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Longbox Junk Retro Review Conan The Barbarian #158 (1984)

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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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

CONAN THE BARBARIAN

#158

Marvel (1984)

 

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

CONCLUSION

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

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Longbox Junk - Justice #1

115 views • 13 days ago • (0) Comments

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

JUSTICE #1

Marvel - New Universe (1986)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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Longbox Junk - WildC.A.T.s #1

152 views • 22 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!
 
October has passed and here we are in November already!  I didn't get quite as many entries for the 2021 Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party in as I would have liked to, but I still had a lot of fun spotlighting some of the new horror comics on the stands.
 
But now it's time to get back into the bargain bins!  
 
Before getting into Halloween mode, I was taking a look at some of the comics that you're practically guaranteed to find in just about any bargain bin you might happen to be digging through.  Let's continue on with that, shall we?  We shall!
 
The comic at hand is the first issue of another one of Image's early "We wanna be Marvel!" series.  Actually, it's from one of their FIRST series that they put out, and one of the original "hot" titles that grabbed public attention and pretty much got the ball rolling for Image in their early years.  
 
WildC.A.T.s was founding Image partner and superstar artist Jim Lee's first creator owned project, and when it hit the stands it was HUGE.  A quick bit of internet research tells me that wholesale sales to retailers for this first issue were right up there at about ONE MILLION COPIES!  
 
So there were a LOT of copies of the early issues of this series sold, which is why you can reliably find them in just about any bargain bin you might be Longbox Junkin' and cheap comic spelunkin' in.  But now the question becomes: Is this ubiquitous relic of the 90's comic boom any good?  
 
Let's find out!

WILDC.A.T.S: 

COVERT ACTION TEAMS #1

Image (1992)

 
 
RESURRECTION DAY
 
SCRIPT: Jim Lee & Brandon Choi
PENCILS: Jim Lee
INKS: Scott Williams
COVER: Jim Lee & Scott Williams
 
THE COVER:
 
It's a little busy in that special 90's-tastic way, but I like it!  The bright colors pop, it's nicely drawn, and it really catches the eye.  It's just a good, classic team hero pose cover.  Nothing spectacular, but it's definitely worthy of a turn up on the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work now and then. . .but now that I think of it,  Zealot's outfit IS a little too skimpy for the workplace, so probably not.  Still a solid cover, overall.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale with several flashback scenes as a mysterious woman seems to be travelling through time searching for someone. . .
 
 
We follow her to the 1990's, where she rescues a homeless man named Jacob Marlowe from an attack.  We learn that she calls herself Void and that Marlowe is actually "Lord Emp", one of the four Lords of Power, belonging to an alien race known as the Kherubim, and the Champion of Mankind!  She tells him that she's been sent to find him in order to prepare for a coming war.
 

Flashing forward a few years and find that the formerly homeless Marlowe is now a multi-billionaire at the head of the international Halo Corporation.  He seems to be reluctant to accept his role as hero and champion of the human race in an upcoming war, but Void insists that preparations continue to be made. . .
 

To prepare for the upcoming battle, Marlowe and Void have been gathering a group of "gifted" warriors with superhuman abilities.  We are introduced to several of them, including team leader "Spartan", a highly-advanced android almost indistinguishable from a human, "Warblade", a hybrid human/alien able to transform his body like liquid metal, and "Maul", another human/alien hybrid able to increase and decrease his body mass, with his intelligence going down as his mass goes up, and likewise his intelligence increasing as he becomes smaller.
 
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
Moving away from Marlowe and his team, we look in on their opposition, the Cabal.  Led by an alien being known as Helspont (a member of a race called Daemonites) and based aboard a gigantic hidden submarine, they are also gathering warriors for the upcoming battle.   They have discovered a new "gifted" being and are determined to get to her first before their Kherubim enemies. . .
 

ELSEWHERE. . .
 
We follow a mysterious man into a strip club, where a dancer is attacked by a group of men who are revealed to actually be alien Daemonites when we learn that the dancer, "Voodoo" can see them for who they truly are.  
 

 
 
 
Luckily for her, the mysterious man we were following at first turns out to be a Kherubim agent. Called "Grifter", he is a supernaturally-gifted marksman and hand to hand fighter.  He's there to find Voodoo, but his partner is nowhere to be found.  He leaps into the battle as the Daemonites drop their disguises and begin killing everyone in sight!
 

As the battle continues and casualties mount, Marlowe sees news reports about what's happening.  He and his team move swiftly to the scene and join in the fight!
 

 
Even with the extra firepower, the Kherubim agents are faced with a brutal battle, but when Grifter's missing partner, the warrior known as "Sister Zealot", a highly-skilled Kherubim assassin/monk from a secret society known as the "Coda", finally arrives, the battle against the Daemonites is ended in short order.
 

