranium from Wakanda for their missiles.  Panther will not allow them OR the Americans to have the metal for their weapons.  Outraged by the Wakandan leader's blunt refusal to share the secret of Vibranium with the allies, Captain America and Black Panther fight while the captive Howlers look on.
 
In the meantime, at Von Strucker's nearby hidden base, he is informed of the death of his advance scouts.  As he considers how to proceed, he is surprised to learn that Hitler has sent another special agent to Africa to ensure the vital mission does not fail. . .The Red Skull!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay, not a bad start.  It's mostly setup to get Sgt. Fury and the Howlers together with Captain America and in Africa, but I DO love a good wartime Captain America story, and having the Howlers as supporting cast (The story is actually told from one of their perspectives. . .Gabe, the Howlers' African American musician) is definitely a great addition!
 
Black Panther doesn't really come into the story until the issue is almost done. . .and then just for a bit of obligatory "Heroes Fight Until They Realize They Need To Work Together".  It's a well-worn comic book team-up path, but it works here.  It's wartime and Wakanda knows they have something that will be used to kill millions, whether in the hands of the Axis OR Allies.  Therefore, the Black Panther seen so far is blunt and ready to fight. . .not the heroic and thoughtful warrior/diplomat he is usually presented as. 
 
On the art side of things, I mentioned in my look at the cover that I don't really enjoy Denys Cowan's sketchy art style.  He's one of those artists with a unique style that has evolved over the years.  In my humble opinion, it hasn't evolved for the better. 
 
He made a name for himself on The Question and I really liked his work there, but over time, his art has become sketchy and more impressionistic.  I don't think he was the best choice of artists for this fairly straightforward war story. His comic-noir style is much more suited for stories as vague and rough around the edges as his art.
 
The colors are also a bit of a problem, as far as the art goes.  The whole comic is presented in a very washed-out and muted way, with bright splashes of color here and there to set things off a bit.  It all comes off as somewhat dull and is pretty muddy in places. . .especially scenes where Captain America isn't there to lend a little burst of red and blue.  It's not really a great choice for a Captain America comic, in my humble opinion.
 

Overall, the story here is good.  It's a simple and straightforward setup to get all the characters in Africa for a wartime adventure featuring Captain America, Black Panther, Nick Fury (and His Howling Commandos), Baron Strucker, and Red Skull.  There's plenty of action and adventure to be found, as well as an ending introducing Red Skull to the scenario that makes me want to jump right into the next issue.  In other words, a solid comic book team-up story so far.
 
Unfortunately, the art is distracting and sketchy, made worse by an extremely muted coloring style, so the story as a whole suffers a bit. . .but not enough for me to call it bad.  Another artist could have bumped this up a notch or two from where it sits right now at "pretty good".
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE TWO
 
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Klaus Jansen
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Klaus Jansen
 
THE COVER:
 
I like the dirty white background on this one a lot, and it's pretty dynamic, but it lacks the force and power of the first issue's cover.  Cap's face is also a little strange.  It's not a BAD cover, it's just not a GREAT cover.  
 
THE STORY:
 
After Black Panther and Captain America finish fighting, the Americans are invited into Wakanda, where Cap and Panther talk terms for a cooperative effort against the invading Germans.  Nick Fury isn't so sure that Panther can be trusted, so he puts one of his men (Gabe) onto the mission of trying to learn more.  Fury assures Gabe that he's got the job because he's the best man for it.  Gabe knows that it's really because he's the only black man in the Howlers.
 
In the meantime, Baron Strucker plans an attack on the Wakandan capital using all the forces at his disposal. . .five full regiments.  But the Red Skull demands that no more than one regiment be used, causing Strucker to doubt the sanity of his new commander.
 
Later, as the Germans attack, the Howlers are kept prisoner for their own safety as Captain America and Black Panther rush to the defense of the city.  The German tanks are disabled by strange Wakandan devices called "Panther's Teeth", forcing the Germans into a brutal hand to hand battle at the city gates, where they are easily driven back by Captain America, Black Panther, and the Dora Milaje (Wakanda's all-female royal bodyguards).
 
After the German retreat, we learn that the underpowered attack force was merely a test of Wakanda's defenses, and that the Red Skull has not arrived alone.  With him are some of Germany's own superpowered "heroes". . .Master Man, Warrior Woman, and Armless Tiger Man.  Now armed with the knowledge he wanted about Wakanda's high-tech defense systems, Red Skull plots a devastating attack with the German superhumans in the lead. 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Most of this issue was action, focusing on the battle between the Wakandans and Germans at the city gate, but there were a few interesting moments in between.
 
Nick Fury tapping Gabe to try and spy on the Wakandans because he's black, as well as conversation between Black Panther and Captain America about how America fights for the rights of people overseas while oppressing their own citizens at home, lends a bit of depth to what is otherwise a pretty straightforward military action story sprinkled with a bit of superhero seasoning.
 
Another interesting little bit to the story in this issue informed me about something I'd been wondering about in the first issue, which was how Black Panther met up with Captain America in WWII in the first place.  I chalked it up to this being a "Marvel Knights" series, most of which had a sort of strange relationship with established Marvel continuity. . .not quite "What If?" stories, but not quite standard "Marvel Universe" either.  
 
It's revealed (by showing his sons with their mother during the German attack) that the Black Panther in THIS story is actually T'Challa's (the "current" Black Panther) grandfather.  Which explains why this version of Black Panther is more direct and brutal than the one I'm used to reading.
 
Unfortunately, Denys Cowan's art remains the weak point of this otherwise solid wartime superhero story.  His sketchy style and the muted color palette just aren't a great fit for this series at all.  
 

Overall, this issue is pretty solid when it comes to the story.  Lots of action backed up by some interesting commentary on race that doesn't come off as preachy or forced.  I just wish they had tapped another artist for this project.  Cowan's art is perfectly fine in the right setting, but this isn't that setting.
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE THREE
 
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Tom Palmer
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Sandu Florea
 
THE COVER:
 
This one's a bit of a mess.  It's cluttered and the coloring is pretty muddy. It's okay, I guess, but this isn't really the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic book. Let's get inside. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
In the aftermath of the failed German attack (last issue), we find Nick Fury changing Gabe's secret mission from just spying on the Wakandans to discovering the location of Wakanda's Vibranium, with the intention of denying it to the Germans and delivering it to the Allies.  Gabe is conflicted, but assures Fury that he'll do his job.
 
Meanwhile, in the German camp, we learn that in addition to the three German superhumans, Red Skull has also allied himself with the brutal leader of a tribe that has long been rivals of  neighboring Wakanda, The White Gorilla.  His team now complete, Red Skull plots the destruction of Wakanda.
 
Back in Wakanda, Gabe manages to bluff his way into the Vibranium mine, but as he gathers information for Fury, Wakanda comes under surprise attack by Master Man and Warrior Woman, attacking from the air and easily breaking through Wakanda's defenses!
 
At the Royal Palace, Captain America confronts Warrior Woman and White Gorilla while Gabe faces the powerful Master Man at the Vibranium mine.  Black Panther crashes an airplane into Master Man as the German superhuman tears through the mine's defenders.
 
Elsewhere, Nick Fury and the rest of the Howlers are searching for the hidden German base.  They discover it, but are confronted by Red Skull piloting a gigantic combat robot!
 
Meanwhile, back at the Palace, Captain America battles White Gorilla while Black Panther's sons try to escape, only for one of them to be captured by Armless Tiger Man, who demands Captain America surrender or he will kill the young Prince.
 
To be concluded. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Another pretty solid issue that leans more into action than story, but with a few small diversions here and there.  I like the side story of Gabe being conflicted over following Fury's orders as he learns more about Wakanda and sees a thriving kingdom of free blacks and knowing he's been given the mission just because he's a black man.  
 
It's an interesting commentary on race that is presented naturally as part of the story and doesn't feel forced. . .of COURSE Fury is going to give his only black guy the mission to infiltrate Wakanda.  He doesn't even think twice.  Gabe knows he's being used just because he's black, but he's loyal to the commander who gave him a chance to prove himself that not many other black men in the 1940's were given.  It doesn't take up much page space, but I like this story sort of simmering in the background.
 
The rest of the issue is okay.  I can see it sort of sliding down into comic book cliche action territory, especially when Red Skull jumps into action driving a giant Ratzi robot.  Giant Robot Punching is probably my LEAST favorite comic book trope, and I'm a bit disappointed to see it telegraphed that there's going to be plenty of Giant Robot Punching in what's sure to be a slam-bang finale.  
 
I know I keep going on about the art on this series, but it's really the worst part of the whole thing.  The sketchy art style of Denys Cowan just isn't a good fit, and that's especially clear in this issue.  The closer we get to the end, the more sketchy the art gets.  It looks like maybe Cowan was being rushed a bit.  The muted and washed out color scheme just adds to the sort of messy look of this comic.
 
 

Overall, even though the story is obviously starting to slide down into what surely will be a pretty standard comic book superhero punch-fest finale (including a dose of good old-fashioned Giant Robot Punching), there are some surprisingly interesting character moments hidden in the background story of a soldier conflicted by being used for his race.
 
The artwork remains consistently disappointing, and maybe even a little worse as the story heads into the final issue.  A different artist could have definitely taken this tale up a few notches.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
ISSUE FOUR
 
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Tom Palmer & Sandu Florea
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan &Sandu Florea
 
THE COVER:
 
We come full circle back to a great cover to finish things off after two "okay" covers in the middle of the set.  It's dynamic, it showcases the two title heroes very nicely, and the explosive background highlights everything in a great way.  It's just a well done superhero comic cover all around.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, as Gabe tries to survive the attack on the Vibranium mine, he manages to steal a piece of the rare metal.  In the meantime, Nick Fury and the Howlers fight for their lives against Red Skull and his giant robot.
 
Gabe manages to escape the mine by a secret passage leading to the Wakandan Royal Palace, where he saves Prince T'Chaka by shooting Armless Tiger Man in the head.  Captain America arrives on the scene just a little too late.  He and Gabe decide to team up to find out where the Red Skull is.  In the Vibranium mine, Black Panther easily defeats both Master Man AND Warrior Woman, using some sort of poison on his gauntlets.  
 
