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Longbox Junk - Hulk 2099 #1

491 views • 289 days ago • (0) Comments

Sorry about the delays lately, folks.  It's summertime and the hotel I manage is JUMPIN'.  I haven't been able to do much readin' and reviewin' this past month or so, and it's probably going to be the same until September.  To illustrate. . .I started writing this review on June 7.  Bear with me, good people!
 
BUT ENOUGH EXCUSES!
 
 
Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed absolutely FULL of comic reviews NOBODY asked me to write!

 
I've been having a fun little trip to Marvel's dark future 2099 comics line lately. There's been ups and downs along the way, but I think it's about time to move along to something else.  
 
But I'm not done just yet!
 
Before we leave the world of 2099 I'm going to look at one more.  One of the last monthly 2099 comic titles before the entire line imploded, condensed, and ultimately fizzled out in 1996. . .coinciding with the imploding, condensing and ultimately fizzled out comic collecting boom of the 90s in general.
 
 
So let's strap ourselves into the Longbox Junk time machine for one more visit to the past. . .er. . .future?  Whichever one it is (probably both), let's go take a look at HULK 2099!
 
BUT!
 
Before we set out, a bit of a disclaimer.
 
Before doing this review, I didn't realize that Hulk 2099 #1 does NOT have the first appearance or origin of Hulk 2099 in it (except for a bit of a flashback skimming over it).  The first appearance of Hulk 2099 was in the first issue of a 2099 anthology series called 2099 Unlimited.
 
Actually I was pretty confused while reading this issue.  I distinctly remembered reading the origin of Hulk 2099, but the comic at hand wasn't ringing any bells and seemed to dump me right in the middle of a story that was already happening.  A little research showed me the error, and so I had a choice. . .either review 2099 Unlimited (which also has a Spider-Man 2099 story in it) OR stick to my guns and review this one.  
 
I ultimately decided to go ahead and stick with Hulk 2099 #1.  
 
The way I see it is that, if I were a comic fan in 1994 without the benefit of the internet to hold my hand every time I had a comic-related question, then THIS would be the comic I would assume had Hulk 2099's origin in it.  It SAYS #1 right there on the cover, right? RIGHT?
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
2099 Unlimited had such poor sales, I probably wouldn't even have known it existed anyway back when it was out.  It only lasted 10 issues, was bi-monthly, cost more than your average comic, and was pretty much propped up by Spider-Man 2099, as far as I can tell.  So I'm coming in here like it was 1994 and that awesome shiny green foil border cover happened to catch my eye on the rack.
 
SO. . .
 
Hulk 2099 is a bit of a strange bird in that the first issue of the series is actually a continuation of another series entirely. . .but we're gonna get through it okay.  It's gonna be okay.  I promise. Ready?
 
Let's do it!

HULK 2099 #1

Marvel 2099 (1994)

 
 
COVER: Malcolm Davis
 
NO EXIT
 
SCRIPT: Gerard Jones
PENCILS: Malcolm Davis
INKS: Chris Ivy
 
THE COVER:
 
Further reinforcing the illusion that this is actually the first appearance of Hulk 2099 is that shiny foil border that characterized all the other first appearances of the 2099 line. . .this time in glorious dark green! (2099 Unlimited doesn't have the foil border)
 
I REALLY like this cover a lot!  It has a dark, nightmarish, twisted feel to it. . .bold, thick inks contrasting with vibrant color really make this brutal portrait of the future Hulk stand out in a big way.  There's things popping out all over the place to catch the eye.  The colors really stand out to me.  This is one of my favorite 2099 covers, coming in a close third behind Doom 2099 and Ghost Rider 2099.
 
Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale by being thrown right into the action!  The Hulk is fighting his way through the security at a water reclamation plant outside of Los Angeles.  
 
He abandons the fight to take care of one last bit of  business his human alter-ego (Ruthless virtual reality studio executive John Eisenhart) has left before he can leave civilization behind and roam the desert.
 
 
That business is to take a young boy in his care (Gawain, the last of the now destroyed "Knights of the Banner") and get him to a safe place after John cashes out his contract to Lotusland Entertainment.
 
But as the two of them arrive at Lotusland, they are surprised to see employees fleeing the area.  It seems the company is under some sort of attack. . .
 
 
Leaving Gawain with the car, John tries to contact his superior, but finds the systems locked down.  Unable to terminate his contract and cash out his Lotusland shares, John finds himself facing an interrogation by the Corporate psychologist, demanding information about John's recent whereabouts for the new owner of Lotusland. . .who reminds John that even his very THOUGHTS are the property of the Corporation under his contract.
 
AND THEN WE SWITCH SCENES. . .
 
We follow the underground musician Quirk. . .who had accompanied John through the desert in search of Gawain during his first days as the Hulk.  She returns to her old Los Angeles neighborhood and seeks out Stevie, an old friend.  She's decided she's done with monsters and wants to get back to work singing.
 
But as the two discuss her future plans, Stevie's studio is attacked!  Stevie is killed and Quirk is taken captive as part of a "Hostile takeover".
 
 
SWITCHING SCENES BACK TO LOTUSLAND. . .
 
John endures interrogation, knowing it will be the only way to access the systems and cash out of his contract.  The questions cover John's recent activities and absence. . .and in doing so, we get a condensed flashback version of Hulk 2099's origin (as seen in detail in issues #1-#6 of 2099 Unlimited, which I guess I SHOULD have reviewed instead of this issue, but here we are.)
 
John Eisenhart was tasked with finding new material for Lotusland.  He followed rumors of a cult living in the desert outside of L.A. who were living a strange monastic lifestyle, called "The Knights of The Banner."
 
Upon investigating the cult, he discovered that the "Banner" was Bruce Banner, the original Hulk.  They refused to sell John the rights to their story, but Eisenhart befriended a young boy (Gawain) and through him learned that the Knights were carrying out highly illegal gamma ray experiments to try and recreate the original Hulk. . .
 
 
As the questioning continues, we learn that Eisenhart betrayed the Knights and reported them to the authorities. . .hoping to buy the story from THEM once they had captured and broken the Knights.
 
But what John didn't count on was the heavy resistance the Knights would put up.  They fought a pitched battle with the authorities and John was caught in the middle of it.  Learning of John's betrayal and seeing that there was no hope for the Knights, Gawain activated their gamma device, which exploded. . .turning John into the Hulk.
 
 
But John keeps THAT part of the story to himself, claiming that the device exploded and that was all.  He ends the interview, proclaiming that he wants nothing more to do with Lotusland and demanding to cash out his shares and contract.  But as he does, the sounds of combat outside the room can be heard!
 

A strange cybernetic-enhanced person bursts into the room, proclaiming himself to be Draco. . .the new owner of Lotusland.  John doesn't seem to be particularly impressed.  Lotusland security forces also burst into the room and a firefight erupts between Draco's cybernetic forces and Lotusland's humans.
 
John notices that Draco's forces look exactly like those he fought at the water reclamation plant and wonders why someone would take over a water plant AND an entertainment company, but he doesn't have time to wonder for long as the firefight becomes more violent and he decides to make a run for it.
 
 
As John runs back to the parking garage, Gawain hears the commotion and leaves the car against John's orders to remain.  A force of guards pursuing John fires on him as Gawain rushes toward the sound of fighting.  Seeing John is in danger, Gawain (being sworn to protect human life as a Knight of The Banner) throws himself in front of John, saving him but being killed in front of John's horrified eyes!
 
 
John's horror at Gawain's sudden, brutal death quickly turns to rage. . .and we know what happens when a Hulk gets angry, right?  Transforming into the twisted 2099 version of The Hulk while cradling Gawain's dead body, John howls Draco's name and immediately rushes back into Lotusland for vengeance!
 
 
Smashing his way through both Draco's and Lotusland's security forces, Hulk confronts Draco, demanding payment for Gawain's life right there and right now!
 
 
ANNNNNNND. . .
 
To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay, so there we have it.  The first issue that's sort of not a first issue of Hulk 2099.
Let's break it on down!
 
Hmmmm. . .okay.  Well. . .yeah.  I guess the first impression I get is that maybe I SHOULD have reviewed 2099 Unlimited #1 instead.  This story just jumps right in and assumes readers have already been following Hulk's six part adventure through the other title.
 
To be fair, it was probably just as confusing for comic fans in 1994 who picked this up without reading 2099 Unlimited.  What I'm trying to say is that right off the bat this issue fails the first expectation I have for the first issue of a new series. . .does it introduce the characters and their situation in a new reader friendly way?
 
This would be a no.  It does not. 
 
Once again, I'll be fair. This issue DOES skim over Hulk's origin, and they're actually some of the best pages in the comic. . .but the whole side story of Quirk and Stevie is extremely confusing and out of place in the context of just THIS issue.  It fits just fine in the context of the story in progress told in 2099 Unlimited.  Other characters like Ty and Keisha (John's friends/rivals at Lotusland) just sort of appear without any explanation at all. . .unless you've read 2099 Unlimited, where they are first introduced.
 
So as a continuation of the story in 2099 Unlimited, this is great.  As the first issue of a new series. . .not so much.  Pretty disappointing, and I'm sure there were comic fans at the time that felt the same way.
 
Don't get me wrong.  This isn't a bad story at all.  It's well written.  The interrogation of John by the corporate psychologist stands out in particular.  He deftly tells the doctor what he wants him to hear while we see the true story unfold in the surrounding art.  It's very nicely done.
 
I like that we're getting yet ANOTHER point of view on the 2099 "universe".  This time that of the cutthroat West Coast entertainment corporations.  I also like that this version of the Hulk is skewed so that the human side is ruthless and manipulative while the monster side is heroic and caring.  It's an interesting twist on the Hulk mythos and one I wouldn't mind reading more of.
 
Which brings us to the second thing I expect of a first issue. . .does it make me want to read more?
 
That would be a yes.  This story throws us right into the middle of something that's already been going on, but there's enough meat on the bone for me to want to check out those 2099 Unlimited issues AND go forward into the Hulk 2099 issues after that.  This version of the Hulk is different enough that it sort of hooked me into wanting to see more.
 
On the art side of things. . .90s-tastic in the best way!  
 
Like the awesome cover, the art team of Malcolm Davis and Chris Ivy give us a twisted, slightly-exaggerated vision of the dark 2099 future with plenty of detail and bold inks. The art in this comic is really eye-catching and engaging.  
 
Credit due to the colors of Tom Smith as well.  There is a GREAT use of color in this story.   The colors are bold, rich and vibrant.   Everything pops and demands your attention.  For a great example, just look at the page I scanned above of Quirk meeting with Stevie.  So much color, interesting angles, great detail, cool panel shapes.  That carries through the whole issue. VERY nice. I like this art team a lot!
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
As a continuation of the story started in 2099 Unlimited, this does a great job.  As the first issue of a new series, not so great.  Hulk 2099 #1 dumps the reader right into the middle of a story that's already been going on.  There IS some background material to be found, but really, in order to enjoy this comic you need to have already read what came before it.
 
That aside, there's another problem with Hulk 2099 #1, and really, Hulk 2099 in general.  It's a pretty fundamental problem. A kind of "big picture" problem when looking at this series as part of the 2099 line in general. . .
 
The whole setup for Hulk 2099 is derivative of other 2099 titles. . .a corporate-type has a life-changing violent encounter that leads him to turn against the corrupt corpocracy that he previously was a part of, mirroring the same basic setup for Spider-Man 2099, Ravage 2099, and Punisher 2099. This would be the FOURTH time the 2099 line used the same storyline.
 
To make matters worse, there was ALREADY a savage transforming man-beast in Ravage 2099, who had recently been revamped into a sort of Wolverine/ Hulk hybrid character in an effort to prop up sales of the unpopular title.
 
It's sort of a shame, because I DID find the character (and art) compelling enough to make me want to read more, despite the title sort of dumping me into the deep end of the pool with a story already in progress.
 
Overall, I liked Hulk 2099 and can recommend it to Longbox Junk readers who want a different and interesting take on the Hulk.  But I wouldn't suggest starting with THIS issue.  You're going to want to read the origin story in 2099 Unlimited first and then continue into this series.  
 
It doesn't look like the 10 issues of Hulk 2099 have been collected, so you'll have to hunt down the individual issues.  This is one of the 2099 series that I don't see that often in the bargain bin for some reason, but they're out there to be found.  If you like the Hulk, give it a try!
 
Up Next. . .
 
I guess that's enough of Marvel 2099 for now.  
Time to move along to something else.
 
It's July, and I usually like to throw in some Captain America, so how about we do that? Yeah. . .Captain America! 
 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - X-Men 2099 #1

693 views • 332 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk? You want comic reviews you never asked for? You're in the right place!
 
I've been spending a little time checking out the dark future of Marvel 2099, and so far it's been a pretty nice trip.  A little high (Doom 2099 and Spider-Man 2099), a little low (Ravage 2099) and a little in between (Punisher 2099).  
 
But now we're moving past the initial four launch titles of Marvel 2099 and into the second wave of releases.  And if you know Marvel, you KNOW it's only a matter of time before they start wanting to milk their favorite mutant cash cow. . .the X-Men.
 
BUT. . .
 
There was a problem.  That problem was named Chris Claremont, the comic legend who had been the primary architect of Marvel's "X-Books" and the keeper of their convoluted continuity at the time. 
 
 You see, Claremont had ALREADY detailed the future of the X-Men. Beginning with the seminal "Days of Future Past" in 1981 and moving forward from there over the years laying down a complicated and bewildering (to anyone not a dedicated X-Men fan) collection of alternate and parallel future realities that provided fans of Marvel's mutant superheroes with high stakes time travel drama and apocalyptic visions of the future.
 
Yeah. . .a bit of a problem.
 
The solution was to just completely ignore everything about the mainstream X-Men comics and create a whole new X-Team that would fit the dark cyberpunk theme of Marvel 2099.  In other words, an X-Men story that new readers could jump in on without knowing a SINGLE BIT of the tangled mutant tapestry woven by Claremont.   
 
If you think about it, it was a HUGE risk.  They couldn't use Wolverine! NO WOLVERINE!  I mean, this was the 90s.  An X-Men comic without Wolverine, without Gambit, without Cable, without ANY of the characters that were a big part of driving Marvel comic sales at the time. . .it just sounds like madness!
 
But they did it.  By Gawd, they rolled the dice and went for it.  And it worked!
 
Well, at first it did, anyway.  X-Men 2099 came out of the gate strong, and within a year the title was on the verge of overtaking Spider-Man 2099 as the flagship title of Marvel 2099. . .but it wasn't long before interest began to wane.  Sales dropped over 65% and the title eventually fell out of favor enough that it was cancelled in 1996 after 35  issues and two one shot specials.  Today X-Men 2099 comics are pretty much worthless to collectors and are a bargain bin staple.
 
