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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

September 2021




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

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

SO. . .

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

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

There are!

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

BUT. . .

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

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

(Part 4)

DC (2018)

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

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

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

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

To be continued. . .

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

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


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

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

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

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


DC (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DC (2018)

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


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

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find more comic reviews that you never asked for than you ever asked for.  What? Well it makes sense to me!

Although things are slowly getting back to something resembling normal in the great state of Utah, my work schedule is still just flappin' in the wind.  It seems that the government in their "wisdom" has decided to pay an unemployment bonus that lets people make more money by NOT working than they usually make on the job.  I'm not gonna get political here, but it's created an interesting situation where my hotel has full-time jobs available, but nobody wants them.


Because my schedule is still pretty chaotic (and to make it worse, I've also been a bit sick. . .not "the virus"), I'm still sticking to some shorter reviews of single first issues I've picked up recently during my dives into my Local Comic Shop's back issue bins.  I call this little effort to keep the Longbox Junk posts coming on a somewhat regular basis "First Issue Fun".

When I read the first issue of a series, I look for TWO things:  Does it introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way?  Does it tell a story that I want to read more of?  Is that really too much to ask for?  I think it's actually a pretty low bar, but for some reason, it seems that a lot of first issues somehow manage to fail at one or both of those two little things.

So let's take a look at a couple more first issues and see what happens, shall we?

We shall!


(Part 3)


Dynamite (2013)

SCRIPT: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
PENCILS: Cezar Razek
COVER: Alex Ross
If you're a big Battlestar Galactica fan like myself, this cover is as good as it gets!  A real stunner by the legendary Alex Ross that not only perfectly captures likenesses of the T.V. show's characters, but also gives us a taste of the sci-fi combat action that Battlestar Galactica fans expect. I love everything about this cover!  Let's get inside and see what else is going on. . .
Our story takes place many years into the Battlestar Galactica's long search for the fabled planet "Earth".  After a ceremony commemorating the human defeat at the hands of the Cylon Empire that led to the Galactica being the caretaker of the last known remnant of humanity, the fleet is taken by surprise by a massive Cylon attack!
By using the same nebula that Galactica had used to hide from Cylon pursuers, multiple Cylon basestars are able to take the human fleet completely unaware, forcing the Galactica to take the brunt of the attack in order to give the rest of the fleet time to escape.  
After Galactica is severely damaged by Cylon suicide attacks, Commander Adama reluctantly agrees to allow the young scientist Zee's experimental temporal weapons to be used as a last resort.  Ace pilots Starbuck and Apollo are pulled from the battle and are quickly given two heavily-modified Vipers with instructions to take down the Cylon base ships with the temporal weapons at any cost.
As the two pilots fight their way through the desperate battle, another suicide attack hits the Galactica, heavily damaging Zee's temporal generator onboard, causing an overload and wave of temporal energy that leaves Starbuck and Apollo alone in space without the Cylons, the human fleet, or Battlestar Galactica anywhere to be found. 
To be continued. . .
As a big fan of Battlestar Galactica, I really liked this story a lot!  It explores an area I haven't seen stories going into before. . .the gap between the original Battlestar Galactica series and the later short-lived Galactica: 1980 series (which took place about 10 years later).  There's really not too much to it. . .a bit of exposition to set the scene and then a Cylon surprise attack that calls for desperate measures to escape that go wrong and sets up a cliffhanger going forward. . .but for a fan like me, this was pure candy!
And therein lies the problem with this issue.  Although it tells a story I definitely want to read more of, it utterly fails to present itself in a new reader-friendly way.  This is a story written for existing Battlestar Galactica fans ONLY.  It makes absolutely no effort to introduce any characters to new readers, instead assuming out of the gate that if you're buying this comic, you're already a fan and know who everyone is.
It's a well-written story with surprising nods to Galactica: 1980 characters like Zee, but if you don't understand what that means, this comic isn't going to do much for you.  
The art inside doesn't come close to matching the brilliance of Alex Ross's cover (but there's not many artists who can, so no foul there), but the style is well-suited for the story at hand.  It's darkly-inked and dramatic, really shining during scenes of space battles with some panels that are borderline great.  The quality dips a bit for character scenes, but not so far as to bring the story down at all.
Overall, what we have here is a great first issue for fans of the original Battlestar Galactica.  It explores an unusual area of BSG continuity and tells an interesting, action-packed story that ends on a cliffhanger practically begging me to pick up some more issues.  It's backed up by some really good art and sits under a cover that's practically worth the price of admission alone.
BUT. . .
If you aren't already a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica, this is NOT a good introduction at all.  This is a story written only for existing fans, which is a bit of a shame because the original series and Galactica: 1980 only made up 34 episodes total between them.  Comics are a great way to continue the story of the last Battlestar guiding the remnants of humanity toward the fabled planet Earth.  To not reach out even a little bit to new readers with this first issue just makes me sort of sad.
In other words, definitely grab this one from the back issue bin IF you're a Battlestar Galactica fan.  If not, you can pretty much safely leave it for someone else and not be missing much.


Dynamite (2014)

SCRIPT: Fred Van Lente
PENCILS: Cory Smith
COVER: Gabriel Hardman
I really like the dark and moody feel of this cover a lot, and it's very nicely detailed, but between the giant title taking up most of the real estate up top and the pile of robot bodies down below, the main character seems a bit small and insignificant.  Maybe that  fits the theme of the story inside of one man against a world and was done on purpose, but it kind of takes an otherwise great cover down a notch, in my extremely humble opinion.  
Our tale begins with Russ Magnus, a respected schoolteacher and martial arts instructor, living a life of peace and fulfillment in the sleepy mountain town of Maury's Peak with his wife Moira.  
After receiving the good news that Moira is pregnant, Magnus goes on a celebratory fishing trip with the town's benevolent Artificial Intelligence Overseer, A1. . .who raised Magnus from the time he was a child after the loss of his parents.
Magnus' peaceful life is violently interrupted by a mysterious attack on Maury's Peak! As Magnus rushes into town to his wife, he is confronted by robotic soldiers, whose attacks cause Magnus to wake up in a completely different place!
Confused by the sudden change from the idyllic mountain town to a network of filthy tunnels, Magnus is commanded by A1 to escape and try to find the Overseer at "The Central Network".  After evading a team of pursuing robotic soldiers, Magnus finds an exit from the tunnels, but when he emerges, he finds himself in the middle of a crowded, futuristic city!
As the overwhelmed Magnus tries to get his bearings, he realizes that somehow he can see THROUGH the faces of the surrounding crowd, revealing them all to be humanoid robots.  He manages to make his way to the Central Network Building towering over the city, where he is quickly identified as an "Unregistered Human" and attacked by robotic security guards intent on capturing him.
As Magnus fights his attackers, he discovers that he can somehow see the weak spots on the robots, and that his bare hands have become destructive weapons that can easily destroy his mechanical enemies. As the newly-empowered Magnus tears his way through the robot security guards, he is confronted by another human. . .his surprise at seeing the first human in the city makes him pause long enough for her to shoot, knocking Magnus unconscious and ending the battle.
To be continued. . .
I'm not really familiar with Magnus: Robot Fighter.  I've read a few of the old Gold Key comics and have seen him here and there in some 90's Valiant Comics, but I've never been interested enough to seek out more than the few bits I already have.  He's a guy named Magnus. . .he fights robots.  That's pretty much what I know about Magnus: Robot Fighter.  I was a bit nervous about this issue because this is a character that started in the 60's and has been through several different versions over the years, with a Wikipedia page leaning toward a long and convoluted history.
Dynamite does a great job in this issue of presenting characters in a new reader-friendly manner AND giving me a story that I want more of!  All I ask of a first issue are those two things, and Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 gives me both of them.
Like the Supergirl #1 issue I reviewed for the last Longbox Junk First Issue Fun post, the writer introduces Magnus by letting the reader share the character's confusion. . .one minute he's in a peaceful mountain town, the next he's on the run in a far future New York City populated by robots!  I really like this introduction to Magnus, even if it IS a bit derivative of The Matrix.  
I don't have to have any knowledge of past continuity or other versions of the character, I can just get right on board with this first issue and base my opinion on this and this alone.  And my opinion is that I want to read more! I like that Dynamite got it right with this one.
The art is a perfect compliment to the story.  It starts off with a muted color palette during Magnus' false idyllic life in the mountain town. . .
. . .and then switches to a darker, heavier, more colorful style when Magnus is awakened to reality in far future New York City. . .
It's a  great storytelling device that just made me like this first issue even more.
Overall, what we have here is a great first issue!  It gives a character with a long and tangled comic book history a fresh start geared toward new readers.  It tells an action-packed science fiction story about a man who discovers that he has been living a lie and finds himself surrounded by enemies in a strange place, ending on a cliffhanger that makes me want to get right into the next issue and learn more.  It's backed up by some pretty darn good hard-edged Sci-Fi comic art.  
Really, what more could you ask for in the first issue of a series?  Not much, in my extremely humble opinion.  You don't need to be an existing fan of Magnus: Robot Fighter to enjoy this.  If you're a science fiction comic fan and spot this one in the back issue bin, check it out!


Two pretty good first issue picks this time out. . .both from Dynamite, even though I didn't really plan it that way.  
 Battlestar Galactica doesn't hit the mark of being very new reader-friendly, but for existing fans it has an interesting story that you're going to want more of (SPOILER ALERT: I picked up the next few issues and it's a great little time-twisted Battlestar Galactica version of Star Trek's "Mirror Universe" stories).  It's a solid comic worth a read for fans.  If you're not a fan, you might not get much mileage out of it.
On the other hand. . .
Magnus: Robot Fighter is a great example of a comic that nails not only introducing a character for new readers, but also telling a very nice hard-edged science fiction "man on the run" story that makes me want to see what happens next (I haven't been able to find any other issues of this one yet).  You don't have to be an existing fan of long-time comic character Magnus to enjoy this story at all.
Up Next. . .
Even MORE First Issue Fun!
Can the next couple of picks manage to tell a good story I'll want more of AND start off in a new reader-friendly way?  Join me and we'll both find out.
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog packed absolutely FULL of comic reviews that nobody ever asked for.  No need to thank me. . .it's just what I do!
My work schedule is still pretty chaotic (but I still have a job at least, so I'll keep complaints to a minimum), so I'm TRYING to suppress my long-winded nature a bit in order to keep the Longbox Junk shorter and coming on a somewhat regular basis.
To help with this, I'm stepping outside of the usual Longbox Junk zone and shining the spotlight on some single issues instead of full runs or complete mini-series.  For now, that spotlight will shine on the #1 issues I've recently been pulling from my Local Comic Shop's back issue bins as I do my part to try and help them out by spending the same amount every week on back issues (not the bargain bin) that I normally would on new comics. . .and may I take this opportunity to humbly suggest anyone reading this to do the same, if possible?  
First issues. Are they a good introduction to the characters?  Do they make me want to keep reading more?  These are the main questions I ask myself when I read a first issue.  Let's take a look at a couple and find out the answer!