After the battle, Zealot introduces herself to Marlowe and informs him that they are also Kherubim and have the same goals in protecting Voodoo.  Marlowe invites Zealot and Grifter to his Halo base so that they can further confer on what to do next.  But as they talk, a surviving Daemonite detonates an explosive, destroying the strip club!
 
At the end, with Voodoo and her Kherubim protectors seemingly dead, we see Helspont making plans with one his Daemonite agents. . .Vice President of the United States, Dan Quayle!  DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUNN!!
 

 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Allrighty, then. . .let's break it on down!
 
There are a few things that I expect the first issue of a comic series to provide.  A bare minimum bar of expectations that I don't think are too much to ask in return for considering giving a company my money for their comics on a monthly basis.  This series is long completed, but it's new to ME, so I hold it to the same standard as any other first issue.
 
FIRST. . .Does it introduce new characters and their situation in an easy to understand manner?  Weeeeeeell. . .sorta.  This isn't really a great introduction to these characters and what's happening.  It's not terrible, but things are just thrown at the reader one after the other with very little explanation.
 
In 2021, I have the advantage of going to Wikipedia and seeing that this story is about a  centuries-long war between two alien races, the Kherubim. . .a nearly immortal race that resemble humans and have a variety of exceptional powers and skills, and the Daemonites. . .a hideous-appearing race whose main powers are possession and mind control of other beings.  
 
Unfortunately for readers in 1992, the internet wasn't quite what it is today and the reader of this comic was sort of on their own to pick out the story between the lines.  It jumps around and it's kind of hard to see how the pieces fit together.
 
SECOND. . .Does it make me want to read the next issue?  Honestly, not really.  This first issue throws so much at the reader that it makes it kind of hard to become invested in any of it.  This comic came out at a time when a series could be driven by the art alone.  It looks like that was exactly what Image was banking on here, because truthfully, the story just isn't that interesting. 
 
Don't get me wrong, it's not a BAD story.  it's just sort of. . .there.  Serving as a framework for Jim Lee's art.  But once you get past the art, what you have is a pretty average story that is shamelessly an "edgy" mix of the X-Men and Avengers in that early Image "We want to be Marvel!" manner.  
 
So this is pretty much a comic built around the art, with the story as an afterthought.  Okay, fair enough, I guess.  So let's talk about the main attraction then.  Jim Lee is a modern comic legend for good reason, and you can see that reason in this comic.
 
Yeah, there's belts and buckles and pouches galore, in the most 90's-Tastic way.  Yeah, there's impossibly-built women in cheesecake poses meant to appeal to the lowest common male denominator.  But once you get past the 90's excess, you can see TRUE talent shining through on every page of this comic!  
 
Jim Lee gives these pages a feeling of motion and movement, full of detail and action that is definitely the signature look of one of the modern greats.  Where the story falls flat, the art is vibrant and exciting.  I can definitely see why this comic was such a huge hit when it came out.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
On the one hand, we have a story that's pretty average.  It doesn't quite reach the bare minimum first issue expectations of introducing new characters and situations in an easy to read and understand manner.  It also fails to hook me into wanting to read the next issue, with characters thrown so quickly into the mix that it's hard to get invested in what happens to any of them.
 
On the other hand, we have a fantastic example of some great art from one of the great modern artists, Jim Lee.  His pencils are dynamic, vibrant, and interesting once you get past some of the notorious 90's excesses.
 
Taken together, there's a comic worth reading here.  The story isn't ALL bad, and the art definitely hits some 90's low points here and there.  Overall, it adds up to a decent comic that is still pretty readable even almost 30 years down the road (1992 was almost THIRTY YEARS ago? , I feel old!)
 
If you're digging through a bargain bin, chances are you WILL spot one of these.  Go ahead, spend a buck and give it a read.  It's not the best 90's comic I've ever read, but it's far from the worst.
 
Up Next. . .
 
More of that sweet Longbox Junk that you're practically guaranteed to find!
 
How about we take a look at something from Marvel's New Universe?
DP7? Justice? Nightmask? Psi-Force? Star Brand?  I've got 'em ALL!
 
Decisions. . .decisions.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to the Longbox Junk 2021 Halloween Horror Party!

 
It's actually been pretty busy at work for this time of year, so I haven't been able to put out quite as many Halloween goodies as usual, but I think my spotlight on new horror comics has been a pretty good time.  
 
I really like the resurgence of horror comics we're having right now (now if only Western or War comics could follow suit, I'd be a happy man) and I hope it continues for a while, because there's some good stuff out there for horror fans.
 
The comic at hand seems to have been one of the catalysts for the new horror comic trend.  It came out toward the end of 2019 and IMMEDIATELY exploded in popularity. . .as well as back issue "value" for what that's worth.  And when I say the back issues are a bit pricey, I mean that (according to the fine folk at COMIC BOOK REALM) the EIGHTH PRINT (AKA the cheapest print) of the first issue is "valued" at about Twenty Bucks.  Earlier prints and variants are topping a hundred bucks!   
 
