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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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Merry Christmas from Longbox Junk!

949 views • 161 days ago • (0) Comments

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

'Tis the season for comic review sites to be getting into some Christmas cheer! 

 
Unfortunately, last year I discovered I have a severe lack of Holiday-Themed comics for some strange and unknown reason I can't figure out.  And when I say a severe lack, what I mean is that out of THOUSANDS of comics between me and my daughter, we have a grand total of FOUR Christmas comics. . .of which I've already reviewed two.

SO. . .

Instead of doing reviews of Christmas comics I don't have, I'll take this opportunity to thank the readers of Longbox Junk.  I appreciate each and every one of you who choose to come into this merry mess of reviews that nobody ever asked for on a regular basis.  And for those of you who have somehow accidentally found your way into this little corner of the internet, thank you for coming as well!

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and many more to come!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I review comics that nobody asked me to!

The comics I've been reading lately, I don't think ANYBODY has ever been asked to review.  From what I can see, I'm writing the first (and probably the last) reviews of most of them. . .but truthfully, that's the fun part!

What we have here are what I've been calling "Off-Brand One Shots".  They're single issue stories pulled from a recent massive purchase of roughly 600 NON-DC/Marvel comics bought on the cheap from a closing comic shop.

I've put a little twist in things by letting my comic lovin' daughter pick the one shots I've been taking a look at, and so far she's done a pretty good job at mixing things up.  Everything from straight superhero stories, to horror, manga, comedy, and everything in between.

Let's see what she's given me this time!

ONIBA: SWORDS OF THE DEMON 

ASPEN COMICS (2015)

 
"NO, MASTER"
SCRIPT: Vince Hernandez & Paolo Pantalena
PENCILS: Paolo Pantalena
COVER: Paolo Pantalena
 
THE COVER:
Now THAT'S a pretty impressive cover! The colors are amazing, the main character and the dragon are very nicely detailed, and everything really pops up against the plain background.  It's a little bit -tastic, but it's not done in an exploitative way (like the other covers below), so I think I can get away with putting this one up on the "Wall O'Covers" at work (I have to think twice about ANY cover with a female I put up there).  I really like everything about this cover!  Let's hope the story is as good.
 
THE STORY:
In feudal Japan, Daimyo Nobunga Oda is a powerful and ruthless ruler. Expert swordswoman and assassin Yukiko is his most feared and trusted warrior.  After helping decimate a rival clan, Yukiko begins to have doubts about her powerful Master when she secretly witnesses him sacrifice two of his own warriors while praying to something unseen.
 
After confiding what she's seen to a fellow warrior and friend, Akechi, he also confides that these dark doings are partly what is behind a planned coup he will be leading.  Yukiko declines to join Akechi in his rebellion, but also keeps what she knows secret from her Master.
 
Shortly afterward, the attack Akechi warned Yukiko about comes, and after a brutal battle, Akechi confronts the fleeing Nobunga, but the fight between the two goes badly for the rebel leader.  Yukiko secretly strikes the killing blow, stabbing her own Master in the back during his moment of triumph, leaving Akechi victorious. . .but the betrayal of her Master is too much for Yukiko to bear.  
 
Beacause of her shameful secret, Yukiko leaves the clan to wander the land as masterless warrior. . .a Ronin.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
I really liked this comic a lot!  It has a well-written story full of action and intrigue that hints at a darker supernatural center that I want to know more about.  Likewise, the main character is interesting and I want to know where her journey takes her.  Unfortunately, this looks like a project that never got past this single introductory issue, which is a shame because there's a lot of great story potential here.  
 
Admittedly, this is a story that's been told before. . .Many times before.  That said "Wandering Warrior carrying a dark secret" is a classic story framework for a good reason.  It's a narrative hook a writer can hang almost any kind of tale they want on. The journey of a disgraced warrior through a supernatural-tainted version of Japan is a comic series I want to read.
 
 
On the art side of things, the excellence of the cover is carried through to the inside pages.  I love the uninked, sort of watercolor style the artist uses. The colors are great.  The elaborate character designs are fantastic. This comic is simply a feast for the eyes!  EVERY page is worth lingering over. 
 
Overall, this comic is pure Longbox Junk gold!  It has an interesting story I want more of (and sadly will never get), backed up by some incredible art.  It's a shame that this is the only issue of this series that was ever put out, because I'd be on the bargain bin hunt for the rest if there were more.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one FIVE out of FIVE Yojimbo homages.
 
A GREAT start! Let's see what's next. . .
 

WITCH HUNTER #1

MALIBU (1996)

 
BLOOD HUNT
SCRIPT: Laurie Sutton
PENCILS: Joyce Chin
COVER: Renee Paniccia
 
COLORS: Roberta Conroy, Camelia , Sharleen Gaertner, Lucy Koeoeian, Edie Moses, Rebecca Maiden, Renee Paniccia, Kim Pettijohn, Alicia Rodriguez, Sheri Rohrbacher, Jacquie Roman, Serina Sahakian, Carolyn Shaver, Jennifer Schellinger, Kelli Young.
 
I just thought I'd point out that there's FIFTEEN color artists credited for this ONE issue! That's gotta be some sort of record. . .
 
THE COVER:
Oh, boy.  Nope.  This one ain't going up on the office wall.  It's WAY too -tastic, and not in a somewhat excusably artistic way (Like Oniba, above), but in a straight-up exploitative 90's "LOOK AT THE !" Sort of way.  Setting aside the , it's a decent cover, but not great. . .like a lot of 90's covers, it definitely has the stench of Rob Liefeld's influence on it in the stretched-out proportions, impossible hair, and cybernetic arm. 
 
THE STORY:
Maria Delorentti (AKA Witch Hunter), an agent of the mysterious supernatural watchdog agency known as The Seventh Sign, follows a trail of clues across the city as she searches for a missing Seventh Sign agent.  
 
Eventually, she learns the location of the agent, but must work quickly to rescue him.  He is due to be sacrificed at the height of the moon, mere minutes away!  Leaping into action, Witch Hunter disrupts the ceremony in progress and finds herself fighting a cult of female vampires.  
 
Knowing that her blood is poison to vampires, Witch Hunter allows them to drink.  To block out the pain, she reflects back on her life before she joined Seventh Sign. . .
 
Massachusetts, 1936.  On her 21st birthday, Maria is attacked by evil spirits that open a portal to another world and attempt to pull her in.  An agent of Seventh Sign who had been watching the house breaks his instructions to observe and report in order to save her. . .but not before her youngest sister is pulled into the portal, her mother dies from the horror, and her other sister falls comatose.  
 
Upon hearing the news of the devastation her family has suffered, Maria swears vengeance and immediately accepts the offer to join The Seventh Sign as an agent against evil forces.
 
Returning back to the present, the minions of the Vampire Queen lay dead around Witch Hunter, poisoned by her blood.  She confronts their leader, who knew not to drink from her, and they join in battle.  After a brutal fight in the skies above the city, Witch Hunter manages to behead the Vampire Queen with her holy sword.  With the cult defeated, Witch Hunter returns with the kidnapped agent to headquarters.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
What we have here is a pretty lackluster story.  It has a main character I just couldn't get interested in, with vaguely-defined powers that seem to match whatever the story needs her to have.  The story is weak and forgettable, and is obviously just a hook to hang a comic filled with pictures of half naked women on.  I always tell my daughter to never judge a comic book by its cover. . .but in this case, the cover tells you exactly what you're going to get.
 
 
 
Unfortunately, for a comic where the story is in service to the art, the art isn't even that great.  It's okay, but lacks a sense of motion needed for a story that's basically a long fight scene with a flashback thrown in the middle.  Characters look like they're posing more than moving.  It's pretty obvious that posed pictures of scantily-clad women is the focus of the artist. . .and indeed, the focus of the comic in general.
 
Overall, what we have here is a comic book laser focused on the lowest common denominators for young men. . . and violence.  The sad part is that they don't even get THAT completely right.  This comic is an utterly forgettable relic of the 90's "Bad Girl" trend.  There was never a #2 and it's not hard to see why.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one 2 out of 5 Liefeld-Inspired Cybernetic Arms.
 
One good. . .one bad.  NEXT!
 

ULTRAVIXEN

HOUND COMICS (2013)

SCORPIO RISING! . . .OR WAS THAT FALLING?

SCRIPT: Marcelo Bravo
PENCILS: Jed Dougherty
COVER: Jed Dougherty

THE COVER:

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write reviews of comics that nobody ever asked for!

Recently, the whole "nobody ever asked for" part has been more true than ever as I've been exploring a stack of one shot comics included in a purchase of 2 longboxes full of nothing but random NON-DC/Marvel comics.  I've gotta say. . .digging into those longboxes has definitely been a new experience in obscurity for me.  There's a LOT of stuff I never knew existed just in those two boxes of comics!

ANYWAY. . .

I've been letting my comic lovin' daughter pick the comics I review for these "Off-Brand One Shots" editions of Longbox Junk.  So far, she's done a pretty good job of mixing things up and giving me a nice variety of genres from horror to comedy and everything in between.  Let's see what she gave me this time, shall we?

THE ROCK

CHAOS! COMICS (2001)

 
THE PEOPLE'S COMIC BOOK!
SCRIPT: Steven Grant
PENCILS: Fabiano Neves
COVER: Photo
 
THE COVER:
It's a photo cover.  What can I say?  If you're a fan of Dwayne Johnson in his pro-wrestling "The Rock" persona, then this is probably an awesome picture worthy of being part of some sort of shrine.  To me. . .it's just a picture of a younger Dwayne Johnson giving me "The People's Eyebrow".

Moving along. . .
 
THE STORY:
The Rock is a simple man.  A man of the people.  A man who just wants a little peace between the times he lays the smack down in the wrestling ring.  When The Rock accidentally finds himself caught between two competing illegal underground fight promoters. . .one of which has a fighter pretending to be The Rock, it's time to teach some candy their roles!

The Rock invades the underground fight club and shows every Jabronie that dares to step up to him what it means to look upon the glory of the most electrifying presence in sports entertainment.  After defeating all comers. . .as was ordained the moment The Rock entered the building. . .he makes the crooked promoters smell what The Rock is cooking by forcing them to end their pathetic excuse for a tournament unless they want a piece of the people's elbow.

The End.

 
THE REVIEW:
I have to admit that I'm not a pro wrestling fan.  That said, I had a roommate in the late 90's that was rabid about it, so I'm familiar with it through a bit of osmosis from his constantly watching it.  There's also been a few wrestlers who have broken away from the ring and into the general public consciousness, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is probably the most successful of those, so I know him more than most wrestlers. . .and even then I'm not a big fan.  I'll watch his movies, but I don't go out of my way to see one just because he's in it.

What I'm trying to say is that I came into this comic not as a fan of The Rock, but as a comic fan who got handed a Rock comic by his daughter to review on its own merits.  I could care less about The Rock in general.

THAT SAID. . .

I liked this comic a LOT! Quite a bit more than I thought I would when I got it handed to me and I was like, "Really?"  It's the dialogue that makes this book great.  It's hilarious and over the top all the way through, from page one to page last.  Rock talking about himself in the third person and just blowing past everybody like a force of nature laser-focused on doing whatever the he wants to do is just FUN.  This comic is just entertaining fun from start to finish!  A very pleasant surprise.

 
On the art side of things, this is a pretty well drawn comic.  Not the greatest art I've ever seen, but it's good and at least it captures the likeness of the main character, which is a lot more than can be said for most licensed property comics featuring actual people (I'm looking at YOU Deep Space Nine a couple of reviews below).  There's also a great sense of motion during the action scenes.  The art here is pretty much perfectly matched with the story.
 
