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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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

 
Every now and then here at Longbox Junk, I like to delve a bit into the corners of my collection that aren't so. . .well. . .Longbox Junk-y.  Those comics I own that are a little older and "worth" a little more to collectors than most of the bargain bin finds that are the meat and potatoes of this blog.
 
Case in point:  Avengers #58 from 1968.  It's regarded as a minor "Key" comic because it's the second appearance (and origin) of The Vision.  According to various sources it's "worth" a bit north or south of $200 in the condition mine is in (which is really good, considering where I got it from).  So it's not the most "valuable" comic in my collection, but it ain't nothing, either.
 
I paid five whole bucks for my copy at an antique shop, where it was hiding unbagged and forgotten among a stack of old Archie and Richie Rich comics, so how 'bout dat?  
 
The Longbox Junk price I paid for this comic just goes to show that there ARE still great old comics to be found out in the wild, and not just at the click of a mouse on the internet.  Finding this one was a very nice surprise, and really made my day.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Every now and then I delve into those corners of my collection that hold the older and more "valuable" comics, and this is one of those times!  Step this way to the Longbox Junk paper time machine, if you please. These goggles are for your safety.  Make sure to fasten your seat belts securely.
 
*Lowers ridiculous steampunk goggles and takes hold of gigantic lever with both hands*
 
Everyone ready?  Let's do this!
 
*Pulls giant lever. . .the number "1968" flashes on a screen above*
 
WEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO-WEEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO!!
 
And here we are! 1968. . .right in the middle of the "Mighty Marvel" era of comics!  Please remove your goggles and watch your step as you exit the Longbox Junk paper time machine.  To our left is Avengers Headquarters, where the call has gone out for Earth's mightiest heroes to assemble and ponder the possibility of adding a mysterious new member to their ranks.  
 
Follow me, please, and let's listen in. . .

THE AVENGERS #58

MARVEL COMICS (1968)

 

EVEN AN ANDROID CAN CRY
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: George Klein
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE COVER:
 
By the beard of Odin! Are there any among us who will deny the greatness of this John Buscema masterpiece? I SAY THEE NAY! The stark white (well, sorta cream-colored on my copy) background perfectly frames the colorful assemblage of Avengers!  It's an almost perfect example of what makes up a classic "Team Shot" comic book cover.  When it comes to old-school superhero comic covers, it doesn't get much better than something like this, in my humble opinion.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale with a fantastic splash/title page featuring Black Panther answering an "Avengers Assemble" summons and making his way to Avengers Headquarters.  There's several great splash pages in this issue and you can bet I'm going to feature them all in this review!  This one reminds me of Eisner's Spirit title pages. . .
 

Panther is sort of new to the Avengers (he hasn't even met Iron Man or Thor yet) so he's surprised to find a room packed full of Earth's Mightiest Heroes (and we get a great half-page mini-splash group shot).  He's even more surprised to find The Vision among them, because the last Panther heard, Vision was fighting AGAINST the Avengers.
 

Vision informs Black Panther that he's there because he wants to join the Avengers.  Henry Pym (AKA Goliath) gathered the Avengers together to consider the strange request.  Panther is on board with Vision joining up, but Iron Man and Thor are hesitant.  Membership in the Avengers is a privilege not to be taken lightly and they know little about Vision's powers and nothing about his origin.  Captain America decides to put Vision to the test by attacking the mysterious android. . .
 

As several of the Avengers attack Vision, he easily defeats them without harming anyone by using his fantastic strength and power to alter his body structure from insubstantial to super-dense.  The battle ends before it gets out of hand by Goliath telling everyone that Cap had attacked in order to give a demonstration of Vision's powers.  The Avengers all agree that Vision is definitely a heavy hitter, but are still reluctant to let him join without learning more about his background.
 
 
Thor calls the meeting to order for a formal vote by reading the Avenger's scroll of membership and briefly describing the honor and distinction becoming a member of the Avengers brings to an individual. . .and in doing so, we get yet another fantastic group shot splash page!  Yeah, I know.  This review is a little more picture-heavy than usual, but just LOOK at that Buscema art!
 
 
Realizing that the Avengers need more information about his origin, Vision struggles to remember, and then with a mighty push of willpower, he manages to break through a mental block and he clearly remembers the moment of his awakening by his "Master", Ultron 5!
 
Ultron teaches Vision about his powers and that he has been created for one purpose. . .to destroy the Avengers!  Vision struggles against Ultron's commands, but his newly-created will is no match for that of the malevolent machine that has created him.
 
 
Even though Vision has remembered more of his origin, there is still some mystery surrounding him.  Henry Pym (AKA Goliath) remembers working on a similar sort of android, but is frustrated because he can't remember.  Thinking maybe he has the same kind of mental block that was preventing Vision from remembering his past, the Avengers decide to investigate Pym's abandoned laboratory and try to learn more.
 
At Pym's lab, he finds a memory recording machine and using it, he remembers that it was HE who created Ultron!  At first, Ultron was merely a crude robot, but it quickly learned and transformed into an intelligent mechanical terror!
 

Ultron attacked its creator, taking Pym by surprise and easily defeating him.  The evil robot then erased Pym's memory of the incident by using his own memory recorder on him.
 
 
As the Avengers further investigate Pym's abandoned lab, he realizes that there is a missing memory tape of Wonder Man (AKA Simon Williams).  We then get a recounting of the Avenger's earlier run-in with Wonder Man, who was secretly working with Baron Zemo when he enlisted the help of the Avengers to help him find a cure for the deadly disease he was dying of.  
 
Turning on his new allies, Wonder Man was able to defeat the Avengers before learning that Zemo planned on murdering them.  He then turned against Zemo and freed the Avengers, helping them to defeat Zemo's team of villains.

 
Unfortunately, his turning against Zemo sealed his fate.  Zemo had the only cure to Wonder Man's disease.  Knowing he was dying, the Avengers rushed him to Henry Pym's lab and made a recording of his brain patterns before he died.
 
Vision is shocked by the realization that his brain is actually the stolen pattern of Wonder Man!  The mystery of Vision's origin now mostly solved, the Avengers return to their headquarters to finally determine if Vision is worthy to join them.
 

After a short meeting, Goliath delivers the good news to Vision. . .he has been found worthy to join Earth's Mightiest Heroes!  As the other Avengers welcome the android onto the team, he remains stoic before asking for a moment to himself.
 
 
And as Vision cries with happiness out of the sight of his new comrades, the reader learns that the artificial being has more humanity in him than he is letting on, and there are still mysteries surrounding The Vision.
 
 
The End. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Part of the fun of doing these "Retro Reviews" is learning a bit about the comic at hand and increasing my general knowledge of the wonderful world of comic books.  So bear with me a bit.
 
A little research tells me that there was an editorial edict at the time preventing Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor from being regular characters in The Avengers, due to them headlining their own titles. Because of this, the appearance of the three heroes together in this issue was a bit of a special event.
 
Because the three heaviest hitters in the Avengers couldn't really be IN the Avengers on a regular basis, The Vision was the first character created specifically to be a member of the Avengers instead of appearing elsewhere and then joining up.  So there's a pretty interesting story behind the story to be found here, if you feel like looking into  it.
 
But enough of that.
 
Look, I'm gonna be honest here and admit that, comics or movies, Vision is my LEAST favorite Avenger.  I guess he just seems like a bit too much of a stretch for my comic book suspension of disbelief. Once I realized that this issue was going to be centered around the origin of The Vision, I almost didn't even want to read it.  But then there was that great John Buscema artwork waving me in and asking me to give this a fair chance. . .if only for some great pictures.
 
And guess what?  I found myself liking this story a LOT more than I thought I would.  
 
Okay, I'll admit that Vision's origin IS pretty convoluted (and it gets worse going forward through the years), especially the part about Wonder Man.  That just sort of came in out of nowhere, and reads almost like something that was thrown in at the last minute. . .but even that was sort of interesting in how they tied in a minor character from years before into the introduction of Marvel's new heavy hitter Avenger.
 
But convoluted origin aside, I found this story to be well-written and engaging.  It's told in an unusual manner, with no "villain of the month" to be found except in flashback, and delivering (what must have been pretty shocking at the time) several surprise revelations.  
 
A story like this would take twelve or more issues to tell these days, but the compressed storytelling of Roy Thomas gives the reader basically FOUR short stories in ONE issue!  Thomas doesn't waste a single word from cover to cover on this one.  It's amazing to me that so much story can be packed into so few pages.
 
And then there's the art.
 
That fantastic John Buscema cover drew me in, and his wonderful superhero art kept me in to the last page.  Every panel on every page of this comic is simply a joy to look at to begin with, and THEN Buscema threw in several awesome splash pages that you just want to keep turning back to!  Simply put, the art in this issue is classic.  It's colorful, it's expressive, it's everything I could have ever asked for in a superhero comic.
 

CONCLUSION

 
It's sad to say, but a lot of older comics seem to not have much effort put into them.  It's pretty clear to see that they were written for kids and meant to be disposable.  This is not the case with Avengers #58.
 
From the amazing cover to the final splash page of Vision hiding his emotions from his new teammates, you can see that Roy Thomas and John Buscema were creating something that they KNEW would stand the test of time. . .something that could still bring joy to a comic reader in the far off future year of 2021.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Back to the bargain bins!
 
May is Star Wars month, so how something from that galaxy far, far away?
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk - ShadowHawk

945 views • Apr 22, '21 • (0) Comments

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

 
Sorry things are starting to get a bit off-schedule again.  It happens every year. I do these reviews at work in my spare time as the night manager of a hotel and the summer tourist trade is already beginning to ramp up, even though it's only the end of April, so that spare time is starting to become less as the countdown to the REAL summer rush begins.  
 
So not to make excuses, but expect a kinda spotty posting schedule for the next few months because unless there's an ACTUAL apocalypse of some sort, Americans will NOT be staying home this summer.  I can see that already.  I predict it's gonna be a big year for hotels across the nation and you can cash THAT check at any bank.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
If you've been Longbox Junkin' as long as I have, you start to notice certain comics that seem to pop up in bargain bins more often than others.  For me, it's comics from Image's early "We REALLY want to be Marvel!" days.  Titles like Youngblood, CyberForce, WildC.A.T.S., Wetworks, and Deathblow, for a few examples off the top of my head.
 
Yeah. . .in case you weren't there for the 90's (and it may make me sound old, but you sorta had to be there), before they managed to carve out a niche as the comic publisher for readers tired of superheroes, Image was ALL Superhero ALL the time.  
 
As a result, the glut of 90's Image superhero titles that didn't make it through the partial collapse of the comic industry make up the meat and potatoes of most bargain bins today.  For every Marvel or DC comic found in the bin, you're pretty much guaranteed to find ten Image comics.
 
The comics at hand (ShadowHawk) are part of that period of comic history. . .the beginning of Image Comics' gaining a foothold in comic shops by way of a flood of new superhero titles.  It seems like just about any bargain bin I dive into holds at LEAST one ShadowHawk issue, so over the years I've managed to grab just about the whole run (I think I'm missing 3 of them), mainly because I think the character looks cool and the series has some pretty nice covers.
 
But I've never bothered to actually read any of them.  
 
Until Now!
 
Join me as I take a look at the first four issue series of ShadowHawk and see what's going on with this bargain bin relic of the 90's.  Is ShadowHawk any good, or is it in just about every bargain bin out there for a reason?  Let's find out!

SHADOWHAWK (Vol. 1)

Image (1992)

 

ISSUE ONE

 
 A NIGHTMARE WALKING
 
SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino & Rob Liefeld
 
THE COVER:
 
The actual cover I have is a glorious example of early 90's "gimmick" covers (ShadowHawk #1 was actually Image's FIRST gimmick cover), with a heavy black cardstock background and a super-shiny silver "chromium" title and image.  Unfortunately, it doesn't scan well at all, so I had to grab a picture of the non-enhanced version off the internet.  But trust me when I say that in its fully gimmicked state, this is a cover that reaches out and grabs you! It's outstanding in its black and silver simplicity.
 
THE STORY:
 
An unknown, ultra-violent vigilante stalks the streets of New York City.  His calling card is breaking the backs of his targets, paralyzing them.  We follow the vigilante, "ShadowHawk", as he patrols the city, permanently taking down criminals and coming into conflict with the police.
 
We are also introduced to a villainous arsonist called. . .Arson, as well as his employer, the mysterious and beautiful high-profile crime boss Max Boldd (AKA Vendetta), who is profiting from the insurance on the buildings Arson has been burning.  
 
Then there's Jamie Anthonette, an intrepid reporter looking into Ms. Boldd's shady business dealings, sketchy Detective Lt. Lou Jacks. . .who always seems to be in the wrong place at the right time when ShadowHawk attacks, and finally former D.A. Paul Johnstone. . .frustrated with the broken justice system, he's now a social activist.  One of these people is ShadowHawk!  Which one?  They aren't saying just yet.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay.  Interesting.  A lot of setup and character introductions in this first issue.  According to the letters page, it seems that the "Who is ShadowHawk" tag on the cover is actually the main thrust of this first mini-series. . .with a generous handful of suspects, but leaving it up to the readers to make their best guess as part of a contest (a page of original art as the prize).  It's a fairly interesting reader hook.
 
Secret identity puzzles aside, I found this to be a pretty good read.  Not the best superhero comic I've ever read, but  pretty decent when many other "Style over Substance" comic offerings of the 90's are practically unreadable today.  
 
ShadowHawk himself has an interesting look and design. . .equal parts Batman, Wolverine, and Moon Knight.  The influences carry over to ShadowHawk's gritty first person inner monologue through the issue as well.  
 
Jim Valentino's art is probably the best part of the issue. . .once again in keeping with the "Style over Substance" direction of 90's comics. . .but where many 90's artists haven't aged well at all, Valentino's art is clean, simple, and solid.  It tells the story without the annoying artistic excess I'd expect in an Image comic from 1992.
 