Back in the jungle, The Howlers realize their weapons are useless against Red Skull, and they retreat into the German camp, accidentally running into Baron Strucker's tent.  A tense standoff between Fury and Strucker is interrupted by Red Skull bursting back onto the scene.
 
As Gabe, Captain America, and Black Panther fly a plane toward the German camp to assist the Howlers, Gabe is shocked when Black Panther offers him Wakandan citizenship in gratitude for saving his son and conducting himself with honor while a guest of Wakanda.  Gabe tells him he needs to think on it.
 
Arriving at the German base, Cap and Panther find the Howlers in desperate need of aid.  They jump into battle and GIANT ROBOT PUNCHIN' COMMENCES!!  
 
 
 
After defeating Red Skull, Strucker surrenders.  Black Panther lets him and his defeated men go, but with a warning that if another German is even seen near Wakanda, they will join the Allies and Black Panther will personally go to Berlin and kill his way to the top of the command chain.
 
At the end of it all, Gabe declines Panther's offer of citizenship. . .telling him that there's still fighting left to be done in Europe.  On the other hand, he also lies to Nick Fury. . .telling him that he wasn't able to find any information on the Vibranium.  
 
In a short epilogue, we see Nick Fury at a mission debriefing being asked his opinion of Captain America.  Nick was impressed by Cap's fighting ability, but not so much by his unwillingness to help find Wakanda's vibranium.  He suggests that the army train a partner for Cap who is willing to get his hands dirty if the mission calls for it.
 
The End.
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Yep. . .Giant Robot Punching.  Easily one of the most abused tropes in comic books.  One of the main reasons I don't read many mainstream superhero titles.  There's ALWAYS going to be a robot (giant or otherwise) being punched in at least one issue of ANY mainstream superhero comic.  Don't try to prove me wrong.  You can't.
 
Giant Robot Punching aside, this was a slam-bang all action (well, until the end) finale to this story.  I liked that even through all the fight scenes, the writer still managed to slip in bits of the underlying story of Gabe's personal conflict. . .ending with him deciding to just let things stay the way they are.  A cop-out?  It can be seen that way. But I prefer to think of it being a simple man keeping things simple.  If that means maintaining a crappy status quo, then that's what it means.  
 
I have to give credit to the writer for being able to provide a thought-provoking commentary on race inside a story about superheroes punching Ratzis in Africa.  It was unexpected and nicely done.
 
The art actually seemed to improve a bit in this issue.  I chalk it up to the addition of a new inker.  Whatever was the cause, it's unfortunate that it came in the final issue.  A definite case of "Too little, too late" in my humble opinion.  But at least they managed to tame Cowan's sketchy and vague pencils enough to be a noticeable improvement over previous issues.  The muted color palette remains a real weak point, though.  Not much an inker can do about that.
 

Overall, a solid piece of almost non-stop superhero action that takes a little bit of time to reflect on a conflicted soldier caught up in it all.  It's a good finish to the story.  Too bad the art remains disappointing, despite showing a bit of improvement.
 

CONCLUSION

 
There you have it.  Captain America and Black Panther meeting for the first time in the middle of WWII.  For Captain America fans, you get a Cap that's still a little "green", proving himself in battle.  For Black Panther fans, you get a look at a brutal wartime Panther in T'Challa's grandfather.  And then you've got Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos doing what they do best.  Mix them together in an unusual WWII African setting and you have a pretty darn good little superhero war story.
 
The artist wasn't the best choice, and there's a trip down the extremely well-worn comic path of giant robot punching, but that's not enough to keep this story down.  It's enough to knock it down a notch or two, but all in all, I can recommend Flags of Our Fathers to any fan of Captain America, Black Panther, or WWII comics in general.  Give it a try.  It's a pretty good read.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's still EXTREMELY busy at work, so I think I'll hit a few one-shots until things settle down a bit. I've picked up some fantastic Flea Market bargains this past month, so maybe some tasty Retro-Reviews.
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - What If? #44

263 views • 7 weeks ago • (0) Comments

OOPS!  I ACTUALLY POSTED THIS ON MY BLOG ON JULY 28 AND FORGOT TO MIGRATE IT OVER HERE, AND THEN DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE UNTIL TODAY.  ENJOY!

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

Despite getting a late start on things due to a family medical emergency and things being super hectic at work (I manage a hotel and I think the only way to make people stay at home THIS year would be an actual apocalypse of some sort), it's July and I can't let July pass by without shining the Longbox Junk spotlight on some Captain America!
 
SO. . .
 
Let's jump into the Longbox Junk paper time machine and set the dial for a short trip back in time to the edge of the Bronze Age. . .the year 1984!  The comic at hand is one of the final issues (#44 out of 47) of Marvel's What If? anthology series, which explored what would happen if the stories of familiar characters were changed in some small way. 
 
What If? is right up there in the top ten of my all-time favorite Bronze Age comic series.  I've always enjoyed tales of alternate history AND this series is a who's who of Marvel's Bronze Age talent, so what's not to like?  Even better, if you're a Longbox Junker such as myself, the issues are fairly easy to come by, with only a few being "valuable" enough to be priced out of the bargain bin. 
 
But enough introduction!  Let's jump into this comic that asks the question, "What if Captain America were not revived until today?" With "today" meaning 1984, of course.  Ready?  Let's do it!  
 

WHAT IF? #44

Marvel (1984)

 
WHAT IF CAPTAIN AMERICA WERE
NOT REVIVED UNTIL TODAY?
 
SCRIPT:  Peter Gillis
PENCILS: Sal Buscema
INKS: Dave Simons
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
 
THE COVER:
 
Now THERE'S a Bronze Age beauty if I've ever seen one!  Classic Captain America rendered in impeccable detail by the one and only Bill Sienkiewicz!  This is one of my favorite covers from the whole What If? run, and it has taken several turns up on the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work. It's just a great piece of comic art, period.  Let's get inside! 
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale as the Avengers pursue Namor. . .but unlike OUR world, the Sub-Mariner eludes them and they give up the chase before discovering the body of Captain America suspended in ice since the end of WWII.
 
Years later, without the binding influence of Captain America to keep them together, the Avengers decide to disband.  A political tensions worldwide rise, we see a mysterious man in a government base release Captain America and Bucky from some sort of laboratory where they were being kept in suspended animation!
 
Although the two heroes are confused as to how exactly they got where they are, they know they have a purpose. . .to restore order to the increasingly lawless nation!  And so we see them in action shortly after their revival taking down a group of armed bank robbers.  It is during this scene that we begin to realize something is. . .off.  Cap and Bucky seem to be much more ruthless and brutal than we know the heroes to usually be.
 
In the months to follow, Cap and Bucky take down all manner of criminals, proving themselves as heroes in the eyes of America. . .but all the while keeping a secret.  They are actually the replacement "Captain America and Bucky" from the 1950's, forced into suspended animation by the government when they felt there was no longer a use for them.  
 
Then one day, a representative from a far right wing political group approaches Cap and Bucky, letting them know that their group is aware of their secret, but wants to enlist their help promoting their political cause.  The two heroes agree.
 
 
In the months to come, Captain America and Bucky use their status as patriotic superheroes to push a hardline anti-communist/ anti-immigrant candidate to the top of the polls, all the while quashing rumors of their true identities.  
 
After sweeping the election with Captain America's support, Senator Chadwick quickly begins to enact anti-immigrant and racist legislation, including a national identity card. . .
 
 
Protests soon begin to turn to riots, including one where a sniper attempts to kill Captain America!  Emergency powers force martial law across the nation, leading to more and deadlier confrontations between government forces and protestors. . .
 
 
We move forward in time several years.  A U.S. submarine on patrol finds something strange. . .a man frozen in ice!  After thawing out the mysterious figure, he revives and fights the sailors, believing them to be Nazis.  The Captain of the sub realizes that they've just discovered the REAL Captain America!
 
When the sub returns to port in Brooklyn, the Captain sneaks Captain America off the boat and takes him on a tour of New York.  Cap is horrified to see the city is in the grip of an armed occupation, with armed soldiers wearing the insignia of Captain America. . .the "Sentinels of Liberty". . .everywhere!
 
The Submarine Skipper takes Captain America to see a contact with ties to the Underground. . .J. Jonah Jameson.  With Jameson's assistance, Cap and the Skipper are able to cross the heavily-guarded barrier known as the Harlem Wall.  Cap is disgusted by the poverty-stricken despair found in the racially-segregated ghetto Harlem has become.
 
Deep in the Harlem ghetto, the submarine skipper introduces Cap to the underground resistance movement, led by General Nick Fury, Spider-Man, and Snap Wilson (AKA the Falcon).  At first he is suspected of being an infiltrator, but after Cap talks to Fury about their time fighting WWII, he is accepted into their ranks as they prepare for a major operation against the "America First Party" during their National Convention, soon to be held in New York City.
 
 
Elsewhere, we find the imposter Captain America meeting with the leaders of criminal organizations that have infiltrated the government, and we learn of their plans for complete control of the United States. . .as well as his support for their plans as long as they at least pretend to align with his insanely unbending anti-communist ideals.
 
 
Shortly thereafter, the scene shifts to Madison Square Garden, where the America First Party is holding a huge, heavily-guarded rally to finally cement their complete political control of the United States.  The underground infiltrates the stadium and then attacks as the imposter Captain America makes his speech!

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LONGBOX JUNK - The World of Krypton

367 views • 9 weeks ago • (2) Comments

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

 
Sorry about the delays between posts (I actually started writing this one June 12).  Between work really ramping up and my wife being in a car wreck (and in and out of the hospital, doctor appointments and such), I've had to put comic readin' and reviewin' on the back burner for a little bit.  But here I am, back at it!
 
SO. . .
 
If you've been reading Longbox Junk for a while, then you probably already know that I'm not much of a Superman fan.  If you're new to Longbox Junk, Welcome!  I hope you stick around for a while.  And by the way. . .I'm not much of a Superman fan.
 