Overall, I was really surprised by how much I liked this comic.  It's fast, it's funny, it's over the top and just plain entertaining.  It's not thoughtful or deep in any way, but sometimes you just want a good simple FUN story.  This comic delivers just that.
 
THE VERDICT:
I give The Rock 4 out of 5 candy taught their roles.

A good start this time out. . .NEXT!
 

LADY ACTION SPECIAL

MOONSTONE (2009)

 
SCRIPT: Tony Lee
PENCILS: Jake Minor
COVER: Paul Gulacy
 
THE COVER:
I like a cover that tells a story and this cover tells me that there's a Lady and there's gonna be some Action!  I have no idea who Lady Action is, but without even opening this comic I can tell that her kind of action involves guns, fast cars, and possibly some sort of kinky uniform-oriented shenanigans when it's all said and done.  I like this cover a lot.  It's not the greatest comic cover I've ever seen (her face and gun hand both look a little strange), but it's nicely done and lets you know what you're in for with one image.
 
THE STORY:
Nicola Sinclair (AKA Lady Action), an agent of the British A.C.T.I.O.N. Directorate, infiltrates the mansion of crime lord "El Caso" during an exclusive party.  With the assistance of an American A.C.T.I.O.N. agent named Adam, she successfully hacks into El Caso's private computer files and discovers that he has information that only A.C.T.I.O.N. should have.
 
Nicola's fears of a traitor are proven correct when El Caso and a group of his armed bodyguards arrive to take the British agent prisoner and Adam shows up with them and admits that he's working with El Caso.  As the criminals discuss how to execute her, Nicola causes an explosion and flees the mansion with El Caso's men in hot pursuit.
 
Lady Action grabs a motorcycle and leads El Caso's men on a running gun battle chase through the surrounding woods.  Nicola encounters Adam and tries to regain the flash drive with El Caso's files on it, but the American Double Agent shoots and kills Nicola as El Caso hovers overhead in a helicopter.
 
EPILOGUE: Two weeks later Nicola and Adam meet in a Texas diner.  The information theft was a distraction and her death was faked so that Adam could infiltrate deeper into El Caso's organization.  
 
Adam gives Nicola the information the British Branch was REALLY looking for, gained by El Caso's trust in Adam.  Shortly after Nicola leaves with the files, Adam is shot in the head by one of El Caso's assassins and El Caso is informed that Lady Action is alive and has the stolen information.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
Not bad.  Not bad at all!  This is a fast-paced, well-written "infiltrate and escape" spy story with a (somewhat predictable, to be honest) double twist.  It makes me want to know what happens next.  That said, even though it's a good story, it's not perfect.
 
This is firmly connected to the continuity of the Moonstone Captain Action series, so there are quite a few references to characters and events that have taken place "off stage".  There is an assumption that if you're reading Lady Action, then you already know vital Captain Action-related information. . .like what the A.C.T.I.O.N. is in the first place! (I had to wiki up and discover that it's sort of like the Mission Impossible Force, but their main enemy are aliens who have infiltrated the world's governments) In other words, there is NO background information here.  This story hits the ground running and stays that way to the end.
 
On the art side, I like this style a lot.  It has heavy lines, chunky forms, and is just slightly exaggerated with nice bold colors and a great sense of movement.  It's a perfect fit for a fast-moving story like this.  Like a lot of these "Off Brand One Shots" there's a lot more effort and detail put into the female figure than anything else.  This isn't QUITE as -tastic as some of them, but you can definitely tell what the artist's favorite thing to draw was.
 
Overall, I liked this comic a lot.  It has a fun, fast-paced spy story backed up with some good art.  There's no background material, so there's references that don't register well with a new reader like myself, and it has a "to be continued" ending, but that didn't stop me from enjoying this little story.
 
THE VERDICT:
I give Lady Action 4 out of 5 menacing gunmen.
 
Two good ones in a row! Let's see if we can keep this going.  NEXT!
 

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE -

LIGHTSTORM

MALIBU (1994)

 
LIGHTSTORM
SCRIPT: Mark Altman
PENCILS: Rob Davis
COVER: Rob Davis
 
THE COVER:
 
*Sigh* This again?  Why do you keep doing this to me, Star Trek?
 
I'm a HUGE Star Trek fan, but Star Trek comics (especially those from the 80's and 90's) have pretty much consistently disappointed me with their art.  It seems like the built-in audience and sales for Star Trek comics leads to a "Minimum Effort" standard.  This cover is no exception.  It's okay. . .but it doesn't look like the artist put any more work into it than he absolutely had to.  And when I see the interiors were done by the same guy, it doesn't give me much confidence.  Here's hoping that at least the story is good.
 
THE STORY:
After the newly-established Federation colony Gakora in the Gamma Quadrant comes under attack by an unknown enemy, the Klingon cruiser A'v Wi, under the command of Captain Krol, answers the distress call, but finds the colony destroyed and only one human survivor.  Krol decides to take the comatose survivor to the closest Federation base, Deep Space Nine.
 
Captain Krol is determined to find and destroy the attackers, while Katha, the Imperial Adjunct aboard the A'v Wi, insists on a more diplomatic first contact with the mysterious aliens.  Deep Space Nine Commander Sisko agrees and asks to join the Klingons, along with his science officer, Dax.
 
Shortly after entering the Gakora system, the Klingon cruiser is attacked, but the attacking ships are technologically inferior and pose little threat.  After opening communication, the alien commander seems to recognize the Klingons as allies and thinks that the humans he sees are prisoners.  He offers to guide the confused Klingon Captain to their base.
 
After arriving at the alien homeworld and meeting their ruler, Malek, Sisko and Dax are imprisoned and scheduled for execution.  Adjunct Katha and Captain Kol demand an explanation and are told that humans are the enemy of the Myvock people because they violated the ancient holy ground of the planet Gakora.  Katha and Kol become more confused as Malek tells them that he was informed by other Klingons that the alliance between the Federation and Klingon Empire had collapsed.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
On Deep Space Nine, the human survivor of the Gakora colony regains consciousness and informs Dr. Bashir that after the attack, when the aliens were slaughtering the survivors, they were accompanied by two female Klingons who Bashir realizes match the description of Lursa and B'etor. . .dangerous Klingon sisters who have constantly attempted to erode the Federation/ Klingon alliance.  Doctor Bashir and Chief O'Brien volunteer to travel to Gakora and try to warn Sisko and Dax.
 
On the Myvock homeworld, Captain Kol and Katha are introduced to Hernai. . .the Myvock military commander who led the attack on Gakora.  Hernai is determined that the execution of Sisko and Dax be carried out as quickly as possible.  Kol and Katha arrange a secret meeting with the humans to tell them that they will not allow them to be executed.  Katha reveals that she's actually a Klingon intelligence agent trying to track down the Klingon sisters Lursa and B'etor and prevent them from selling explosives to Bajoran terrorists.
 
On Gakora, Bashir and O'Brien are almost immediately captured by Lursa and B'etor while back on the Myvock homeworld, Sisko, Dax, Kol, and Katha confront Malek and inform him that he's being used by Klingon terrorists.  Commander Hernai interrupts and they are all taken prisoner and scheduled for immediate execution, along with Bashir and Dax. . .which reveals that Hernai is working with Lursa and B'etor.  
 
The Klingon cruiser transports the prisoners out of danger, and they quickly head for Gakora.  Following a battle in mines beneath Gakora, Lursa and B'etor make their escape.  Hernai reveals to Malek that he allowed the sisters to mine beneath their holy ground in exchange for technology to improve their weapons. Malek removes him from military command.  Katha goes in pursuit of Lursa and B'etor while Sisko and Malek make peace between the Myvock and Humans.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Well now. . .that's a lot of story!  And it's pretty well condensed too.  I left out a couple of sub-plots (Doctor Bashir and the Klingon First Officer Koleth's friendship, for one example.  The simmering conflict between Captain Kol and Katha for command of the Klingon ship is another) and there's STILL eight paragraphs.  So yeah. . .this double-sized comic is definitely on the dialogue-heavy side.
 
The good news is that the story is very well done.  The writer (who is a pretty prolific author and screenwriter. . .including a two-volume 50 year history of Star Trek) very accurately captures the voices and personalities of the Deep Space Nine characters in such a way that this comic reads like it could EASILY be the script for a Deep Space Nine episode set in the first season of the show.  You can almost feel where the commercial breaks are supposed to go!  This is great read for Deep Space Nine fans like myself.
 
Unfortunately. . .there's the art.
 
 
Once again, a Star Trek comic fumbles the ball with the art.  It's clunky and uninspired from cover to last page.  The artist mostly fails to capture the likeness of the T.V. characters and backgrounds are minimal to non-existent.  There's just a feeling that not much effort was put into this. . .which is a shame, considering the really good writing.  With a little more effort on the art, this COULD have been a great comic. 
 
Overall, this comic is the definition of conflicted.  On one hand, you have a good story that absolutely captures the essence and voices of established Deep Space Nine characters and reads like a "Lost Episode" of the first season of the series.  On the other hand, you have clunky, uninspired art that demonstrates a "minimum effort" standard that is just one notch away from being outright bad. 
 
THE VERDICT:
I'll give this one a half and half score of 3 out of 5 bowls of Gagh (served live, of course)
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ENTER THE ZOMBIE

ANTARCTIC PRESS (2010)

 
ZOMBIES OF SHAOLIN
SCRIPT: Fred Perry & Robby Bevard
PENCILS: Ben Dunn
COVER: Brian Denham
 
THE COVER: 
I wish I'd had this comic when I was pulling covers for my Halloween comic display on my office "Wall O' Covers".  It's chaotic and crazy in a good way.  I like the colors a lot, especially the plain green background that really sets everything against it quite nicely.  The gigantic nasty smile on the featured Kung Fu zombie is creepy and hilarious at the same time!  It's not the greatest comic cover I've ever seen, but I like it!
 
THE STORY:
A talented but impatient young American Shaolin trainee is denied the chance to take the initiation test.  His master explains that decades of training lie in front of the young man before he can take the test. After learning the location of a hidden forbidden chamber on the Temple grounds, the student becomes convinced it holds the secrets of martial arts mastery he needs to take the initiation test.
 
Disobeying the command of his Master to not disturb the chamber, the student opens the sealed door and accidentally unleashes 36 evil, undead spirits that quickly begin to possess the rest of the students in the Temple. . .turning them into Kung Fu Zombies!
 
A friendly guardian spirit also released from the chamber informs the student that only HE can return the evil spirits to the chamber, because he was the one who released them.  The student gathers his courage and sets off to prove that he's worthy!
 
After fighting his way through the possessed students to come to his teacher's aid, the student is surprised to find that his Master had used him to open the chamber's seal and betray the Shaolin Temple to the evil spirits.  The battle between them is short and the student is easily defeated, but the Guardian Spirit infuses the student with the power of the SENTAI SHAOLIN TIGER!  
 
Transforming into a heroic, armored figure, the empowered student defeats his former Master and the rest of the evil spirits before changing back into a powerless young man.  The Guardian Spirit tells him that he is now the Guardian of the Secret Chamber.
 
Years later, the student has become the teacher.  A young, impatient student of his discovers the location of the Secret Chamber. . .
 
The End?
 
THE REVIEW:
Not bad.  Not bad at all!  This is an extremely fast-reading and stripped-down story that moves quickly from Point A to Point B to Point C without anything to slow it down.  This is a lean story that is over before you know it.  I literally finished this comic in five minutes.
 