Unfortunately, even though ShadowHawk #1 holds up surprisingly well, it's not ALL good news.  The villain (an arsonist named Arson) is extremely weak and unimaginative (again. . .an arsonist named Arson), and there's so much introducing going on that none of the "suspects" stand out as very interesting because we really don't spend much time with any of them.
 

All in all, not a bad first issue.  I found it surprisingly readable for a 90's Image superhero comic, with an interesting main character and some solid artwork.  The villain is weak and the multiple characters introduced as possible ShadowHawks aren't that interesting (yet).  Still, it's a good introduction to a new character and it makes me want to read the next one, so ShadowHawk #1 gives me what I expect from a first issue. I can't complain much about that.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

 

A GOOD NIGHT FOR ARSON
 
SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino 
 
THE COVER:
 
This is actually one of my least favorite ShadowHawk covers.  It just seems to be trying TOO hard.  It does give you a good look at the interesting design of the character himself, but the kids in the background look out of place, the generic-looking villain is a generic-looking villain, and the stiff poses all around give the cover an awkward look.  It's not a BAD cover.  I've definitely seen worse.  It's just sort of off in the composition.
 
THE STORY:
 
Trying to prove he's not the villain everyone thinks he is, ShadowHawk takes it upon himself to take down the Arsonist that's been wreaking havoc in Harlem.  He is surprised to briefly encounter the mysterious Spawn during his hunt.  ShadowHawk convinces Spawn that they are after the same quarry, and Spawn leaves Arson to ShadowHawk.
 
As ShadowHawk searches for Arson, we are introduced to yet another suspect that may be ShadowHawk. . .Christina Reid, an ex-cop with a reputation for violence that got her kicked off the force.  We are also pointed toward more clues during a lavish dinner party where it is revealed that Sketchy Lt. Lou Jacks is actually a wealthy bachelor that joined the police force after witnessing his parents murder.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
ShadowHawk finally catches up to Arson and the two of them engage in a brutal rooftop battle in Harlem.  ShadowHawk defeats Arson by hitting his flamethrower fuel backpack with a shuriken, destroying the armored villain in a massive explosion.
 
At the end of the story, we see a young woman vow revenge on ShadowHawk for breaking the spine of her brother.  Elsewhere, we see a junkie friend of former D.A. Paul Johnstone (AKA another ShadowHawk secret identity suspect) being stalked through a dark alley by a grotesque lizard-like creature dripping acidic slime.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I liked the first issue of ShadowHawk as a pretty good introduction to a new character, with the interesting reader hook of trying to guess which side character is ShadowHawk's secret identity.  Unfortunately, just the second issue in and the series seems to be slipping into a fairly standard "Set 'em up. . .knock 'em down" rotating villain grind, with villains being introduced in one issue and taken down in the next.   It's an extremely well-worn comic book story path.
 
As far as the "Who is ShadowHawk?" hook, it's pretty plain to see that the writer wants you to think the sketchy detective who's secretly rich and has a tragic back story is ShadowHawk (SPOILER: He's not), so he gets most of the side character attention this time out.  The new suspect (Angry ex-cop with a taste for violence) is just sort of dropped in out of nowhere like the writer forgot to put her in the first issue and is hustling to fix the mistake.  
 
The cameo by Spawn is interesting, but ultimately just there to tie this series into Image's attempt at having multiple independent creator-owned properties inhabit a shared superhero "universe" that never really worked out as well as they wanted it to.  
 
Where the writing seems to be falling into a "Villain every two issues" rut already, Valentino's art remains the strong point of this series, delivering some solid and eye-pleasing visuals.  I like that about half of this issue is told through double-page spreads. . .giving the art plenty of room to breathe.  Once again, you would expect artistic excess in an early 90's Image superhero comic, but the art here has aged quite a bit better than something like Youngblood, for example. 
 
 
Overall, it doesn't bode well that ShadowHawk is ALREADY falling into the old "Villain fight every other issue" comic writing rut. . .not to mention the old reliable increased sales grab of having a super-popular character cameo appearance happening in just the second issue.  The "Who Is ShadowHawk" reader hook also looks like it's already losing steam, despite the writer's best efforts at keeping the mystery going.  
 
That said, there's enough meat on the bone storywise to make me want to read the next issue, and the solid art keeps ShadowHawk from being as hard on the eyes and practically unreadable as some other early 90's Image comics.  So good taken with bad, this is still a pretty decent read.
 
NEXT!
 
 

ISSUE THREE


LIQUID FIRE
 
SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino 
 
THE COVER:
 
 Now HERE'S a winner!  ShadowHawk perched above the city, cloaked in darkness yet still showing off the interesting character design.  It's simple, it's moody, it's effective.  Yeah. . .I know.  EVERY gritty "street level" hero has had one of these covers.  But you know what?  Why fix what ain't broke? Did I mention it glows in the dark?  IT GLOWS!   Such a great cover.
 
THE STORY:
 
As a mysterious lizard-like creature stalks the alleys of New York City in search of prey, the young woman introduced last issue determined to have her revenge on ShadowHawk meets with Max Boldd (AKA Vendetta).  Her name is Tajana Juarez, and she has come to Boldd to ask for help with her vengeance.
 
Boldd agrees and introduces Tajana to her enforcer, a failed Youngblood recruit called BlackJak.  Elsewhere, reporter Jamie Anthonette and and Lt. Lou Jacks meet at the scene of a grisly killing, where the victim is almost completely dissolved by a mysterious acid.  
 
In the meantime, as ShadowHawk recovers from the battle with Arson, news of the gruesome string of murders reaches him, and he decides to hunt the killer, although he is still exhausted and burned from his previous battle.
 
Back at the scene of the battle with Arson, the villain is amazed to find himself still alive after being caught in the gigantic explosion of his flamethrower fuel. . .but he's in an extremely painful state of constant flame!  Not knowing what else to do, he decides to ask Max Boldd for help.
 
WHILE THAT'S GOING ON. . .
 
At police headquarters, Captain Frakes calls a meeting with the city council.  He claims to have evidence that Lt. Jacks is the vigilante ShadowHawk.  Unfortunately, his evidence is circumstantial and Jacks reveals that his mysterious absences are because he's visiting his adoptive father in a nursing home, taking Jacks off the list of ShadowHawk suspects.
 
AND THEN. . .
 
As ShadowHawk pursues the mysterious creature killing with acid, Arson accidentally runs into the two of them at the exact moment that ShadowHawk finally catches up with his prey!  As ShadowHawk and the creature fight, Arson is offered the chance to help, but declines, continuing on to meet with Boldd and leaving ShadowHawk to his fight.
 
After a brutal battle, ShadowHawk finally kills the creature by shooting a grappling hook into its chest and pulling its heart out.  
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
After his failed attempt to prove Lt. Jacks is ShadowHawk, police Captain Frakes decides to call in a favor from an old friend in Chicago and bring in some super-powered support to find and take down the vigilante once and for all. . .The Savage Dragon!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
To be honest, this issue was sort of a mess.  It jumped all over the place trying to keep the "Who is ShadowHawk" mystery alive with short scenes featuring all the suspects (and taking Lt. Jacks off the list), while at the same time introducing yet MORE characters (The superhuman version of Arson, BlackJak, and Tajana) AND making sure there's some action with ShadowHawk and the acid creature fighting.
 
It seems to me that this series could have benefited from at least one more issue, because Valentino is really trying to pack a lot into a little space.  The ShadowHawk/ Acid Creature storyline feels tacked on because the writer felt like there HAD to be some sort of fighting going on.  Truthfully, he could have thrown the whole thing out and concentrated on the mystery aspect of the story and this issue would have been better for it.  As it stands, the acid creature fight just seems as disposable and unremarkable as the acid creature itself.
 
Valentino's art remains the strong point of this series.  It's just good, clean, simple comic art with a bit of 90's flair, but without the 90's excess.  Is it enough to save the issue from the mess the story is becoming?  Barely. 
 

Overall, the writing on this issue is a mess. . .Valentino is trying to cook too many things at once and all of them suffer for it.  The art remains a solid high point, but art is only half the equation when it comes to comic books.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ISSUE FOUR

 
ENTER THE DRAGON
 
SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino & Erik Larsen
 
THE COVER:
 
This isn't one of my favorite ShadowHawk covers, but I really like the overhead view of the city.  The artist gives this cover a true sense of height and scale.  The main figures are well done, but the eye-catcher here is definitely in the background.
 
THE STORY:
 
AAAAAAAAAAND IT'S CROSSOVER TIME!
 
After police Captain Frakes failed to prove Lt. Jacks was ShadowHawk, he calls in a favor from an old friend in Chicago and is loaned their Super-Powered Superstar cop. . .The Dragon.  Upon arrival in New York, Dragon ruffles some feathers as he shows the NYPD how it's done by almost immediately tracking down ShadowHawk while the vigilante deals with a rapist.
 
A rooftop battle ensues while ShadowHawk insists he's not a criminal and The Dragon lets him know (between brutal punches) that the good guys don't sentence criminals to a living death with a broken back.  
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
At Max Boldd's (AKA Vendetta) secret laboratory, we see that she's setting up a super-powered team consisting of failed Youngblood recruit BlackJak, the now constantly burning and super-powered version of Arson, and Tajana Juarez, who has been given super-powers by the alien technology in Boldd's lab and is now called Vortex.  Each of them has a grudge against ShadowHawk, but Boldd tells them that her intention isn't to destroy him, but to recruit him for the team.
 
Since the televised battle between ShadowHawk and The Dragon is going badly for the vigilante, Boldd take the opportunity to reveal her plans for him and orders BlackJak to deal with Dragon while Vortex and Arson rescue ShadowHawk.  The unexpected interruption of Boldd's team takes Dragon by surprise and they manage to grab ShadowHawk and take him to the safety of Boldd's headquarters.
 
Vendetta offers ShadowHawk a place on her team, but the vigilante continues to insist he's not a criminal.  Vendetta mocks his righteous stance and tells him he can either join up or she'll turn him over to the police so he can see just how much of a criminal he really is.  ShadowHawk doesn't like either option and makes his escape by jumping through a window.  Vendetta doesn't pursue him.
 
AND IN THE END. . .
 
We get two epilogues.  In the first, we see the Savage Dragon leaving New York, anxious to return to cleaning up Chicago, but with the NYPD grateful that he was at least able to narrow down ShadowHawk's identity to his being male.
 
In the second epilogue, we find ShadowHawk alone and wracked with doubt as he ponders his encounter with The Dragon and Vendetta. . .asking himself if he really IS a hero, or is he actually a villain?
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
ShadowHawk is sort of a strange series in that it's actually a set of connected mini-series. . .sort of like what Dark Horse did with Hellboy.  The next mini-series is called ShadowHawk II (3 issues), but actually connects directly to the ending of this one, so most comic collector sites just call ShadowHawk II #1 ShadowHawk #5 (And ShadowHawk III #1 as ShadowHawk #8).  It's this strange way of publishing ShadowHawk that makes this issue a pretty unsatisfying "ending" to the first ShadowHawk mini-series.
 
In addition to an ending that's actually more of a "to be continued", this issue also drops ShadowHawk into his first full-fledged crossover, with Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon.  Not that there's anything wrong with crossovers in general, but you can plainly see Image trying to drum up some reader interest in ShadowHawk with this one.  From what I've been able to find out about the series, it was a bit of an underdog in Image's initial push. . .not backed up by a red-hot artist, it wasn't doing as good as Image had though it would.  
 
What I'm trying to say is that the crossover with Savage Dragon is a pretty obvious sales tactic. It feels forced and ultimately inconsequential in the long run for either character.  Add in Vendetta's super-criminal team and whatever gritty street-level feel this comic had initially is pretty much gone by this issue.
 
That's not to say it's ALL bad.  I liked that we ended with the "hero" agonizing over whether or not he's actually a villain.  It's a pretty good hook to draw readers into the next ShadowHawk mini to find out how he discovers the hero inside. . .showing that the character isn't just a black and white Image version of armored Batman.  The ending of the story here makes me want to give the character another chance, despite the steady downward spiral of the writing through the four issues of this initial series.
 

Overall, the ending of this series is pretty disappointing in that it's not actually an ending at all.  The crossover with Savage Dragon feels like a forced and pretty obvious sales tactic, and the colorful supervillains have sapped the gritty street-level vigilante feel from the story entirely.  There are some good character moments at the end of it all that barely manage to save the story with the promise of interesting things to come.
 

CONCLUSION

 
When I finally decided to actually READ some of these ShadowHawk comics I've been picking up through the years, I had already decided that I was going to find an unreadable comic with excessive 90's art doing the heavy lifting for a story that didn't matter as long as the comic looked good.
 
What I found instead was a story that isn't great by any means, but is a pretty good introduction to a new character, backed up by art that has a bit of 90's flair, but not so much that it completely distracts from and overpowers the story.  So for that, ShadowHawk is actually pretty good.
 
Unfortunately, the story progressively weakens through only four issues. . .going from a violent, gritty, street-level vigilante story to a colorful mess of supervillains and forced crossovers, where the initial reader hook of "Who is ShadowHawk" was all but forgotten.
 
The strong point of ShadowHawk is definitely the art by Jim Valentino.  It's some very nice and solid superhero art that helps tell the story without trying to push its way to the front.  As a 90's Image superhero comic, I was pleasantly surprised to find the art holds up so well 30 years down the road when many other comics from the era are eye-bleeding jokes that didn't age well.
 
Overall, I can recommend ShadowHawk as a decent read.  It's definitely a relic of the 90's Image "We want to be Marvel!" era, but it has aged a little better than a lot of other comics from that time.  The issues aren't hard to find at all.  Like I said in the introduction, ShadowHawk is almost ubiquitous when it comes to bargain bins.  It's more unlikely to NOT find an issue of ShadowHawk in a dollar box.
 
Up Next. . .
 
How about a Longbox Junk retro review?
 
