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Longbox Junk Elfquest #1

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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, the place to find more comic reviews you never asked for than you could ever ask for! Read it again. . .it DOES make sense!
 
Recently, I've thrown out a few reviews of comics that are the bread-and-butter bargain box fillers. . .and there WILL be more to come.  But right now, it's flea market and yard sale season here in Utah and I've been having a pretty good run of luck finding some great older comics.
 
And so, I got to thinking. . .
 
If comics from Malibu, Image, Marvel's New Universe, and the like are some of the comics you're practically guaranteed to find while Longbox Junkin' through the cheap bins at your local comic shop. . .what are some of the comics you're most likely to find at the flea market, or at an estate sale, or at an antique/junk store?  In other words, what is the "Longbox Junk" of comics found OUTSIDE of the comic shop?
 
Three words: Dell Four Color
 
Dell's Four Color comics have to be THE most common comics I've come across outside of comic shops.  The series ran from 1939 to 1962, for an astounding 1354 issues. . .the record for the most issues produced of an American comic book.  Four Color hit 1000 issues LONG before Action Comics managed to get to that milestone.  Not bad for a series that didn't have any regular characters or continuity!
 
Four Color isn't so much a "series" as it is a vast collection of one-shots.  Each one can be read on its own, in any order.  They cover a VERY wide range of subjects. . .heavy on licensed properties popular at the time, and Disney properties in particular.  You can find anything from westerns to detective stories, to funny animals, to adaptations of movies and novels. . .and everything in between!  
 
And, like I said above, the great thing about Four Color comics are that they are easy to find in the wild.  I have about FIFTY of them in my collection!  Even better than the relative ease of finding them is the rock bottom prices most of them are sold at.  I see some pretty high "values" in online price guides for Four Color comics. . .but I've never paid more than twenty bucks for one.   
 
What I'm trying to say is that if you're Longbox Junkin' out in the wild outside the comic shop, you WILL find Four Color comics, and you WILL be able to afford issues going back into the Golden Age of comics.  Perfect example: The issue at hand is from 1958, in decent condition, and I bought it at a flea market for FIVE BUCKS.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Let's strap into the Longbox Junk time machine and take a trip back to 1958, when westerns were king and comics cost a dime!  Ready? LET'S DO THIS!
 
 

FOUR COLOR #942

TALES OF THE PONY EXPRESS

DELL (1958)

 
 
COVER: Sam Savitt
 
THE COVER:
 
I'll tell you true, folks.  To ME, that cover alone is worth the five bucks I paid for this comic!  Just look at it! It's FULL of motion, action, and detail!  This stunning painting of a Pony Express rider running for his life from a band of pursuing Indians isn't just a great comic cover, it's a great piece of western art, period.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Plenty of Western action in here for your one thin dime! Two full-length comic adventures, along with two one pagers on the inside front and back covers.  You can't buy THAT for four bucks these days!
 
Let's check out each one in their own turn, shall we?  WE SHALL!
 
ALERT FOR WAR PAINT 
(Inside Front Cover)
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Nicholas Firfires
 
Basically a short little lesson in the meaning of various Native American war paints.  It's actually pretty  interesting, but there's not much more here than an appetizer.  The whole thing is scanned below.
 
 
NEXT!

 
WAR PAINT
 
SCRIPT: Eric Friewald & Robert Schaefer
PENCILS: Nicholas Firfires
 
THE STORY:
 
Pony Express rider Craig Garrett is given the task of buying new horses for the Express, as well as being trusted with the $5000 in government gold allocated for the purpose.  Little does he know that word of the gold being held at an isolated Express station has gotten out and a band of outlaws have attacked and stolen the funds, making it look like it was an Indian attack!
 
 
Garrett isn't convinced that Indians were behind the attack, though.  He follows clues and believes he's found proof, but must keep on the trail and prove his theory before the army mobilizes against the Indians and it's full-on war!  
 
He and another express rider follow clues to the town of Liberty Junction, but lose the trail.  Garrett discovers that a man named Miller had been talking about the Express Station attack before it happened, and Garrett is back on the trail!  
 
The two Express riders head to Indian Land outside of town after hearing that Miller is a friend of the local tribe. They don't receive a warm welcome, but Garrett convinces the warriors that confront them  that he's there to prevent a war and needs to see their Chief. . .
 
 
The tribe's Chief is doubtful that a friend of the tribe like Miller would use them to hide such a crime as murder and theft, and even to try and pin the blame on the tribe.  But after overhearing Miller secretly talking to his two co-conspirators, he quickly realizes that Garrett is telling the truth.

 
Knowing they've been found out, Miller and his friends make their escape from the camp. Garrett, his partner, and an Indian brave set off in hot pursuit!  
 
 
After a short gun battle, the criminal gang is taken down.  At the end of it all, the gold is recovered, a war is prevented, and the Pony Express has made some new Indian friends.  All's well that ends well.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay. . .not bad!  I liked that this story followed a trail just a little bit out of the ordinary, giving the reader equal parts investigation and action.  It wasn't all just rootin' tootin' shootin' like you find in a lot of these older western comics. 
 
 I can see that there was some actual thought and effort put into this story, which is a little surprising because if you read a lot of old westerns like I do, you KNOW that there's quite a bit of similarity across the board. 
 
The art was also surprisingly good for Four Color.  Normally, what you get is a fantastic cover and art inside that hopefully is at least serviceable, but usually is borderline bad.  The art here is actually pretty good.  Not great, but solid and better than expected. 
 
So overall a well-done story backed up by decent art.  Not bad.  I usually come into these Four Color comics with pretty low expectations, but this time I was pleasantly surprised.  Let's check out the second story and see what we get.
 
NEXT!
 
DESERT AMBUSH
 
SCRIPT: Eric Friewald & Robert Schaefer
PENCILS: Nicholas Firfires
 
THE STORY:
 
Pony Express rider Craig Garrett is tricked into an ambush by two men while riding a dangerous route across the Nevada desert.  When he wakes up from the attack, he realizes that the men didn't steal any of the mail, just Garrett's prize horse, Colonel.
 
 
After recovering from the attack for a few days at a nearby Express Station, Garrett takes a leave of absence.  He's seen that there's a big horse race taking place in Carson City in four days, and suspects that he was ambushed because of his horse's reputation for being one of the finest in the West. . .and that the culprits will be entering Colonel in the race.
 
 
Arriving in Carson City, Garrett meets a man named Len Miller, who was entered in the big race, but has to forfeit his entry fee because his horse has taken ill.  Miller offers Garrett the hospitality of his home while the Express rider tries to locate his own horse.
 
 
The next morning, before the cross country race begins, Garrett and Miller spot the two men who ambushed Garrett a few days before.  They've got Colonel, and just as Garrett thought, have him entered into the race.  Garrett confronts the men.  They deny his accusations and the sheriff is called.
 
Garrett proves his ownership of Colonel by giving the horse commands that he obeys.  That's enough proof for the Sheriff and the two thieves are taken away to jail.  In thanks for Miller's hospitality, Garrett lets him ride Colonel in the big race.
 
 
Riding the powerful Pony Express horse, Miller easily wins the race.  With the prize money, he can now afford an operation that his wife needs.  Garrett has his prize horse back again.  All's well that ends well.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
With the same creative team as the first story, it's no surprise that this one is pretty solid as well.  Once again, there's less focus on gunplay than one would expect from a western comic from the 1950s.  As a matter of fact, there's NO gunplay at all in this story! There's a little bit of fist fighting to be had in a couple of places, but this is definitely a story that breaks my expectations for a Golden Age western comic!  I like that.  I like it a lot!
 
Overall, this was a well-written little nugget of western action that steps outside the boundaries of what I normally expect.  It's backed up with some very solid art, and I found it to be a pretty enjoyable read.
 
Let's wrap this up!
 
TRAILS THAT CROSS
(Inside Back Cover)
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Nicholas Firfires
 
Another one pager to finish this comic off like the one on the inside front cover that started the show.  Like the opener, there's not much to this little story. . .a tale of two Pony Express riders passing each other while they sleep in the saddle.  If the one inside the front cover was an appetizer, this one makes for a nice little dessert.  The whole thing is scanned below. . .
 


CONCLUSION

 
One of the things I love about doing these Longbox Junk "Retro Reviews" is knowing that I'm writing what will probably be the ONLY review of this comic that has been, or ever will be, written.  I feel that by scanning the pages and describing the contents, I'm doing a small part to add to the overall comic knowledge out there, even if nobody asked me to.  
 
Hopefully, I don't sound like I'm not just tooting my own horn, and some of what I've put out here in this review will be useful or informative for those interested in Golden Age western comics like this one.  
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I found this comic to be quite a surprise.  Both of the stories focused less on gunplay and more on narrative than I expected coming in.  There's plenty of action, don't get me wrong, but that action is a different sort than I'm used to when I open up a Golden Age western comic.  
 