So what happened?  Let's take a look at the first issue of Marvel's biggest 2099 gamble and try to find out, shall we? We shall!  

X-MEN 2099 #1

Marvel 2099 (1993)

 
COVER: Ron Lim
 
THE GATHERING
 
SCRIPT: John Francis Moore
PENCILS: Ron Lim
INKS: Adam Kubert
 
THE COVER:
 
It's another one of those SWEET shiny foil borders that set Marvel 2099 apart and are SO hard to get a good scan of.  I think I did okay with this one.  I'm thinking of going back to redo the first two.  I probably should.  but I digress!
 
Honestly, this cover isn't hitting me like the rest.  It's not a BAD cover, but aside from the AWESOME logo there's just not much here to set this cover apart from any other 90s team shot.  Remove the logo and this cover could be on any number of 90s Image "We want to be Marvel!" era team covers with a name like DEATHSTRYKE or CYBER HUNTERS.
 
I love the logo.  I love the border.  The rest is. . .okay.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale in the Nevada desert, with a young man named Timothy Fitzgerald.  He's been wandering and has been given directions to the abandoned town of Nuevo Sol, along with a card for entry, by a mysterious Indian woman he met in Arizona.  
 
He's greeted at a door marked with a red X by a hulking, mechanical-looking man.  Entering the supposedly-abandoned building, Fitzgerald is surprised to find himself in the middle of a raging party!
 
Fitzgerald quickly meets a young woman who introduces herself as Tina. . .short for Serpentina.  He's shocked as Tina openly displays mutant powers of stretching her limbs.  She explains that he's in a safe place for mutants, nomads, Corporate discards, and all manner of outsiders.
 
We switch scenes to the glittering and decadent desert city of Las Vegas and the sprawling penthouse floor of the gigantic Synge Casino, where we meet Noah Synge. . .the man who ruthlessly controls the Greater Nevada Syndicate.  
 
He's confronted in his seeming place of safety by the sudden appearance of a mysterious Asian man called Xi'an.  The two of them obviously know each other, and Xi'an warns Synge that his days of kidnapping nomads for the sadistic pleasures of Synge's customers are over.  
 
Synge laughs off Xi'an's warning and tells him that he will buy and sell who he wants.  Xi'an tells Synge that this is his final warning, and that next time, it will be war.
 
Shifting scenes again, we find ourselves in the Synge Casino below.  A captured mutant "terrorist" called Bloodhawk is being publicly put on trial for his crimes, with his fate resting in the results of the spins of a slot machine while customers bet on the outcome.  
 
As the unfortunate mutant is dragged to await the final spin of the "Cavalcade of Justice" to determine the manner of his execution, we meet Desdemona and Lytton Synge. . .the decadent son and daughter of Noah Synge.  They mock the captured mutant as he passes.
 
Later, two mutants sent by Xi'an to rescue Bloodhawk from Synge, appear.  Krystalin (who can produce and manipulate crystals) and Meanstreak (with super-speed) break the captured mutant out of captivity, but Bloodhawk seems to be rather ungrateful and informs his rescuers to tell Xi'an that he will never become one of his disciples before flying free into the night.
 
 
Here the story breaks for a FIFTEEN PAGE preview of the Marvel 2099 line in general.  It might make this review a bit longer than it needs to be, but the preview pages are actually pretty cool, so I'll throw a few of them in here for you because why not?  Check 'em out!

 
Okay, enough of THAT and back to the review at hand.  Now where were we? Ah, yes. . .
 
When they go to inform their father of Bloodhawk's escape, Desdemona and Lyttan Synge discover that the elder Synge has been brutally murdered.  Lyttan immediately blames the death on Xi'an and vows to bring an end to the mutant leader.
 
We switch scenes back to Nuevo Sol, where Xi'an has returned and is ready to address the gathered outcasts as to the direction they will be going now that Synge has ignored his warnings. Unknown to Xi'an, an assassin is among the crowd, moving to find his vantage point and waiting for his signal to strike while the mutant leader speaks, inspiring those gathered. . .including a listening Fitzgerald.
 
As Xi'an speaks of strength and unity among the outcasts, Fitzgerald senses something wrong and catches sight of the waiting sniper!  He reveals his mutant power of draining and channeling electricity as he pushed through the crowd and strikes the assassin just as he fires!
 

 
As Xi'an goes down, the gathering is attacked by a heavily armed Synge Security Enforcement team, demanding the surrender of everyone there.  Chaos and panic ensues as the crowd attempts to flee the trap.  
 
As Fitzgerald and several of the other mutants escape into hidden tunnels below Nuevo Sol, we learn that Xi'an is wounded and close to death but Fitzgerald managed to throw off the assassin's aim enough to save his life.  As they make their escape, Xi'an weakly invites a shocked Fitzgerald to join his new X-Men!
 
To Be Continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
X-Men 2099 #1. . .let's break it on down!
 
First things first.  Full disclosure.  If you've read much of this blog, you might already know this, but if not, then here it is. . .I'm really not a fan of team books.  This review will be fair, but generally-speaking, if you're a fan of team books, you MIGHT have an entirely different view on this comic (and I'd be glad to hear it).  
 
Don't get me wrong.  I don't HATE team books. There's some good team book stories out there that I really like.  Just generally, I don't have a taste for them. Just letting you know.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Having said all that, it probably won't come as a surprise when I say I didn't really like this very much.  Putting aside my general dislike for team books for an honest look at things, X-Men 2099 just seems a little weak, and sort of feels like Marvel felt like anything with "X" slapped on it would sell.
 
Once again, don't get me wrong.  There ARE some things I liked about this.  Let's talk about those.
 
Like Doom 2099, X-Men 2099 leaves behind the Mega-Corporation run cities and shows the reader another side of the 2099 world.  Where Doom 2099 showed us a bit of the fractured nations of Europe, X-Men 2099 gives us a glimpse of organized crime beyond the reach of the Corporations.   I liked that a lot.
 
I compare the two different views of Doom 2099 and X-Men 2099 from the rest of the 2099 line because they were actually scripted by the same writer, John Francis Moore.  But where Doom 2099 was dark and compelling, X-Men 2099 seems to be weak and diluted. . .bogged down by the introduction of the larger number of characters needed for a team book.  
 
So I liked that Moore continued to show different parts of the world of 2099, but he didn't quite manage to pull it off as well as he did with Doom 2099.  A shame. The organized crime angle is interesting.
 
Another thing I liked about X-Men 2099 also comes from John Francis Moore. . .
 
  Although I don't like the X-Men very much in general, I know that they have always been comic book stand-ins for various marginalized communities through their history. . .from the Civil Rights movement to acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, the X-Men have always represented standing up for the dignity and respect of those who are hated by others.  
 
X-Men 2099 continues that tradition of representation by speaking up for the poor, the unwanted, those that are seen as having no "worth" to the wealthy.  It's actually a point of view that probably resonates better today with the huge gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" that has greatly expanded since this comic was written 30 years ago.  It may not seem as important as representing the rights and dignity of colored or LGBTQ individuals, but it's still noteworthy and interesting, and I'll give credit where it's due.
 
Other than those two things, the interesting bunch of little 2 page 2099 previews, and that the art is pretty solid in a 90s-tastic way, there's not much else I liked about this issue.
 
The story jumps around and it feels like the reader has been dropped into the middle of it instead of starting at the beginning.  The various mutants seem like they could be swapped in and out of just about any 90s team book from Marvel or Image. . .except for Xi'an, none of them are very interesting or unique in appearance of ability.
 
Judging this issue on the same two questions I ask of EVERY first issue of a series. . .Are new characters and their situations introduced in a new reader friendly way and  does the issue make me want to read more. . . X-Men 2099 rates a no on both.
 
New characters are just thrown at the reader. . .some of them having to describe their powers in painfully obvious exposition (usually to people that we assume they have known for a while and should know their powers already).  
 
The issue just isn't interesting enough to make me want to read another one.  It's not BAD, it's just not good enough to make me want more.  It's feels like something that exists because Marvel just HAD to have some X-Men in their 2099 line.  That reason isn't engaging enough to carry a series. . .as I believe the steep (65%) in sales not far down the line shows.
 

CONCLUSION

 
What we have here is an issue that COULD have been great.  John Francis Moore had already proven his hand at writing in the dark cyberpunk future setting of Marvel 2099 with Doom 2099.  Unfortunately, he doesn't quite pull it off here.  
 
There's things to like in Moore's glimpse at the criminal underbelly of the world of 2099 and his comic book exploration into the dichotomy of rich vs. poor in a world where people are nothing but commodities.
 
But the multiple cardboard cutout mutants that needed to be introduced water things down enough to make this ultimately feel bland and uninteresting. . .like something Marvel felt obligated to give to the fans instead of the strange labor of love that Doom 2099 seemed to be. It's hard to believe that the two series were written by the same person, they're that different.
 
Overall, X-Men 2099 could have been called ANYTHING else and still have been the same story.  There's nothing to set it apart from the glut of team books being put out by Marvel and Image (and Valiant, and Malibu, and everyone else) during the 90s.  
 
I have to give Marvel credit for taking the gamble of putting out an X-Men book without any of the characters that were selling X-Men comics in the 90s, but unless you're a big fan of everything X-Men and/or 90s team books in general (or just want to read EVERYTHING from the 2099 line), I would say to go ahead and skip X-Men 2099.  There's just nothing in the story or art to set it apart from any other random 90s team comic.  It's not BAD, it's just sort of. . .there.
 
Up Next. . .
 
One last visit to Marvel's dark 2099 future. . .HULK 2099!
 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - Doom 2099 #1

691 views • 349 days ago • (0) Comments

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

 
We're continuing my journey into the dark future world of Marvel 2099.  So far, it's been a nice little trip.  It seems that Marvel learned some lessons from the failed New Universe and created a more cohesive and exciting world for the future versions of their superheroes to inhabit.  
 
This time out, I'm going to take a look at the final Marvel 2099 launch title, Doom 2099.  It's generally regarded as one of the best 2099 series, and was popular enough that it was the ramp that Marvel used to launch a 2099-wide crossover from. . .One Nation Under Doom, where Doctor Doom took control of the United States and caused massive, lasting changes in EVERY 2099 title (including some deaths that ended under-performing titles like Ravage 2099).  Not bad for a comic that has. . .well, really no collector value at all.
 
BUT. . .
 
If there's one thing I've learned writing these Longbox Junk reviews, it's that just because a comic is in the bargain bin (which is where you can find Doom 2099 these days), that doesn't mean it's bad.  After all, Doom 2099 wasn't your average superhero comic.
 
What we have here is a series that (taken as a whole) is only one of two that actually delivered on the cyberpunk promise of Marvel 2099 (the other was Ghost Rider 2099, one of the last series to come out, and one I've already reviewed).  Where most of the other 2099 titles focused on the superheroics, Doom 2099 dived deep into the science fiction aspects of the future world.  
 
Yeah. . .there's superheroes to be found here, but overall, Doom 2099 was much more character and world-focused than your Spider-Man or X-Men 2099 (for example) were.  Many of the issues are dark and introspective and feature little action compared to other 2099 comics.  The stories were dense at times, and asked some pretty heavy questions as the series went on. . .
 
Is ruthlessness a necessary attribute for a good ruler? Do the responsibilities of absolute leadership permit a ruler to bypass the common sense morals and ethics that govern other (and in Doom's mind, lesser) men?  Is the security of a sovereign kingdom. . .a nation of Doom's native people. . .worth sacrificing the principles of justice and individual freedom?
 
Like I said. . .not your average superhero comic.  And as you can probably tell, I'm a fan of the darker, heavier storytelling of Doom 2099.  But I'm getting ahead of myself and starting to review this comic right here in the introduction before I even summarize the story!  So enough of that. 
 
Ready?  Let's do it!

DOOM 2099 #1

Marvel 2099 (1993)

 
 
COVER: Pat Broderick
 
MUSES OF FIRE!
 
SCRIPT:  John Francis Moore
PENCILS:  Pat Broderick
INKS: Pat Broderick
 
THE COVER:
 
So I finally figured out the secret to posting decent pics of these foil border covers.  Instead of scanning them like I usually do, I take a picture with a camera and crop it.  It's not perfect, but it works.  I think maybe the brighter silver (and gold with Ravage 2099) might also make a difference.  I guess I'll find out with X-Men 2099's blue border coming up next.  BUT ENOUGH OF THAT! 
 
I absolutely LOVE this cover!  That silver foil border makes a perfect frame for a stunning character shot of Doom in his new 2099 blue and silver color scheme surrounded by massive flashes of lightning.  This cover is bold and powerful and one of the best Marvel 2099 had to offer.  THIS is the kind of cover that makes me want to pick up a comic.  It's a real eye-catcher.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale in Antikva Vilago, Latveria, the year 2099.  The village has fallen on hard times and is now mostly a seedy black market exchange.  We are introduced to Wire (a Gypsy computer hacker) and his girlfriend, Xandra, as a deal goes bad and they are forced to run from a heavily-armed security patrol. . .
 
 
During their escape, the pair are amazed to see a strange armored figure appear from nowhere in the middle of a crackling ball of light and energy!  The Gypsies take advantage of the distraction to help their escape from the patrol as they confront the mysterious figure, who seems confused.   
 
When threatened by the patrol, the figure loudly proclaims himself to be called Doom and destroys the patrol vehicle with a blast of energy.
 
 
Doom stops the Gypsies, asking them for information.  He learns that his castle is in ruins, Latveria is now being ruled by someone called Tiger Wylde (Welcome to the 90s!), and that the year is 2099.  Having learned the situation, Doom decides to immediately take action to remind Latveria who its TRUE ruler is. . .
 
 
We shift scene to the nearby capital of Latveria, Gojradia.  A modern industrial city.  Among the glittering high-rise buildings, we enter the office of Latveria's ruler, Tiger Wylde.  He is confronting an Alchemax executive by video, accusing Alchemax Corporation of sending an assassin (who has failed).  Alchemax, of course, denies any knowledge.
 
Ending the call, Wylde turns to his spiritual advisor, a Gypsy called Fortune, to read his cards regarding the situation.  Fortune tells Wylde that change is in the air. . .a shift in power.
 
They are interrupted by Doom, blasting his way past the guards and into the office, demanding to see Wylde.  Wylde and his bodyguard, Zone, are amused. . .assuming that they are encountering yet another uninformed Doombot that has activated.  Doom proclaims that he is no robot!
 
 
Intrigued and believing that THIS Doom is no robot, Wylde mocks Doom.  Telling him that even if he IS somehow Victor Von Doom, his day is long past, and that HE saved Latveria after Doom's disappearance long before. . .building it into a modern and independent nation, not run by the megacorporations that swallowed so many other countries. 
 