But what I AM a fan of is a great comic book cover!  So when I spotted these three issues at the flea market recently for two bucks apiece, the cover for #3 immediately caught my eye, and I bought the set.  Seriously. . .scroll down and just LOOK at that cover!  It's a Bronze Age beauty if I ever saw one!
 
So I bought three comics featuring a character I don't even like much because I liked the cover on one of them and didn't want to break up the set.  It's just my sort of random way of collecting comic books.  It's Longbox Junkin' is what it is.
 
BUT. . .
 
When I got the comics home and was looking them up to enter them onto my COMIC BOOK REALM list (where I make a half-hearted effort to keep track of the gigantic pile of random comics I've accumulated over the years), something caught my eye.  Apparently, The World Of Krypton is regarded as the FIRST actual comic book mini-series.
 
I found it a bit strange that a little piece of comic history like this was. . .well. . .Longbox Junk.  In perfect-o condition, these issues are only "worth" about eight bucks each.  And yet I see they hold an acknowledged place in the comic book timeline.  I hadn't really intended ever reading these comics, but NOW my interest in them was raised.
 
Enough introduction! Let's take a look at these Bronze Age relics.  Are they an overlooked and undervalued piece of comic history?  Or do they rightfully belong on a folding table at a Utah flea market, flapping in the wind and sold for less than the price of a Big Mac meal at McDonald's?
 
Let's find out!
 

THE WORLD OF KRYPTON

DC (1979)

 
SCRIPTS: Paul Kupperberg
PENCILS: Howard Chaykin & Alan Kupperberg (Uncredited Layouts)
INKS: Murphy Anderson & Frank Chiaramonte
COVERS: Ross Andru & Giordano (Inks)
 

ISSUE ONE

THE JOR-EL STORY

 
THE COVER:
 
To me, kind of "Meh".  It's nicely-drawn and the background elements of the building and the ship in the sky are interesting, but there's nothing really here that grabs me and makes me want to read this comic.  
 
THE STORY:
 
After Superman discovers a memory tape on the moon that turns out to part of his father's journals, we join the Man of Steel as he learns about Jor-El's early life. . .beginning with his entering school as a brilliant student of science, but unfortunately not quite as brilliant at making friends outside of his studies.  
 
After graduation, Jor-El joins Krypton's fledgling space program, where he studies and then creates anti-gravity.  Unfortunately, his first anti-gravity ship crashes, stranding the young astronaut he has fallen in love with (Lara) and forcing him to travel to Krypton's moon to rescue her.
 
His next project is more successful. . .developing orbital "prison cells" where convicts sleep in suspended animation while undergoing rehabilitating hypno-training, after which they can become part of society again.  Now that he's become a successful and recognized scientist, Jor-El and Lara decide to marry.
 
Unfortunately, their application for marriage (Filed with Krypton's automated Matri-Comp marriage compatibility computer) is denied.  As Lara fights against the man Matri-Comp seems to have arbitrarily assigned her (despite her never meeting him previously), Jor-El fights against a criminal that has sabotaged his prison capsule and battles his pursuers using Jor-El's own stolen anti-gravity technology.
 
After defeating the escaped criminal, clues point toward a rival member of the science council as being behind the plot.  Returning to Lara, Jor-El discovers her hypnotized and declaring her love for a strange man.  Jor-El discovers that the Matri-Comp has developed intelligence and feelings, and has decided to marry Lara through an android proxy.
 
After destroying Matri-Comp and its android, Lara and Jor-El are finally able to marry, and we end the story at their wedding with Superman himself somehow being present, but with an assurance we'll be told why and how in the next issue!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Say what you will about Bronze Age comics, but the writers of that era were able to pack a LOT into a little space!  The amount of story to be found in this issue would easily take up 3 or 4 issues of a modern comic.  But for all the information packed into this comic, it's actually a pretty brisk read.  
 
The story jumps from place to place a bit, and the whole back half involving Jor-El fighting against an escaped criminal and a marriage computer gone mad seems tacked on just to provide some action.  Despite these few things, I found this to be a decent read, even though Superman is probably my LEAST favorite comic book character.  
 
I think this story kept my attention mostly because with each page that went by, I kept wondering "How much more stuff can they put in this thing?" This single issue is like a Dagwood sandwich of comic writing!  It's a teetering pile of stuff crammed between two covers!  Even the bare-bones synopsis I provided above takes up six paragraphs.  
 
The art is. . .it's okay.  It compliments the story without trying to take it over.  I saw Howard Chaykin's name on this and was expecting something a little darker and grittier, but I guess this is one of those cases where the inker has more of a hand in things than usual.  The lines are a lot cleaner and sharper than what I would think of when I see Chaykin's name on a comic.
 
 
Overall, I have to tip my hat to Paul Kupperberg on this one.  His writing isn't fancy or flashy, or particularly deep, but he tells a story in one single issue that would take months of modern comics to tell.  It's not all good. . .there are definitely parts that seem tacked on for obligatory action scenes that could have been trimmed. . .but for the most part, this was a decent read.
 
NEXT!

ISSUE TWO

THIS PLANET IS DOOMED!

 
THE COVER:
 
Again, sort of "Meh".  I like the interesting details on the city of Kandor, but other than that, this just seems like a pretty unremarkable Superman comic cover.  Sorry Superman fans.  It's just me, I guess.
 
THE STORY:
 
We pick up the story shortly after Jor-El and Lara's wedding at the end of issue #1.  Jor-El and his father are attacked by an alien ice bird long thought to be extinct during a visit to Antarctic City.  Jor-El's father is severely injured and falls into a coma before being able to tell Jor-El his reason for the visit.
 
Jor-El searches his father's papers and makes a terrifying discovery. . .his father's research indicates that Krypton's planetary core is unstable and within the next few years, the planet is doomed!  Jor-El (and his trusted assistant, Kal-El. . .who is actually Superman trapped in the past on Krypton) wastes no time in trying to find a way to evacuate the planet.
 
Unfortunately, Kryptonian politics delay the project until Jor-El and several other scientists friendly to his cause pool their talents and own resources to at least try and save some of the doomed Kryptonians in gigantic space arks of Jor-El's design when the time comes.
 
Jor-El's father briefly regains consciousness and tells his son that the real reason behind their visit to the Antarctic was because he had discovered a gigantic alien ship in the ice. . .but dies before he can reveal the location.
 
As Jor-El searches for the alien craft, Kal-El designs a robot capable of doing the work of 100 men, and construction of the first Kryptonian evacuation ark begins.  
 
BUT THEN!
 
An unidentified craft attacks the capital city of Kandor, ripping it from the ground, and then shrinking the city before departing!  Along with Kandor goes the ark under construction, the super-construction robot, Jor-El's fellow scientists working with him on the project, AND the supply of rare fuel needed for the starships!  All hope seems lost.
 
With Kandor gone, Krypton is plunged into panic.  As the Kryptonians try to hold their society together without their capital city, Jor-El receives even more bad news. . .his assistant, Kal-El has gone missing (Superman discovered a way off-page to return to Earth and his own timeline).  Despite the crushing hopelessness of it all, Jor-El vows to continue with his project somehow, if only to save his own recently-born son, who is named Kal-El in honor of Jor-El's faithful assistant.
 
With the newly-reformed science council now behind Jor-El's research, he begins investigating other dimensions as an alternative to the gigantic space arks.  During his research, he discovers the Phantom Zone.  It's unsuitable for general habitation, but Jor-El convinces the Science Council that it would be a better place for criminals than the expensive system of orbiting suspended animation prison satellites he created years ago (in issue #1).
 
AND THEN. . .
 
Jor-El finally discovers the location of the crashed alien ship that his father had discovered!  It seems to hold all the answers needed to help the Kryptonians escape into space locked inside its strange technology.  Unfortunately, during a test flight, a criminal named Jax-Ur fires a powerful rocket, causing the alien ship to crash before completely destroying Krypton's moon, Wegthor!
 
Jax-Ur is captured and is the first criminal sentenced to the Phantom Zone, but the loss of the alien ship's technology and the destruction of the launching facility on Wegthor together spell the end of Jor-El's rescue plans for the people of Krypton.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I THOUGHT there was a lot going on in the first issue.  The second issue ups the ante at least a few notches by bombarding the reader with so much story that even a major event like the capital city of Kandor literally being ripped from the planet and stolen by Brainiac takes up ONE page.
 
That's it.  Right there.  Capital City gone.
 
While I admired Kupperberg's compressed storytelling in the first issue, here it just seems like too much.  The story jumps from place to place so quickly that it's difficult to get invested in any one thing before it's gone and you're reading about something else.  Even writing the synopsis above, I glossed over several plot points for the sake of space and readability. 
 
Extremely compressed storytelling aside, this issue also seems strange because Superman himself plays a fairly large supporting role, with practically no explanation as to why or how beyond one single tiny editor box: 
 
We don't need no stinkin' exposition!
 
Reading this comic in 2021, I was able to hit the internet for more information. . .discovering that this story (for some strange reason) ties heavily into Superman #141, from 1960, which tells the story of how Superman accidentally ended up on Krypton in the past, got to know his parents, and fell in love, before managing to escape despite not having any powers under the red Kryptonian sun.
 
It seems like an odd story path in tying so strongly into a single Superman issue published almost TWENTY YEARS before the story at hand. . .especially during the Bronze Age, where comics weren't generally kept and collected the way they are now.  One wonders what the thinking was behind the idea, when there was really no way at the time for the average reader to go back and reference. . .well. . .just about ANYTHING not in the card catalogue at a library or in an encyclopedia (For my younger readers, they were a sort of multi-volume printed versions of Wikipedia that took up a lot of space.  Just kidding.  You know what an encyclopedia is, right?  , I feel old).
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
It just seems really strange to tie a good chunk of this story to a single comic book issue published in 1960.  Beyond the single editor note pictured above, Superman is just sort of. . .there. . .in full Superman garb for most of this issue without any further explanation.  Maybe they were afraid a Superman comic without Superman wouldn't sell?  
 
