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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place where I write comic book reviews even though nobody asked me to!  To be fair, nobody has asked me to STOP writing them yet, so there's that.

 
ANYWAY. . .
 
It's been a while since I tackled a whole series.  At one time, writing reviews of an entire comic series from issue one to issue done was the bread and butter of Longbox Junk.  Unfortunately, my free time at work (where I write these) tends to fluctuate in a big way. . .especially in summer. . .and Longbox Junk sort of gravitated toward single issue reviews with some mini-series thrown in here and there.
 
BUT. . .
 
Here we are. . .getting ready to jump into the 19 issues of Marvel's 1980 - 1983 run of King Conan.  By my former standards, it's not a long series.  I mean, I reviewed all SEVENTY issues of DC's Pre-New52 Jonah Hex run, right?  But for getting back into series reviews a little bit, 19 issues feels okay to start with.
 
The series at hand came out when Conan hit what was probably his comic book high with Marvel holding the license.  They had this title, Savage Sword of Conan, and the tentpole Conan the Barbarian series all on the stands at the same time (not to mention a Conan newspaper strip).  
 
There's a lot written on the other series, but not much about King Conan.  I'm not sure WHY, but there's almost nothing about this comic series on the internet beyond the most basic information about publishing dates and creative team credits.  Maybe because it came out in the 80s? I don't know.
 
Which is why I'm reviewing it.
King Conan.  Let's do this!

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART ONE: Issues 1-5
 
ISSUE ONE
(March 1980)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE WITCH OF THE MISTS
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
While on a hunting trip, King Conan of Aquilonia's first-born son and heir, Prince Conn, is taken captive by a mysterious old woman.  While searching for his son, Conan discovers a message telling him to follow the sign of the white hand to the northern land of Hyperborea if he wants Prince Conn returned alive.  And so Conan sets forth alone.
 
 
After fighting his way through dangerous marshes on the road to Hyperborea, Conan is led to a dark fortress, where he is reunited with his son.  The captive King and Prince soon discover the hand behind the plot to be none other than a foe from Conan's past, the sorcerer Thoth-Amon!  
 
Now at the head of a powerful group of wizards called The Black Circle, the capture of King Conan is part of a plan to ruin the Western Kingdoms.  Conan and Conn are led before Thoth-Amon and other leaders of the Black Circle, where Conan is forced to fight their fanatic followers for their amusement.
 

 
 
During the fight, Conan manages to escape and wreak havoc on the gathered sorcerers, killing them all except Thoth-Amon, who manages to escape just before Conan's right hand man, Prospero, and a band of the King's Guard arrive.
 
Conan has rescued his son and eliminated a threat on his northern border, but he has been made aware of the bigger threat of Thoth-Amon and his Black Circle.  What will they do next?
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
THIS is how you start a comic series!  This first issue kicks in the door with action, adventure, and intrigue.  It's everything a Conan fan could possibly want in a comic!
 
The definitive Marvel Conan team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema start this series off in grand style with a story that is engaging to read and wonderful to look at from the first page to the last!  
 
There is absolutely NOTHING I don't like about this issue.  It's pure Conan fun, and it makes me want to get right into the next issue.  What a great start!
 
 
ISSUE TWO
(June 1980)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE BLACK SPHINX OF NEBTHU
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
After a failed attack on an Aquilonian border kingdom, King Conan suspects sorcery at hand.  He enlists the aid of a druid and sets forth with an army to the ruins of Nebthu, in Stygia.  He has learned from the druid that his enemy, Thoth-Amon was behind the failed attack and has his lair with the magicians of his Black Ring at Nebthu.
 
 
Arriving at the ruins of Nebthu and joined by his son, Conn, Conan discovers a secret door in a gigantic statue of a black jackal.  Conan and his company enter a twisted maze of tunnels beneath the ruins, eventually coming to a large arena, where Thoth-Amon and his black magicians finally spring their trap!
 
But Conan has brought his own magician. . .the druid.  And so, a battle between white magic and black ensues in the darkness while Stygian troops attack Conan's encamped men by surprise above!  Conan sways the sorcerous battle to his side when he reveals that he has brought the Heart of Ahriman. . .a powerful talisman that Thoth-Amon covets.
 
 
 
With his black wizards destroyed by the combined power of the druid's magic and the talisman, Thoth-Amon makes a hasty escape, but not before summoning a gigantic jackal monster!  
 
As Conan and company flee the huge beast and make their way to the surface, the monster attacks indiscriminately, mowing through the Stygian troops before returning to its hidden underground lair.
 
Despite taking heavy losses, Conan is determined to pursue Thoth-Amon and bring an end to his plots once and for all.  And so, Conan sets for with his son and the remains of his army for the mysterious southeastern land of Zembabwei, following the directions of the druid, who takes his leave of Conan.
 
To be Continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Thomas, Buscema, and Chan keep up the momentum of the first issue with a second that actually gives the reader even MORE action, adventure, and intrigue, backed up with incredible Bronze Age artwork!  This issue had me hooked even harder than the first, right from the opening page! 
 
So far, the two opening issues of this series have delivered everything I could ever want in a great Conan adventure, and it makes me want to get right into the next issue. . .so let's do it!
 
ISSUE THREE
(September 1980)
COVER: John Buscema 
 
RED MOON OF ZEMBABWEI!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Danny Bulanadi
 
As they continue their pursuit of Thoth-Amon into the mysterious southlands, King Conan and his Aquilonian troops are taken by surprise during a night attack by flying lizard like creatures and their human riders!
 
During the attack, Conan and his son, Conn are taken prisoner and flown to the mysterious city of Zembabwei.  There they are taken before Thoth-Amon and his ally, the savage wizard-king,  Nenaunir.  Conan and Conn are sentenced to die. . .sacrificed to the snake , Damballah (the same serpent worshipped by Thoth-Amon as Set) during the Red Moon twelve nights hence!
 
 
While imprisoned in the dungeons beneath Zimbabwei, Conan makes friends with a prisoner in another cell named Mbega.  Mbega is the twin brother of Nenaunir, and has been imprisoned for attempting to revolt against his brother's iron-fisted rule.  
 
In the meantime, Conan's troop arrives at Zimbabwei after ten days.  Conan's friends Trocero and Pallantides despair at the heavily fortified city but hatch a plan to secretly infiltrate the fortress by way of the sewers using the rogue's skills of Murzio of Zingara. . .another of Conan's companions travelling with them.
 
On the eve of Conan and Conn's sacrifice, Murzio manages to find their cell in the dungeon, but is unable to unlock it.  Conan has the thief free Mbega instead, hoping that the King's brother can raise the population of the city against its hated ruler.
 
 
Conan and Conn are brought before Thoth-Amon, King Nenaunir, and the gathered priests of Zembabwei at the altar of the serpent Damballah.  As the moon turns blood red and the priests chant, Conan struggles to free himself and his son as the spirit of Damballah forms and begins to squeeze the life out of Conan!
 
While Conan struggles for his life against the serpent 's avatar, Conn manages to strike down King Nenaunir, ending the summoning spell and saving his father!  At the same time, Mbega and his partisans rush the altar and a fight ensues, with Conan's Aquilonian forces arriving to turn the tide of battle in favor of Mbega as Thoth-Amon once again flees.
 
In the end, Mbega takes control of Zembabwei.  Conan and his company of Aquilonians leave the city and head further south in dogged pursuit of Thoth-Amon, determined to end him once and for all!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Although this was another very enjoyable issue, it repeats a lot of elements from the first issue. . .Conan and his son taken prisoner by Thoth-Amon, with a desperate battle to escape breaking out and Conan's Aquilonian companions rushing in at the last moment to save the day, only for Thoth-Amon to escape in the confusion.   
 
Roy Thomas writes the story in an engaging way, with his usual fantastic turns of phrase, but hopefully he isn't already starting to fall into a story rut on only the THIRD issue!
 
The series also changes inker on this issue.  He has a different style than Ernie Chan that knocks the art down half a notch.  It's still really good. I mean, it's John Buscema's pencils.  Of course it's going to be good.  How could it not be?  But Ernie Chan's inks are just SO complimentary to Buscema's work that any change just sort of hits the eye wrong.  The art isn't bad by any means, I just prefer Chan's inks.
 
All in all, this was another good issue.  I'm just a bit concerned by what looks like a story rut starting to form.  Let's see what the next issue holds!
 