In other words, this comic ain't Amazing Fantasy #15, but it sure ain't Longbox Junk either.  
 
But lucky for me, I bought the first issue when it came out, not because of any hype, but because I like to support smaller publishers like BOOM! Studios and always have a few comics that aren't from "The Big Two" on my pull list.  I don't go hunting "hot" comics, but sometimes I get lucky, I guess.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
It wasn't long after this comic came out that I started to notice more and more new horror comics on the stands, so thank you BOOM! Studios for being the spark.  Now can you do the same for Western comics, please?
 
SO. . .
 
What we have here is the first issue of what's probably THE hottest new horror comic out there.  Now the question becomes:  Is the hype deserved?  Is it any good? Let's find out!
 
SPOILER ALERT!  This series is still extremely popular and ongoing (Issue 20 out as of this review), so even though the story has gone through several arcs already, I'll keep the spoilers to a minimum.  If you want NO spoilers, just scroll on down to the "Conclusion" for my spoiler-free take.  END SPOILER ALERT.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #1

BOOM! Studios (2019)

 

THE ANGEL OF ARCHER'S PEAK PART ONE
 
SCRIPT: James Tynion IV
PENCILS: Werther Dell'Edera
INKS: Werther Dell'Edera
COVER: Werther Dell'Edera
 
THE COVER:
 
It's not a bad cover, but the title takes up WAY too much space for some reason.  The figure at the bottom seems almost like an afterthought.  I like the creepy eyes peering out of the forest, but truthfully this cover seems to have a lot of wasted space.  I guess they ALL can't be winners.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
The children of the town of Archer's Peak have been going missing for weeks, those that are found have been ripped to pieces. After an outcast boy named James' friends are slaughtered in the woods by an unknown assailant, he tells the police that he saw a horrific creature killing them, but nobody believes him.  
 
Not long after, a mysterious stranger arrives in town. . .a young blonde girl.  She tells James that she believes him, and that she's here to kill the monster.  James asks if he can help.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
The question at the beginning of this review was whether or not this is worth the hype.  My honest answer is no.  I can't figure out WHY this comic is so "hot" and the back issues are so "valuable".  I bought the first three issues before I took this off my pull (3 is my "Buy or Die" criteria for new series.  If they can't hook me in 3 then I'm moving to something else) because the story just didn't grab me.  I really don't see what makes this series so popular.
 
The story is okay, but not much more than that.  It's not BAD, it's just that the dialogue seems forced.  Normally Tynion is a solid writer.  I really liked his run on Detective Comics, and his writing made me like that title better than DC's tentpole Batman series.  Unfortunately this isn't his best work, in my extremely humble opinion.  The conversations have a stilted feel to them, and seem to be geared more toward exposition than character development.
 
The framework the story hangs on. . .something is killing the children and someone arrives to help. . .is a simple one, but the stilted, wordy conversations make something simple seem contrived and complicated.  This is NOT a complicated story.  This unnecessary complication of simplicity becomes worse going forward into the next couple of issues.
 
As far as the art goes. . .
 
Also disappointing.  Some great art might have gone a long way toward evening out the lackluster writing.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem there was much effort put into it.  Like the story, the art isn't BAD, it just could be a lot better. 
 
It's pretty sketchy throughout the issue, and looks somewhat unfinished in places.  The main focus of the artist seems to be on the giant anime-style eyes of the mysterious monster hunter.  Otherwise, the art tells the story, but doesn't strive to do much more than that.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, this first issue of "Something is killing the children" is disappointing.  The writer takes a simple idea and tries to make it mysterious and complicated through wordy, stilted dialogue full of exposition. . .but at the same time, answering no questions.  It's backed up by sketchy art with a strange focus on one character's eyes.  
 
This story isn't BAD, but it's certainly not as great as one would think, based on all the glowing reviews and back issue "value".  I would definitely call this one overrated.  If you want to check it out without shelling out a paycheck worth of cash on overpriced back issues, it's been collected.  Don't say I didn't warn you, though.  Despite the popularity of this series, I can't really recommend it.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I'm not sure I can get any more Halloween fun in, since I'm pretty busy at work, but I'll try.  Not sure what, though.  I guess if I can get another one in, I'll just have to surprise myself.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to the Longbox Junk 2021 Halloween Horror Party!

 
It's the last week of October.  There's spirits in the air and not long until Halloween, but there's still time enough for a look at some more of the spooky stuff lurking in the dark corners of my comic book collection! 
 
This year, I've departed a bit from the bargain bin to spotlight some of the NEW horror to be found in your local comic shop.  Nothing older than 2019.  So far it's been a pretty good haul of Halloween goodies!  I'm really liking this new resurgence of horror comics we're experiencing right now.
 
So let's keep the party going with a bit of gothic horror, shall we?  
 
We shall! 