Enraged by being dismissed, Doom attacks Tiger Wylde!  Unfortunately, Doom quickly learns that his outdated armor and weapons are no match for the cybernetic Wylde's advanced technology.  He is easily defeated.
 
 
Helpless, Doom is unmasked by Tiger Wylde.  The face of a young man, unscarred is revealed even as he proclaims himself to be Doom and vows vengeance.  Wylde mocks him, knowing that the man is much too young and doesn't bear the scars of the REAL Victor Von Doom.  
 
Adding further humiliation to the easy defeat of Doom, Wylde burns his face before leaving him for dead and ordering the body of the imposter taken to the Neurotechs to salvage his body parts.
 
 Wylde's advisor, Fortune, sees an opportunity and secretly takes the strange man calling himself Doom to her home, where she helps him recover from his wounds over the course of the next several days.
 
 
Doom awakens in a Gypsy camp, alive, but humiliated and now hideously scarred.  Fortune tells him that she saved him because the cards told her that he would be the one to free Latveria from Tiger Wylde.  Doom learns that they are of the ancient Zefiro clan of Gypsies. . .the same clan that Doom was born into.  By the bond of blood they share, Fortune and the Zefiro pledge themselves to Doom's cause.
 
 
Doom and his new allies travel to a remote mountain range, where he uses a medallion Fortune wears to unlock a hidden facility that contains a stealth aircraft. . .the highest technology of Doom's time, hidden for an emergency escape craft almost a century ago.
 
Enlisting the aid of the Gypsy hacker, Wire, Doom has learned the location of materials and a scientist that can help him better prepare to take back Latveria from Tiger Wylde.  
 
Doom and his new companions fly the cloaked aircraft to an island off the Peruvian coast, a secret research facility owned by the Pixel Corporation in search of one Doctor Celia Quinones.  
 
 
Doom and his Gypsy companions make their way through the research facility, fighting their way past guards and automated defenses, finally breaking into the main laboratory itself, where Doom offers Dr. Quinones her freedom from the Corporation that has enslaved her in exchange for her services.  Quinones agrees.
 
 
Later, Doom allows Quinones to operate on him.  Using the secret advanced Pixel Corp. technology, Doom has nanoids fused to his nervous system, creating a cyber-neural interface that greatly enhances his motor and neural responses.  But the technology is experimental and highly dangerous.  
 
The restructuring of Doom's neural pathways leads to intense pain and hallucinations of the past. . .nearly driving him to madness as the operation proceeds.  But through sheer strength of will, Doom prevails!
 
 
As Doom recovers, he is garbed in a new suit of armor. . .a cutting edge design made of an Adamantium Lanaxide alloy and configured to the nanotech now fused to Doom's nervous system.  The technology is untested, but Doom has no time for tests!  He has been reborn and every moment counts now.
 

 
Doctor Doom is dead. . .LONG LIVE DOOM!
 
 
The End. . .To Be Continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then. . .Doom 2099, issue one.  Let's break it on down!
 
As you can probably tell from the introduction to this review, Doom 2099 was one of my favorite 2099 series.  It stood out among the rest by not only focusing on a villain as protagonist, but with a darker story infused with the cyberpunk themes missing from other 2099 titles.
 
Doom is an almost Shakespearian character that is consumed by fulfilling his own destiny of greatness, no matter what the cost.  The issue ends with a quote from Henry V, so it's pretty clear the neo-Shakespeare direction of the story is entirely intentional.  It definitely adds a sort of gravitas that isn't present in other 2099 titles.  I can see, even from this first issue, that the writer wanted THIS story to be something different.  
 
Making a villain the "hero" of the story gives Doom 2099 layers of grey that make it stand apart from the superheroics of other 2099 titles, but John Francis Moore was a writer definitely suited to a cyberpunk anti-hero tale with shades of grey.  I didn't realize it until I did a bit of research for this  review that Moore was a collaborator with Howard Chaykin on the second volume of one of my favorite bargain bin indie comics that ALSO takes place in a dystopian science fiction world. . .First Comics' American Flagg.
 
Knowing that NOW, I can definitely see shades of Moore and Chaykin's creation here in the high-tech, but spiritually empty, consumerist world in which Corporations have come to replace governments.  But here, that premise is taken down a different path with the Machiavellian Doom and his  unceasing push toward fulfilling his destiny.
 
On the art side of things, prolific comic veteran Pat Broderick gives Doom 2099 the dark, dramatic style that this tale stepping outside the bounds of your average superhero comic needs!  His moody, hard-edged art perfectly compliments this story of a man brought to nothing and trying to force his way back into greatness through sheer will.  Marvel definitely put the right team on THIS series!
 
Looking at Doom 2099 as a first issue, I ask the same two questions of ANY first issue I review:
 
Does it present the characters and the situation in a new reader-friendly way?  Yes.  Even for readers who have NO idea of who Doctor Doom is, there's enough exposition sprinkled through the story that ANY fan of dark science fiction will be able to enjoy this issue.   It's a testament to Moore's writing that he can make such a well-known character feel brand new!
 
Does it make me want to read more? Again, yes.  With Doom humiliated and brought to nothing, but still declaring that it is his destiny to rule, I can't help but want to jump right into the next issue to see what happens!  THIS is a comic that grabs you and doesn't let go.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
I'm pretty sure you can tell by now that I'm a fan of Doom 2099.  As far as I'm concerned, it was one of the best mainstream comics of the 90s, and one that I can point at when people moan about how crappy 90s comics were.  
 
If you're a fan of dark science fiction/cyberpunk stories, then I heartily recommend Doom 2099, if you haven't read it yet.  The entire series is a great read!  When Moore leaves the title to write X-Men 2099, we get some early work from Warren Ellis that REALLY cements this title as one of the best 2099 had to offer.  
 
Where Moore based the overarching narrative of Doom 2099 on Henry V, under Ellis, the story took on the darker, more personal, and more tragic tones of Macbeth, with Doom playing the role of the monarch who, consumed by ambition (Taking over the United States of America), sacrifices his friends and the rule of law in the pursuit of power.  A dark, compelling story!
 
But there I go again, moving past THIS issue to sing the praises of the series as a whole.
 
Overall, Doom 2099 #1 is a great introduction to the series that new readers can get right into and will make them want to immediately get into the next issue. . .and the next. . .and the next.  
 
There IS a massive 400+ page collection of the series on Amazon that will set you back close to 300 bucks, as well as digital collections to be had. . .but the issues aren't hard to find in the bargain bins at all, except a few toward the end when Marvel was reducing print run as 2099 slowly ground to a halt.
 
No matter HOW you get your hands on Doom 2099, I urge anyone reading this who wants a dark cyberpunk tale with some superhero seasoning sprinkled in to find a way to read this series!  It's a bargain bin staple, and pretty much worthless to collectors, but in MY humble opinion it's pure Longbox Junk gold.
 
Up Next. . .
 
That's right, MORE Marvel 2099!
 
We're moving past the original launch titles and into the second wave with X-Men 2099.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk - Ravage 2099 #1

802 views • Apr 13, '23 • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk! If you want comic reviews nobody ever asked for, you're in the right place!

 
As I continue on my Longbox Junk journey into the future world of Marvel 2099, I've come to a comic that definitely gives me some mixed feelings. . .
 
On the one hand, Ravage 2099 was the last ongoing series that Stan Lee wrote.  That sentence alone SHOULD indicate a bit of respect associated with this comic.  I mean, it's the final regular writing job that the late, great Smilin' Stan worked on, right? RIGHT?
 
BUT. . .
 
On the OTHER hand, Ravage 2099 is generally regarded as the worst of the 2099 line. 
 
It was the second launch title of Marvel 2099, coming in hot on the heels of Spider-Man 2099 with high expectations.  Sales were initially great, based on Stan Lee's involvement, as well as that of artist Paul Ryan (who was the regular artist on Fantastic Four at the time and a fan favorite).  But the decline in sales not long after launch wasn't just steep. . .it was almost vertical.  By the end of 1993, Ravage wasn't even in the Top 300 comics for sales.  
 
Ravage 2099 is a VERY common find in the bargain bin.  It's a series that seems to have been kicked to the curb and kicked HARD.  I've never seen any issues of Ravage 2099 in the regular (basically cover price) back issue bins, it's been kicked that hard.  Ravage is bargain bin ONLY. If you have any of these in your collection, don't plan on selling them.  Nobody wants these comics. 
 
 A short story, if you'll indulge me for a moment. 
 
I had a flea market stand for the past couple of summers, trying to sell some comics cheap to make space in my storage area.  I was selling them for a dollar.  Everything a dollar.  I couldn't sell any Ravage comics.  I put them into a box where I was giving comics away for FREE to kids.  I couldn't even GIVE these away!
 
In other words, this series is the very DEFINITION of Longbox Junk.
So what gives? Why are these comics so unloved? Let's find out.
 
Ready, folks? This might get messy, but. . .I'M GOIN' IN!

RAVAGE 2099 #1

Marvel 2099 (1992)

 
 
COVER: Paul Ryan
 
RAVAGE
 
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: Paul Ryan
INKS: Keith Williams & Steve Alexandrov
 
THE COVER:
 
Finally! A decent cover shot showing off the awesome detail on the foil border of these 2099 comics!
Instead of scanning it (which came out just as crappy as the other two I've done) I took a picture with a digital camera and then cropped it.  The lighter gold border on Ravage might have also helped.  In any case. . .I'm quite pleased, except where the flash was too much up on the top.  I guess nothing's perfect.
 
BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THAT. . .
 
The cover itself is very well done.  A great action shot pushing past the border for a nice 3-D effect. I like the colors on this one quite a bit.  The different shades of green on Ravage's costume contrast nicely with that gold foil frame.  I really like the Ravage logo, too! It's actually one of the best logos in the whole bunch, in my humble opinion.
 
But, like the Punisher 2099 cover, Ravage 2099 is DEFINITELY 90s-tastic.  From the pouches, pads, and straps of Ravage's costume, to the gritted teeth and weird, oversized gun, this one checks most of the boxes for a stereotypical 90s "Grim-n-Gritty" cover.   It's not QUITE as over the top as the Punisher 2099 cover, but you can most certainly tell what decade this comic came out without even checking the indica.
 
Let's get inside!
 
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale following a man desperately trying to elude a pursuing "ECO Patrol".  They manage to corner their quarry in the sewers beneath the city.  The terrified man is no match for the heavily-armed ECO troops, who brutally murder him.
 
 
We shift scenes to a luxurious corporate office high above the city.  It's the ECO Central office of Paul-Phillip Ravage, chief of the Alchemax Corporation's division in charge of punishing ecological criminals. . .a sort of pollution-focused private police force.  
 
Ravage is angry that his ECO patrols have yet to bring in a live "polluter" (loosely-organized eco-terrorists)  so that they can be interrogated and their leadership found.  He suspects that the terrorist leaders are corrupt officials within Alchemax itself.
 
We also meet Ravage's assistant (and love interest), Tiana.  She's concerned that Ravage's obsession with finding the leadership of the terrorists will lead him down a dangerous path.  
 
Her own father tried to expose corruption in Alchemax and was exiled to Hellrock, a deadly island of pollution and mutated humans known as Mutroids (I guess Marvel wasn't QUITE ready to bring mutants into the 2099 line yet, so they had to be called something else until X-Men 2099 came on the scene later, BUT I DIGRESS).
 
 
Later, Paul-Phillip encounters a young man named Dack, who claims that his father (the man killed in the introduction) was no terrorist, but had discovered a connection between the Polluters and Alchemax and was killed trying to get the information to Ravage.  
 
Ravage decides to go straight to the top and confront the Director-General of Alchemax,  Anderthorp Henton.   He presents Henton with his suspicions and his belief that Dack is telling the truth. . .there's a high-level coverup of Alchemax's involvement with eco-terrorists.  
 
The Director-General promises to immediately begin an investigation into the claims.
 
 
Unfortunately for Ravage, the corruption goes higher than he thought.  After Ravage and Dack leave, the Director-General calls a meeting of high level Alchemax executives and it is decided that Ravage is no longer a useful in their plans.  His suspicions and investigation have now marked him for death!
 
Unknown to Henton and the other Alchemax executives, Ravage's assistant, Tiana, has been listening in on their conversation.  She's horrified by the discovery that Ravage's suspicions are true and that he's been targeted for assassination!  She hurries to warn him.
 
 
In the meantime, a clandestine ship delivers a mysterious passenger to the docks.  It's a deadly mutroid from Hellrock!  We follow the mutated human as it moves toward Ravage's office. . .where Tiana has found Paul-Phillip and is frantically trying to warn him of the assassination plot against him.  
 
Ravage refuses to believe Tiana at first, having full confidence in the Director-General.  But THEN the hulking mutroid bursts into the office!  As Ravage calls for backup and tries to protect Tiana, the mutroid doesn't attack.  Instead, it calmly offers Ravage "payment" for betraying Alchemax as one of the terrorist leaders.
 
Security bursts in, guns drawn and demanding that Ravage surrender himself as a traitor and terrorist!
 
 
Ravage realizes that Tiana was right and he'd been set up by his own superiors as a terrorist leader, with a mutroid offering payment on security camera.  He desperately fights his way through security with Tiana, but before they can escape, Director-General Henton sets off a hidden bomb in Ravage's office, destroying both him and the mutroid, along with any evidence of Ravage's innocence. . .OR SO HE THINKS!
 
 
Ravage and Tiana have survived the explosion by sheer luck.  The two of them make their way to Dack's inner city apartment, where Ravage leaves Tiana in safety before leaving on a mysterious errand. . .
 
 
At a nearby ECO Central junkyard, Paul-Phillip strips away the last traces of his former identity, garbing himself with armor and weapons made of junk.  At that moment, Paul-Phillip is dead. . .and there is now only RAVAGE!
 
 
The End.
 
Wait.  There's more?  It SEEMS like that was where this comic should have ended, but okay. . .
 
As the newly-born vigilante Ravage commandeers an old garbage truck to set out on his path of revenge against those who betrayed him and left him for dead, we shift scene to Hellrock Island. . .
 
In a forbidding castle looming over the toxic wasteland of Hellrock, we are introduced to the ruler of the mutroids. . .a demonic entity known as DETHSTRYK (Welcome to the 90s)!  
 
His most trusted servitor, known as Seeress, informs her master that she has had a vision of a man dead and reborn again, named Ravage.  She has seen that he will become Dethstryk's greatest foe.  
 
Dethstryk vows to destroy Ravage, for none shall stand in the way of his plans to CRUSH THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE!  Dun-Dun-DUNNNNNNN!!
 
NOW The End.  To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Allrighty then.  The first issue of Ravage 2099.  Let's break it on down!
 