ISSUE FOUR
(December 1980)
COVER: John Buscema 
 
SHADOWS IN THE SKULL!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Danny Bulanadi
 
Still in pursuit of Thoth-Amon, King Conan is directed by a wizard to travel further into the southern jungles, and then east, to the Land of No Return at the very edge of the known world, where the serpent folk of old ruled long before the coming of men.
 
And so, Conan sets forth with a host of King Mbega's (from last issue) best men, as well as a group of Amazon warrior-women led by Nzinga. . .the daughter of an old acquaintance of Conan from his younger days.  
 
Conan leads the expedition from the air alongside his son and Mbega's best scouts, riding the serpent-like wyverns used to capture them in the previous issue.
 
After many days of travel, Conan's expedition finally comes in sight of landmarks given to them by the wizard in Zembabwei. . .a huge waterfall and a cliff face in the shape of a skull.  But as the King and his wyvern-riders investigate, a mysterious weakness befalls them and their flying mounts tumble to the ground!
 
In a hidden valley below, Conan and company discover an ornate palace.  They are greeted by a mysterious band of women from the palace and the cave city beyond called Yanyoga.  Conan decides to take them up on their offer of hospitality. . .
 
 
As Conan and Mbega's scouts fall under some sort of spell during the following days of drinking and wanton vice, only Conan's son, Conn is able to keep a somewhat clear head.  As one of the beautiful women attempts to seduce the young prince, he sees her reflection and is horrified to learn that the women are actually serpent-folk in disguise!
 
Mbega's warriors on foot, as well as Nzinga's Amazons arrive in time to help young Conn fight his way through the palace.  Thoth-Amon is spotted with the serpent queen and Conan's friend Trocero presses the attack on their long-sought quarry, though King Conan is nowhere to be seen. The wizard disappears from sight, escaping once again!  
 
 
King Conan wakes on a mysterious shore and finds himself in the company of his foe, Thoth-Amon!
The wizard gloats and taunts Conan, who attacks him.  But as he touches the wizard, Conan finds himself transported to a strange realm where the two enemies battle as spirits!
 
Conan fights well, but finds himself on the losing side of the spirit battle, but unknown to Thoth-Amon, Conan's son has managed to follow the two through Thoth-Amon's portal.  And with an enchanted knife given to him in Zembabwei, Conn kills Thoth-Amon and ends the fight on the spirit plane, dragging both Thoth-Amon and his father back to the real world, where Thoth-Amon dies and crumbles to dust!
 
 
In the end, Conan takes Thoth-Amon's ring of power and throws it into the sea before heading back to the lair of the serpent-folk alongside his son to help his allies finish off the savage creatures, satisfied that Conn is becoming a warrior worthy of being his heir.
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then, there it is.  The big extra-sized finish to the four-issue "Chasing Thoth-Amon" opening story arc.  All in all, a fine ending indeed!  Yeah, there's still some concern that the series is falling into a "Conan gets captured every issue" story rut, but then again, Roy Thomas is able to make even the weakest story sing with his outstanding writing.  The framework may be flimsy, but Thomas makes the "final" battle between Conan and Thoth-Amon an epic adventure!
 
On the art side of things, John Buscema provides visuals every bit as epic as Thomas' writing. . .which comes as no surprise to me or anyone else who is a fan of Buscema's work.  What IS a bit surprising is that Danny Bulanadi seems to have course-corrected his inks a bit to be more complimentary to Buscema's pencils.  I still prefer Ernie Chan's inks on Conan, but Bulanadi makes an admirable effort to step into Chan's shoes.
 
Overall, an epic end to the first story arc, with writing that drips with adventure and art that takes the reader to another world for a while.  What more could a Conan fan want? Let's get into the next issue and see if this creative team can keep up the great work!
 
ISSUE FIVE
(March 1981)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE RING OF RAKHAMON!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Danny Bulanadi (Ernie Chan?)
 
As a weary King Conan and his Aquilonian troops make the long journey back home after almost a year away in pursuit of Thoth-Amon, Prince Conn asks Count Trocero for a tale of his father's early days as King to pass the time. 
 
The rest of this tale is told as a flashback to before Conn was born. . .
 
It was the night of a great feast in the Aquilonian capital of Tarantia.  But the festivities are interrupted by the kidnapping of Queen Zenobia by a mysterious flying creature!  King Conan declares that he will no longer be King of Aquilonia until he has retrieved his queen and had his vengeance.  
 
And so, leaving the kingdom and its armies in the hands of his most loyal advisers, Trocero and Prospero, Conan sets forth alone to the desert city of Khanyria, seeking a wizard of old acquantance, Pelias of Koth, intending to search for clues using his magic powers.
 
Unknown to Conan, a court spy has learned of Conan's destination and that he's travelling alone.  The information is given to a rebellious noble supporter of Aquilonia's former King and a trap is set!
 
 
Several days ride later, Conan arrives in Khanyria.  Almost immediately upon entering the city, he is lured to an ambush in a tavern.  Conan manages to defeat seven men after a brutal battle, but is astonished to find that he recognizes several of them from previous adventures.  He is determined to find out who brought together such a motley crew and why. . .but AFTER he finds Zenobia.
 
In the yellow stone tower of the wizard Pelias of Koth, Conan is greeted as an old friend and Pelias agrees to help him find who kidnapped Zenobia.  Using a magical mirror, Pelias summons a vision of another wizard. . .one who is aware he is being watched!  Conan saves them both by breaking the magic mirror, then demands answers.
 
 
A shaken Pelias tells Conan that the plot goes far beyond a mere kidnapping.  Since he has become King of Aquilonia, Conan has disrupted or delayed many plots and plans for conquest of the Hyborian lands without even knowing it.  The powerful wizard in the mirror is Yah Chieng, who dwells in the far away land of Khitai.  He is behind the kidnapping of Zenobia as a means to lure Conan away from Aquilonia and destroy him.
 
Conan refuses to abandon his vengeance despite knowing he's walking into a trap.  To aid him against the powerful magic of Yah Chieng, Pelias gives Conan a legendary magical ring in his possession. . .the Ring of Rakhamon!  But before he can use the power of the ring, Conan must pass the ring's test.
 
And so, Conan is pulled into a strange world of spirits and finds himself in mortal combat against a powerful creature.  A desperate battle follows, but Conan finally prevails through sheer strength of will, and the Ring of Rakhamon submits to him.
 
 
Now armed with knowledge of who was behind Zenobia's kidnapping, magical aid, and a destination, Conan sets forth with the rising sun for the mysterious and distant land of Khitai!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Usually when it comes to reviews of full comic series, I run into diminishing returns the further I get into it.  Normally by issue five or six (if even THAT long) I start seeing a decline or a plateau.  But not here!
 
Not only does this series continue to maintain a high level of quality, but the fifth issue is the best so far!  It's a pretty rare thing to see a series actually IMPROVE in later issues, but King Conan's fantastic creative team pulls it off with style.
 
Roy Thomas continues to grab and pull me into Conan's savage world with page after page of superbly-written adventure and intrigue.  John Buscema brings Thomas' words to life with fantastic imagery that's simply a feast for the eyes from the first page to the last.  THIS is what a great Conan comic is all about! THIS, right here. This issue has everything a Conan fan could want.  I can't wait to see what happens next!
 
A note about the art in this issue before I finish here.  Danny Bulanadi is credited on the masthead as inker here, and I was pretty amazed at the way he continued to successfully step up and try to match the unmatchable Ernie Chan.  Bulandi is also credited on the Grand Comics Database (GCD)  and elsewhere the stats for this comic are listed as the inker as well.  BUT. . .in the letter column for issue #7 there's an indication that the inks are actually done by Ernie Chan.  
 
With the lack of information about this series beyond raw creative team credits out there, I have a suspicion after comparing this issue to earlier ones that Chan actually did most of the inks (if not all), and that the information online isn't accurate and is based on an error Marvel made in the credits for the original issue back in 1981 and has just been copied from place to place online without actually checking.  
 
Does anyone care?  Probably not.  But I like to think that Longbox Junk reviews add to the general body of comic knowledge as regards comics not many (if ANY) reviews have been done of, so there's that. 
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Let's wrap up this first part now.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I think you can probably tell from the individual reviews above that I had a lot of fun reading these first five issues of King Conan.  Roy Thomas and John Buscema are a hard creative team to beat when it comes to Conan.  I'm not even sure if they CAN be beaten!
 
I've already spent quite a bit of time above singing the praises of Thomas and Buscema's work on this series so far, but I was trying to keep the reviews sort of short so this didn't turn into a total scroll bomb (not sure how well I suceeded, but it's the thought that counts, I guess).  So in this wrap up, I'll touch on a few things I really liked about this series so far that I didn't mention above.
 