DAPHNE BYRNE #1

DC BLACK LABEL (2020)

 
 
CHAPTER ONE - CHOSEN
 
SCRIPT: Laura Marks
PENCILS: Kelley Jones
INKS: Kelley Jones
COVER: Piotr Jablonski
 
THE COVER:
 
I like the drab, sort of grim nature of this cover.  It's detailed enough that it looks almost like a creepy old time photograph.  It certainly advertises the gothic horror this series well, but honestly, there's not much here to grab attention beyond the tiny splash of color in the staring eye of the supernatural being in the background.  Not a bad cover, but I wouldn't call it great either.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
In 19th century New York City, Daphne Byrne is fourteen years old and having trouble fitting in with the other girls at school, being of a scientific mind and also dealing with the recent death of her beloved father.  
 
A supernatural chain of events is set into motion after being invited by her mother to a seance, attempting to contact the spirit of the deceased patriarch of the Byrne family.  During the seance, Daphne uses trick questions to prove that the medium is a fake, upsetting her mother.
 
Despite the fakery of the medium, Daphne did indeed feel a supernatural presence, which later manifests itself as a horrific nightmare where she is led into a realm of demonic beings by a spirit claiming to be her friend.  When Daphne wakes up, she is certain that it wasn't just a dream!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This introduction to this tale of gothic horror and the supernatural is a fantastic start!  It features well-drawn characters slowly being pulled into a world of darkness and it immediately captured my imagination like a good horror story should.   The whole setup is intriguing and leaves me wanting to jump right into the next issue to see what happens next.  
 
The faded Victorian setting is as much a character as any other, and provides the perfect background for this grim tale. . .the world of an industrial revolution sharing the human stage with a prevalent belief in spiritualism and mystic forces is an inspired choice of setting.
 
As far as the art goes. . .
 
In my extremely humble opinion, Kelley Jones is a living legend when it comes to comic horror art.  I haven't seen much of his work lately, so it was a VERY nice surprise to see that he's still out there doing what he does best.  I'm a little iffy on most of Jones' non-horror work (the man CANNOT draw automobiles), but when it comes to a story like this, he was the perfect choice of artist.  His dark and nightmarish art style beautifully compliments the gothic grimness of the narrative.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
DC's Black Label serves up another horror hit!  With well-written characters inhabiting a world on the edge of conflict between the industrial revolution and belief in the paranormal, this gaslight gothic tale of the supernatural is a great Halloween read!
 
Throw in the twisted, nightmarish art of comic horror master Kelley Jones and this is a comic I can heartily recommend to any horror fan!  From page one to page done, this one's a winner!
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's probably THE hottest horror title on the shelves right now.  The "value" of the first handful of issues has gone through the roof, so this one ain't exactly what you'd call Longbox Junk.  I'm talking about BOOM! Studios' horror hit "Something is Killing the Children".
 
Let's take a look at the first issue and see if it lives up to the hype.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to the 2021 Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party!

 
Ah. . .Halloween.  I love it!

It's that one special time of year when Wal-Mart shamelessly displays "Naughty Nurse" outfits that would usually only be found in somewhat sketchy stores on the outskirts of town. . .and one aisle over it's a winter wonderland of  pre-lit plastic Christmas trees in every color of the rainbow!

To which I can only quote Will 'Wicky, Wicky, Wild Wild West' Smith and say: "Welcome to Earth!"
 
And on THAT note, let's get some aliens in here!
 
SPOILER ALERT! This series has been completed, but it's still pretty new, so I'm going to keep the spoilers to a minimum, if you want NO spoilers, just scroll on down to the "Conclusion" for my spoiler-free opinion.  END SPOILER ALERT!

CONSPIRACY: AREA 51

Zenescope Entertainment (2020)

 
SCRIPT: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, Hans Rodionoff, Adam Goldberg
PENCILS: Allan Otero
COVER: Leonardo Colapietro
 
THE COVER:
 
I like it!  It's creepy, nicely painted, and the colors are vaguely unsettling.  It makes me want to buy this comic and see what the story is about. Certainly not what I would expect from Zenescope, who have carved out a niche as the company with 20 variant covers for every issue they put out, each with a different scantily-clad woman on it.  I didn't even realize this WAS a Zenescope comic until I started writing this review!  Extra points for that.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
In the aftermath of the failed "Storm Area 51" viral Facebook event of 2019, three friends manage to obtain high level clearance badges to access the secret base through an army friend who works as one of the gate guards.
 
As the three infiltrate Area 51 using their assumed identities and stolen access badges, they are at first amazed to discover a hanger full of extraterrestrial spacecraft, and then horrified as they delve deeper and find scientists dissecting live humans in a secret laboratory and tanks with what appear to be growing clones inside.
 
As they try to escape the base, they find and free a man being held prisoner in a medical wing of the laboratory, as the confused man runs for his life, the three friends are gunned down by Area 51 guards.
 
