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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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

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

BUT ENOUGH OF THAT. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the comic at hand. . .

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

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

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

- read more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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



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


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

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



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



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


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

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


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



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


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



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



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




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



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




THE REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION 

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

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

BUT. . .

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

Up Next. . .

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

So what's next? Hmmmmmm. . . .

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

Be there or be square.

- read more

Longbox Junk - Marvel Fanfare #18

891 views • 19 weeks ago • (0) Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THAT. . .

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

MARVEL FANFARE #18

Marvel (1985)


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

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

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

THAT SAID. . .

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

CONCLUSION

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

- read more

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

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

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

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

Does everything go as planned? What do YOU think?

Let's do it!

CAPTAIN AMERICA:

THE FIGHTING AVENGER

Marvel (2011)

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

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

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

So let's talk about the art a bit.

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

CONCLUSION


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

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where comics are worth more than money.  That's my way of saying that if someone broke into my house to steal my comic collection, they'd find it more trouble on their back hauling them out than what the job would be worth  . . .BUT I DIGRESS!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. . .I'm a sort of patriotic guy.  I come from a long line of military men, and as a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps myself, I tend to be a bit of a flag waver and I ain't ashamed to admit it. And with times the way they are, maybe we need to wave the flag just a little.

Wait! Wait. . .don't go!  I'm not gonna get political.  I'm just introducing the Longbox Junk "theme" for July!  It's Captain America, okay? I'm going to be looking at some Captain America comics through this month. 

BUT. . .

It IS Captain America, so if you aren't the kind to tolerate a little "AMERICA, %$#& YEAH!" in your funny books, then maybe you might want to skip the next few posts. But come back in August!

Okay, everyone in that's staying in?

Let's start this off by stepping outside of the usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds with a little something brand new and on the shelves right now.

DC gets a bit of flak for squeezing every possible drop out of their seminal "Watchmen" series by constantly trying to add to something that doesn't really need anything added to it. But never let it be said that Marvel isn't just as guilty of the exact same thing with their own critically acclaimed series, "Marvels".

What we have here is the first of a new series of one shots trying to capitalize on what little magic is left in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' masterwork of seeing superheroes through the eyes of the common man.

The series is called "Marvels Snapshots", and the first one out of the gate features Captain America (and The Falcon) in a continuation of Jack Kirby's 1970's "Madbomb" storyline. . .the first issue of which (Captain America #193 from 1976) got a a fine Longbox Junk Retro Review  HERE .

SO. . .

We've got a one shot walking the tightrope of adding to a fan favorite series that doesn't really need anything added to it AND trying to continue a classic Bronze Age story from one of the giants of the comic world.  It's got some work cut out for it.  Let's take a look!

CAPTAIN AMERICA:

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS

MARVEL (2020)

 
SCRIPT:  Mark Russell
PENCILS: Ramon Perez
COVER: Alex Ross

THE COVER:
Marvels was the series that put superstar artist Alex Ross on the mainstream map, so it's a good call in my book getting him on board to do the covers of the "Snapshots" one shots.

As far as the cover itself, it's a great portrait shot of Cap painted in Ross' trademark hyper-detailed and realistic style.  I love the determination in Cap's eyes and the grim set of his jaw!  I don't know who's about to get punched, but I can see by the look on Cap's face that they definitely deserve it.  Alex Ross is a fantastic visual storyteller and in this simple shot of Cap getting ready to deliver a New York Special, there's a story being told.

It's not the greatest Captain America cover ever, but this is definitely worthy of a turn up on the rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside and see what else is going on here.
 
THE STORY:
Felix Waterhouse is a teenager living in a poor South Bronx neighborhood.  Extremely gifted with electronics, he's working in his father's television repair shop and trying to earn enough money to escape poverty and go to college.

BUT THEN. . .

The Madbomb attack hits Manhattan.  Felix's neighborhood is on the edge of the attack, but it is still devastated by the ensuing riots before Captain America manages to destroy the device causing people to go mad and attack each other.

 
In the aftermath of the Madbomb attack (during which Felix's mother kills his little brother), life returns to normal for most of the city.  The superheroes of New York turn their attention to new threats as the city begins to rebuild.
Unfortunately, conditions in Felix's neighborhood only get worse as the devastation of the Madbomb causes businesses to leave and gangs to move into the blocks of  abandoned and burnt out buildings.  Crime is rampant and even worse, loss of business at the T.V. repair shop means that Felix has to spend his college savings just to keep his family going.
 
 
Things are looking bleaker and bleaker for Felix until one day a mysterious man comes into the shop with a strange offer. . .he represents an organization interested in Felix's talents with electronics and will give him a good job, as well as pay for his college education.  The catch is that the organization he represents is A.I.M.  A well-known part of the villainous Hydra!
 
Felix declines at first, but as he sees repairs being made to the wealthier sections of the city while neighborhoods like his are ignored, he decides to take the man up on his offer.  He is taken to an elaborate secret research base hidden beneath Manhattan to begin his new life.
 
 
Felix quickly fits in with his new A.I.M. colleagues and his extraordinary talents with electronics gain the attention of his superiors.  Because of this, he is one day taken to the most restricted level to assist with problems plaguing an ultra-secret project.  When he arrives, Felix is amazed to see that A.I.M. is trying to build a massive Madbomb of their own!
 