First, I love the HEFT of these issues!  They're double-sized and that extra page space gives these stories room to breath and be epic.  These are comics that are simply packed with awesome Conan adventure.  The reviews above are REALLY condensed sketches of what is actually in the pages.  There's so much story in each issue that it would probably take a YEAR in modern comics to cover each one of them.  
 
The second thing I loved about these issues that I didn't touch on above is that each one of these (except the last one) comics can be read on their own as an individual awesome Conan story without reading the others.  They're all tied together, but they can also be enjoyed separately.  This is probably because this series was published quarterly, with just four issues coming out per year.  So if you do spot one of these in the bargain bin, don't worry too much about not knowing what happened before or after.  The whole story is great, but the individual parts are great on their own.  I like that a lot!
 
Oddly enough, considering what I JUST said above, the third thing I loved about these issues was that they have a continuity with OTHER Conan comics. . .particularly Savage Sword of Conan.  All through these issues there are characters and references to Conan's previous adventures.  For example, in the fourth issue, the leader of Conan's Amazon allies is Nzinga, the daughter of an Amazon Queen Conan met in Savage Sword of Conan #4.  
 
There's a lot of effort in these issues to tie the series into continuity with what came before.  There's even a few references to Marvel's short-lived Kull the Conqueror series!  So while these issues can be enjoyed as stand-alone stories, they can ALSO be enjoyed by those who love following those editorial continuity notes to discover the whole story. 
 
Overall, I really enjoyed these first few issues of King Conan.  If you are a Conan fan then I heartily recommend you check them out if you haven't already.  Each oversized issue is packed from cover to cover with awesome Conan adventure and wonderfully savage arwork.  These first five issues are truly some premium Bronze Age sword and sorcery comics.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's see if Marvel can keep up the quality as King Conan continues!  Looking ahead, I see some creative team changes coming, so we'll see what happens.  
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
October is done!  Halloween is here, and that means the end of this year's Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party!  Not too bad this year. . .I got 16 spooky reviews done.  I think that's more than I did all this summer!
 
I hope you enjoyed reading the Halloween Horror entries as much as I enjoyed writing them.  It's nice to just relax with a spooky comic book, good OR bad. . .but now it's time to get back to Longbox Junk business as usual.
 
BUT WAIT!
 
Before I get back into digging random stuff out of the bargain bins, how about one more Halloween Horror review?  Most of you won't see this until the 1st because I tend to post things late at night, but I AM writing it at 11 p.m. Halloween night, so it counts. . .BECAUSE I SAY IT COUNTS!
 
One more for the road. . .Let's do it!

THE WITCHING HOUR #27

DC (1973)

 

 
 
COVER: Nick Cardy
 
THE COVER:
 
What a great Halloween cover. . .courtesy of the late, great Nick Cardy!  Can it get ANY more Halloween than a witch straddling Locomotive #13 while she guides it flying into the gloomy grey sky?  This may not be the greatest comic cover in general, but as far as HALLOWEEN covers go, it's definitely a winner.
 
Let's get inside this thing!
 
THE STORIES:
 
FOUR stories in here for your two thin dimes!  That's one of the things I love about older comics. . .good or bad, they're STUFFED with four color fun!  These days, you pay four bucks for a little part of ONE story in a comic.  But THAT'S a rant for another day!  Let's check out these stories. . .
 
THE BODIES AT 13 RAVENWOOD LANE
 
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Alfredo Alcala
INKS: Alfredo Alcala
 
The tenants at Mrs. Haggerty's boarding house begin to disappear one by one, leaving only their best clothes behind.  The killer is eventually revealed to be Mr. Duncan, a dealer in used clothes.
 
He is caught by the police digging a grave in the yard, but as he unearths the other graves there is only old clothes.  Duncan is committed to an insane asylum. Were the murders real, or the delusions of a madman?
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This story is a little confusing to me.  It seems almost like two stories mashed together.  But maybe confusion is what the writer intended from a story that may or may not be the delusion of an insane man.  
 
BUT. . .
 
While the story is a bit of a headscratcher, the art is simply fantastic!  For MY money, Alfredo Alcala is one of the great, unsung comic artists of the Bronze Age!  His finely detailed work can elevate even the most mundane story into a feast for the eyes.  Just LOOK at the opening page I scanned above.  The shading, the detail. . .just SO great! 
 
NEXT!
 
WAKE UP AND DREAM!
 
SCRIPT:  Gerry Conway & Sal Amendola
PENCILS: Sal Amendola
INKS: Sal Amendola
 
We follow a man named Larry through his miserable life.  Larry is a bit of a clumsy loser, and to make things worse, he is plagued by a recurring nightmare of falling toward some unknown darkness.  Eventually, the dream drives him to madness and an overdose of sleeping pills. 
 
But when Larry wakes up, he finds himself the ruler of a kingdom on an alien world.  A mighty warrior married to a beautiful queen.  He has been in a coma for the past several years after being poisoned but is now awakened and ready to take his rightful place as King.
 
Which life is real?
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad little story.  Maybe a bit thin, but interesting.  The "twist" was a bit of a surprise, which is a GOOD thing when you've read as many of these anthologies as I have.
 
But, like the first story, the art is the REAL star of the show here.  It's a less realistic and more stylized and experimental art style than Alcala's, but very visually interesting.  It makes great use of odd angles, different panel structures, and deep shadows.  So once again, interesting art elevates the story a bit more than one would think.  Nicely done.
 
NEXT!
 
FRIGHTMARE!
 
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Win Mortimer
INKS: Win Mortimer
 
Stan and Lionel are competing for the same Vice President spot at their company, but while Stan chooses to let his work speak for itself, Lionel decides sabotage is the best way to the position.  After Lionel destroys an important file, the despondent Stan is hit by a bus.  As he dies, he swears vengeance on Lionel, promising to inhabit the body of someone close to him in order to destroy him.
 
With Stan out of the way, Lionel gains the coveted Executive position, but as the weeks pass, strange accidents keep happening.  Lionel eventually becomes convinced that Stan is possessing the body of the company's President, and his behavior get him fired.  As he leaves the building, he falls down an elevator shaft to his death. . .realizing at the last moment that Stan had possessed HIS body.
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This story feels more like filler than anything else.  It's just not that interesting.  A pretty by the numbers "ghost revenge" tale with an obvious "twist" ending.  It's not a BAD story, it's just not really engaging.
 
Unfortunately, the great art that elevated the first two stories isn't to be found here.  The art is serviceable, in a workmanlike way.  It illustrates the events of the story but doesn't try much harder than that.  Like the story, the art isn't necessarily BAD, it's just not very engaging.
 
AND FINALLY. . .  
 
JOURNEY TO OBLIVION
 
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Gerry Talaoc
INKS: Gerry Talaoc
 
Richard Dolan is a chronic complainer.  Nothing makes him happy.  When he finds himself on a mysterious train crowded with passengers heading for an unknown destination, his constant complaints wear on the nerves of those around him.
 
When the train arrives at its destination, Richard is unimpressed with the bright, sunny weather and the overwhelming happiness of everyone he meets.  He decides he wants to return to the dreary streets of the city that he's at least familiar with.  He secretly boards the train again as it pulls out of the station to return.
 
In the end, we see that Dolan was in the hospital, presumed dead, but now fighting for his life.  The train had taken him to Paradise, but Dolan would rather be happy complaining about his life than anything else.
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad little story.  It's a well-written character study with a "twist" ending that I didn't see coming, so yeah. . .a pretty good read.  I actually found this story to be the best of the batch.  I've been known to be a bit of a complainer myself, so I can sort of relate.
 
As far as the art goes, it's pretty good.  I like the dark inks and realism, but it's missing the supreme detail of Alcala's art in the first story and the experimental style of Amendola in the second.  It's not quite as workmanlike and uninspired as Mortimer's in the third, though.
 
Overall, a pretty good story.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
A sort of mixed bag for this last bit of Halloween Horror fun.  Two so-so stories saved by fantastic artwork up front. A very workmanlike story that feels like filler in the third slot.  A good story with decent art to finish things up. 
 
 All in all, a pretty good issue.  Even the "worst" story in here wasn't actually BAD.  More like just sort of . . .there.  I've definitely seen worse.  To be fair, I've also seen better, but for a nice Halloween read I can certainly recommend this issue to anyone just looking for a pretty good "twist ending" style comic book to read.  
 