But even though this is an extremely simple and action-heavy story, I liked it.  It's quick and entertaining.  It's not a great story.  It might not even be good, when you think about it.  It's like comic book junk food.  You know it's not really great, but before you know it, you're done with the whole thing and you sort of want some more.
 
 
Ben Dunn is actually an artist I like a lot.  I'm always happy to see his name on a comic.  I appreciate his (and Antarctic) bringing the Manga style to an American audience.  It's not my favorite style, but I like it in small doses now and then.  This is a pretty straightforward, no-frills example of that American Manga style.  It helps the fast-paced story move quickly across the page, and it's very nicely done.  
 
Overall, this is pretty much what I call a "junk food comic".  Sure, there's better comics out there, but sometimes you just want a little bit of fun entertainment that might not be what other people would call great, but screw those people.  Not everything has to be great.  This is just a fast-paced, fun little story.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
THE VERDICT:
I'll give this one 4 out of 5 poorly-dubbed episodes of One Piece.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Well now. . .THAT was an unexpected surprise.  This handful of "Off-Brand One Shots" my daughter gave me was actually pretty darn good!  Except for the extremely weak art on Deep Space Nine (But that's par for the course on almost ANY 80's or 90's Star Trek comic, to be fair) there's not much bad to say about any of these.  That doesn't happen very often.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
Plenty more Off-Brand One Shots in the pile. 
Let's see what my daughter hands me next!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

This time out, I'm going to take a look at another handful of one shot issues that were included with my recent purchase of a massive pile (about 600 issues) of non-DC/Marvel comics.  I've let my daughter pick the ones to review, and I have to say that I was a little disappointed with what she gave me last time.

I'm crossing my fingers for better luck with this batch. . .so enough introduction, let's get right into it!

NITROGEN

Arcade Comics (2005)

 
SCRIPT: Rob Liefeld & Brandon Thomas
PENCILS: Jon Malin
COVER: Jon Malin
 
THE COVER:
Hmmm. . .okay.  Not bad.  Not great, but it's pretty good in that signature "in your face" 90's-Tastic way.  Rob Liefeld is the writer on this one and not the artist, but I can definitely see his influence here in all the straps, spikes, giant guns and all around shiny metal look of things. . .as well as in the general composition and posing of the characters.  This cover simply screams "THE 90'S!!" at me. 
 
Wait.  What?  This comic isn't from the 90's, it's from 2005? Ohhhhhh. . .okay then.  My mistake. Ha-Ha! You got me!  Heh. . .heh.  *sigh*  Let's take a look inside.
 
THE STORY:

The Nitros, a team of young superpowered heroes, have rebelled against the morals of the past generation of heroes that taught them to use their powers for the good of humanity.  Instead they have embraced the path of power and follow the commands of hero-turned villain Zang.

Under Zang's ruthless leadership, the younger generation uses their intimate knowledge of the older heroes to easily defeat them. . .but in their overconfidence, they don't understand that there were things that the older generation never taught them or told them about because they were too dangerous.

One of the few remaining heroes of the past uses this knowledge and desperately opens a hole in the time-space continuum through which a horde of strange beings come through to confront the young rebels.

The End. . .to be continued?
 
THE REVIEW:

As I read this comic, I was struck by the similarities between it and "Jupiter's Legacy", by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. . .which came out 8 years after this in 2013.  The resemblance is mostly in the subject of a younger generation of heroes turning against their mentors, and Jupiter's Legacy is a superior look at the subject, but I still found it pretty interesting to see a Rob Liefeld-written version of Jupiter's Legacy that came out a decade earlier.

THAT SAID. . .

Rob Liefeld isn't exactly known for his great writing, and he's certainly no Mark Millar.  The writing on this isn't great. It's not awful, but it's not great. It's just sort of "pretty good".  Reading this will take you right back to the 90's like it's a paper time machine.  People shout about their powers to each other in the middle of fights, for example.

I have to admit that the plot itself was pretty interesting if you can look past all the shouting, but even though it ends on a "To Be Continued" note, this is it.  It seems to be the first issue of an unfinished project.  Sort of a shame because there's actually some potential to be good here.


 
As far as the art goes. . .it's even more of a trip back to the 90's "We want to be like Marvel!" Image team books than the writing.  Rob Liefeld isn't given any art credit here, but he probably should have been for inspiration alone!
 
Like the cover, Liefeld's influence is all over the place in the exaggerated proportions, overly-elaborate costumes, spiky hair, and constantly-exposed teeth of the characters. The pages are so cluttered with action that it's sometimes hard to keep track of what's going on.  The art is actually well done for what it is.  Simply put it's 90's-Tastic in every good AND bad way that it can be. 
 
Overall, I actually enjoyed this one.  It's not the best-written comic ever, but it does have a decent premise, some nice 90's-style art, and the potential to be a good story.  Unfortunately, this is all there is of it, so there's really no way to see where it went.
 
THE VERDICT:

I'll give this one 3 out of 5 costumes with useless straps and gigantic shoulder pads.

NEXT!
 

MASTER DARQUE

Valiant (1998)

 
SCRIPT: Christina Z.
PENCILS: Leonardo Manco
COVER: Leonardo Manco
 
THE COVER:
I'm a big fan of Leonardo Manco's art, and seeing his name on the cover of this makes me very happy. . .BUT. . .this cover isn't his best work.  It's dark and muddled and the main character's face just looks strange.  There's a lot of wasted space in the frame and logo area. This isn't the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic book. I hope whatever's inside is better. Let's check it out!
 
THE STORY:
When a desperate young man seeks aid from the mysterious Alexandre Darque to save his dying mother, he is taken on a nightmarish and dangerous journey to the darkest edges of the Valiant Universe to retrieve three artifacts.

Unfortunately, even though his mother is saved, he learns that he was just a in Darque's twisted games.  The artifacts he risked his sanity for weren't to save his mother at all, but to give Darque a glimpse into the future end of the world and what part Alexandre Darque will play in it.

The End. . .to be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
Like Nitrogen above, I was actually reminded of another story while reading this hefty double-sized issue.  This time it was DC's 1990 Books of Magic mini-series, where fledgling magician Timothy Hunter is led through the occult side of the DC Universe by characters like John Constantine and Phantom Stranger, with cameos of various other DC mystic characters along the way.

The mysterious, mystical, self-serving title character resembles John Constantine in a very obvious way (even in appearance).  The resemblance is barely copyright-dodging enough that this could have EASILY been a Hellblazer comic as Darque leads an unsuspecting young man through mystical realms and meets characters like Shadowman, The Eternal Warrior, and Turok.

Setting aside the very obvious. . .I'll kindly call them "influences". . . this isn't a bad story at all.  Like Books of Magic, it serves as a good introduction to the dark corners of Valiant's recently (at the time) rebooted universe through the eyes of a relatable non-powered character.  The ending makes it clear that there is a lot more to the tale (there was a follow-up 4 issue series called Darque Passages), but despite that, this is a complete and pretty enjoyable story in itself.

 
When talking about the cover above, I mentioned that I'm a fan of Leonardo Manco's art, but that the cover was disappointing.  The good news is that the interior art here is simply amazing!  Manco's signature darkly-inked and supremely-detailed style is definitely the star of THIS show, and (in my extremely humble opinion) is reason enough alone to pick this comic up!  Just look at the awesome full-pager above and know that Manco was the PERFECT artist for a story like this.
 
Overall, even though the story is highly derivative of Books of Magic and the main character is a discount version of John Constantine, I liked this issue for the guided tour through the dark side of the Valiant Universe.  Throw in some fantastic artwork that fits the mystical and sometimes horrific story perfectly and this one's a winner!

THE VERDICT:

I'll give this one 4 out of 5 copyright-dodging differences.

NEXT!
 

SHOTGUN MARY:

SON OF THE BEAST

Antarctic Press (1997)

 
 
SCRIPT: Miki (Miljenko) Horvatic
PENCILS: Esad Ribic
COVER: Esad Ribic
 
THE COVER:
Yep. . .there it is, front and center, folks. The Boo-Tay! 
 
I actually like this cover quite a bit for the way the main character is contrasted against a plain background.  I've always liked covers that use this method.  Shotgun Mary is nicely-painted and detailed as well. I also like the unusual pose of her looking over her shoulder.  I'd let this one take a turn on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" on my office wall at work, but I don't feel like having to go to an awkward HR appointment to talk about it.
 
BONUS: Good News! I seem to have come into an extremely-limited "Gold Seal" Variant of this comic, of which I am now the proud owner of 1 of only 100 copies out there!  The bad news is that nobody cares and it's still not worth a (less than 10 bucks). *sigh*  Moving along. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
Renegade former Warrior Nun "Shotgun" Mary Delacroix follows a trail of victims with their hearts torn out into the desolate desert after learning that the sacrificial murders are meant to attract her attention.  After purposely walking into a demon's trap, Mary is offered a chance to join the forces of .  She declines with a combination of faith and firepower, defeating the demon and moving on to the next target in her lonely mission. . .
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
I'm familiar with Shotgun Mary from Antarctic's "Warrior Nun" comics, and I generally like the character.  She's a bit derivative of Marvel's Punisher, but with a Catholic religious angle that sets her against demons instead of criminals.  
 
This one shot puts Mary in full violent "Religious Punisher" mode in a fast-reading, action-heavy story that moves from point A to B to C very quickly and without any background material at all. . .so this one is NOT for new readers, but for existing fans.  If you don't already know what Shotgun Mary is about, this ain't the place to start.  
 
That said, despite the extremely thin story, I liked this quite a bit.  It's fast. . .it's simple. . .it's not deep or complicated.  It's Shotgun Mary purposely walking into a trap in order to kill a demon.  That's it.  Sometimes you just want a simple story and this one shot serves up just that.
 
 
On the art side of things, I was pleasantly surprised to find this to be a fully-painted comic.  I'm a bit more used to Manga-Style artwork in Antarctic comics. . .especially their earlier offerings from the 90's.  The art here is nicely-detailed and richly-colored.  It's not the BEST painted art I've ever seen, but it looks great and definitely takes the issue up a notch in quality.
 
Overall, this is a fast-paced and simple page-turner with some unusual (for Antarctic) painted art.  As an existing fan of the main character, I liked it quite a bit.  If you're not familiar with Shotgun Mary, this isn't a great introduction.
 
THE VERDICT:
 
I'll give this one 4 out of 5 scorched Rosary Beads.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

LITA FORD

Rock-It Comix (1993)

 
THE QUEEN OF HEAVY METAL
SCRIPT: Lita Ford, Laurel Fishman & Roland Mann
PENCILS: Jim Balent
COVER: Jim Balent
 
THE COVER:
Allrighty, then! It's a nicely painted depiction of 80's rocker Lita Ford proudly showing off the OTHER two reasons she's famous beyond her ONE hit song! Okay, two songs. . .if you count her sappy duet with Ozzy Osbourne where he's singing like he's reluctantly paying up on a lost bet.
 
I have to admit that this IS a pretty metal cover.  Too bad Lita Ford ain't metal. Still, I'm liking  all the skulls and the general throwback album cover look of it. Wait. . .is that a WIENER DOG bottom left? What the ?
 
BONUS: 
Good news! My copy of this comic is signed by writer Roland Mann. 
Bad News! A signed copy of this comic STILL isn't worth !
 
THE STORY:
Shortly before a concert at Madison Square Garden, rocker Lita Ford breaks her guitar but is given a new one by a mysterious stranger who claims the guitar has unusual powers.  In the meantime, Libby Snore. . .head of the P.M.R.C. and wife of Congressman Al Snore. . .is plotting to destroy the sinful Lita Ford at the very same concert.
 