As he joins the Madbomb project, Felix slowly begins to realize that by helping to create a weapon of mass destruction, his talents aren't helping make a better future for anyone, and that his whole life is now built on lies.  He decides to sabotage the Madbomb, but is caught in the act.
 
 
After Felix is informed that he knows too much and has to die, he desperately activates a pulse meant to destroy the Madbomb, but his unfinished device is stronger than he expected and the resulting effect is enough to attract the attention of Captain America, The Falcon, and Iron Man, who quickly make their way to the hidden A.I.M. base and attack!
 
 
During the battle, the Madbomb is destroyed and Felix is rescued by the superheroes.  He informs them that he is the one who disabled the bomb and Iron Man is impressed by the young man's technical know-how.  A few days later, Felix is surprised to receive a job offer from Stark Industries.  
 
 
In the end, Captain America and The Falcon help with the long-overdue reconstruction of Felix's devastated neighborhood after realizing that simply defeating a problem and then ignoring what comes afterward doesn't solve anything and sometimes makes things worse. 
 
 
Lesson taught.  Lesson learned.  The end.
 
THE REVIEW:
What we have here is less of a Captain America story and more of a Felix Waterhouse story. . .which is a little disappointing right out of the gate considering the giant picture of Captain America on the cover and the fact that this is sold as a Captain America story.

SO. . .

Let's look at this from the angle of it being the story of a young man seduced by Hydra with Captain America and friends in a supporting role.  On THAT side of the coin, it's not a bad story.  I do like the way that it looks into the aftermath of the original Madbomb attack from Captain America #193, so as an epilogue to "Madbomb" I think this story actually does a good job.

Felix is a pretty interesting character. Seeing him put his morals aside to try to make things better, realizing that he's been seduced by lies, and finally trying to make things right is a pretty good character arc.  Yeah, it's been done before and done better, but sometimes a little "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is okay if it's done well.  Here, it's done well.

The story DOES get a little preachy toward the end as we get a healthy dose of "Superhero is forced to realize that the little people count too" moralizing.  It's not QUITE to the point of being cringeworthy, but it's pretty close to that edge.

So this story works as a sequel to Madbomb that digs in and takes a close look at the consequences of the original 1976 story from the perspective of one individual. . .but as a "Marvels" expansion, not so much.

The story of Marvels is rooted in an ordinary man's lifetime of observing Godlike beings around him without his really understanding them.  Here, the ordinary man understands MORE than the heroes.  It sort of defeats the whole point of Marvels in that these are extraordinary beings in the world of ordinary people when the ordinary person is ALSO the extraordinary in this story.

Marvels put the reader in the shoes of an ordinary person.  It made us feel the awe and wonder of seeing a man fly, or throw a car.  This story has none of the magic of Marvels and makes Captain America feel small and unimpressive as a teenager teaches him a lesson.  Maybe it was the writer's intention to make Captain America seem small instead of the powerful force rushing through an ordinary world he appeared as in Marvels. . .

 
I said at the top that I wasn't going to get political, but it seems to me like Captain America being humbled by a black teenager about what parts of the city got repaired first after an attack has a definite whiff of recent social justice trends to it.  It makes Captain America less of a hero and more of a representative of "privilege".  This perspective might not sit well with some readers.

CONCLUSION

In my introduction I said that this one shot had some pretty heavy work cut out for it.  Not only is it expected to add to a fan favorite story that doesn't really need anything added to it, but it ALSO is trying to be an epilogue to ANOTHER fan favorite story.
 
As an epilogue to "Madbomb" it works pretty well as it tells a story set in the aftermath of the original attack and after the heroes turn their attention elsewhere.  It has an interesting main character and follows a pretty good arc for a one issue story.
 
BUT. . .
 
As a "Marvels" supplement, it doesn't stick the landing.  Where Marvels is a timeless story about the awe and wonder of superhumans in the ordinary world, THIS story is firmly rooted in this particular moment in time by reducing Captain America to a representative of "privilege" that needs to be taught a lesson in social justice by the teenage protagonist.
 
It's not a BAD story.  But it certainly won't sit well with many Captain America fans that prefer to see the Star Spangled Avenger painted in a more heroic light.  If you are one of those fans. . .I'd say steer clear.  But if you are of the mind that there's some room in your superhero stories for a little social justice agenda, then definitely check this one out.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
More Captain America!
 
Steve Rogers is America's only "Super Soldier", but he hasn't been tested in the field yet.  Join me as I take a look at the story of Captain America's first N azi-Bustin' combat mission in 2011's Captain America: Fighting Avenger one shot.  SPOILER: Everything goes wrong!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk - First Issue Fun! (Part 5)

3792 views • 22 weeks ago • (0) Comments

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed absolutely FULL of comic reviews that nobody ever asked for!

Here we are.  Month four of The Apocalypse.

Things are trying to get back to "normal", but we're not quite there yet.  There's new comics back on the shelves, but not many I subscribe to. . .which is good news for my local comic shop because I spend about three times as much money during deep dives into their back issue bins than I did on my subscription pulls.