If you're a fan of Bronze Age artwork, then I say definitely give the two opening stories a look.  Alfredo Alcala is quickly becoming one of my favorite unsung Bronze Age artists.  Any time I see a comic with some of his distinctive style of art now, I buy it!  So far, my favorite work by Alcala is in Weird Western Tales (#16-17), but anything by Alcala is worth a look in MY book.
 
And there you have it.  One last bit of Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun for 2022.  Not a bad way to end things for this year.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
Back to Longbox Junk business as usual when I return to the review of all 19 issues of the King Conan run from 1980 that I put off for the Halloween fun.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where nobody asked me to write any of these comic reviews!

 
The Longbox Junk 2022 Halloween Horror party is just about over. . .but not quite yet!  There's still a couple of days left before I wrap it up and get back to Longbox Junk business as usual.  Until then, how about another spooky retro review?
 
So, there I was. . .on Facebook browsing through the posts provided by the fine and friendly folk of OLD GUYS WHO LIKE OLD COMICS .  And here's a free plug. . .if you have ANY love for all things comic book-related from days gone by (as in, before 1986), then join this group!  It's one of the best comic groups out there, and I'll sing their praises any old time. Plug over. 
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
There I was browsing the posts of one of my favorite Facebook groups and I saw someone had posted a spooky comic book cover.  I said to myself, "Hey! I have that one!"  And so here we are, because why not share what's INSIDE the comic too?  That's what Longbox Junk is all about!
 
We're heading back to 1973, folks! Let's GOOOOOOO!!

GHOST STORIES #35

Dell (1973)

 
 
COVER: Jack Sparling
 
THE COVER:
 
Jack Sparling was a Dell and Gold Key mainstay.  If you have any Dell or Gold Key comics in your collection, you've probably got some Sparling in there.  This cover isn't his best work (my personal favorite is probably Emergency #3), but it's a solid cover.  Not bad. . .I just like Sparling's painted covers better. Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Four original stories in this one.  That's just a nickle apiece!
Let's give each one their own turn.
 
FORGET-ME-NOT
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
 
The Ghost of an ancient Egyptian King shows two archaeologists where ruins they've missed are in a valley that is about to be flooded.  The Ghost also convinces the disbelieving Engineer in charge of the project to delay long enough for the treasures of the hidden temple to be found and preserved.
 

 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Meh.  A pretty bland and forgettable story.  The ending is a little abrupt and anticlimactic.  Sparling's art is pretty good.  Like the cover, not his best work, but solid visual storytelling.  An underwhelming start to this issue.
 
NEXT!
 
THE SECOND CREW
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
 
After a U.S. Navy Captain destroys a sub on the last day of WWII just before receiving notice that the war is over, he is consumed by guilt for the death of the men he killed.  He spends his lifetime trying to make amends. . .even going so far as to move to Japan and adopt the families of the submarine crew.
 
When he dies and is buried at sea, his ghost joins the ghostly crew of the sub and together they bring the wrecked ship home so they may all rest in peace.
 

 
THE REVIEW:
 
Unfortunately, another pretty bland and forgettable story.  It's not BAD, it's just sort of. . .there.  Sparling's art is once again the high point of the story and even that seems sketchy and rushed in places.
 
*sigh* This isn't going well, so far.
 
NEXT!
 
DO UNTO OTHERS
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
 
When an old man named Horace is killed during a robbery in broad daylight, four witnesses to the crime give various reasons why they didn't help him when they could have.  Horace's spirit rises from the grave, determined to teach them a lesson in caring.
 
As the years go by, Horace's ghost helps each one of the witnesses survive a life-or-death situation, revealing himself to them so they know it was the man who they let die helping them live.  In the end, the four witnesses do indeed learn how to care.
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Yet another bland and forgettable story.  Once again, the art by Sparling is about the only saving grace. . .and once again, this isn't even his best work.  So disappointing.
 
I don't have high hopes for the last story, but here we go anyway.
 
NEXT!
 
YOU SEE, THERE'S THIS MONASTERY IN OREGON. . .
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
 
After Carrol's best friend, Brit is killed in a car wreck, she remembers an urban legend about a monastery in Oregon where people who are supposedly dead live.  Following a mysterious hearse, Carrol discovers the monastery and the ghost of her friend!
 
But as she rushed toward Brit, Carrol falls off a cliff and dies.  Now she and Brit live together at the monastery. . .forever.
 

 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not only is this another disappointing story, but it's also probably the worst of the bunch.  It really doesn't make much sense.  Even Sparling's art is weaker than anyplace else in the issue.  This whole story just feels rushed and sort of thrown together. Not a good end for the issue at all.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: They can't ALL be winners.
This issue isn't a winner.  
 
The main problem here is the writing.  It's bland and uninteresting through the whole thing, giving the reader four stories that will be forgotten moments after reading them.  The writer of this issue is unknown, and it's hardly surprising that they didn't want to take credit for such a lackluster offering.
 
One would THINK that with four stories, at least ONE would be decent, but no.  And it's not that the stories are necessarily bad, it's that they're all just sort of. . .there.  
 
This isn't a BAD comic. . .it's just so forgettable that I can't think of anything to recommend it for beyond some pretty solid art from Jack Sparling, and even THAT isn't his best work by a long shot.
 
It's extremely disappointing for me writing this pretty poor review because I KNOW that it's probably the first, last, and only review that will ever be written about this issue.  This is it.  Truthfully, it makes me a little sad just thinking about it.  This issue gets ONE review in almost 50 years and it's not a great one.
 
I guess I'll just say it again:  They can't all be winners.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I think I can squeeze in a little bit more Halloween Horror fun before the end of the month!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk! You want comic reviews you never asked anyone to write? You're in the right place!

 
The time is short.  The witching hour is almost upon us.  Halloween is just a few days away, but the Longbox Junk Halloween Party is still going!  LET'S DANCE!
 
Man-Thing is one of those Marvel characters that's been around for a while but isn't really known about by casual comic culture fans.  He's had a few short ongoing series in the past, but these days he just kind of pops up every now and then before shuffling back off to the swamp.  So, he's not the most visible Marvel character, but Man-Thing's got his fans. . .and I'm one of them!
 
That said, Man-Thing has recently had a moment in the popular culture spotlight with an unexpected live appearance on the Werewolf By Night Disney+ special (And if you haven't seen it yet. . .it's a fantastic show. Check it out.  Go! NOW!).  So, since he's getting a little bit of attention this year, how about we invite Man-Thing to the party?
 
Let's do it!

DEAD OF NIGHT

FEATURING MAN-THING #1

Marvel MAX (2008)

 
 
COVER: Kaare Andrews
 
THE COOL DARK: Part One
 
SCRIPT:  Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
PENCILS: Kano & Nick Percival (Framing Sequence)
INKS: Kano & Nick Percival (Framing Sequence)
 
THE COVER:
 
I like it!  It's not the BEST Man-Thing cover out there (that would probably be Frank Brunner's cover for Man-Thing #1), but I like the Golden Age pulp mag homage.  The giant red title block is certainly an eye-catcher.  Man-Thing himself is pretty nasty looking. . .a bit more on the horror side than we normally see him.  Not bad.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin with an introductory framing sequence.  Digger, the former "host" of Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness, is our narrator. . .
 
 
Deep in the swamps of the Florida panhandle, researcher Ted Sallis, along with his lab assistant/ fiancée, Ellen Brandt, and fellow scientist, Eric Schist, are hard at work on a secret government project to recreate the lost Super-Soldier serum that gave Captain America his powers during World War II. 
 
Their work is almost complete and government agents are due the next day to take their research to Washington D.C. Ted is relieved that the end is near and is looking forward to his and Ellen's marriage. 
 
 
Late that night, Ted hears strange noises from a shack in the swamp behind their secret lab.  When he investigates, he is horrified to discover mutated creatures imprisoned within!  Eric arrives and tells Ted that he has started human trials despite Ted saying they aren't ready. . .and the creatures are swamp dwellers that he has been experimenting on.
 
Ted protests and threatens to reveal Eric's unethical experiments to their government employers.  Eric taunts Ted, revealing that they have been working for the terrorist group, A.I.M. the whole time, and that Ted is but a in their plans!
 
 
Ted manages to knock Eric out, then rushes to the lab to gather his research and the only sample of the new formula.  He plans to escape and take the research to the government.  But as he hastily gathers his notes, Ted is confronted by Ellen. . .who holds him at gunpoint and reveals that she is also an A.I.M. agent!
 