As Lita and her band take the stage, Libby Snore uses black magic to open a gate to , releasing demons that possess her Young Republican followers. . .who attack the band and their fans.  As the demons attack, Lita's guitar transforms her into a heavy metal super-hero!
 
Using her new powers, Lita is able to defeat the Young Republican Demons and confront Libby Snore, forcing her to close the gate to .  Lita transforms back to her regular self and Libby Snore promptly has her arrested for starting a riot.  Lita's manager bails her out of jail and we are assured that the story hasn't ended yet.
 
The End. . .to be continued?
 
THE REVIEW:
Oh Lawd.  What the did I just read? 
 
I don't even know where to begin with just how bad this is, but here goes. 
 
At the heart of it, this is less of a story and more of a protest rant against the PMRC, which (for anyone under the age of 45 reading this) was an organization started in 1985 by Elizabeth (Libby) Gore that is responsible for those "Parental Advisory" labels that still adorn album covers today and the main censorship supervillain for heavy metal and rap music at the time.  
 
The PMRC is practically forgotten today, except in some songs from the era protesting it and relics like this comic.  But at the time, it was a pretty big deal complete with congressional hearings and all the associated hoopla censorship generally garners when it rears its ugly head in the US of A.
 
In other words, this is a comic that is stuck so firmly in a specific political moment in time that it's practically unreadable today.  It doesn't help that even if it wasn't a heavy-handed censorship protest thinly disguised as a comic book, it's very poorly written.  The "plot" is forced to fit the message instead of writing the story around the message in a more natural way.
 
Things happen for no reason except to address specific points of PMRC censorship, so the whole thing just feels forced and preachy. . .which is just strange for something that's supposedly AGAINST an organization that's forced and preachy!  
 
To make matters worse, unless you're someone who even REMEMBERS the PMRC, what little narrative drive this comic does have will be completely meaningless because all that's left of the PMRC are those little parental advisory stickers.
 
 
As far as the art goes. . .it's okay.  It tells the story, but beyond a hard focus on Lita Ford's mostly-naked body, there's nothing remarkable about it.  It's not the worst art I've ever seen, but it certainly doesn't try too hard either.  
 
Overall, this comic book is a sort of embarrassing relic of the time.  It features a one hit wonder fighting against a censorship organization that nobody cares about today and leans pretty heavily on being full of pictures of a scantily-clad woman drawn in an extremely average way.  Just read Red Sonja instead. . .at least you usually get a decent story that doesn't preach at you along with your sexy pictures. 
 
Beyond the story, there's a pretty extensive interview with Lita Ford that's actually pretty interesting, as well as a discography. . .who knew she had enough songs to fill not one, but TWO "greatest hits" albums?  So if you're a Lita Ford fan, you might get some extra mileage out of this.  But if you just grab this from the bargain bin because of the -tastic cover and expect a good story or great art, you're gonna be pretty disappointed.
 
THE VERDICT:
 
I give this one 1 out of 5 spiky leather bras.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Hoo-Boy.  My daughter gave me a mixed bag with this batch!  
 
I'd say the theme this time was reading one thing and being reminded of another.  From Nitrogen being a 90's-Tastic Liefeld version of Jupiter's Legacy, to Master Darque being THIS close to being a Valiant version of Books of Magic starring a bargain bin John Constantine, to Shotgun Mary basically being a Religious Female version of The Punisher that kills demons instead of criminals.  
 
Of the four, I'd say my favorite was Master Darque.  Yeah. . .it's really close to being a straight up copy of Books of Magic, but that Leonardo Manco art though!  The worst was Lita Ford.  It's amazing just HOW bad that comic is.  But that one bad apple aside, the other three were actually decent reads.
 
Up Next. . .
 
only knows what my daughter will give me next.  
MORE off-brand one shots!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

I believe I've mentioned in a couple of posts that I've recently come into two longboxes STUFFED with non-DC/ Marvel comics. . .mostly from the 90's.

I bought the boxes from a closing comic shop (another one bites the dust, R.I.P.) for a measly FORTY BUCKS because the shop owner knew that nobody else but me was going to touch them.  Indeed. . .his closing sale had been going on for a week and he hadn't sold but a few comics from those boxes.

SO. . .

Here I sit with about SIX HUNDRED random comics from mostly-defunct comic publishers like Valiant, Malibu, Innovation, Eclipse, NOW, Impact, Continuity, Topps, CrossGen Chaos, and others I've never even heard of.  Along with a healthy sprinkle of older comics from companies that are still chugging along like Dark Horse, Image, and Antarctic.

What to do with all of that fine Longbox Junk? Unfortunately, there isn't much that's complete, as far as runs or mini's. . .so despite the bounty of bargain box books at hand, they don't really fit my concept for Longbox Junk, where I generally try to get into full runs and complete stories.

BUT. . .

Among all the incomplete runs and story fragments, there is a big, beautiful stack of ONE SHOTS!

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you know the love I have for the one shot!  It's probably my favorite form of comic art.  The creative team has ONE and ONLY ONE issue to tell a complete story.  There's no room for error. . .no "well, maybe next issue will be better", like there is in a series.  I absolutely love seeing if a creative team can step up to the challenge of the one shot.

So let's get into some of these non-DC/Marvel one shots, shall we?  We shall!

RED SONJA

A DEATH IN SCARLET

Cross Plains Comics (1999)

 
A DEATH IN SCARLET
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas & Steve Lightle
PENCILS: Steve Lightle
COVER: Steve Lightle

THE COVER: 
Very nicely done! Lots of detail, great colors.  I like the way the main subject sits against the stark black background.  Sonja's face is a little strange, and there's no way I can hang this one on my office wall without an awkward appointment with HR (but that's Red Sonja covers in general, not just this one), but I like this one a lot!

THE STORY: 
A young Sonja learns the trade of thievery from a woman named T'Shika in the city of Khorsun.  When a theft goes wrong and the two find themselves pursued by the private army of a rich trader, Sonja stumbles into knowledge that the trader had something to do with the death of her family.

Sonja turns from hunted into hunter as she and T'Shika infiltrate his palace and find an ally in the form of an enslaved shape-shifting priestess called Sabra.  Unfortunately, in the battle to get close to the trader and gain information, Sonja accidentally kills him and is forced to leave without getting any closer to those who killed her family.

The End?

THE REVIEW:
  Although listed as a one-shot on comic reference sites, this comic looks a lot more like what was supposed to be the first issue of an ongoing series.  It stands alone as a pretty good story, but there are a lot of obviously-dangling plot threads, including an ending that's more of a "to be continued".  That said, the legendary Roy Thomas does a great job returning to one of his signature characters.

BONUS: There's a nice little essay in the back by Thomas on how he created Red Sonja for Marvel.

 
 
The art is very nicely detailed, but the colors are often a little garish.  Not often enough to bring things down too much, though.  There's also a LOT of cheesecake going on.  Like the cover (same as the interior artist), there's a pretty hard focus on Sonja in sexy poses throughout the whole comic.  So even though the story is pretty good, this isn't really a comic you're going to want to read at work.

THE VERDICT: 
I give this comic 4 out of 5 barely-covered .

NEXT!
 

BOMBAST

TOPPS (1993)

 
BOMBAST LIVES!
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas & Gary Friedrich
PENCILS: Ayers & John Severin
COVER: Jack Kirby

THE COVER: 
A great, colorful, old school character cover by the legendary Jack Kirby. . .complete with the signature Kirby Krackle! To be honest, the character himself looks a bit generic.  That said, this is the kind of cover that makes you want to see what's inside.  I REALLY like the bombastic text advertising the all-star classic creative lineup and the hilarious (to me, anyway) "1 of 1 COLLECT 'EM ALL!" tag.

THE STORY: 
A strange earthquake rocks the city of Chicago, opening a deep chasm that a young street punk named Darren falls into.  He finds himself in a mysterious cave with glowing rocks and a strangely-dressed man in a crystal pod.  As he investigates, he accidentally opens the pod and frees the man, who speaks in a strange language. . .but we readers know that he's a "ninth man" named Bombast with a mission to save the world of the "tenth men" and he's been in the pod for 15,000 years!

The confused Bombast leaves the chasm with Darren and begins to explore the unfamiliar world of technology he's found himself in.  When Darren is attacked by drug dealers he owes money to, Bombast saves him by using superhuman powers that allow him to turn almost anything into a deadly thrown weapon.  The battle brings Bombast to the attention of Chicago's resident super-cop, The Savage Dragon!

Bombast realizes he can't defeat Savage Dragon and is forced to escape.  Soon after, he encounters a strange metal-clad being named Death Flash who speaks his language.  Death Flash reveals that he is also a ninth man, but he is there to destroy humanity.  After a short battle, Bombast returns to the chasm, hoping to find some information to guide him.  He encounters yet another ninth man called Glida.  As they battle, their fight is interrupted by ANOTHER ninth man named Captain Glory, who somehow knows both of their names.

The End. . .to be continued.

THE REVIEW:  
There's a LOT of old school talent on this book!  That said. . .the finished product sadly doesn't  match the promise held in those names.   It's a shame to see such a waste.  The story is actually pretty poorly-written. . .especially in the dialogue, and in particular the dialogue of the reader's entryway into the story, the young, black "junkie" who discovers Bombast.  To be perfectly honest, most of his dialogue is extremely cringeworthy and borderline racist.  It almost breaks the story, it's so bad.

Setting that aside, the character of Bombast himself is just as generic as I was afraid of based on his cover appearance.  His powers are vaguely defined (he can. . .throw stuff?), he looks pretty ridiculous, and his dialogue is slightly annoying.  To make matters worse, his foe "Death Flash" rolls around Chicago on roller skates.

I realize that the creative team were going for a sort of late Silver/ early Bronze Age throwback style, and to their credit, they succeeded. For a comic written in 1993, this looks and feels exactly like something from the early 70's!

Unfortunately they didn't succeed in a GOOD way.  Instead, this is the sort of cringeworthy stuff that people making fun of the Silver/Bronze Age point and laugh at.  Maybe it was done on purpose? I sort of hope so, because then it's kind of brilliant, in a way.  If not, then it's just a pretty poor effort.  Sadly, I have the feeling this wasn't SUPPOSED to be bad.

 
 
The art serves the purpose of telling the story, but doesn't try to reach any higher than that.  Like the writing, I was expecting a little more from names like Ayers and Severin.  This whole comic just sort of feels like the minimum effort was put into it.

BONUS DISAPPOINTMENT: My copy didn't even have the Super Deluxe KirbyChrome trading card.  A single tear slowly trickles down my cheek. 

THE VERDICT: 
I give this comic 2 out of 5 old white guys trying to figure out how young black people talk.

NEXT!
 

GRIMM FAIRY TALES

2017 ARMED FORCES EDITION

ZENESCOPE (2017)

 
BLOODLINE
SCRIPT: Joe Brusha & Dave Franchini
PENCILS: Ario Murti
COVER: Alfredo Reyes

THE COVER: 
As a former Marine, a red-blooded male, and a general "America, Yeah!" kind of guy, this cover immediately grabs me.  It's bold and very nicely done.  If I could hang this on my office wall without multiple HR complaints, I would.

BUT. . .

As an adult comic reader, it's a little embarrassing.  I would never have bought this if it hadn't come to me in a giant box of random comics.  My daughter was laughing when we were pulling one shots to the side in a separate pile (there's about 30 more) and she spotted this one.  She asked who buys these kinds of comics.  I didn't have a good answer.  That's why it's in this review.

THE STORY:
In the dead of night at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., a mysterious hooded woman tracks her prey through the dark halls of the museum, pausing to briefly reflect on her family's long and dedicated military service to the United States through history as she passes by various displays.