Overall, this issue suffers from some extremely compressed storytelling that causes the story to jump from place to place without any real time to dwell on any single story element.  Combined with the strange decision to tie this issue in with an issue of Superman published twenty years previously, this whole second chapter of World of Krypton seems a bit confusing.  It's not BAD, mind you.  It's just a little hard for me to get into.
 
NEXT!

ISSUE THREE

THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON

 
THE COVER:
 
Now HERE'S the winner!  What a glorious comic book cover!  I'm not even a Superman fan and I absolutely LOVE this cover!  The colors, the composition, the. . .everything! There's not a single thing I don't like about this piece of comic art.  It was worth buying this set of comics for this cover alone!
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from the previous issue, we follow Jor-El shortly after Jax-Ur is sentenced to the Phantom Zone for destroying Krypton's moon, Wegthor.  Because of the destruction, the Science Council votes to ban all further space travel and rocket research, despite the protests of Jor-El.
 
Unable to convince the Science Council of the need to evacuate the planet, Jor-El continues his research on his own, knowing that he will be condemned to the Phantom Zone if caught.  Suspecting Jor-El of disobeying their command, the Science Council secretly assigns an agent to follow and watch him.
 
Jor-El discovers a large piece of debris from the destroyed alien ship (from issue #2) orbiting Krypton and calculates it will land in the Scarlet Jungle.  He suspects it is the remains of the ship's engine.  As he waits for it to crash so he can retrieve the technology, Jor-El continues his rocket research, not suspecting that the Council's Agent, Par-Es is watching.
 
When the debris from the alien ship finally crash lands, Jor-El travels to the Scarlet Jungle.  Realizing he's being followed, he subdues Par-Es using his anti-gravity belt (that he invented in issue #1) and brings the wreckage back to his lab.
 
As earthquakes rock Krypton, Jor-El works to the point of exhaustion trying to build at least one working rocket to evacuate his wife and son from the doomed planet.  Unknown to him, he has contracted Scarlet Jungle Fever, which makes him weak and unable to resist the mental commands of a group of Krypton's worst criminals (including General Zod) plotting to escape the Phantom Zone.
 
Realizing something is wrong with her husband, Lara foils the escape plot and helps Jor-El recover from the fever.  He wastes no time in continuing to build a rocket, and finally manages to complete his work as the earthquakes wracking the planet cause the city to crumble around him.
 
Jor-El puts his son into the rocket, but Lara refuses to go with him. . .preferring to die with her husband and trusting that their son will thrive on his new homeworld of Earth.  As the rocket with baby Kal-El launches into space, the planet explodes behind him!
 
In the end, we witness baby Kal-El being found by the Kents in Kansas and we return to the present day, where Superman vows never to forget Jor-El and Lara, or the destroyed world of Krypton.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then.  Finally we get to the meat of the story. . .the destruction of Krypton.  This issue is a little more tightly-focused than the other two.  There are still some seemingly random plot threads thrown in (the attempted Phantom Zone escape comes directly to mind) that look like they're there to pad the length out and add a little action to the story, but not nearly as many as in previous issues.
 
Because of the tighter focus and relative lack of digressions, this issue is probably the best of the bunch, story-wise.  It's a relentless countdown from the Science Council outlawing space research to the explosion of Krypton, shown to the reader in a single glorious splash page. . .
 

The actual ending of the story, with baby Kal-El being found and Superman reflecting on his parents' lives, seems a bit rushed.  But then again, what should I expect after a dramatic countdown to a planetary explosion?
 
Overall, I enjoyed this issue a lot.  Where the first two seemed a bit overwhelming as they piled on information and story digressions, this issue was tighter and more focused, delivering a page-turner of a story that kept me invested even though I already knew the ending.
 

CONCLUSION

 
While doing a bit of basic research to try and ease my confusion over Superman himself playing a supporting role in issue #2 of this series, I discovered that MOST of this series is actually supposed to tie together a series of 27 "Fabulous World of Krypton" back-up features that had appeared in Superman comics during the 70's.  This explains why seemingly random story digressions kept appearing throughout.  
 
I also learned that the overall story was originally supposed to appear in DC's "Showcase" series as part of the lead-in to the Superman movie in 1978.  But then the movie was delayed and Showcase was cancelled before that could happen, leading to this interesting experiment by DC to build a coherent continuity to Superman's past becoming the very first comic book limited series.
 
Knowing that this whole affair was actually built from barely-related story elements written over the course of about twenty years gave me a new perspective on things.  Where I did see it as a bit of a mess, but still a sort of fun read.  I now see it as a valiant attempt to make one story out of many, with the explosion of Krypton the established ending.
 
Even knowing the story behind the story, I'm still not sure they entirely succeeded.  I called the first issue a "Dagwood Sandwich" because of all the story points stacked inside a single comic.  I'm thinking that, reading this with the benefit of 40 years' worth of hindsight, the editors might have done the writer a disservice by trying to cram EVERYTHING that had been written about Krypton up to that point into a three issue story.  
 
The final issue sort of bears this out with its tighter focus on the inevitable end of Krypton.  If the writer had maintained that focus through the whole series instead of having to diverge to things like the tale of Krypton's automated Marriage Computer somehow developing feelings for Superman's mother (from issue #1, for one example), this strange little piece of comic book history MIGHT not be relegated to the bargain bin because the story would be a lot more readable than it is.
 
As it stands, World of Krypton (mostly the first two issues) is just overstuffed to the point that it's bursting with things that don't move the actual story along.  Don't get me wrong. . .it's not BAD.  It's actually well-written and the art is interesting, but the story jumps from place to place as it tries to incorporate story elements from almost 30 different sources.
 
At the end of the day, not being much of a Superman fan, I found this series to be interesting more for the story behind the story than the actual story at hand.  If you are a Superman fan and are interested in "Pre-Crisis" Superman continuity, you'll probably get more mileage out of the actual story itself than I did.  
 
I'd say that just for its place in comic book history as the first limited series, World of Krypton deserves to be read at least once.  If you spot it in the bargain bin, go ahead and give it a look.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's July!  I'm a bit late off the starting line, but how about some Captain America?
 
Be there or be square!

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I'm Still Here!

490 views • 14 weeks ago • (0) Comments

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

Apologies to my regular Longbox Junk readers.  

I've gotten messages asking if I've abandoned the blog.  The answer is no.  

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!
 
It's Star Wars month here at Longbox Junk!  Unfortunately, with pandemic restrictions being lifted and life getting back to (somewhat) normal, I've been super-busy at work (night manager of a hotel) and haven't had the time I would normally like to spend on readin' and reviewin' some great Star Wars comics.
 
That said, I think I can squeeze in another visit to that galaxy far, far away before the month ends.
 
The comic at hand is one of the more unusual items in my collection, and I've been meaning to spotlight it here at Longbox Junk for a while.  It's a hardcover one-shot comic from Dark Horse's days holding the reigns to the Star Wars comic franchise.  
 
It's one of the many tie-ins to Dark Horse's multimedia Star Wars "Event" called "Shadows of the Empire", which included interconnected novels, comics, trading cards, toys, a soundtrack album, a video game, and a handful of other items revolving around a tale set after Empire Strikes back and setting the scene for Return of the Jedi.   It was actually a really interesting and ambitious project.
 
What makes the comic at hand different than other comics is that it's a pop-up comic!  As far as I can tell, it's one of the few that's ever been made (until recently) with adult readers in mind, and was actually the first pop-up comic book produced.  Due to the unusual nature of the comic and the increased bulk of the pop-up mechanics, the comic is a short one. . .at 14 pages it's more of a vignette than a complete comic story.  
 
Because it is such a short comic, I decided to go ahead and scan it in full for this review.  I quickly found out that pop-up books are NOT scanner-friendly at all, so please excuse the iffy quality of the pictures below.  They don't do justice to how great this comic looks in the hand.  I've included a few pics of the comic folded out as well, to try and give more of an idea of how it actually looks.
 
Enough introduction!  Let's take a look at this unusual little artifact of Dark Horse Star Wars, shall we?

STAR WARS:

BATTLE OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS

DARK HORSE (1996)

 
SCRIPT: Ryder Windham
ART: Christopher Moeller
COVER: Christopher Moeller
 
THE COVER:
 
Christopher Moeller might not be the most famous or prolific comic artist out there, but he's got a detailed, gritty style that fits the Star Wars universe perfectly, especially when it comes to the darker corners inhabited by characters like Boba Fett.  This is a fantastic example of his work. . .a collage of images held together by a very nice portrait of the fan favorite Bounty Hunter.  If this wasn't an awkwardly-sized hardcover, this cover would definitely take some turns up on the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside and feast our eyes on some more of Moeller's art!
 
THE STORY:
 
We start off shortly after the events of The Empire Strikes Back.  Bounty Hunter Boba Fett is delivering his target, Han Solo, to crime lord Jabba The Hutt on Tattooine.  Solo has been frozen alive in carbonite by Darth Vader.  The bounty hunter anticipates an easy time collecting on Solo, but when he comes out of hyperspace over Tattooine, he spots a rival bounty hunter waiting for him. . .the droid called IG-88!
 
 
Acting quickly, Fett targets and destroy's IG-88's ship, but his easy victory is TOO easy.  It was a distraction from IG-88's actual ship, which attacks Boba Fett, taking him by surprise!
Once again, apologies for the way the pictures look flattened on a scanner.  Here's a camera shot of the first couple of pages folded out, so you can get more of an idea of how this comic actually looks. . .
 
 
After damaging Boba Fett's ship with his surprise attack, IG-88 demands that Solo be surrendered to him and he MIGHT let Fett live. . .
 
Despite the iffy situation, Boba Fett isn't one to be taken down like a chump.  The bounty hunter pulls one of the many tricks he holds up his sleeve and hits the inertial dampers (the brakes) on his ship, putting him behind IG-88 and lined up for the perfect shot!
Boba Fett takes the shot, destroying IG-88 in a spectacular explosion!  His rival now out of the way, Fett continues to Tattooine to deliver his bounty to Jabba The Hutt.
 