The stories seemed less like boilerplate, and more like some thought and effort had been put into them.  The artwork was also surprisingly solid for a Four Color comic.  The combination of the two gave me some timeless western action that still reads well even after 64 years!
 
I'm not sure how rare this comic is, but I can certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good western story that steps slightly outside the often-repeated scripts that most Golden Age western comics stick to.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Back to the bargain bin!
 
If you've ever gone digging through a dollar box, I can practically guarantee you've seen a "Glory" comic.  So let's take a look at Image's version of Wonder Woman, shall we?  WE SHALL!
 
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk!  It's the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic book reviews nobody ever asked me to write.
 
Every now and then, I like to take a step back away from my usual bargain bin fare and shine the spotlight on one of the older (and possibly, but not always, more "valuable") comics in my collection.  This is one of those times.  
 
Strap into the Longbox Junk time machine, because it's time for a Retro Review!
 
The comic at hand holds a lot of nostalgia for me.  Reading it takes me back to my younger days in the 1970's in a big way because it's a comic book tie-in to one of my favorite T.V. shows back then. . .Emergency!  
 
The show (and the comic) follows the day-to-day exploits of a team of paramedics (John Gage and Roy DeSoto of squad 51).  As a kid, I LOVED this show!  My brother and I used to watch it any time we could.  And when we couldn't watch it, we were in the yard playing it! 
 
 After my brother left active duty in the Army, he actually became a paramedic.  I think maybe those days in the 70's playing and watching Emergency! might have had a little something to do with that.
 
The show itself was a pretty big hit in its time (lasting a respectable 6 seasons).  I'm not sure how well it's remembered these days, but I have the feeling it's one of those kinds of shows that people don't think about much now, but when you mention it to someone of a certain age there's an "Oh yeah. . .I remember that" sort of thing.
 
I was never aware that Emergency! Even HAD comics until recently, when I found this issue at a little antique shop a few towns over that my wife wanted to check out.  I could NOT wait to get home and read this baby!
 
So yeah. . .big fan of the Emergency! T.V. show.  Now the question is whether or not the comics can stand up and deliver some of that nostalgia I have when I think of long-ago afternoons playing paramedic with my brother.  That's a pretty tall order, but let's find out!
 

EMERGENCY! #3

Charlton (1976)

 
 
COVER: Jack Sparling
 
THE COVER:
 
We're off to a good start because THAT is one great cover!  Beautifully painted by prolific Bronze Age artist Jack Sparling, this cover has a real sense of motion and action. The splashes of bright and dark colors combine to give this a feeling of chaos barely being controlled by the featured firemen.  This isn't just a great comic book cover, it's a great piece of art, period.  Let's get inside!
 
Two stories in this issue. . .an extra-sized comic story and a short two-page text piece (With some of John Byrne's earliest comic work illustrating it!).  Let's take a look at each one in their own turn.
 
ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY
 
SCRIPT: Joe Gill
PENCILS: Jordi Franch Cubells (As J. Franch)
 
THE STORY:
 
A new fireman is transferred to Station 51 from another station for personality conflicts with the men there.  Joe Diskin quickly lives up to his reputation as rude and unfriendly at the station, but when he's on the job, he's a skilled and brave firefighter that helps the paramedics of Squad 51 through a rough situation while rescuing people trapped in a raging fire.
 
 
Thinking that the men of Station 51 just got off on the wrong foot with Diskin, Paramedic John Gage decides to try and make friends with the new man.  Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Gage runs into a brick wall of unfriendly behavior from Diskin, causing Gage to wonder if maybe there's no getting through to him.
 
 
Despite Gage's failure to make friends with Diskin, the new firefighter once again proves his worth while assisting the Paramedics during a harrowing rescue operation during a blaze at a power plant, risking his life to keep the flames at bay while Gage and his partner, Roy DeSoto, save trapped workers.
 
 
As the days go by, Gage is more determined than ever to break through Diskin's hard shell, even though the rest of the men at Station 51 have given up.  Finally, Gage manages to get Diskin to socialize with him by challenging him to a handball game. 
 
 
After returning to the station, Gage and DeSoto discover that the other men of Station 51 are passing around a petition for their Chief to transfer Diskin to yet another station.  The Paramedics immediately stand up for Diskin, telling the others that the new man may not be friendly, but he's a good firefighter that deserves as much of a chance as anyone else.  Unknown to them, Diskin overhears the whole thing.
 
 
Later, as Diskin assists the paramedics during another fire, he finally has a friendly word for the team as he challenges them to another handball game.  It seems that Diskin has decided he wants to be part of the Station 51 family after all.  
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay.  Not bad!  I wanted some of that nostalgia from Emergency! and I got it.  This story reads like a "lost" episode of the show!  I like that it took just as much time with what was going on at the station as it did with action scenes, just like many of the T.V. show episodes did. 
 
There's really not that much to the story. . .a new guy has trouble fitting in and Johnny Gage takes it on himself to try to bring him into the "family". . .but it's that simple framework that allows the writer to provide a story where I can almost HEAR the voices of the actors from the T.V. show as I read it.
 
The art for this story delivers in a big way!  A lot of the Charlton comics had great covers and not so great art inside.  This comic is not one of those.  The artist manages to mostly capture the likenesses of the T.V. actors, but where the art REALLY shines is during the action scenes of billowing smoke and chaos!  Some of the station scenes are a little sketchy, but the firefighting action more than makes up for it.
 
All in all, just a great little story!  I'll tell you true. . .it makes me want to go watch some Emergency!
 
Let's see what the backup text story is about, shall we?  We shall!
 
TRIAL BY FIRE

 
SCRIPT: ?
ILLUSTATIONS: John Byrne
 
THE STORY:
 
While his usual partner, Roy DeSoto is on vacation, Johnny Gage is teamed up with a new paramedic who transferred from the firefighting team.  Although the new man seems to be a good paramedic, one of the other firemen warns Gage that the new guy quit firefighting because he lost his nerve after being injured in a fire.  Fortunately, after being rescued by the new man, Gage realizes that the warning was off base and the new paramedic will fit in just fine.
 
The End.
 
The entire story is scanned below. . .
 
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This story follows the same theme as the main comic offering above. . .a new guy having trouble fitting in and John Gage helping him along.  It's. . .okay.  It's not bad, but I would have rather seen a bit more page space given to the main story instead.
 
I guess the main draw here is that this actually has some of John Byrne's earliest comic work.  There's not much of it, being spot illustrations for a text piece, but you can definitely see a master's hand at work here, even in the tiny amount we're given. 
 
Overall, this backup story is okay.  I personally think the space could have been put to better use expanding the main story for a couple more pages.  The art is an interesting artifact of comic history. 
 

CONCLUSION

 
So there it is.  Emergency! #3.  
 
I'm glad I found this comic and now have it in my collection.  It really DOES read just like an episode of the T.V. show. . .to the point that I could almost hear the voices of the actors in my head when I read it.  This story could EASILY have been adapted for the show.  
 
Is it the best comic I've ever read?  No.  Not even close.  But what this DID do for me was take me back in time to the 70's like I was taking a trip in a paper time machine and left me wanting more!  I really don't think there's much more I could ask from a comic book.
 
If you were a fan of Emergency! Then I heartily recommend this comic.  If you're looking for something a little unusual that doesn't involve superheroes, then check this out.  I'm probably a little biased because the T.V. show holds some great memories for me, but it's really a decent comic even without that connection.
 
The series was very short. . .four issues only.  There was a second Emergency! series (also from Charlton) that also ran for only 4 issues.  I don't see that they've been collected in any way, so I guess finding these in the wild or buying the issues online is the only way to get them.   Luckily, it doesn't seem the prices are too bad.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I'm not really sure!  It's flea market and yard sale season and I've had a REALLY good run of luck finding great comics out there so far this year.  So I might do a few more retro reviews spotlighting some of them.
 
In any case, be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - Elfquest #1

281 views • 7 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog packed FULL of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

 
Not long ago, I did several reviews based around the meat and potatoes of your average bargain bin.  Those title you're practically guaranteed to find at least one representative of in just about any dollar box at just about any comic shop you might find yourself Longbox Junkin' in.  Let's return to that idea for a moment, shall we?
 
The comic at hand is definitely one of those ubiquitous bargain bin finds.  If you're digging through a longbox of cheap comics, I would be perfectly willing to bet you a buck you'll find an Elfquest comic. . .and I wouldn't worry one bit about losing that bet. 

Oddly enough, despite there being SO many Elfquest comics out there, I've never read one.  UNTIL TODAY!  Today, I'm going to see what's going on with the Elfquest.
 
BUT FIRST. . .
 
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this Elfquest comic, I ask an extra moment or two of your time for a little background that may or may not interest you. . .
 
I did NOT get this comic from the bargain bin.  It's one of the more unusual items in my collection.  Not because it's "worth" more than usual, but because of the way I came across it. 
 