Let's jump into the paper time machine and crank that dial backwards!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

 
When it comes to comic book heroes, I have a few favorites. . .Batman and Captain America top my list, but I'll read the adventures of just about any four-color superhero worthy of their cape and tights (or high-tech armor).  But truth to tell, my REAL favorite heroes come from the pulp tradition.  The Shadow, Green Hornet, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, and Zorro (for a few top picks).
 
What these pulpy characters may lack in superpowers, they more than make up for with style and swagger!   In my extremely humble opinion, these old-school mystery men can stand toe to toe with ANY comic hero you can throw down against them, story-wise.  And that's a hill I will definitely defend.

If I had to pick ONE favorite hero, it would have to be Zorro.  That black-clad masked mystery man riding the trails of old California on his fiery steed, Tornado, and delivering justice for the common man at the end of a flashing rapier, all the while with a sly grin on his face and insults as sharp as his sword.  Yeah.  It would have to be Zorro.  His stories are just so much FUN.
 
So let us now ponder the following questions:
 
Can a story combining the fun swashbuckling of Zorro and the creeping, depressing, eldritch horror that is the trademark of pulp horror author H.P. Lovecraft possibly be good?  Is it even a good IDEA to try and combine these two almost completely unrelated things? 
 
Let's find out!

ZORRO:

RISE OF THE OLD GODS

American Mythology Productions (2019)

 
SCRIPTS: Jason Pell
ART: Puis Calzada
 

ISSUE ONE

COVER: Michael  Kaluta
 
THE COVER:
I love Kaluta's art.  His cover for the first issue of DC's The Shadow is my absolute favorite comic cover of all.  In my humble opinion, he's a living legend.  That said. . .this is NOT his best work.  Zorro's pose is extremely strange and awkward.  His face is almost not even there.  The rest of it (the snakes and such) is nicely done, but Zorro is just pretty bad.  A shame that this 3rd (maybe fourth?) tier publisher managed to swing a Kaluta cover and it turned out like this.  
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin at the hacienda of a rich landowner, at a dinner party that is interrupted by a robbery at the hands of the Agueros brothers. . .thuggish Murillo and frail Mathias, along with their gang.  Zorro (attending the party in his guise of Don Diego De La Vega) quickly leaps into action, sending the gang fleeing into the night. 
 
The next day, Don Diego joins a patrol of Mexican soldiers as they set off in pursuit of the bandits, who managed to get away with a mysterious gemstone.   Captain Eugenio, the leader of the patrol, believes the thieves are headed for Antiguo Camino, an isolated fishing village with a reputation for being unwelcoming to outsiders.
 
Back at the hacienda that was robbed, we see the rich landowner, his entire family, and some soldiers left behind to guard him from further attacks, slaughtered by grotesque monsters.  We then see that at the camp of the Agueros brothers, the strange Mathias is able to see the killings in his dreams.
 
After a bit of conflict between the two brothers over leadership of the gang, shouts of alarm are raised by the lookouts and the camp is attacked by the same grotesque creatures Mathias saw in his dreams!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Hmmmmm. . .Okay.  Interesting.  
 
I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed.  While the elements of a good Zorro story are all here, and are quite enjoyable, the second half of this Zorro/ Cthulhu combo is not very well done at all.
 
H.P. Lovecraft's stories always have a feeling of ambiguity to them. . .like there's something just past what is on the page.  A creepy feeling that there's more to the story than what's being told.  That feeling is entirely missing here.
 
The writer definitely hit a foul ball on the Lovecraft side of things by revealing the monsters in the first issue of the story instead of slowly building up to them.  Instead of creepy, eldritch horror, we get a straight-up monster attack story with Zorro thrown in.  
 
Not that this is necessarily a bad story.  It's pretty good Zorro story mixed with a healthy helping of gruesome supernatural monsters so far.  But let's just get it straight that this isn't anywhere close to Lovecraft.
 
On the art side of things. . .a little disappointing there as well.
 
I'd describe the art as being barely on the good side of average.  It's sketchy in places, and the coloring is extremely weak through the whole issue, making the whole thing look blander than it should.  It's not really bad.  I've seen worse.  It's just a bit average and unremarkable.
 

Personally, I was pretty interested (and even a little excited) to check out a combination of Zorro and Cthulhu.  Unfortunately, while it might be a good idea as a story pitch, the execution is lacking.  There's a good Zorro story here, but the Lovecraft side of the combo is almost entirely missing.  That and some lackluster art make this a somewhat disappointing first issue.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

COVER: Puis Calzada
 
THE COVER:
I like this cover a lot more than Kaluta's for the first issue.  Zorro looks determined and fierce as he faces down the eldritch creatures rising from the water.  It's not the greatest comic cover I've ever seen, but the grim look and heroic stance of Zorro make it a cut above the average.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing directly from last issue, we begin in the camp of the Agueros brothers and their outlaw gang, which is under attack from a trio of grotesque creatures.  Several of the gang are killed, but after a brutal battle, the creatures are killed and the Agueros gang waste no time in packing up and leaving the scene.
 
The next morning, Don Diego and the Mexican patrol in pursuit of the gang come across the campsite and ponder the nature of the strange creatures laying dead amongst the gang members.  The Captain sends for reinforcements from Santa Barbara while the patrol continues pursuing the gang toward Antiguo Camino.
 
Later that day, the Agueros gang rides into Antiguo Camino, passing by the unwelcoming townfolk and stopping at the sketchiest church ever (see below).  Inside, a strange ceremony is interrupted by the gang.  Mathias gives the priestess the oddly-glowing green stone they stole and then tells her that the other men in the gang are his gifts to her!  The worshippers grab the gang, but Mathias tells them that his brother isn't part of the deal.
 
The priestess takes the brothers downstairs and shows them a room full of gold coins that is to be their reward.  Mathias tells the priestess that he didn't do this for any reward of gold, and then tells her that they are being pursued and that none of the men following them should be allowed to escape.
 
As they speak, Don Diego and the Mexican patrol arrive at the outskirts of Antiguo Camino.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Once again, not a BAD story. . .just disappointing.  Zorro doesn't make an appearance in this issue (except in the guise of Don Diego and during a brief flashback), so the Cthulhu portion of the combo takes center stage.  Unfortunately, like the first issue, this ain't Lovecraft by a long shot.
 
The Cthulhu cult is openly worshipping.  The monsters are attacking.  There's no signature slow build to the horror.  It's just right there in your face.  The art improves a bit over the first issue, but it's still sketchy in places and the colors are washed out and bland through most of the issue, although there is a bit of improvement on the colors as well.
 
 
Nothing suspicious about this church just sitting out there in public.  Nope.
 
Overall, we have a story that's not BAD, but it's not what was advertised.  This has some of the trappings of the Cthulhu "mythos", but you can tell the writer is a lot more comfortable writing Zorro.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE THREE

COVER: Puis Calzada
 
THE COVER:
For some reason, this cover just isn't hitting it with me.  I'm not sure why exactly.  The more I look at it, the more I'm trying to figure out why I don't really like it.  Maybe it's just part of my general disappointment with this series as a whole.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Don Diego and the Mexican patrol have arrived in Antiguo Camino.  While taking their rest and making plans to search the town for the fugitive Agueros brothers, they are suddenly attacked by the townfolk!
 
The soldiers are quickly overwhelmed and only a few escape the Inn, including Don Diego, who decides it's time to change clothes and continue the fight as Zorro.  As the remaining Mexican troops fight for their lives while being chased through the town, the Captain takes refuge in the church, only to discover to his horror the strange trappings of the Cthulhu cult within.
 
Meanwhile, at the seashore, the fate of the rest of the Agueros gang is revealed as brothers Murillo and Mathias witness them being bound to stakes as the priestess begins a strange ritual.  The captured Mexican troops are likewise brought to the shore and bound to stakes.
 
In town, Zorro and a Mexican Lieutenant he has rescued fight their way toward the seashore, where they hear the loud chanting of the ritual.  As they arrive, they are horrified to find a legion of grotesque creatures coming from the sea and devouring the screaming prisoners alive!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This lead-up to the final issue is mostly action, which I can easily see the writer is more comfortable with than the two more dialogue-heavy issues that have come before.  Unfortunately, once again this entirely throws out the whole "Impending Dread" trademark Lovecraft style one would expect in a story advertising itself as (and I quote):  "This series celebrates the swashbuckling heroics of Zorro and the impending dread of H.P. Lovecraft in a unique and terrifying tale!"
 
Instead, all breaks loose and it's nonstop monster-ific action as the villagers become basically a zombie horde attacking the Mexican patrol and creatures rise from the sea to rip the prisoners apart in full color, with nothing left to the imagination (Did I mention before that this comic is NOT for kids?  There's a pretty good bucket of gore splashed across this issue in particular).
 
At least on the art side of things, the colors have greatly improved over the first couple of issues.
 
Wait.  Lovecraft Zombies? Oh, never mind.  "Villagers"
 
Overall, this issue is almost completely action, and actually resembles a zombie attack story more than anything "Lovecraftian".  It's not a terrible story, and the scenes with Zorro have plenty of swash and buckle to them, but in my extremely humble opinion, American Mythology sort of wasted whatever Cthulhu license they have here on a gore-fest featuring Zorro stabbing zombies/villagers.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

 

ISSUE FOUR

COVER: Puis Calzada
 
THE COVER:
I really like the colors and the gritty determination of Zorro as he fights for his life.  I'd say this one is the best cover of the four, in my extremely humble opinion.  I think Zorro's facial expression is what really sells this one.  I haven't mentioned it before, but I REALLY like American Mythology's Gold and Red Zorro logo.  It really pops on these covers, and especially on this one.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Zorro and Lieutenant Marquez frantically try to rescue the few remaining Mexican soldiers as grotesque sea creatures devour their comrades.  The villagers catch up to the pair and Zorro commands Marquez to save who he can while he fights them off.
 
As the battle rages by the seashore, the reinforcements Captain Eugenio sent for arrive.  The Captain takes command and they ruthlessly sweep through the village, killing anyone standing in their way.
 
Hearing the gunfire coming from the village, Mathias Agueros and the Priestess of the Cthulhu cult know that their time in Antiguo Camino is through.  They use the stolen gemstone and perform a ritual that turns Murillo Agueros into a hulking monstrosity, then make their escape from the doomed village.
 
Zorro confronts the thing that used to be Murillo, distracting it from attacking the soldiers in the village.  A brutal battle ensues and Zorro barely manages to prevail. . .defeating the eldritch monster, but unable to prevent Mathias and the Priestess from escaping.
 
In the end, Zorro. . .back in his guise of Don Diego. . .rides away from the carnage in the streets of the village as the Mexican soldiers brutally slaughter everyone they find.  He reflects that Zorro's justice is for the people. . .but not THESE people.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Alrighty then.  Here we are at the grand finale of this thing.
 
This final issue was pretty much all-out action and fighting as Zorro faces down the creatures summoned by the Cthulhu Priestess and Mathias.  It's not bad, for what it is, but what it ain't (like I've already said) is Lovecraft by any means.
 
There IS a token attempt to link this tale as sort of a prequel to one of Lovecraft's best known stories, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", but the connection is weak at best.  
 
The art in this issue steps up a notch, showing a definite improvement over previous issues in both form and color.  There are actually a few really good little sequences here and there, like Murillo's transformation into an inhuman creature (shown below).  It's a bit of a shame that it took until the final issue for the artist to really find his feet, though.
 
Overall, this story ends on a note of non-stop action.  It's a decent ending, even though the attempt to connect it with a more famous Lovecraft story seems a bit weak and flimsy, considering there's barely been any real effort to evoke any of Lovecraft's signature style through the rest of the story.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I asked the following questions in the introduction:  Can a story combining the fun swashbuckling of Zorro and the creeping, depressing, eldritch horror that is the trademark of pulp horror author H.P. Lovecraft possibly be good?  Is it even a good IDEA to try and combine these two almost completely unrelated things? 
 
Based on THIS story, I'd have to say no to both. . .BUT!  The IDEA is still interesting, and I think it COULD work, just not here.  I guess what I'm saying is that the idea is solid, but the execution in this series is not.
 
What we have here is less of a Zorro/ Cthulhu combination and more of a Zorro story with monsters.  You know what?  I'm okay with that.  If you look at this series from THAT point of view, it's not bad.  Unfortunately, I was also expecting some creepy Lovecraft-style horror and didn't get any.
 
There's no creeping sense of doom to be found.  No slow buildup to a horrific reveal.  No mind-wrecking battle against the madness that comes from seeing things that should not be!  This story COULD have been so much better if the writer had actually attempted to bring some of that trademark Lovecraft creep factor into it.
 
I think that despite the flaws in storytelling and art that starts off on the wrong foot, but slowly improves through the series, I'd still recommend this series for any Zorro fan looking for a story a little off the beaten path.  But if you're coming in as a Lovecraft fan looking for something a little different, then you're going to be out of luck.
 
Up Next. . .
 
There's a comic series that I am pretty much guaranteed to find at least one issue of in EVERY bargain bin I've ever dug through. . .and that series is Image's "ShadowHawk".  Over the years, I've collected almost the full run, just because I like the covers.  But I've never read any of them.
 
Until now!
 
Let's head back to the 90's and take a look at the first 4-issue ShadowHawk series.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk - Star Wars: Tie Fighter

972 views • Mar 25, '21 • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comic reviews are free, and if you're not completely satisfied, you're entitled to a 100% refund!

 
I've probably mentioned it before, but I am a HUGE Star Wars fan.  As a matter of fact, it was Star Wars that got me into comic collecting in the first place! Bear with me a moment while I tell the tale.
 
I was but a lad when the original Star Wars movie roared into theaters like nothing else that had ever come before (or since).  It may make me sound a bit old, but you sort of had to be there to understand the full impact Star Wars had when it first came out.  To call it a nationwide phenomena is underselling it.  
 
But to make a long story (sort of) short, when Star Wars finally came to the small Utah town I was living in, they were giving away the first issue of the Marvel comics adaptation to kids 12 and under along with your ticket.  I had read comics before (mostly random Batman and Justice League comics), but that Star Wars comic was the first time I ever felt I HAD to get the rest of the story!  
 