As the three friends are killed, the man they freed makes his way to an office and manages to get a call through to his house, where a man answers the phone and informs the escaped prisoner that he can't be who he says he is because that's who is speaking.  As the terrified and confused prisoner listens to himself on the phone, he too is killed by an Area 51 guard.
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
A pretty good story!  Lots of potential here, and it makes me really want to hunt down the rest of the issues (5 issues in a regular series and 5 connected one-shots like this one) to get the whole story.
 
But I'll tell you what I REALLY like about this one.  As I mentioned in my look at the cover above, I didn't even realize this was a Zenescope comic until I sat down to write this review. . .and that's a GOOD thing!  
 
I've never been very impressed with Zenescope as a publisher.  They seem to have carved out a niche for themselves (a pretty successful one, from what I've seen) as the company with comics about sexy girls.  They're the sort of comics that give comics a bad name, and not really the sort of thing you want to admit you're a fan of.  I've never reviewed a Zenescope comic that I've liked yet.  They just seem to reach down to the lowest common young male denominator.  
 
BUT. . .
 
This is a well-written story that hooked me in and made me want more. . .with nary a T or A to be found!  I would have never thought I'd read a Zenoscope comic that didn't deal in their usual puerile stock in trade, or that I would actually enjoy it so much!  Is Zenescope beginning to grow up a little and step outside the profitable box they created for themselves?  That remains to be seen, but THIS is a pretty decent little story!
 
As far as the art goes, it's serviceable.  It tells the story, but doesn't try much harder than that.  Pretty much par for the course with Zenescope.  An eye candy cover with minimum effort inside.  The art isn't BAD. . .it just doesn't try that hard to be anything more than "pretty good".
 

CONCLUSION

 
Conspiracy: Area 51 is a creepy story that makes me want to read more.  It blends in conspiracy theory, current events, and mind-bending twists into a narrative that is sure to please anyone interested in possible Government/ Extraterrestrial connections.  The art is serviceable, but not bad.  It tells the story, but doesn't try to go above and beyond that minimum requirement.
 
Perhaps the BEST thing about this comic is that it's a Zenescope comic that you can actually read without hiding the cover.  Hopefully this is a trend that Zenescope will continue to follow!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Keepin' the Longbox Junk Halloween Party going with a trip back to 19th Century New York City and the spooky tale of a young woman beset by paranormal forces!  It's DC/Black Label's "Daphne Byrne" #1.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk Halloween - Piecemeal

144 views • 6 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to the Longbox Junk 2021 Halloween Horror Party!
 
It's that time of year again!  That's right, 'tis the season to go to Wal-Mart and buy Halloween candy while listening to Christmas music on the overhead speakers as you shop! FA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!
 
But here at Longbox Junk, we know that Halloween is for HORROR!  So I'm taking the opportunity to shine the spotlight on some new horror comics that have come out in the past couple of years.  Up next is a thick one-shot from Aftershock Comics that asks the question. . .what happens when five kids find a human brain in a jar?  Ready to find out?
 
Let's do it!
 
SPOILER ALERT!  This comic has been out for a while, but it's still pretty new, so I'll keep spoilers to a minimum.  If you want NO spoilers, then scroll on down to the "Conclusion". END SPOILER ALERT.
 

PIECEMEAL

Aftershock Comics (2020)

 
SCRIPT: Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Szymon Kudranski
INKS: Szymon Kudranski
COVER: Szymon Kudranski
 
THE COVER:
 
I really like this one!  Now HERE'S a nicely-done horror comic cover.  The colors really catch the eye, with the strange purples, and pinks perfectly complimenting the deep shadows.  The composition of the kids standing around a jar with a brain in it just makes me want to buy this comic and see what the heck is going on!  All around a great cover.  One of the best I've seen for this little Halloween Horror Party.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
Our story takes place in 1989. . .
 
Five kids, all about to graduate high school and follow their own separate paths, are having one last party together in the local haunted house.  The bittersweet occasion is interrupted when one of them finds a human brain in a jar!  
 
One of them (the main character, named Jamie) heads back alone to the house in the middle of the night to retrieve the jar.  As the days go by, Jamie begins to have horrific visions of death and black magic.  
 
His senile grandfather finds the jar and tells Jamie that the brain belongs to an old friend of his.  Not long after, Jamie's friends begin to violently die one by one.  Jamie is convinced that his visions and his grandfather's stories are true.
 
Eventually piecing things together, Jamie learns that a serial killer discovered a way to return from the dead through an unspeakable ritual, and that he has been luring kids to the haunted house for decades, feeding off them in order to be reborn, piece by piece.  
 