I have a copy of  Elfquest #1 that is slabbed and graded (9.8) for some reason.  I found it at a yard sale about 5 or 6 years ago.  It was the only comic the people had at the yard sale, and they had no idea where it came from.  They didn't have any kids and they weren't in the least bit interested in comic books.
 
I found it extremely odd that I would come across a slabbed comic book at a yard sale in the first place, let alone one single slabbed comic that the people putting the sale on had no idea of how it got there. 
 
 And then there was the comic itself. . .a 1980's reprint of a series that could easily be found in the bargain bins.  WHY was it slabbed in the first place? The process of grading the comic obviously cost more than the comic is "worth".  WHO went to the trouble to do this? WHY did they decide to slab a "worthless" reprint? HOW did it end up in a Utah yard sale?  SO MANY QUESTIONS!
 
The people doing the yard sale had no idea how much to charge me, so I gave them five bucks and took home my odd treasure.  I know that this comic isn't "worth" the plastic it's slabbed in, but I've never been able to make myself break it open.  And so there it sits in my collection, along with the other four slabbed comics I own (which are significantly more "valuable") as a mystery I ponder for a moment each time I see it.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
I recently came across another copy of this first issue in a bargain bin and decided to finally see what's inside, now that I don't have to crack open a slab to read it.  Are we ready? LET'S DO THIS!
 

ELFQUEST #1

Marvel/Epic (1985)

 
 
FIRE AND FLIGHT
 
SCRIPT: Richard Pini & Wendy Pini
PENCILS: Wendy Pini
INKS: Wendy Pini
COVER: Wendy Pini
 
THE COVER:
 
Honestly, it's a little too busy for my taste.  It's nicely drawn and the figures themselves are interesting, but the colors are a bit bland and there's just too much going on.  It's not a BAD cover, but there's nothing in particular that draws my eye. Nothing that really hooks me in.  Well. . .I guess they can't ALL be winners.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale in the far distant past of a world not unlike our own, inhabited by primitive mankind.  During a furious storm, a remarkable event happens.  A gigantic shining structure of some sort drops through a hole in the sky!
 
 
As the massive structure lands, the primitive humans investigate.  The doors open and strange beings emerge!  They appear to be just as stunned by their arrival as the humans who witnessed it. . .
 
 
As the equally frightened primitive humans and strange aliens confront each other, the humans attack! 
 
The terrified beings from the mysterious structure find that their magical powers are weak on this world, and they are unable to defend themselves as the humans brutally slaughter them!  A few survivors manage to flee into the surrounding forest, never to return. . .
 
 
We move forward in time, through uncounted generations of conflict between the ancestors of the surviving elves and the brutal humans who hunt and kill them.  

 
We find ourselves witnessing a band of humans preparing a ritual sacrifice. . .a captured elf.  Watching from the forest are a band of would-be rescuers.  Wolfriders, led by an elf called Cutter.  On his command, the band of elves and wolves rush forward on the attack!
 

 
Taken by surprise, the battle against the humans is short and brutal.  The captive elf, Redlance, is rescued.  Cutter leaves the leader of the men alive as a warning to others, before fleeing back into the forest to return home. . .
 
 
But while the news of Redlance's rescue is cause for celebration among the elves, the humans mourn the deaths from the raid, and the shaman that Cutter spared swears by his savage that he will have revenge on the elves!
 
 
Later that night, while Cutter and his friend, Skywise, ponder the events of the raid, they are alerted to danger by the howling of wolves!  They learn through their ability to telepathically communicate with their animal allies that a band of men are coming to attack the elven stronghold!
 
Cutter quickly uses telepathy to summon elven warriors to defend against the coming attack. . .
 
 
As Cutter and his Wolfriders confront the approaching humans, he tries to warn them away. . .if the forest is burned, then both human AND elf will suffer greatly.  But the human shaman has sworn revenge in the name of his and refuses to listen to reason!
 
 
A short, brutal battle ensues.  The human shaman is killed, but not before he and his followers set the forest ablaze!  Cutter rushes ahead of the fire back to the elven camp and frantically tries to help his tribe evacuate as the flames approach. . .but the fire spreads quickly and their escape is cut off!
 
They have no choice but to try and make it to the mysterious caverns of the trolls if his tribe is to survive. . .
 

The desperate elves arrive at the caverns, only to find the door guard reluctant to let them in.  Cutter manages to force his way inside as the fire rages behind them, destroying their home. . .
 
 
As the door to the cave is closed behind them, the elves mourn the loss of their home, and are guided through the twisted tunnels of the caverns to meet the King of the trolls to explain the reason they've trespassed on his secretive kingdom. . .
 

 
The elven refugees are led deep into the underground kingdom by their reluctant guides, until they finally arrive in a vast hall and find themselves before the throne of Greymung the Shiftless, Mighty King of the Trolls!
 

To Be Continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then.  There it is.  Elfquest #1.  Let's break it on down!
 
When it comes to first issues, there's a bare minimum level of what I expect to find.  Two things. . .just TWO things.  First, does it introduce the characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way?  Second, does it make me want to read more?  Is that too much to ask?  I don't think so.
 
As far as introduction goes. . .not bad.  Not great, but I've seen worse.  You don't really learn too much about Cutter and his band of elves in this issue.  It's a little lacking in that area.  But where this issue DOES do a great job of introduction is to the world itself and the general conflict between man and elf. 
 
I really found it interesting that the elves are actually aliens to this world.  It's only mentioned in the first couple of pages, but THAT'S the story that I'm interested in.  I'm not sure if it's covered in future issues, but that's what interested me most about this story.  The rest of it was pretty much setup to get Cutter and his tribe out of a settled place and on the move.  
 
Thinking about it, the general story here resembles a sort of fantasy Battlestar Galactica, if you will.  A small band of survivors forced to flee their homes after an apocalyptic attack, searching for a new home while being pursued by a brutal enemy.  The good news is, I'm a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, so the resemblance (whether intentional or not) is okay with me.
 
But does it make me want to read more?
 
Wellllll. . .maybe?  I wouldn't mind reading more of this story, but at the same time, this first issue doesn't exactly make me want to run right out and find more Elfquest.  Like I said, it follows a very familiar story path with a coat of fantasy paint slapped on.  
 
This series has been around for a long time and there's a LOT of Elfquest comics out there. . .so logic tells me that there's SOMETHING here that people have enjoyed.  But is it the art? More on THAT in a bit, but most of what I see when I do a bit of internet research on this series revolves around the art and not the story.  Does the story get any better?  Does it step off of the "Fantasy Battlestar Galactica" trail that this issue firmly sets it out on?  Do I want to find out?
 
You know what?  I think I might.  I'd give the next few issues a read, anyway.  I like this world enough to give the story a chance.  Maybe not a BIG chance, but like I said. . .a few more issues would let me know if I wanted to get deeper down the massive 30+ year and running Elfquest rabbit hole.
 
SO. . .
 
The story mostly meets the expectations I have for a first issue.  Let's talk about the art.
 
Like I said above, when you look up Elfquest on the internet, you're going to get mostly talk about Wendy Pini's art.  So generally, the art is considered the star of the Elfquest show.  I guess I can say that the art DOES deserve top billing in this issue.  It's actually pretty unique and interesting.
 
It's cartoony, yet detailed.  There are nice cinematic angles and interesting character designs.  Overall, the art style is certainly eye-catching.  But judging from the amount of praise heaped on Wendy Pini online, one would THINK that she's one of the greatest comic artists out there. I disagree.
 
 I'm not here to knock anyone off their pedestal, but I'm also here to be honest.  For THIS comic, Pini's art is great.  I'm not sure it would work very well outside these pages.  And to be fair, Pini seems to have not strayed far from Elfquest in order to find out.  
 
To compare, I do have the "Beauty and The Beast: Portrait of Love" one shot tie in to the late 80's Beauty and The Beast T.V. show, which features some of Pini's fairly infrequent non-Elfquest work. . .
 
 
From the looks of it, I'm thinking she's very smart to just stay in her fantasy lane.  
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
Pini's art in THIS comic is interesting, engaging, and quite enjoyable.
 
The colors, on the other hand, vary wildly from bland to gaudy.  The Marvel/Epic Elfquest series is a reprint of the original series, which was in black and white.  Honestly, it probably should have stayed that way. 
 
I went online and took a look at Elfquest in black and white and, even though I'm not much of a fan of black and white comics, I think that something was actually lost by "improving" the art with color.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
What we have here is a pretty decent first issue.  It introduces the world of Elfquest nicely.  Character introductions maybe not so much, but there's enough there to like.  It doesn't exactly grab me and make me want to read more, but the story is JUST good enough to make me want to pick up more Elfquest and check it out if I come across some. . .and I will, because there's a LOT of these comics out there in the bargain bins.
 
The art backing up the story is interesting and enjoyable, but the amount of internet praise heaped on the artist seems a bit out of proportion to what's actually here.  It's good, but not great.
 