That chunky Chaykin art! That overblown dialogue where every! Sentence! Ended! With! An Exclamation point!  I LOVED that there were little scenes in that comic that weren't in the movie.  And guess what. . .I STILL have that very issue!  It's pretty battered, but I wouldn't sell it for a million bucks (Okay. . .MAYBE for a million, but I'd have to think about it for a few minutes).
 
Yeah, I loved the first Star Wars movie, but that ONE comic book some stranger gave me in a movie theater started me on a lifetime love of the stories and art to be found in the four-color floppies that is just as strong this very day as it ever was!

So I'm a big Star Wars fan, to say the least.  But as big of a fan as I am, I still have to be honest and admit that Star Wars comics have been a bit hit or miss through the years.  Don't get me wrong. . .there have been some great stories, but I'd be tellin' you false if I didn't say that there have also been some REALLY bad Star Wars comic stories (Off the top of my head, I'm looking straight at YOU Dark Empire II).
 
But enough of that.  Let's turn our attention to why we're here.
 
The comics at hand are a fairly recent offering from Marvel that takes a sort of unusual look at Star Wars by giving us a story focusing not on the Skywalker family saga or the heroic Jedi Warriors of times past.  Instead, the heroes of THIS story are the villains of all the rest!  That's right, this series features the skilled and deadly ace pilots of (Dun-Dun-DUNN) The Empire.
 
Can there be a good Star Wars story without flashing lightsabers and plucky rebels?  Let's find out!

STAR WARS: TIE FIGHTER

Marvel (2019)

 

ISSUE ONE

The Shadow Falls, Part 1

 
SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Michael Dowling (backup)
COVER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
 
THE COVER:
 
This is the sort of cover that pretty much tells you what to expect inside.  A very nicely-painted, almost photo-realistic, close up portrait of an Imperial Tie Fighter pilot moving in on his target while a battle rages around him.  It's simple, but effective.  It makes me want to get right inside. . .so let's do it!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin the story shortly after the battle of Hoth as an elite Imperial Tie Interceptor Squadron called "Shadow Wing" finish destroying the pilots of a hidden Rebel base as the Empire sweeps the galaxy searching for the scattered remnants of the Rebellion.
 
Upon returning to their base on the Star Destroyer "Pursuer", we are introduced to the ace pilots of Shadow Wing: Teso Broosh. . .The squad leader.  A veteran commander with a bad reputation for surviving battles where everyone else is killed.  Ganem Kahi. . .7th generation fighter pilot with a proud family military tradition going back to before the Clone Wars.  Known for always getting the job done.  Zin Graw. . .compassionate and caring.  The "Mama Bear" of the squad.  She's in a "don't ask - don't tell" relationship with Ganem.  Jeela Brebtin. . .Focused, cold, lethal.  She's a killer without remorse.  And finally, Lyttan Dree. . .a hard-charging professional who plays as hard as he works.
 
Before Shadow Wing can enjoy much down time, they are summoned before their Commander, Colonel Nuress, and given a new mission. . .escort duty for the Imperial Cruiser Summit as it heads for the Kudo System to render possible aid to the Star Destroyer Celerity, which has reported hyperdrive issues preventing it from a scheduled rendezvous with the rest of the Imperial fleet in the sector.
 
Despite Commander Broosh's protests that escort duty is hardly a good use for an elite interceptor squad, Shadow Wing is quickly under way and on their new mission.  Upon arrival in the Kudo System and finding the Celerity, the Summit is unable to communicate with the Star Destroyer. Someone is jamming transmissions.  
 
Shadow Wing takes flight to investigate the silent starship and suddenly the Summit is blasted by an ion cannon from the Celerity!  The surprise attack renders the cruiser helpless while a wave of Tie Fighters from the Star Destroyer launches to intercept Shadow Wing!
 
To be continued. . .
 
In a short backup story, we see that there's more to Zin Graw than meets the eye as she covertly contacts an unknown person and prepares to transmit information to them.  Dun-Dun-DUNNN!
 
BONUS: There's also a short text excerpt from the Star Wars novel this comic ties into, Alphabet Squadron.  It's set before this series and tells how a former member of Shadow Wing managed to fake her death and defect to the Rebellion.  It's not bad and does a pretty good job of making me want to read the whole book.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
An outstanding first issue!  Even if you're not a Star Wars fan, this is some good hard military science fiction!  There's no Jedi Knights, no Galaxy-Spanning epic tales of the dark and light sides of the Force clashing, there's no heroes. This is a tale of a close-knit team of professional pilots doing their duty, following orders, and falling into a trap.  The characters are interesting and their relationships, both conflicting and complimenting, are fitted together quite nicely.  
 
It's a sort of strange Star Wars story without any real heroes to root for.  Commander Broosh lays it out there for the reader in a conversation with Lyttan Dree when he says that the Empire considers even their best pilots expendable and the most they can hope for is to survive the next mission, and then the one after that.  It's strange for a Star Wars story, but interesting. . .even compelling reading.  This isn't a story of brave heroes and dastardly villains, it's a military tale of duty and survival.  
 
As far as the art goes. . .
 
The artist on this series was a perfect pick!  Complimenting the "No Heroes" hard-edged military tone of the story, the art is likewise hard-edged and detailed, with thick outlines, interesting cinematic angles, and heavy inking.  The art style lends itself especially to action scenes, which almost seem to move across the page. . .but the artist also brings life to the characters in more static scenes with some really good work on facial expressions.  This is one great-looking comic!
 

Overall, we have a great start to this series with a first issue that delivers in every way that it should.  It introduces the characters, background, and initial conflict naturally and with a minimum of exposition.  It tells an interesting story in a familiar setting, but from an unusual viewpoint and with characters I want to get to know more about.  It makes me want to see what happens next.  What more could anyone want from a first issue?  
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

The Shadow Falls, Part 2

 
SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Josh Cassara (backup)
COVER: Tommy Lee Edwards
 
THE COVER:
 
Tommy Lee Edwards! One of my favorite artists giving me a SWEET Star Wars cover! I love the unusual composition of this cover.  The colors are great.  There's a very nice sense of motion.  There's nothing I don't like about this cover!  It's the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic without knowing anything about what's inside.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing directly from the first issue, elite Tie Interceptor squadron "Shadow Wing" find themselves being ambushed by the Tie fighters of the Celerity, a Star Destroyer they came to render aid to.
 
As the outnumbered Shadow Wing fights for their lives, the commander of their cruiser transport tries to escape, despite commands to surrender from the Celerity.  After the cruiser is destroyed by the Star Destroyer, Commander Broosh realizes the hopelessness of the situation and surrenders his squad.
 
On the planet below, Shadow Wing are disarmed by stormtroopers and taken before their commander, Admiral Gratloe.  He informs them that he and his forces haven't joined the Rebellion, but aren't part of the Empire any longer, either.  He has taken control of the Kudo system's mining operations and plans on sitting out the remainder of the war.
 
Shadow Wing is offered a place in Gratloe's operation.  The squadron rejects the offer, but Commander Broosh seems to show interest.  Later, he reveals his interest in Gratloe's offer is a ruse to buy time and he intends to somehow carry out the mission they came to Kudo for. . .to recover the Star Destroyer Celerity.
 
Jeela reveals a hidden weapon and Shadow Wing kill their guards, arm themselves, and escape captivity. . .determined to finish their mission and reclaim what belongs to the Empire, or die trying.
 
To be continued. . .
 
In a short backup story, Lyttan Dree talks to his brother, Tamu, who is stationed on an Imperial Medical Frigate.  They fondly recall their days in the Imperial Academy (Lyttan and Tamu were both characters in the "Han Solo: Imperial Cadet mini-series") and share rumors of a huge upcoming operation that are slowly spreading through Imperial forces (Luring the Rebel fleet into a trap using the second Death Star as seen in Return of The Jedi).
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This series continues to deliver some very solid military sci-fi as Shadow Wing find themselves the prisoner of a rogue Imperial officer and rejecting his offer of an easy way out of the war.  It's not exactly "Apocalypse Now", but I like the angle of Admiral Grotloe just getting tired of the war and deciding to carve out a little piece of the galaxy for himself and those loyal to him.  
 
I like that Gratloe isn't an Imperial defector to the Rebellion.  That's the easy way out for most Star Wars Empire-focused stories, and I'm glad it's not the motivation here.  If it were, I probably wouldn't be enjoying this story so much because the "Imperial Defector" story path is an extremely well-worn one.
 
I also like how Shadow Wing are shown as loyal military professionals.  From Broosh surrendering rather than die needlessly, to their united front rejection of Gratloe's offer, to their use of teamwork and the scant resources at hand to make their escape and continue their mission.  They are written as acting in the manner of a well-trained, practiced unit that knows what the intentions of each other are, often without speaking.  This rings true to how things tend to become in close-knit military units, from my experience in the Marine Corps.
 
The art maintains the same gritty, military, "no heroes" style as the story.  I really like how the artist manages to make a story set in an Imperial scenario of drab gray ships and equally-drab military uniforms pop with color and excitement.
 

Overall, the second issue keeps the story going strong as Shadow Wing are taken out of their starfighter element and forced to rely on their close military bond to work together on the ground as a unit and somehow continue their mission.  It's writing like this that makes me want to jump right into the next issue.  This isn't just a good Star Wars story, it's a good story period.
 
NEXT!

 

ISSUE THREE

The Shadow Falls, Part 3


SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Geraldo Borges (backup)
COVER: Tommy Lee Edwards
 
THE COVER:
 
I don't like this one as much as I did the cover for Issue #2, but it's still Star Wars by Tommy Lee Edwards, so I'll take it anyway.  It has great color and detail, but just doesn't have the eye-catching composition and sense of motion of his previous cover.  
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Shadow Wing have escaped captivity and are fighting their way toward their ships, determined to somehow finish their mission of reclaiming the Star Destroyer Celerity.
 
Commander Broosh manages to convince the commander of the base's stormtrooper garrison to step away from Admiral Gratloe's criminal plan and do his duty to the Empire by unlocking the access codes on Shadow Wing's Interceptors.  During the negotiations, Broosh learns that Gratloe has a mysterious buyer for the stolen Star Destroyer that is on the way to pick the ship up.
 
Once Shadow Wing is in the air and on route to the Celerity, they discover that a battle is raging on the Star Destroyer between Imperial loyalists and Gratloe's conspirators.  As Commander Broosh comes up with a plan, Gratloe's buyers suddenly appear from hyperspace. . .escorted by a large group of rebel starfighters!  
 
Lyttan Dree is immediately killed in the initial exchange of fire as Shadow Wing desperately speeds to the Star Destroyer.  Before they can make it, Zin Graw is also taken out by the attacking X-Wings. 
 
Finally, aboard the Celerity, Broosh learns that the Imperial loyalists have gained the upper hand and he commands the Star Destroyer jump to hyperspace and rendezvous with the Imperial fleet.
 
To Be Continued. . .
 
In a short backup, we see Broosh being given command of Shadow Wing six months previously.  He initially declines, but eventually he's convinced that his doubts about being responsible for the lives of his squad are the reason why he was chosen for the job.  He finally accepts, promising to keep them alive.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
In a totally unexpected turn of events, two of the main characters are killed in one issue!  Not only that, but Lyttan Dree is killed in the middle of a sentence. . .driving home the random nature of death in combat.  
 
Dree was actually one of the more fleshed-out characters in this series, with his past established in the "Han Solo: Imperial Cadet" mini-series, as well as having one of the short backup flashback stories (more like vignettes) in this series devoted to him.  I was actually shocked and surprised that he was killed in such a random and offhand manner.
 
But in keeping with the gritty military nature of the story, Broosh keeps his team together and functioning as their comrades are killed in front of them.  It's just some really good hard military science fiction writing.
 

Overall, this chapter of the story illustrates that the writer isn't afraid to show the deadly consequences of combat.  The two deaths in this issue are random and genuinely surprising, which is definitely a change of pace from your average Star Wars heroes being fully protected by their shiny "plot armor" as they rush through a hail of blaster fire.  The writer takes a big chance in killing off two of the best characters on the team, but it definitely pays off.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE FOUR

The Shadow Falls, Part 4

 
SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Ig Guara (backup)
COVER: Tommy Lee Edwards
 
THE COVER:
 
Edwards gets some Rebel ships in on this one!  I really like the unusual angles of the A-Wing, Y-Wing, and especially that beautifully-detailed B-Wing! The contrast between the high-flying Rebels in the blue sky above and the crashed and burning Imperial ship below really gives this cover a very nice color punch.  
 
THE STORY:
 
At the Imperial Flight Academy, we are introduced to two cadets, Rac Syrmo and Bansu Ro. Both are cocky, competitive, and at the top of their class.  They are pulled from a training exercise to be informed that the Empire has decided to assign the entire Academy class early.  Their first assignment is as replacements for pilots recently lost in the 204th Interceptor Squadron. . .Shadow Wing.
 
Shifting back to Shadow Wing aboard their base, the Imperial Star Destroyer Pursuer. The squadron is given some shocking news upon their return from their mission in the Kudo system. . .their deceased comrade, Zin Graw, has been discovered to have been transmitting information to the Rebellion as part of a sort of "Underground Railroad" for Imperial defectors.
 
Zin's lover, Ganem, doesn't believe it, but Commander Broosh realizes from her past behavior that it's the truth and blames himself.  Fortunately for the Empire, Zin's betrayal has left behind information of use. . .the location of a mobile secret Rebel base used to rendezvous with defectors.  Shadow Wing is tasked with providing fire support for Imperial bombers during a planned attack on the base.
 
En route to their new assignment Shadow Wing's replacement pilots arrive.  The veterans of the squad are shocked to find that their unit is being assigned cadets.  Commander Broosh does his best to try and get them up to speed before their first real mission, but the task seems overwhelming.
 
To be continued. . .
 