Ted realizes his life has been a lie when Eric returns, and he sees the obvious affection Ellen has for him.  Desperately, he dives out a window and runs into the swamp, but is shot in the back by Ellen as he flees. . .
 
 
As he sinks into the muck, dying, Ted swallows the vial of experimental formula.  Something happens that night. . .the formula somehow reacts with the swamp water and somehow Ted rises from the grave, but not as a man. . .as a thing! A MAN-THING!
 
 
Late that night, the hulking monster that was Ted Sallis returns to the secret lab.  After freeing the mutated humans from the hidden shack, he bursts into the lab, stunning Ellen and Eric with his terrifying and inhuman appearance!  
 
 
Man-Thing quickly kills Eric, then turns to Ellen. . .but something stops him.  Is there still a part of Ted Sallis inside the creature that feels pity as Ellen begs for her life?  If there is, it's gone again in a moment as he reaches out and horribly burns the woman with his very touch!
 
 
And, having his revenge, the Man-Thing leaves Ellen alive and horribly disfigured as he walks back into the dark water of the swamp, leaving his former life behind.
 
 
The End. . .To Be Continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
What we have here is a modern retelling of Man-Thing's origin.  And I have to say that it's a darn fine read!  It's a simple story that introduces Man-Thing quite well, leaning HARD into the horror elements of the character.  It's nicely written from the perspective of Digger telling the tale and has enough meat on the bone to not only be a good standalone tale, but to make me want to see what happens next!
 
The art is a great match for the dark tale of betrayal and revenge, with lots of shadows and fine detail.  The artist has a little trouble with human faces.  You can definitely see that his wheelhouse is in the macabre and monstrous elements of the story.  His version of Man-Thing is powerful and terrifying. . .a force of nature unleashed!  That said, I sort of wish that the artist who painted the framing story would have done the whole thing.  The painted Digger sequences are simply superb!
 

CONCLUSION

 
Although this is the first issue of a four-issue mini, it stands alone quite nicely.  It's a great modern re-telling of the origin of Man-Thing that I would certainly recommend to anyone wanting to know about the character without having to get into expensive collections or more expensive Bronze Age back issues.  It's the same basic story, but in a modern style and at bargain bin prices.  WIN!
 
I would also recommend this issue to any horror comic fans who are just looking for a decent little one-shot story with some dark monster fun.  Yeah, it's a Marvel Universe character, but there's nothing superhero about THIS story.
 
Overall, this is a nice little nugget of Longbox Junk gold!  It's the kind of thing I love to find while bargain bin diving.  It's not really "worth" anything to collectors, but it's definitely worth picking up if you should spot it.
 
Up Next. . .
 
There's not much October left, but we're turning up the music and keeping the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party going!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

 
HEY-O! It's the thirteenth entry in this year's Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party!
So, to mark the occasion, let's take a look at a Friday the 13th comic book.
 
I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of the Friday the 13th movies.  They're okay and I'll watch them, but they aren't exactly the kind of thing I'll purposely look for, and I'm no expert on the timelines and trivia of the franchise.  The movies to me are just okay.
 
Don't get me wrong. . .there's nothing wrong with it at all if you happen to be the biggest fan of Friday the 13th there is.  We're all fans of something and that's what makes the world a great place in my book.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Back in 2007 Wildstorm (DC) got the comic rights to Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Nightmare on Elm Street.  They WERE going to try and set up a whole horror comic mini "universe" with rebooted ongoing monthly series for all three franchises. 
 
 How it ended up was that the comics weren't as popular as they THOUGHT they would be, so the ongoing monthly titles were quietly changed to miniseries and future projects were standalone one shots and minis until the whole thing just sort of faded away after a while. . . another failed and forgotten project in the wonderful world of comics.
 
What we have here is the first issue of the Friday the 13th series.  Let's take a look inside and see if we can find out why this title only lasted six issues.  Was it just a bad break for a good comic, like I've seen quite a few times?  Or does this series deserve its current home in the bargain bin?
 
Let's find out!


FRIDAY THE 13TH #1

WILDSTORM/ DC (2007)

 

COVER: Ryan Sook
 
FRIDAY THE 13TH
 
SCRIPT: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
PENCILS: Adam Archer
INKS: Peter Guzman
 
THE COVER:
 
Ryan Sook is a great modern comic artist, and he doesn't disappoint here!  It's a simple, detailed portrait of the iconic slasher, Jason Voorhees. I really like the overall composition, with the unusual angle of view on Jason and the victim reflected in his machete. No doubt about it, this is a fantastic Halloween cover!  Let's see what's inside. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin with a short prologue.  A young blonde woman is being chased through the forest by Jason Voorhees.  She stumbles into the road, where an elderly couple find her and take her to the local hospital.  
 

 
 
Later, we see that she's incoherent and lashes out at anyone coming near.  The doctor tells the Sheriff that he'll probably never be able to get her to talk about what happened at camp Crystal Lake.
 
Flashing back to two weeks previously, we are introduced to a group of young men and women making their way to Camp Crystal Lake.  They've been hired to clean and prepare the camp for a re-opening.
 
The new owner explains that he plans to make a big profit from the camp's deadly history, exploiting the reputation of "Camp Blood" by appealing to those who enjoy the thrill of staying in a place where multiple gruesome murders have been committed.
 
We follow the young workers as they make themselves comfortable in their new temporary home.  While some explore the cabins, a group decides to go swimming in the lake.  One of them, a bit of a social outcast, has researched the history of the camp and tells the rest of them the gruesome details of Camp Crystal Lake.
 
As the rest listen to the history of the camp, one of the group goes swimming.  To her horror, she finds herself being dragged down into the depths by (what I assume are) the spirits of those killed over the years at the camp.
 
The rest notice her struggling and manage to pull her out of the water, but it's too late.  She's drowned. Camp Crystal Lake has claimed another victim!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay. . .Hmmm. . .  Let's break it on down!
 
When it comes to first issues of a new series, I have a pretty low bar for what I consider success.
Two things.  Just TWO things!  You'd be surprised how hard it seems to be for publishers to get over that low bar.
 
 First, does it introduce the characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way?  In other words, can I just come right in on the first issue and understand what's going on?  Second, does it make me want to read the next issue?
 
This issue spends a lot of page space on exposition regarding the history of Camp Crystal Lake.  Truth be told, this issue is MOSTLY setup and introduction.  Not that it's a bad thing. . .after all, this WAS supposed to be an ongoing monthly instead of a six-issue mini.  
 
So, I'll give it a half and half on the first one.  It does a good job of introducing the characters and their situation. . .unfortunately, the characters just aren't that interesting.  You KNOW from the prologue that all of them are going to die except one.  This doesn't put much of a burden on the writer to make the characters interesting.
 
As far as the second point goes.  Does this make me want to read the next issue?  Well. . .not really.  It's sort of bland, while at the same time, it tries a little TOO hard to be "adult" with profanity liberally sprinkled throughout (see the page scans above.  I had to edit them because there is literally not one page that doesn't have profanity on it).  
 
I'm a former Marine. . .I KNOW my swear words.  I even still use them now and then when my wife isn't around.  I ALSO know that profanity is like black pepper. . .a little sprinkle is fine, but too much ruins the flavor.  There's a little too much pepper in this one.  They try too hard to spice up a pretty bland and uninteresting story.
 
As far as the art goes.  It's. . .okay.  If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be "Serviceable".  It helps tell the story but doesn't try to do anything over that bare minimum requirement.  About the only standout moment is a nice double page spread of the first victim being dragged down into the lake I forgot to put above, so I'll put it here. . .
 
 
But other than that, the art is just sort of. . .there.  I have to admit that IS a nice double pager, but that's it for good art moments.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Truthfully, this issue doesn't really have much going for it unless you happen to be a Friday the 13th superfan.  If you ARE, then I think you'll definitely like this series.  If you aren't, then it's probably safe to say that you can skip this one and read some better horror comics that are out there.
 
With most of the issue being taken up with exposition and background, it DOES do a good job of introducing the characters and their situation.  Too bad both are sort of lackluster.  Aside from the fantastic Ryan Sook cover and a nice double page spread, the art is just sort of there. . .telling the story. . .not trying very hard to do anything else.
 
Overall, I can see why this series didn't really take off.  It didn't get an opening issue that would hook anybody but big fans of all things Friday the 13th.  For casual readers, it's very skippable.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It ain't over until it's over!  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween Horror to come!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

 
October is almost done. . .Halloween is almost here!  But the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party isn't over just yet, folks!  It's been a pretty good party so far, but you know what will make it even better?  Frankenstein!  
 