DC (1994)

SCRIPT: Andrew Helfer
PENCILS: Mike Avon Oeming
COVER: Mike Avon Oeming
That's a lot of blood right there on the cover, considering this comic still sports the CCA seal up in the corner.  Tiptoeing beyond THAT, I like this cover a lot!  It's a little cluttered, but the bright primary colors on Dredd and the title really pop in a big way against the background of carnage. I also like the downward perspective, like it's from the view of a security camera.  Probably not work safe for the "Wall O' Covers", but very nicely-done.
In the grim, crime-ridden future of America, the Federal Government has authorized the militarization of the police force into heavily-armed "Street Judges", who act as on the spot judges, and possibly executioners, of criminals as they patrol the blocks of gigantic "Mega-Cities".
We begin our story as one of Mega-City One's harshest Judges, Dredd, takes down an unauthorized flight smuggling contraband "Cybernarc" cartridges in his usual explosive and very publicly-violent style.  Unfortunately, later investigation reveals that all the Cybernarc has disappeared from the wreckage of the craft.  Dredd is called into headquarters to explain himself.
Dredd believes in upholding the law, no matter the cost in either lives or property.  His superiors disagree and come to the decision that Judge Dredd is a public relations nightmare and needs to be re-assigned.  His first new job. . .street training for a trio of new recruits fresh from the Academy and getting them ready for patrol.
Chafing at being forced to babysit, Dredd takes the opportunity to "train" his new recruits by dragging them along as he begins an unauthorized investigation into exactly what happened to the missing drugs that got him into trouble with his superiors.
Dredd (his terrified recruits in tow) quickly follows a trail of clues straight to a conspiracy involving corrupt Judges working for a gangster known as "Mickey The Stump".  He wastes no time in tracking down The Stump's headquarters and shooting his way through the guards, but as he pursues the fleeing gangster, Dredd falls into an ambush and finds himself surrounded, facing dozens of heavily-armed thugs alone.
For Judge Dredd this is just an average Tuesday. . .
To be continued. . .
I have a somewhat sketchy knowledge of Judge Dredd based on the two movies, a few issues of 2000 A.D. and some Dredd mini-series (mostly the set of Batman/Judge Dredd crossovers) in my collection. I wasn't aware that DC had the rights to the character for a while.  A bit of research gave me very little information on this series beyond that it has nothing to do with the continuity of 2000 A.D. or the movies, and that DC's time with Judge Dredd was pretty short. 
This series only lasted 18 issues and a sister series called "Legends of The Law", which was a "Legends of The Dark Knight" sort of anthology starring Judge Dredd by multiple creative teams, also only lasted 13 issues.  Neither series seems to have been popular enough to have been collected, and barely any mention of either can be found beyond raw publication data on various collecting and sales sites.  
I believe this might be the only review of this issue that has been (or probably ever will be) written, so there's that.
I really enjoyed this first issue.  It has a tight story that reads like a T.V. cop show on the printed page.  It introduces Judge Dredd and his harsh world very nicely for new readers without a lot of exposition, it sets up future stories, and ends on a cliffhanger that makes me want to read the next issue. . .so it hits the marks I expect a first issue to hit.
I think DC might have been in a strange situation here.  By ditching the long and involved A.D. 2000 continuity and starting fresh, they did a great job in reaching out to new readers. . .but at the same time, I have the feeling that established fans turned their noses up at the fresh start and didn't support this series enough to last beyond 18 issues.  Personally, I liked their decision. . .but if you are a die-hard Judge Dredd fan, this might seem a little "Basic".  
Like I mentioned above, the story has a snappy, cinematic pace and style that feels like you're reading a T.V. show on the page.  For some, the "cop show" story might feel a bit TOO familiar and procedural, but for me it's one of the best parts of the comic and I could easily see this being adapted as a television series.
The art also lends itself well to the cinematic style of the story, with varying "camera" angles and interesting "shots" as the characters move across the page.  The sequence below is a very nice example of what I'm trying to say.  It's not the greatest comic art I've ever seen, but it does a great job telling the story at hand.
Overall, what we have here is a first issue that does exactly what I expect a first issue to do. . .introduce characters in a new reader-friendly manner and tell a good enough story that I want to read more.   Established Judge Dredd fans might be put off by the complete disregard for all previous continuity, but if you just want to read a dark Sci-Fi "cop show" comic with a bit of humor splashed in, then this is a great place to start.


DC (2011)

SCRIPT: Michael Green & Mike Johnson
PENCILS: Mahmud Asrar
COVER: Mahmud Asrar
A very nicely-done character portrait!  I like the muted color scheme quite a bit on this one.  Supergirl's face looks just a little strange, but other than that there's nothing I don't like about this.  I don't normally like Supergirl (or generally any title in the DC Super-Family, for that matter), but this cover made me buy this comic, so job well done.  Let's check out what's inside!
Our tale begins as a mysterious piece of space debris lands in a desolate Russian field.  From it emerges a strangely-dressed young woman.  She is confused and doesn't remember how she came to be there or what has happened, or why she is dressed the way she is.  The last thing she remembers is coming home after visiting her friends.  We the reader are given clues through her thoughts that she is from another planet called Krypton and her name is Kara Zor-El.
As the confused girl tries to get her bearings, a group of men wearing power armor suits surround her and attack!  Their communication among themselves tells us that they intend to subdue and capture the mysterious stranger on the orders of the leader of the unnamed organization they work for.  They seem to have the upper hand at first, but then the sun rises and Kara realizes that she is no longer on Krypton as her body undergoes a change, giving her superhuman strength and the ability to project rays of heat from her eyes.
The tide of battle turns in Kara's favor as she uses her new powers to quickly decimate her attackers. . .but just as quickly as the fight began, it ends with a rush of wind as a flying man wearing the same colors and symbol as Kara does arrives and orders her in Kryptonian to stop fighting!
It's a Super-Cliffhanger!
To be continued. . .
What we have here is an extremely simple story that is mostly a fight between Supergirl and her mysterious attackers.  Beyond that, there is very little past a few clues to who she is and where she is from.  The simplicity of the story lends itself quite well to a first issue in that the reader shares a bit in the confusion of the main character as she tries to get her bearings.
One would think that such a bare-bones introduction isn't much of an introduction at all, but oddly enough in this case it works.  I liked the fact that we don't learn EVERYTHING about Kara Zor-El in her first issue. It's probably the thing I liked most about this issue.
 Like I said in my look at the cover, I'm generally not a fan of ANY character in DC's Super-Family.  I can enjoy individual issues and stories about Super-Man/Boy/Woman/Girl/Dog/Etc. . . but I've never followed any of them on a regular basis.  I like that this first issue seems to be reaching out to new readers such as myself in a big way by not making me deal with any past information or continuity beats beyond general assumed basic comic fan knowledge of who Superman is and the doomed planet of Krypton . .and if you don't know at LEAST those two things about comic books, you might want to stick to crossword puzzles as a hobby.  Just sayin'.   
Unlike some other New 52 "introductory" issues I've read recently that seem to be little more than extensions of (then) existing continuity with a few cosmetic changes, Supergirl #1 seems to embrace the idea of being a whole new start for readers that the entire New 52 was SUPPOSED to be.  I don't like Super-Comics much, but I liked THIS Super-Comic because it does exactly what a first issue needs to do. . .Introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way and tell a story that makes me want to read more.
With such a simple story, the art is necessarily going to have to carry a lot of weight.  Thankfully, Mahmud Asrar is well up to the task.  It's not the greatest comic art I've ever seen, but it's interesting, dynamic, and colorful without being cartoony.  It's hard for me to take a character like Supergirl seriously, but the art here definitely helps me decide that I wouldn't mind reading a few more issues to see what happens next.
Overall, despite my general dislike of DC's Super-Family of comic characters, I liked this issue quite a bit.  The story was extremely simple, but it gave me just enough meat on the bone to want to see what happens next and to learn a little more about Kara Zor-El.  
The art did a lot of the heavy lifting in an issue that's pretty much an extended fight scene with a few story bits thrown in for introductory flavor, but I like the art style and it did a lot to help me decide that I MIGHT decide to like a Super-Comic for once, and that maybe I'll pick up a few more issues next time I hit the LCS to see where the story goes.
I can't speak for the rest of the series, but I can heartily recommend THIS issue if you want a good example of a first issue doing it right.  If you are an established Supergirl fan, you might find this story extremely basic and not what you were wanting, but if you're a new reader like myself it's a great little piece of Longbox Junk.  Give it a try if you should spot it in the bargain bin.


All in all, not a bad couple of first issues!  Not bad at all.  Both of them hit the marks I expect a first issue to hit. . .introducing characters in a new reader-friendly way and telling a story that makes me want to read more.  Neither one of these comics are GREAT, but both are good.  I couldn't find much wrong with either one of them.
If you're looking for some dark sci-fi police action with a little humor thrown in, then Judge Dredd #1 is a good place to start.  Just be warned that if you are already a Judge Dredd fan from other sources, the DC version is going to seem extremely basic, and probably will be a little disappointing.
It's the same with Supergirl.  If you're already a Supergirl fan, the complete reboot aimed specifically at new readers might not make you happy.  But if you're looking for a comic that introduces a new character by making you learn about her through story instead of exposition, then Supergirl #1 is surprisingly good.
Up Next. . .
MORE First Issue Fun.  
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

I've noticed something recently.  Chalk it up to the strange times we're living in right now, but it seems like EVERY comic review site has suddenly transformed into a Longbox Junk franchise.  There's reviews of back issues all over the place these days!  How can a humble Longbox Junker like myself stand out when EVERYBODY has gone off the shelf and into the bins for material?

And so I ponder the question as I browse the shiny new Longbox Junk franchises I normally read my current comic reviews at.   And as I ponder, I realize the answer is right up at the top of this very page!