 
As Boba Fett lands, his ship is noticed by an Imperial patrol.  They investigate and confront the bounty hunter, telling him it's a restricted area. . . 
 
 
Unfortunately for the stormtroopers, Fett doesn't care much about Imperial restrictions.  He opens fire and quickly decimates the patrol before continuing on to Jabba's desert palace, where the crime lord's lieutenant, Bib Fortuna, meets him.
On his way into Jabba's palace, Boba Fett is attacked by a giant sand dragon!  However, it's no match for Boba Fett, who takes the creature down easily.  Suspecting that the conniving Bib Fortuna tried to lead him into a trap, Fett forces him at gunpoint to lead the way to Jabba The Hutt's throne room.
 
Below is another pic of the comic folded out, to give more of an idea of how it actually looks.
 
 
In Jabba's throne room, Fett negotiates for an extra bonus because he brought Solo in alive.  Jabba agrees, but has another proposition for the bounty hunter. . .
 
 
Knowing that Solo's friends will eventually attempt a rescue, Jabba offers Boba Fett more money if he stays on for a while as protection.  Fett agrees without hesitation. . .setting the stage for the opening scene of Return of The Jedi.
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Like I said in the introduction, this is a very short and simple story that's really more of a vignette.  It's actually an abbreviated version of some of the same events as depicted in (mostly) the first issue of the main "Shadows of the Empire" comic series, but featuring the fantastic painted art of Christopher Moeller instead of the more standard comic art (Which is still some pretty darn nice work by Kilian Plunkett, with inks by P. Craig Russell) in the regular comic.
 
Shadows of the Empire, Issue #1
 
Despite the extremely slim story to be found here, the real star of THIS show is the pop-up mechanic, featuring the painted art of Moeller.  As I mentioned in a couple of places above, the flattened images of the comic on the scanner don't really do it much justice.  Even the couple of regular camera shots don't quite display just how nice this unusual comic actually looks when it's folded out. 
 
I was familiar with Moeller's gritty, realistic, painted style from my favorite series to come out of DC's short-lived Helix imprint, "Sheva's War".  A fine little nugget of Longbox Junk gold itself, and highly recommended for any fan of good hard military science fiction.  I've always wanted to track down and enjoy more of his work, but he wasn't the most prolific artist.  His art in this comic doesn't disappoint!
 
With interesting angles, perfect colors, and gritty realism, the art in this short comic is simply a feast for the eyes!
 

CONCLUSION

 
There's not much story to be found here, and what little there is, is a retelling of events in another comic.  But the story isn't the draw here.  This unusual pop-up comic book features some really great painted artwork that makes me want more!  At the end of the day, there's not much to Battle of The Bounty Hunters, but it IS fun.  Say what you will, there ain't nothing wrong with having some fun in a comic book!
 
It might be a little hard to track down a copy, but Battle of The Bounty Hunters is just a fun little Star Wars artifact that Star Wars fans both young and young at heart will surely enjoy.  I give it an official Longbox Junk gold seal of approval.
 
 
Until next time, remember that comics are worth more than money!

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Longbox Junk - Star Wars: Rebel Heist

350 views • 18 weeks ago • (0) Comments

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

 
Once again, apologies for my sketchy posting "schedule" this time of year.  The summer tourist season is starting to gain some steam and my spare time at work for readin' and reviewin' comic books is getting a little sparse.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
It's the merry month of May! Spring is in the air, the grass is green, the flowers are blooming.  Summer is just around the corner.  But most importantly, it's STAR WARS month!  
 
Star Wars is what got me into comic collecting in the first place, so when May rolls around I like to spotlight a few of the comic book adventures that have taken place in that galaxy far, far away.
 
For quite a while, Dark Horse had the rights to publish Star Wars comics, and they definitely ran with it in a big way.  They went WELL above and beyond the established lore of the movies and put their own stamp on Star Wars. . .for better AND for worse.  The Dark Horse Star Wars mythology is dense, convoluted, and a little hard for newcomers to jump into.  
 
That said, toward the end of their time holding the keys to Star Wars comics, Dark Horse stepped away from their tangled continuity and started to return to the basic foundation of what made Star Wars great in the first place. . .the tight relationship between the original heroes of the Star Wars saga, Luke, Han, Chewie, and Leia, as they fought against the evil Empire.  
 
The comics at hand are a perfect example of Dark Horse's return to the simple roots of Star Wars, being a look at the four main heroes of Star Wars through the eyes of others.  A bit of research tells me that it's actually the LAST original Star Wars item published by Dark Horse before they handed things over to Marvel.  Did they go out on a high note?  Let's find out!
 

STAR WARS:

REBEL HEIST

DARK HORSE (2014)

 
SCRIPTS: Matt Kindt
PENCILS: Marco Castiello
COVERS: Adam Hughes
 

ISSUE ONE

 
THE COVER:
 
Adam Hughes really knocked it out of the park on ALL the covers for this series!  This one showcases the reluctant rebel and smuggler, Han Solo.  Frozen in a moment of gun-slingin' action and with a vibrant background, this cover perfectly captures the roguish essence of the character.  
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin the series on the planet Corellia, where a young rebel recruit named Jan is unexpectedly thrown into a chaotic adventure when he meets with his contact (none other than one of the most wanted men in the galaxy, Han Solo) and Imperial agents burst onto the scene .
 
Through a series of mishaps and narrow escapes, Jan becomes convinced that Solo is less of a hero and more of a lucky maniac with a death wish.  Eventually, the pair are captured and imprisoned on an orbiting Imperial space station.  But is there more to the story than Jan knows?
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This first issue shows us Han Solo through the eyes of someone not used to Solo's brand of improvisational adventure.  I found this issue to be pretty funny as the situation got more and more out of hand while Jan desperately wondered what sort insanity of what he'd been dragged into.  Of course, to Star Wars fans, we know that's just how Han Solo does it.  But to the narrator of the story, it was sheer lunacy.
 
Overall, a lot of adventure and a few chuckles make this a great start to the series.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

 
THE COVER:
 
It's Star Wars' rebel Princess showcased in a confident pose that lets you know she's not one to be messed with!  I really like how the stark white of her outfit contrasts with the cool blues of the background.  Another great Star Wars portrait from Adam Hughes.
 
THE STORY:
 
We shift scenes to the pleasure planet of Feddasyr, where neutrality in the galactic conflict and easy access to any sort of vice makes it a perfect world for the "cold war" of spies and intrigue between the Empire and Rebellion.  Our narrator is a very rare red Twi'Lek, whose one in a million color allows her to hide in plain sight as a highly-desirable dancer, able to infiltrate Imperial ranks as a Rebel agent.
 
When her cover is blown and she fails to deliver an Imperial code, her contact, none other than Princess Leia Organa, enlists her to assist with plan B. . .Leia infiltrating a high-class party thrown by a wealthy industrialist who has the code the Rebels need.
 
Although the Twi'Lek is unimpressed at first by Leia's royal background, she quickly comes to realize there's more to the princess than meets the eye as Leia accomplishes the mission and makes a narrow escape with a turncoat specialist "code carrier' stormtrooper who has the Imperial code imprinted in his DNA.
 
In the end, the Twi'Lek watches Leia allow herself to be captured in order for the code carrier to escape the planet and deliver the Imperial code to the Rebels.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Where the first issue was about the madcap insanity that follows Han Solo wherever he goes, this issue tells a tale of Princess Leia as a highly-focused undercover operative.  Each move is meticulously planned, and even when things go wrong, Leia thinks of nothing but accomplishing the mission.  It's less humorous than the first issue, replacing the chuckles with tension and danger.  
 
Overall, this is a great little espionage story set in the Star Wars universe.  
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE THREE

 
THE COVER:
 
CHEWIE!  Everyone's favorite Wookie stands ready for action in another great portrait by Adam Hughes.  Hughes really manages to capture the essence of these characters on these covers!  I love the detail on Chewbacca's fur, the fierce expression on his face, and the contrasting green background on this one.
 
THE STORY:
 
We continue the story from the viewpoint of the Imperial code-carrier Stormtrooper rescued from Feddasyr at the cost of the capture of Princess Leia last issue as he makes contact with the next Rebel agent, the Wookie warrior Chewbacca, on a backwater Imperial planet.
 
As an Imperial trooper, he looks down on Chewbacca as an uncivilized beast, but slowly changes his mind as Chewie helps him infiltrate the Imperial base where a "Galaxy Drive" needed to unlock the secret code in his DNA is located.
 
After a tense battle where Chewbacca saves the code carrier's life, they manage to transmit the code to the Rebels, but in the end they are captured and thrown into a Rancor pit, where they are left to die!
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Where the first issue was humorous and light, and the second issue dark and tense, this third issue is focused more on combat action and adventure as Chewbacca and the turncoat Imperial code carrier fight their way to the Galaxy Drive in order to release the Imperial code from his DNA.  I liked the whole "reluctant allies become comrades through battle" storyline running through this issue.  
 
Overall, this issue doesn't stand alone as well as the first two (Ending on a cliffhanger setting up the final issue), but it's still a very nice combat-oriented story, packed with explosive action and gunplay.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
 

ISSUE FOUR

 
THE COVER:
 
And we finish off this series of four fantastic portraits of the original Star Wars heroes with the young, but determined, Luke Skywalker.  I REALLY like the warm colors and the interesting background montage, making this one my favorite of the bunch.
 
THE STORY:
 
This story is told from the viewpoint of an Imperial spy tasked with following a suspected rebel on Corellia.  We see the events of the first issue from another viewpoint as Luke Skywalker helps Han Solo get captured.  
 
We then follow the spy (and Luke) to Feddasyr, where he frees Princess Leia from captivity and the two head out to rescue Chewbacca.  The spy is confused as to why all the rescue missions when the rebel operatives have obviously been successful at their tasks.  He stows away on their ship to learn more.
 
Arriving at the Imperial base, Luke and Leia find that Chewbacca and the turncoat code-carrier have already defeated the rancor.  They help the pair escape the base and flee off-world to rendezvous with Han Solo, who has managed to escape and steal an Imperial freighter.  At this point, the spy reveals himself and surrenders, wanting to be part of something that values friendship just as much as success.
 