Finally, she confronts a giant bull-headed creature with glowing red eyes and leaps into action, revealing herself as Belle, Hunter of Beasts! And. . .nope. That's it.

To be continued.

THE REVIEW:
What little "story" there is in this comic takes up a total of three and a half pages, and is actually just a preview for a (then) upcoming series.  For what it is, it's well-written and nicely-illustrated, but it's hardly worth even calling a story.

So this is a pretty thick comic.  What's in the rest of the pages?

It's all single page pinups of scantily-clad women with barely-there "military" wear and guns.  So, yeah. . .except for the preview at the front, the rest of this comic is -tastic military soft .

 
Now, don't get me wrong.  The art is great on all of them, and I've got nothing against some fine-lookin' comic ladies. . .but it's just sort of embarrassing that comics like this exist.  It reminds me of the old "Swimsuit Specials" Marvel used to put out before they realized everyone was making fun of them for it.  And indeed, my daughter was laughing when she challenged me to review this.

Challenge accepted, punk! BOOM! Here's your review!

BUT I DIGRESS. . .

Talking about the cover above, I mentioned that my daughter and I were pondering who exactly buys these comics.  Who are they created for?  The only answer I really can think of is that there's a LOT of fantastic artistic talent being wasted appealing to the most basic interests of young men, and that (based on the other handful of comics from this publisher I now own) Zenescope as a company in general exists to profit from those basic interests.  Those basic interests being .

Seriously. . .there's some great talent in this "comic" going to waste on stuff like this.  Judged on the art alone, there's a lot to like.  Unfortunately, the direction that art is pointed is disappointing.

THE VERDICT:
I give this comic 4 out of 5 anonymous HR reports for the art.
1 out of 5 skipped ads for the "story".

I feel dirty now.  MOVING ALONG!
 

MARRIED. . .WITH CHILDREN

BUCK'S TALE

NOW COMICS (1994)

 
BUCK'S TALE
SCRIPT: Geoffrey White
PENCILS: Eddie Pittman
COVER: Tom Richmond

THE COVER:
Not good.  It looks like something a teenager would draw for high school art class.  The (accidental, I promise) running theme with this batch of one shots (except Bombast) seems to be focused on nicely-illustrated with the woman's face as an afterthought.  This cover is no exception. Everything but Kelly Bundy's is pretty poorly done.

 I'm familiar with the Married. . .With Children T.V. show, but until now have never read one of the comics.  This cover does NOT give me confidence that it's going to be any good. Let's do it!

THE STORY:
We follow the tragic tale of the Bundy's dog, Buck, beginning with his early days as the unwanted pup of a stray and a purebreed poodle living on the streets and searching for his father among the mongrels of the stray dog underground.

After finally finding his father and being rejected, Buck is saved by Bud and Kelly Bundy, who use him to gain sympathy as they scavenge for food.  After proving himself useful, Buck becomes a member of the dysfunctional Bundy family.

The End.

THE REVIEW:
I came into this without much confidence based on the minimum effort given to the cover.  I wasn't wrong.  This whole thing feels sort of pointless and random.  None of the jokes really hit until Buck is in the Bundy home and we get some of that classic "Peg vs. Al" back and forth that made the T.V. show a hit, but it's too little and too late.  The rest of it is just sort of "This happened and then this happened" with surprisingly little humor for what is supposed to be a comedy-based comic.

I digress a bit, but I see this often in licensed comics.  Some things just don't translate well from screen to page.  Comedy is definitely one of them.  It's a rare thing for a comic book to be able to capture the same spark of comedy as its source material.  This comic not only doesn't capture that spark (with the exception of a few gags toward the end), but doesn't even try that hard to do so.

The art is bright, cartoony, and very exaggerated.  For what it is, it's pretty good.  The art tells the story, but doesn't try to go any higher than that.  The artist doesn't really capture the essence of any of the T.V. characters very well beyond the world-weary Al Bundy, who is the only real bright spot in either writing or art in this comic. . .and his few scenes are at the very end of the story
 
Overall, this is just a very forgettable comic with surprisingly little comedy for being based on a classic T.V. sitcom.  Where Married. . .With Children the T.V. show subverted normal sitcom tropes to become something unusual, Married. . .With Children the comic book is pretty much by the numbers.
 
THE VERDICT:
I give this one 2 out of 5 hands down the pants.

CONCLUSION

 
This first handful of off-brand one shots was pretty disappointing.  For me, Red Sonja was the best of the bunch, with the rest showing either a lack of effort or too much effort in the wrong direction.  Let's hope for a bit of improvement in the next batch my daughter has picked for me to review.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Single issue offerings from Rock-It Comix, Arcade Comics, Antarctic Press, and Acclaim Comics coming in the next Off-Brand One Shots Edition of Longbox Junk. 
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely stuffed full of comic book reviews that nobody asked for!  Well. . .at least they USUALLY don't ask for them.  That's right, it's another Longbox Junk Reader Request Edition!

A while back, my comic lovin' daughter challenged me to take on some reader requests.  The call went out, a decent list was formed, and now I occasionally draw one randomly from a hat (An actual hat.  A set of Micky Mouse Ears monogrammed with my daughter's name from Disney World, to be specific) and then here we are!

Congratulations goes out to Spector for his fine request for some Man-Bat!

I WAS originally going to do the 1996 3 issue Man-Bat mini for this entry because I like how it feels like a non-branded Vertigo horror comic.  Spector's request was actually for the 1975 two issue Man-Bat "series", but between me and my daughter, we only have the first issue of that one, and I usually only like reviewing complete stories.

BUT. . .

You know what? There's no real rules here at Longbox Junk, so I decided to just go ahead and steal my daughter's Man-Bat #1 for a nice single issue combination Retro Review and Reader Request Edition, because why not? Spector wanted Bronze Age Man-Bat, so we're gonna swing this into a Retro Review and get into some Bronze Age Man-Bat!

A bit of introduction first.

Man-Bat is one of those characters that's hard to pin down.  He's a great supporting character (mostly in Batman-related comics) that's sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain, but is never really able to hold down an ongoing series.  He's had several rebooted origins (Let's not even talk about what they did to the poor guy in the New 52), but at the heart of things, Man-Bat is actually a horror character.

Digging down to the essence of the character, he's sort of a combination of the Hulk and Werewolf by Night.  Basically, he's a brilliant scientist named Kirk Langstrom who fell victim to an experiment gone wrong.  He transforms into a vicious flying humanoid bat-like creature where he has varying degrees of control over both the transformation and his state of mind once transformed.

Sometimes he has control over himself and is able to work alongside others as sort of a heroic figure (as seen in the recent Justice League Dark comics).  Other times (as in the 1996 mini I mentioned above) he's almost completely inhumanly feral and capable of the most brutal and acts.

So. . .science gone wrong forcing a man to share his body with a vicious creature he may or may not be able to control.  I should have done some Man-Bat for Longbox Junk Halloween!

In the comic at hand, Kirk Langstrom is able to control his transformation, retains his intelligence in Man-Bat form and is able to communicate with others. . .in other words, the more heroic version of Man-Bat.  Let's take a look!

MAN-BAT #1

DC (1975)

 
SCRIPT: Gerry Conway
PENCILS: Steve Ditko 
(His one and only time drawing Batman, by the way)
INKS: Al Milgrom
COVER: Jim Aparo
 
As usual, before we get inside, let's take a quick look at the cover.
 
I have to say. . .it's a real eye-catcher!  This great Jim Aparo cover is all about the contrast.  I love the contrast between the plain dark purple background and the giant bright yellow logo, boldly telling us that this ain't Bat-MAN, this is MAN-Bat!  Then there's Batman's cape framing the action in the center, which features a very nicely detailed Man-Bat and his "victim".  I love the banner at the top as well, which firmly cements this comic in the Bronze Age. 
 
This cover is just so well done that I'm not sure that my daughter is getting this comic back when I'm finished with it!  It deserves a turn up on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" on my office wall at work.  
 
So that's the cover. . .here's the story.
 

BEWARE THE EYES OF BARON TYME

 
We begin in the home of scientists Kirk and Francine Langstrom, where Kirk is shocked by the sudden and unexpected transformation of Francine into She-Bat! (The origin of She-Bat can be found in Detective Comics #407, if you're interested)
 
The transformed Francine Langstrom attacks Kirk and then flies into the night, helplessly following the mental commands of a mysterious figure (that Francine calls Baron Tyme during her attack on her husband) telling her to track down and kill a man.
 
 
Kirk immediately takes his "Bat Gland Formula" and transforms into Man-Bat in order to give chase to his wife.  As he follows her, Man-Bat encounters several illusions produced by Baron Tyme to stall his pursuit. . .
 
 
Man-Bat finally catches up to Francine/ She-Bat just in time to stop her from killing her victim.  After Man-Bat subdues his transformed wife, he interrogates the man she was hunting and discovers that "Baron" Tyme is actually a Professor of Medieval History named Clement Tyme.  
 
But before Man-Bat can learn more, his wife regains consciousness and attacks, killing the man! Man-Bat quickly subdues Francine again and flies away from the scene of the crime with her.  
 
And with that, the scene shifts to Wayne Manor, where Batman is preparing to leave for the night, determined to investigate the mysterious killings that have been taking place while he was out of town a few days tracking down the Joker. . .
 
 
Seeing a familiar pattern in the killings, Batman's first stop is the Gotham City Museum to inquire about their resident Bat expert. . .Kirk Langstrom.  The museum's director tells Batman that Langstrom no longer works for them since coming into some money (from Batman himself in Brave & Bold #121) and that he's set himself up in a private lab near Antioke University.  
 
In the meantime, Man-Bat has taken Francine home and restrained her in order to try an antidote, hoping to transform her back into human form.  The antidote is successful, but suddenly, Man-Bat is assaulted with powerful sonar pulses from an unknown attacker!
 
 
As Langstrom attempts to escape the sonic attack, it's revealed that the attacker is Batman, who has arrived to capture Man-Bat, thinking he is behind the recent murders.  As the two of them fight, Batman falls from the skies, only to be rescued by Man-Bat.
 
 
With their battle finished, Man-Bat explains the situation to Batman, revealing that since he hypnotized Francine to find the cause of mysterious gaps in her memory, he has been aware of her being controlled by Baron Tyme. . .but because of Batman's constant interference in their lives, Langstrom was determined to find Baron Tyme and end the killings without the Dark Knight's assistance. . .something he is still determined to do.  
 
Batman reluctantly agrees to let Man-Bat take on the challenge of stopping Baron Tyme on his own.
 
 
Man-Bat flies to Antioke University and enters a high tower that Francine described while under hypnosis.  Inside, he discovers Baron Tyme waiting for him.  The villain quickly captures Man-Bat with powerful energy tentacles, then begins to gloat and monologue about his nefarious plan and how it came to be. . .
 
In his role as a Professor of Medieval History, Tyme discovered ancient books of black magic that he experimented with, managing to combine magic and science together and successfully summon a demon!  Tyme made a bargain with the demon. . .in exchange for magical powers, Tyme would supply the demon with human lives. 
 
 The demon also gave Tyme information about the Langstroms that enabled the would-be sorcerer to use Francine as his tool for killing.
 
 
After he's done revealing the details of his evil plot, Tyme begins a ritual to summon the demon, intending to give Man-Bat as a final sacrifice.  As the ritual proceeds, Man-Bat realizes the bonds holding him are nothing but powerful illusions controlled by Baron Tyme.  
 
Man-Bat uses his sonic screech to painfully disorient Tyme, weakening his mental control over the illusions and stopping him from completing the ritual.
 