Unfortunately, I can see why Ravage 2099 is considered the weak link in the 2099 launch titles. So what went wrong? Let's get THIS straight before I go on. . .Stan Lee is a legend in the comic world and I have no business trying to knock him down from the well-deserved pedestal he stands on.
 
 BUT. . .
 
You can definitely tell Stan was past his prime here.  The writing is honestly not very good.  It's not AWFUL, mind you.  It's just that it's a weird mashup of the bombastic Silver/Bronze Age and the grim-n-gritty 90s that just doesn't work well.  It's a little schizophrenic, to be honest.  
 
For example. . .In the early parts of the story, Ravage speaks in clipped, precise tones.  By the end of the story, he's a trash talkin' tough guy.  Another example. . .in the early parts of the story, the focus is on corporate corruption.  By the end of the story, we have a demonic creature named Dethstryk.
 
There are more examples, but let's not beat it into the ground.  This issue reads like two separate stories and Stan Lee was obviously struggling to fit his signature style into a grim-n-gritty comic world that had passed that style by.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I did find it interesting that Lee was trying to create an entirely new, environmentally-focused hero.  Ravage was actually the ONLY 2099 comic that didn't build on an existing hero (or heroes) in some way.  I'll give credit where it's due, Stan Lee was TRYING to create something new and unique here.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite pay off.  
 
Another good point about Ravage 2099 is the art.  Paul Ryan does a great job bringing the future world of Marvel 2099 to life!  From the bright and sterile corporate offices Ravage inhabits at the start of the story to the dark and grimy junkyard where Ravage throws off his identity at the end of it, Ryan's art is crisp and interesting.  And again, that cover. . .very nice!
 
So let's look at this from the point of view of it being a first issue and the TWO things I judge a first issue on. . .
 
Does it introduce characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way? 
It does.  The world of Marvel 2099 was a pretty remarkable framework and Ravage fits into it neatly.
 
 Does it make me want to read more?  
Well. . .not really.  
 
Putting aside the weak writing, Ravage fails to capture my attention in another way.  It tries to do what other Marvel 2099 comics do better, even when held up against JUST the two series I've reviewed already.  Spider-Man 2099 tells a better tale of corporate corruption leading to the creation of a new hero.  Punisher 2099 tells a better tale of a grim-n-gritty street vigilante out for justice.  Simply put, there's nothing here that can't be found elsewhere.  Ravage feels kind of. . .unnecessary.

CONCLUSION

I WANTED to like Ravage 2099.  I WANTED to give it some sort of redemption from the stigma of being one of the worst series of the 2099 line.  I WANTED to give Stan Lee some respect for getting back into the saddle one last time and bringing the comic world something new and original.
 
Unfortunately, I really can't do any of those things, except maybe some respect for Stan Lee's attempt to create 2099's only original hero.  It's a shame that I have to say that I can't really recommend Ravage 2099 except as a curiosity.
 
Marvel made a mistake by bringing in Stan Lee as the writer on this one.  Yeah, it pumped sales at first, but that didn't last long once the reality set in that Lee couldn't really mash the Silver/Bronze age and the grim-n-gritty 90s together.  
 
So instead of a fan favorite epilogue to Smilin' Stan's writing career, going out on a high note of gritty science fiction superheroics,  the world got a comic that was disliked and unnecessary enough to the overall 2099 narrative that it's now ONLY to be found in the bargain bin, and nobody even really wants it then.  Honestly, it makes me a little sad to write those words, because I can tell that Stan Lee WAS making what he thought was a good effort.
 
All that said, I didn't find Ravage 2099 to be a BAD comic.  Just very disappointing.  If you're curious enough to take a look, you won't have trouble finding individual issues in just about any bargain bin.  It's never been collected, except for some crossover issues in collections of other 2099 series.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Marvel 2099!  
Join me as I take a look at the final 2099 launch series DOOM 2099!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Longbox Junk - Punisher 2099 #1

707 views • Mar 30, '23 • (0) Comments

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

 
Last time out, I jumped into the future world of Marvel 2099 by taking a look at the first issue of the line's greatest success, Spider-Man 2099.  It was the first title put out in the line and Marvel definitely hedged their bets on it kicking off Marvel 2099 with a bang.  Their bet paid off. Simply put, it was a great start!  
 
So let's continue our little trip into the future by taking a look at a series that walked the line between grim social commentary and dark comedy.  Where Spider-Man 2099 #1 gave us a brief look at the heights and horrors of the ruling Corporations, the comic at hand dives down onto the gritty streets below the skyscrapers, where law enforcement has become a paid commodity usually only available to the wealthy.  
 
A bit of research tells me that Punisher 2099 was actually the fourth and final original 2099 title to be launched, so I'm writing these a bit out of order.  I didn't know that when I started.  Ravage 2099 and Doom 2099 were the second and third launch titles.  I'll get to them soon.  
 
But for now, let's see what happens when a cop on the edge discovers Frank Castle's war journal 100 years down the road from when the original Punisher roamed the streets, shall we?  WE SHALL!

PUNISHER 2099 #1

Marvel 2099 (1993)

 
 
COVER: Tom Morgan
 
DEADLY GENESIS
 
SCRIPT: Pat Mills & Tony Skinner
PENCILS: Tom Morgan
INKS: Jimmy Palmiotti
 
THE COVER:
 
Like the Spider-Man 2099 cover, I have to apologize for the poor quality of my scan.  I TRIED to angle it a little bit to better capture the flavor of the foil border. . .the dark blue here was even WORSE scanning than Spidey's red.  I guess it SORT of worked.  You can at least see a little more of the intricate detail embedded in the border this time. These 2099 foil border covers are great, but super hard to scan.  
 
BUT I DIGRESS!
 
Getting past the cool border, the cover itself. . .well. . .let's just say it's SO 90s that even the 90s are like, "Hey, can you tone it down a little?".  It's nicely done, but it definitely hits every checkbox that there is for cliché hyperactive 90s art. The pouches, the shoulder pads, the exaggerated musculature, the weird feet, the crazy looking guns. . .and more.  It's all there! 
 
This cover is the sort of cover that someone could easily point at and say, "There. THAT'S the 90s." and most comic fans wouldn't disagree.  I'm not saying it's a BAD cover at all.  If you were there collecting comics in the 90s, this is the sort of thing that's LOADED with nostalgia.  A sort of " so bad it's good" feeling.  But enough about the cover. Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale following a man as he desperately flees from a gang of "Street Surgeons", criminals who steal organs from living victims and sell them on the black market.  The terrified man tries to call the police ("Public Eye" a corporate-owned law enforcement agency) and is told that his account is delinquent, leaving him at the mercy of the Surgeons!
 
 
The Surgeons are interrupted during their assault by a hulking man, armored and bristling with weapons.  He easily takes down multiple gang members by himself, brutally killing them all and saving their terrified victim.
 
 
We switch scenes to the next day, at Alchemax Corporation's Public Eye headquarters.  The Chief and his staff are reviewing video from multiple brutal attacks that have been carried over the past few nights.  The perpetrator is a mysterious vigilante using some sort of technology to hide his face that they have so far failed to crack.
 
Special Agent Jake Gallows has been brought on to the case to assist. They review the case with him. . .all the victims were criminals who had already paid their fines and been released.  They try to figure out the vigilante's motivations, but can't come to a solid conclusion.
 
 
After the meeting, some of the other Public Eye officers are talking about Gallows, and we learn that he recently suffered a tragedy.  Gallows' mother, brother, and sister-in-law were all killed and Gallows himself severely wounded by a psychopathic gang during a day at the zoo (shown to us in flashback).  Now, Gallows is the only surviving member of his family.
 
 
After Gallows recovered from his wounds, the leader of the gang who killed his family was caught and put on trial.  It turned out to be Kron Stone, brother of Tyler Stone (from Spider-Man 2099, remember? If not, then check out my review of Spider-Man 2099 #1 HERE), one of the top executives of Alchemax Corporation. . .who are also the owners of Public Eye. 
 
After being found guilty in court, an unrepentant Stone flippantly paid his massive fine on the spot with his Corporate "Black Card" (basically unlimited funds for extremely privileged Corporate executives).  Gallows flew into a rage and attacked Stone in the courtroom, only to be saved from arrest himself by his fellow cops.
 
 
After the trial, Gallows was convinced that the legal system no longer works.  There's no real justice when someone can just buy their way out of a conviction right in the courtroom.  
 
We then follow Gallows to a hidden place where he and his best friend, Matt Axel, have been storing weapons, armor and equipment for months, waiting for the right moment.  That moment has come.
 
Among the items they've been illegally collecting is an old journal found in the police archives. . .the journal of a man named Frank Castle, but called The Punisher.  A journal that now inspires Jake Gallows to become something more than just a cop in a failed system. . .
 
 
. . .it inspires Jake Gallows to become a new Punisher for a new age!
 
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then.  Punisher 2099 #1.  Let's break it on down!
 
The overall impression I get from reading this comic is the same impression I got from the cover.  This is a comic that IS the 90s. The narrative offers an overheated, ultra-violent tale of the sort that pretty much defined many 90s comics that came in the aftermath of the Image explosion onto the scene.  
 
That is to say, where Image can be seen as desperately shouting "We want to be Marvel!", at the same time, Marvel (seeing the sales numbers of Image titles) was also shouting "We want to be Image!" in a strange Ouroboros that eventually collapsed the entire comics market.  
 
Punisher 2099 #1 is a gloriously over the top example of the ongoing battle for readers between Image and Marvel that was taking place at the time it came out.  And in hindsight 30 years down the road, it was a pretty good effort.
 
The writers Marvel brought on were British veterans of comic book science fiction dystopia, with work on A.D. 2000's Judge Dredd, as well as Marshall Law and Third World War.  You can definitely see shades of Judge Dredd and Marshall Law in Punisher 2099.  The choice of writers was a brilliant one for Marvel.
 
Similar to those British dystopian works mentioned above, the surface veneer of ultra-violence rests on a hidden layer of dark and subversive humor.  I'm not sure if comic fans of the time went much deeper than the surface layer, but there are some pretty nasty jabs at the American fetish for violence (while at the same time, trying to enforce a broken sense of ethics) to be found.  This can be seen more so in future issues as one reads beyond the first, but there ARE a few hints of the British brand of subversive humor here and there in this issue.
 
The dark, somewhat exaggerated and almost nightmarish art delivers a solid punch of violence, but stumbles during non-action scenes. Like the story, it positively reeks of the 90s, so enjoyment of the art style will be pretty much based on the reader's tolerance for the signature over-the-top art that defined the 90s.  In MY opinion, it's not the best art of the 2099 bunch, but it's the sort of art that an action-packed narrative like Punisher 2099 needs. 
 
BUT, ALL THAT ASIDE. . .
 
This is a first issue of an ongoing series.  There are TWO things (in my humble opinion, of course) that make what I consider a successful first issue.  Does it introduce new characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way? Does it make me want to read more?  TWO things. Is that really too much to ask?
 
The answer to both of these are YES.  Maybe not as an enthusiastic yes as I gave Spider-Man 2099, but this comic DOES introduce Jake Gallows and the gritty streets of his future dystopian world quite well.  And as a big fan of both Punisher AND Judge Dredd, the Mighty Marvel Mashup of them that is Punisher 2099 makes me want to read more. 
 

CONCLUSION

 
If you're a fan of dark, dystopian science fiction with an ultra-violent edge like that found in Judge Dredd, then you will like Punisher 2099.  It's basically an Americanized version of that popular British character.  Becoming even more so as the series goes on.
 
If you're expecting intricate storylines and deep narrative, then you're going to be disappointed.  This is the sort of comic where you can literally see what you'll be getting with a look at the cover.  It's over the top comic book junk food, but it's GOOD over the top comic book junk food.  A deliciously violent guilty pleasure.
 
This a comic book of its time.  That time was the early 90s and the competition between Marvel and Image for readers.  Of the 2099 line, Punisher 2099 is probably the most frozen in that era (except maybe Ravage 2099, but we'll get THERE in a bit) as regards both story and art.
 
If you have some nostalgia for 90s comics, then Punisher 2099 will be a decent read.  If you shudder with horror at the mention of the "Dark Age of Comics" that was the 90s for a lot of comic fans, then you'll probably want to steer clear.  Like I said above. . .look at the cover.  That's what you're getting.
 
This series has never been collected, but the individual issues are extremely easy to find in back issue bins.  Over the years I've collected almost the entire run (I think I'm missing 5 or 6 of the 34 issues) just from digging through bargain bins.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Marvel 2099!
 
It was Stan Lee's final ongoing comic series. 
Unfortunately, it's also commonly regarded as the worst of the 2099 line.
Let's take a look and see if we can find out why.
 
RAVAGE 2099!
 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - Spider-Man 2099 #1

935 views • Mar 9, '23 • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog FULL of comic reviews you never asked for!
 
Marvel 2099.
 
If you've ever been Longbox Junkin' through a bargain bin, I can GUARANTEE you've seen some Marvel 2099 comics.  Like Marvel's New Universe, the early "We wanna be Marvel" Image, and just about anything from Valiant or Malibu, Marvel 2099 comics are some of the ubiquitous bread and butter books that can be found in almost ANY bargain bin out there.
 
But what IS Marvel 2099? Why are there so many of them in the buck-a-book-bins?  Are they worth reading? SO MANY QUESTIONS!  Well, I've decided to dive into the world of Marvel 2099 over the next few Longbox Junk posts and see if I can find some answers.
 
Let's tackle the first question first.  What IS Marvel 2099?
 
The basic answer is that Marvel 2099 was a project by Marvel Comics launched in 1992 to showcase the mainstream Marvel Universe 100 years in the future (107 years, actually.  But who's counting?). In a nutshell. . .science fiction superhero comics.
 
The setting was a dark, dystopian, cyberpunk future where powerful corporations basically run the world.  The superheroes of the past are long gone (due to some sort of calamity that isn't really explained. . .it has something to do with Doctor Doom) and are pretty much legends of a time called "The Heroic Age". But now a NEW age of heroes is at hand!
 
Marvel 2099 launched with four original series. . .Spider-Man 2099, Doom 2099, Punisher 2099, and Ravage 2099.  Of the four, only Ravage was based on an entirely new character and not a re-imagined future version of an existing character.  Not to digress, and we'll discuss this more later, but Ravage 2099 also has the distinction of being Stan Lee's last work on a monthly comic series.
 
The 2099 imprint was an immediate hit with readers, with Spider-Man 2099 being the most popular title, and remaining the most popular 2099 title to this very day, where Spider-Man 2099 has been in several series post-2099 collapse, and still makes fairly regular guest appearances.
 
The rest of the 2099 titles were also popular enough that Marvel continued to release 2099 titles until 1998.  Another victim of the collapse of the comic industry in general around that time.  They were comics that were highly-regarded by fans at the beginning, and hardly-noticed at the end.
 