Okay, nerds. . .OKAY!  Frankenstein's MONSTER.  Better?
 
Marvel has had a long and successful relationship with Dracula in their comic books, but it's easy to forget that they ALSO held the rights to Frankenstein for a while (I know. . .I know).  I have a couple of issues, so how about we take a look at one?
 
I'm cranking up the Longbox Junk time machine again for a trip back to 1973 and another Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Retro Review. . .featuring the one and only Frankenstein's MONSTER!  
 
AAARRR!! Fire BAD! Retro Review GOOD!  Let's do it!

FRANKENSTEIN #5

Marvel (1973)

 
 
COVER: Mike Ploog
 
THE MONSTER WALKS AMONG US!
 
SCRIPT: Gary Friedrich
PENCILS: Mike Ploog
INKS: John Verpoorten
 
THE COVER:
 
Now THAT'S a Bronze Age beauty right there!  Maybe not the greatest HALLOWEEN cover, but a great cover anyway.  Mike Ploog packs in so much detail and energy into this image that it almost seems to move!  The colors are great, I love the big chunky logo and hype text.  There's nothing I don't like about this cover!  They do NOT make 'em like this anymore.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
As the Monster returns to civilization from the Arctic in search of the last living Frankenstein, he happens on a flaming boat and risks his life to save that of a woman tied to the mast. . .thus setting into motion a strange and tragic series of events, wherein lies the tale at hand.
 
 
Taking the unconscious woman to a nearby village, the Monster is shocked to see the villagers celebrating her death.  The woman revives long enough to tell the Monster that the entire village has come under the demonic possession of a mysterious man in black, and that they must flee!
 
Against the womans wishes, the Monster carries her to her home, where he is attacked by the woman's father!  As the man shouts that his daughter must die, the Monster defeats him and leaves the village with the woman, now convinced that she was telling the truth about the villagers being possessed by demons.
 
 
Wandering through the woods in search of sanctuary, the Monster finds a beautiful, secluded clearing hidden deep in the forest.  As the weeks pass, the woman, named Lenore, heals and grows stronger while the Monster finds himself falling in love with her.  
 
When he finally tells Lenore about his feelings, he is elated to find them returned!  For the first time in his miserable existence, the Monster knows love and joy!
 
 
But one day, upon awakening, the Monster finds Lenore has vanished!  Following her tracks, he finds signs of a fight and pieces of her clothing.  Continuing on the trail, the Monster discovers it leads back to the village. 
 
Convinced that Lenore has been captured by the possessed villagers, he waits until night and begins to search for her.  As he does, he witnesses a guard being brutally attacked by a wolf-like monster!  As he watches, he realizes that THIS is the creature that must have taken Lenore!  Filled with rage, the Monster attacks the wolf creature.
 
 
As the battle between the Monster and the wolf creature rages through the village, he manages to finally defeat it by using a silver sword belonging to Lenore's father, pulling it from the tree where it was lodged during their earlier battle.  But to the Monster's horror, the slain wolf creature transforms into the beautiful, beloved Lenore!
 
 
As the villagers surround the heartbroken Monster, he readies for a fight, but a man in black steps forward. . .a priest.  He gently tells the Monster that it was Lenore that was possessed by a demon, and that he knows the Monster is the true victim and not their enemy.
 
And so, the Monster leaves the village behind him, knowing that the only love he's ever known was a lie.  Now all that he has left is to continue on his journey to find the last living Frankenstein.
 

The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I'm gonna come right out and say it. . .this comic was a GREAT read! 
 
Yeah, it follows the extremely well-worn story path of "The beautiful woman is actually the horrible monster", but Gary Friedrich puts so much emotion and pathos into it that you hardly notice until the (admittedly predictable) end of the story when the "twist" is revealed.  There is some seriously good writing here! It's engaging from the first page to the last.  You can definitely tell that Friedrich had his heart in writing this story.
 
On the art side of things. . .Mike Ploog delivers in a big way!  The art in this comic has such a sense of energy and motion that it almost seems to move across the page.  Every page is so full of wonderful detail that you just want to linger on for a moment or two extra before turning to the next one.  
 
Together, Friedrich and Ploog give the reader something really interesting and unusual.  I am definitely going to keep my eye out for more Frankenstein comics, especially if they can engage me like this one did.
 

CONCLUSION

 
When it comes to Bronze Age Marvel comics, I think of superheroes. . .Captain America, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Spider-Man. . .all the greats that made Marvel "Mighty".  But every now and then, I read a comic like this one that reminds me Marvel DID step outside the superhero box, and that there's some really great Marvel comics out there without a single spandex costume to be found!
 
The tale of Frankenstein's Monster is a tragic one, and writer Gary Friedrich leans into that with this dark story of hope torn from the Monster's grasping hand.  Artist Mike Ploog fills each page with fantastic, detailed art that perfectly complements the grim tale being told.
 
This comic is just a great read from cover to cover, no doubt about it.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great example of Bronze Age comic art and storytelling.  For fans of Frankenstein movies, books, etc. in general like myself, I'm going to say this issue is a must-read!  It's been collected a couple of times, so if you can't find the back issues, collected and online versions are out there.
 
Overall, this issue was a slam-bang winner, and probably the best of the bunch so far for this 2022 Longbox Junk Halloween party.  It's a shiny nugget of back issue gold!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Yep. . .you guessed it.  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog STUFFED with comic reviews nobody asked me to write!

 
PICTURE THE SCENE. . .
 
A group of kids in homemade Halloween costumes nervously make their way up the path to the big run-down house at the end of the block.  As they approach, they see two giant, grinning jack-o-lanterns.  They egg each other on, trying to figure out who's brave enough to knock on the door.  As the oldest kid sets foot on the warped first step leading to the porch, it gives a loud creak. A black cat hisses and jumps onto one of the pumpkins!  The kids turn around, racing back down the path to seek their candy elsewhere.  Amused, the cat watches then run.

The black cat is as much a part of Halloween as anything! 
Let's get a black cat into this Longbox Junk 2022 Halloween party.
 
The comic at hand today is a brand new one from Archie comics, who have been making a sort of surprising splash on the comic scene for the past few years with horror comics set in a twisted version of the Archie universe.  It follows the adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch's cat, Salem, while Sabrina is away.
 
To be honest, I haven't read too many of these Archie horror comics.  My local comic shop seems to have a hard time keeping them in stock, which says something there, I guess.  But I DID manage to snag this one after the cover caught my eye.  Let's take a look inside and see if the $3.99 (+ tax) I threw down is worth it, shall we?  We shall!
 
BUT FIRST. . .
 
THIS IS A COMIC THAT IS ON THE STANDS RIGHT NOW.  CONSIDER THIS YOUR SPOILER WARNING!
 
 Everybody in that's staying in?  Let's do it!


CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SALEM

Archie Horror (2022)

 
COVER: Dan Schoening
 
SCRIPT:  Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Dan Schoening
INKS: Dan Schoening
 
THE COVER:
 
This cover is what caught my eye and made me buy this comic, and what a great Halloween cover this is!  The autumn red, orange, black, and yellow colors. . .the looming cat. . .the mysterious glowing eyes of the animals silhouetted along the bottom.  THIS is a cover that grabs the attention!  Let's get inside. 
 
THE STORY:
 
Curiosity ALMOST kills the cat when Salem follows a mysterious man he senses is a sorcerer that might have something to do with the unusual number of missing pets lately.  Salem is attacked by a group of animals with eerie glowing eyes, and when he wakes up, he is in a cage. . .
 
 
From his prison, Salem watches as the mysterious man performs a ritual that summons a demonic spirit into the body of a stolen dog.  Being a sorcerer himself, Salem realizes that the human is walking a dangerous tightrope by forcing demons into animal bodies instead of humans.  
 
Salem tries to use that to his advantage by taunting the demon-possessed animals about their lowly state.  Finally, it comes to be Salem's turn to be possessed by a summoned demon. . .but to the sorcerer's shock and surprise, the ritual doesn't work!  Salem's cat body is already possessed by another spirit!
 
The summoned demon, denied a host, strikes out in anger!  The sorcerer implores his possessed animal servants to help him, but they refuse because the human has broken the pact he has made with the dark forces!
 
As Salem taunts the sorcerer for trying to toy with forces beyond his control, the demons abandon their animal forms and return to their own world, abandoning the sorcerer as the house burns around him!
As the human desperately tries to escape the burning house, Salem releases the rest of the trapped animals and they attack him, sending the sorcerer to the realm of demons to be tormented for breaking the dark pact.  Salem watches the sorcerer's death with amusement, then returns to hunting mice outside.
 