Those other guys are doing reviews of Batman, Nightwing, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Avengers, Thor, X-Force, Wolverine, Deadpool, Spider-Verse, and so on and so forth. That's cool.  Keepin' the lights on, at least.

BUT. . .

Who's doing reviews of New 52 Blackhawks?  Who's gonna review Marvel's New Universe Justice?  Who's digging deep enough to suffer through Acclaim's Gawd-Awful sequel to Waterworld. . .Children of Leviathan?  Does anyone even know there IS a Gawd-Awful comic sequel to Waterworld? Who's writing reviews that NOBODY ever asked for? WHO?

You know who.  And I'm taking this opportunity to thank you for reading.  I really do appreciate you fine folks who take a bit of your precious time to come here and (hopefully) enjoy what I do.  It means a lot to me.

ANYWAY. . .I'm not complaining about the other guys doing what they have to do.  Just something that I've been thinking about lately.  And seriously, thanks for reading!

Enough of that.

Due to my strange new work schedule (I don't even want to try and describe it), I have lots of time to READ comics, but finding time to write about them has become a bit challenging.  So I'm going to break away from what I normally do. . .mostly limited series. . .and focus on some single issues for a little while.  And so with that, we (FINALLY) come to the comics at hand. . .a pair of #1 issues I recently pulled from the back issue bins. One from Marvel, one from DC.  Let's do it!




MARVEL (2010)

Now, Not Tomorrow - Part 1: No Turning Back
SCRIPT: Sean McKeever
PENCILS: David Baldeon
COVER: David Lafuente
A very nice fold out team action shot!  Great colors, great composition, a nice sense of movement.  I like this cover a lot. It's a real eye-catcher and pretty much the reason I picked up this issue in the first place, because I had no idea who any of these characters are.  Let's get inside!
We begin our tale with a prologue set in Columbia, where a young boy named Benito is kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier.  Later, we see that he is also forced to undergo strange experiments meant to raise his strength and make him resistant to damage.
Moving forward into the present day, we find Rikki Barnes (AKA Nomad) and her best friend, Anya Corazon (AKA Arana/Spider-Girl) stopping the robbery of a grocery store.  This leads to an extended rooftop conversation/ exposition dump about their background and current status. . .Nomad is from another dimension where she was the companion to that world's Captain America.  She's now trapped in this world trying to connect with THIS Cap.  Arana used to have super powers and was Spider-Girl, but now she's lost her powers but is still trying to be a super hero without them, and not doing very well at it.
We then change scene to the campus of a local college for another extended info dump, where we are introduced to Greg Willis (AKA Gravity), a young superhero who has some pretty hardcore ideas about what to do with supervillains. . .on the spot execution.  We are also introduced to his more liberal foil/friend, Angelica Jones (AKA Firestar), a young mutant that was once tricked into working for villains and is now trying to make up for her mistake.  She's a more experienced hero, having served alongside the X-Men and Avengers.
Now that introductions are over, an explosion rocks downtown New York, attracting the attention of all of the young heroes we've just met.  As they all rush toward the commotion, Firestar arrives first and discovers a team of young super-powered villains laying waste to downtown property and killing any civilians in their path. 
As the rest of the heroes arrive, a super-powered brawl in the streets of New York ensues where (through shouted exposition between punches and power blasts) we learn that the deadly troublemakers are: Aftershock (daughter of Electro), Ember (son of Pyro), Mortar (daughter of Grey Gargoyle), Singularity (son of Graviton), and Warhead (son of Radioactive Man). . .collectively known as "The Bastards of Evil", a team of unwanted children of various supervillains. 
During the fight, Spider-Girl is blasted away from the battle by Singularity's gravity powers and thrown into the Statue of Liberty, where she is rescued by a mysterious boy that changes into a hulking figure.  We learn that he is the kidnapped child soldier from the prologue. . .Benito Serrano (AKA Toro).
The battle slowly begins to turn in favor of the heroes. . .even though it goes mysteriously unnoticed by The Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Defenders, and probably a half-dozen other New York-based super-teams and heroes I can't think of off the top of my head. . .BUT I DIGRESS!  
Seeing their impending defeat, the villain Warhead makes his way to the Ground Zero Memorial at the site of the former World Trade Center, where he detonates himself with a gigantic nuclear explosion!
To be continued. . .
Maybe the Avengers will notice THAT.
Hmmm. . .not bad.  Not great. . .but not too bad.  What we have here is a #1 issue that pretty much does what a #1 issue should.  It introduces the heroes, the villains, and the conflict.  It doesn't try to reach beyond that, and as a new reader that's something I can appreciate because it's pretty clear to see from the amount of exposition presented that all of these characters have a pretty deep back story.
Marvel also reaches out to new readers who might want a little more information on these established characters with a biography page for each of them (including back issue info for more reading!) in the rear.  A VERY nice touch that kept me from having to hit Wikipedia.
It's not very often that you see that kind of interest in bringing in new readers, so definitely credit for Marvel where credit is due.  Too bad it was in service to a series that only lasted six issues.  Still, a surprisingly strong effort.
Beyond the very nice outreach to new readers, this issue is pretty basic in nature.  It's about half introduction and half superhero vs. supervillain battle.  The writing is fast-paced and the art is kinetic and brilliantly-colored, matching the youthful direction of this title quite well.  It's not the greatest writing or the best comic art I've ever seen, but both do a great job of getting this series off the ground and running.
Overall, I liked this comic.  Like I said above, it doesn't have the greatest writing or art I've ever seen, but it's fun and everything fits together nicely for a solid introduction.  Marvel's reach for new readers on this series deserves another round of applause as well.  
Unfortunately, I'm personally not a fan of superhero team books and even less so of teen superheroes.  But I'm not really the audience Marvel was trying for here.  My comic lovin' daughter gave this a read and LOVED it!  She liked the "Marvel-Style Teen Titans" vibe of it a lot.  My LCS has the other 5 issues in their bins and she plans on buying them next trip out.  
Given her enthusiastic reception and my admiration for Marvel's attention toward new readers on this one, I think I can safely say that if you're a fan of teen super-teams, you'll probably like this series if you're looking for something fun and a little under the radar.  Pick it up if you spot it in the back issue bins and give it a try. It's only 6 issues, so it should be pretty easy to collect.


DC (2011)

SCRIPT: Tony S. Daniel
PENCILS: Philip Tan
COVER: Philip Tan
Normally, I'm a bit of a sucker for covers with monochromatic backgrounds, but for some reason the plain white doesn't really do it for me on this one.  The portrait of Hawkman himself is very nicely done, though.  It has great colors and a nice sense of "in your face" forward movement.  I'm a little cool on the white background, but I'd still give this one a turn on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.
We begin by being introduced to a man named Carter Hall, driving alone through upstate New York and filled with dark thoughts of regret. He walks into the woods and tries to burn a strange costume, but the fire grows out of control and a gigantic flaming bird of prey looms over Carter as the flames consume him.
Off the Bermuda coast, an expedition led by a Professor Ziegler has pulled up a large piece of wreckage from the sea floor.  Upon inspection, the Professor believes it is part of an alien craft!  He orders the strange wreckage shipped to his laboratory.  Noting some markings on the wreckage he'd like translated, Ziegler tries to locate his resident Cryptologist (none other than Carter Hall) but is informed that nobody has seen him for weeks. . .
LATER. . .
We return to Carter Hall as he slowly wakes up on the floor of his apartment.  After being engulfed in flame, Hall wonders how he is alive, let alone back home hours away from where he was.  Before he can ponder the mystery for long, his friend Terrance arrives to inform Hall that Professor Ziegler has an assignment studying the mysterious alien wreckage waiting for him.  
Soon afterward, Hall and Terrance arrive at Professor Ziegler's laboratory.  The Professor informs him about finding the alien wreckage, as well as a new development.  Since bringing it to the laboratory for further study, the wreckage has revealed an exciting find. . .some sort of mummified alien body!  
As Ziegler's scientists proceed with tests on the alien mummy, a biological sample of fluid from the mummy comes alive and envelopes the terrified scientists in black goo.  As the scientist is quickly transformed into  a bizarre creature that breaks free from the containment cell and begins to wreak havoc, Carter Hall jumps into action!
As he tries to hold back the creature while Ziegler and the rest of the scientists make their escape, Hall quickly discovers that small pieces of the creature he is knocking off with an ax are growing into duplicates!  Outnumbered and seemingly defeated, Hall's skin begins to bubble and the Hawkman armor he thought he'd burned grows through his skin to protect him. Somehow the "Nth Metal" the armor is made of is now somehow inside him!
This strange new development seems to turn the battle's tide to favor Hall. . .now once again Hawkman!  That is until the controlling alien entity introduces itself as "Morphicius" and takes an interest in the properties of Hall's armor, bringing the duplicates back into itself and becoming a single huge enemy that quickly overwhelms Hawkman and begins absorbing his life force. . .transforming Morphicius into a bizarre Alien/Hawkman hybrid as Hawkman lies helpless!
To be continued. . .
This MIGHT be a bit of a problem. . .
Hmmmmm. . .okay then.  
Unlike the first Young Allies issue reviewed above, Savage Hawkman #1 doesn't make the slightest effort to reach out to new readers. . .which is not only unfortunate in that I'm not overly-familiar with Hawkman except through his B-List Justice League role, but also in light of the New 52 SUPPOSEDLY being a complete re-start and jumping on point for all of DC's comics at the time.  I'm not going to get too negative, but Savage Hawkman pretty much fails in being an introduction to this character's solo adventures for new readers.
So that's the bad.  Let's talk about what's good in this comic.
Beyond expecting readers to already be completely familiar with Hawkman, the story itself is pretty good.  It's more than a little derivative of Marvel's "Venom", or any other "The mysterious alien goo is takin' over!" storyline for that matter, but I can dig a little "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" in my funny books.  
It's not the greatest comic story I've ever read, but it is well-written and gets this series off to enough of a running start that I wouldn't mind picking up a few more issues to see where things go. . .There's 19 more regular issues plus a "zero" issue (which were the New 52's annuals for one year), so there's definitely more room for development going forward, despite the start being a bit shaky for new readers.
While the story is pretty good, the art is almost worth the price of admission by itself!  Philip Tan does a stellar job of selling this comic with a style that really shines during action scenes, giving static images a cinematic flair that almost seems to move on the page!  Combined with some fantastic colors that really make individual elements of the panels pop in a big way, the art is definitely the best part of Savage Hawkman.
Overall, what we have here is an introductory issue that's a bit disappointing in that it's not a great introduction to Hawkman for new readers.  Beyond that, it has a well-written (if a bit derivative) story backed up by some really great art.  
I was hooked JUST enough to want to see more, but I think this would appeal more to established fans of Hawkman, and that's who I would really recommend Savage Hawkman to.  For anyone else, I'd say give it a fair try if you spot it in the bargain bin, but definitely don't pay full price for it because you might not feel like you got your money's worth.