All in all, I'd definitely recommend fans of fantasy comics to check out Elfquest, if they haven't already.  They're easy to find in the bargain bins, there are several collections, OR you can read the first issue for FREE (in a very nicely re-colored online version that makes me reconsider my remarks about the art being better in black and white above) at https://elfquest.com/ , courtesy of the creators!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's do a Longbox Junk Retro Review!
 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - Dragon's Claws #1

280 views • 10 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk!  If you want comic reviews you never asked for, you're in the right place!

First, my sincere apologies for the delays between posts. 

 I had a nasty case of COVID several months ago and it seems that it's not going to entirely be letting go of me any time soon.  My doctor tells me I'm one of the "lucky" COVID  "long haulers".  I feel like I have no energy or motivation. . .even for something as simple as sitting down to write a comic review.  I also still have pretty frequent problems breathing and just generally have a constant light-headed feeling and hardly any appetite, along with random hot flashes several times a day.  It ain't fun, folks!  

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I keep writing comic book reviews even though nobody asked me to!

 
Here at Longbox Junk, I like to step outside of my comfort zone from time to time, just to keep things interesting.  The comic at hand is a fine example of one of these times.  Generally-speaking, I've never been a fan of "funny" comic books. 
 
Sure, I like a good issue of MAD Magazine or some Archie comics from time to time, but other than that, I've just never found "funny" comics that. . .well. . .funny.  The humor never really hits the mark for some reason.  Don't get me wrong.  There's some great comedy to be found in comic books (anything by Garth Ennis comes to mind), but for the most part, the laugh out loud moments are pretty few and far between (for me, anyway).
 
BUT. . .
 
Here at Longbox Junk, EVERY comic deserves a fair shot. So let's step outside of my comic book comfort zone and give Captain Carrot a fair shot, shall we?  WE SHALL!

CAPTAIN CARROT

AND HIS AMAZING ZOO CREW #1

DC (1982)

 

THE PLUTO SYNDROME!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: Scott Shaw & Ross Andru
INKS: Bob Smith
COVER: Scott Shaw & Ross Andru
 
THE COVER:
 
This cover is what caught my eye as I dug through the bargain bin a couple of weeks ago.  It's got SO much color, action, and just plain FUN that I had no choice but to bring it home!  I don't know what I'm in for when I open this thing up, but this great cover is definitely worth the price of admission!
 
THE STORY:
 
The story begins in progress (Continued from a 16 page insert in New Teen Titans #16 that I'll sorta summarize below) with Superman finding himself stranded on a strange world populated by humanlike animals.  
 
Strange rays from the planet Pluto had been causing humans on Superman's earth to exhibit animalistic behavior.  During his investigation, he smashed through an invisible barrier in space that led to him discovering this odd version of earth where intelligent animals rule.
 
Superman quickly discovers that the same rays from Pluto are also affecting this other Earth, causing the animals to behave like. . .well. . .animals.  Enlisting the aid of a rabbit that gained super powers from a piece of a glowing meteor that followed Superman through the invisible barrier (One Roger Rabbit, now calling himself Captain Carrot), the two heroes try to find a way through the barrier in order to save both of their worlds.
 
 
But when they arrive at the barrier, neither Superman or Captain Carrot are able to cross it.  Suddenly, Superman is drawn through the mysterious barrier against his will and vanishes, leaving Captain Carrot alone!
 
 
Captain Carrot returns to Earth, but quickly discovers that he's better at super-hopping than super-landing.  He's rescued from certain death by a strange metal pig. . .who introduces himself as "Pig - Iron" and tells Carrot his origin story.  It turns out he gained his powers from the same sort of glowing stone Captain Carrot got his from.
 

Captain Carrot realizes that if the glowing meteor fragments gave the two of them powers, then the same thing must have given the four OTHER superpowered heroes he's been seeing on the news their powers as well. . .and one of them might be able to get Captain Carrot to Pluto!  
 
And so Pig-Iron and Captain Carrot set off on a journey to find and recruit other heroes to their team.  First stop, Mew Orleans!  There, they quickly find "Alley-Kat-Abra", a cat who gained magical powers from one of the meteor fragments.  
 
After hearing her origin story, the growing team moves along to find other heroes, using Alley-Kat's magical teleport powers to travel to Kornsas. . .
 
 
Once the team arrives in Kornsas, they quickly find "Fastback", a turtle who gained the power of amazing speed from one of the glowing meteor fragments.  After he gives us ANOTHER origin story, Fastback agrees to join the group of heroes as they make their way west to Follywood, where the final two meteor fragments landed. . .
 
 
In Follywood, the new team joins up with a dog called "Yankee Poodle" (who fires stars that push from one hand and stripes that pull from her other) and a duck (who can stretch and form shapes with his body) called "Rubberduck", helping them with taking care of a riot caused by the mysterious rays from Pluto.  
 
After two MORE origin stories, Captain Carrot has gathered a fine team of superheroes and they're ready to try to travel to Pluto and get to the bottom of what's happening!
 
]
 
Using Ally-Kat-Abra's magical powers, the team manages to penetrate the invisible barrier and find themselves on another world.  They've made it to Pluto!
 
 
Upon finding and entering a hidden fortress, the team discovers Superman held captive by a bizarre creature calling itself "Starro".  
 
And then it's time for ANOTHER origin story as Starro describes how after being defeated by the Justice League on Superman's Earth, a small piece of himself made its way to Captain Carrot's universe, where it regrew into Starro, a creature determined to become master of everthing. . .after it destroys Superman and his friends!
 

Despite Superman telling them to run for their lives, Captain Carrot and his team attack Starro!  Unfortunately, they don't do a great job of it and mostly just get in each other's way until Captain Carrot manages to get them to work TOGETHER to finally score the victory!
 
 
After defeating Starro and freeing Superman, the team decides to stick together and fight injustice on their Earth, while Superman returns to do the same on his own.  Taking on the name of "Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew", a new superhero team is born!
 
 
BUT. . .
 
Even as they celebrate their first victory as a team, a mysterious new threat emerges!
 
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I'm gonna be honest here and tell you right up front that this hasn't changed my mind about "funny" comics.  That said. . .it ain't bad.  It might not be as funny as it wants to be, but it's definitely fun, so credit where it's due, because sometimes you just want a comic to be FUN.
 
Most of the humor here is derived from (pretty bad) puns and clever wordplay, as well as a couple of running jokes. Origin stories are the biggest running gag. . .there's SEVEN of them in this issue and the writers lean into that ridiculous number pretty hard, with the characters cracking jokes every time another origin story starts up.  The best part of the joke is that ALL of the origin stories are pretty much exactly the same.
 
Another running joke is Captain Carrot never getting Superman's name right.  It's not quite as funny as they try to make it, but it's amusing.  Speaking of the Man of Steel, they were smart bringing in Superman as the straight man in this first issue.  His befuddlement at the rest of the characters cracking wise through the story shows that DC isn't afraid to let one of their tentpole characters be the of the joke in order to promote this strange little comic and set it firmly in the DC "universe".
 
On the art side of things, I liked the look of this comic quite a bit.  It's colorful, it's exaggerated, it's FUN.  The art here isn't going to win any awards, but it's a style well-suited for the wacky story being told.  From what I read, Ross Andru drew Superman only. . .making him stick out like a realistic sore thumb and leaning into the Man of Steel being the straight man outsider in a world of comedy.  It's a great visual gag!
 

CONCLUSION

 
I'm not a fan of "funny" comics, but I liked this one. . .even though it was more fun than funny to me.  But like I said above, there's nothing wrong with a comic just being fun now and then.  It wasn't the greatest comic I've ever read, but it was better than I expected.  The jokes weren't as funny as they wanted to be, but they weren't bad either.
 
This series lasted a respectable 20 issues, and I've come across several of them in the bargain bins over the years. . .but if you don't want to go Longbox Junkin' for single issues, the whole series (along with a later mini-series and the original Teen Titans preview) has been collected in a big, chunky DC Showcase Presents volume.
 
Overall, I can certainly recommend Captain Carrot to parents for younger readers, as well as older readers who are just looking for something lighthearted and fun to read.  Unfortunately, if you're already iffy about "funny" comics (like myself), Captain Carrot is a decent read, but it isn't going to change your mind. 
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's get DEEP down in the bargain bin, shall we?
It's prolific artist Brian Stelfreeze's FIRST comic work. . .
It's a 1988 3-issue miniseries from a publisher better known for early comic industry magazines, "Comics Interview Group". It's CYCOPS! 
 
Be there or be square.
 

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Longbox Junk - Blindside

384 views • 19 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk! It's the blog with more comic reviews you never asked for than you could ever ask for! No need to thank me. . .it's just what I DO!

 
I've mentioned it before, but I have sort of a soft spot in my comic-lovin' heart for early Image comics.  These days, Image has carved out a great spot for themselves as the company you go to when you get tired of superhero stories, but in their early days they were ALL superhero ALL the time.  And it was in the most obviously desperate "We wanna be the new Marvel!" way possible.
 