In a short backup story, we join Ganem on Coruscant shortly after his graduation from the Academy spending an afternoon with his Grandmother, a former fighter pilot for the Republic.  They discuss the long and proud military tradition of their family. . .Ganem is the seventh generation of fighter pilots. . .and how even though things change over time, their family fights for the people, not the government.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Hmmmm. . .interesting.  It seems a bit strange to be introducing new characters and new storylines in the fourth issue of a five-issue series.  It's still very well written and backed up by some consistently good artwork, but there's something that feels a little bit off.  Not to get ahead of myself, but looking at the oddly-abrupt ending in the next issue, I wonder if this was originally supposed to be an ongoing series. . .or maybe a six issue mini-series.  I'll get into that a bit more down below.  
 
In any case, this issue serves mainly to introduce new characters, Shadow Wing's new assignment, and some conflict within Shadow Wing itself as they are divided over the news of their fallen team member's betrayal of the Empire.  There's not much action to be found in this issue, but between the good military writing and the artist's solid facial work, this dialogue-heavy issue still delivers.
 
The backup story in this one is probably the best of the series, with Ganem and his grandmother talking about how Republics and Empires rise and fall, but the average person remains the same.  It's a really nice little macro view of the Star Wars "universe".
 

Overall, this one has a strange feel to it because it's introducing new characters, conflict, and storylines in the fourth issue of a five-issue series.  That said, it's still some very solid military science fiction backed up with some very nice art , both of which show that there doesn't have to be a lot of action to tell a good war story.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ISSUE FIVE

The Shadow Falls, Part 5

 
SCRIPT: Jody Houser
ART: Roge Antonio & Juan Gedeon (backup)
COVER: Tommy Lee Edwards
 
THE COVER:
 
WOW! For the final issue, Tommy Lee Edwards pulls out all the stops for some explosive battle action!  I like the giant Star Destroyer looming in the background a lot, but it's the brilliant colors with the smaller ships silhouetted against them that really sells this outstanding battle scene.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, we join Shadow Wing as they begin the attack on the mobile Rebel base used to rendezvous with Imperial defectors.  Their new recruits struggle to keep up with Shadow Wing's veterans, and one of them (Rac Syrmo) is shaken when his inexperience leads to the destruction of one of the bombers they are supposed to be escorting.
 
During the battle, Ganem's connection with the deceased Zin Graw causes him to stray from the mission as he seeks personal revenge, but he is brought back from the brink of insubordination by the skilled leadership of Commander Broosh.  
 
After the base is destroyed, Shadow Wing returns to their transport for debriefing, but their discussion of the events of the battle is cut short by a fleet-wide emergency announcement. . .the second Death Star has been destroyed by the Rebels and the Emperor is presumed dead!  
 
Commander Broosh maintains his squad's composure while panic ensues around them.  They are Imperial fighter pilots and THEIR command chain doesn't end with the Emperor.  We end the story with Shadow Wing wondering what is next for them.
 
The End.
 
In a short backup story set a few days before Shadow Wing's attack on the Rebel base, Commander Broosh and Jeela Brebtin discuss how both of them have a bad reputation.  His for surviving, hers for being cold and unapproachable.  They bond over the shared fact that nobody likes either of them.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
And so we come to the end of the comic book adventures of Shadow Wing.  They're (sort of) continued in the "Alphabet Squadron" and "Shadow Fall" novels (the first two of a trilogy).  But this review ain't about the novels, it's about these comics, so let's break it on down!
 
Truthfully, the ending of this series has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.  
 
It ends abruptly with the announcement of the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of the Emperor when it seems like those are major events that need a little more exploration. . .not to mention the dangling story threads of one of the new recruits causing Imperial casualties through his overconfidence and lack of skill, as well as Ganem's growing instability over the death of his lover and the budding relationship between Commander Broosh and Jeela.
 
That's not to say this is a bad issue by any means.  The story is well-written and engaging.  The art remains consistently outstanding.  This is still one fine piece of hard military science fiction.  The problem here is that it feels incomplete and unsatisfying.  There's too much meat left on the bone.  Too many things left behind that aren't explored in the novels (which focus on other units of the 204th).  The ending of this story is abrupt and not in keeping with the rest of the series.
 
In considering the ending of this series, I wonder if it actually IS complete.  It feels to me like there should be one more issue.  Five issues is sort of a strange number for a modern comic industry that tends to write for trade collections of six or twelve issues, as a general standard.  I'm wondering if this series was supposed to be a six issue mini, or even an ongoing series.  
 
It just seems strange that new characters, new relationships, new conflict, and new storylines are still being introduced in the fourth and even the last issue of a five-issue series.  The strangely-abrupt ending (on an unresolved cliffhanger) just sort of taints my enjoyment of the series as a whole.
 

Overall, what we have here is a sort of strange and abrupt ending for the series that makes the whole thing feel incomplete.  It's still a fine piece of hard military science fiction and very enjoyable to read, but introducing new conflicts and relationships in the final issue, and then ending on a cliffhanger, makes me wonder if there was supposed to be more to this.

CONCLUSION

 
I wondered when I started this review if a good Star Wars story could be told without flashing lightsabers and the powers of the force.  The answer is yes.  Of course, gritty military Star Wars comics HAVE been done before, with Dark Horse's "X-Wing: Rogue Squadron", but those stories focused on the Rebellion and gave us heroes to root for in their fight against the evil Empire.
 
Here, there are no heroes.  There is no glory.  This is a tale of military professionals relying on each other to get the job done.  It's very well written, has interesting characters, and some really good art.  The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. . .like the series is incomplete by at least one issue. . .but that doesn't take away from the fact that this just isn't a good Star Wars story, it's a good story period.
 
I'd go so far as to say that if you are NOT a fan of Star Wars, but enjoy military-style science fiction, then you'll probably enjoy this story as well.  It does away with most of the standard Star Wars trappings and boils things down to a personal level that will be familiar to just about anyone who has ever served in the military.  If you ARE a fan of Star Wars, then this is a great little story set in a familiar universe, but told in a little bit of a different way.  Either way, I give Star Wars: Tie Fighter an official Longbox Junk gold seal of approval.  Keep your eye out for it in the bargain bin and give it a try.
 
Up Next. . .
 
What happens when you mash up Zorro and H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos?
 
Let's find out!
 
Zorro: Rise of The Old Gods 4 issue mini-series.
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - One-Shots (Part 3)

759 views • Mar 11, '21 • (0) Comments

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

 
Let's cut the introduction short this time and take a look at another handful of one-shot comics from my collection.  If you're a regular reader of Longbox Junk, then you know that these are my all-time favorite kind of comic book.  One issue. . .one story.  Nowhere for a creative team to hide.
 
This time out I've got a half and half mix of superhero and science fiction comics. Let's do it!

ONE-SHOTS (Part 3)

 

STAR TREK:

OPERATION ASSIMILATION

Marvel (1997)

 
 
OPERATION ASSIMILATION
 
SCRIPT: Paul Jenkins
PENCILS: Steve Erwin
COVER: Hajime Sorayama
 
THE COVER:
 
For some reason, this cover seems to be trying a little TOO hard.  The main figure seems stiff and the "Collector's Item Issue" spatch on the left oversells the comic a bit and just dates this to the 90's more than anything.  That said, it's not a BAD cover.  It's nicely-drawn and I like the muted colors.  A Romulan Borg is also an intriguing promise, so let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
Moliok, Proud Daughter of the Seat of Tarek, patrols a backwater sector of Romulan Space near the Neutral Zone. . .in command of an outdated ship and tasked with putting down petty rebellions against Romulan Rule, far from the action and excitement of those preparing for the inevitable confrontation with The Federation, thanks to her political misfortune.
 
Suddenly, Moliok's luck changes when an unidentified ship intruding in Romulan space offers her a break from the grinding routine of frontier patrol.  She moves in to confront the giant cube-shaped ship as it destroys a scientific outpost.  Moliok quickly discovers that her attacks are incapable of harming the unidentified intruder, which is capable of repairing itself.
 
Caught in a tractor beam, Moliok is commanded to surrender her ship.  She refuses and decides to ram the cube after setting the self-destruct, but before she can do so, strange cybernetic beings transport aboard her ship.  A brutal and desperate hand to hand battle breaks out, but Moliok is unable to defeat the invaders.
 
She is taken aboard the cube and subjected to agonizing surgery, forcing her to join the collective of the alien "Borg".  When we next see Moliok, she is serving as a Borg emissary as the cube continues to destroy Romulan outposts.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This one-shot serves as a prequel to the late first season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Neutral Zone", which re-introduces the Romulans as a Federation foe to be reckoned with as outposts in the Neutral Zone are destroyed by an unknown enemy (revealed later to be the first off-screen appearance of The Borg).
 
The story itself is pretty straightforward and honestly a bit light.  It feels more like the first issue of an unfinished mini-series than a complete standalone story.  It's well-written and the character of Moliok is interesting, but it just feels like there should be more to it.
 
On the art side of things, it's not bad, but it's not particularly great either.  It's the kind of art that just tells the story and doesn't try to do anything other than that.  In other words, pretty average.
 
 
Overall, the most interesting thing about this story is seeing the Borg from another point of view that we didn't get from the T.V. show. . .which is one of the things I love about comic books!  And for that alone, I can recommend this story to any Star Trek fans (like me) out there who want just a LITTLE more background to the Borg arrival in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  If you're NOT a Star Trek fan, you'll probably just wonder where the rest of the story is.
 
So not a bad start.  Let's see what else we've got. 
 
NEXT!
 

FLASHPOINT:

GREEN ARROW INDUSTRIES

DC (2011)

 
 
GREEN ARROW INDUSTRIES
 
SCRIPT: Pornsak Pichetshote
PENCILS: Marco Castiello (Pgs. 1-5); Ig Guara (Pgs. 6-20)
COVER: Viktor Kalvachev
 
THE COVER:
 
The Flashpoint stories were all pretty much "Elseworlds" tales, and that's what this cover promises. . .a gun-toting Green Arrow with a fiendish grin who might or might not be a hero at all in the twisted world of Flashpoint.  It really makes me want to jump right in and see what's going on!  I also really like the green tone of the cover.  Very nicely-done.
 
THE STORY:
 
Billionaire Oliver Queen has made a fortune through Green Arrow Industries by using paramilitary teams to take down supervillains and transform their high-tech weaponry into military equipment for sale to the highest bidder.
 
When Queen's top secret testing facility comes under attack and his best friend, Roy Harper, is killed (along with a group of visiting U.S. Generals), Oliver equips himself with some of his retro-fitted villain weaponry and sets off in pursuit of the leader of the attack.
 
During a brutal battle in the jungle outside of the island facility with a strange woman armed with a bow, Oliver learns that the attack is to draw attention to the secret facility.  Green Arrow's weapons have caused death and destruction throughout the world and their inhumane corporate testing methods must be stopped.
 
Suddenly, Oliver realizes that HE'S become the villain!  He promises to end dealing in weapons and to use the technology for other purposes, but the mysterious woman just laughs at Queen's new pledge of "responsibility" before revealing that she's his daughter from the supervillain now known as Vixen and that he's been paying child support since she was born but has never seen her face before now.
 
Chastised, Oliver tries to allow his daughter to escape, but his security forces arrive on the scene and gun her down. . .devastating him as he resolves to change his life over her dead body.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Hmmmm. . .interesting.  Like I said above, all the Flashpoint stories are basically "Elseworlds" tales.  This one gives us Oliver Queen as. . .well. . .pretty much a Tony Stark clone.  I'd have to say that this was an interesting little slice of the overall Flashpoint "universe", but it's very derivative and feels incomplete, like it was meant to be the first issue of a 3 issue mini.  It's not BAD, but to be perfectly honest, the cover is the best part of this comic.
 
As far as the art goes, this is another comic with art that just tells the story and doesn't really try anything harder than that.  There's a few places that the art manages to elevate itself to just above "Pretty Good", but there's not many.
 

Overall, as a small slice of the short-lived Flashpoint "Universe", this is an interesting look at a decidedly unheroic Oliver Queen being forced to face his part in the suffering of the world.  As a one shot "Elseworlds" story, it feels incomplete and has an abrupt ending.  Like the Star Trek story above, it feels more like the first issue in an unfinished mini.  
 
I don't think I can recommend this to anybody except Green Arrow or Flashpoint completionists.  It just sort of feels like a fragment of an unfinished story.  It's interesting, but ultimately forgettable. 
 
NEXT!
 

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA:

PEGASUS

Dynamite (2007)

 
 
PEGASUS
 
SCRIPT: Brandon Jerwa
PENCILS: Jonathan Lau
COVER: Photo
 
THE COVER:
 
A very nice photo cover of actress Michelle Forbes as Admiral Helena Cain, Commander of the only other remaining Battlestar, from Battlestar Galactica's second season.  If you're a big fan of the "re-imagined" BSG like I am, then this photo alone promises a chilling look at the dark places the fight for survival can take a story.  The "Pegasus" storyline was one of the best of the whole series and getting even a bit more of it is an exciting proposition that makes me want to jump right in!
 
THE STORY:
 
Set about a year before the events of the 2004 Battlestar Galactica SyFy mini-series, we begin our tale aboard the Battlestar Pegasus in spacedock undergoing maintenance and a refit of her Viper attack ships.  
 
Her commander, Admiral Cain, is given an emergency mission to travel to the Cylon/ Human armistice line to investigate the disappearance of the Battlestar Chronos. . .which vanished while responding to a distress signal believed to have been from a stealth ship lost on a previous secret mission across the border between Cylon and Human space.
 
Setting out with severely-depleted fighter forces, Admiral Cain is taken by surprise when Cylon ships attack as the Pegasus approaches the wreckage of the Chronos.  After being severely damaged, the Pegasus flees the battle and follows a distress signal coming from a Colonial supply depot.
 
After a brutal battle between Cylon forces waiting in ambush near the depot and Pegasus' outnumbered Viper pilots, Admiral Cain sends a ground team to investigate the distress signal.  The ground team discover a scene of carnage and are themselves attacked by Cylon troopers laying in wait.  After narrowly escaping the ambush, they discover the lone human survivor, Admiral Tong, commander of the destroyed Battlestar Chronos.
 