The two issues at hand are sort of a study in contrasts.  One is a brightly-colored team book aimed at younger comic fans and making an admirable effort at drawing in new readers.  The other is a dark and violent tale aimed at mature readers that doesn't even make a token effort to provide any background for the main character.
Both of these issues are good in their own way.  Young Allies was fun and did a great job introducing characters I didn't know.  Savage Hawkman is the sort of darker story I enjoy and it had some outstanding art.  
Both issues were also a little disappointing as well.   Young Allies was a little TOO light and youthful for a guy in his 50's and Savage Hawkman was a pretty lousy introductory issue.  But these small problems weren't nearly enough to keep me from enjoying both issues enough to want to read more.
Overall, I'd recommend both for a decent bargain bin read.  Young Allies will probably appeal more to fans of teen superhero teams, and Savage Hawkman will probably appeal more to established Hawkman fans, so keep that in mind, but neither one of these issues have enough problems that I'd say to pass them up entirely.   They're  both pretty good.  Give them a shot if you spot them in the bin.
Up Next. . .
More "First Issue Fun" as I spotlight a couple more #1 issues I've recently grabbed from the back issue boxes.
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk - Spider-Man/ Human Torch

2820 views • Apr 26, '20 • (0) Comments

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

Once again, apologies for the time between my posts being pretty random these days.  As the head of a skeleton crew at my job, I'm doing the work of 3 people and my schedule is just sort of swingin' in the wind.  But at least I still have a job, so I'll keep the complaints to a minimum.  I've been READING a lot of comics, I just don't have as much time as I'd like to write about them.


I'll tell you true. . .things ain't great out there.  Every time I turn on the news, I feel like taking a Xanax and climbing UNDER the bed.  My gut gets sour just looking at the headlines of a newspaper these days.  Forget toilet paper. . .I need to stock up on TUMS!

I don't have the stomach to add to all the negativity in the air, so I've temporarily decided to make Longbox Junk a place to come and relax a bit as I take a journey through the lighter side of the comic book world.  I'll get back to grinding through some rotten comics eventually. . .but not just yet.


I've come to discover that my comic collection tends to lean quite a bit to the darker and dramatic side of things. . .which is sort of a problem when deciding to spotlight some fun comics for Longbox Junk readers.

Luckily, my comic-lovin' daughter has come to the rescue!  Since she's out of school for the time being, and generally likes her comics to be on the fun side of things, we've been having a great time digging through her collection together and finding some stuff to bring a smile to both of our faces, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Case in point. . .the comics at hand.

A five issue mini-series put out by Marvel in 2005 showcasing five stand-alone (but loosely connected) tales featuring the High-Flyin' Human Torch and your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man in light-hearted adventures paying homage to various eras of Marvel Comics from the Silver Age to the Modern Age.


These issues assume a familiarity with Marvel Continuity I don't really have, and don't specifically say when the stories are set or what creative teams they are paying tribute to. . .which will be part of the fun for readers that are established fans of these characters.  I'm NOT a big fan of these characters, so if the bit of research I did do is wrong, feel free to shame/correct me in comments for my own good.

Okay? Ready? Let's do it!


MARVEL (2005)

SCRIPTS: Dan Slott
PENCILS: Ty Templeton
COVERS: Paul Smith



A nice homage to the good old "heroes fight until they don't" character crossover cover hook.  Overall, it's a fun cover with some great colors that puts both main characters firmly in the spotlight.  I'd definitely give this one a turn on the "Wall O' Covers" on my office wall at work.
This story seems to be set at the beginning of Spider-Man and Torch's careers in the early 1960's and pays homage to their Silver Age adventures.

When Johnny "The Human Torch" Storm decides he isn't getting the publicity he deserves, he hires his sometime pal Peter "Spider-Man" Parker (but without knowing Peter is the "menace" known as Spider-Man) to follow him around for a few days as a personal photographer.

On the first day, Peter gets on Torch's bad side when during a bank robbery he steps in to help as Spider-Man.  Torch (not knowing Peter is Spidey) is convinced that Peter tipped off Spider-Man in order to steal his glory for stopping the robbery.  He almost fires Peter, but gives him another chance.

On the second day, Peter decides he'll shadow Torch as Spider-Man without him knowing in order to get better shots and keep his alter-ego out of trouble.  After a brief encounter with Paste Pot Pete laying in wait for the Torch, Spider-Man follows the High-Flyin' hero to the Latverian Embassy, where Torch plans on confronting Doctor Doom by himself!

Of course, Doom is prepared for Torch's ill-advised one-man assault and freezes him in a block of ice. . .leaving the secretly-watching Spider-Man as the only one able to come to the rescue.

Spider-Man pretends to be willing to join Doctor Doom as a fellow villain, and agrees to kill Torch, but at the last moment Spidey makes his escape with the frozen hero, earning Doctor Doom's promise of  future revenge in the process.

Later, Spider-Man accidentally breaks off Torch's frozen hair while chipping him out of the ice, leaving the vain hero bald!  Even though Peter secretly snaps a picture of the humiliated Torch, J.J. Jameson at the Daily Bugle decides to run a picture of Spider-Man together with Doctor Doom instead, further cementing Spidey's reputation as a menace.

In the end, Torch is bald and Peter Parker made things worse for Spider-Man.  Nobody can catch a break in the big city.  The End.

Like I said above, I'm generally not a fan of either the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man, but I really enjoyed this story a lot!  Dan Slott really channeled some goofy Silver-Age fun and nonsense into this little comedy of errors.  I especially liked the "Nobody wins" ending, that almost had me hearing the "Wha-wha-whaaaaaaaaaaaaa" sad trombone sound on the last page.  Spidey's encounter with Paste Pot Pete, where he basically laughs the villain into leaving without a fight (because of his ridiculous name), is also a great moment.

The art really helped sell the story as well.  It's got some nice dark lines and beautiful, bright colors.  There's a great sense of motion in the action scenes, and the facial expressions in the more comedic scenes are perfect.  The artist DOES make Peter look a lot older than a teenager, but I think Peter Parker looking like he's 30 years old is part of the Silver Age homage, if I remember from the very few Spidey comics I have from the 60's, so I can give it a pass.

Overall, a silly story backed up with some very nice artwork makes this first issue a lot of fun!  As a standalone story, I'd recommend  this one even if (like me) you aren't a big Torch or Spidey fan for a good lighthearted comic to read.  But this is only the first issue. . .Let's get to the next one!



I'm not going to get too negative here, but this cover is just sort of "Meh".  It's not BAD, but it's not really that good, either.  It's just sort of. . .there.  It seems a bit cluttered and isn't the kind of cover that would have made me pick this issue up off the stand for a look.
Based on Captain George Stacy (1st appearance 1968 - Death in 1970) appearing in this issue, I'd say this story is set in the late 1960's and pays tribute to the late Silver Age adventures of our heroes.

After a disagreement between Peter Parker and Johnny Storm, Spider-Man and The Human Torch decide to switch places for a day. . .with Spidey going along with the Fantastic Four on a trip to another dimension while Torch watches over the streets of New York City.

Of course, things quickly begin to go wrong for both heroes.  Spider-Man finds himself on a terrifying journey that barely fazes his Fantastic Four companions while Torch discovers that his super-powers are TOO powerful when trying to take down street thugs instead of alien menaces.

In his panic, Spider-Man ruins most of Mr. Fantastic's experiments as he tries to "save" the Fantastic Four from the dangers of what would have normally been a routine mission.  In the meantime, Torch finds himself in conflict with Kraven The Hunter.

In the end, Johnny Storm comes out on top by defeating Kraven, breaking his drug ring,  and earning the key to the city in the process.  But he also learns that his powers are more suited for the alien threats he normally faces and gains new respect for the street-level heroics of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  As for Spidey, he learns that he's not likely to be invited on more trips with the Fantastic Four any time soon. . .The End.
Another great issue!  This one has even more humor than the first issue, as well as a little dose of heart as our heroes learn a bit more about each other when they switch places for a day.  It's a great idea for a story and Dan Slott pulls it off very nicely.

The initial setup will probably appeal a bit more to fans who can appreciate the appearances of the many supporting characters that show up, like Captain Stacy, Flash Thompson (on leave from Vietnam), and the Inhuman Crystal. . .characters I have very little knowledge of.  But once the story itself gets going, it's pure fun!

My favorite parts were Spider-Man's fish out of water terror as he travels to another dimension with the Fantastic Four.  Even though the story really focused more on Johnny Storm, the occasional flashes to Spidey were comedy gold!

And once again, the art delivers the perfect compliment to the story. . .even giving a bit of signature "Kirby Crackle" during Spider-Man's terrifying ride with the FF.  A nice touch.

Overall, I'd have to say I liked this issue even more than the first.  It has a great story hook and some really funny moments.  Once again, the story pretty much stands alone, so that makes it even better in my book.  So far we've had two for two great issues in this series, which is saying something for someone who isn't really a fan of either starring character.



Like the cover on the previous issue, this one also seems pretty cluttered.  The art itself is good, but the cover is just sort of busy.  Extra points for the Spider-Buggy, though!  That's enough of an oddball nostalgia hook that I would have at least taken a look at this issue when it was on the stands.
Based on Spider-Man's depression over the death of Gwen Stacy (1973) in this issue, I'd say it's set in the middle 1970's and is a homage to the early Bronze Age adventures of Spidey and Torch.

Peter Parker takes on an internship with Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four in order to try and get out of the funk he's in over the recent death of his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.

While there, he meets a fellow intern, a beautiful Russian woman named Nina Pushnikov. . .who is actually a Soviet spy working for the villain Red Ghost, who is after one of Reed Richard's inventions, the "Gravity Localizer".  A device that can create small anti-gravity fields that can be controlled.

In the meantime, Johnny Storm (AKA the Human Torch) has been helping Spider-Man with a new project. . .the Spider-Mobile.  It's a spider-themed dune buggy being sponsored by a car manufacturer as part of an ad campaign featuring Spider-Man.