 
Man-Bat escapes his bonds, determined to bring Tyme to justice.  But before he can attack, the sorcerer bursts into flame!  Man-Bat escapes the tower just in time to avoid a powerful explosion.  There is no longer any sign of Baron Tyme.  
 
As Man-Bat flies into the night, he wonders if it was explosive chemicals or demonic forces that caused the explosion.  A question that is left unanswered. . .
 
 
The End.
 
Well now. . .that was. . .Bronze Age.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It's just that, like a lot of Bronze Age stories, this one felt extremely rushed and compressed to fit into a single issue. 
 
 For someone who didn't really come into comic collecting until the early 90's it just seems sort of strange to see a story like this crammed into a single comic book.  If this story were to be done today, it would either be a double-sized (and double-priced!) one shot or a 3 issue mini-series.
 
But does that make it a bad story?  No it doesn't.  This isn't a great story, but it's not bad. Truthfully it's just okay.  It sits right in the middle of the road, squarely on the line between good and bad. 
 
It moves along quickly and is well written (Gerry Conway is the kind of writer that can polish a potato and make it look good, so there's that)  but it also just sort of drops the reader into the world of Man-Bat without any introduction, with the action hitting straight out of the gate with the first story panel.
 
It just sort of assumes that readers will already know Man-Bat from other comics, and indeed, there are several editorial references to Detective, Batman, and Brave & Bold through the story, which sort of hangs the whole thing on the hook of previous Man-Bat appearances and leaves little for new readers to get into the character with.
 
To be fair, there's a full-page summary of Man-Bat's previous appearances at the end of the issue:
 
 
I like that DC included this, but it doesn't really help the story feel less like the first issue of what was supposed to be an ongoing series and more like a story that could have been found in #35 or any other random issue of a Man-Bat series.  It just doesn't seem. . .special.  
 
I'm not sure if it's because of my more modern reading tastes, but this story just doesn't seem like what one would expect in a first issue meant to hook in new readers on the idea of a Batman villain becoming the hero.  As I said above, it's not BAD. . .but at the same time, it's not really memorable or remarkable in any way. 
 
But the draw here for many who pick this issue up will be the art. 
 
As I noted above, this issue features Steve Ditko (Best known more for his Marvel work as the artist and co-creator of Spider-Man & Doctor Strange. . .among others) drawing Batman for his first and only time.  That and well. . .it's the legendary Steve Ditko.  For some people, that's all that needs to be said.
 
So here's the thing.  There are some mighty high pedestals that some creators from the Silver Age are set on.  In the minds of many comic fans, Steve Ditko sits up on one of the highest there is.  I mean, Spider-Man IS a pretty high bar for other creators to try and hurdle.  I won't question that.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I've never been one for unabashed worship of comic creators.  There's not a single one out there, no matter HOW legendary, that hasn't phoned it in at some point.  Fortunately, Ditko didn't phone this one in. But to be fair, this also isn't his best work.  It seems that the unremarkable nature of the story might have carried over to the artwork as well.
 
There ARE some really good panels scattered throughout this story. . .the aerial battle between Man-Bat and Batman is outstanding, for example.  And Ditko's portrayal of Batman is likewise outstanding.  I really like the way he keeps Batman's face mostly hidden in the dark, and Batman himself as a dark figure, mostly defined by shadows, often just a silhouette of the distinctive cape and cowl. . .as Batman SHOULD be!  
 
Based on this issue alone, I would have REALLY liked to see Ditko as a regular Batman artist during his short time at DC!  I'd wager it would be considered a defining run among collectors today.
 
But beyond a few standout moments, the art here is generally good, but certainly not the best effort coming from someone as highly-regarded as Steve Ditko. It's not phoned in or bad in any way, but based on other work I've seen from Ditko, it could have been a lot better.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, this issue is a pretty average effort.  The story feels rushed and crammed into too small of a space, but I have to blame the Bronze Age in general for that, and not Gerry Conway.  His writing is good here, but not remarkable or memorable in any way.  It certainly doesn't feel like the first issue of a series because the story hangs firmly on the hook of previous Man-Bat appearances in other comics.
 
As far as the art goes, the big draw here is Steve Ditko drawing Batman for the first and only time.  For a lot of people, that's enough.  For me, it's plainly not his best work.  Ditko's take on Batman IS the best part of this comic, but the rest of the art (while good) could have been a lot better.
 
Good taken with bad, If you're a Batman or Steve Ditko fan I'd recommend picking this one up if you can find it at a decent price.  I'm not sure it's worth taking much effort to specifically hunt it down unless you're a Batman, Man-Bat or Ditko completionist.  This isn't a bad comic, but it's not a great one either.  It's just okay.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I just picked up a TON of Longbox Junk from a closing comic shop. . .as in two full Longboxes of it!  SO MUCH GREAT JUNK!  There's a bunch of NOW, Continuity, Acclaim, Malibu, and early "We wanna be like Marvel!" Image comics in there.  If I have a full run of anything, I'll probably drop that next.
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk Halloween - Nosferatu Wars

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

It's the day before Halloween, but we're still having some spooky fun here at Longbox Junk by spotlighting some of the creepy comics hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) collection.

This month we've taken a look at American Vampires (great!), Vegetarian Duck Vampires (pretty good) and grumpy reformed Vampires (meh).  So even though this Halloween Longbox Junk season HAS been a bit Vampire-Heavy, I'm of the opinion that in this time of year Vampires are like bite-size Snickers. . .you can never have enough in your bucket!

And so. . .more vampires. I pulled this one from my daughter's collection after spotting that SWEET Halloween-y cover while delving for some good Longbox Junk.  I've never heard of this or read it until now, so you'll find out the same time I do:

Is this Snickers or Candy Corn?

Let's do it!

NOSFERATU WARS

DARK HORSE (2014)

 
SCRIPT: Steve Niles
PENCILS: Menton3
COVER: Menton3
 
 
 
 
So the cover on this is what caught my eye.  Let's linger on it for a moment.
 
Is this or is this not an almost perfect Halloween cover?  I say it is!  It's a bit late to put it up on the office wall (just spotted it this morning), but this one is DEFINITELY on the list for next year.  That  strangely beautiful, yet fierce, face standing out strongly as the focal point against the dark shades of black and grey really makes this cover great.   It's a very simple cover that is outstanding in almost every way.  
 
Such a great cover.  Let's see what's underneath. . .
 
The story goes like this:
 
During the time of the Black Plague, there is so much death that vampires roam the earth freely as sort of an open secret.  Our story begins as Moria and Tarquin, ancient vampires and lovers, leave a plague-ridden city and seek directions to the country estate of Lord Mattering. . .who has turned his home into a fortress against both plague and vampire.
 
 
 
Shortly afterward, the doctor who they speak to is seized by a priest and his men and burned at the stake for being seen talking to vampires.  As the doctor burns, Moira hears the screams of a woman and convinces her lover to avenge the senseless death.
 
 
The vampire lovers follow the priest back to his cathedral and confront him, mocking his belief that the vampires are the spreaders of the plague when their great age (they're from the days of the Roman Empire) gives them the knowledge that it's actually rats and fleas.
 
 
The pair of vampires kills the priest by hanging him and leaving his body on public display, then continue their journey to Lord Mattering's fortress estate. . .
 
 
 
Upon arrival at Lord Mattering's Castle, Moira and Tarquin see that the rumors are true.  The estate is heavily-fortified, with soldiers everywhere.  Tarquin decides that since every effort to enter will be equally dangerous, a direct attack is as good a way as any to get inside. . .
 
 
 
As the pair of vampires fight their way through the castle guards, Tarquin reflects on how they met about 100 years after the fall of the Roman Empire and became former enemies turned lovers.
 
 
Once inside the fortress, Moira and Tarquin surprise Lord Mattering and his family as they hide in their inner sanctum.  The vampires brutally kill Lord Mattering's two young children in front of the terrified nobleman and his wife. . .
 
 
Tarquin strikes a deal with Lord Mattering that if the nobleman will marry the two vampires, they will not harm him.  Mattering agrees and so marries Tarquin and Moria.  Unfortunately for Lord Mattering, Tarquin's deal said nothing about his now-vampiric children.  The vampire children slaughter their parents as Tarquin and Moria take their leave of the fortress. . .
 
 

Outside of Lord Mattering's estate Moria and Tarquin are confronted by a large group of vampires led by one called Mangus.  He tells Tarquin that the couple's activities. . .namely the public killing of the priest. . .are bringing too much attention to vampires.
 


The confrontation turns heated and Mangus threatens Moira, who attacks.  Knowing they can't defeat so many other vampires, Tarquin and Moria flee the encounter.  The rest of the vampires pursue them.

 

As Moira and Tarquin make their escape, a strange craft comes from the sky and Moira is drawn up into it by a brilliant beam of light, leaving Tarquin alone to escape the pursuing vampires. . .

 
On board the mysterious craft, Moira finds herself surrounded by strange beings.  She attacks them.
 
 
The end of the tale comes some undetermined time later in the future, as Moira returns to Earth after having apparently conquered a planet, intent on finally reuniting with her lover, Tarquin, who has been fighting for survival alone since her disappearance.  Her return starts some sort of war.
 
 
 
The End.  To be continued?
 
Okay.  Well then.  THAT escalated quickly.  Let's try to unpack what's happened here.

Basically, this story went from a pretty decent tale about two vampire lovers during the Middle Ages and turned into a ALIEN ABDUCTION story out of nowhere!  Where the did ALIENS suddenly come from?

It's as if you were watching Lord of the Rings and suddenly Gandalf whips out a machine gun and starts blasting orcs to a heavy metal soundtrack.  It's so incredibly sudden and out of left field that it just sort of leaves me wondering what the just happened.  And then the story just ends!  All I can think of is this:

 
Okay.  Deep breath.  Let's put the aliens aside for the moment and look at the rest of the comic.
 
Steve Niles creates a grim world of fanatic priests, wandering vampires, and terrified survivors set against the backdrop of a grimy, plague-ridden Europe.  It's a fantastic setting for a dark tale such as this.   The dialogue perfectly captures the weary feel of a world and its inhabitants at a time that feels like the end of everything.  
 
Unfortunately, there's not much story here to go with Niles' grimy, desperate world.  It feels more like some sort of disconnected prequel to a larger story that never got written.  It's more of an introduction than an actual story.  There are multiple references to things that we never see. . .such as the Nosferatu Wars of the title itself, Moira destroying a planet, and Tarquin's fight for survival during her absence.  
 
Reading this is like reading the first and third issues of a four issue mini-series without reading the second or last issue. You can tell what's going on, but it definitely feels incomplete in many ways. 
 
I can't find any good information on this comic except that it was originally a 4 part story in Dark Horse Presents (Issues 26 - 29 of the 2011 series that I'm surprised lasted 36 issues because each issue cost SEVEN DOLLARS), but it really feels like there was supposed to be quite a bit more coming that never got done.   I think maybe the writer was planning on some sort of Vampire/Alien war from the looks of it.

The art also feels extremely inconsistent. There are definitely moments of greatness here.  The artist has an almost monotone, dreamlike (or nightmarish?), very dark style that perfectly matches the grim and weary world the writer has created. 
 
Unfortunately, mixed in with this very interesting and appealing style are panels that look like unfinished pencil sketches.  The sketches aren't bad in most cases, but when put next to the other art style on the same page they aren't very complimentary and give the comic a bit of a schizophrenic feel.  Maybe this was what the artist had in mind, but to my eye it doesn't quite work.

CONCLUSION

 
What we have here is a strange little piece of Longbox Junk that is contradictory in many ways.  
 