At the end, it's revealed that the whole plot was to find the freighter and its cargo. . .a shield generator that will be used to protect the rebel base on Hoth.  
 
We then quickly revisit the various narrators of the issues for a glimpse of them in the near future. The rebel recruit from the first is now a recruiter himself.  The red Twi'Lek from the second continuing to spy for the rebellion.  The turncoat code-carrier of the third as the leader of a rebel combat squad.  And the Imperial spy of the fourth now a double agent and discovering the first hint of the second Death Star being constructed.
 
THE END
 
THE REVIEW:
 
A very nice ending to the story, wrapping things up with plenty of action and adventure, and giving the reader another viewpoint of the events taking place in the previous issues.  I liked how (just as in the original movies) Luke Skywalker is the glue that holds everything together.  This issue is very much focused on the bond of friendship that is between the main heroes of Star Wars and, as a huge fan of Star Wars, it had a pretty heartwarming feel to it.
 
Overall, a great ending to the story that hit this old Star Wars fan in a surprisingly heartfelt way.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I said in the introduction that this was Dark Horse's last original Star Wars project and wondered if they went out on a high note.  In my extremely humble opinion, I say YES!  This has everything a Star Wars fan could want in a story. . .action, adventure, humor, friendship, and more!  
 
In these four issues you get a madcap chase story, a tense spy story, a rousing battle action story, AND a heartwarming story about the bonds of friendship. . .all tied together to make one big entertaining tale about a band of rebels stealing a shield generator.  
 
There's no two ways about it, if you are a Star Wars fan, you'll like this story a lot, and I highly recommend you checking it out if you haven't already.  
 
If you're not a Star Wars fan you might not get as much mileage out of Rebel Heist.  It's definitely written with existing fans in mind.  That said, give it a try. . .because it touches a few different genres and is told from several viewpoints, you might find it to be a pretty entertaining piece of science fiction action/adventure despite the Star Wars framework around it.
 
Up Next. . .
 
One of the more unusual comics in my collection. . .a strange little experiment by Dark Horse in their Star Wars line.  You'll see what I mean.  It's the Star Wars: Battle of The Bounty Hunters one shot!
 
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!

 
Every now and then here at Longbox Junk, I like to delve a bit into the corners of my collection that aren't so. . .well. . .Longbox Junk-y.  Those comics I own that are a little older and "worth" a little more to collectors than most of the bargain bin finds that are the meat and potatoes of this blog.
 
Case in point:  Avengers #58 from 1968.  It's regarded as a minor "Key" comic because it's the second appearance (and origin) of The Vision.  According to various sources it's "worth" a bit north or south of $200 in the condition mine is in (which is really good, considering where I got it from).  So it's not the most "valuable" comic in my collection, but it ain't nothing, either.
 
I paid five whole bucks for my copy at an antique shop, where it was hiding unbagged and forgotten among a stack of old Archie and Richie Rich comics, so how 'bout dat?  
 
The Longbox Junk price I paid for this comic just goes to show that there ARE still great old comics to be found out in the wild, and not just at the click of a mouse on the internet.  Finding this one was a very nice surprise, and really made my day.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Every now and then I delve into those corners of my collection that hold the older and more "valuable" comics, and this is one of those times!  Step this way to the Longbox Junk paper time machine, if you please. These goggles are for your safety.  Make sure to fasten your seat belts securely.
 
*Lowers ridiculous steampunk goggles and takes hold of gigantic lever with both hands*
 
Everyone ready?  Let's do this!
 
*Pulls giant lever. . .the number "1968" flashes on a screen above*
 
WEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO-WEEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO!!
 
And here we are! 1968. . .right in the middle of the "Mighty Marvel" era of comics!  Please remove your goggles and watch your step as you exit the Longbox Junk paper time machine.  To our left is Avengers Headquarters, where the call has gone out for Earth's mightiest heroes to assemble and ponder the possibility of adding a mysterious new member to their ranks.  
 
Follow me, please, and let's listen in. . .

THE AVENGERS #58

MARVEL COMICS (1968)

 

EVEN AN ANDROID CAN CRY
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: George Klein
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE COVER:
 
By the beard of Odin! Are there any among us who will deny the greatness of this John Buscema masterpiece? I SAY THEE NAY! The stark white (well, sorta cream-colored on my copy) background perfectly frames the colorful assemblage of Avengers!  It's an almost perfect example of what makes up a classic "Team Shot" comic book cover.  When it comes to old-school superhero comic covers, it doesn't get much better than something like this, in my humble opinion.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale with a fantastic splash/title page featuring Black Panther answering an "Avengers Assemble" summons and making his way to Avengers Headquarters.  There's several great splash pages in this issue and you can bet I'm going to feature them all in this review!  This one reminds me of Eisner's Spirit title pages. . .
 

Panther is sort of new to the Avengers (he hasn't even met Iron Man or Thor yet) so he's surprised to find a room packed full of Earth's Mightiest Heroes (and we get a great half-page mini-splash group shot).  He's even more surprised to find The Vision among them, because the last Panther heard, Vision was fighting AGAINST the Avengers.
 

Vision informs Black Panther that he's there because he wants to join the Avengers.  Henry Pym (AKA Goliath) gathered the Avengers together to consider the strange request.  Panther is on board with Vision joining up, but Iron Man and Thor are hesitant.  Membership in the Avengers is a privilege not to be taken lightly and they know little about Vision's powers and nothing about his origin.  Captain America decides to put Vision to the test by attacking the mysterious android. . .
 

As several of the Avengers attack Vision, he easily defeats them without harming anyone by using his fantastic strength and power to alter his body structure from insubstantial to super-dense.  The battle ends before it gets out of hand by Goliath telling everyone that Cap had attacked in order to give a demonstration of Vision's powers.  The Avengers all agree that Vision is definitely a heavy hitter, but are still reluctant to let him join without learning more about his background.
 
 
Thor calls the meeting to order for a formal vote by reading the Avenger's scroll of membership and briefly describing the honor and distinction becoming a member of the Avengers brings to an individual. . .and in doing so, we get yet another fantastic group shot splash page!  Yeah, I know.  This review is a little more picture-heavy than usual, but just LOOK at that Buscema art!
 
 
Realizing that the Avengers need more information about his origin, Vision struggles to remember, and then with a mighty push of willpower, he manages to break through a mental block and he clearly remembers the moment of his awakening by his "Master", Ultron 5!
 
Ultron teaches Vision about his powers and that he has been created for one purpose. . .to destroy the Avengers!  Vision struggles against Ultron's commands, but his newly-created will is no match for that of the malevolent machine that has created him.
 
 
Even though Vision has remembered more of his origin, there is still some mystery surrounding him.  Henry Pym (AKA Goliath) remembers working on a similar sort of android, but is frustrated because he can't remember.  Thinking maybe he has the same kind of mental block that was preventing Vision from remembering his past, the Avengers decide to investigate Pym's abandoned laboratory and try to learn more.
 
At Pym's lab, he finds a memory recording machine and using it, he remembers that it was HE who created Ultron!  At first, Ultron was merely a crude robot, but it quickly learned and transformed into an intelligent mechanical terror!
 

Ultron attacked its creator, taking Pym by surprise and easily defeating him.  The evil robot then erased Pym's memory of the incident by using his own memory recorder on him.
 
 
As the Avengers further investigate Pym's abandoned lab, he realizes that there is a missing memory tape of Wonder Man (AKA Simon Williams).  We then get a recounting of the Avenger's earlier run-in with Wonder Man, who was secretly working with Baron Zemo when he enlisted the help of the Avengers to help him find a cure for the deadly disease he was dying of.  
 
Turning on his new allies, Wonder Man was able to defeat the Avengers before learning that Zemo planned on murdering them.  He then turned against Zemo and freed the Avengers, helping them to defeat Zemo's team of villains.

 
Unfortunately, his turning against Zemo sealed his fate.  Zemo had the only cure to Wonder Man's disease.  Knowing he was dying, the Avengers rushed him to Henry Pym's lab and made a recording of his brain patterns before he died.
 
Vision is shocked by the realization that his brain is actually the stolen pattern of Wonder Man!  The mystery of Vision's origin now mostly solved, the Avengers return to their headquarters to finally determine if Vision is worthy to join them.
 

After a short meeting, Goliath delivers the good news to Vision. . .he has been found worthy to join Earth's Mightiest Heroes!  As the other Avengers welcome the android onto the team, he remains stoic before asking for a moment to himself.
 
 
And as Vision cries with happiness out of the sight of his new comrades, the reader learns that the artificial being has more humanity in him than he is letting on, and there are still mysteries surrounding The Vision.
 
 
The End. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Part of the fun of doing these "Retro Reviews" is learning a bit about the comic at hand and increasing my general knowledge of the wonderful world of comic books.  So bear with me a bit.
 
A little research tells me that there was an editorial edict at the time preventing Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor from being regular characters in The Avengers, due to them headlining their own titles. Because of this, the appearance of the three heroes together in this issue was a bit of a special event.
 
Because the three heaviest hitters in the Avengers couldn't really be IN the Avengers on a regular basis, The Vision was the first character created specifically to be a member of the Avengers instead of appearing elsewhere and then joining up.  So there's a pretty interesting story behind the story to be found here, if you feel like looking into  it.
 
But enough of that.
 
Look, I'm gonna be honest here and admit that, comics or movies, Vision is my LEAST favorite Avenger.  I guess he just seems like a bit too much of a stretch for my comic book suspension of disbelief. Once I realized that this issue was going to be centered around the origin of The Vision, I almost didn't even want to read it.  But then there was that great John Buscema artwork waving me in and asking me to give this a fair chance. . .if only for some great pictures.
 
And guess what?  I found myself liking this story a LOT more than I thought I would.  
 
Okay, I'll admit that Vision's origin IS pretty convoluted (and it gets worse going forward through the years), especially the part about Wonder Man.  That just sort of came in out of nowhere, and reads almost like something that was thrown in at the last minute. . .but even that was sort of interesting in how they tied in a minor character from years before into the introduction of Marvel's new heavy hitter Avenger.
 