Unfortunately, during Spider-Man and Torch's test run of the vehicle, they quickly realize WHY no New York superheroes drive around in cars when Daredevil has to take down Stilt-Man after the Spider-Mobile gets stuck in downtown traffic.

The pair of hapless heroes decide to "borrow" Reed Richards' Gravity Localizer in an effort to improve the Spider-Mobile, not realizing that the Red Ghost and his trio of super apes are after the device.  As Torch and Spidey joyride around on the sides of Manhattan's skyscrapers, Red Ghost breaks into the Baxter Building and discovers the device is missing.

Red Ghost tracks Torch and Spider-Man down and lays a trap for them, managing to steal the Spider-Mobile and the Gravity Localizer.  The heroes quickly go into pursuit, and Spider-man is able to stop and capture the villains without a fight using the flaky crust and delicious fruit filling of "Mostess" fruit pies. The End.
Although this one starts off on a somber note (with Spider-Man reflecting on the death of Gwen Stacy), it's really played for laughs even more than either of the previous issues.  The whole thing is just light nonsense that has a couple of good chuckles and a lot of heart (as Spidey confesses to Torch that he's his only REAL super-friend).

I REALLY enjoyed the nod to the old Hostess (here as Mostess) fruit pie ads as the final chase is ended in a way that's sure to bring a smile to any Bronze Age comic fan reading this!

The art in this one seems a bit more rushed and incomplete than in the previous two issues.  I'm not going to say it's bad, just that it could clearly be better.  Not sure if there was a schedule problem that caused a rush or something, but I hope it improves in the next issue.
Overall, I got a big delight in every bite of this issue!  The art looked a bit rushed and sketchy in places, but that didn't stop this from being a story full of humor, heart, and delicious fruit filling. . .making this one three for three good issues in this series so far.  Let's get into the next one!



I like this cover a lot!  The contrast between the dark outfits of the characters and the bright red background really makes things pop.  Also, you can just tell there's gonna be lovestruck comedy shenanigans of some sort to be found inside.  This is the kind of cover that makes me want to check out a comic!  I plan on snagging this issue from my daughter to give it a turn on the "Wall O' Covers" next February.
Based on She-Hulk being a new member of the Fantastic Four and Spidey's inexperience with his new "Alien Costume" in this issue, I place this story immediately after "Secret Wars" in 1985.  Paying tribute to the late Bronze Age/ early Modern Age adventures of our heroes.
Our story begins with an argument between Spider-Man and his newest love/ crimefighting partner, Black Cat, over her wanting his help getting into an exclusive showing of Wakanda's greatest national treasure. . .a jeweled tribal mask belonging to the first ruler of Wakanda.  
He is disappointed that Black Cat seems to be slipping back into her criminal ways and refuses to be part of it.  She is disappointed that Spidey won't break his rigid moral code and walk on the wild side now and then with her.
Later, at the Wakandan embassy, Peter Parker (there on assignment from the Daily Bugle) is surprised to see his girlfriend enter Red Carpet Style on the arm of none other than Superstar Superhero and friend, Johnny Storm (AKA The Human Torch).
Peter is determined to stop Black Cat's theft of the jeweled mask and save his friend from being used by Black Cat.  Using his symbiote suit's ability to change appearance, he infiltrates the Embassy disguised as a guard as he tries to follow them.  Unfortunately, the security team has been hand-picked and his disguise quickly fails, raising the alarm and putting both Black Panther and his Royal Guard in pursuit of Spider-Man.
The battle between Spider-Man and Black Panther (who assumes that Spidey is the villain the newspapers claim him to be) provides the perfect diversion as Black Cat uses her skills and Torch uses his super powers to break through the tight security measures surrounding the Wakandan Mask!
After Spider-Man makes his escape and tracks down Torch and Black Cat, it's revealed that the mask is still safely in place.  All Black Cat wanted was a lock pick left behind by her father when he tried to steal the same mask years before.  It really was just a little walk on the wild side, with no real crime committed.  Spidey and Black Cat make up and Torch leaves, a little confused but having had an interesting night out.  The End.
Yet another great issue!  I really enjoyed the "comedy heist" feel of this story as Spider-Man blunders through a comedy of errors and misunderstandings while unwittingly providing the distraction for Torch and Black Cat to be able to pull off their end of things.  
I'm not very familiar with Black Cat as a character, but based on this issue I wouldn't mind reading more about her and Spidey's adventures together.  They seem to have been an interesting couple.  Black Panther's guest appearance here was also great.
My concerns about the art's slipping quality from the last issue are relieved here with a return to fine form, with the expressive faces, dynamic movement, and great colors providing a perfect compliment to the light-hearted comedy heist story at hand.
Overall, we have yet another very entertaining issue here, with an engaging comedy heist story backed up by some very nice comic artwork.  What I liked most about it was that this is the fourth really good issue in a five issue series. . .which is something that, in my Longbox Junkin' experience, doesn't happen very often at all. There's usually at least ONE clunker.  
Can this thing possibly go five for five?  Let's find out!



They saved the best for last!  Great colors, great composition, a very nice sense of movement, and an equally- shining spotlight on the two star characters of the series make this cover one I have no hesitation deciding that it deserves a turn up on my office "Wall O' Covers" rotating comic cover display. 
Based on Peter Parker being a high-school teacher, I place this story right before "Civil War" (2006), and bringing the story right into the time this mini was originally put out in 2005 for a look at the (then) current versions of Spidey and Torch. 
When an assembly of students at Peter Parker's High School featuring The Human Torch is taken hostage by a Maggia boss seeking revenge for the death of his son in prison by killing a student that is the son of the District Attorney who convicted his son.   Peter is finally forced to reveal his identity as Spider-Man to Torch in order to stop the crime boss and his armed thugs.  
The pair team up to save the day, but later at a meeting on top of the Statue of Liberty, Torch vents his anger at Spider-Man for keeping his identity secret from him for so long. . .and it gets worse when Spidey reveals that Reed Richards (and many others in the super hero community) knew who he was while Torch was in the dark.  
The two heroes make up after a heartfelt discussion where they both reveal how envious they've always been of each other (and how many of Torch's adventures with Spidey were actually with a clone).  
After everything is sorted out, Torch invites Spider-Man to bring his family to the Baxter Building for dinner with the Fantastic Four, so that everyone can finally get to know each other better.  It's shown at the end that Peter Parker and family are accepted as members of the extended Fantastic Four Family and Torch and Spidey's friendship continues to grow.  The End.
Simply a great ending for a great series!  This issue has a little action, a little comedy, and a lot of heart as Spidey and Torch reminisce about past adventures and we see them get closer as they are finally able to let their two families come together.
It's not as "stand alone" in nature as the previous four issues, as it looks back through previous adventures and also brings things forward into the (then) current continuity of the characters, so established fans will probably get a bit more out of it than new readers like myself, but that said. . .it's still a great read that packs a nice emotional punch into a small space as we see Spider-Man and Torch become more like brothers than friends.
Overall, this is a fine finish to this outstanding series.  It digs deep into the heart of Spider-Man and the Human Torch's friendship in a way that makes me want to read more comics featuring these two heroes together.  There's probably more here for established fans, but that doesn't stop this from being the delicious cherry on top of a very nice sundae of enjoyable comic books.


I've been Longbox Junkin' for a while now and it doesn't happen very often that I can get through a mini-series without at least ONE clunker in it.  Well. . .Spider-Man/Human Torch is that rare occasion when every issue is good!  
This series is simply a pleasure to read.  It features well-written stories told with humor and heart.  These light-hearted adventures were EXACTLY what I needed to read right now to bring a bit of a smile to my face, and I heartily recommend Spider-Man/ Human Torch to anyone who just wants to read some really fun comics during these troubling times. . .whether you're a fan of these characters or not!
Is this a PERFECT series?  No.  Nothing is perfect.  The art gets a bit sketchy from time to time, it's really written more for established fans than new readers, and some of the humor doesn't quite hit the target.  But for all the fun to be found in these pages, those are extremely small complaints.
All in all, I highly recommend this series for some silly, heartfelt fun.  I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who needs a bit of that these days.  
Up Next. . .
With my current work schedule it's taking WAY too long for me to write up full comic series, so I think I'm going to throw down some single-issue reviews for a while.  Still on the lighter side for now, of course.  Not sure exactly what.  
I've been grabbing a lot of #1 issues from my comic shop's back issue boxes lately as I try to spend the same amount of back issues weekly as I normally would on new comics (not the bargain bin, although I still dig through there as well).  Maybe I'll feature a few of those. . .
In any case, be there or be square!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed FULL of comic reviews you never asked for!

Before we begin. . .

Sorry my posting schedule has become a bit spotty lately.  As the chief bonehead managing a skeleton crew running a hotel, I'm working various shifts 6 days a week for the time being.  It's a bit chaotic but at least I still have a job, which is more than a lot of people can say these days, so I ain't complaining.


The past couple months haven't exactly been a party, to say the least.  There's no news but bad news.  Heck, it's gotten to the point that I don't even want to read the paper or watch the news any more.  I've got about 60 rolls of toilet paper in my house, and I don't even know why.

Keeping that in mind, I've decided to try and keep things on the lighter side here at Longbox Junk.  There's not much that I can do about everything going on in the world, but hopefully MY small corner of the internet can be a place to visit and get your mind off of things for at least a few minutes.  I think we can all sort of use a place like that now and then these days.

SO. . .

How about we take a look at a Pulp-Tastic IDW/DC  intercompany crossover adventure featuring a team up between two of my favorite characters of all time. . .The Spirit and The Rocketeer?

It's The Spirit and The Rocketeer! Two of the most fun comic characters ever created.

How can this NOT be good?




IDW/ DC (2013)



SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: Paul Smith
COVER: Paul Smith
It's great to see two of my all-time favorite heroes together on a comic cover!  I think the Rocketeer is better done, but then again, I love the design of the Rocketeer in general.  Overall, this is a great cover that shines the spotlight (literally) on both main characters in a big way.
The Year: 1941.  The body of a man is discovered in California, which begins the mystery of how a dead Central City Alderman who had just been seen at a city council meeting on the East Coast ended up 3000 miles away in only eight hours.

Since the victim was a friend of Central City police commissioner Dolan, he recruits resident vigilante detective, The Spirit, to get to the bottom of things.  Dolan's daughter (and Spirit's sorta-girlfriend) Ellen insists on going as well (for some California sun), and Dolan grudgingly agrees to accompany them.