Here at Longbox Junk, I've been taking a look at some first issues I've been buying lately. . .trying to find a new series or new character I can get into, with varying degrees of success.  But I noticed that my "First Issue Fun" has been pretty light on Marvel comics.  Only one out of nine reviews.

SO. . .

Let's remedy that shortage with a bit of Mighty Marvel style First Issue Fun, shall we?

We shall!

FIRST ISSUE FUN
(Part 5)

ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER #1
MARVEL (2014)

 
ENGINES OF VENGEANCE (Part One)
SCRIPT: Felipe Smith
PENCILS: Tradd Moore
COVER: Tradd Moore
 
THE COVER:
It's a pretty unusual art style here. There's a great sense of movement and some very nice, brilliant colors. The muscle car instead of a motorcycle is interesting, but Ghost Rider (Ghost Driver?) himself looks a little strange.  Overall a real eye catcher.
 
THE STORY:
Our tale begins in East Los Angeles, where young auto mechanic Robbie Reyes is struggling with trying to make enough money to move somewhere safer, where he can better take care of his physically and mentally handicapped little brother.

One fateful night, Robbie decides it's time to make it or break it.  He steals a car from his employer's shop and enters an illegal street race, hoping to win the $50,000 cash prize.  Robbie is a skilled driver and quickly finds himself in the lead. . .until the police show up.

Terrified by the thought of being arrested and sent to prison, leaving his little brother in state custody, Robbie runs from the police, leading them on a long chase through the streets of L.A. until he is finally cornered.

Robbie surrenders to the police, but instead of arresting him, he is gunned down!  As he lies dying, Robbie sees the SWAT team retrieving duffel bags full of drugs from the trunk of the stolen car before dowsing it with gasoline and setting it on fire.

As Robbie dies, engulfed in flames, a mysterious transformation changes him into an inhuman, skeletal creature.  The stolen car is also transformed into an unearthly flaming version of itself. Robbie Reyes is now the Ghost Rider! We last see him leaving a fiery trail behind as he speeds into the city on a mission of vengeance.

To be continued. . .

THE REVIEW:
Okay.  Not bad. . .not bad at all.  A good start to this Mighty Marvel-focused bit of First Issue Fun! There's really not too much to this first issue.  The story is pretty light and mainly directed toward introducing the reader to Robbie Reyes and his situation.  Ghost Rider (or should it be Ghost Driver?  He's in a car, not riding anything) only shows up on the last couple of pages.  We literally learn NOTHING about Ghost Rider. . .but you know what? It's okay.  It just makes me want to read more of this story.
 
There's TWO things I look for in a first issue.  The first is if it introduces characters and their situations in a new reader-friendly way.  Since this issue is almost entirely concerned with introducing Robbie Reyes to the comic world, it easily hits that first mark.
 
The second thing I look for in a first issue is if it makes me want to read more.  Yes! I want to know more about this crazy new version of Ghost Rider!  I'm already a big Ghost Rider fan, but until now I've passed on reading any comics with the "New Ghost Rider" because if the old Ghost Rider ain't broke, why fix him?  NOW I want to dig in and see what's going on.  This is just a great introduction for a new (to me) character.
 
Let's talk about the art.  It's certainly unique and it's going to be one of those "make or break" sort of things for anyone reading this series.  Compared to my usual Longbox Junk, this is a VERY heavily reviewed issue and opinions are definitely mixed on the art style.  I'm sort of half and half on it myself.
 
The sharp, angular, exaggerated art gives even mundane scenes of Robbie and his brother eating dinner a twisted, nightmarish feeling that distracts from the character-building moments.  On the other hand, during action scenes the unique style really shines with unusual panel layouts and a fantastic sense of movement.  It's pretty clear to see what the artist enjoys drawing more.  His action scenes are truly great and are the best part of the comic.  It's unfortunate that he couldn't have toned it down a bit for the quieter moments.
 
 
Overall, All-New Ghost Rider #1 is a great introduction to the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider (Driver?).  It takes its time to introduce the main character through most of the issue and leaves Ghost Rider himself until the end, making me want to jump right into the next issue and find out more.  The art is a bit hit and miss for my taste. . .not really suited for character moments, but delivering in a big way on the action.  
 
This was a little pricey compared to my usual back issue bin finds (Paid ten bucks for my copy), but if you don't want to shell out the "collector" price for the individual first issue, it's also been collected in trade and you can get the first five issues for about fifteen bucks. Definitely give this one a chance if you like your comics with some supernatural flavor.
 
NEXT!

ALL-NEW INVADERS

MARVEL (2014)

 
GODS AND SOLDIERS (Part One)
SCRIPT: James Robinson
PENCILS: Steve Pugh
COVER: Mukesh Singh
 
THE COVER:
A pretty darn good team portrait!  There's a lot of interesting detail and I like the muted color scheme (maybe a bit TOO muted for the Torch). The smug look on Namor's face is just great.  Captain America, on the other hand. . . maybe he needs a bit of Metamucil? Just sayin'.  He IS 102 years old.  But even with Cap looking a little constipated, this one's a winner!
 
THE STORY:
Jim Hammond is the world's first synthetic human.  A person trapped between the world of humans and robots that fought in WWII as the original Human Torch alongside Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and Namor The Sub-Mariner in the team informally known as "The Invaders".