The End. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad little one-shot story!  Cullen Bunn manages to nicely capture the spirit (Heh, heh!) of horror anthologies of days gone by with this tale of magic gone wrong.  I can easily see this story being featured in one of the longer form anthologies of the 60s or 70s where there were only one or two extended stories inside (Like Doorway to Nightmare ).
 
Like the short anthology tales this story evokes, it's a fast read, without much deviation off the path from beginning to end.  That said, it's a good read.  Unfortunately, also like those anthology stories of days past, this isn't a very memorable story.  It's the sort of thing that is read, enjoyed, and forgotten.
 
On the art side of things, the autumn color scheme that made the cover such an eye catcher continues through the whole issue, giving us a story told in wonderful shades of red, yellow, orange, and black.  The art is detailed, but just a little exaggerated and cartoony in places.  This isn't a bad thing, it serves to remind that this is a story taking place in a twisted, darker version of the familiar cartoony world of Riverdale. 
 

CONCLUSION

 
If you're a fan of anthology horror comics of days gone by, then you'll like this one-shot story.  It's a good read with some very nice art, but it's ultimately forgettable.  It's something you enjoy while reading it, but then it gets bagged, boarded, and forgotten. . .probably never to be read again.  
 
I can certainly recommend this issue as a nice little Halloween comic, but I'm not so sure it's worth paying out $3.99 + tax to buy new.  That said, it's in kind of a strange place for a Longbox Junker like myself.  These Archie horror comics are super popular, so they're rare in the bargain bins (as in, I've only found a couple of the Sabrina ones over the past several years), so maybe the only way to get this one is to just go ahead and pay full price.  It's not likely to land in the bargain bin anytime soon.
 
Overall, this is a cool little story, but I'm just not sure it's worth buying new.
 
Up Next. . .
 
There's still a little October left, so there's still a little Longbox Junk Halloween horror fun to come!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

 
*Looks at the blog proudly*
 
Just LOOK at all that Halloween Horror fun this year!  A fine batch indeed.  Zombies, maniacs, ghosts, demons and the Bogeyman.  Yessir. . .a MIGHTY fine batch.  But wait. . .there's something missing!
 
Vampires! What's Halloween without Vampires?
 
Let's get some vampires up in this Halloween Party!

BALTIMORE: THE PLAY

Dark Horse (2012)

 

COVER: Ben Stenbeck
 
THE COVER:
 
I really like the colors on this one a lot!  The red and orange hues set off by deep, shadowy blacks with a single, mysterious white rose in the foreground give this cover a creepy gothic atmosphere that doesn't really say much about the story, but practically demands you buy this comic to find out!  It's a really cool piece of horror comic art.  Let's see what's inside!
 
THE PLAY
 
SCRIPT:  Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
PENCILS: Ben Stenbeck
INKS: Ben Stenbeck
 
THE STORY:
 
Verona, Italy. 1917.  Lord Henry Baltimore arrives in the city and finds it consumed by a virulent plague.  Inquiring about the creature he pursues. . .the vampire called Haigus, the monster who had destroyed his life and family. . .he is directed to a theatre, but discovers that it is a burnt-out hulk, his quarry nowhere to be found.
 
After the prologue, we flash back to two weeks prior to Baltimore's arrival in Verona.

Haigus is working with a theatrical director named Gnecco on a play, La Morte Rossa Trionfante (The Triumphant Red Death). Helping Gnecco with his masterpiece is the severed and preserved head of Edgar Allan Poe in a jar, kept alive by black magic. Wait. . .WHAT? Never mind. Just roll with it!

ANYWAY. . .

Haigus, Gnecco, AND Poe's severed head are all in love with the play's star, the beautiful Isabella.
 
 
Haigus finally comes to realize the mysterious power Isabella holds over him is because she is actually a Muse. . .an immortal vampiric spirit that feeds on the creative souls of her victims, one of the deadliest forms of vampire, capable of even making other vampires her victim!
But Haigus is no ordinary vampire! Once he realizes what sort of creature Isabella is, Haigus manages to break her hold over him during the debut performance of the play.  As he is attacked by Gnecco and Isabella's other slaves in a jealous rage, Haigus kills Gnecco and burns down the theatre.
 
 
 
 
Isabella barely escapes the carnage, taking with her the severed head of Edgar Allan Poe.  Haigus also flees Verona.  A week later, Lord Baltimore arrives at the burned-out theatre.  Seeing that his quarry has escaped him yet again, he moves on. . .knowing that he is leaving behind the remnant of Haigus' vampire cadre to prey on Verona, but he cares only about his pursuit of Haigus.
 
 
The End. . .To be continued.

 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay, not bad.  This one leans in the direction of a more gothic, atmospheric kind of horror than most of the other comics I've reviewed for this Longbox Junk Halloween party.  It has a dark, oppressive feel to it all the way through.  Mignola and Golden definitely know how to set a gloomy scene!
 
Fans of horror literature that read this comic will be able to see that it rests on the shoulders of quite a few different stories that came before. . .whether it's paying homage or just borrowing elements is a hard call.  Mignola and Golden successfully combine the influences and put their own stamp on it, that much is certain.
 
Readers will spot moments that call back to Interview with a Vampire, Masque of The Red Death, Phantom of The Opera, Conqueror Worm, and even a splash of Moby . It's an interesting mix, to be sure.
 
The art is a perfect companion to the dark, gothic tale. . .lending a foreboding and gloomy feel throughout, with heavy shadows and a muted color palette set off by splashes of bright color to bring the drama of a scene forward.  It's the perfect art style for this sort of story!
 

CONCLUSION

 
Although this is a stand-alone story, it has enough connection to the overarching tale of Baltimore's relentless pursuit of Haigus across war-torn Europe in the early 20th Century that it makes me want to read more.  I'm not familiar with Baltimore beyond this and a Free Comic Book Day offering I picked up, but now that I've dug into one of the chapters, I definitely want to read more.
 
Mignola and Golden deftly mix together multiple influences and come up with a tale that reeks of hopelessness and doom.  Stenbeck's art reinforces the gloom and darkness of the story with bold, deep shadows and muted colors.  Together, they bring a strange little supernatural tale that will surely appeal to those who like their horror a bit more on the gothic and literary side of things.
 
Up Next. . .
 
This party ain't over yet!  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews nobody asked for!

 
If the house is rockin' don't bother knockin'!  The Longbox Junk Halloween Horror 2022 party is still going on, and you're invited!  It's that time of year when I pack this blog FULL of spooky comic book fun, so let's get to it!
 
Okay. . .
 
I've reviewed a few Zenescope comics and haven't been very impressed.  In response, I've gotten several private messages from readers (after my recent review of the 2019 Halloween Special) telling me that I'm being a bit unfair by coming into the reviews with some preconceived notions.  
 
But to BE fair, those preconceived notions of Zenescope in general being a comic company in the business of selling sexy comic COVERS without much effort going to the pages in between have borne the bitter fruit of truth once I actually dig into the comics.  Sometimes the truth sucks.  I'm not going to try and sugar coat a rotten apple.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I'm going to give Zenescope another chance.  The same readers who gently chastised me for coming into the reviews with preconceived notions have informed me that the 13 issue 2015 - 2016 Grimm Tales of Terror Volume upped the quality of writing and art to something I might appreciate a bit more.
 
With that in mind, I stopped at the comic shop Wednesday to get my pull and decided to check the back issue bins for some of that Grimm Tales of Terror volume.  The comic at hand is the only one they had. It cost me 5 bucks, so I had grit my teeth through the ordeal of paying cover price for a comic from 2016, but I somehow managed to survive.  The things I do for my Longbox Junk readers!
 
Ready? Let's do it!

GRIMM TALES OF TERROR #9

Zenoscope (2016)

 
 
COVER: Eric J
 
THE COVER:
 
Wait. What? *checks cover* Yep. . .this IS a Zenescope comic.  But where's the sexy?  This comic has 3 covers, and only ONE of them has a sexy girl on it?  Unheard of! Harrumph!  *adjusts monocle*
 
ANYWAY. . .I like it!  It's not the greatest comic cover I've ever seen, but it's nicely drawn, and I'd definitely hang this one on the rotating "Wall O' Covers".  The title takes up a lot of space that could be used for art, but other than that this is a nice, spooky Halloween cover.  It has a creepy vibe to it that makes me want to get inside and see what this story is about.  So, let's do that!
 