We see that the model who discovered the body is Betty, girlfriend of pilot Cliff Secord (AKA The Rocketeer), and that millionaire tycoon Benjamin Trask (on the West Coast) and elusive criminal "The Octopus" (on the East Coast) were behind the mysterious death.

Upon arrival in California, mistaken identity shenanigans ensue as Cliff's friend, Peevy, accidentally overhears the masked stranger (The Spirit) talking about taking care of business and assumes he's there to kill Betty.

Cliff flies to the "Rescue" as The Rocketeer and fights with The Spirit in the sky over the airfield until Peevy and Dolan recognize each other from the war (WWI, that is) and realize that there's been a big mistake.

On the ground, strained introductions are made and Cliff takes The Spirit to talk to Betty. . .who immediately falls for the square-jawed detective, much to the consternation of both Cliff and Ellen.

To be continued. . .

This issue is pretty much concerned with setting up the central mystery, bringing the two main characters together, and introducing conflict between the two reluctant allies.  That's a lot to pack into a single issue, but veteran writer Mark Waid handles it all with ease.  The dialogue is snappy and everything moves at a fast pace. . .but not too fast.  Waid definitely keeps a steady hand on the wheel here as he pushes the pieces into their initial places.

Okay, the old "Heroes fight until the realize they're on the same side" crossover hook IS a very well-worn path, but sometimes you just have to go with a "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude.  I've seen it done a lot worse in other comics.  It actually fits the story here instead of feeling forced.

The art here makes a good story even better with sharp, realistic lines and great facial expressions that make even scenes of characters standing around talking interesting to look at.  The action scenes are dynamic and have a great sense of movement.  The backgrounds are sparse, allowing the artist to draw the reader's focus to the detailed characters. The style serves this particular story very nicely.
Overall, a very nice first issue!  It quickly introduces the characters and conflicts in a very readable way. . .despite reliance on the good old "Heroes mistakenly fight each other" crossover hook.  The art style fits the story perfectly. 
I would have liked a little more information on The Spirit and The Rocketeer for new readers (but reading ahead I can see that's covered in upcoming issues, so no harm no foul) but other than that very small complaint, I call this one a winner!


SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: Loston Wallace
COVER: Paul Smith
As big a fan of The Spirit and The Rocketeer that I am, I find this cover to be a bit "Meh".  Once again, it's great to see two of my favorites together on a comic cover, but this one just seems underwhelming.  Not that it's bad.  Just sort of. . .average.  Not really the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic.
Now that our heroes are reluctantly working together, they head into the city to see if they can gain any clues from the autopsy of the dead Central City Alderman.

Since morgues are more in Dolan and The Spirit's wheelhouse, Ellen and Cliff find themselves making an unexpected connection while the two detectives meet with the coroner.  Dolan and The Spirit make the incredible discovery that the organs of the dead man are scrambled beyond recognition. . .another mystery!

Meanwhile, back at the airfield, Peevy and Betty discover an image of the dead man burnt into the screen of Peevy's experimental homemade television set. . .adding yet more to the mystery at hand.

Cliff, Dolan, Ellen, and The Spirit rush back to the airfield to check out the new wrinkle in the case.  Shortly after they arrive, the airfield is attacked by two airplanes armed with machine guns!  Cliff jumps into action as The Rocketeer, and The Spirit insists on helping.

After a tense mid-air battle, the attackers are taken down.  Dolan and Peevy interrogate the captured pilots and discover they are working for Millionaire Tycoon Benjamin Trask.  Deciding to follow up on this new clue, the pair of heroes make plans to follow Trask to Central City.


While the airfield is being attacked, Betty is auditioning for a producer that is promising to make her the first star of America's newest form of entertainment, television.  It turns out that the producer is none other than the newly-discovered villain, Benjamin Trask.  DUN-DUN-DUN!!

To be continued. . .
Now that the two heroes are in the same place and on the same side, Mark Waid begins adding layers to the mystery with an issue that is mostly the characters finding and following clues. . .with a nice bit of aerial action thrown in.  The dialogue remains snappy and light, making the story move along at a very nice pace.  We get to see both The Rocketeer and The Spirit doing what they do best. . .The Spirit as a detective and Rocketeer in high-flyin' action, with both characters getting their own moments in the spotlight.  All in all, very nicely done.

We get an artist change in this issue as well.  The style is a little lighter, less realistic and more cartoony than in the first issue, but I think it fits the story even better!  I've never heard of Loston Wallace, but a quick dive into the Wiki-Well tells me that he's mostly known for illustrating "all ages" comics for DC.  I really enjoy his art style a lot and his work here is excellent.  I wish he had more regular comic work on his resume I could keep an eye out for!

Overall, we have a great second issue here.  It adds to the mystery at hand, gives The Spirit and The Rocketeer both time in the spotlight, and features some really enjoyable art.  There's nothing I can possibly complain about here!  This is the kind of comic book that really makes me want to jump right into the next issue.
So let's do it!


SCRIPT: Mark Waid
J Bone is an artist I don't really know, but his chunky cartoon style works a lot better on the delightful interior art than it does on this cover.  It's not BAD. . . I love seeing two of my favorite characters together on a comic cover, and it's sort of fun, but there's just something missing. . .
Moving from sunny Hollywood to the cold and snowy streets of Central City, we begin the story inside The Spirit's crypt hideout where he is recounting his origin to The Rocketeer, who is understandably disturbed by hearing such a strange story from a dead man in the middle of a cemetery. . .
Betty and Trask have also arrived in Central City, and Betty is put up in a suite at the swankiest hotel in town.  Their arrival has not gone unnoticed by Commissioner Dolan's informants.  The Spirit, Dolan, and The Rocketeer make ready to confront Trask.
While the heroes make their plans, the full scope of the villainous plot is finally revealed as Trask meets with Central City Crime Lord, The Octopus in a dockside warehouse.  
It seems that Trask and Octopus have been working with a German scientist named Goessel and have discovered a way to use the new technology of television to transmit not only images, but matter!  A secret that Trask demonstrates during a television meeting of various powerful American crime figures by firing a machine gun at them through their television screens!
After Trask's demonstration seals an alliance among American organized crime, he returns to the hotel where Betty is staying, along with Goessel and the television/teleportation equipment.  He reveals to Betty that he was merely using her as bait to lure The Spirit and The Rocketeer to him.
As the Rocketeer attacks the hotel, Goessel uses the teleportation camera on Betty, teleporting her to the warehouse where The Spirit is attacking The Octopus' gaurds.  Unlike the dead Alderman at the heart of the original mystery, Betty survives the teleportation intact and alive, but her mind is practically blank and leaves her completely open to suggestion.
As The Rocketeer battles his way through the streets of Central City in pursuit of Trask, The Octopus' minions subdue and capture The Spirit in the warehouse.  The story ends with Octupus and Goessel preparing to have the mind-controlled Betty kill The Spirit live on television for the viewing pleasure of their new organized crime allies. 
To be continued. . .
As we head into the big finish of Pulp Friction, this issue very nicely sets up the final confrontation between our heroes and the villains by revealing the master plan behind everything that's happened so far.  Yeah. . .it's kind of corny when you think too hard about it, but on the other hand, it's also a lot of fun!  
Mark Waid channels his inner Golden Age and gives us the kind of story you'd expect if this comic were actually written on the edge of an emerging technology like television.  It's complete fantasy based on speculation and possibility. . .but those kind of stories were common in the years when this comic is supposedly taking place.  A bit of modern suspension of disbelief is needed, but I think Waid pulls off bringing the reader into the Golden Age quite well.
All that AND we get a great little retelling of The Spirit's origin story!
We also get ANOTHER artist change with this issue.  Like I said in the look at the cover above, I'm not familiar with J Bone (and wasn't really impressed with the cover), but his chunky, exaggerated, darkly-inked art style is a great look for this issue!  I have to confess that I'd rather have seen more of Loston Wallace's work on this, but with J Bone's art and the great sense of movement it has, I can easily imagine this story as an animated feature!  
Overall, writer Mark Waid very nicely sets things up for the big finish with an action-packed issue that brings the Golden Age of comics onstage in a big way.  Another art change gives us a glimpse of what this would look like as an animated movie.  It looks great, but I wish that they would have stuck with one artist through the whole series.  That very small complaint aside, this issue is a winner in my book, and everything is standing strong heading into the final issue.


SCRIPT: Mark Waid
This cover by J Bone actually works a lot better than the one he did for the previous issue.  His cartoony animation style art perfectly fits this "Damsels in distress" shot.  The colors give a great contrast to the two leading ladies of the story.
Continuing from last issue, The Spirit manages to break through Betty's mind control and she frees him.  As the Octupus sets his henchmen on Betty and The Spirit, the police and The Rocketeer arrive on the scene in time to win the fight. . .but just a moment too late to prevent The Octopus from escaping.
With everyone safely reunited, The Octopus' and Trask's henchmen arrested, and the mystery of the dead Alderman solved, it seems that all that is left is to track down Trask, Goessler and The Octopus in order to bring them to justice.  
But as the heroes ponder what their next move will be, they suddenly realize that the plot goes much deeper than they thought as they see on a television screen running at the warehouse that Trask is filming President Roosevelt live on television at the White House!
Knowing they have to take action quickly in order to save the President, the heroes use the teleporting equipment at the warehouse to transport Roosevelt to them. . .but they also accidentally teleport a squad of Ratzi (BECAUSE I JUST NOW DISCOVERED THAT CBR'S FILTER WON'T LET ME WRITE N-AZI) soldiers that Trask was teleporting from Europe (in partnership with a Ratzi General) to assassinate Roosevelt.
The heroes manage to get President Roosevelt to safety before the fighting begins by strapping The Rocketeer's jet pack on him and shooting him out of the warehouse. . .and then it's Ratzi Punchin' Time!
As The Rocketeer and The Spirit take down the Ratzi assassination squad, Trask's Ratzi General ally destroys the teleport connection between Europe and kills Trask by transporting explosives through the television. . .erasing the evidence of the Ratzi plot to assassinate Roosevelt.
Later, at the White House, President Roosevelt allows The Rocketeer to keep his jet pack (which IS officially stolen government property) in exchange for keeping the secret of The President's polio, which was discovered by The Rocketeer during the warehouse battle.  The Spirit and Rocketeer say their goodbyes before departing to their respective cities, having earned each others respect and becoming friends and allies during their adventure together.
The End.
And everything wraps up very nicely in an action-packed final issue that takes time at the end to slow down and pay a lot of respect to two of my favorite heroes as the bow on top of the package.  I really couldn't ask for anything more.  The end of this issue just brings a smile to my face.  In these times, that's something that's sort of rare these days.  Mark Waid definitely hit it out of the park with this issue.  No. . .with this whole series!
J Bone stays on art for this final issue, and everything good about his chunky animation-style art from the third issue stays good here.  You can almost imagine seeing these panels in motion on a T.V. screen.  I think I'm going to keep my eye out for some more of his work now.
Overall, this was a great finish to a great series!  Everything wrapped up nicely and as a big fan of The Spirit and The Rocketeer, the ending made me happy and wanting to see more adventures with them teaming up.  The only complaint I have is that this is probably the only time I get to see these two great heroes in the same comic.  Other than that, I've got nothing bad to say about this.