To accomplish their goal, Image flooded the market with a LOT of new superhero comics.  There was a point in time in the 90's that they were pretty much throwing anything they could at the wall to see what would stick.  That point in time was around 1996. . .which brings us to the comic at hand!
 
Blindside was one of the comics that did NOT stick.  It's one of several projects from Image that didn't last more than one issue, even though there were more planned and advertised.  So let's take a look at this unloved and abandoned relic of the 90's and see if there's something here to like, shall we?  WE SHALL!
 
 

BLINDSIDE #1

Image Comics (1996)

 
 

 
 
I Spy With My Little Eye
 
SCRIPT: Marat Mychaels & Robert Loren Fleming
PENCILS: Marat Mychaels & Leo Jimenez, with Chuck Drost
INKS: Al Vey & Sean Parsons
COVER:  Marat Mychaels & Al Vey
 
THE COVER:
 
Not bad, in that special 90's-Tastic way.  I'm always a bit of a sucker for monochromatic backgrounds on a comic cover, and the stark white of this one sets of the character portrait very nicely.  I like the bold colors a lot as well.  The logo looks like it was created with the '96 version of Windows Paint, though.  Not good.
 
Blindside himself is SO 90's that the 90's are like "Can you tone it down a bit?"  Between the gritted teeth, bulging muscles, the McFarlane-Lite twisted pose and tangled rope, and the "It's a mask. . .but with HAIR!", this cover IS the 90's.  Still, not too bad.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale alongside Richard Kemp. . .a highly-trained top agent of the ultra-secret "Orion Sector" intelligence agency.  He's observing a meeting between Criminal Mastermind Ronald Quinn and a scientist who has developed some sort of device built into a helmet.  
 
Quinn demands that the device be immediately tested on one of his henchmen, despite the Professor's insisting that it isn't ready. . .
 

As the device seemingly malfunctions, killing Quinn's henchman, Richard is discovered in his hiding place. . .
 
Using the man who found him as a human shield, Richard jumps down from his perch and leaps into action, easily dispatching Quinn's thugs. . .but as he fights, Quinn himself takes the agent by surprise from behind, knocking him out!
 
 
 
 
When Richard regains consciousness, he finds himself Quinn's prisoner!  He witnesses Quinn kill the Professor for delivering a faulty device.  Then Quinn puts the helmet on Richard and turns it on. . .promising the captive agent an agonizing death!
 

But Richard doesn't die!  Instead, he wakes up handcuffed to a hospital bed and surrounded by Orion Sector agents, including his Uncle Bud. . .who had taken Richard in after his father's death and been his Orion Sector mentor for many years.
 
 After reporting what happened during the stakeout, Richard is shocked to learn that Quinn has an alibi, there was no helmet found, and no other dead bodies. . .just the Professor, killed with Richard's gun and no other prints to be found.
 
He's been set up!
 
After the Orion Sector agents leave, Richard ponders his situation.  He knows too much to stand trial.  He'll just. . .disappear.  He's devoted his life to Orion Sector, as did his father before him.  Richard sees himself as a patriot and doesn't want to go down without a fight.
 

As he agonizes about how to clear himself of the false murder charge, Richard suddenly has some sort of painful mental attack.  As the pain fades, Richard realizes that he can see through the walls!  There are three men with guns outside his room, and they're coming in after him!
 

As the armed men burst into the room, Richard is ready for them!  During the fight, he learns that they are Orion Sector agents, sent to terminate him!  
 
Not believing that his Uncle Bud could ever stand by something like this, Richard makes his escape by smashing through the hospital window, declaring that he would take Orion Sector down as he falls, still firing at the men who attacked him. . .
 

But somehow, the fall doesn't kill him!  Richard is amazed to find himself unharmed. . .but there's more Orion Sector men below, and he's still under fire.  Richard makes a desperate escape through the hospital parking lot, finally managing to steal a motorcycle. . .
 
 
Knowing that he didn't have a chance of eluding his highly-trained pursuers, Richard decides to make use of his own training and attack instead of running, managing to destroy a truck full of Orion Sector agents with a single shot, using his new powers to guide the bullet to his target!
 
 
But there's more agents where they came from!  Richard goes into a kind of combat frenzy, attacking the remaining pursuing agents and stealing their car. . .
 

After wrecking the car, Richard manages to escape on foot.  He makes a gritty promise to destroy Orion Sector and anyone behind his betrayal. And from the looks of it, he means it!
 

 
To be continued. . .wait. . .never mind.  There was never a second issue.  The End, I guess?
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then. . .there it is. The one and only issue of Blindside.  Let's break it on down!
 
I really hate to say this, but there's not much to like here.  I can see why the plug got pulled on Blindside so quickly.  There's some decent art here and there, but overall, this comic is so utterly average that I had to read it three times in order to write this review because I kept forgetting the details of the story.  And when you've got such a simple story as the one here, that ain't a good thing.
 
The framework of the story itself is pretty solid. . .secret agent on the run after being framed for murder and discovering that he's somehow gained some unusual powers.  The powers add a little curve on a well-worn action hero story path, but not enough of a curve to make me want to read more.
 
The dialogue is pretty stilted and full of exposition.  You can really tell that the writer is actually more of an artist when you read this.  It's definitely a bit of a slog reading this comic. . .and like I mentioned above, it's so utterly average that you forget it almost as soon as you're done reading.
 
On the art side of things, 90's nostalgia pins this one JUST on the good side of bad.  There are actually some really interesting moments to be found (The stark white background page of Blindside attacking multiple gunmen I scanned above is definitely a standout), but there's just not enough of them to elevate this comic much.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Every comic is a labor of love for someone.  The letters page in Blindside tells me that Marat Mychaels created this character when he was 14 years old and had been waiting years for a chance to bring his idea to the comic world.  Unfortunately, the actual execution of Blindside when he finally got that chance didn't do Mychaels' enthusiasm for the character any justice.
 
From what I see, he took the character elsewhere, where it didn't fare much better. . .2 issues of an aborted mini-series and a couple of guest appearances.  I give Mychaels credit for trying, but I guess sometimes things just don't work out.
 
In my humble opinion, Mychaels isn't much of a writer. Blindside might have worked if he had recognized this and let someone else write his character. . .but the early days of Image are littered with failed projects where one guy tried to wear all the hats.  This is a fine example of exactly that.
 
Unfortunately, I can't really recommend Blindside, except as a curiosity. . .an abandoned relic of the 90's that may interest someone just for that.  The writing is somehow overblown and forgettable at the same time.  The art has moments, but not enough of them.  There's really not much to like here.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's the origin story of one of DC's most unusual superheroes and his team. . .
 
CAPTAIN CARROT AND HIS AMAZING ZOO CREW! 
 
Guest Starring Superman because he must have lost some sort of bet.
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - Black Condor #1

305 views • 20 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk!  It's the blog packed FULL of comic book reviews nobody asked me to write!

 
Digging through bargain bins as much as I do, sometimes I can't help but be a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of unloved and unwanted comic books out there.  It seems that if a comic doesn't have "value" to collectors. . .the possibility of being "worth" some money, then the comic doesn't have any value at all!
 
Sometimes I wonder why THIS comic ends up in the bargain bin and THAT comic doesn't.  I've reviewed comics with high collector "value" that are pretty underwhelming.  On the other hand, I've reviewed comics "worth" cover price (if that) that have been really enjoyable.  
 
Which brings us to the comic at hand.  It's the first issue of a short-lived series that seems to have been mostly-forgotten.  It introduces a new character to the DC roster, has an excellent creative team behind it, and was put on the stands by one of the biggest comic publishers in the world.  So why can a diligent Longbox Junker find every issue of this series by digging through bargain bins?
 
Let's take a look and see if we can find out, shall we?  We shall!

BLACK CONDOR #1

DC (1992)

 
 
A DREAM OF FLYING
 
SCRIPT: Brian Augustyn
PENCILS: Rags Morales
INKS: Rags Morales
COVER: Rags Morales
 
THE COVER:
 
Okay, not a bad cover at all.  I like it!  It's basically just a nicely-done character portrait, but I like the design of Black Condor, the heavy inks, and the logo is just really great.  The "First Issue" badge is a little intrusive, but that doesn't keep this from being a very solid and eye-catching cover that makes me want to read this comic.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale with a short one page prologue.  We are introduced to a young man named Ryan, who seems to be the willing participant in an experiment taking place at the direction of Ryan's Grandfather.  The experiment is being done by a mysterious "Society" and has been in preparation for years.  The purpose of the experiment is to make Ryan fly. . .
 

We move forward a bit and see that the experiment was successful. Ryan is flying over the lush forest of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  He reflects on the great gift he has been given, but we learn that at some point, Ryan became disillusioned with his Grandfather's secret society and he abandoned them.  Further, he plans to destroy them. . .
 