Determined to stop the deaths, Jamie and his one remaining friend return to the house and confront the reborn serial killer, who is a disgusting, half-formed creature.  After a desperate battle, they manage to destroy him.  In the end, Jamie now knows that there are strange things lurking in the shadows of the normal world around him.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay. . .not a bad little story at all.  It's definitely derivative of Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" (or Hellbound Heart, the book the movie was based on) with a corrupt soul calling on the powers of darkness to be reborn after death, but coming back piece by piece and needing more and more blood to properly form his body.  The only thing missing is the Cenobites.  There's also a fairly strong whiff of "Stranger Things" in the nostalgic framework of five friends growing up and growing apart in the late 80's.
 
That said, the story is interesting and well-written.  The derivative nature of the story is softened by the way the writer makes it his own, making it feel more like a homage than a copycat as things go on.  Eventually, I was able to put aside the comparisons to other work and enjoy this creepy tale for what it is.
 
As far as the art goes, here we have the REAL star of the show.  It's dark and heavily-shadowed, almost monochromatic, but shaded with a strange mix of pink and purple.  The bright colors don't feel like they SHOULD work, but they do.  The unusual color choices give this whole comic a unique look that really captures both the eye and the imagination.  
 
I didn't recognize the artist at first, but a bit of research showed me that he was also responsible for the dark neo-noir look of DC's Penguin: Pain and Prejudice mini-series that I also really enjoyed, as well as the most recent (and excellent) run of Marvel's Punisher.  I'll definitely keep my eye out for more work from Szymon Kudranski!
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, a very nice horror one shot!  The story IS pretty derivative of Clive Barker's Hellraiser, but leaves aside the psycho-sexual elements in favor of mixing in some Stranger Things late 80's nostalgia instead.  Thankfully, despite the obvious influences, the writer is able to make it enough of his own story to keep it from being a blatant copycat.
 
The art is where this comic really shines.  It's dark and nightmarish, shaded with pinks and purples that shouldn't work, but do.  This comic has a unique look to it that is very interesting and makes me want to find more of the artist's work.
 
I can definitely recommend this one to anyone looking for a creepy (if somewhat derivative) horror story with some excellent and unusual art.  I give Piecemeal the Longbox Junk gold seal of approval!
 
Up Next. . .
 
What's a Halloween Horror Party without some aliens?  Let's head on over to Area 51 and see if we can get to the bottom of what's REALLY going on, shall we?  We shall!  
 
It's Zenoscope's Conspiracy: Area 51.
 
Be there or be square!
 

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Welcome to the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party!

 
It's October!  It's that special season where the vegetable nobody cares about any other time of year suddenly costs three bucks a pound.  But here at Longbox Junk, we aren't carving pumpkins, we're reviewing comic books!
 
This year, I decided to go trick or treating down a different street than usual by spotlighting some NEW horror comics that are out on the shelves right now (or were, pretty recently).  We started the party off strong with a couple of very nice treats. . .but then we started to go downhill a bit when we came across a couple of pieces of candy corn.
 
So what will we get this time?  Let's find out!
 
SPOILER ALERT!  This series is finished at this time.  But since it's also pretty new, I'll keep the spoilers to a minimum. If you don't want ANY spoilers just scroll down to the "Conclusion".  END SPOILER ALERT

SEA OF SORROWS #1

IDW (2020)

 

 
SCRIPT: Rich Douek
PENCILS: Alex Cormack
INKS: Alex Cormack
COVER: Alex Cormack
 
THE COVER:
 
I'm sort of a sucker for a monochromatic background on a comic cover, and the bold darkness of this one does catch the eye.  BUT. . .I think it might be just a little TOO stark.  It's well done, but there's a lot of empty space and barely a bit of color for variety.  I know it's supposed to evoke the darkness of the ocean depths, and it does that very well, but there's really not much else to it. Let's see what's inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
Our story takes place off the coast of Newfoundland, 1926.  A former German naval officer hires the SS Vagabond and her somewhat unsavory crew to go in search of a sunken U-Boat rumored to have been carrying a cargo of German gold at the end of the war.
 
On board the Vagabond, tensions mount between the crew of the ship and their employer's partners.  Danger and double-crosses are in the air as the two groups plot against each other.  
 
Below, in the darkness on the ocean floor, the salvage team's deep sea diver discovers the wrecked submarine and confirms the valuable cargo in the hold. . .but he also encounters a strange creature that seems to be watching him!
 
The crews celebrate as the diver brings up a gold bar as proof that their hunt is successful, but as the party continues into the night, we learn that there's more to the naval officer than what we think, as he begins to tell the diver the strange tale of how the U-Boat was sunk. . .
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
All right. . .not bad.  Not bad at all!  This comic hits the sweet spot that I expect a first issue to hit. . .it makes me want to read the next issue.  The story is more of a pulp adventure tale with some horror elements, but that's fine. 
 
I like the character-driven slow burn introduction, the feeling like each character has their own agenda.  I like the post-WWI era setting a lot.  It's a great choice for a pulpy horror story like this!  And then there's the ending, with the grizzled naval veteran beginning to drunkenly regale the diver (an army veteran who served a nightmarish tour in the trenches) with the REAL story.  It hooked me into the next issue in a big way!
 