But that was a long time ago.  Hammond now seeks to move past his identity as a superhero and embrace humanity by living a normal life in a small, normal town as an auto mechanic.

But one day, Jim Hammond's peaceful life comes to an end.

When a Kree Warrior Assassin attacks and kills Hammond's employer and friend, Jim is forced to reveal his identity as the Human Torch in order to save the rest of the town.  During the battle, the assassin reveals that she's there for information locked and hidden in Hammond's android brain.  She shoots him with a strange weapon that seemingly throws him back in time to the war.

Hammond watches his own memory as an observer, seeing himself and the Invaders on a mission he doesn't remember involving Baron Strucker and a being named Hela that he seemingly had summoned.  To his surprise, Hammond senses that the other Invaders are also there observing the past with him.  After Hela kills an ally of the Invaders named Major Liberty, the vision fades and Hammond returns to the present day.

The Kree assassin reveals that she now has what she came for. . .the location of a part for a mysterious device that can summon and control Godlike beings that was hidden in three separate locations by The Invaders long before. . .information Hammond didn't even know he had.

Still not knowing the full story, but determined to stop the Kree from leaving with the information she had somehow gained from him, Hammond rejoins the battle, but is quickly overpowered.  As the assassin readies to strike the killing blow, Captain America and Winter Soldier show up just in time and ready to join the fight!

Epilogue:  We see Namor has somehow been taken captive and is being tortured on the Kree homeworld.

To be continued. . .

 
THE REVIEW:
Okay then. . .hmmm.  Not bad.  Not great, but not too bad.  Unlike Ghost Rider, this comic isn't presenting new characters, but established characters re-forming as a team.  I'm familiar with these characters (especially Captain America and Winter Soldier), so I sort of had to put myself in the shoes of a reader who might not be in determining if this hits the mark of introducing characters and their situations in a new reader-friendly way.

It sorta halfway succeeds.  As far as an introduction to Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, goes, this comic does an outstanding job!  99% of this issue is focused on Hammond, with the rest of the Invaders barely appearing outside of a couple of flashback pages and two pages at the end with their modern versions.  In other words. . .the cover lies!

This is not so much a Invaders comic as it is a Original Human Torch comic.  That being said, for what it is, it does an excellent job of introducing a classic character to new readers who might not be aware that there even IS an Original Human Torch.  As a big Captain America fan, I was a little disappointed in what amounts to a cameo role, but I did enjoy learning more about Jim Hammond.

On to the next thing I look for in a good first issue. Does the story make me want to read more?  Welllllll. . .no, not really.  Not that it's a BAD story, but it follows the rutted and extremely well-traveled path of "Former (insert profession here) forced to return to action against his/her will".  As soon as I saw the thought boxes of Jim Hammond on the first couple of pages musing about how much he liked being just an ordinary guy with an ordinary job in an ordinary town, I KNEW where the story was going.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  I don't mind a good old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" story framework holding up a first issue of my funny books, but then Marvel doubled down and made it crystal clear that upcoming issues would be headed down the well-worn road of "Gettin' The Team Back Together For A Location-Hopping MacGuffin Hunt".  One cliche story prop is okay. . .two in one issue is a deal-breaker.

On the art side of things, Steve Pugh delivers some solid superhero art.  Nothing spectacular, but very nicely done.  Since this issue deals mostly with the Human Torch, there's a LOT of fire involved, and Pugh does an outstanding job not making multiple pages of fiery scenes look alike.  He also does a great job with the initial quiet character-building dialogue heavy scenes which are basically people sitting/standing around talking in a garage and a diner.  Not the best comic art I've ever seen, but good and solid.
 
 
Overall, I have mixed feelings about All-New Invaders #1.  It introduces Jim Hammond, The Original Human Torch in an extremely new reader-friendly way.  Unfortunately, the rest of the Invaders play little more than cameo roles.  The story is well-written, especially in the earlier character-building scenes introducing Hammond, but on the other hand,  it's propped up by not one, but TWO overused story frameworks that really don't make me interested in reading more.
 
Don't get me wrong.  There's nothing really BAD about this comic.  I don't have any other issues, so there might be some great moments for the other heroes coming up.  As an introduction to a character I don't have a lot of knowledge about, this was a great issue. . .so if you're interested in the Original Human Torch, I can heartily recommend this comic.  But for me, the double cliche framework this story is leaning on doesn't make me interested in picking up more issues of the series.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

STORM #1

MARVEL (2014)

 
STORM
SCRIPT: Greg Pak
PENCILS: Victor Ibanez
COVER: Victor Ibanez
 
THE COVER:
I really don't like the X-Men in general, but I bought this one just for the cover.  It's an outstanding character portrait with an unusual pose, combined with great colors and lightning effects that really give this one a feeling of motion and power.  Very nicely done, and definitely worthy of a turn on the rotating office "Wall O' Covers" at work.
 
THE STORY:

Our story begins on the tropical island of Santo Marco, where Storm. . .a powerful mutant able to control the weather. . .uses her abilities to save a small coastal village from a tsunami.  As the villagers celebrate, military vehicles arrive and Storm is told that mutants are not welcome on Santo Marco.