Back aboard the Pegasus, Admiral Cain attempts to gain information from Admiral Tong, but he suffers a mental breakdown and commits suicide in front of her.  Seeing the amount of death and suffering from this single encounter with the Cylons, Cain realizes that the threat waiting for mankind is far greater than anyone has imagined.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay. . .not bad.  This is a nice, solid little piece of hard military sci-fi action.  Like the Star Trek comic above, it ties into the T.V. show (The 3rd season episode "Hero", which expands on the failed stealth ship mission mentioned in this comic). Existing Battlestar Galactica fans will get more out of this because, also like the Star Trek comic above, if you aren't a BSG fan, you'll just end up wondering where the rest of this story is at.
 
That said, if you ARE part of the target audience, then this comic reads like a lost episode of the series!  We get to see Admiral Cain in action before she became the hard and empty shell of a person we are introduced to during the "Pegasus" storyline on the show.  Here, she's shown simply as a strong, confident commander and it really sort of drives home how far into the darkness she went after the Pegasus escaped the Cylon destruction of the Colonies.  But like I said above, if you aren't a BSG fan, all that won't mean much to you.
 
On the art side of things. . .I'm a fan of Jonathan Lau's dynamic art style from his work on Dynamite's Green Hornet and Bionic Man series.  Unfortunately, this is not his best work.  It's not BAD, and his signature style is definitely on display for the more action-packed scenes, but for some reason a lot of the non-action scenes look sketchy and rough.  That and he never manages to capture the likeness of Michelle Forbes (the actress who plays Cain on the show).
 
 
 
Compare the top and middle panels to the cover to see what I mean
 
Overall, this is a comic that was definitely written for a specific audience. For existing Battlestar Galactica fans, this is a great little prequel story that reads exactly like a missing episode of the series.  So being a big BSG fan myself, this comic is a winner!  Unfortunately, if you aren't a BSG fan, the connections will mean nothing and what you'll end up with is a fragment of a decent hard military sci-fi story that (in its favor) MIGHT be good enough to make you want to check out the source material. 
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

GREEN LANTERN PLUS

DC (1996)

 

MAGNETIC PERSONALITIES
 
SCRIPT: Ron Marz
PENCILS: Scott Kolins
COVER: Scott Kolins
 
THE COVER:
 
Meh.  This one's just not doing much for me.  It seems a bit cluttered and messy.  I do like the brilliant colors of the main characters, but other than that, there's not much to write home about here, in my extremely humble opinion.  Let's hope what's inside is better.
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale as an isolated magnetic research station at the North Pole is attacked by a mysterious figure.  We then switch scenes to New York City, where Kyle Rayner (AKA Green Lantern) finds himself needing to rush an art assignment to Japan after missing a deadline.  
 
In the meantime, at a Philadelphia park, we find Ray Terrill (AKA The Ray) in an argument with his girlfriend over his never being around when she needs him.  The argument is interrupted by a strange magnetic event and Ray once again leaves his girl to follow the magnetic trail to its source.
 
After destroying a small island with a tidal wave, the mysterious figure from the North Pole heads to Tokyo, where he proceeds to wreak havoc before confronting and easily defeating Japan's newest hero, Arashi.  Green Lantern saves Arashi and then joins in the battle after recognizing his foe, Doctor Polaris.
 
As the battle rages through Tokyo, The Ray arrives on the scene to help Green Lantern and there's the team-up!  Leaving The Ray to fight Polaris, Green Lantern saves Tokyo from another tidal wave.  After Green Lantern returns, the two heroes compare notes from their solo battles against Polaris and attack him together, forcing Polaris' multiple personalities to fight themselves.
 
After Polaris falls victim to his inner battle, Green Lantern leaves him in the hands of The Ray as he finishes his own errand and recognizes the woman he was delivering his assignment to as Arashi, the Japanese superhero he rescued earlier.  We end the story knowing that Arashi also recognizes Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Hmmmm. . .okay.  What we have here is a pretty straightforward and extremely well-worn story path of "Heroes team up to fight a common enemy".  I'm actually surprised to find the "Heroes fight until they realize they're on the same side" team-up trope missing. . .so extra points there, I guess?  
 
What I'm trying to say is that this is a decent enough story, but one that's been told over and over and over and over and over and over and. . .well, you get the idea.  Most of the book is taken up with fight scenes, and at the end of the day nothing has changed for either hero.  It's a story you've read many times.
 
The only REAL interesting part of this was the Japanese hero, Arashi.  She's got a cool look and it seems like there was some potential there for her to be an interesting high-tech hero. . .unfortunately, when I searched for more stories with her in them, I discovered that this was her first, last, and only appearance.  DC sort of hit a foul ball there. Check her out. . .
 
 
As far as the art goes, I'd say it's probably the best part of this one-shot.  There's a lot of detail and interesting, cinematic angles that give things a great sense of motion.  The only thing I didn't like much art-wise was that the artist gives the youthful Kyle Rayner a grizzled look that makes him appear about forty years old.  Other than that, this comic has some great art and very nice colors.
 

Overall, this is a pretty by the numbers superhero team-up.  It's the sort of thing you read and forget about not long afterward.  It does have some very nice art, it's a sort of unusual team-up, and it's pretty fun, but it's basically comic book junk food.  If you're a big Green Lantern or Ray fan, then definitely keep your eye out for this one.  For anyone else. . .don't pay more than a buck if you REALLY want to check it out.
 
CONCLUSION
 
So there you have it.  Another handful of Longbox Junk one-shots.  Overall, I'd have to say that this bunch didn't fare as well as the last couple of batches I went through (Read HERE and HERE ).  There aren't any BAD ones, it's just that the only one that doesn't feel like an unfinished mini-series is the Green Lantern/Ray team-up.  The rest read like unfinished story fragments.
 
Granted, if you're a big Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica fan like myself, you'll get significantly more mileage out of those two one-shots. . .but not everybody is going to know where and how those stories connect with their television counterparts, so it's not fair for me to judge them any differently as one-shots needing to tell a complete story in a single issue.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I think I'm done with one-shots for now.
 
It's been a while since I dug into a mini-series.  But which one?
So many to choose from! I'll figure it out, though.
 
Be there or be square!

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

 
It's been a while.  How about we crank up the paper time machine and take a little trip back in time for a Longbox Junk Retro Review?  Ready? 
 
*Puts on ridiculous steampunk goggles*
 
LET'S DO THIS! *Pulls gigantic lever*
 
WEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO-WEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOOOOO!
 
And here we are. . .1966!  Watch your step when exiting the cabin.  
 
We've come to the sixties to take a look at the single issue Gold Key put out featuring a character called G-8 and his sidekicks, The Battle Aces.  I bought this comic as part of an auction lot several years ago and have absolutely no idea who G-8 is. . .but part of the fun of doing these Longbox Junk Retro Reviews is being able to educate myself a little bit through these older comics in my collection, and then passing that along.  So bear with me for a moment.
 
A bit of research shows me that G-8 is a character hailing from the pulp fiction era, with 110 (!) books featuring the character written by Robert J. Hogan between 1933 and 1944. . .meaning he wrote a full book roughly every month for ten years straight!  I can barely manage to get a blog post out every week, so I stand and give the man a round of well-deserved applause!
 
G-8 himself is an American adventurer, spy, and aviator operating in the thick of World War I.  There's not much representation of WWI in comics. . .the only thing that jumps to mind are the "Enemy Ace" stories. . .so the setting is definitely an interesting choice.  
 
G-8 seems to have been fairly popular, but without the staying power of pop culture stalwarts such as The Shadow, Green Hornet, Tarzan, Zorro, and The Lone Ranger. . .characters also hailing from the same period.  I'd say he's more on the level of a Doc Savage, The Spider, or The Avenger. . .pulp fiction characters that were very popular in their time, but faded from view as the years went by.
 
One of the interesting things about G-8 is that through all the stories written about him, his true identity was never revealed!  He was always just G-8.  I'm not sure if there's any other character that I know of that can claim the same thing.  So I give a nod of appreciation toward Robert J. Hogan for keeping the mystery going for so long.
 
I'm not sure exactly WHY this comic exists.  It seems a bit of a strange bird.  It doesn't adapt any of the published G-8 stories, and even though it was written 20 years after the last G-8 novel, it seems to assume that the reader knows everything about the character already.  
 
That tone of assumption is sort of interesting and makes me wonder where the demand for this story came from.  It doesn't look like any of the original stories were reprinted until the 1970's, when Doc Savage reprints started fueling a resurgence of interest in pulp fiction, so it's a bit of a mystery to me how this obscure character was even in mind for a comic book.  Maybe someone on the editorial staff was a fan of the G-8 stories when they were younger.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Enough of that.  Let's take a look at this comic and see what's going on.

G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES

GOLD KEY (1966)

 
 
G-8 AND THE SECRET WEAPON
 
SCRIPT: Leo Dorfman
PENCILS: George Evans
INKS: Mike Peppe
COVER: ??? (George Wilson)
 
THE COVER:
 
There's no information out there on who painted this cover, but I'm going to hazard a guess of prolific Gold Key artist George Wilson, based on the resemblance of the main character to Wilson's version of Tarzan (and Korak, Son of Tarzan).  Wilson was also sort of fond of using dark orange as a background color.  So I'm fairly confident in my guess on this.  It's not exactly a burning question demanding an answer, but feel free to correct me if you have information otherwise. 
 
MOVING ALONG. . .
 
The cover itself is a glorious example of Gold Key's trademark painted covers.  I love the orange background, and the explosions are EPIC!  This is a cover packed full of motion and action brought to life by the painter.  It's not my favorite Gold Key cover (I'd say the King Kong one-shot from 1968 is my favorite I've seen so far), but it's definitely a great piece of eye-catching art.  Let's get inside and see what this is all about!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale during World War I, deep behind the German lines, as G-8 parachutes through the darkness after his plane is shot from the sky. . .
 

Disguising himself as a woodcutter, G-8 makes his way to the German field headquarters at Feldhausen.  His mission: to gain solid information regarding rumors of a massive German offensive.
 
Once inside the base, G-8 trails a German Lieutenant he overhears saying that he works in the planning department.  At the Lieutenant's house, G-8 knocks him out and then skillfully disguises himself as the German.
 
The next morning, G-8, in disguise, goes to the planning department. He quickly discovers that he's too late and the plans for the offensive are already being delivered to the front lines!
 
 
G-8 quickly pursues the German messengers in a stolen car.  He runs them off the road and steals the secret battle plans.  As he reviews them at a nearby inn, G-8 is baffled by a missing piece of information.  The plans call for a massive attack carried out by dozens of units. They are to strike after something first occurs. . .but that something is not described.
 
 
After making copies, G-8 heads to the front lines to deliver the plans to their original destination, to avoid suspicion.  While he is there, the allies attack.  G-8 uses the artillery fire as a distraction so that he can leave the German trenches and make his way across the dangerous stretch of no man's land in order to deliver the battle plans to the allied command.
 
 
Once across friendly lines, G-8 returns to his home base at Le Bourget Airfield, where he is reunited with his "Battle Aces" comrades. . .wingmen Nippy and Bull, and his manservant, Battle.  Reporting to Chief of Staff General Frazier, G-8 discusses the stolen battle plans and his concern over the missing information.  
 
Over G-8's protests, General Frazier decides to attack before dawn on the day of the planned German offensive, hoping to take them by surprise.  He orders G-8 and his men to take part in the attack.


The next morning, G-8 receives a frantic message from General Frazier.  It seems that G-8's fears of the missing information being part of some sort of German secret weapon have come true.  The allies are under attack and being decimated by an unknown force!
 
G-8 and his wingmen rush to the scene to find the allies in disarray as German forces move in to take over their abandoned positions.  G-8, Nippy, and Bull dive in on the attack!
 
 
A fierce battle against German fighter planes leads to G-8 being shot down over no man's land.  After making his way back to friendly lines, G-8 visits the field hospital in search of information about the attack. 
 
He discovers from terrified survivors that the weapon threw off showers of sparks and made a weird howling sound before massive explosions caused panic along the allied forces.
 

Wanting to learn more about the strange German weapon, G-8 once again disguises himself as a German soldier and infiltrates the units at the abandoned allied positions.  While there, he discovers a clue. . .a piece of metal in a bomb crater marked with the name of a manufacturing plant in the town of Steussel, behind enemy lines.
 
After evading suspicious German officers and killing a guard, G-8 escapes the German trenches and begins making his way toward Steussel to investigate the new information.
 
 
Once at Steussel, G-8 infiltrates the Rouse factory and witnesses trucks being loaded with crates of tiny aircraft engines.  Not sure what to make of it, he dodges guards and goes deeper. . .not realizing that the front lines have called the German Intelligence Director about a possible saboteur who killed a soldier on the front line and that might be headed toward Steussel.
 

IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
G-8's companions, Nippy and Bull are flying patrol when they spot a German Fokker.  After shooting it down, the dying pilot deliriously mumbles directions.  Nippy and Bull quickly realize that they have just been given the information that G-8 is risking his life behind enemy lines trying to gain. . .the location of the German secret weapon!
 

Back at Stuessel, G-8 has taken over a truck, disguised himself as the driver, and is following a convoy of vehicles that he believes is heading for the location of the German secret weapon.
 
Overhead, Nippy and Bull, flying a captured German plane that had been stored at their airfield, are headed toward the same destination.
 

As G-8 follows the convoy, they arrive at a hidden mountain valley with a base carved into the cliffs.  G-8 finally spots the German secret weapon. . .a gigantic zeppelin, but also having the wings of a heavier than air craft, all done up to look like a huge eagle!
 

As G-8 investigates the huge hangar containing the hybrid zeppelin bomber, he discovers that the miniature engines are being fitted onto bombs to make a kind of guided missile.  He also discovers his wingman Nippy in disguise as a German officer.  
 