The setting is amazing, the characters and dialogue are interesting, and there are hints of a larger story to come.  BUT. . .Those hints never pay off, the story is more of a fragmented introduction than a complete story, and the ending is off the hook random craziness that makes you wonder what the just happened.
 
The art is dark, dreamlike, and perfectly matches the grim and weary setting.  BUT. . .Mixed in with that fantastic art, often on the same page, are what look like unfinished pencil sketches that give the whole comic a disorganized look.
 
Overall, this whole comic is an exercise in contradiction.  Good mixes freely with bad on almost every page.  I don't think I can recommend this to anyone but the most devoted fan of vampire stories, and even then I warn that there is no follow up to what's here.  This strange introduction is it.
 
As for anyone else, the cover is definitely worth a buck if you spot it in a bargain bin.  There's also some curiosity value that comes from seeing aliens suddenly appear in a Middle Ages vampire story.
 
Up Next. . .
 
That's it for this year's Longbox Junk Halloween fun!  So it's back to business as usual. I'm not sure exactly what will be next. . .so much junk to choose from. 
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk Halloween - DCeased #1

1068 views • 217 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome back to Longbox Junk. . .the blog packed FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me for!

Even though the witching hour draws close, we're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by taking a look at some of the spooky stuff hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

It's been a pretty nice Halloween season here at Longbox Junk if I DO say so myself. So far we've seen Vampires (Vegetarian and otherwise), Killer Easter Bunnies,  A sci-fi take on Jekyll & Hyde, Werewolves, Frankenstein's Monster, Spirits of Vengeance, Prairie Witches, and some generally nasty people doing nasty things (like burying each other alive).  So what's missing here?

Zombies.  We need some zombies!

And so here's some zombies.

What we have here is a fresh chunk of Longbox Junk that's on the stands even as I write this.  I only have the first issue because I basically bought it for the extremely Halloween-y zombie Batman variant cover and somehow have kept missing the following issues.  I'm sure I'll spot the whole set eventually in a bargain bin, but for now I just have this first issue, so let's take a look at it!

DCEASED

ISSUE #1

DC (2019)

 
 
So I bought this thing for the cover. Let's take a look at the cover, shall we?  
 
*shudders* Now THAT's some creep-tastic cover art right there!  Fransesco Mattina outdoes himself with a nightmarish vision of one of DC's greatest heroes gone straight to zombie !  Just look at the detail in things like Batman's nasty teeth and jaundiced eyes.  This is NOT the Batman you want to meet in a dark alley.  Very well done!
 
That's the cover.  Let's get into the story.
 

GOING VIRAL

SCRIPT: Tom Taylor
PENCILS: Trevor Hairsine & Stefano Gaudiano (pgs. 1-6, 15-26)
                    James Harren (pgs. 7-14)
COVER: Francesco Mattina (Variant)
 
The story goes like this. . .
 
We begin with the Justice League defeating Darkseid and forcing him to leave after he invades Earth. But as he goes, Darkseid gives the League an ominous farewell that doesn't quite sit right with the heroes. . .
 
 
Indeed, all is not as it seems.  Darkseid's invasion was merely a distraction.  His true purpose was to capture the hero known as Cyborg. . .now held prisoner on Apokolips.  Darkseid's search for the Anti-Life Equation has led him to believe that the second half of the Equation rests in Cyborg's technology. . .
 
 
Darkseid's scientist, Desaad, informs his master that although the combining of the two halves of the Anti-Life Equation is possible, the Equation will be lost entirely if Cyborg dies in the process.  To ensure that Cyborg doesn't die, Darkseid summons Death and uses him to slightly alter the Anti-Life Equation to make sure Cyborg survives the process. . .
 
 
The change that Darkseid makes to the Anti-Life Equation has disastrous effects as the corrupted Equation combining the physical and technological drives Darkseid insane.  Desaad quickly transports Cyborg back to Earth to try and stop the spread of the Techo-Organic Virus, but he's too late.  An insane Darkseid destroys Apokolips. . .
 
 
 
Cyborg reappears on Earth in Metropolis, and his internal systems immediately connect him to the internet and all surrounding online devices.  Cyborg is horrified to see the Techno-Organic Virus he's infected with begin to quickly spread among the people nearby.  He is unable to do anything to stop the Virus as people begin to go insane and tear each other apart. . .
 
 
In the meantime, Superman is putting together a plan with Big Barda and Mister Miracle to rescue Cyborg from Apokolips, not knowing that Cyborg has already been sent back by Desaad.  He hears the screams of people from the street and sees the spreading insanity.  Realizing  that the situation is already out of hand and getting worse, Superman rushes to his wife and son. . .
 
 
While Superman is busy saving his family from the spreading madness, the scene shifts to the Batcave, where Batman is monitoring the situation on isolated systems safe from the Techno-Organic Virus. . .and the news isn't good.  
 
The computer estimates that there are ALREADY 600 million infected people, and at the current rate of spread BILLIONS will be infected in a matter of days.  This is definitely a problem Batman can't punch a solution to!
 
 
 
Batman quickly sets off an EMP pulse in Wayne Manor above, but he's too late.  As the Dark Knight heads upstairs to check on things, he is attacked by an infected Nightwing and Robin (Tim Drake)!
 
 
After a brutal battle with his infected partners, Batman orders Alfred to escape and we are left with a cliffhanger scene of Batman being bitten by Nightwing. . .
 
 
 
The End.
 
Okay then.  There it is.  It's not a "Dead Rising Up And Slowly Wantin' To Eat Your Braaaaaains" sort of zombie apocalypse.  More of a "Virus Driving People Insane Enough To Kill You, So RUN!" sort of thing.  Despite the unique connection to the DC Universe by having the virus originate as a corrupted form of the Anti-Life Equation, it's still. . .well. . .it's just another zombie apocalypse.
 
Don't get me wrong.  It's not bad.  It's actually pretty good and makes me want to pick up the next issue.  The idea of a zombie apocalypse in the DC Universe IS an interesting one.  It's just that, do we REALLY need more zombies?  Okay, sure.  There's superheroes in this zombie story.  But really, hasn't that also been done before?
 
There's going to be inevitable comparisons between this and Marvel Zombies. . .but from what I've read of Marvel Zombies (which admittedly isn't very much, just a few issues here and there), they are two different things.  Sort of like how there's a definite difference between a Corvette and a Pickup Truck even though at the heart of it, they're both basically automobiles.  So despite what you may think, DCeased is NOT a copy of Marvel Zombies. 
 
The writer does a fine job.  I want to see what happens next.  There's nothing wrong with the writing.  The art is good, but not great.  I actually enjoyed the chunkier, darker look of the art during the Apokolips sections. . .it reminds me of the artist everyone else hated on the recent X-Force series that I liked (Dylan Burnett) enough that I pulled out an X-Force issue to see if it was the same guy.  I guess I just like that chunky, dark sort of style.
 
So nothing wrong with the writing or art.  It's just. . .zombies, I guess.  Maybe they could have told the story of a Techno-Organic Virus destroying the world without zombies? Maybe? I think they could have.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
What we have here is a well-written story with a DC Universe-specific angle on the extremely well-worn framework of a zombie apocalypse backed up with some good art.  It's interesting enough for me to want to get the next issue, but not interesting enough to make me want to order it if my local shop doesn't have the next one sitting there.
 
If you're a fan of zombie stories, then definitely pick this one up.  If you're getting a bit tired of zombies then this isn't really something you'll miss out on if you don't read it.  If you don't like zombie stories in the first place, then this won't change your mind one bit.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I think there's still time for at least one more piece of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for that you could ever ask for!  Wait. . .did that make sense? You know what, I don't care!  Welcome!

We're in the last week of October and it's the Halloween Home Stretch for Longbox Junk before we get back to our random business as usual.  So sit back and enjoy a few more posts where we spotlight some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

I was sort of on the fence about labeling this one as a Longbox Junk "Retro Review".  It sits solidly at the end of the Bronze Age in 1980. . .and at 40 years old, it's not exactly a new comic.  But on the other hand, the art and the stories inside definitely have a more Modern Age feel to them. . .despite paying lip service to the CCA by sporting the (then increasingly toothless)  seal of approval on the cover. 

In any case, no matter where this comic may fall in terms of  defining "Age", at a top value of twelve lousy bucks for a mint copy (according to Comic Book Realm) it's definitely what I would call Longbox Junk. . .so let's take a look!

THE UNEXPECTED 

#202

DC (1980)

 
COVER: Luis Dominguez
 
So before we get into the comic itself, let's linger a moment over the cover. 
 
In my extremely humble opinion, that's a fine Halloween cover right there!  I mean, just LOOK at it.  It's so wrong. . .yet so right!  This is the sort of cover that makes me buy an old comic without seeing or knowing anything else about it.  And that's exactly how I ended up with this.  How could I possibly pass up a comic with a cover like this?  I can't! I  just can't!  
 
This is just a great horror comic cover.  It's one of my favorites and it makes regular appearances as part of my Halloween comic cover display on my office wall at work.  
 
Let's get into the comic itself.  There's four stories in here for the fifty cents this cost in 1980. Plus each story has an introduction page starring The House of Secrets' Abel or The Witching Hour's trio of witches.   That's a pretty hefty pile of pages for two measly quarters.  
 
DEATH TRAP
SCRIPT: Carl Wessler
PENCILS: Torre Repiso
 
After an inmate escapes from the local insane asylum, a police captain's wife receives a visitor claiming to be an investigator on the case.  She becomes suspicious and tries to escape the house, narrowly avoiding death when her husband arrives just in time to shoot the disguised inmate.  
 
 
There's not really much to this story.  It's basically a "stalker chase scene" horror trope with the twist that the Captain's wife became suspicious in the first place because the inmate was female and she could tell the disguised "investigator" was female by the way she held her arms.  
 
Even though it's light on actual story, it's well written and the art is very nicely done.  Not a bad story, but not great. It feels like page-filler more than anything.  I'm not sure this should have been the lead-off here.
 
NEXT!
 
HOPPING DOWN THE BUNNY TRAIL
SCRIPT: Michael Uslan
PENCILS: Tenny Henson
 
Three kids join the festivities after signs advertising an Easter Egg hunt at an old mansion pop up around town overnight.  At the party, the three are invited inside the mansion for a "special" hunt with a big prize.  Instead of prizes, they fall into a trapdoor that drops them into a vat of chocolate.  
 
One of them is pulled out by a giant Easter Bunny, who immediately bites the head off of the chocolate-covered kid. . .leaving the other two still trapped in the vat of chocolate watching as the first is devoured, horrified and knowing that they will die the same way. . .
 
Wow. . .just. . .wow.  Even toward the end of the CCA's influence, I find it hard to believe that this story made it past.  It's not ambiguous at all. . .the Easter Bunny gets his revenge by biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid.  It's a classic "Turn-about is fair play" horror comic trope.
 
It's a very short little tale, but it's just SO random that it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  Why does the Easter Bunny choose THIS Easter for his revenge? Wait. . .is that the Easter Bunny at all?  Why does the Easter Bunny Monster live in a trap-filled mansion?  What does the Easter Bunny eat the rest of the year?  So on and so forth. . .so many questions! 
 
This strange little nugget of horror was written by one of my top 5 old-school comic writers, Michael Uslan.  I stand here and give him a round of applause for giving the world this unexplained and probably unexplainable piece of hidden Longbox Junk gold.  
 
Bravo, Mr. Uslan! *vigorous clapping*
 
Next!
 
THE MIDNIGHT MESSENGER
SCRIPT: Peter John Palmer
PENCILS: Ken Landgraf & Joe Orlando
 
A pet shop owner being harassed by an extortionist performs an occult ceremony as a last resort, trading his soul to the "Agent" he summons to rid himself of the hoodlum and restore his ruined store.
 