The art on this story is nothing short of amazing!  The artist not only portrays the scheming expedition members as flawed individuals that are easily distinguished from each other, but he also perfectly embodies the darkness and isolation deep under the sea.  His style was a great choice for this early 20th century pulp/horror tale!
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
I was getting a little worried after hitting two clunkers in a row, but Sea of Sorrows came to the rescue with a pulp adventure/horror story that delivers some great character work and a narrative that hooked me into immediately wanting to read the next issue.  The art perfectly evokes the post-WWI setting above the waves, as well as the darkness and isolation at the bottom of the sea.
 
Overall, this one's a winner!  If you're interested in some good pulpy horror, then definitely take a look at Sea of Sorrows.
Up Next. . .
 
What happens when five kids find a human brain in a jar?  Let's find out!
It's "Piecemeal" from Aftershock Comics. . .
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk Halloween - Hotell #1

163 views • 7 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to the Longbox Junk 2021 Halloween Horror party!  It's that special time of the year when I feel the need to do my civic duty and remind the larger ladies out there that just because there IS a skintight sexy kitty costume, that skintight sexy kitty costume might not be for YOU.  Just sayin'.  

 
This year I've been shining the spotlight on some fresh NEW horror comics out there that you can still find on the stands.  Comics ain't cheap these days.  I tell you true, this hobby gets more expensive all the time.  If you're going to have to shell out four bucks for a single floppy issue, it might be nice to get an idea of what's inside.  You didn't ask me to do this, but you're welcome anyway!
 
So without further ado (wait. . .did we have any ado to start with?) let's get into the next Halloween Horror Party offering.  It's the first issue in a new horror anthology based around the strange events taking place in the rooms of a mysterious roadside hotel.  Ready?  Let's do it!
 
SPOILER ALERT! This series IS finished, but it's still on the stands, so if you don't want any spoilers, just scroll on down to the "Conclusion".  END SPOILER ALERT!

HOTELL #1

AWA/ Upshot (2020)

 

SCRIPT: John Lees
PENCILS: Dalibor Talajic
INKS: Dalibor Talajic
COVER: Kaare Andrews
 
THE COVER:
 
It's interesting, I'll give it that.  Offering glimpses into the windows of the mysterious hotel (and possibly into the stories of the four issues), this cover draws me in, but it's not the sort of thing I'd want to showcase on the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We follow a woman named Alice, pregnant and on the run from her abusive husband, as she discovers the mysterious Pierrot Courts Motel and checks in for a night of much-needed rest.  
 
She begins to have increasingly strange dreams about her unborn baby, and finds herself drained of energy and unable to leave the motel as several days go by.
 
At the end of the story, she comes to realize the creature she's been dreaming about isn't her baby, but a vampiric being, leading into an ending so confusing that I can't even figure out what the heck was going on. . .something about an eclipse and an explosion and her abusive husband taking the monster from her.  I don't even know.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This story started off very strong.  An interesting neo-noir horror story about a woman trying to escape a monster and finding herself fighting another one.  It's well-written and a real page turner.
 
Until the end.
 
The final two pages of this story swing SO far away from the tight, gripping story told in the rest of this comic, that they are almost incomprehensible.  The final events taking place have absolutely no explanation as to what is actually going on.  The ending basically ruins the story, which is a shame because the rest of it is really good!
 
The art in this comic is perfectly-suited to tell the story at hand.  It reminds me a lot of the dark lines and thick inks of Eduardo Risso. . .and that's a good thing!  The great facial expressions are what's needed for a noir (ish) story of an escape from abuse gone wrong.  Too bad the great art is in service to a story that goes flying off the rails in the end.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, this is a story that starts strong and ends up flying off the rails into an extremely obtuse ending.  It's well-written and the art is really very nice, but I can't recommend this comic. It's a shame because I like to try and spotlight some of the lesser-known publishers from time to time.  They deserve a decent chance to get their stories read just as much as the big boys.  Unfortunately, this isn't a story that puts Upshot Comics in a very good light.  With so many other great new horror comics out there for your money, I'd say give this one a pass.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's keep the Halloween Horror Party going with a trip under the sea in search of gold aboard a sunken German U-Boat.  Does it go wrong?  It's a horror comic! Of COURSE it goes wrong!  
 
It's the first issue of IDW's 2020 undersea horror story, Sea of Sorrows.
 
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party!  It's that special time of year when I wonder just HOW many things can be Pumpkin Spice.  Every year, I'm somehow surprised to realize the answer is: Almost EVERY thing can be Pumpkin Spice.

 
I've decided to spotlight some NEW horror comics out there for the 2021 Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party, and so far, I think there's been some pretty good stuff.  A little bit of slow burn mystery.  A little bit of hard rockin' horror.  For my third offering, I present a tie-in comic to a very popular horror movie franchise. . .The Conjuring.
 