Nippy leads G-8 to where he and Bull have hidden their captured German plane and the three of them form a plan. . .attack with the German plane and drop down onto the zeppelin during the confusion and take it over, then use it and the guided bombs to attack the German front lines after destroying the base.
 

The plan to capture the hybrid zeppelin and destroy the hidden base goes as planned, with the bomber raining complete destruction down on the Germans, but before they can turn the weapon on to the front lines, a stray shot ignites the hydrogen gas.
 

 
 
Nippy and Bull manage to escape before the gigantic bomber explodes.  Afterward, as they survey the wreckage and consider the devastating guided bombs, G-8 knows that the Germans aren't done with their diabolical schemes, and this is just the beginning.
 

 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Hmmmm. . .okay.  Not bad.  Not great, mind you, but not too bad. 
 
What we have here is a decent little war story that remains very readable even 55 years later and me coming in with very little information on the main characters (just what was in a Wikipedia article).  
 
G-8 is an interesting character that reads like a WWI James Bond as he dons disguises, infiltrates the enemy, and makes narrow escapes by using misdirection and his own considerable wit.  Throw in some aerial combat in rickety WWI biplanes and you have a pretty exciting war story in an interesting setting.
 
Unfortunately, no comic is perfect and this comic is no exception.
 
While the main meat of the story is good, there are a couple of elements that fall flat.  The objective of G-8's efforts. . .the German secret weapon. . .is the worst offender.  There doesn't seem to be a clear reason as to why their gigantic hybrid airplane/airship has to be done up like an eagle.  It just seems silly and doesn't make sense except as a visual cue that the Germans are insane.  And really, it just seems like putting a hat on a hat when you consider that the rocket-powered bombs are the ACTUAL secret weapon.
 
The tone of assumption that the reader already knows everything about the character (that I mentioned above in the introduction) is the second most obvious stumbling block keeping this story at the level of "Pretty Good".  The comic reads less like something meant to introduce and interest readers in a new character and more like an issue of a comic in the middle of a long-running series.  There ARE small bits of exposition scattered here and there, but no more than a few sentences of it before heading back into the story.
 
That said, even with those two major missteps, the writing is good.  The dialogue is snappy.  The story moves along at a brisk pace from scene to scene.  It's not a bad little story at all. . .it just could have been better with a bit more attention from the editor.
 
On the art side of things. . .
 
It's a sad fact that although Gold Key had some of the greatest covers in comic history, the interior art can never come close to what is promised on the front.  This comic is no exception.
 
That said, the art in this comic is actually better than what's to be found in many Gold Key comics.  It follows a rigid and unimaginative panel structure, but the art itself is dark and moody.  Nicely-inked and surprisingly well-colored where a lot of Gold Key comics can be a bit sloppy and heavy-handed on the colors.  The scenes of aerial combat are particularly well-done.  It's not the best comic art I've ever seen, but it tells the story well without distracting from it. . .for the most part.
 
There IS one strange thing about the art that caught my eye and brought me out of the story a bit wherever it popped up.  If you scroll up and look at the scanned pages above, take note of the German helmets.  They look oddly different. . .like they were added later, possibly by the inker.  They just don't look right.
 
Other than the strange German helmets, the art in this comic is pretty solid.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, G-8 and His Battle Aces is a pretty good war story with an unusual WWI setting and featuring a main character that makes his way through the tale with an interesting mix of disguise, deception, and wit.
 
Assuming the reader knows everything about G-8 coming into the tale, as well as some pretty ridiculous visuals on the German secret weapon that is the main narrative drive, keep the story down at the level of "Pretty Good". But even with those couple of stumbles, this is still a decent read.
 
I got this comic as a random part of a comic lot at an estate sale auction, but I see that there are copies to be found for sale online for around twenty bucks.  If you are a fan of war comics and want something a little on the unusual side, then definitely keep an eye out for G-8 and His Battle Aces.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I don't think I'm quite done with one-shots yet. 
Let's take a look at another handful, shall we?  We shall!
 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - One-Shots (Part 2)

990 views • Feb 18, '21 • (1) Comment

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and nobody asked me to review them!

 After spending several months grinding through all sixty issues of Marc Spector: Moon Knight, I've decided to cleanse my palate a bit by returning to my favorite kind of comic. . .One shots!  Tight little packages of comic book goodness where the creative team is tasked with giving the reader a complete story in one and only one issue.   

With a single issue to work with, the creative team has nowhere to hide.  It's easy to fail, but when the team is up to the task, the results can be some of the best stories to be found in comics.  

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Longbox Junk - One-Shots (part 1)

840 views • Feb 9, '21 • (0) Comments

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

I've said it before and I'm gonna say it again.  Of all the different kinds of comic books out there, I'd have to say that my ultimate favorite is the one-shot.  To me, the one shot is a supreme test for a creative team. 

 By giving a team one and ONLY one issue to tell a complete tale, their storytelling ability is put to the test.  There's nowhere to hide.  No room for error.  To fail the test is easy, and actually pretty common.  There's PLENTY of bad one-shots haunting the bargain bins.  But when a team succeeds?  It's often pure Longbox Junk gold!

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

So for the last few months I've been on a bit of a journey. . .a deep dive into the 60 issue Marc Spector: Moon Knight series.  In years past, I've come across about a dozen random issues of this series out Longbox Junkin' through the bargain bins, but recently I was able to fill the gaps and complete the run thanks to another comic shop going out of business and selling all their back issues for a single lousy buck.

Yeah. . .it was a serious case of Longbox Junk overload THAT day.  I spent about $800 on comics.  I think I MIGHT have a problem.  No, not that sort of problem. . .a storage problem!  BUT I DIGRESS!

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I HAD TO SPLIT THIS REVIEW UP INTO TWO PARTS BECAUSE I'M A LOUSY EDITOR AND BROKE COMIC BOOK REALM'S WORD LIMIT AGAIN.  YOU CAN FIND PART 6A (Issues 51 - 55) IN THE BLOG LINKS TO THE LEFT.

ISSUE FIFTY-SIX

 
SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: Stephen Platt
INKS: Chris Ivy, Al Vey & Scott Koblish
COVER: Stephen Platt
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Moon Knight is fighting Seth (The Immortal) Phalkon, who looks just like Marc Spector!  During the fight, Moon Knight reveals that he's actually Marc Spector, leading Phalkon to reveal in turn that he is Marc's great-grandfather, and that Marc is the last of a line of Hellbent/Human hybrids!  Seth tries to drain Marc's life force, but there is some sort of bio-feedback explosion that sends Moon Knight out the window. . .
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .Frenchie (AKA Bloodline) is using Shadowkeep's computers and Shadow Cabinet medical contacts to try and find answers as to why he transformed into the brutal form of Pierre Latrec instead of the swashbuckling Henri Remont, and if there's any way to control the Bloodline transformations.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .we catch up with Chloe (AKA Frenchie's former lover and a secret Templar warrior) training with three renegade Hellbent (called Vortex, Shard, and Dementia) who have joined the Templar cause and now call themselves "The Cadre".
 
BACK AT PHALKONCORP. . .Moon Knight survives the fall through the window and begins to make his way back up to keep fighting Seth.  On the way, he tries to contact his Shadow Cabinet and discovers that PhalkonCorp ALREADY has a direct link to Shadowkeep. . .one of the Shadow Cabinet is a traitor!  
 
He calls them together for one last meeting, but when he's unable to discover the mole, he severs all contact with them permanently.  As he does so, he accidentally discovers that Marlene is actually the one who gave PhalkonCorp the inside connection!
 
WHILE THIS IS GOING ON. . .Frenchie is interrogating the captured Hellbent called Agony, desperately trying to find answers about the Templar/Hellbent conflict and his place in things.  He discovers that the Hellbent originate from a place hidden in the Amazon rain forest called Hellhole, so he takes the jet and heads for South America to investigate. At the same time, Marlene is at her penthouse apartment, agonizing over her part in helping hand over SpectorCorp to Phalkon.  Marc Spector appears, but he's acting strange.  
 
BUT THEN. . .Moon Knight ALSO appears at the penthouse and the other "Marc" is revealed to be Phalkon.  To Marlene's horror, Seth reveals his true demonic nature as he and Moon Knight battle.  She helps to defeat Seth by attacking him with the weapons of Moon Knight's Angelwing aircraft, but before Marlene and Marc can talk about what's happened, a mysterious voice calls out to Moon Knight and he disappears (for an Infinity Crusade crossover next issue) into thin air!
 
Before Marlene can begin processing what just happened, a reptilian Hellbent called Hook attacks, rescuing Seth and throwing Marlene off the roof!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
First, there's no denying that's one SWEET cover! It makes fairly regular appearances on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" display in my office at work.  Probably the best cover of the whole series, in my humble opinion.
 
Like I said last issue, it's pretty clear that Kavanagh is having to shift gears in order to emulate the edgier and action-packed Image style that Platt's art is pushing.  This means a LOT of exposition as he changes focus toward the demonic Hellbent becoming the main antagonists of the story. . .giving Moon Knight (and by extension, Stephen Platt) plenty of awesome monster fights to engage in as this series staggers toward the rapidly-approaching finish line.  
 
And yet, even as the story takes a back seat to the art, Kavanagh STILL can't give up on the idea of making a permanent mark on the Moon Knight "canon".  His making Marc Spector discover he's actually a demon/human Hellbent hybrid himself in this issue is ridiculous and reeks of a writer desperately trying to make ANYTHING he's done stick.  Unfortunately (for Kavanagh, anyway), this ill-advised Hellbent "revelation" was never referenced again outside of this series.  
 
 
Overall, it's a mess.  Ridiculous revelations out of nowhere about Marc Spector's half-demon Hellbent ancestry fly in the face of just about everything that's EVER previously been established about the character. Add in distracting art and a new all-action. . .all monster-fightin' focus and it makes this issue a hard one to get through. At this point, I'm only still in this because there's just 4 issues to go and I ain't a quitter!
 
AND NOW IT'S CROSSOVER TIME AGAIN!
 

ISSUE FIFTY-SEVEN

 
BLACK SHEEP
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: Stephen Platt
INKS: Chris Ivy, Al Vey & Scott Koblish
COVER: Stephen Platt
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Marlene is rescued from falling to her death by Marc Spector's personal assistant, Donna Kraft. . .who just so HAPPENS to be an old friend and college rival of Marlene's.  They decide to team up and prevent PhalkonCorp from taking over SpectorCorp.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .Moon Knight arrives at Paradise Omega, where he is informed that he has been chosen (along with many other heroes) for a chance at redemption for his sins by a being called "The Goddess" (Who is actually another manifestation of Adam Warlock left over from Infinity War).  He waits at Goddess' Cathedral to be called to duty.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .Frenchie and his captive Hellbent, Agony, are flying over the Amazon rain forest toward Hellhole. . .the realm of the Hellbent.  Agony taunts Frenchie to the point that the stress activates the "Bloodline" trigger in his DNA, transforming him into his pirate ancestor, Henri Remont.
 
Agony uses the confusion of the transformation to make her escape by ejecting from the jet, while Bloodline/Remont struggles with the unfamiliar controls of the aircraft before crashing in the jungle!
 
Agony makes her way to the nearby hidden temple entrance to Hellhole, where the badly-wounded Seth Phalkon (AKA Seth the Immortal)  has been taken by the Hellbent Hook after his losing battle with Moon Knight in New York.  Agony sacrifices herself to Seth, letting him drain her life force to atone for her failure and letting herself get captured.
 
WHILE ALL THAT'S GOING ON. . .Back with Moon Knight at Paradise Omega, the Goddess calls a group of heroes from the gathering to "Enlighten" a non-believer in their ranks.  Moon Knight isn't part of the group called, but he demands his chance for redemption and jumps into the portal they are teleporting through.  When they arrive, Moon Knight is informed that even though he wasn't invited, the Goddess is amused and willing to give him his chance.  All he has to do is take down his old friend, Spider-Man!
 
Moon Knight (along with X-Factor mutant, Multiple Man) pursues Spider-Man, trying to prevent him from reaching the Goddess' Cathedral. . .but in the end, Moon Knight loses the running battle and is teleported away from Paradise Omega for his failure.
 
BACK IN NEW YORK. . .Chloe's "Cadre" of turncoat Hellbent are attacked by the Templar Shadowspawn called Manx.  They put up a good fight, but are defeated.  Chloe steps in at the last moment and prevents Manx from killing the Hellbent. . .telling him that since she's the only Templar in New York, she's in command of him now and he'll be joining their fight that they plan on taking to Seth The Immortal in Hellhole.
 
At the end of things, we find Marc Spector in some sort of limbo begging for another chance at redemption and being taunted by The Goddess until he finally admits that he's not even fully human and doesn't deserve her mercy.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This issue is probably the most "valuable" to collectors who care about these things.  It has a very nice Todd McFarlane "homage" Spider-Man cover, and it's a tie-in to "Infinity Crusade", the third part of the MASSIVE "Infinity" Trilogy of crossovers (thank goodness it's only one issue).  Even so, I fail to see why this muddled mess of a comic is worth about $70 raw (according to the fine folk of COMIC BOOK REALM ) and upwards toward $200 for a graded copy (According to Ebay).  I got mine from a dollar box, so how-bow-dat?
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Collector "Value" aside, there's honestly not much to like about this issue.  Beyond the crossover aspects. . .which receive absolutely NO context in the issue itself, unlike the Infinity War issues where there was at least an ATTEMPT to get readers up to speed. . .just about all that's going on here is herding Moon Knight and his supporting cast toward "Hellhole" in Brazil for what promises to be a climactic showdown with Seth the Immortal.  Okay.  Fair enough.  It's set-up.  
 
The problem here is that the main villain and the conflict around him just isn't very interesting.  90% of this issue is action. . .it bounces from scene to scene and doesn't give the reader time to care about ANYTHING.  Hardly surprising. Since issue #55 the story has taken a back seat to the artwork anyway. The convoluted and ridiculous plot only serves as an extremely flimsy framework to hang monster-fightin' action scenes on at this point.
 