Not wishing to instigate an international incident, Storm reluctantly departs, but finds herself needed for another emergency. . .this time at the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, the school where Storm teaches. . .a place where young mutants learn to control and use their powers.

A student named Marisol Guerra (AKA Flourish) has taken over the school cafeteria.  She has used her powers of plant growth to fill the room with mold and mildew.  She informs Storm that she has changed her mutant name to Creep because that's what the kids who have been bullying her call her.

As Storm tries to talk to Marisol, she learns that the girl sees the school not as a safe place to learn, but as a place where children are taken from their families and indoctrinated into the X-Men's particular ideology.  Marisol feels that she was taken away from the place where her powers could do some actual good instead of simply doing what she's ordered to do by Storm and the other teachers.

Storm loses her temper when her purpose is challenged by Marisol, and she flies into the night.  Daybreak finds Storm over Santo Marco again. . .where she gets an enthusiastic greeting from the villagers she saved the day before.  Storm uses her powers to help the villagers clean up the aftermath of the tsunami, but once again the military shows up.

This time, they have brought construction vehicles and tell the villagers that they have to move because a company has bought their land to build a resort on.  Storm intervenes and a one-sided battle ensues.  Storm's powers are more than a match for the military and her example leads other villages to rebel against the corrupt government as well.

Back at the school.  Storm reluctantly apologizes to Marisol, and they fly to Mexico to reunite the young mutant with her family.  Storm has come to realize that a path can be shown to someone, but they have to want to follow that path instead of being forced down it.

The End.

 
THE REVIEW:
As I said above. . .I'm not a fan of the X-Men and I basically bought this comic for the awesome cover.  That said, I REALLY liked this story a lot!  It's the first issue of a (sort of short) series, but it stands alone very nicely as a one-shot story about an extremely powerful hero that has played many roles in the past, but is now forced to re-learn an important lesson now that she's a teacher. . .that a person must be guided down a path instead of forced.

It's a great little story with a lot of heart.  I may not like X-Men much, but I liked THIS X-Men story. It sort of stuck with me after I read it.  Especially the part where Storm apologized to the student.  I know from personal experience that sometimes a simple "I'm Sorry" are some of the hardest words to spit out.  Nobody wants to be wrong.  It's hard to admit when you're wrong, especially when you're in a position of authority over the person who was right.  Credit due to the writer for absolutely nailing the difficulty of something so simple.

So let's take a moment for the two things I look for in a good first issue.

Does it introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way?  I give this one a big yes!  I'm not overly-familiar with Storm beyond knowing she's an X-Man who controls the weather.  The story here DOES introduce that aspect of her, but digs deeper into the character than that.  Based on this story I don't know EVERYTHING about Storm, but I liked discovering what I know now about the character.

The second thing I look for in a first issue is if it tells a story I want to read more of.  Well, this is basically a one-shot, so it seems that there's not much more to the story at hand.  That said, with such a good dig into the main character, I DO want to read more. . .especially if the writer can keep delivering such though-provoking material built around the main character of the series.  So that's a yes. . .two for two!  It's a winner!

Before I wrap this up, let's talk about the art a bit.  The story here is great, but the artist really does his half of the work selling it!  Yeah, there's a few action scenes and they're nicely done, but where Victor Ibanez really shines here is in the facial expressions of the characters!  Sometimes you get a comic where the art is the star of the show, sometimes it's the writing.  This one combines the two equally to give the reader the best of both worlds.


Overall, for someone who tends to avoid almost everything X-Related from Marvel, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself reading what might be my favorite comic story in quite a long time!
 
From a story that is simple, but full of heart, to some incredibly expressive comic art, Storm #1 is a Longbox Junk gold nugget in almost every way.  I heartily recommend this comic to anyone looking for a thoughtful superhero story that isn't afraid to give an extremely powerful character some vulnerability that is relatable to even those of us who can't control the weather.  Very nicely done!
 

CONCLUSION


I forgot to mention it in the introduction, but as you can probably see from the covers of these comics, the were all part of one of Marvel's multiple soft reboot efforts in recent years called "All-New Marvel Now!", which was sold and advertised as a jumping-on point for new readers.  

So based on this small sample, did they succeed?

I'd say yes.  All-New Ghost Rider presented an intriguing twist on the familiar supernatural anti-hero, while giving the reader a great introduction to a completely new character.  Storm presented an established character with a long history in a way that made even a Non-X fan like myself take notice and want to read more.

 All-New Invaders was the only disappointment in that it was more of an Original Human Torch comic than a Defenders comic, with the other characters on the team playing cameo roles only. Plus the story was propped up by two overused story crutches.

That said, even though Invaders was a bit disappointing compared to Ghost Rider and Storm, it wasn't a BAD comic.  I was just expecting a little more than what I got.

Overall, I'd recommend any of these three comics. . .with the warning that you're not going to get much Invaders in your All-New Invaders #1.  My favorite of the bunch was Storm #1, which completely took me off guard with how much I liked a character I never paid much attention to before.

Up Next. . .

I think that after five posts of First Issue Fun, it might have run its course for now.  So next time out something different.  I'm not sure exactly what that will be right now, but I invite you to join me on whatever trip I decide to take into the back issue bins.  So until next time. . .

Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk - First Issue Fun! (Part 4)

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

The Good News is that there's new comics on the shelves! The Bad News is that it's barely a trickle (and only a few series I regularly subscribe to - Doctor Aphra, Batman and Detective).  Well, I guess that means I'm still back issue diving for new-ish comics for a while yet. . .

SO. . .

As you know (or if you're a new reader, you will soon. . .and welcome!), I've been taking a look at single first issues of series I've pulled from the back issue boxes (not the bargain bins) of my local comic shop during this new comic drought.  I call this series of Longbox Junk entries "First Issue Fun".

Reading back over the 3 First Issue Fun entries I've done so far, I notice that almost all of them involve established characters being presented to new readers with varying degrees of success.  But what about some completely new characters?  Characters without any baggage?  Fresh and shiny, with that new character smell?  Aren't there any NEW characters out there for me to try to get into?

There are!

A while back, I saw lots of ads for a bunch of new DC comics falling under the imprint of "The New Age of Heroes".  They were promoted as being new characters and teams spinning out of the "Dark Knights Metal" crossover.  But since I'm not a fan of bloated multi-title crossover "Events", I never paid any attention to them.

BUT. . .

Digging through the back issue bins at my local comic shop, I came across whole runs of almost every "New Age of Heroes" title (6 full runs out of 8 total titles) and decided to grab the first issue of every one of them the shop had and give them an honest chance because why not?

So, let's take a look at a few and see what's happening with this "New Age of Heroes" thing!

FIRST ISSUE FUN
(Part 4)

THE SILENCER #1
DC (2018)

 
CODE OF HONOR (Part One)
SCRIPT: Dan Abnett
PENCILS: John Romita Jr.
COVER: John Romita Jr.
 
THE COVER:
John Romita Jr.'s art has always been a bit hit or miss to me. Fortunately, this cover is a hit!  It's a simple character portrait, but the pose, the action, and especially the colors come together and make this one a cover that makes me want to check out the comic.  Very nicely done!
 
THE STORY:
Honor Guest is just an average ordinary woman, living an average ordinary life, on an average ordinary street, with her average ordinary husband and son.  But things weren't always this way.

Just five short years ago, Honor was known as The Silencer. . .one of the top assassins in Talia al Ghul's Leviathan organization.  She paid her dues and managed to get out with her skin intact and with Talia's blessing to start a new life.

But now the past has returned to haunt Honor.  After having to fight off an attacker at the grocery store, Honor gets a personal visit from Talia al Ghul, warning her former assassin that Leviathan is in shambles and that Honor's life (as well as her family's) is in danger.

Honor insists that she no longer wants any part of Talia or Leviathan, but another attack drives home that the former assassin doesn't really have a choice in the matter, she's back in whether she wants to be or not.

To be continued. . .

 
THE REVIEW:
Based on the cover, I was sort of expecting "Female Punisher", but this tale of a former assassin's previous life coming back to haunt her is more along the lines of a Black Widow story.  Either way, this first issue of The Silencer follows a very well-worn path.  Maybe a little TOO well-worn in this case.  It's well written and the dialogue flows very nicely through the story, but the direction the narrative is going was pretty obvious to me from just the first few pages.

I usually don't mind a good "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." classic story hook to get things up and running in my funny books, but at the same time, it just feels a bit lazy and predictable here.  The only real surprise was the Talia al Ghul angle.

THAT SAID. . .

A predictable start still leaves room for improvement, so let's take a look at things from my personal expectations of the two things I want from a first issue.  Does this introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way?  Yes it does.  Honor Guest (AKA The Silencer) is very nicely introduced and the reader doesn't need any additional background material beyond this issue to understand her.  There IS an expectation that the reader knows who Talia al Ghul is. . .but even that expectation is fairly minimal through a bit of exposition in the story.  So well done on the introductions.

As for the second basic thing I expect from a good first issue. . .does it tell a story that makes me want to pick up another issue?  Welllllllll. . .not really.  Like I said above, The Silencer follows a well-worn story path that I've already been down many times in comics, novels, movies, and T.V. shows.  There might be surprises down the line, but this first issue doesn't really make me want to invest in discovering them.  I'm not saying it's BAD.  I liked this issue.  I'd just rather see what other stories there are out there.

As far as the art goes. . .it's John Romita Jr.  He's one of those instantly-recognizable artists that you're either going to love or hate. JRJ's art has always been equally hit or miss for me.  On The Silencer, it's more on the "Hit" side of the dial, so this is a pretty good looking comic.  I think this is some of Romita Jr's best work I've seen in quite a while.

 
Overall, what we have here is a first issue that nails introducing a new character to readers, but in following an overly-familiar narrative path it stumbles in telling a story I want more of.  It's not a bad issue by any means.  I'd say definitely give it a try if you spot it in the back issue bins. . .just prepare to know exactly where things will be going from just the first few pages.  
 
NEXT!

DAMAGE #1

DC (2018)

 
OUT OF CONTROL (Part One): LET LOOSE
SCRIPT: Robert Venditti
PENCILS: Tony S. Daniel
COVER: Tony S. Daniel
 
THE COVER:
I'm a fan of Tony S. Daniel's art. . .I loved his work on New 52 Detective, so I'm VERY happy to see his name on this series.  Unfortunately, the cover is a bit underwhelming.  It's nicely-detailed in Daniels' signature style, but it just seems a bit generic. I'm afraid based on the cover alone that I'm going to be reading a DC knockoff of the Incredible Hulk.  Please let me be wrong. . .
 