 
After being introduced to our hero, we shift focus to a gang of outlaws on the run.  They've just pulled off a payroll robbery and have eluded the police, but they don't get along, and as they argue with each other they wreck their van while speeding through the Pine Barrens. . .
 
 
A Park Ranger spots the wreck and offers assistance, only to be taken hostage by the gang as they hijack his truck to continue their getaway. . .
 

IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
Ryan (AKA Black Condor) senses trouble below, and using the heightened senses that were part of the "gift" of his Grandfather's experiment, he comes to the rescue of two lost hikers. . .
 

But when he goes to the Ranger station to report his rescue of the hikers, he discovers that his best friend, Ned (the head Ranger), has gone missing. Condor immediately senses something is wrong. . .
 

MEANWHILE. . .
 
The escaped criminals find themselves stranded in the thick forest of the Barrens when the truck they hijacked runs out of gas.  The stress of constant setbacks breaks the gang down to the point where some of them just want to take their cut and make their own way.  Enraged, the gang's leader guns one of them down in cold blood!
 

 
In the skies above the Barrens, Black Condor is searching for his missing friend.  He reflects that it was Ned who showed him that he didn't have to live up to the destiny that his Grandfather had wanted him to, and that he owed his life as a free man to the kind Ranger.  Suddenly, he hears gunshots!
 

Below, the cold-blooded killing of one of the gang members throws the rest into panic.  The leader orders one of the others to kill their hostages so they can head through the forest on foot.  When he refuses, the leader guns him down as well. 
 
Black Condor arrives on the scene in time to witness the second killing.  Condor uses his mental powers to control the mind of the gang leader, keeping him from shooting again. . .
 

 
A short fight later, and it's over.  Condor saves the hostages and it's not long before the police arrive on the scene and arrest the remaining gang members. . .
 

Ned expresses his gratitude to Condor for saving him, as well as his astonishment at Condor's increasing powers.  Condor admits that there's still a lot he doesn't understand about the powers his Grandfather's experiment gave him.  Condor clears out before the reporters arrive and all's well that ends well.
 
BUT WAIT!
 
In a short epilogue the following day, reports of fugitives captured by a flying man reach Ryan's Grandfather.  He immediately sets into motion some sort of plan that surely can't be good!
 

The End. . .To be continued. 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
All righty, then.  There you have it.  Black Condor issue #1.  Let's break it on down!
 
When I read the first issue of a series, I look for TWO things:  Does it introduce characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way?  Does it tell a story that I want to read more of?  
 
Is that really too much to ask for?  I think it's actually a pretty low bar, but for some reason, it seems that a lot of first issues somehow manage to fail at one or both of those two little things.
 
Fortunately, Black Condor #1 hits both of the marks very nicely.  We're introduced to Black Condor, his supporting cast, his situation, and his antagonists in a well-written and engaging way that gives JUST enough information to let us know that there's still more to come. . .which makes me want to get right into the next issue!
 
The story itself is extremely simple.  Basically, Black Condor rescues his friend from a gang of criminals that have taken him hostage.  But the simplicity of the story is one of its strengths.  Within the admittedly bare bones narrative there's plenty of room to make that new reader-friendly introduction I find important in a first issue.  Brian Augustyn does a great job in writing what is pretty much a fast-paced one shot story introducing his new character in a way that I want to read more.
 
On the art side of things, Rags Morales' unique style is what really makes this issue shine!  It's exaggerated, but detailed, with dark inks, great colors, and a lot of attention to facial expression.  I'm more familiar with Morales' more recent work (such as Identity Crisis), but I've discovered here that I enjoy his earlier style much more.  
 
Overall, this is all I could want from a good first issue of a comic series!  Very nicely done.
 

CONCLUSION

 
In my introduction to this review, I wondered why this series and this character are all but forgotten.  To be fair, Black Condor DID outlive these 12 issues in guest appearances (Mostly in The Ray and Starman) and as a member of mostly-forgotten superhero team Primal Force, as well as a few other appearances here and there until his death in DC's Final Crisis event (Later to be briefly resurrected as a Black Lantern).  But despite these appearances, there just didn't seem to be much interest in Black Condor.
 
This first issue is a well-written introduction with some great art.  The rest of the issues of this series managed to keep the same creative team on board, so the writing and art are consistent and very solid through the whole run, yet Black Condor could only carry 12 solo issues before being relegated to a supporting character role in other titles. 
 
Maybe some characters just do better as supporting cast? I've seen other characters that seem to have this same "problem".  Black Canary is one that jumps immediately to mind.  She's a great supporting character that has problems carrying a solo series.  
 
That's really the only good reason I can think of to explain the relative obscurity of Black Condor. Maybe he just got caught up in the overwhelming glut of 90's comics? That was probably part of it as well. Whatever the reason might be, I found Black Condor to be an interesting character that deserved a bit more attention than what he got.
 
Overall, I can definitely recommend Black Condor to anyone looking for a good, solid superhero story with some interesting angles (he's not really interested in being a superhero) and some great art to back it up.  This first issue is a good introduction, but the whole series is worth a look.
 
Black Condor has never been collected (and I don't see it on ComiXology) so if you want to check it out, you'll need to hunt down the individual issues.  Fortunately, they seem to be pretty easy to find in back issue/bargain bins. . .which is where I've found 11 of the 12 issues.  Give Black Condor a try if you should spot one while out Longbox Junkin'!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's take a look at one of the most obscure characters to come out of Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios during Image's "We Wanna Be Marvel!" superhero days.  I'm talking about BLINDSIDE!
 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - Aquaman: Rebirth

332 views • 23 weeks ago • (1) Comment

Welcome to Longbox Junk! It's the place where you can find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

SO. . .

It's been a while. My apologies. I had what I THOUGHT was a pretty bad case of the flu (because I've been vaccinated) that was actually a nasty dose of Omicron-Style Covid (which I guess doesn't really care if you've been vaccinated or not). It's had me down for almost two months now and I'm STILL not entirely over it (I'm gasping for a decent breath of air as I write this). Needless to say, I've been doing a lot more Nyquil sleeping than working or comic book reviewing.  In other words: Worst paid vacation EVER!

On the bright side, I didn't end up in the hospital, and I'm feeling much better now, so there's that.


ANYWAY. . .
 
A belated Welcome to 2022!  My wishes for a happy and prosperous year for everyone reading this!
 
You may have noticed by now that the Bruce Lee mini I promised last time out is NOT what this Longbox Junk entry is featuring.  I got most of the way through the review before I realized that I was missing the last issue.  Not only was I missing the last issue, but the series ITSELF is unfinished. . .which I find strange, since the publisher has the incomplete story for sale on their website as a trade paperback!  That just doesn't seem right.  I don't really want to promote an unfinished story being sold as complete.
 
BUT. . .
 
There's plenty more Longbox Junk out there!  So let's take a look at a superhero that has only recently started to move past a sort of strange reputation as a joke, despite his being one of DC's most reliable characters, carrying several solo series over the years, as well as being a recognizable mainstay hero in most versions of the Justice League.  I'm talking about Aquaman!
 
The comic at hand is a bit new, as far as Longbox Junk goes.  It's part of a series of one-shots DC put out just before they rolled out their "Rebirth" initiative after they ended the "New 52" after a five year run.  They were meant to re-introduce DC's characters and their new status quo going forward from the abandoned New 52 continuity.   
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
Truthfully, I'm not much of an Aquaman fan.  Like Marvel's Moon Knight, it seems that EVERY writer that comes onto an Aquaman project wants to leave their mark by making significant changes. 
 
Unfortunately (and also like Moon Knight) this leaves the reader with a sort of schizophrenic experience. . .with no two versions of Aquaman being alike beyond the basic framework of the character.  You have dark and gritty Aquaman.  You have political Aquaman.  You have fun and friendly Aquaman.  So on and so forth.  It's kind of hard to get a handle on Aquaman, going from one series to the next.
 
So we have a comic that's meant to re-introduce Aquaman to comic fans.  Now the question becomes: What version of Aquaman is DC re-introducing here?  Let's find out!
 

AQUAMAN: REBIRTH

DC (2016)

 
 
THE DROWNING
PROLOGUE: AFTER THE DELUGE
 
SCRIPT: Dan Abnett
PENCILS: Scot Eaton & Oscar Jimenez
INKS: Mark Morales & Oscar Jimenez
COVER: Ryan Benjamin (variant)
 
THE COVER:
 
This is the variant cover for the issue (not that it makes this comic "worth" any more), and I have to say that I like it a lot!  I'm kind of a sucker for monochromatic backgrounds on a comic cover and the plain white here really sets off the boldly-colored character portrait nicely.
 
Aquaman himself is in the classic costume, advertising right on the front of the comic part of the direction DC is going before you even read a single page.  This is just a great cover.  It's simple, but the simplicity is what sells it to me.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale in the Western Atlantic Ocean, where Aquaman speeds toward a suspected Atlantean terror group called "The Deluge" as they move in for an attack on North America's East Coast.
 