Over the next few Longbox Junk entries, I'm going to take a look at the first issues of some of these 2099 comics.  First up is the top dog of the bunch, the aforementioned Spider-Man 2099.  
 
It's the only 2099 character that has managed to outlive the imprint itself, and the only one that is even the least bit "collectible" today.  And when I say "collectible", what I mean is that a nice clean graded and slabbed 9.6 copy of Spider-Man 2099 #1 will get you about $100.  That ain't retirement money, folks.
 
SO. . .
 
It's not worth much to collectors, but still seems to be pretty popular.
Now the question becomes, "Is it any good?"
 
Spider-Man in a dark, cyberpunk future.  Let's check it out!

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #1

Marvel 2099 (1992)

 
 
COVER: Rick Leonardi
 
Begin the Future History of Spider-Man 2099
 
SCRIPT: Peter David
PENCILS: Rick Leonardi
INKS: Al Williamson
 
THE COVER:
 
90s-TASTIC! My apologies for the poor scan that doesn't properly show off the shiny red foil border.  I tried several times and this is the best I could do.  I looked online and it seems a lot of people have the same problem.  That red foil just does NOT scan well.  Trust me, it looks SO good. BUT I DIGRESS!
 
What we have here is a wonderful portrait of Spider-Man 2099 leaping into action, nicely showcasing the new Spidey's cool costume design!  The bright yellow title has a really interesting look and contrasts perfectly with the shiny red foil that you can't really see here.  THIS is a cover that jumps out and catches the eye!
 
It's such a great cover in just about every way (There ARE the weird 90s feet, but nothing is perfect, right?). I just love this cover! I'm not even a Spider-Man fan, but this awesome 90s cover makes me want to get inside and check this comic out, so let's GO!
 
THE STORY:
 
New York (er. . .NUEVA York), 2099.  We begin our tale in progress as the Alchemax Corporate police force called Public Eye pursue a mysterious and highly-agile costumed figure through the towering downtown skyscrapers.  He manages to eventually elude them by going to ground and blending into the crowd at a shopping mall. . .
 
The mysterious figure makes his way home to Babylon Towers, a luxury apartment building owned by the Alchemax Corporation.  Here, we learn that his name is Miguel O'Hara and are introduced to his virtual personal assistant, Lyla, as Miguel watches video messages he's received over the past five days.
 
The messages from his employer Tyler Stone, his best friend Gabe, and his fiancée Dana introduce us to several supporting characters.  They are all deeply concerned in one way or another about some sort of serious situation or incident that Miguel was involved in.  Miguel ignores the messages and begins making a journal entry. . .
 
O'Hara is (or WAS) a hotshot genetic scientist working for Alchemax Corporation.  He was working on a project to create a superior "Corporate Raider".  A genetically-enhanced special operative to do Corporate dirty work.  He was basing his research on a figure of the long past "Heroic Age" called Spider-Man, who seems to have been genetically-enhanced with spider DNA somehow.
 
The head of O'Hara's research department, Tyler Stone, demands that the project be tested on a human subject.  Miguel protests that the project isn't ready for human trials yet, but Tyler is O'Hara's superior and insists the trial go forward on a convict that has been chosen.
 
Miguel reluctantly agrees and performs a modified trial run on the convict meant to enhance his DNA for increased strength by combining it with an ape.  The experiment goes badly and the convict is transformed into a twisted mutant with superhuman strength that attacks Miguel, but dies quickly after breaking free.  Miguel is horrified, while the other scientists are pleased with the progress.
 
Miguel is so shaken by the incident he was forced to take part in that he immediately goes to Stone's office and resigns from Alchemax.  Tyler seems sympathetic to Miguel's reasons for resigning and even shares a drink with him.
 
Unfortunately for Miguel, Tyler reveals soon after their toast that the drink contained Rapture. . .an extremely powerful and highly-addictive drug created by Alchemax.  A drug that bonds with the DNA and makes escape from addiction to it almost impossible.  And since Alchemax is the only one who manufactures Rapture, Tyler is certain that Miguel will "reconsider" his resignation.
 
Horrified by the thought of becoming a chemically addicted slave to Alchemax, Miguel tries to fight the effects of the Rapture and fails.  He violently attacks his fiancée when she tries to calm him down.  Miguel reveals how he's been tricked into being addicted to Rapture.  Dana understands, but is unable to help him.  
 
Miguel resolves to not become a slave.  He comes up with a desperate plan to sneak back into his Alchemax lab and subject himself to the DNA combining process he's been working on.  The experiment has Miguel's DNA profile encoded in its files, so he can replace his Rapture mutated DNA with a copy of his own clean and unaltered DNA.
 
It's a good plan, and it seems to be working.  Unfortunately for Miguel, another scientist on the project finds O'Hara during the process.  The scientist, Aaron Delgato, is a rival of O'Hara's and believes that he's been pushed aside and his contributions to the project ignored while Miguel takes all the credit.  
 
Delgato sabotages the experiment by shutting off the safety overrides and injecting a random DNA profile into the process. . .the spider DNA O'Hara was hoping to use to create an enhanced Corporate Raider. 
 
 The sabotaged equipment explodes, but the sequencing had completed. Delgato is stunned to see O'Hara stagger from the wreckage. . .somehow alive!  He confronts Miguel, gloating about how Stone will put O'Hara away forever for destroying the lab, but is horrified to discover that Miguel O'Hara has been mutated by the experiment into a horrific human-like creature with fangs and claws. . .Dun-Dun-DUUUUUN!!

 
The End. . .To Be Continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
It's plain to see that Marvel learned some lessons from their failed "New Universe" initiative a few years prior to Marvel 2099.  They weren't taking any chances THIS time around!  Marvel hedged their bets by rolling out Spider-Man 2099 first, with legendary modern comic veteran writer Peter David on the story.  And they were absolutely right that the magic was there this time!
 
I'm not a big Spider-Man fan, so I know Peter David more as an Incredible Hulk writer (where he had an award-winning TWELVE YEAR run), and I could definitely see shades of the Hulk in this story of science gone wrong.  I'd go so far as to say that this seems more like a proxy Hulk story than a Spider-Man story at all!
 
Yeah, it's DNA manipulation instead of Gamma Rays, but the same sense of scientific body horror is present in Miguel O'Hara's origin.  And THAT'S what I really like about this story.  David didn't take the easy path of making the 2099 Spider-Man a clone or a descendant of Peter Parker, but something entirely different.   
 
Instead of a wisecracking teenager learning that "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility", we get a desperate adult scientist trying to save himself from becoming a chemically addicted corporate slave in a horror-tinged origin story that really seems more like one for a Spider-Man VILLAIN. 
 
It works! This is a GREAT origin story that ends on a cliffhanger that makes me want MORE!
 
On the art side of things, Marvel further hedged their bets on Spider-Man 2099 by putting veteran artist Rick Leonardi on the job.  I know Leonardi more for his DC work (and the original 4 issue Cloak and Dagger series), but Marvel definitely picked the right man for the job here! 
 
His pencils are the PERFECT compliment to the science fiction horror story being told here.  There's some superhero action frontloaded in this issue, but this tale really needed someone who could make the NON-superhero parts that are the majority of the issue sing just as fine.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
Those of you who have been reading Longbox Junk for a while now know that I have boiled down my requirements for a good first issue into the following TWO things:  Does it introduce new characters and their situation well?  Does it make me want to read more?  For Spider-Man 2099 the answers are yes and yes!
 
Marvel hedged their bets on this book being what was going to kick off Marvel 2009 with a bang and they were absolutely right.  Their choice of Peter David and Rick Leonardi as the creative team gave this comic (and Marvel 2099 in general) a of a running start!
 
In this issue, we get a great science fiction horror story with shades of the Incredible Hulk as a new character's origin.  The setting is solid, the conflict rings with horrible truth, and the main character is interesting enough that I want to read more. 
 
Spider-Man 2099 #1 is a win from cover to cover and fully deserves a Longbox Junk gold seal of approval.  If you're a fan of horror-tinged cyberpunk science fiction then check this one out even if you aren't a fan of Spider-Man!  It's been collected, it's online, and you can even still find copies of #1 in the bargain bins (I found one just last week in a two dollar box), so it's not hard to find.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Spider-Man 2099 got our little trip into the dark future of Marvel comics off to a good start. Now it's time to get into the gritty, violent streets of the city. 
 
What happens when a cop on the edge discovers the journal of a certain Frank Castle 100 years in the future? Let's find out in the first issue of Punisher 2099!
 
Be there or be square.

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Welcome to Longbox Junk. . .where I write comic reviews that nobody asked me to!

 
Here we are, folks!  The last four issues of my series review of Marvel's King Conan!  
 
These reviews have been taking me a LOT long than I thought they would.  Maybe next time I decide to do a series review, I'll NOT pick a title where every issue is a massive double-sized no ads hunk of comic book.  That and it's been quite a bit busier than usual at work, but enough with the excuses!
 
The good news is that, so far, King Conan has been a GREAT series!  Yeah. . .there's been a few bumps here and there, but overall I've been having a really fun time reading and reviewing these issues.  
 
I've even come to realize that there IS a Conan creative team standing right up there with the legendary Roy Thomas/ John Buscema combo. . .Doug Moench and Marc Silvestri!  Unfortunately, we only get a short time with Moench writing and that time was over in the last batch of King Conan (BOO!)
 
In this final batch of four issues, the regular writer switches over to Alan Zelenetz and we also get a couple of fill-in artists for Marc Silvestri.  What does that mean for King Conan?  Let's find out!

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART 4: ISSUES 16-19

 
ISSUE SIXTEEN (May 1983)
 

COVER: Marc Silvestri
 
BLOOD OF AQUILONIA
 
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
 
THE STORY:
 
After King Conan's son, Prince Conn, publicly challenges his father over the actions of some Aquilonian soldiers, Conan instructs one of his right hand men, Count Trocero, to show Conn the reality of ruling a Kingdom.
 
Travelling first to Stygia, Conn finds a land ruled by religion.  All things belong to the Cult of Set, even the lives of the common folk.  Conn demands that they try to save someone randomly taken to be sacrificed, and so he and Trocero end up infiltrating a Temple of Set.  After defeating the undead Temple guardian and the priests, the man they were trying to save kills himself. . .preferring to die rather than to disappoint his .
 
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
In the Aquilonian capital of Tarantia, King Conan discovers that the citizens of the Northern Aquilonian city of Tahrem are openly revolting against his rule.  He gathers a host of Aquilonia's best troops and sets forth to crush the rebellion before it spreads.
 
BACK WITH PRICE CONN. . .
 
Trocero and Conn manage to escape from Stygia and travel to the nation of Zingara. . .where the ruler cares for nothing but parties and debauchery.  Conn wanders the lawless streets of the capital city alone and is horrified by the barbaric gladiator fights he witnesses.  He quickly falls prey to the charms of a prostitute, who drugs and robs the young Prince before Trocero arrives to keep him from further harm.
 
 
MEANWHILE. . .
 
King Conan and the Aquilonian host arrive at Tahrem and prepare to assault the city gates.  The city's defenders mock Conan's demand they surrender and then refuse to send their women and children to safety during the coming battle.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .
 
Prince Conn and Trocero arrive in the capital city of the nation of Zamora.  They find the streets of the city deserted after dark, due to the iron grip of Malakon, a paranoid tyrant who has imposed a curfew, fearing to allow the citizens to gather lest they conspire against his rule.
 
The two are attacked and taken prisoner by a patrol, and are taken before Malakon, who accuses them of being Aquilonian spies.  While Malakon rants, Trocero and Conn learn of Malakon's own plot to have his men sieze the city of Tahrem and trick King Conan into believing there is a revolt brewing.
 
Conn and Trocero are then thrown into Malakon's dungeons by the mad ruler to starve to death.
 
 
Trocero and Conn manage to escape Malakon's dungeons and flee from Zamora, rushing toward Tahrem to warn King Conan of what they've learned before Conan lays waste to an innocent city.
 
At Tahrem, King Conan tires of waiting for the defenders to come to their senses and orders the attack! A brutal battle is joined, but before the Aquilonians can breach the gates, Conn and Trocero arrive and tell Conan of the Zamoran plot.
 
As the Aquilonian troops pour into the city, Conan orders them to slay only Zamorans.  Instead of the battle turning into a massacre, King Conan is greeted as the city's savior by the captive townfolk.
 
 
After the battle, as the victorious Aquilonian host returns to Tarantia, Prince Conn tells his father of what he learned during the past few weeks with Trocero.  He tells Conan that he now realizes that Aquilonia has its faults, but he now sees that Conan is at least TRYING to be the best King he can be.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I was more than a little disappointed to see Doug Moench leaving King Conan, but Alan Zelenetz steps in and gives us a great start to this final batch of King Conan comics!  I'd even say that this issue stands right there with Moench's last one (#15) as my two favorites of the whole bunch so far!
 
Yeah, there's plenty of action and adventure to be had, but the thing I liked best about this story was the focus on Prince Conn's journey to becoming a good ruler when his time comes.  That even getting robbed by a prostitute becomes a lesson on that journey.  It's some really nice character building for Conn and makes for a very enjoyable tale.
 
On the art side of things, Marc Silvestri's pencils just seem to get better with each issue he draws!  His touches of high fantasty and fine linework are JUST what this series needed.  Not to mention that this issue has a stunning cover by Silvestri. . .one I think is one of the best in the whole series!
 
Overall, simply a great issue from cover to cover!  
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE SEVENTEEN (July 1983)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
A TYRANT IN AMBER
 
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Rudy Nebres
 
THE STORY:
 
While hunting, King Conan and Prince Conn make the acquaintance of a young woman named Ayelet.  She has come to Aquilonia to enlist the aid of Conan in taking her rightful place on the the throne of Tel-Ammon in Shem, as the true Queen and heir of Atala.
 
At a feast that night, Ayelet tells her sorrowful tale. . .Her mother, the Queen slain when she was a baby, along with her twin brother, born just moments before the Queen's death at the hands of her husband, Ayelet's wicked father.  A sorcerer who had placed his soul in a piece of amber and become invulnerable to harm, and who now reigned over her kingdom with an iron fist.
 
Ayelet had been taken from the palace by a handmaiden and raised among the nomads of Zamboula until the day foretold the rightful Queen would rise and take her throne.  A day that has arrived.
 
 
Ayalet has heard of the legendary Conan and his unsurpassed ability to climb the unclimbable.  She asks him to scale the sorcerous tower of Bet-Shaid and steal the tyrant's amber-encased soul.  Taken by her story and seizing the opportunity to leave the boring city life behind for a while, King Conan agrees to help her.
 