THE STORY:
Ethan Avery joined the military because he believes that regular people can become heroes, even if they don't wear capes.  After serving honorably, he volunteered for a top-secret project. . .a serum that would give him the power to become a REAL hero.

But instead of a hero, he was turned into a living weapon capable of mass destruction, used by a black-ops government organization for dirty clandestine missions against his will.  Ethan is now a man who changes into a brutal monster code-named "Damage" once a day for one hour, destroying anything in his path.

Returning from a mission, Avery summons up the willpower to change into Damage and make his escape from a transport plane over Atlanta, Georgia.  As the inner soldier tries to mentally control Damage's destructive rampage through the city, he is pursued by Major Liggett, the sole survivor of the unit tasked with guarding Damage during transport.

After defeating and severely wounding Liggett, Ethan manages to convince Damage to go into hiding.  Colonel Jonas, the head of the project that turned Ethan into Damage, arrives on the scene of the crashed plane and the creature's destructive rampage, blaming herself for the deaths and for failing to control her pet monster better.

As Colonel Jonas surveys the damage caused by her failure, Amanda Waller and her superhuman Task Force XL "Suicide Squad" arrives to take command of finding and killing the escaped Avery before he changes into Damage again.

To be continued. . .

 
THE REVIEW:
Looking at the cover, I was afraid that I would be reading a DC knock-off version of The Incredible Hulk. . .and that's pretty much what I got.  There are a few differences here, with the military "super soldier" angle, the one hour time limit on Ethan's transformation to Damage, and the internal dialogue between the heroic Ethan and the brutal Damage fighting for control.  But even those differences are pretty obvious grabs from Red Hulk (the time limit), Agent Venom (the military experiment gone wrong), and Jekyll & Hyde (the internal struggle for control).

In other words, like The Silencer, Damage is a story that follows an extremely well-worn path that should be already intimately familiar to most comic readers.  In this particular case you CAN judge a book by its cover.

But does that make it bad?  Not really.  This first issue is mostly action, showing Damage's escape from his military handlers and the following battle with Liggett trying to recapture him.  There is enough information given during and between the action to successfully hit the first issue mark of introducing characters in a new reader-friendly way.  The only expectation put on readers to know anything outside of this issue is in the appearance of Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad at the end.

What about the second mark I look for in a good first issue?  Does it tell a story I want to read more of?  Also like Silencer, not really.  Again, this isn't a bad comic at all, it's just that I've already seen this story several times.  There might be some surprises yet to come, but this first issue doesn't really make me excited to read more of what has been presented to me as basically a DC version of existing Marvel characters.

 If I want to read about a man struggling against turning into a monster as part of a military experiment, I can just read some Agent Venom comics.  If I want to read a modern day Jekyll & Hyde mental battle of conflicting personalities trapped in one body, I can just read some Immortal Hulk comics.  So  on and so forth.  Anything to be found here can already be found elsewhere.

As far as the art goes, no complaints from me about Tony S. Daniels' fine work here.  If there's anything that would make me continue to read this series, it would be the art.  It's finely-detailed and features interesting angles and great, kinetic action scenes, many of which are spread over numerous double-page spreads.  If nothing else, Damage is a great looking comic!

 
Overall, what we have here is a story that is basically a combination of Marvel's Incredible Hulk and Agent Venom.  It succeeds in introducing the character for new readers very well, and it's backed up by some great art, but in telling a story I want to read more of I can't get past thinking I could just read the original stories that this stands on the shoulders of.
 
Once again, it's not BAD at all.  If you spot it in the back issue bin, give it a read for yourself if you're a DC comic fan looking for an Incredible Hulk/Venom story set in the DC Universe.   For filling that particular niche, this comic does a good job.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

THE CURSE OF BRIMSTONE #1

DC (2018)

 
INFERNO (Part One)
SCRIPT: Justin Jordan
PENCILS: Philip Tan
COVER: Philip Tan
 
THE COVER:
WOW! Great colors on this one! A real eye-catcher. Philip Tan definitely hits a home run with this bright, fiery character portrait.  You can almost feel the heat from the flames coming off the page.  Outstanding work!
 
THE STORY:
Joe Chamberlain is young man with problems.  He's trapped in the small town he was born in, York Hills. . .formerly a mining town until the mines played out, then a factory town until the factories moved.  Now it's just a dead end he can't escape.  No education, no money, no jobs.
 
The only things Joe really cares about at this point is his sister, Annie. . .who is working her way through a nursing degree, and is the only person with any real prospects of escaping the dying town. . .and his father, who lives in a medicated haze on disability after an accident at one of the closed factories, barely able to keep up the mortgage payments on his meager pension.
 
Joe Chamberlain is a young man with problems and no way out.
 
UNTIL. . .
 
The cold night a mysterious stranger picks Joe up on the side of the road after his pickup breaks down.  He introduces himself as "The Salesman" and, after listening to Joe's problems, he makes him a strange offer. . .become an Agent for The Salesman's "Company" and Joe's (and York Hills') problems will be over.  All it will take is an agreement and a handshake.
 