But convoluted origin aside, I found this story to be well-written and engaging.  It's told in an unusual manner, with no "villain of the month" to be found except in flashback, and delivering (what must have been pretty shocking at the time) several surprise revelations.  
 
A story like this would take twelve or more issues to tell these days, but the compressed storytelling of Roy Thomas gives the reader basically FOUR short stories in ONE issue!  Thomas doesn't waste a single word from cover to cover on this one.  It's amazing to me that so much story can be packed into so few pages.
 
And then there's the art.
 
That fantastic John Buscema cover drew me in, and his wonderful superhero art kept me in to the last page.  Every panel on every page of this comic is simply a joy to look at to begin with, and THEN Buscema threw in several awesome splash pages that you just want to keep turning back to!  Simply put, the art in this issue is classic.  It's colorful, it's expressive, it's everything I could have ever asked for in a superhero comic.
 

CONCLUSION

 
It's sad to say, but a lot of older comics seem to not have much effort put into them.  It's pretty clear to see that they were written for kids and meant to be disposable.  This is not the case with Avengers #58.
 
From the amazing cover to the final splash page of Vision hiding his emotions from his new teammates, you can see that Roy Thomas and John Buscema were creating something that they KNEW would stand the test of time. . .something that could still bring joy to a comic reader in the far off future year of 2021.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Back to the bargain bins!
 
May is Star Wars month, so how something from that galaxy far, far away?
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk - ShadowHawk

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

 
Sorry things are starting to get a bit off-schedule again.  It happens every year. I do these reviews at work in my spare time as the night manager of a hotel and the summer tourist trade is already beginning to ramp up, even though it's only the end of April, so that spare time is starting to become less as the countdown to the REAL summer rush begins.  
 
So not to make excuses, but expect a kinda spotty posting schedule for the next few months because unless there's an ACTUAL apocalypse of some sort, Americans will NOT be staying home this summer.  I can see that already.  I predict it's gonna be a big year for hotels across the nation and you can cash THAT check at any bank.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
If you've been Longbox Junkin' as long as I have, you start to notice certain comics that seem to pop up in bargain bins more often than others.  For me, it's comics from Image's early "We REALLY want to be Marvel!" days.  Titles like Youngblood, CyberForce, WildC.A.T.S., Wetworks, and Deathblow, for a few examples off the top of my head.
 
Yeah. . .in case you weren't there for the 90's (and it may make me sound old, but you sorta had to be there), before they managed to carve out a niche as the comic publisher for readers tired of superheroes, Image was ALL Superhero ALL the time.  
 
As a result, the glut of 90's Image superhero titles that didn't make it through the partial collapse of the comic industry make up the meat and potatoes of most bargain bins today.  For every Marvel or DC comic found in the bin, you're pretty much guaranteed to find ten Image comics.
 
The comics at hand (ShadowHawk) are part of that period of comic history. . .the beginning of Image Comics' gaining a foothold in comic shops by way of a flood of new superhero titles.  It seems like just about any bargain bin I dive into holds at LEAST one ShadowHawk issue, so over the years I've managed to grab just about the whole run (I think I'm missing 3 of them), mainly because I think the character looks cool and the series has some pretty nice covers.
 
But I've never bothered to actually read any of them.  
 
Until Now!
 
Join me as I take a look at the first four issue series of ShadowHawk and see what's going on with this bargain bin relic of the 90's.  Is ShadowHawk any good, or is it in just about every bargain bin out there for a reason?  Let's find out!

SHADOWHAWK (Vol. 1)

Image (1992)

 

ISSUE ONE

 
 A NIGHTMARE WALKING
 
SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino & Rob Liefeld
 
THE COVER:
 
The actual cover I have is a glorious example of early 90's "gimmick" covers (ShadowHawk #1 was actually Image's FIRST gimmick cover), with a heavy black cardstock background and a super-shiny silver "chromium" title and image.  Unfortunately, it doesn't scan well at all, so I had to grab a picture of the non-enhanced version off the internet.  But trust me when I say that in its fully gimmicked state, this is a cover that reaches out and grabs you! It's outstanding in its black and silver simplicity.
 
THE STORY:
 
An unknown, ultra-violent vigilante stalks the streets of New York City.  His calling card is breaking the backs of his targets, paralyzing them.  We follow the vigilante, "ShadowHawk", as he patrols the city, permanently taking down criminals and coming into conflict with the police.
 
We are also introduced to a villainous arsonist called. . .Arson, as well as his employer, the mysterious and beautiful high-profile crime boss Max Boldd (AKA Vendetta), who is profiting from the insurance on the buildings Arson has been burning.  
 
Then there's Jamie Anthonette, an intrepid reporter looking into Ms. Boldd's shady business dealings, sketchy Detective Lt. Lou Jacks. . .who always seems to be in the wrong place at the right time when ShadowHawk attacks, and finally former D.A. Paul Johnstone. . .frustrated with the broken justice system, he's now a social activist.  One of these people is ShadowHawk!  Which one?  They aren't saying just yet.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay.  Interesting.  A lot of setup and character introductions in this first issue.  According to the letters page, it seems that the "Who is ShadowHawk" tag on the cover is actually the main thrust of this first mini-series. . .with a generous handful of suspects, but leaving it up to the readers to make their best guess as part of a contest (a page of original art as the prize).  It's a fairly interesting reader hook.
 
Secret identity puzzles aside, I found this to be a pretty good read.  Not the best superhero comic I've ever read, but  pretty decent when many other "Style over Substance" comic offerings of the 90's are practically unreadable today.  
 
ShadowHawk himself has an interesting look and design. . .equal parts Batman, Wolverine, and Moon Knight.  The influences carry over to ShadowHawk's gritty first person inner monologue through the issue as well.  
 
Jim Valentino's art is probably the best part of the issue. . .once again in keeping with the "Style over Substance" direction of 90's comics. . .but where many 90's artists haven't aged well at all, Valentino's art is clean, simple, and solid.  It tells the story without the annoying artistic excess I'd expect in an Image comic from 1992.
 
Unfortunately, even though ShadowHawk #1 holds up surprisingly well, it's not ALL good news.  The villain (an arsonist named Arson) is extremely weak and unimaginative (again. . .an arsonist named Arson), and there's so much introducing going on that none of the "suspects" stand out as very interesting because we really don't spend much time with any of them.
 

All in all, not a bad first issue.  I found it surprisingly readable for a 90's Image superhero comic, with an interesting main character and some solid artwork.  The villain is weak and the multiple characters introduced as possible ShadowHawks aren't that interesting (yet).  Still, it's a good introduction to a new character and it makes me want to read the next one, so ShadowHawk #1 gives me what I expect from a first issue. I can't complain much about that.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

 

A GOOD NIGHT FOR ARSON
 
SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino 
 
THE COVER:
 
This is actually one of my least favorite ShadowHawk covers.  It just seems to be trying TOO hard.  It does give you a good look at the interesting design of the character himself, but the kids in the background look out of place, the generic-looking villain is a generic-looking villain, and the stiff poses all around give the cover an awkward look.  It's not a BAD cover.  I've definitely seen worse.  It's just sort of off in the composition.
 
THE STORY:
 
Trying to prove he's not the villain everyone thinks he is, ShadowHawk takes it upon himself to take down the Arsonist that's been wreaking havoc in Harlem.  He is surprised to briefly encounter the mysterious Spawn during his hunt.  ShadowHawk convinces Spawn that they are after the same quarry, and Spawn leaves Arson to ShadowHawk.
 
As ShadowHawk searches for Arson, we are introduced to yet another suspect that may be ShadowHawk. . .Christina Reid, an ex-cop with a reputation for violence that got her kicked off the force.  We are also pointed toward more clues during a lavish dinner party where it is revealed that Sketchy Lt. Lou Jacks is actually a wealthy bachelor that joined the police force after witnessing his parents murder.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
ShadowHawk finally catches up to Arson and the two of them engage in a brutal rooftop battle in Harlem.  ShadowHawk defeats Arson by hitting his flamethrower fuel backpack with a shuriken, destroying the armored villain in a massive explosion.
 
At the end of the story, we see a young woman vow revenge on ShadowHawk for breaking the spine of her brother.  Elsewhere, we see a junkie friend of former D.A. Paul Johnstone (AKA another ShadowHawk secret identity suspect) being stalked through a dark alley by a grotesque lizard-like creature dripping acidic slime.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I liked the first issue of ShadowHawk as a pretty good introduction to a new character, with the interesting reader hook of trying to guess which side character is ShadowHawk's secret identity.  Unfortunately, just the second issue in and the series seems to be slipping into a fairly standard "Set 'em up. . .knock 'em down" rotating villain grind, with villains being introduced in one issue and taken down in the next.   It's an extremely well-worn comic book story path.
 
As far as the "Who is ShadowHawk?" hook, it's pretty plain to see that the writer wants you to think the sketchy detective who's secretly rich and has a tragic back story is ShadowHawk (SPOILER: He's not), so he gets most of the side character attention this time out.  The new suspect (Angry ex-cop with a taste for violence) is just sort of dropped in out of nowhere like the writer forgot to put her in the first issue and is hustling to fix the mistake.  
 
The cameo by Spawn is interesting, but ultimately just there to tie this series into Image's attempt at having multiple independent creator-owned properties inhabit a shared superhero "universe" that never really worked out as well as they wanted it to.  
 
Where the writing seems to be falling into a "Villain every two issues" rut already, Valentino's art remains the strong point of this series, delivering some solid and eye-pleasing visuals.  I like that about half of this issue is told through double-page spreads. . .giving the art plenty of room to breathe.  Once again, you would expect artistic excess in an early 90's Image superhero comic, but the art here has aged quite a bit better than something like Youngblood, for example. 
 
 
Overall, it doesn't bode well that ShadowHawk is ALREADY falling into the old "Villain fight every other issue" comic writing rut. . .not to mention the old reliable increased sales grab of having a super-popular character cameo appearance happening in just the second issue.  The "Who Is ShadowHawk" reader hook also looks like it's already losing steam, despite the writer's best efforts at keeping the mystery going.  
 