I have to confess that I cheated a little on this one.  
Most of the time when I do a Longbox Junk review, it's either my first time reading a comic or the first time in so long that I don't really remember much about it.  This time out, I picked a series that I ALREADY knew was good and have enjoyed reading several times.

I just didn't have it in me to throw out anything too negative right at this moment.  I'll get back to gritting my teeth through some lousy comics soon enough, just not right now. Fair?

As you can tell from the reviews of the individual issues, I don't have much bad to say about this series:   The Rocketeer didn't get much background information compared to The Spirit, which doesn't matter to a fan such as myself, but might be an oversight when it comes to new readers who might not know these characters.  A couple of the covers are "So-So".  Some people might think the whole "Heroes fight until they realize they're on the same side" crossover setup is a golden oldie that needs to be retired (I thought it worked here better than it usually does).  Some people might think that Ratzis being the ultimate villains is a bit tired (okay. . .maybe they're right).

BUT. . .

Those are small complaints when you take in the overall view of this series:  It has a pretty good story bringing together two great pulp heroes for the first and probably only time.  It showcases some great art.  Most of all. . .it's FUN!  Mark Waid  successfully brings the nonsense of the Golden Age into the Modern Age and it's just a plain old good time!

If you are a fan of pulp adventures or are just looking for some fun comics, then I heartily recommend this series. I bought this one off the rack when it was coming out, but I've seen the issues in back issue bins and it's been collected in both hard and soft cover.  It's also available on Comixology for you high-tech folks out there.

Up Next. . .

I'm not really sure.
I've been digging through my daughter's comics for some Marvel-Style fun.
Right now, I'm reading a pretty good Spider-Man/ Human Torch five-issue mini that might be just what Longbox Junk needs to stay on the light side of comics next time out.  Until then. . .

Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - Black Canary (Part 2)

2234 views • Mar 11, '20 • (1) Comment

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for that you could ever ask for!  Wait. . .does that even make sense?  It does to me!

So here we are at the back half of DC's short-lived 1993 attempt at a Black Canary solo title.

I was a bit disappointed with the first six issues.  It's not that they're BAD, it's just that they could have been a lot better with a bit more effort by a stronger creative team.  As it stands coming into the second six issues, things are pretty average and not very memorable.  It's a decent read, but I just want a LITTLE more.

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Longbox Junk - Black Canary

5700 views • Feb 11, '20 • (1) Comment

Sorry about the delay on this one.  I actually had it done last week, but I accidentally deleted the draft and had to completely re-write it!


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

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews you never asked for and never knew you wanted!  I'm going to try and keep the introduction short so that we can jump right into the second half of this Reader Request for Valiant's Harbinger. . .


High School student Peter Stanchek discovers he has powerful psychic abilities.  He goes to the mysterious Harbinger Foundation for help and is taken under the wing of Toyo Harada, the director of the Foundation and a powerful psychic as well.

Later, Peter begins to realize that the Foundation's training is sending him in the wrong direction and decides to leave.  Harada retaliates by killing Pete's best friend and later trying to assassinate Pete as well.  When the assassination goes wrong and Pete miraculously survives, Harada decides to capture and study him. . .forcing Pete and his girlfriend Kris to go on the run.

Pete decides to go on the offensive and try to take down Harbinger by gathering a team of superhumans of his own.  Pete and Kris eventually recruit Faith (with the power of flight), Flamingo (fire powers), and Torque (superhuman strength) to their cause. . .but are still outmatched by Harada and his superhuman Harbinger students.

During a raid on a secret Harbinger training base, Pete and his team of Renegades come across encrypted information that they enlist a new member of the team (Ax, with the power to speak to and understand electronic devices) to decipher.

The information leads them to an extraterrestrial craft, which takes them to a hidden base on the dark side of the moon, where the team is quickly captured.  A betrayal by Ax accidentally gives the team the opportunity to escape, but they are severely outnumbered and as they fall one by one during the fight to escape, Flamingo is left to fight the aliens, their leader, and Ax on her own. . .

Which brings us to the second half of this review.

Harbinger Part 2: Issues 4 - 7.  Let's do it!


Valiant (1992)

Where the Love-Light Gleams. . .

SCRIPT: Jim Shooter
PENCILS: David Lapham
COVER: David Lapham
Continuing straight in from where issue #3 left off, our heroes are trapped on an alien space station on the dark side of the moon.  They've managed to escape captivity, but as they make their break for freedom, they are taken down one by one by the aliens, the cyborg human called Rexo, and the traitorous Ax.  Only Flamingo remains standing.
She subdues Ax by burning his crotch, then melts the station floor beneath Rexo and his alien minions, causing them to fall and giving Flamingo the chance to free the rest of the team and make their way to the alien ship that brought them.  They force Ax to reverse the alien ship's autopilot and return to Earth, where they dump the traitor in the middle of nowhere before flying to their hideout.
After they hide the alien ship under water, they are confused as to why it's so cold in the summertime.  While watching the news, they realize to their horror that it is December and they've been gone for five months!  The aliens must have had the team in some sort of suspended animation before Ax accidentally freed them.
The news that a large chunk of their life has gone missing, as well as their almost-deadly experience on the alien base splits the team and they all depart on their separate ways. . .
In the meantime, determined to have his revenge, Ax uses his powers to gain more information from the encrypted computer disks left behind by his former teammates.  He discovers files on several superhumans that were rejected by Harbinger for their psychopathic tendencies.  Armed with this information, Ax sets out to form his own superhuman team.
We follow Flamingo as she tries and fails to make amends with her mother, who is lost in religion and has disowned her "sinner" daughter. Then we see Faith at home with her loving parents as she finds it hard to return to a normal life after her adventures.  
Torque returns to the garage he worked at and finds it abandoned, the man who raised him as a son has passed away during Torque's absence, leaving him without a family.  Kris returns home, but is unable to face her family.  She decides to go to Pete's house and tell his mother he's still alive, but finds a van with Harbinger agents watching.
Kris returns to the hideout to reconcile with Pete after leaving him on bad terms.  Faith and Flamingo also return to the team's hideout. . .Flamingo can't reconnect with her mother and doesn't have anywhere else to go, and Faith wants to return to the exciting life of a superhero.  While the four reunite, Torque is attacked by Ax and his team of psychotic superhumans.  
Pete and the rest of the team decide to try and get Torque back on board with them, and they arrive to find his home in flames and Torque fighting three superhumans on his own.  Jumping into battle, Pete and the Renegades manage to save Torque after barely winning a brutal fight.  Torque rejoins the team and we end the issue with them celebrating Christmas together at their hideout. . .
This issue was half and half for me.  It starts right where the last one left off with the -Awful aliens and Rexo on the hidden moon base. That's the bad half.  Thankfully, there's not much time spent there and things get better as the focus shifts away from punching aliens and back on character moments, with the rest of the issue becoming a "The team breaks up, then gets back together" story.  That's the good half.
So far, this series has been at its best in the character moments taking place between the action scenes.  This issue has several particularly strong moments to balance out the weak conclusion to the "alien escape" story.  Flamingo desperately trying to make amends to her mother for all the rotten things she did in the past while her mother just sits there silently and ignoring her stands out as a pretty great scene.  Torque returning home and realizing he has nothing and nobody is another one. Faith getting a Batman doll from her parents and realizing she can't return to a normal life also is a good moment.
Overall, except for the ending of the horrible "alien base" story taking up the front half of the comic, this was one of my favorite issues so far.  It follows a pretty well-worn path of breaking and then re-forming a team, but there's some really good character moments for almost every member of the team (Pete just sort of hangs out at the hideout waiting for everyone to come back) that makes them finally coming back together as a sorta-happy (for now) dysfunctional family a pretty good read.


All For One. . .

SCRIPT: Jim Shooter & Janet Jackson
PENCILS: David Lapham
COVER: David Lapham
The reunited team decides to head to New Orleans for some vacation time.  We follow Flamingo and Kris as they bond at an art gallery, and Torque and Faith as they enjoy a day at the zoo.  While everyone else is having fun, Pete's real reason for wanting to go to New Orleans is revealed as he mentally follows Toyo Harada's trail.
A disaster in Dallas, Texas reveals Harada's presence to Pete.  An explosion that levels a skyscraper that we learn has been caused by one of Harada's most powerful students losing control of his powers.  As Harada struggles to mentally contain his student and prevent worse damage at a hidden Harbinger lab, we see the hero known as Doctor Solar discovering information leading to Harbinger in the wreckage of the explosion.  At the same time, Peter and the Renegades are flying to Dallas to confront Harada.
Peter and his team discover the hidden Harbinger base and fight their way toward Harada, who is desperately trying to keep his superhuman student, "Puff", under control.  As the Renegades get closer to Harada, he decides that Puff must be terminated, but his sister "Thumper" won't let it happen, delaying Harada long enough that Peter and his team are able to finally confront the Harbinger leader.
While Peter and Harada engage in mental battle, the rest of the team takes on the Harbinger forces in a brutal fight, where Faith is horrified when she accidentally kills a man.  Harada manages to break free from Peter's powers and escapes in the confusion of the battle.  Thumper warns the Renegades about Puff's loss of control and Peter turns to the task of trying to contain him now that Harada is gone.
Doctor Solar arrives on the scene and is mistaken for one of Harbinger's superhumans until Faith recognizes him from her comic books.  Solar is quickly informed of the situation, and by combining their powers, Pete and Solar manage to get Puff under control.  Unfortunately, Harada returns, backed up by a fresh squad of Harbinger gunmen and several superhumans, ready to continue the fight.
To be continued. . .
And it's CROSSOVER TIME!  I knew it was only a matter of time before other characters from Valiant's superhero "universe" showed up.  I've never really been a fan of crossovers, because they tend to take away from the story at hand and often have a definite stench of just existing to advertise other comics.
Doctor Solar's appearance here isn't too bad. . .at least not compared to Issues 8 & 9 (that I'm not reviewing) which are full-on crossover $%#@ with just about every character in the Valiant stable for some sort of multi-series "Event" called Unity that makes no sense unless you buy EIGHTEEN comics across NINE Valiant titles, including Harbinger (the 8th and 16th part of the story).  
I'm not familiar with Valiant's version of Doctor Solar.  I know him from older Gold Key comics and then only with a passing familiarity.  A quick check of Wikipedia tells me that the Valiant and Gold Key versions of the character are two whole different things, but that Gold Key comics actually exist in the Valiant "universe", which is why Faith recognizes him as a comic book character.   Okay, then.
Of course, Valiant just assumes that the reader of Harbinger is ALSO a reader of Doctor Solar, because why wouldn't they be? So he just sort of pops into the story like. . .of course Doctor Solar is here.  Why wouldn't he be?
Doctor Solar just sort of shows up out of nowhere as the MacGuffin needed to get a dangerous superhuman Harbinger student's powers back under control.  It's a pretty weak excuse for a crossover, in my extremely humble opinion.  As a matter of fact, this whole issue is pretty weak.  There are a couple of decent character moments early on, but then the whole story just becomes this contrived situation so that Valiant can force in an appearance from a character from another series.  
And not for nuthin' but "Puff" is about the most stupid name possible for a highly-destructive and barely-controllable superhuman capable of destroying an entire city.  Come on, Jim Shooter.  You can do better.  I KNOW you can do better.