Over the coming years, he regrets his deal and tries his best to be a good and righteous man, hoping he will be able to bargain his way free at the end.  Later, as he lays dying, the "Agent" comes to collect on the bargain.  The man tries to plead his case, only for the "Agent" to reveal that he had summoned supernatural help from Heaven, not . .and that his good behavior has indeed saved him. 
 
 
The twist that the shop owner had summoned an angel instead of a demon was pretty good here and actually caught me by surprise.  Another thing that caught me by surprise is that even though the late Joe Orlando is credited on art, this story actually has the worst art in the comic.  It's not BAD, it's just. . .very average and workmanlike.  Maybe I was just expecting better after seeing Orlando's name on the credits. 
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE CREATURE OF THE PARK
SCRIPT: Ms. Charlie Seeger
PENCILS: Arthur Geroche
 
At Milestone National Park, a Ranger and his Deputy investigate a camper's death they believe was caused by a renegade bear.  When a close examination of a second victim is made, it appears that she was killed by rabbits!  
 
Now convinced the Ranger himself is killing the campers and making it look like animals are responsible, the Deputy tries to protect himself, but when the Ranger is also killed, the Deputy finds himself facing a small horde of animals. . .including rabbits, deer, and birds. . .that kill him as well.
 
At the end of things, it's revealed that the Park itself turned against humans for revenge against littering, forest fires, and bad treatment of nature.
 
 
Allrighty, then.  It's a horror story with an environmental message!  Unfortunately, that message falls flat.  Really flat.  It's actually a pretty decent story with some great, darkly-inked artwork. . .until the "twist" that the Park itself was rebelling against human abuse of nature.  It's just sort of cringeworthy.
 
What I DID like about this story (besides the very nice artwork) is that it's the second story in this comic with killer rabbits (even if these are off-panel instead of biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid).  Even though it has a September publishing date, I'd have to say that the two killer bunny stories make this issue a great unsung Easter Horror comic!  I don't think there's many of those out there, so there's that.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, I'd have to say that this was a pretty good comic.  At the time it was published, the comic horror anthologies were well on their way out the door.  This issue still has a nice little spark of life to it that I liked a lot.  Generally-speaking, the stories were all pretty good and nicely-illustrated.
 
The Michael Uslan killer Easter Bunny story is the definite star here, just for its complete randomness and for seeming like something that was sort of sneaked in under the radar.  The final story has the best art, but the worst story.  The other two are just sort of "pretty good", but everything in this comic displays little glints of gold here and there in single panels of art or lines of dialogue.
 
This is a comic that I absolutely love for the cover.  That said, what's inside isn't bad at all.  If you spot this one for a decent price (as in five bucks or less) then definitely pick it up and enjoy a strange little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
Halloween ain't over until the 31st! 
So there's still a little more Longbox Junk Halloween fun to come.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews nobody asked for!
 
There's still a couple weeks left in October, so we're still having some Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by looking at some of the spooky things hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.
 
This time out, we have a Dark Horse one shot adaptation of a couple of Edgar Allan Poe's shorter works written and illustrated by comic legend Richard Corben.
 
If Halloween were to have a central figure. . .a mascot, if you will, like Christmas has Santa Claus or Easter has the Easter Bunny, or. . .er. . .okay, that's all I can think of.  ANYWAY. . .if Halloween were to have its own mascot, in MY extremely humble opinion it should be the grumpy ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.
 
For the sake of TRYING to keep my introductions to a manageable length I won't go too far into the history of Poe. . .he basically lived a short, tragic life and died a mysterious death, leaving behind a body of some of the darkest literature ever written that is now regarded as the work of a mad genius, but was mostly ignored during his lifetime. 

Poe's life story is one of heartbreak, death, poverty, and unappreciated genius.  If you really feel like loving the life you have, then read Poe's life story and then thank you aren't him.  
 
SO. . .
 
We have an undisputed comic book legend adapting two short tales by one of the undisputed masters of dark and creepy literature.  How can this NOT be good?  Let's take a look!
 
 

EDGAR ALLAN POE'S

THE PREMATURE BURIAL

DARK HORSE (2014)

 
SCRIPTS: RICHARD CORBEN
PENCILS: RICHARD CORBEN
COVER: RICHARD CORBEN
 
There's two stories in this one-shot and, as you can tell from the credits above, this is pretty much a one man show with Richard Corben wearing all the hats.  Before we get into the comic, let's take a brief look at the cover. . .
 
Now THAT'S a Halloween cover!  I love Corben's use of negative space to frame the ghoulish scenario in the center.  The dreary colors highlight the living flesh of the man in the coffin as well as the title.  The supreme attention to detail in things like the terror in the eyes of the living man lets you know before you even open this comic that there's a master at work here. 
 
Wait. . .did I mention I'm a big Richard Corben fan?  No?  Well there it is, then.  This isn't Corben's best cover ever, but it's still a great cover.  Let's get inside.
 

THE PREMATURE BURIAL

 
We begin the tale in a graveyard where Lucian and his fiancee, Victoria are having a picnic.  Victoria rebuffs Lucian's advances and leaves him without realizing that Lucian has given her poisoned wine.
 
Appearing dead, Victoria is buried in the same graveyard.  Lucian digs up her grave the night of her burial, but Victoria wakes up as he is groping her body.  In a panic, Victoria flees and Lucian hits his head on a gravestone as he tries to pursue her. . .
 
A funeral is held for Lucian as the blow to his head has made him appear dead as well, but Victoria realizes he's not actually dead and hires the gravediggers to dig the terrified man who has been buried alive back up.
As Lucian recovers from his ordeal, he is informed by his outraged father that Victoria has told him exactly what happened and that, for some reason, she still wants to marry Lucian.  The two are married, but Lucian can't find happiness because he's become obsessed with his short time of being buried alive. . .
 
As Lucian sinks deeper into his obsession with being buried alive again, he takes many precautions to avoid that horrible fate. . .an above-ground tomb with a bell he can ring, a coffin that comes easily apart, a supply of food, and so on. 
 
Even so, he finds himself unable to sleep, terrified that he will wake up in a coffin again.  Victoria gives him tea so that he can sleep, but he finds himself having a horrible nightmare of being buried alive. . .
 
In Lucian's nightmare, he wanders a hellish landscape of the tormented dead who have been buried alive.  Their screams are relentless.  He spots Victoria and runs to her, hoping she can help him escape the nightmare. . .
 
But instead of helping him, Victoria grins wickedly and ignores his cries! 
Lucian's worst nightmare comes true as he wakes from his dream confined in a coffin!  But he is quickly relieved to hear another voice as he realizes he's not in a coffin, but in a small berth aboard a ship he is travelling on for a hunting trip. 
 
Relief turns to horror as Lucian realizes the truth. . .the ship is a fantasy and he is indeed buried alive after being drugged by his wife.
 
The End.
 
For those who haven't read Poe's original "The Premature Burial", it's less of a story and more like what one would hear at a lecture, the sort of which were popular entertainment in his day.  An introduction to the subject, several short examples, and then the speaker's personal experience.  It's a very matter-of-fact piece, compared to Poe's other tales, and there's actually not much narrative to it at all.
 
What Corben has done here is to meld the various elements of the original piece together and add to them in order to create an actual story out of what is more of a dry lecture on Premature Burial.  So this becomes less of an adaptation and more of a re-imagining.  
 
For someone who's read Poe's work many times such as myself, this is a fantastic interpretation of what is really one of Poe's less memorable works.  The moving and combining of the separate elements of the original by Corben in order to make an actual story out of them is brilliant.
 
Corben's reliably outstanding artwork is in top form here.  The wicked grin of Victoria as Lucian realizes she's purposely buried him alive is probably the creepiest thing in the entire story.  Corben's use of the comic panel itself as Lucian's coffin on top of the final page is another standout moment, as is the small image of the terrified Lucian enduring his awful fate at the bottom of the final page.
 
What we have here is a fantastic re-imagining of one of Poe's less memorable works, backed up with some top-notch art by one of the most legendary comic illustrators in the business.  I can find nothing wrong with this chilling little tale.  
 

THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO

 
We begin our tale with the Lord Montresor leading the widowed Madam Fortunato into his family crypt, promising to shed some light on the mysterious disappearance of her husband nearly 50 years ago. . .
 
Montresor tells her that many years ago, he found her drunken husband celebrating at a carnival and invited him to his home. . .to the very crypt they are in. . .to sample some Amontillado wine, for her husband was a great lover of rare wines. . .
As they traveled deeper and deeper into the depths of the crypt beneath the Montresor Pallazo, her husband was offered several times to turn back, but Fortunato greatly desired to sample the Amontillado, and so the pair pressed on, deeper into the crypt. . .
Finally, Montresor led Fortunato to a small alcove, promising the Amontillado was within.  But there was nothing in the alcove but a chain, which Montresor quickly used to bind Fortunato within the dark alcove. . .
Once Fortunato was securely confined, Montresor began to brick the alcove up.  Fortunato thought Montresor was playing a cruel joke right up until the time that Montresor placed the final stone. . .burying Fortunato alive within the walls of the very crypt they now stood within, and where Madam Fortunato's missing husband has been for the nearly 50 years since!
Madam Fortunato is understandably horrified by Montresor's confession.  She demands to know what her husband did that so wronged Montresor that he did such a thing.  Montresor thinks a moment, but is unable to remember!  
 
Montresor explains to the horrified Madam Fortunato that he merely wanted someone to know the truth after all the years had passed, and that he has come to the crypt to die. . .a glass of poisoned wine and Montresor falls dead beside the tomb of Fortunato.
 
The End.
 
"The Cask of Amontillado" is one of Poe's better known works, and one of my personal favorites.  It's basically a very short, very simple tale of one man luring another into a crypt and walling him up alive.  
 
What Corben does here is add a framing device to add more depth to the original tale.  In the original story, beyond vague insinuations of insult, it's never explained WHY Montresor walled Fortunato up.  Here, the lack of explanation becomes truly horrible as Montresor confesses to Fortunato's widow that he can't even remember why he killed her husband in such a cruel way.  
 
It's a brilliant touch by Corben that makes a great story even better!  The confession of Montresor becomes even more horrifying than the deed itself, due to the absurdity of his not even remembering why he did it.
 
The art in this story is simply fantastic!  This is a tale that has very little action or supernatural elements to it, so facial expressions need to do a lot of the heavy lifting.  Corben delivers in a big way here.  Fortunato's manic grin as he walls up Fortunato, as well as the insanity in that same grin as he makes his confession are real standout moments in a story full of great art.
 
What we have here is a brilliant expansion on an already great story, backed up by some extremely detailed and creepy art focusing on facial expressions.  For me, THIS is the definitive adaptation of Poe's classic tale.
 

CONCLUSION

 
If you're looking for a good horror comic, look no further.  You won't find gore or monsters here, but what you WILL find are two creepy little stories of madness and revenge that use the primal fear of being buried alive as their foundation.
 
In the first, we have a brilliant re-structuring and re-imagination of what is otherwise one of Poe's less memorable works, turning it from a dry lecture and into an actual story.
 
In the second, we have more of a straight re-telling of a classic story, but with an outstanding framing device that makes an already great story even better.
 
In both we have incredible artwork by one of the undisputed legends of comic art.
 
If you are a fan of horror comics, Richard Corben, Edgar Allan Poe, or any combination of those things, then do yourself a favor and grab this comic if you happen to spot it in the bargain bin.  It's pure Longbox Junk Halloween gold.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Halloween fun!  That's right. . .MORE!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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