 
What a fantastic opening splash page!
 
As the self-proclaimed "Protector of The Seas" heads for his target, he is given mission updates from his wife, Mera, and the crew of "Spindrift Station", Atlantis' first dry land embassy. . .
 

Aquaman arrives and finds himself confronting Corum Rath of the Ninth Tride, a lower Atlantean house, but still a noble one.  Aquaman tries to appeal to Rath's honor, but finds himself being rebuked as a false king and a lover of the surface world more than his own. . .
 
Aquaman quickly discovers that the Deluge have Atlantean fusion bombs that they plan to use to destroy Boston with.  He leaps to the attack!  On Spindrift Station, the crew monitoring the Sea-King's battle are disappointed to see their leader fighting his own kind to save surface dwellers.
 
Mera defends her Royal husband. . .letting the crew know in no uncertain terms that a terrorist is a terrorist, no matter where they come from, and that to not stop the attack could lead to another war between Atlantis and the United States, destroying all that their King has tried to achieve.
 
As the battle against the Deluge continues, our unseen narrator muses on how Aquaman is seen as a bit of a joke to many on the surface world. . .the hero that talks to fish.  But the truth is that the Sea King is a supremely powerful being and most surface dwellers have never seen him use his full powers. . .
 
 
On the OTHER hand, there are also many surface dwellers that see Aquaman as a dangerous figure. . .leader of a secretive and powerful nation that has attacked the surface world several times, often leaving behind death and devastation. 
Our unseen narrator continues. . .revealing that Aquaman is actually a man of two worlds.  His mother, Atlantean royalty.  His father, a human lighthouse keeper. The self-proclaimed Sea King doesn't really belong in either world, and isn't particularly liked by either one in turn.
 
 
After defeating the enslaved sea creatures and the lesser minions of the Deluge, Aquaman finally is able to battle Corum Rath in a one-on-one fight.  Aquaman easily defeats the once-noble Rath and calls for the security forces of Spindrift Station to secure him as a prisoner.
 

We then follow Aquaman to his favorite seafood restaurant, where he meets with Mera as the unseen narrator continues to speak of the dual nature of the superhero. . .belonging to two worlds, and yet neither.  Constantly trying to bring the two together.  A man of peace ever at war. . .with himself, with his royal duties, with the surface world.  
 

Mera and Aquaman discuss the day's events. . .wondering why the Deluge are so hostile just because the King wants peace with the surface dwellers.  Mera understands both sides of the conflict, but of course takes her beloved husband's side by revealing that more terrorists have been found, as well as one of their hidden bases.  The rebellion is growing and is larger than they suspected.
 
As the two royal lovers speak, we learn that they are under surveillance by none other than our mysterious unseen narrator.  We learn of plans to destroy Aquaman. . .first through Mera, then through the destruction of Spindrift Station and the end of the uneasy peace between Atlantis and the Surface World, and finally ending the hero himself.
 

At the end, we see that the unseen narrator that has been guiding us through the strengths and weaknesses of Aquaman is none other than his old foe, Black Manta!  And he is set on revenge for the death of his father by the Sea King. . .
 

The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay, then.  There it is.  DC's re-introduction of Aquaman moving forward into the "Rebirth" era of their titles.  Let's break it on down!
 
Like I said above, I'm not a big fan of Aquaman, so I came at this with an open mind and tried to let this comic serve its purpose as an introduction (or re-introduction) to the character instead of trying to compare it to any other Aquaman comics I might have read before.  I'm looking at this like it's the FIRST Aquaman comic I've read.
 
Annnnnnd. . .It's not bad.  I'd say that if I were trying to introduce someone new to comics to Aquaman, this would be a pretty solid starting point. It does a good job of giving the reader a basic sketch of Aquaman as a hero with a foot in two worlds and wanting to bring those worlds together.  It leans into the character's reputation as sort of a joke, but at the same time, shows that he and his people are regarded as dangerous by many.
 
The framing story of Aquaman taking down Rath and his Deluge cell is okay.  Pretty much an excuse to throw some action into the mix while we learn about Aquaman and his trouble trying to keep a handle on ruling over a nation that doesn't really like him, while trying to be a heroic ambassador to a surface world that. . .well. . .they don't really like him either.
 
 It looks like moving forward THIS version of Aquaman is going to be a little more involved in the political side of things.  I haven't read any of the regular issues of the series, but it seems like a good direction to start off in. . .especially since his enemy, Black Manta, immediately spots that Aquaman's diplomatic efforts are an obvious weak point he will be able to attack.
 
Speaking of Black Manta, the twist reveal that our narrator singing the praises of Aquaman's power is actually his worst enemy was a surprise that makes me want to read the next issue of the series.  
 
SO. . .
 
Going by my usual expectations for the first issue of a series, this comic introduced Aquaman aand his situation in an interesting way, and it made me want to read the next part of the story.  What more could you want from a first issue?  Not much, I say!
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, I found Aquaman: Rebirth to be a good single issue introduction to the seafaring superhero.  I'm not much of a fan of the character, but this had just enough meat on the bone to make me interested in maybe giving Aquaman another chance.
 
The story itself is pretty much a loose framework to hang exposition from, but it's well-written and engaging.  The art tells the story nicely and even has a few great standout moments. . .the opening splash page of Aquaman and the ending splash page of Black Manta are two really good ones that come to mind.
 
All in all, I say that even if you're not an Aquaman fan, there might be enough here to make you consider taking a look at his ongoing series, so give it a shot if you spot it in the bargain bin.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I'm not sure!  It took me almost a month to write this, but like I said above, I'm starting to feel better.  Hopefully, I'll be able to get back up to speed soon and start getting the Longbox Junk going a little better than it has been.  So until next time. . .
 
Be there or be square!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM LONGBOX JUNK!

396 views • 190 days ago • (0) Comments

 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all!

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who spends a bit of their valuable time here reading my ramblings about comic books that nobody ever asked me to write.

I'll tell you true, folks. . .life in America is getting a little strange to say the least.  And trust me, it's gonna get worse.  There's some pretty important political stuff that's going to be happening in 2022, and it's sure to make the cracks between us grow even wider than they are now.  Worse, there's going to be NO way to escape it without going completely off the grid.  

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Longbox Junk - Silver Surfer/ Superman

583 views • 195 days ago • (1) Comment

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

 
There's been a bit of sad news lately in the world of comics.  The great George Perez has announced that he won't be with us for much longer, due to terminal cancer.  I'm very sure that I'm not alone in considering Mr. Perez to be a living legend among modern comic creators.  He's regarded by many as one of the greatest modern comic artists, and rightly so.  
 
Judging from the outpouring of fan support and tribute I'm seeing on the internet lately, it's clear that Perez is a man and a talent that will definitely be missed.  I would also like to show my appreciation for George Perez by setting aside my originally-planned review for now and taking the time to spotlight some of his work here. . .but with a bit of a Longbox Junk twist!
 
Most of the tributes I'm seeing focus on Mr. Perez's fantastic art.  And why shouldn't they?  It's what he's known for. . .fantastic scenes packed SO full of characters and detail that they invite lingering on the page just to take it all in.  It's his trademark and what put him on a well-deserved pedestal among the great modern comic artists.
 
SO. . .
 
I'm gonna spotlight a comic without ONE SINGLE PANEL of that signature Perez art everyone loves him for!  That's right. . .I'm going to take a look at George Perez the comic WRITER in this edition of Longbox Junk!  
 
I want to show another side of this great, multi-talented creator that fans of his art might not be so much aware of by taking a look at a 1996 collaboration between DC and Marvel wherein the two rival companies came together to tell a cosmic tale of titanic trickery across two universes involving two of their mightiest heroes. . .Superman and The Silver Surfer!  
 
Ready?  Let's do it!

SILVER SURFER/ SUPERMAN

Marvel/ DC (1996)

 
 
 
Folded out to show the villains on the back side
 
 
POP!
 
SCRIPT: George Perez
PENCILS: Ron Lim
INKS: Terry Austin
COVER: Ron Lim & Terry Austin
 
THE COVER:
 
I'm actually not a huge fan of Superman (or Silver Surfer, for that matter), but just LOOK at that cover!  Superman is my favorite part of it!  He's a bright image of strength, power, and heroism as he boldly flies across the front of this comic!  And then there's the Silver Surfer. . .a gleaming, powerful being capturing the power cosmic as he speeds along the bottom of the page!  Such a great cover, giving both heroes a their own chance to shine.  Ron Lim knocks it out of the park before we even get to the first page!  
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale with Superman in the skies over Metropolis, enjoying the end of an uneventful patrol of the city. . .
 

. . .And with the Silver Surfer, exploring the galaxy and being surprised to discover a planet where once there was only a barren asteroid.
 
 
WHEN SUDDENLY. . .
 
Superman finds himself transported in the blink of an eye to what seems to be Krypton!  The people seem to be in some sort of panic and Superman is attacked by Kryptonian security forces, who believe the strangely-clad man who just appeared among them is part of an invading force!
 