THE BOGEYMAN
 
SCRIPT:  Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco & Troy Brownfield
PENCILS: Eric J
INKS: Eric J
 
THE STORY:
 
When young Ben begins constantly waking up screaming in the night, his parents are concerned but frustrated.  They think Ben just needs attention, but he knows better.  A voice talks to him from the closet, taunting him and tormenting him. . .
 
 
As the nights go on, Ben is tortured by horrific dreams of blood and death.  As he wakes screaming, the voice continues to taunt him.  Finally, his parents decide he needs professional help. . .
 
 
The child therapist tries to help Ben, but he knows the truth. . .there IS something in his closet that wants him to do something terrible. The adults don't understand and don't believe him.
 
 
Finally, it gets to be too much.  The constant whispering of the voice from the closet, the nightmares, his parents refusing to believe him.  Ben finally breaks and, at the urging of the voice from the closet, attacks them with a knife in their sleep, brutally killing them both!
 
 
After the deed is done, the voice from the closet finally reveals itself. . .a twisted, ancient creature that beckons Ben to join it.  As Ben follows the creature into the closet, he sees an army of twisted monster children inside.  He has become one of them.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then.  There it is.  Grimm Tales of Terror #9. . .The Bogeyman.  Let's break it on down!
 
I liked it!  It's an extremely simple story, but it's well-written and hooked me in until the last page.  This little story of a boy being tortured into slaughtering his parents by a mysterious voice from the closet taps into a creepy place that makes it memorable and engaging despite being extremely straightforward.  This story starts out on an inevitable path and travels to the end without a bit of deviation.  Is it the best horror story I've ever read? Not even close.  But it IS a good one.
 
On the art side of things, as promised by my readers, this is some of the best art I've seen in a Zenescope book yet.  Like the writing, it's not the BEST art I've ever seen, but it's pretty darn good.  It gives the story a dark and creepy feel, with effective use of dark shadows and bold lines.  It falls apart a bit during the scenes set in daylight, but this is a story about things that whisper in the night, so of course there's more of a focus on those scenes.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, I liked this one quite a bit.  I say "thanks" to the readers who pointed me in this direction, because they were right.  Zenescope CAN do comics without crappy art and stories that seem like thoughtless filler to pad the space under a sexy cover.  This one was actually pretty good.
 
Is it the best comic book horror story I've read?  I've read better. . .but this IS a simple, creepy exploration of the Bogeyman in the closet trope, backed up by some good art that really drives home the dark and shadowy motif of the tale.
 
I feel I can safely recommend this little one-shot horror story to any fan of horror comics reading this.  I'm not sure about the rest of the series, but I know I'm going to keep my eye out for more issues so I can find out!
 
For once, Zenescope is a Longbox Junk winner!
 
Up Next. . .
 
This party ain't over yet!  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun is on the way!
 
Be there or be square.  

- read more

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

 
What's a Halloween party without some ghosts?  You know the answer just as well as I do, it's not a Halloween party at all!  So, let's crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for trip back to 1974 for some Bronze Age comic book ghost stories, shall we? WE SHALL!
 
It's another Longbox Junk retro review nobody asked me to write! Why isn't anyone clapping?
 
Let's do it!

GHOSTS #28

DC (1974)

 
 
COVER: Nick Cardy
 
THE COVER:
 
Now THERE'S a real Bronze Age beauty, courtesy of the late, great Nick Cardy!  A horrific vision rendered in supreme detail by a true comic legend.  It's simply a great piece of horror comic art.  The title takes up too much room that could have been used to give us MORE of Cardy's fantastic artwork, but that's the only thing wrong with this cover.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Three full ghostly comic stories and a one-page text piece in this one.  That's some darn fine value for two thin dimes!  Let's give each one their own turn. . .
 
FLIGHT OF THE LOST PHANTOM
 
SCRIPT:  Leo Dorfman
PENCILS: Don Perlin
INKS: Don Perlin
 
In 1965, as a reporter covers a story about the decommissioning of the aircraft carrier, Washington, he hears the tale of a fighter pilot lost during WWII at the battle for Saipan.  A pilot whose death has haunted the former Captain of the Washington since the day he let it happen to protect the men on the carrier.  
 
The disbelieving reporter soon learns the truth of the strange tale when he sees the ghostly plane finally coming in for a landing, and the former Captain guiding it in before he dies on the deck of the Washington!  
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad start.  It's not the most memorable story I've ever read, but this tale of a retired ship Captain sacrificing himself to right a wrong and give a lost spirit rest is a decent read.  The art is the high point of the story, with Don Perlin making great use of dark shadows and bold lines, a great job of inking!
 
All in all, a good start.  Let's see what's up next!
 
THE CORPSE IN THE CRADLE
 
SCRIPT:  Murray Boltinoff
PENCILS:  Alfredo Alcala
INKS: Alfredo Alcala
 
Long ago in the Scottish Highlands, farmer Clyde Jameson and his good wife prepare for the birth of their first born child.  Though they are poor, Clyde is determined to give his son all the things he never had.  And so, Clyde takes a job as a fisherman, leaving his wife until the harvest season.
 
Upon his return, Clyde is shocked to find his wife in poor health.  On a rainy night, her time to give birth comes and Clyde rushes through the downpour for the doctor.  His son is born and they live happily ever after.
 
Except that's not what happened.  His wife and son died in childbirth and it broke Clyde's mind.  The rest of his life, he lives with their ghosts, never admitting the truth, becoming a living ghost himself.
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This was a really well-written little story!  The stinger that the happy ending wasn't really what happened was actually a surprise.  When you've read as many of these horror/suspense anthology comics as I have, an ending that comes as a surprise is a rare thing!
 
But as good as the story is, the art (like the first story) is the real star of the show!  Just LOOK at the page I scanned above!  That upper panel of the farm has such rich detail and personality!  It's not just a great piece of comic art, it's a great piece of art, period.  Each page of this story is filled with the same fine detail.
 
Overall, a well-written story with a twist ending that's actually a surprise, backed up with some truly great Bronze Age artwork.  This one's a winner!
 
NEXT!
 
THE SPECTRE OF THE IRON DUCHESS
 
SCRIPT:  Leo Dorfman
PENCILS: Jerry Grandenetti 
INKS: Jerry Grandenetti
 
In an Eastern European country during the Soviet era, transportation minister Jan Rasek finds himself in danger of losing his job and possibly his life when supply trucks keep disappearing on a mountain road.  
 
Upon investigating, he learns of a legend that a ghostly Duchess protects the road from the ruins of her ancient castle and will do so until the castle is destroyed.  Although the Soviet council doesn't believe him, a late-night encounter with the ghost convinces Rasek of the truth of the legend.
 
Determined to destroy the ancient castle and release the trapped spirit, Rasek drives a truck filled with explosives to the castle, but the ghostly Iron Duchess attacks him.  After a tense fight, Rasek is finally able to destroy the castle with the explosives, but at the cost of his own life.
 
The next day, the first vehicle to be able to freely pass the ruins of the castle is the hearse bearing Rasek's body.
 

 
THE REVIEW:
 
I sort of had high hopes that this last story would maintain the quality of the first two, but it falls flat in both writing and art, leading to a disappointing finish.  The story is. . .okay. It's pretty weak, to tell the truth.  Not much put into it. The art looks sketchy and unfinished in many places.  Writing and art combined have a definite stench of minimum effort.  This story feels like a filler.
 
Oh well, I guess they ALL can't be winners.  
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE FOREST OF NO RETURN
 
SCRIPT: ?
ILLUSTRATION: ?
 
We have a one-page text filler to finish off this issue.
 
It's about the true unsolved mystery of 4 different children who disappeared without a trace in the Los Angeles National Forest between 1956 and 1960.  It's written in a very matter of fact way and is probably the most frightening thing in this horror comic for being completely true.
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
Two good stories, one. . .not so good.  All in all, not bad.  The last comic story is a bit of a stinker, but the rest of the comic is pretty good, and there's some very nice Bronze Age comic art showcased in the first two stories.  The text piece filler is sort of take it or leave it.  It's the facts of a true unsolved mystery and you'll either enjoy it or not based on your like or dislike of the subject in general.
 
Overall, this was a pretty good read and I feel I can recommend it for fans of Bronze Age horror/suspense anthologies if you spot one at a decent price.  I wouldn't suggest going out of your way to find this issue or pay a premium price for it.  There are some good stories with some good art inside, and the cover is absolutely awesome, but there's also a pretty bad story with awful art in here too.
 
Up Next. . .
 
You guessed it.  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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