Unfortunately, for a comic trying to lean hard on the new artist, his work in this issue is pretty inconsistent. . .with a few panels looking sketchy and unfinished.  Generally-speaking, compared to the past couple of issues (where the art was distracting, but pretty good in a 90's-tastic way), this one looks a bit half-baked.  
 
Nice cameo by "unfortunate 90's costume with that infamous bewb window" Sue Storm, though.
 
Overall, we have a comic that is inconsistent in both art and story (the "rules" for Frenchie's Bloodline transformations are just swingin' in the wind), with about half the issue (the Infinity Crusade elements)  having almost no context at all.  This may be a pretty "Valuable" issue to comic collectors, but for actual comic READERS, it's pretty lacking.
 
CROSSOVER DONE.  NEXT!
 

ISSUE FIFTY-EIGHT

 
DEATH IN THE FAMILY
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: Fred Haynes
INKS: Scott Koblish
COVER: Stephen Platt
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Moon Knight is teleported away from the Infinity Crusade and back to Earth. He very conveniently appears in the Amazon, right where all the rest of his supporting cast are at, right in the tunnels leading to Hellhole!  He doesn't know why he's there, all he knows is that there's a bunch of monsters he needs to punch standing in front of him!  So he starts punching monsters.
 
MEANWHILE. . .Above Hellhole, we learn the Frenchie survived the crash of his jet by bailing out in a high tech "Micro-Tank" that he just HAPPENED to have aboard.  He uses the tank to storm the entrance to Hellhole, blasting his way through the Hellbent guards.  Unknown to Frenchie, Chloe, Manx, and the three rogue Hellbent calling themselves "The Cadre" are following behind Frenchie. . .letting him destroy the guards as he assaults Hellhole in search of the missing Templar archives.
 
Frenchie eventually runs into Seth The Immortal and his bodyguard of more powerful Hellbent known as Hellbent Primes.  A battle breaks out and Frenchie is defeated by the greater power of Seth and the Hellbent Primes.  But as Seth tries to deliver the killing blow, Frenchie's Bloodline DNA triggers and he transforms into the savage form of his insane ancestor, Pierre Latrec!  He begins punching monsters with renewed vigor!
 
AND THEN. . .Chloe and her rogue Hellbent allies jump into the fight, giving Bloodline/ Latrec, the chance to escape while they take over punching monsters so he can continue searching for the hidden Templar archives . . .even though it's not really clear WHY.  Seeing that the battle is lost, Seth teleports away.  
 
WHILE THAT'S GOING ON. . .Moon Knight has managed to fight his way through the Hellbent guards, but then runs into Bloodline/ Latrec. . . not realizing it's actually the transformed Frenchie.  Moon Knight thinks Bloodline is just another sort of monster that needs punched, while at the same time Bloodline thinks Moon Knight is ALSO some sort of new Hellbent guard keeping  him from the archives that needs punched.  The two begin punching each other.
 
Moon Knight is all but beaten by the savage Latrec, but just as he's about to be defeated, he embraces his Human/Hellbent nature and drains Bloodline's life force. . .only to watch, horrified, as Latrec transforms back into Frenchie, who is apparently dead!  Seth steps forward from the shadows where he's been watching the fight the whole time, congratulating Marc on finally giving in to his true nature.
 
To be continued. . . 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Most of this issue revolved around Moon Knight, Frenchie, and Chloe fighting their way through Hellbent and converging on the Templar archives, so there was very little story to be had. . .most of the dialogue was various Hellbent monsters shouting out what their powers are as they attack, and Moon Knight and company shouting back as they punch their way through.  The climax is wrapped around Marc Spector embracing his hybrid Hellbent/Human nature by using his new demonic powers. . .and that's the biggest problem with this issue.
 
Terry Kavanagh's last minute "Hail Mary" attempt to put his permanent mark on Moon Knight by turning him into a half human/half demon hybrid with life-draining powers is SUCH a big pill to swallow that I no longer find it surprising that this run of Moon Knight comics is hardly mentioned or referenced ANYWHERE.  Even the general Wikipedia article on Moon Knight comics barely touches on this series and is mostly a reference to Stephen Platt in the FOUR sentences devoted to the entire 60 issues.  It seems that the comic world just sort of wants to forget this run ever even existed, for all the information there is to be found on it NOT mentioning Platt.
 
Speaking of the only reason this series is ever even mentioned in passing. . .Stephen Platt just does the cover on this issue (and the next).  It seems that Mr. Platt was notorious for missing deadlines and even on his big comic debut, he needed a fill-in artist for 1/3 of the issues he worked on.  No wonder he pretty much vanished from the comic business in 2003 after taking roughly 3 years between issue #5 and #6 of his own Image series, SOUL SAGA .
 
To tell the truth. . .I like the simpler, cleaner lines of fill-in artist Fred Haynes better.  A shame when a comic's biggest selling point gets outdone by a temp.
 
But I think someone forgot to tell Haynes that Moon Knight is supposed to be wearing armor.
 
Overall, we have an issue that stands as a sort of testament as to why this series is barely mentioned. Terry Kavanagh trying to create a half human/half demon Marc Spector as a last-ditch effort to make a permanent mark on the character finally broke the camel's back.  He should have quit trying after the Moonmobile.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE FIFTY-NINE

 
BAD BLOOD
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: Fred Haynes
INKS: Fred Haynes & Scott Koblish
COVER: Stephen Platt
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Moon Knight is horrified do discover that he used his new demonic powers to drain the life from his best friend, although to be fair, Frenchie WAS attacking him in the form of a gigantic humanoid monster.  Moon Knight's rage kicks things up a notch and he renews his attack on Seth the Immortal (AKA Marc Spector's half-demon great grandfather).
 
Chloe, Manx, and her Hellbent Cadre show up and save Frenchie. . .er. . .Bloodline as Marc and Seth fight their way toward the Templar Archive and you know what?  This story has become so  unhinged that I don't even want to continue.  It's just basically an extremely flimsy framework to hang the constant monster-fightin' scenes on that the new hotshot artist couldn't even bother to come in and draw.
 
But I guess here we are, so I'll boil it on down quick just so I can be done with it.  Everyone discovers that the Templar Archives are nothing more than a mirror.  Moon Knight defeats Seth.  Bloodline reveals that the Archives were inside him this whole time.  For some reason, the whole place starts falling in. Seth dies in a most anti-climactic way as he's buried in rubble. Moon Knight and Company escape via a hidden magical Templar portal just in the nick of time.  Then we get an epilogue showing that Donna Kraft and Marlene Alraune are now the joint owners of SpectorCorp. Aaaaand. . .that's it.
 
To be concluded. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I've spent more time than literally ANYONE else trying to decipher the bizarre plot of this series and write it out so it makes sense as it gasps and wheezes its way to the finish line.  The nonsense in this issue has FINALLY made me lose patience. 
 
It's a strange thing in that the storyline is convoluted, yet at the same time, flimsy and weak.  I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it.  The writer just keeps piling more and more stuff on!  I called it bizarre a few line up, and that's really the best way to describe it.  How else to describe a narrative that introduces a NEW story thread about a powerful "Hellbent Prime" leader called Nightshadow (his introduction pictured below) out of nowhere, with literally no context. . .POOF!  HERE'S THIS NEW GUY! In the next to last issue of the series?  
 
And that's just one example! There are actually two MORE storylines starting in this issue that I'm not even going to get into.  The series is almost over and it's time to tie up story threads. . .not to just keep on adding them!
 
Reading this issue is sort of like secretly listening in on three nine year old kids having a G.I. Joe battle in a backyard sandbox and trying to make sense of their rambling narrative as they slam their toys into each other.
 
Wait. . .now who is THIS guy? Isn't this series all but over?
 
Overall, trying to make sense of this issue made my head hurt.  The flimsy, yet overloaded, story in this issue would definitely be a contender for a "Top 10 Worst Longbox Junk Comics of The Year", if I decided to actually make such a list (and now I'm thinking about it, I might just do that). As far as I'm concerned, I'm just glad that this whole misguided storyline will be put out of its misery soon.  This went really wrong really fast.  
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ISSUE SIXTY

 
THE FINAL PHASE
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: Stephen Platt
INKS: Stephen Platt
COVER: Stephen Platt
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Moon Knight and Company have escaped the destruction of Hellhole through a Templar portal that sends them all directly to Moon Knight's Shadowkeep headquarters, where Marlene is waiting for them (dressed in a spandex superhero costume for some reason. . .making this issue a teeth-gritting read right from the FIRST couple of pages).
 
While Marlene reunites with Marc and tells him that he's no longer in control of SpectorCorp, Chloe, Frenchie, and their Hellbent Cadre allies discuss the future.  Frenchie revels in his new Bloodline powers unlocked by the discovery of the Templar archives (powers that will never be mentioned again in any Moon Knight story).  Chloe and the Cadre decide to carry out a mission to search out any remaining Hellbent and either destroy them or try to recruit them to the Templars (A mission that we will never know anything more about since this is the last time Chloe or the Cadre are ever mentioned).
 
Marc and Frenchie have a heart to heart talk, where Marc reveals that he's half-demon (something never mentioned again) and THAT might be what saved him from death all those years ago instead of Khonshu.  Frenchie tells Marc that he's to call him Bloodline from now on (until the next Moon Knight series, where he's just Frenchie again) and that he's now just as much a bad@$$ hero as Moon Knight (Again, until the next series where he's just a helicopter pilot).
 
BUT THEN!
 
Seth The Immortal (who everyone thought was dead) appears on Shadowkeep's computer monitors, along with a countdown to "Zero Hour", which Seth (somehow now alive as a computer construct) gleefully informs Moon Knight is when his electronic "techno-mutation" consciousness will spread from Shadowkeep and ACROSS THE WHOLE WOOOOOOORLD!  
 
Moon Knight sets the self-destruct as everyone evacuates.  Shadowkeep is destroyed in a massive explosion, but the Hellbent Cadre use their powers to keep the damage to the surrounding area to a minimum.  Unfortunately, Marc didn't make it out in time, and. . .well. . .he's dead, Jim.
 
A sad epilogue at Marc Spector's grave tells us that Marlene will use SpectorCorp's money to be the force for justice that Moon Knight tried to be (At least until the next Moon Knight story, where SpectorCorp is dissolved by Marc after he rises from the dead AGAIN. . .but THAT'S another tale).  
 
An epilogue to the epilogue gives Moon Knight fans one final last moment kick in the teeth by revealing that the powerful Hellbent leader called Nightshadow that appeared out of nowhere last issue is actually. . .wait for it. . .wait for it. . .here it comes. . .Randall Spector! And we're finally done with this mess.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Thank Gawd it's over.  
 
These final two issues have been some of the hardest comics I've gritted my teeth through in quite a while.  There's a LOT of dangling story threads here that lead me to believe that either Marvel had plans for another series focusing on Chloe and the Hellbent that never happened or that Terry Kavanagh was being a bit petty and trying to make it hard on the next Moon Knight writer.  Maybe a bit of both. But if it WAS Kavanagh being petty, it didn't work.  The next Moon Knight story pretty much just ignores this whole run, beyond Moon Knight being dead and having to be resurrected again.
 
The "story" in this issue is beyond ridiculous. . .starting right off with Marlene wearing a skin tight spandex superhero suit (see below) for no apparent reason.  There's no explanation given for why or how Seth has suddenly transformed from an immortal vampiric demon into an electronic "techno-mutation" consciousness.  
 
There's no real reason given as to why Moon Knight can't outrun a guy in a wheelchair to escape an explosion, or for that matter, why his shiny 90's Adamantium Superhero Armor couldn't save him from the blast. . .especially since it saved him from gigantic explosions in previous issues at least twice since he got it.  
 
And then there's Kavanagh's final middle finger to Moon Knight fandom on the last page of the issue. . .Randall Spector somehow brought back to life as an armored superhuman demonic creature.  
 
This issue was a sloppy mess from start to finish, but that final epilogue was just insulting.
 
 
Overall, this was probably one of the absolute worst final issues I've ever read.  The story is bizarre and, even in the LAST issue, Kavanagh can't resist trying to make permanent changes to the Moon Knight "canon" with dangling story threads and a last moment ridiculous reveal.  Worse, Stephen Platt's art (especially with him inking his own pencils) is extremely distracting and sometimes doesn't even fit what the characters are saying or doing.  
 
Between the continued attempts to force change to the permanent Moon Knight narrative and the over-indulgent artwork, this whole issue positively reeks of egotistic posturing by the creative team.  It's a pretty poor finish, to say the least.  The only good thing about this issue is that it's the last one.
 

CONCLUSION

 
And here we are. . .the end of Marc Spector: Moon Knight.  It's been a pretty long and strange trip from the beginning, but this final handful of issues pretty much tells me what I've been wondering from the first issue:  Why is there so little mention of this title, even though it stands as Moon Knight's longest-running series to date?
 
Well. . .now I know why.  By the time Marc Spector: Moon Knight limped over the finish line, writer Terry Kavanagh had twisted the character SO much in his constant efforts to make a permanent change that would stick, that Moon Knight was pretty much damaged beyond repair.  This is NOT the Moon Knight that Moon Knight fans wanted.  I would even go so far as to say that Moon Knight fans NEVER got the Moon Knight they REALLY wanted from issue one to issue done.
 
This last handful of ten issues pretty much boil down to a self-indulgent writer with an agenda of his own. Instead of trying to give fans what they wanted, Terry Kavanagh was obviously more concerned with what HE wanted for Moon Knight.  Add in a self-indulgent artist and the final few issues went from being a mess to being an egotistical disaster.
 
Frankly, I see it as a bit of miracle that Marvel didn't pull the trigger on a replacement Moon Knight or giving up and killing the character off earlier than they did.  Kavanagh must have been working some favors in the Marvel offices to keep this series staggering along past issue #47.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I didn't want to make this entry TOO much of a scroll bomb, so I'm going to go over my final thoughts on all sixty issues of Marc Spector: Moon Knight taken as a whole before I move along to something else.
 
Be there or be square!

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