Superman tries to fight off the security forces, a bit more of a task than he's used to, with his powers greatly reduced by the Red Kryptonian sun. . .
 

As Superman tries to escape, the leader of the invading alien force shows himself, a strange, hybrid creature who calls himself "Super Skrull".  There are several odd things, such as Super Skrull knowing Superman's Kryptonian name of Kal-El and that the creature speaks English, but Superman doesn't have time to ponder them as the Super Skrull challenges him to one on one combat!
 

IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
The Silver Surfer is surprised to find himself yanked from deep space and onto the planet Earth, where he once made his home.  But the city he finds himself in is unfamiliar, and his cosmic powers are somehow going out of his control!
 

As Silver Surfer tries to regain control of his powers, the citizens of Metropolis panic as they realize they have been somehow cut off from the rest of the world.  Lex Luthor's successor, The Contessa, pinpoints the alien Silver Surfer as the cause and is determined to either gain his power for herself, or destroy him. . .
 

Contessa send robotic minions to take down the Surfer, and as they fight, he realizes he still doesn't have complete control over his powers.  Not wanting to harm civilians, Silver Surfer makes a dash for outer space in an attempt to end the fight. . .
 

. . .But he is confused when he flies past what should be the limits of Earth's atmosphere and he finds that he still isn't in space, but crashes into an invisible barrier! 
 
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
The story shifts back to Superman as he battles The Super Skrull.  Weakened by his exposure to Krypton's red sun, Superman finds himself being badly beaten by the alien creature.  But Superman isn't one to back down from a fight when innocent lives are at stake, even a losing one!  
 

The Super Skrull offers to lower his defenses and give Superman one good punch.  As the alien creature gloats about winning some sort of game, Superman takes the punch, but is thrown back by the Skrull. . .whose body becomes living elastic!
 

When Superman crashes into a wall and debris showers down on the onlookers, a strange thing happens!  Super Skrull begins to rage about how harming innocent bystanders is against the rules, and he uses his elastic body to save them!
 
Superman realizes that something is definitely wrong.  The Kryptonians begin to flicker and change form.  Superman now understands that he's been under some sort of mental control and he's not on Krypton at all!  
 

BACK WITH THE SILVER SURFER. . .
 
After crashing through the invisible barrier above Metropolis, the Surfer is astounded to discover himself standing in a strange place, with a glass-encased miniature city of Metropolis in front of him.  A hole in the glass case is where he must have broken his way through. . .
 

 
As he ponders the strange scene before him, the Surfer is attacked by the automated defenses of something called "The Fortress".  He grabs the bottled city of Metropolis and tries to fight his way out, all the while being taunted by a mysterious voice!  As he battles his way through the defenses, he comes to realize that the voice is actually a living being playing a deadly game with him!
 

BACK WITH SUPERMAN. . .
 
The illusion of Krypton dispelled, Superman takes on the Super Skrull with his full powers. . .but as they fight, Superman reveals that he knows that he's actually fighting his old foe, Mr. Mxyzptlk!  But the joke is on Superman when his opponent instead reveals himself to be a strange little creature calling himself The Impossible Man!
 

Impossible Man tells Superman that he and Mr. Mxyzptlk met in the space between dimensions and became friends.  They agreed to play a game where the two tricksters would swap their greatest adversaries into their own different universes, with the winner being the one who convinced their opponent they were fighting their own enemy first.  Superman had believed he was fighting Mr. Mxyzptlk, so Impossible Man declares himself winner!
 

Now that he understands he's been used as part of an interdimensional game, Superman demands to be returned to his own universe.  Impossible Man tells him that won't be possible until a winner has been declared and he combines his powers with Mr. Mxyzptlk to swap Superman and the Silver Surfer back to where they belong. 
 
 Impossible Man leaves to inform Mr. Mxyzptlk of his victory, leaving Superman stranded on the strange planet.  Shortly afterward, Superman is horrified to discover an ACTUAL Skrull invasion force on its way!
 
 
When Impossible Man teleports to Superman's universe, he discovers an enraged Silver Surfer protecting Metropolis from Mr. Mxyzptlk.  As he declares himself the winner of their game, Impossible Man realizes that Mr. Mxyzptlk has broken the rules by putting innocent lives in danger.  As Mxyzptlk mocks Impossible Man for being so easily tricked, he flies into a rage and the two begin to fight!
 

The two tricksters battle, quickly shifting in and out of the forms of their respective universe's greatest heroes. . .Hulk vs. Doomsday, Plastic Man vs. Super Skrull, Wonder Woman vs. Wolverine, Giant Man vs. The Atom, Cyclops vs. Batman, Spider-Man vs. Mister Miracle, Namor vs. Aquaman, and finally Lobo vs. Galactus!  
 

The battle finally ends when Silver Surfer steps in and uses his powers, demanding that the game be ended and he and Superman be switched back to their own universe.  Impossible Man brings Superman to the Fortress of Solitude so that he can testify Impossible Man won the game, forcing Mr. Mxyzptlk to concede. . .
 

With all four of the players now in the same space and the game ended, Superman and Silver Surfer agree to help Impossible Man and Mr. Mxyzptlk clean up their mess by taking care of the Skrull invaders and putting Metropolis back where it belongs. . .while the two tricksters agree to send Superman and Silver Surfer back to where they belong.
 

And so, working together, Metropolis is returned to its normal place. . .
 

 
. . .And the Skrull invasion force is sent into retreat.
 

At the end of it all, Superman and Silver Surfer have a moment between themselves to reflect on the strange adventure.  They part as friends and hope to meet again, but have been told by Impossible Man and Mr. Mxyzptlk that their memories of this encounter will soon disappear completely.  
 

The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay, there it is.  Superman and Silver Surfer being used as pawns in a game between two interdimensional tricksters.  Let's break it on down!
 
I'm gonna be totally honest and up front here.  I intended this review as a tribute to the great George Perez with a bit of a Longbox Junk twist, and the takeaway here is that Perez is known as one of the greatest comic artists and not as one of the great comic writers for a reason.
 
Hold on! Don't get me wrong here!  I'm not saying his writing is bad at all.  I'm just saying that there's a reason he's better known as a legendary artist.  This is actually a really fun story!  
 
I love a good "one and done" comic story and this one definitely fits the bill.  It's not deep.  It's not particularly memorable.  The status quo (at the time) of the two heroes doesn't budge an inch.  It just tells a fun tale of two heroes being caught up in a strange game.  
 
The way that Perez gets Superman and Silver Surfer into each others' universes IS a bit convoluted, and I feel that there must have been a more straightforward story to be told on that end, but other than that, this is just a colorful, action-packed, FUN comic!  And really. . .when it comes down to it, isn't being fun sometimes enough reason to like a comic book?  In my humble opinion, I say YES!
 
So George Perez does a decent job writing this thing, let's take a look at the art.
 
So, Ron Lim has a mighty hard row to hoe being the artist on a comic where George Perez is involved.  Let's face it, when most people see Perez's name on the cover of a comic, they're gonna assume he's got something to do with the art.  Nope. . .not here.
 
Fortunately, Lim steps up to the plate with confidence and knocks it right out of the park!  This comic is simply gorgeous to look at!  Lim has a simple, classic style with nice clean lines and a great touch on facial expressions that brings a lot of character to this comic. 
 
 There are plenty of little "wow!" moments to be found here. . .Just scroll up and look at some of the pages I scanned to see a few.  My favorites mostly revolve around the Silver Surfer.  His introduction to the story, flying through the stars right into the readers face is simply fantastic!
 

CONCLUSION

 
George Perez the writer isn't quite on the same level as George Perez the artist, but overall, this is a comic that is so much fun to read that I don't even care.  The story is fun, the art is fun, this is just a FUN comic from cover to cover!
 
Sometimes we get so caught up in the dramatic stories of our four-color heroes. . .their loves, their losses, their titanic conflicts, their inner angst. . .that we forget that comics can be FUN.  This story is a perfect breath of fresh air.  A nice little break. 
 
 Is it the best story ever written?  No.  Not even close.  But is it FUN?  Yes.  And for that, I give George Perez credit where credit is due.  He may be known more as an artist, and he's definitely going to be remembered that way by most comic fans, but he can sure write a fun story when he wants to!
 
All in all, I found this one shot story to be a nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  Check it out if you just want to read a fun little story that shows a different side of superstar artist George Perez. And not for nothin' but let's not forget page after page of some very nice art by Ron Lim.  It's just a really good comic from end to end.
 
Up Next. . .
 
The review I ORIGINALLY had planned. 
 
A four-issue series that ponders the following question:  What if legendary martial artist Bruce Lee didn't actually die, but was frozen in suspended animation and revived today?  Join me next time and we'll find out!
 
It's Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises from Magnetic Press (Yeah, I've never heard of them either)
 
Be there or be square!

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