That said, there's enough meat on the bone storywise to make me want to read the next issue, and the solid art keeps ShadowHawk from being as hard on the eyes and practically unreadable as some other early 90's Image comics.  So good taken with bad, this is still a pretty decent read.
 
NEXT!
 
 

ISSUE THREE


LIQUID FIRE
 
SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino 
 
THE COVER:
 
 Now HERE'S a winner!  ShadowHawk perched above the city, cloaked in darkness yet still showing off the interesting character design.  It's simple, it's moody, it's effective.  Yeah. . .I know.  EVERY gritty "street level" hero has had one of these covers.  But you know what?  Why fix what ain't broke? Did I mention it glows in the dark?  IT GLOWS!   Such a great cover.
 
THE STORY:
 
As a mysterious lizard-like creature stalks the alleys of New York City in search of prey, the young woman introduced last issue determined to have her revenge on ShadowHawk meets with Max Boldd (AKA Vendetta).  Her name is Tajana Juarez, and she has come to Boldd to ask for help with her vengeance.
 
Boldd agrees and introduces Tajana to her enforcer, a failed Youngblood recruit called BlackJak.  Elsewhere, reporter Jamie Anthonette and and Lt. Lou Jacks meet at the scene of a grisly killing, where the victim is almost completely dissolved by a mysterious acid.  
 
In the meantime, as ShadowHawk recovers from the battle with Arson, news of the gruesome string of murders reaches him, and he decides to hunt the killer, although he is still exhausted and burned from his previous battle.
 
Back at the scene of the battle with Arson, the villain is amazed to find himself still alive after being caught in the gigantic explosion of his flamethrower fuel. . .but he's in an extremely painful state of constant flame!  Not knowing what else to do, he decides to ask Max Boldd for help.
 
WHILE THAT'S GOING ON. . .
 
At police headquarters, Captain Frakes calls a meeting with the city council.  He claims to have evidence that Lt. Jacks is the vigilante ShadowHawk.  Unfortunately, his evidence is circumstantial and Jacks reveals that his mysterious absences are because he's visiting his adoptive father in a nursing home, taking Jacks off the list of ShadowHawk suspects.
 
AND THEN. . .
 
As ShadowHawk pursues the mysterious creature killing with acid, Arson accidentally runs into the two of them at the exact moment that ShadowHawk finally catches up with his prey!  As ShadowHawk and the creature fight, Arson is offered the chance to help, but declines, continuing on to meet with Boldd and leaving ShadowHawk to his fight.
 
After a brutal battle, ShadowHawk finally kills the creature by shooting a grappling hook into its chest and pulling its heart out.  
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
After his failed attempt to prove Lt. Jacks is ShadowHawk, police Captain Frakes decides to call in a favor from an old friend in Chicago and bring in some super-powered support to find and take down the vigilante once and for all. . .The Savage Dragon!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
To be honest, this issue was sort of a mess.  It jumped all over the place trying to keep the "Who is ShadowHawk" mystery alive with short scenes featuring all the suspects (and taking Lt. Jacks off the list), while at the same time introducing yet MORE characters (The superhuman version of Arson, BlackJak, and Tajana) AND making sure there's some action with ShadowHawk and the acid creature fighting.
 
It seems to me that this series could have benefited from at least one more issue, because Valentino is really trying to pack a lot into a little space.  The ShadowHawk/ Acid Creature storyline feels tacked on because the writer felt like there HAD to be some sort of fighting going on.  Truthfully, he could have thrown the whole thing out and concentrated on the mystery aspect of the story and this issue would have been better for it.  As it stands, the acid creature fight just seems as disposable and unremarkable as the acid creature itself.
 
Valentino's art remains the strong point of this series.  It's just good, clean, simple comic art with a bit of 90's flair, but without the 90's excess.  Is it enough to save the issue from the mess the story is becoming?  Barely. 
 

Overall, the writing on this issue is a mess. . .Valentino is trying to cook too many things at once and all of them suffer for it.  The art remains a solid high point, but art is only half the equation when it comes to comic books.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ISSUE FOUR

 
ENTER THE DRAGON
 
SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino & Erik Larsen
 
THE COVER:
 
This isn't one of my favorite ShadowHawk covers, but I really like the overhead view of the city.  The artist gives this cover a true sense of height and scale.  The main figures are well done, but the eye-catcher here is definitely in the background.
 
THE STORY:
 
AAAAAAAAAAND IT'S CROSSOVER TIME!
 
After police Captain Frakes failed to prove Lt. Jacks was ShadowHawk, he calls in a favor from an old friend in Chicago and is loaned their Super-Powered Superstar cop. . .The Dragon.  Upon arrival in New York, Dragon ruffles some feathers as he shows the NYPD how it's done by almost immediately tracking down ShadowHawk while the vigilante deals with a rapist.
 
A rooftop battle ensues while ShadowHawk insists he's not a criminal and The Dragon lets him know (between brutal punches) that the good guys don't sentence criminals to a living death with a broken back.  
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
At Max Boldd's (AKA Vendetta) secret laboratory, we see that she's setting up a super-powered team consisting of failed Youngblood recruit BlackJak, the now constantly burning and super-powered version of Arson, and Tajana Juarez, who has been given super-powers by the alien technology in Boldd's lab and is now called Vortex.  Each of them has a grudge against ShadowHawk, but Boldd tells them that her intention isn't to destroy him, but to recruit him for the team.
 
Since the televised battle between ShadowHawk and The Dragon is going badly for the vigilante, Boldd take the opportunity to reveal her plans for him and orders BlackJak to deal with Dragon while Vortex and Arson rescue ShadowHawk.  The unexpected interruption of Boldd's team takes Dragon by surprise and they manage to grab ShadowHawk and take him to the safety of Boldd's headquarters.
 
Vendetta offers ShadowHawk a place on her team, but the vigilante continues to insist he's not a criminal.  Vendetta mocks his righteous stance and tells him he can either join up or she'll turn him over to the police so he can see just how much of a criminal he really is.  ShadowHawk doesn't like either option and makes his escape by jumping through a window.  Vendetta doesn't pursue him.
 
AND IN THE END. . .
 
We get two epilogues.  In the first, we see the Savage Dragon leaving New York, anxious to return to cleaning up Chicago, but with the NYPD grateful that he was at least able to narrow down ShadowHawk's identity to his being male.
 
In the second epilogue, we find ShadowHawk alone and wracked with doubt as he ponders his encounter with The Dragon and Vendetta. . .asking himself if he really IS a hero, or is he actually a villain?
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
ShadowHawk is sort of a strange series in that it's actually a set of connected mini-series. . .sort of like what Dark Horse did with Hellboy.  The next mini-series is called ShadowHawk II (3 issues), but actually connects directly to the ending of this one, so most comic collector sites just call ShadowHawk II #1 ShadowHawk #5 (And ShadowHawk III #1 as ShadowHawk #8).  It's this strange way of publishing ShadowHawk that makes this issue a pretty unsatisfying "ending" to the first ShadowHawk mini-series.
 
In addition to an ending that's actually more of a "to be continued", this issue also drops ShadowHawk into his first full-fledged crossover, with Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon.  Not that there's anything wrong with crossovers in general, but you can plainly see Image trying to drum up some reader interest in ShadowHawk with this one.  From what I've been able to find out about the series, it was a bit of an underdog in Image's initial push. . .not backed up by a red-hot artist, it wasn't doing as good as Image had though it would.  
 
What I'm trying to say is that the crossover with Savage Dragon is a pretty obvious sales tactic. It feels forced and ultimately inconsequential in the long run for either character.  Add in Vendetta's super-criminal team and whatever gritty street-level feel this comic had initially is pretty much gone by this issue.
 
That's not to say it's ALL bad.  I liked that we ended with the "hero" agonizing over whether or not he's actually a villain.  It's a pretty good hook to draw readers into the next ShadowHawk mini to find out how he discovers the hero inside. . .showing that the character isn't just a black and white Image version of armored Batman.  The ending of the story here makes me want to give the character another chance, despite the steady downward spiral of the writing through the four issues of this initial series.
 

Overall, the ending of this series is pretty disappointing in that it's not actually an ending at all.  The crossover with Savage Dragon feels like a forced and pretty obvious sales tactic, and the colorful supervillains have sapped the gritty street-level vigilante feel from the story entirely.  There are some good character moments at the end of it all that barely manage to save the story with the promise of interesting things to come.
 

CONCLUSION

 
When I finally decided to actually READ some of these ShadowHawk comics I've been picking up through the years, I had already decided that I was going to find an unreadable comic with excessive 90's art doing the heavy lifting for a story that didn't matter as long as the comic looked good.
 
What I found instead was a story that isn't great by any means, but is a pretty good introduction to a new character, backed up by art that has a bit of 90's flair, but not so much that it completely distracts from and overpowers the story.  So for that, ShadowHawk is actually pretty good.
 
Unfortunately, the story progressively weakens through only four issues. . .going from a violent, gritty, street-level vigilante story to a colorful mess of supervillains and forced crossovers, where the initial reader hook of "Who is ShadowHawk" was all but forgotten.
 
The strong point of ShadowHawk is definitely the art by Jim Valentino.  It's some very nice and solid superhero art that helps tell the story without trying to push its way to the front.  As a 90's Image superhero comic, I was pleasantly surprised to find the art holds up so well 30 years down the road when many other comics from the era are eye-bleeding jokes that didn't age well.
 
Overall, I can recommend ShadowHawk as a decent read.  It's definitely a relic of the 90's Image "We want to be Marvel!" era, but it has aged a little better than a lot of other comics from that time.  The issues aren't hard to find at all.  Like I said in the introduction, ShadowHawk is almost ubiquitous when it comes to bargain bins.  It's more unlikely to NOT find an issue of ShadowHawk in a dollar box.
 
Up Next. . .
 
How about a Longbox Junk retro review?
 
Let's jump into the paper time machine and crank that dial backwards!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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