And so Conan and Ayalet set forth for the city of Tel-Ammon.  It's a dangerous journey, and they are attacked by bandits along the way.  Arriving at the city, they manage to enter in disguise as part of a travelling circus there for the celebration of the anniversary of the wicked King Nebuhan's reign.
 
 
Once inside the city, Conan makes his way to the soaring tower of Bet-Shaid.  He quickly discovers that the tower's great height is but an illusion, undiscovered by those unwilling to dare try climbing it. 
 
 Entering into the tower by a hidden portal, Conan makes his way deeper inside until he comes to a room and spots his prize. . .the amber-encased soul of wicked King Nebuhan!  Conan must fight against freezing sorcerous winds, but eventually he prevails.  
 
 
Upon taking the magical amber, an alarm sounds and Conan is forced to flee deeper into the tower as he is pursued by invisible spirits.  Eventually, he finds himself in a water-filled chamber, where he is forced to fight for his life against a gigantic man-eating crocodile! 
 
After defeating the beast, Conan continues through the dark passages of the tower until he finds himself in the palace itself, following the noises of revelry leading straight to King Nebuhan's throne room!
 
 
Among the celebrants in Nebuhan's throne room, Conan spots Ayelet, still in disguise.  He shouts to her that he has the amber and they leap to the attack, the two of them cutting their way through Nebuhan's guards as the partygoers flee the carnage.
 
 
As Nebuhan tries to flee, Conan throws the amber into a fire, destroying it and setting the castle on fire.  Ayelet makes her way through the flames to put a final arrow into her wicked father's heart.  Outside the flaming palace, Ayelet declares herself as the rightful Queen to the gathered populace, who cheer the end of Nebuan's evil reign.  Conan proclaims that Aquilonia will be the first to officially recognize the new Queen and all ends well.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I really liked this simple, fast paced story a lot.  It's got a beautiful Queen seeking to regain her kingdom from her evil father.  It's got a tower of sorcery, filled with magical traps and nasty creatures.  It's got a desperate battle set against the flames of a burning castle.  What more could I ask for in a Conan story?  Not much!  This is just a good, tightly-written action story.
 
On the art side of things.  After John Buscema left as regular artist eight issues ago, I've been mostly satisfied with the artists who have stepped into his shoes. . .particularly the early work of Marc Silvestri showcased in this series.
 
BUT. . .
 
Just LOOK at the pages I've scanned above.
 
Buscema's art in this issue serves to remind me that, in MY humble opinion, John Buscema is THE definitive Conan comic artist!  You can just SEE in his work that Conan is a character that he loves to draw. He brings a special touch to this character that is unequalled (once again, my apologies to any Barry Windsor-Smith fans reading this).
 
Overall, a solid action packed story backed up with fantastic art.  THIS is what a good Conan comic is all about! It's stuff like this that is the reason I'm a Conan comic fan, and why I've been enjoying this series so much.
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE EIGHTEEN (September 1983)
 
 
COVER: Marie Severin
 
THE DEVIL OF DARFAR
 
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Rudy Nebres
INKS: Rudy Nebres
 
THE STORY:
 
While returning to Aquilonia after last issue's adventure, King Conan falls into a trap set by slavers trying to recapture some runaways.  After fighting his way out of the pit, Conan finds a cave where the escaped slaves are hiding.  
 

 
They're a motley group of misfits and freaks led by a hulking masked man called Montago.  He tells Conan that they escaped from a Kushite named Ibo Mala.  A former general disgraced by cowardice and banished. He now makes his way  by kidnapping unfortunate freaks like themselves and forcing them to provide entertainment as part of a travelling carnival.
 
Conan is taken in by the tragic tale of the misfits and informs them that he has spent more time as a slave than he would have liked, and if there's one thing in this world he hates, it's a slaver!  He reveals himself as King Conan of Aquilonia and that he will take up their cause by ending Ibo Mala and freeing the rest of his captive  performers!  
 
Besides. . .Ibo Mala's men killed his favorite horse, and someone needs to pay in blood for THAT.
 
 
As Conan, Montago, and a nameless dwarf set out for Ibo Mala's camp, we shift scene to the royal court of nearby Khorala, where festivities are in full swing for a royal celebration.  It is here that we meet Ibo Mala. . .who is frustrated that his misfit slaves haven't been found yet.  
 
The King is likewise frustrated by not getting the show he was promised, and humiliates Ibo Mala in front of the court, sending him out of the palace stripped of coin and lucky to be alive.  An enraged Ibo Mala demands that efforts to find the escaped slaves be doubled.
 

Meanwhile, Conan and his companions are attacked by an assassin.  The dwarf goes missing during the chase, but Conan and Montago manage to bring down the killer, but they get no information from him as to who hired him.  Fearing the dwarf has been captured, Conan and Montago continue on to Ibo Mala's camp.
 
Upon arriving, they are attacked by a cheetah.  After a tense battle, Conan and Montago free the rest of the misfit slaves, and learn that Ibo Mala has gone to Khorala, but should be on the road back.  Conan and Montago ride out to meet him.
 
Conan finds Ibo Mala on the road with his bodyguards.  Leaping to the attack, Conan and Montago cut their way through the hired swords until it comes down to battle between Conan and Ibo Mala, who is a ruthless and skilled warrior.
 
 
Upon Conan's defeat of Ibo Mala, he discovers that the missing dwarf was actually a spy among the misfits, and it was he who sent the assassin and loosed the cheetah on Conan.  The dwarf attacks, killing Montago and distracting Conan so that Ibo Mala manages to flee for his life.
 
At then end of things, the slaves are freed and promised a new life in Aquilonia, but Montago lays dead and Ibo Mala is nowhere to be found.  Conan mourns the loss of his new friend and continues on his journey home.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Although this wasn't a BAD story, it felt a bit like filler.  There's talk in the editorial page about big things coming up for the series beginning with issue #20, so I wonder if maybe the writer was spinning his wheels a bit before the big changes (which were a title change to "Conan The King" and a return to multi-part stories featuring more of Prince Conn ) on the horizon.
 
In any case, like I said, it's not a bad story.  I've just seen in this series that it could have been better.
 
On the art side of things.  Not bad, but not great. It's pretty good. I'd describe it as "Buscema-Lite" The art has its moments (such as King Conan mourning Montago in the page scanned above), but Rudy Nebres is no John Buscema. . .or Marc Silvestri, for that matter.  He's definitely a skilled artist, but when you get spoiled with some of the great artwork that's been in this series, it's hard to compare.
 
That said, the cover by Marie Severin? *chef's finger kiss* It's one of the best of the bunch! 
 
Overall, it's a pretty solid standalone adventure with some decent art.  The issue feels like filler, but it's still a good read.  And that's a fine testament for this series that even the filler issues are pretty good!
 
AND FINALLY!
 
ISSUE NINETEEN (November 1983)
 
 
COVER: Michael Wm. Kaluta
 
BONES AND A BLADE
 
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Mike Gustovich
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale in the port city of Napolia, in Argos.  Queen Zenobia has gone there on a diplomatic visit while Conan is away helping Queen Ayelet gain her throne (Issues 17 -18).  The city is attacked by a band of pirates, led by the ruthless Iron Bones.  Zenobia is taken hostage and a message dispatched to Aquilonia demanding ransom for her return.
 
 
Upon King Conan's return to Aquilonia, he is informed of Zenobia's capture.  He flies into a violent rage and immediately commandeers a ship and crew to set forth for the Western Sea and rescue his Queen.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
Zenobia is treated cruelly by the pirates and their uncouth leader.  The first mate of Iron Bones' crew, Nestor, steps in to stop their torment of the captive queen.  When he visits Zenobia later in her cell, the two discover that they grew up in the same nation of Nemedia and both under the tyrannical rule of Tarascus.  As they talk into the night, Nestor and Zenobia begin to form a connection.
 
 
MEANWHILE. . .
 
Aboard King Conan's ship, discontent brews among the commandeered crew as Conan steers them deeper into the pirate-infested waters of the Western Sea.  Things come to a head with a violent mutiny!
Conan and his bodyguards manage to quell the uprising and continue on their course.
 
Aboard Iron Bones' ship, mutiny is ALSO afoot when Nestor challenges Iron Bones to a duel for control of the ship and crew after learning that the pirate captain plans on killing Zenobia. . .ransom or no ransom.
 
Nestor defeats Iron Bones as the lookouts spot King Conan's ship coming upon them fast.  He frees Zenobia and prepares his men for battle.  He informs Zenobia that he plans on fighting Conan himself, with her hand as the prize!
 
 

King Conan and his men attack the pirate ship, leaping aboard, Conan cuts his way through the pirates with a barbarian rage, shouting for his queen!  Nestor confronts King Conan and the two of them fight alone while the battle rages around them.  Nestor proclaims his love for Zenobia and his intent to take her for his own.  This fuels Conan's rage and he runs the love-struck pirate captain through!
 
 
 
King Conan and his men prevail over the pirates and Zenobia is freed.  Their re is joyful until Conan informs Zenobia of Nestor's death at his hand. . .unaware of the connection Zenobia had forged with the handsome pirate from her own homeland.  The victory and her freedom are bitter when Zenobia sees Nestor, dead.
 
But in the end, she takes comfort in the arms of her King as they set sail for home.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Another issue that feels a bit like filler as King Conan heads for upcoming changes (more on that below).  It's not a bad story. . .it's hard to go wrong with a swashbuckling Conan pirate tale, but like the previous issue, it just seems like it could have been better.  But ALSO like the previous issue, it's a good testament to the quality of this series that even the filler issues are pretty good reads.
 
On the art side of things, this issue sees the return of Marc Silvestri after an absence of a couple of issues.  Unfortunately, this is not his best work on the series.  Like the quick and simple story, Silvestri's art also seems to not be as good as it should be.  Don't get me wrong.  It's not BAD.  It's just that I KNOW from previous issues that it could be better.
 
Overall, this is another issue that just seems like filler.  The story and art are both good, but they could also both be better, and both writer and artist HAVE shown me better in previous issues.  I have the feeling that these last two issues were just sort of tossed off to tie up some loose ends before the changes coming up.  
 
And speaking of those changes. . .
 

CONCLUSION

 
I always thought that King Conan and Conan the King were two separate series.  Come to find out, Conan the King is a direct continuation of King Conan, starting at #20.  I had assumed I just never came across any Conan the King issues under #20 because that's just the nature of the bargain bin.  
 
WHY they decided to change the name of the series is sort of a mystery I can't find the answer to.  There's all sorts of talk and ads in the last several issues of this series about big things coming up starting with King Conan #20. . .
 
 
But when the series continued, it was called Conan The King.  The series continued under the new name for another 35 issues, with Zelenetz and Silvestri as the main creative team for a good chunk of the run (along with some utterly fantastic covers by W.M. Kaluta as well).  The series ended in 1989 with issue #55.
 
SO. . .
 
What SHOULD happen here is that I keep on reviewing the series.  But I don't have the full 35 issues of Conan The King.  I have 15 of them, including the first (20th?).  So I won't.  That said, the Conan The King issues I DO have are all very good reads.  There's a bit more of a focus on Prince Conn in the Conan The King issues, but there's plenty of Conan adventure and great art to be had. 
 
The name change still sort of bothers me as a little comic book world mystery.  If anyone out there reading this can shed some light on it for me, I'd appreciate it.  The fact is, information on both King Conan AND Conan The King is sparse, to say the least.  I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who has ever actually reviewed these issues.  
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Enough about Conan The King.  Let's wrap up the series at hand.
 
Simply put. . .if you are a fan of Conan comics and haven't read King Conan, you're missing out on some fine comic books.  Yeah, there's a few bumps in the road, but really there's only ONE issue out of the nineteen reviewed here that I would call bad (Issue #11).  
 
Believe me when I say that only one issue out of nineteen being bad is something that is unusual with Longbox Junk.  A lot of series can't even pull off SIX issues before jumping off the rails.  Heck, sometimes they can't even get up to THREE issues!  ONE out of NINETEEN is great.
 
Overall, this is a series that has a lot of quality. . .good writing, good art, and big chunky double-sized issues with minimal ads.  These issues were a little more expensive than average for the mid 80s, but you definitely got your extra money's worth with these hefty comics!
 
So before I wrap it up and move on past King Conan, I'll say it again. . .
 
If you like Conan comics, do NOT pass this series up!  
 
The issues aren't really "worth" anything to collectors, so they are easy to find individually in the bargain bins (except the first issue, which IS a bit harder to find, but still not hard on the wallet.  I think I paid ten bucks for mine).  They've also been collected several times, so not hard to find at all.  
 
Overall, King Conan deserves a Longbox Junk gold seal of approval!
 
Up Next. . .
 
We've spent some time in the Hyborian past.  How about a little trip into the future? Say. . .the year 2099?  That's right. . .MARVEL 2099!
 
In the next few Longbox Junk entries I'll be taking a look at some first issues of Marvel's ill-fated future world to see what these bargain bin mainstays are all about.  Hulk 2099, X-Men 2099, Punisher 2099, Spider-Man 2099, Doom 2099 and Ravage 2099!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic book reviews nobody asked me to write!
 
Continuing on with my series review of all 19 issues of Marvel's 1980 King Conan series, we've come to part three. . .issues 11-15.  These reviews have been taking a quite a bit longer than I thought they would because each issue so far has been a thick and HEFTY hunk of Bronze Age Conan goodness! 
 
I've been having a lot of fun with this series so far, and I'm STILL trying to figure out why there's barely a mention of it online when there's PLENTY of stuff about Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan, which were also on the stands from Marvel at the same time.  Was a third title TOO much Conan?
 
Maybe THIS batch will hold some answers.  Up until now, things have been pretty steady with the creative team, with a barely-noticable change in writers from Roy Thomas to Doug Moench and with John Buscema and Ernie Chan being the basic art team combo.  But with this batch, the art team begins to swing to and fro a little bit.
 
With these changes, will the series be able to maintain the high standard of excellence I've seen so far? 
 
Let's find out!  Ready? Let's do this!

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART 3: ISSUES 11-15

 
ISSUE ELEVEN
 (July 1982)
 
 
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
 
THE HAUNTER OF THE CENOTAPH
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Alan Kupperberg
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
After learning last issue that there is a conspiracy against King Conan's throne that goes beyond disgruntled and scheming nobles, Conan gains a clue from a failed assassin's medallion that there may be answers waiting in the Nemedian town of Thalia.  
 
Deciding to end the conspiracy once and for all, Conan sets forth alone to the western lands. . .but not before receiving a vision from the Pictish Druid, Diviatix.  A vision of fire and blood at the hands of a horrific being called Pentagar Zex. . .The Death-Shaper. A prophecy that seems to tell of Conan's death!
 