Joe (obviously never having seen any episodes of The Twilight Zone) shakes The Salesman's hand and immediately searing flames begin to consume the terrified young man as the grinning Salesman gloats about how his "Agents" never ask any questions.  
 
Joe is quickly and painfully transformed into a flaming , but still living, figure that The Salesman dubs "Brimstone" as terrifying visions of fiery death and destruction fill Joe's mind. 
 
To be continued. . .
 
 
THE REVIEW:
Okay, okay. . .not bad.  Of the three "New Age of Heroes" comics I read for this post, I think I like this one the best.  It seems a little derivative of Marvel's Ghost Rider (and maybe Image's Spawn), but not nearly as obvious as Damage's Incredible Hulk/Venom influences.  
 
There's not really much to this story in this issue. . .most of the comic is spent establishing the miserable life of Joe and setting the scene of the dying town of York Hills.  With a lot of dialogue and scene-setting and not much action (just a couple of pages of Joe's transformation into Brimstone at the end), what this comic reminds me a lot of is something that Vertigo would have put out. . .and as a big fan of the sadly-departed Vertigo imprint, that is definitely a good thing!
 
Since most of the comic IS devoted to dialogue, character development, and scene setting, I'd say that Curse of Brimstone nails the first marker of introducing characters in a new reader-friendly way.  That's really all that this first issue is!  We don't get to know much of anything about Brimstone, but we get to know Joe and the misery surrounding him, his family, and the town of York Hills very well.
 
Does the comic tell a story I want more of? Yes!  Admittedly, there are echoes of Marvel's Ghost Rider or Image's Spawn here. . .and the "When you deal with the devil, you better deal carefully" story path was a well-worn one before comic books were even thought of.  That said, it works here.  I want to see what happens next.  Like I said above, this reminds me of the darker, more character-driven Vertigo comics I used to love from DC as opposed to Damage and The Silencer's connection to the regular DC superhero universe.  
 
As far as the art goes. . .Philip Tan's dark and sketchy style also fits the appearance of this being a Vertigo comic.  It's not the greatest comic art I've ever seen, and I've actually seen better from Tan in other places (Like Spawn: Godslayer), but it's interesting and definitely helps sell this in my mind as a throwback to the more experimental art that was often found in Vertigo titles as compared to the slick superhero style of Tony S. Daniel in Damage, for example.
 
 
Overall, what we have here is a surprisingly good first issue that REALLY throws me right back to the glory days of DC's Vertigo comics.  It leans heavily into character development and scene-setting, with very little action to speak of.  In doing so, it nails both introducing characters in a new reader-friendly way and telling a story I want more of.  If you're a fan of supernatural-themed comics or if you (like me) miss Vertigo, then definitely pick this one up if you spot it in the back issue bins.  I'm not sure where the story is going to go from here, but this is a very nice start.
 

CONCLUSION

 
So. . .DC's "New Age of Heroes".  Interesting. . .
 
Based on these three issues, my main takeaway from this short-lived imprint (The only title of the 8 that hasn't been cancelled and is still ongoing is "The Terrifics".  None of the cancelled series made it past 18 issues.  Three of them lasted only 6 or 8 issues) is that all of them remind me of something else. . .
 
The Silencer's "Former assassin whose past returns to haunt her" story reminds me of Black Widow.  Damage's "Mental struggle between two minds trapped in one body/ Military Experiment turns man into monster" story reminds me of Incredible Hulk and Venom.  Even the best (in my opinion) of the three, The Curse of Brimstone, reminds me a bit of Ghost Rider (or maybe Spawn).
 
Taking just these three titles into account, I can sort of see why the whole "New Age of Heroes" didn't make enough of an impression for most of the titles to even last a year.  It's a bit of a shame, because there's some pretty good talent in these comics.  None of the three are BAD by any means, and are all worth a read.
 
It just seems to me to be a wasted opportunity for DC.  They had a chance to bring some new characters and stories to comic fans, but sort of fumbled  the ball (based on these three issues) by making everything so derivative of things already existing that it seems that nobody really embraced any of it.  I'm not sure if they were trying to play it safe by keeping things familiar, but if that's the case, they played it TOO safe and failed.
 
But like I said, none of these three comics are bad.  The Silencer looks like it would appeal to someone looking for an action-packed espionage/superhero tale.  Damage takes the more traditional misunderstood man/monster superhero route for fans of straight-up comic book battles.  Curse of Brimstone is a dark, character-driven tale of the supernatural that's should make readers who miss Vertigo happy.  Of the three, I can give the strongest recommendation to Curse of Brimstone.
 
STILL. . .
 
We NEED some new characters and stories from DC.  I was excited to think I would be getting something new here and sort of came away disappointed, with a "Been there, done that" feeling.  DC tried, they played it safe, they failed.  Now I'm sad.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Even MORE First Issue Fun!
 
I have three more "New Age of Heroes" titles I WAS going to do next. . .but I have the sad feeling that they will just be more of the same.  But looking over the First Issue Fun entries so far, I notice that of nine issues, only ONE has been from Marvel.  So I'm gonna have some Mighty Marvel First Issue Fun to even things out a bit next time.
 
Be there or be square!

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