The Conjuring "Universe" consists of 3 main movies and 5 prequels, with 2 more movies announced as still coming down the pipeline, for a total of EIGHT existing movies that I haven't seen.  Yep.  I'm going to review a comic book tie in to a series of movies I haven't seen a single one of.  Wish me luck!
 
Not that it means much to me, but this comic ties in to the most recent movie in the franchise (released in June of this year), The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, for those who are keeping track. 
 
To me, it seems strange to have a prequel comic series running 5 months (The final issue coming in November) after the movie came out. You'd THINK the prequel would come out BEFORE the movie. . .as suggested by the word "prequel".  But I'm not the one in charge of these things, so there's that, I guess.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Ready?  Let's do this!
 
SPOILER ALERT!  This series is still ongoing (Currently on issue 4 out of 5), so I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but there will be some spoilers in this review.  If you don't want ANY spoilers, just skip on down to the "Conclusion".  END SPOILER ALERT.

DC HORROR PRESENTS:

THE CONJURING: THE LOVER #1

DC (2021)

 
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
 
THE COVER:
 
Bill Sienkiewicz delivers a dark and disquieting piece of art in his signature style that really grabs the eye (This cover is why I picked up this series at all).  The shades of black, white, and grey give this cover the look of a creepy old photograph.  All around a predictably great job from one of the living legends of comic art.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
We get TWO stories in this issue for our four bucks!  The first is the movie tie in.  The second is a series of standalone stories set in the same "universe", but only loosely connected to it by being about various items in an arcane museum.  Let's look at each one in turn!
 
THE LOVER (PART 1)
 
SCRIPT:  David L. Johnson-McGoldrick & Rex Ogle
PENCILS: Garry Brown
INKS: Garry Brown
 
It's 1981 and Jessica is returning to college after having a bit of a nervous breakdown during the last semester.  Jessica suffers from severe social anxiety, is struggling to cope with the stress of an unsympathetic mother, and has a former one night stand trying to get back together with her.
 
As Jessica tries to navigate her fears and insecurities, she begins to feel that she's being watched and followed by a sinister, unseen presence that only she can feel.  But is it real, or just part of her struggle with mental problems? As the story progresses, we (the readers) see that Jessica is indeed being stalked by some sort of terrifying being.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I have no idea how this comic connects with "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" film, so I just have to say it as I see it.  It's. . .okay.  This story rides down the middle line of being neither great or terrible.  It's pretty good.  
 
It's creepy in a few places. . .like the silent series of panels below where Jessica is studying in the library and the unseen presence slowly makes itself known to the reader, but not her. . .but overall, this introductory issue just didn't have the horror hook that makes me want to read the next issue like the previous two entries I've done for this little Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party.
 
The art does a good job of helping tell the story.  Not the best comic art I've seen, but dark and heavily-inked. . .scratchy and ambiguous.  It definitely helps sell what creep factor there is to the story.
Overall, this isn't bad.  It's just not good enough to hold my interest.  Maybe if you're a fan of the movies and can see the connections, you might get more mileage out of this than I did.
 
NEXT!
 
TALES FROM THE ARTIFACT ROOM:
THE FERRYMAN
 
SCRIPT: Scott Snyder
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Denys Cowan
 
After stealing a coin from a dead woman's mouth meant for the Ferryman of the dead on a dare as a child, a man spends his life looking for the coin as those he loves keep dying horrible deaths.
 
On a stormy night, he finally comes within reach of his goal. . .but in a terrifying twist, he discovers that a curse can't be ended so easily.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
There's not much to this short little tale, but it's got a decent "Gotcha" ending.  It really reminds me of the short stories that used to fill the horror anthologies of the past, so for that, I give it extra points.  This story would be right at home in "Unexpected" or "Chamber of Chills".
 

Once again, I'm not able to see the connections between this and the movies, so fans of the Conjuring movies might get a little more out of this than I did, but all in all it's a decent little throwback to the horror anthologies of days gone by.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, this is a comic that is just "okay".  The stories aren't bad. . .but they aren't particularly great or memorable in any way.  The main story that ties into the most recent Conjuring movie is a decent enough introduction with a few creepy moments (to be fair, mostly coming by way of the art), but it's just not interesting enough to hook me into the next issue.
 
The shorter backup story is a nice little throwback to the "Gotcha" ending horror anthology stories of the past, so I enjoyed it more for nostalgia's sake than anything else.
 
Never having seen the Conjuring movies, I couldn't see the connections in either story, which might have dropped my opinion down a notch or two compared to someone who might know more about the Conjuring "Universe", so based on my own humble opinion, I can't really recommend this series with so many other great new horror comics out there. . .BUT, if you're a Conjuring fan, you might get more out of this, so go ahead and give it a look.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's keep the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party going with a tale of the strange things happening at a roadside hotel in the middle of nowhere.  It's Upshot Comic's "Hotell"!
 
Be there or be square.

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