 
 
Over the long journey to Nemedia, Conan grows a beard to disguise himself.  Upon his arrival in Thalia, Conan learns of a mysterious haunted forest and a mercenary camp outside it where the men wear medallions like the one Conan took from the assassin in Aquilonia.
 
Making his way to the camp, Conan easily passes an initiation test of battle and joins the mercenaries as a common soldier.  He is introduced to their leader, a strange woman called Cynnera.  She makes a speech to the men, revealing her plan. . .to kill King Conan and take over Aquilonia!  
 
She plans to accomplish this by using sorcery to raise a great warrior of a past age called Pentagar Zex. . .the same name from the druid's vision before Conan left on his quest!
 
 
That night, Cynnera reveals that she knew her new soldier was actually Conan the King.  She offers him a place at her side after raising Pentagar Zex.  The three of them together can easily take over the entire world! Conan plays along, but after she is asleep, he enters the tomb of Pentagar Zex to try and find a way to stop her evil plot.
 
His deception is quickly discovered by Cynnera and during their fight, Conan accidentally ends up raising the mighty warrior Pentagar Zex!  He fights a desperate battle against the gigantic undead warrior, but Conan finds himself on the losing side. . .until he destroys one of the medallions and realizes that's what will weaken Zex.  
 
As Conan destroys the monstrous Zex, the mercenaries turn on Cynerra and kill her while Conan leaves the tomb and begins the journey back to Aquilonia, convinced that the conspiracy against his throne has come to an end.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
*Sigh*
 
I KNEW it was eventually coming.  It's rare that a series can go on this long without breaking down.  It finally happened.  This issue was simply disappointing. There's little of the outstanding quality that came before to be found.  
 
The art is the strongest disappointment.  I'm not here to try and knock a comic legend like Alan Kupperberg off his pedestal, but I've also gotta be truthful and say that THIS is some pretty lousy art.  Kupperberg has done SO much better work than this (I point to his often outstanding work on Marvel's original Invaders series).  But THIS? No.  Kupperberg may be a good superhero artist, but he's definitely not a good fit for Conan.
 
And then there's the story itself.  Doug Moench has done a fine job on King Conan so far, but THIS story just seems lazy and by the numbers.  Moench has brought a slightly more introspective style of writing to King Conan, but here it just seems like he was writing from a "Monster of the Month" template and barely paying attention.
 
Bad story. . .bad art. . .even Sienkiewicz's cover is underwhelming. A disappointing issue all around.  NOT a good start to this batch. I'm hoping this was just an off issue.  Let's check out the next one and find out!
 
ISSUE TWELVE
(September 1982)
 
COVER: Ron Frenz
 
THE TOMBS UNDER TARANTIA
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Ron Frenz
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
 
Strange things are afoot in Tarantina, the capital of Aquilonia.  King Conan is summoned in the middle of the night to hear a dire warning from the wizard Alcimedes about evil portents seen in the stars above.  That same night, Darweena (the sorcerer's daughter from issues #10 & 11) is possessed by her father's evil spirit and forced to obey his bidding from beyond the grave!
 
 
The next day Conan's son, Prince Conn, returns home from training with the royal Iron Legion (from issue #10) but is distracted by a game with some local youths.  In his rush to return home, Conn takes a shortcut through the graveyard and mysteriously disappears to the horror of his new friends!
 
As King Conan sets forth to the graveyard with Alcimedes and a handful of fighting men in search of his missing son, Conn wakes in the darkness and is witness to a horrific ritual as two men are sacrificed before a mysterious door.
 
Above, Conan and his men fight their way through the graveyard as they are attacked by lizard/human hybrid creatures.  Discovering a tunnel leading beneath the graveyard, Conan and his men rush forth in search of Prince Conn.  At the end of the main tunnel, they discover a glowing doorway.  
 
Alcimedes tells Conan that such doorways are openings to a strange place between the stars inhabited by demonic beings, but THIS doorway leads to the realm of a dark elder called Murgor-Tsoggua, a being trapped by powerful sorcery long centuries before.
 
To Alcimedes' horror, he sees the elder approaching through the mist on the other side of the door.  Conan and Alcimedes frantically work together to close the door and barely manage to do so before Murgor-Tsoggua is able to enter their world.  Alcimedes seals the door shut with magic and silver. . .but with the closing of the door, Conan fears that his son is lost forever.
 
 
The next day, seeing Queen Zenobia's overwhelming grief for their lost son, Conan decides to re-enter the tunnels beneath the graveyard and go through the sealed doorway and search for Conn, even if he dies in the process.  
 
Conan prepares for the battle by having a silver sword forged, and then enters the tunnels. . .only to find the sealed door missing from the chamber where it had been!  A distraught Conan finds a fresh tunnel and follows it. 
 
As he explores in the darkness, Conan is overjoyed to find Conn, alive and in hiding from the creatures he escaped from!  Father and son continue to follow the tunnel until its end in the royal palace!  
 
 
Following the signs and sounds of battle, Conan and Conn find the palace under attack from the human/lizard hybrid servants of Murgor-Tsoggua!  They fight their way to the royal chambers, where Conan is stunned to see the doorway to Murgor-Tsoggua's realm manifested and opening at the command of Darweena!
 
Rushing to the defense of Queen Zenobia, Conan confronts Murgor-Tsoggua himself as he comes through the fully-opened door into the human realm.  Darweena manages to shake off her father's spell, horrified at what she has been forced to do, she sacrifices herself to distract Murgor-Tsoggua long enough for Conan to wound the elder with his silver sword and force the otherworldly creature back through the doorway.
 
Thanks to Daweena's self-sacrifice, the door between worlds collapses and disappears.  The danger is over with. . .for now.  Conan and his family are reunited and all is well.
 
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay. . .not bad!  I was hoping the disappointing issue #11 was just an "off" filler and it seems this issue has the series back on track with a strong story dripping with  H.P. Lovecraft influence.  Because of that touch of classic otherworldly horror, I think this might actually be one of my favorite issues so far!
 
I've always been a fan of Lovecraft's dark, melancholy stories of the things that live beyond the sight of man, and this story is a great combination of sword-swingin' action and terror from beyond trying to get into the human world.  Yeah. . .it's been done before.  H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard were friends and included nods to each others work in their own.  But even so, this was a very enjoyable comic take on the combination of sword & sorcery and eldritch horror.
 
On the art side of things, after last issue's disapppointing art, I was glad to see Ron Frenz providing some pencils more along the lines of what I would call Conan's usual "look".  The art is close enough to John Buscema's style, but with just enough difference to not be an attempted copycat.  
 
Overall, this issue was a really good read.  Let's get into the next one!
 
ISSUE THIRTEEN
(November 1982)
 
 
COVER: Marc Silvestri
 
CIRCLE OF SORCERY
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
 
Three powerful sorcerers gather to discuss the many failed plots and plans against King Conan and Aquilonia that they have supported or been part of since the beginning of this series.  They are the savage Kushite, Jumbassa. . .the seductive Ophirean sorceress, Scyllana. . .and the crafty Urazai of Khitai.  They believe that the best way to conquer Conan is to just tell him where they are and work together, so they won't be taken by surprise like others have.
 
In Aquilonia, King Conan is disturbed by the events of last issue.  He THOUGHT the conspiracy against his throne was done with, but had been proven wrong.  When he receives a magical message from the wizard Urazai challenging Conan to come to a hidden island of sorcery and end things once and for all, Conan immediately sets forth. . .once again leaving the Kingdom without a King.
 
 
Once Conan has gone, other plans are set into motion and rebels within Aquilonia wait for the word to strike.  Conan himself follows the directions given to him and is taken by a mysterious boatman to an island with three giant towers. 
 
 Fighting through many dangers, Conan chooses to climb the tower of Jumbassa first.  After dodging the Kushite's deadly traps, Conan and the jungle wizard finally come face to face.  Conan prevails after a brutal battle where he turned the wizard's magic against him using a silver mirror.  With the first wizard of the three challengers down, Conan turns his attention to the tower of Scyllana.
 

 
 
Not wanting to fight his way through the creatures below, Conan fashions a crude hang glider and is able to make it to Scyllana's tower without incident.  Once inside, Scyllana summons beautiful demonic women to seduce Conan. 
 
 As he falls under their spell and the demons leech the life from Conan, Scyllana comes to deliver the final blow, but Conan manages to resist and fight back, setting the tower on fire and burning Scyllana and her demons as he makes his escape. . .leaving only one wizard of the three standing.  
 
 
Arriving at the final tower, Conan quickly falls prey to the cunning trickster Urazai's trap.  He makes Conan believe that he is a thief who has killed Urazai, and then lures Conan into a magical web, where Conan must fight for his life against a horde of creatures summoned by the wizard. 
 
As Conan fights, Urazai gives the signal to the Aquilonian rebels and they attack the capital city!  Conan finally manages to free himself from the magic web and confronts Urazai, who tries to escape on the back of a waiting dragon!  Conan attacks and forces Urazai to fly the dragon to Aquilonia in exchange for the defeated wizard's life.
 
 
The incredible speed of the magical dragon whisks Conan to his capital city in time to find his forces engaged in a desperate, losing battle to keep the attacking rebels from the royal palace.  Urazai tries one final trick and Conan finally kills the wizard for his trouble. 
 
 King Conan then leaps into the fray, inspiring his battered men to push forth and drive the rebels from the palace.  The enraged dragon lays waste to everything around it, helping Conan at first, but soon the King is forced to kill the creature.
 
In the end, Conan and his troops manage to win the day, routing the rebels from the city. King Conan finally allows himself to relax, now convinced that he has rooted out the conspiracy against his throne once and for all.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not bad.  Not quite as good as the last issue, but still some mighty fine comic book sword and sorcery!
This one is pure action from start to finish. . .Conan vs. not one, not two, but THREE evil wizards who have challenged him, and THEN a massive battle including a giant dragon!
 
With all the action, there's not much room for Moench's little touches of story depth he's been adding since he came on board as writer.  There's a few of them there, but this issue reads a lot more like something Roy Thomas would have written, which isn't a bad thing!  
 
The most interesting thing about this issue to me is the art.  The new artist coming on board (and staying for 4 of the remaining 7 issues) is Marc Silvestri. . .before he was a superstar and one of the founding fathers of Image Comics, of course.  This is some of his earliest professional work and doesn't really reflect much of the signature style that would come later for Silvestri on titles such as Cyberforce and The Darkness.  
 
Here, Silvestri gives us a much more traditional style of comic art, but with a light touch of high fantasy that we haven't seen in the series yet.  Much like Doug Moench adding a little more depth to the writing on King Conan that I didn't even know I wanted, Marc Silvestri's high fantasy touches are also a nice little change from the usual style of Conan art.  It's not the Silvestri art that I'm familiar with, but I like it!
 
The Moench/Silvestri creative team is off to a good start.
Let's see what they give us in the next issue. . .
 
ISSUE FOURTEEN
(January 1983)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
 
In the aftermath of the battle last issue, King Conan takes time to heal his wounds.  The court wizard, Alcimedes, tells the sorrowful tale of the first King of  Aquilonia, Andromedus, and how he disappeared without a trace into the Southern Mountains while on a quest to destroy a devilish creature called Xondor Kan.
 
Alcimedes tells King Conan about his own strange experience in those very Southern Mountains, when he encountered a strange magical force.  Queen Zenobia declares that THEY should be the ones to discover the final fate of Andromedus, and that the strange force must be connected.  
 
Conan agrees that he should be the one to bring glory by discovering the fate of Andromedus, but doesn't agree with Zenobia coming along on the quest.  She proves her worth by holding her own against Conan in a staff fight.  And so, the next day Conan, Zenobia, Alcimedes, and a few soldiers set forth to the south!
 
 
Days later, as King Conan and company camp in the sight of an oddly-shaped mountain Alcimedes declares is the source of the strange magical energy, they are attacked in the night by ghostly beings! After Conan fights them off, they are immediately attacked again by a gigantic lizard-beast!
 
As the soldiers are slaughtered by the creature, Conan, Zenobia, and Alcimedes flee for their lives and become trapped in a crevice at the base of the mountain, with the only way to escape the raging beast being to follow the crevice into the mountain itself!
 
 
After working their way deep into the mountain, the tunnel opens into a vast cave.  The mountain is hollow!  A spiral path leads to the top to the mountain, lined with enclosures holding pale human-like creatures.  As Conan and company take in the strange sight, they are surrounded by the pale creatures.
 
A demonic beast appears and speaks!  It proclaims that it is Xandor Kan, and that they are his prisoners.  Conan disagrees and prepares to fight, but Xandor Kan gloats that his minions will surely kill Zenobia and Alcimedes no matter HOW hard Conan fights.  Conan reluctantly surrenders.
 
 
As the prisoners are led to a cell near the top of the cavern, they witness three of the pale denizens being sacrificed to a disgusting, bloated creature that Xandor Kan calls "The Undead One".  He gleefully informs them that this will be THEIR fate soon, and that Conan will be the last King of Aqulonia. . .his sacrifice will strengthen Xandor Kan enough for him to finally conquer the world of man!
 
As Xando Kan prepares the sacrifice ritual, Conan manages to escape.  He is shocked to discover that "The Undead One" is actually what is left of ancient King Andromedus!  Andromedus begs Conan to destroy him by hurling him from the ledge into the bottom of the pit below.  
 
Conan heeds the ancient King's wishes and throws him down to his death.  By doing so, a chain of magical events is set into motion and the hollow mountain begins to fill with lava. . .it's a volcano and it's getting ready to erupt!
 
 
Conan quickly frees Zenobia and Alcimedes.  The three of them flee through the chaos of the erupting volcano and manage to make it outside, but Xandor Kan attacks in a rage, furious at Conan for thwarting his plans of conquest by destroying Andromedus!
 
A battle ensues amidst streams of flowing lava!  Conan finally manages to destroy Xandor Kan by using the silver battle axe of Andromedus.  In the end, the three manage to escape the lava flows and begin their return to the capital city. . .the final fate of Andromedus now known and a demonic threat destroyed.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not bad! For the sake of length, the sketch of the story above doesn't really reflect the pretty large amount of character building Moench does in this issue with Queen Zenobia.  I like that he's trying to make her into an actual supporting character with a personality of her own instead of just being window dressing.  Alcimedes also gets a good dose of characterization in this one as well.  
 
It looks like Doug Moench is trying to expand King Conan's supporting cast a bit more here, and I like it!  There being a regular supporting cast at all is part of what sets King Conan stories apart from Conan the Barbarian stories in the first place.  I like that Moench is starting to lean a little harder into that aspect.
 
On the art side, Marc Silvestri's pencils are even better in this issue than in his King Conan debut last issue!  There are some really great art moments to be found throughout the story.  Like I said before, it's not the Silvestri style I knew from his Image days, but this early style is certainly impressive, bringing life and motion to the story in a big way!  
 
So far, I'm REALLY liking the Moench/Silvestri creative team! 
Let's get into the last issue of this bunch of King Conan comics and see what else they've got in store. . .
 
ISSUE FIFTEEN
(March 1983)
 
 
COVER: Val Mayerik
 
THE LOOTERS OF R'SHANN
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte & Jon D'Agostino
 
When King Conan decides to spend a night on the town in disguise, he makes the acquaintance of a brash  young rogue named Thandar.  Later, Conan accidentally stumbles onto a scheme involving Thandar, his lover Brissa, and a nobleman named Pontrero. 
 
Conan witnesses Brissa setting up Pontrero for a theft of his home by Thandar while distracted by his beautiful lover.  Conan decides that he'll have a bit of fun and follows Thandar to the nobleman's home.
 
 
After interrupting Thandar's heist, Conan and the young rogue battle in Pontrero's home.  During the fight, Conan's disguise slips and Thandar is shocked to see that his rival thief is the King of Aquilonia!
 
The fighting stopped, Thandar informs Conan that he is a great hero among the Rogues of the world. . .that Conan's name is whispered in legend and tales told in the night, and that Thandar himself holds Conan as the greatest example of the roguish arts that he can follow!
 
Conan is greatly amused at his legendary status and takes a liking to Thandar.  He helps the young rogue fight off Pontrero's guards and they escape pursuit together through the streets of the capital city.
 
After escaping the city, Thandar shows Conan the treasure. . .incense meant to open the sealed door of the nearby hidden temple of R'Shann belonging to a shadowy cult known as the "Hidden Ones", an ancient organization that likes to infiltrate other religions to achieve their evil ends.  It's a cult Conan knows well.
 
Conan is ready to head back to the palace and end the night's adventure, but Thandar taunts the King for being old and soft and not knowing a good bit of dangerous thievery when he was offered one.  Conan decides to prove the young whelp wrong and agrees to come along, if just for a bit of fun.
 
 
After arriving at the temple of R'Shann the next day, Thandar burns the incense to open its sealed door, but the two rogues quickly learn that Thandar was informed wrong about something when, instead of opening the temple, the incense summons ghostly spirits that possess a giant tree that comes to life and attacks the would-be thieves!
 
After a desperate battle, Conan and Thandar manage to defeat the spirit-possessed tree, only to be taken by surprise by a large group of armed men led by none other than the nobleman Pontrero and Thandar's lover, Brissa!
 
 
As Conan and Thandar are taken prisoner, Prontrero and Brissa taunt Thandar about how easily he was misled and used to clear the path to the temple so that the treasure could be taken by them instead.  
 
The nobleman's party enters the now-unlocked temple, leaving Conan and Thandar tied as captives outside.  But it isn't long before screams begin to echo out of the temple's door.  Conan bullies their terrified guard into freeing them, and the pair of rogues rush into the temple to see what's afoot.
 
 
Inside, they find Brissa. . .broken and beaten to death.  Conan and Thandar follow the sounds of fighting and come to the main chamber of the temple, where Pontrero and his few remaining men are desperately fighting a battle against gigantic ape-like creatures!
 
Conan and Thandar leap into the fray and manage to defeat the temple's guardians, but are unable to save Pontrero.  Thandar takes the treasure chest and discovers that it is just more incense meant to summon the temple guardians. . .priceless magic for the Hidden Ones, but worthless to anyone else!
 
Conan has a good laugh at Thandar's expense as he tells him that the quest for treasure is usually better than the treasure itself and that he had a good time recapturing a bit of his youth, but it's time for him to go back to being a King.  Thandar tells Conan that he's headed for Stygia to see what adventures await, and the two part.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
The first may have been the worst, but the best was the last issue of this bunch!  The Moench/ Silvestri team knocked this one right out of the park with a tale absolutely PACKED with action, adventure, and humor.
 
Moench outdoes himself as he tells a tale of Conan trying to recapture a bit of his youth and realizing that new legends are going to have to be written without him.  The dialogue between Conan and Thandar is simply fantastic as the two taunt each other during their adventure about being too old and being too young.  It's a great back and forth through the whole issue that is really enjoyable to read!
 
It's taken 15 issues for Conan's age in this series to REALLY be in the spotlight.  It's been a definite oversight up to this point. Judging from the letters column, I'm not the only one that noticed.  Moench dives right into it with humor and a bit of introspection. . .such a great way to bring a practically ignored aspect of King Conan into the spotlight!
 
Marc Silvestri's art seems to get better with each issue as he becomes comfortable with King Conan.  He perfectly handles this offbeat story, breathing life and motion into the characters and their surroundings that just makes me want MORE! 
 
Overall, a fantastic job all around!  This issue was a really enjoyable read, with art that seems to move across the page.  The Moench/ Silvestri team is getting better with each issue they do together and I can't wait to see what they have in store next!
 

CONCLUSION

 
I never thought I would see the day when I would say that I enjoyed another Conan comic team as much as Roy Thomas & John Buscema. . .but that day has come!  Doug Moench & Marc Silvestri have managed to give me a Conan that I didn't even know I wanted.  
 
Thomas and Buscema will ALWAYS be the definitive Conan team in my book (apologies to Barry Windsor-Smith fans), but Moench and Silvestri have done a fantastic job of it. . .every bit as good as anything Thomas and Buscema did with the character.  And to think that I never even knew that Doug Moench wrote any Conan comics!  I always knew him as more of a Batman and Moon Knight writer.
 
I guess it just goes to show that you never know what you'll find down in the bargain bins. . .which is where I got every issue of this series except #1.  Who knew I'd find a new favorite Conan team in comics barely "worth" cover price?
 
Yeah. . .issue #11 was a bit of a clunker, but in MY humble opinion King Conan so far is a series that absolutely DRIPS with quality storytelling and art.  These issues are giant hunks of sword and sorcery comic book fun and I'm still having a bit of trouble understanding why this series is practically ignored. 
 
If you are a Conan fan and haven't read these, you're missing out.  Simple as that.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE King Conan! 
 
It's the final batch of four issues in this series review, #16-19.
 
Be there or be square!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM LONGBOX JUNK!

1042 views • Jan 1, '23 • (0) Comments

Happy New Year from Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic reviews you didn't ask for!

Yep. . .another one down.  The last few years have been a little rough, so I hope you made it through 2022 okay.  Everything else aside, it's been a GREAT year for Longbox Junk. I thank everyone who takes a bit of their time to visit this little corner of the internet. . .stick around, there's plenty more to come in 2023!

 
It's at this time of year when I look back at the year before and forward to the one to come that I like to send out a little non-comic book related message to anyone reading here.  If you don't mind indulging me for a moment. . .
 
DISCLAIMER: The following is really for U.S. readers, but I'm sure the sentiment applies just about anywhere.
 
Let's not try to make it sound pretty. . .this country is divided.  There's a huge political ideological gap between Conservatives and Liberals that's been growing for about the past 10 years and has only gotten wider during the past two Presidential elections.  And it's gonna get worse before it gets better.
 
Now, before you tune out, I'm not going to try and throw my support behind one or the other viewpoints.  There's other places for extended and detailed political discourse.  As far as I'M concerned, I'm an Independent leaning to the Right a bit, but I've voted for both sides over the years. A Centrist, I guess you'd call it.
 
My wish for 2023 is that we TRY to work together to close that ideological gap.  Even a LITTLE bit would be a help for the country.  Where we are at right now just isn't healthy for the future of this nation.
 
In the coming year, PLEASE try to remember that just because you disagree with someone. . .even if you disagree strongly. . .that doesn't automatically make that person your enemy.  There's GOT to be some common ground you can both stand on.  Even if that common ground is just a shaky little patch, it's there.
 
Listen.  Learn.  Just because something is coming from a different political direction than yours, that doesn't mean it's automatically bad and not worth listening to.  Both sides of this ideological divide have good points to them.  They don't often match up, but that doesn't mean they aren't there.  It doesn't mean that one side doesn't have ANYTHING to teach the other.
 
Extremism on BOTH sides of the divide is pulling the country apart.  In this coming year, try to step outside of your particular comfort zone a little bit and try to find a way to pull things back toward a middle ground.  
 
And when it gets to be too much. . .PLEASE just try and relax a bit.  Politics aren't EVERYTHING and they were never meant to be!  Just as a constant focus on politics isn't healthy for the country, the same constant focus isn't healthy for us.  Just relax! Take it easy.  Washington D.C. is NOT the center of the world.
 
Once again, thank you for taking a bit of your time to visit Longbox Junk!  I truly appreciate each and every reader of this blog, and I hope that you all have a happy and prosperous New Year!

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

 
'Tis the season to be jolly!  That's right, folks, Christmas is just around the corner!
 
In the spirit of the season, I'm taking a short break from the Longbox Junk business at hand, being the epic reviews of 19 issues of King Conan (Which is taking me WAY too long. My apologies) and turning the Longbox Junk spotlight toward a Christmas comic! 
 
And so, let's jump into the Longbox Junk time machine and head back to 1975 so we can take a look at a strange little holiday offering featuring the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing and the mysterious spirit of vengeance, Ghost Rider teaming up to fight a wannabe diety!
 
BUT FIRST!
 
I'd like to take just a moment to thank my Longbox Junk readers.
I truly appreciate everyone that takes a bit of their precious time to come here.  For the new readers, I'm glad you found me in my little corner of the internet and I'm happy to have you here hanging out with me.
 
I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
 
Enough of that. Ready? Let's do it!

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #8

Marvel (1975)

 
COVER: Gil Kane & Joe Sinnot
 
SILENT NIGHT. . .DEADLY NIGHT!
 
SCRIPT: Steve Gerber
PENCILS: Sal Buscema
INKS: Mike Esposito
 
THE COVER:
 
It's not the greatest cover in my collection by a long shot (sorry, Gil Kane superfans), but it IS really colorful and full of action.  Ghost Rider and his bike both look sort of "meh", but overall this cover does catch the eye with all the brilliant colors set against the black background.  
 
Let's get inside and check out the story!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale in the Arizona desert, where Ghost Rider comes across three mysterious men on camels following a bright star.  Curious, Ghost Rider speeds ahead of them to see what is going on.
 
 
Leaving Ghost Rider behind for now, we switch scenes to New York City and the Baxter Building.  The Fantastic Four, along with some of their closest friends, are celebrating Christmas with a tree-lighting party.  Unfortunately, Reed Richards is wrapped up in his work observing a strange new star that has just appeared, that he's missing the party.
 
 
Returning to Ghost Rider, he discovers a strange Middle-Eastern town in the desert.  But the people, who are wandering in some sort of daze are American Indians.  Feeling strangely, Ghost Rider discovers a stable behind an Inn. . .sure enough, there is a woman, a man, and a child!  
 
As Ghost Rider ponders the meaning of it all, a strange being calling himself "The Creator" demands that he leaves.  When Ghost Rider refuses, the being throws him out into the desert with little effort at all.  Ghost Rider becomes more determined than ever to get to the bottom of the mysterious events.
 
 
Returning to New York, Ben Grimm conveys his disappointment to Reed Richards for missing the Christmas Party.  But Reed ignores him.  He's discovered that the mysterious star he's been observing is now over the Arizona desert above an Indian Reservation.  He intends to take a Fantastic Four jet and investigate. 
 
The Thing is having no part in it and demands that Reed go spend time with his family on Christmas while he goes to see what is happening.  Reed agrees and leaves to join the Christmas party.
 
 
Arriving in Arizona, The Thing encounters Ghost Rider in the hills above the mysterious town.  The two know OF each other, but this is the first time they've met in person.  After a bit of discussion, they decide to work together to get to the bottom of the strange events. 
 
 
Disguising themselves, The Thing and Ghost Rider return to the manger, where they encounter the mysterious "Creator" again, but this time he is revealed as an old foe of the Fantastic Four. . .the Miracle Man!
 
 
Now revealed and enraged, Miracle Man uses his powers to attack The Thing and Ghost Rider while gloating to The Thing about how he managed to escape the captivity of tribal spirits the Fantastic Four put him in and return to Earth, more powerful than before!
 

 
 
 His new plan is to become immortal by recreating the events of the first Christmas, but with his own created child as Messiah, making HIM the Creator!  Ghost Rider and Thing aren't impressed with his convoluted exposition, and then. . .IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME!
 
 
Ghost Rider and The Thing work together to bring Miracle Man down.  When The Thing knocks the villain out, his control over the area goes away and things return to how they actually are, breaking the mental control he had over the Native American tribe.  
 
The tribal spirits that Miracle Man escaped from return him to captivity, but mysteriously the child that he created remained even after the rest of Miracle Man's illusions disappeared.  The tribe agrees to take the child in and raise him as their own.
 
Ghost Rider takes his leave, returning to his lonely ride and leaving The Thing to wonder about the strange new hero he's just met.  
 
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay, there is is.  Marvel Two-In-One #8.  Let's break it on down!
 
It was. . .interesting.  The cover isn't lying when it says that this story is offbeat.  The villain's plan was pretty convoluted, to say the least.  I still don't understand it, but I have the feeling that the answer to any question I may have about it all would be, "Shut up and enjoy the comic, kid!"
 
This is one of those comics that don't really HAVE to make sense.  It's got The Thing and Ghost Rider together for the first time, right?  Does anything else really matter?  It's colorful.  It's action packed.  It's FUN!  Yeah. . .the story doesn't make much sense and it's not the sort of thing you're going to remember for long, but hey. . .Shut up and enjoy the comic, kid!
 
Not every comic has to be great.  Heck, this one is actually barely GOOD.  Sometimes you just want to read a comic book for FUN.  This comic is one of those comics.  It's not going to make any "Top Ten Greatest Whatever" lists.  It doesn't need to. Shut up and enjoy the comic, kid!
 
 The art isn't anything special. . .I'm a huge fan of John Buscema, but in MY humble opinion Sal Buscema's work is. . .okay.  But does the art for this kind of comic NEED to be anything more than okay?  Not really.  It tells the story, that's it. That's all.  It's okay. Shut up and enjoy the comic, kid!
 

CONCLUSION

 
Honestly, this comic is a bit of a mess.  The story is basically an excuse for Ghost Rider and The Thing to team up and defeat a villain with a convoluted plan to become. . .G-od?  The art tells the story and doesn't try in the least to rise above the level of okay.  But you know what?  This comic was FUN!
 
If you're looking for a little bit of Bronze Age fun with some holiday flavor sprinkled on it, then here you go.  If you're looking for a deep, layered story or some mind-bending artwork, this ain't it.  This is a comic that knows what it's supposed to be and that's all it is.  Take it or leave it.  
 
Once again, folks. . .MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
 
Up next. . .
 
Back to Longbox Junk business at hand. . .Part 3 of my King Conan series review.
 
Be there or be square!

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