One For All

SCRIPT: Jim Shooter
PENCILS: David Lapham
COVER: David Lapham
Continuing directly from issue #5, Pete and his Renegades are confronted by Toyo Harada and a squad of Harbinger gunmen and superhumans.  Doctor Solar intervenes and forces both sides to stand down.  After accompanying the Renegades away from the Harbinger base to a safe place, Doctor Solar warns Pete that he's dangerous and Solar will be keeping an eye on him, and then warns Pete not to enter into conflict with Harada. Then he departs.
Against Solar's warning, Pete immediately decides to attack Harada by surprise. The Renegades return to the Harbinger base, which is seemingly deserted.  Of course, it's a trap.  Harada knew that they would be back.  The Renegades are confronted by a large squad of Harbinger gunmen and superhumans, led by Harada, who immediately mentally attacks Pete.
As Pete and his team are overwhelmed by Harbinger forces, the superhuman brother and sister Puff and Thumper decide to pay Pete back for saving Puff's life (in last issue) and jump into the fight on Pete's side, taking down Harada long enough for them to help the Renegades escape the Harbinger trap.
Later, in hiding, the team regroups and tries to decide what to do next.  Puff and Thumper are still loyal to Harada and Harbinger, but agree not to reveal their location.  Faith and Torque strengthen their bond of friendship, and we get a strong hint that Kris is pregnant.
Despite their agreement not to reveal the whereabouts of Pete and his team, Harada uses his mental powers to learn their location from Puff and Thumper and sets yet ANOTHER trap for the Renegades. . .this time made up entirely of superhuman agents.
During what becomes a particularly brutal battle, Torque is stabbed in the back and badly wounded.  The ambulance that is called to rush him to the hospital is yet another Harbinger ruse, and an agent posing as a paramedic injects Torque with poison.  Pete intercepts the fake ambulance and desperately tries to save Torque by going into his mind. . .but he is too late and Pete's Renegade team faces their first casualty as Torque dies.
To be continued. . .
The death of comic characters is pretty commonplace now, and is usually taken with a grain of salt. The more popular the character, the less likely the "death" is going to be permanent.  Torque's death in this issue took me by surprise, but what's even more surprising about it is that a quick Wiki check told me that this death was actually permanent (except for Torque being in Harbinger Vol. 2, which was less of a revival and more of a complete reboot of the character).  So proper credit due to Jim Shooter here for actually having the stones to kill off a popular character and keep it that way!
Obviously, the death of Torque is the big deal in this issue, but the rest of the comic has some pretty good moments as well.  Once again, this series is at its best outside of the obligatory fight scenes. . .which are okay, but almost feel like interruptions to the story.  
We get a look at the ruthless side of Harada as he commands his gunmen to start shooting Pete as soon as Harada has him down and not to stop until he tells them to.  We get a bit of light philosophical discussion between the Renegades and Puff/Thumper over what's more important. . .Loyalty or Freedom.  Torque's death is made sadder by having us see him letting down his "Tough Guy" wall and becoming friends with Faith after brutally taunting her about being overweight in earlier issues.  We see that Pete is actually sort of a lousy leader after getting his friends caught in an obvious trap that Doctor Solar tried to warn him about.
Overall, this was one of the better issues of this series.  It had some good character moments and is topped off with a surprising death due to Pete's epic leadership failure.  I'm really interested in seeing what happens next.


Flowers For the Living

SCRIPT: Jim Shooter
PENCILS: David Lapham
COVER: David Lapham
Continuing directly from issue #6, Pete and the remaining members of his team of Renegades try to deal with Torque's violent death as they hide out in a nearby motel while Harbinger cleans the battle site of any trace of a fight.  Kris is especially upset and emotional over Torque possibly not having a proper burial at the hands of Harbinger, so Pete and the team decide to steal his body from the morgue and tend to the funeral themselves.
Pete uses his mental powers on a funeral home director to make him ignore the unusual circumstances of a group of teens showing up in the middle of the night with a dead body and Torque is given a proper funeral and burial.  Flamingo is the only one who knows that Kris is pregnant with Torque's child, and she makes a private promise at Torque's grave to protect her.
While going through Torque's belongings, the team discovers that he still has a bunch of cash left over from the raid on the secret Harbinger training base (from issue #2).  And together, the team decides to spend it on something he would have wanted them to. . .a brand new Mustang.
The End.
And so we end this review of the first story arc of Harbinger on a somber note.  As you can tell from the fairly short synopsis above, not much really happens in this issue, but what DOES happen is all pretty good. . .if a bit depressing.  
Being an issue without any action scenes and dealing with the sudden death of a character, this epilogue to the first story arc digs deep into what makes this comic good. . .the character moments that take place between superhero fights.  It's all a bit gloomy and you KNOW there's trouble down the road coming when Flamingo reveals (to the reader) at Torque's gravesite that she knows that Kris' baby is his.  But it's gloomy and depressing in sort of a good way.  Shooter does a great job filling this issue with darkness and emotion that doesn't feel fake or forced.
Overall, this quiet and emotional issue is a fine epilogue for the first story arc of Harbinger.  Shooter has taken us from one young man discovering he has powers, to the formation of a team, to the breaking and re-formation of the team, to the team coming together as a dysfunctional family, and finally here to the repercussions of Pete's actions.  It's a decent end for a decent story. . .and from reading ahead, they probably should have just ended it here.  Things take a steep downward turn beginning with the next issue.  But as far as THIS issue is concerned, it's a good ending.


I came into Harbinger with no knowledge except the fact that it exists.  I'm not a fan of Valiant comics and I'm not a fan of team books in general. . .so there was plenty going against Harbinger before I even opened the first page.  Like I said in my introduction to part one. . .as far as I was concerned, these were junk comics to be given to my daughter to plump up her collection with reader books that could take some abuse.
BUT. . .
When I actually READ these comics, I found them to be a pretty enjoyable read (for the most part). 
They follow a pretty well-worn path in general, but Jim Shooter gives things JUST enough of a twist to keep things interesting.  It's basically an X-Men story with the script slightly flipped so that the "Professor X" character played by Toyo Harada is actually the villain and his "School for gifted children", the Harbinger Foundation, produces psychopathic superhumans fanatically loyal to Harada.
Pete Stanchek and his "Renegades" are a dysfunctional mess of a team, with a lousy leader that is directly responsible for the death of one of their own and a team dynamic based on jealousy and physical attraction, which was probably the most interesting thing about this series.  
Unfortunately, that strange team dynamic fell into the background following issue #4, in favor of crossovers and large-scale superhuman battles with only a few moments between action to showcase anything else.  The story was still pretty good, but the best parts were left behind in favor of a new focus on Pete's poor leadership.
Overall, I have to say that Harbinger is a pretty good series.  It's not great.  I've definitely read better.  But it's not nearly as bad as I assumed it would be.  It's not really Longbox Junk as I define it, due to the surprisingly high collector "value" of the first few issues, but I'd certainly recommend picking up the collected edition, if you should spot it for a good price.  
This review only covers the first 8 issues of this series.  I've read ahead a bit and can pretty confidently say that this is where Valiant should have ended the story.  The next two issues are unreadable crossover $%#& and going past that, the series never really recovers its footing.  So fair warning.  This is as good as Harbinger gets.  It's all downhill from here.
Up Next. . .
So much Longbox Junk!  I don't even know what's next!
I'm thinking of maybe heading back into some Marvel or DC stuff.
I've been in the off-brand section of my collection for a while now. . .
In any case, be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews that nobody USUALLY asks for. That's right. . .it's another Reader Request Edition!

This time out, I switched things up a little.  Instead of randomly drawing a request from the pickin' hat, I decided to grant a (very late) Christmas wish to one of the fine folk of Comic Book Realm and give his suggestion for Valiant's Harbinger a read and review.

Here's the thing about Harbinger. . .and most of Valiant's 90's comics in general:  I don't really like them.  I admit that I've never really given them the chance they deserve, but even just flipping through the ones I've gained here and there I've never really seen anything to grab and keep my interest.

BUT. . .

I'm going to give Harbinger a fair chance here.  It's what Longbox Junk is all about!

A little background before we get into it.

These comics are actually from my daughter's collection, and they've been there for years.  Usually when I come across any Valiant comics in auction lots or comic bundles of some sort, I'll give them to my daughter by default, so she actually has quite a few of them.

So imagine my surprise when I did a little of my usual pre-post research and discovered that these comics are actually NOT quite the Longbox Junk I thought they were, with the first issue in good shape valued at a cool $125 (according to Comic Book Realm) and high-graded slabbed copies (According to CGC) coming in at around A THOUSAND BUCKS!

Who knew?

I just tossed these comics (and many others) to my daughter when she was a kid in order to plump her starter collection with reader comics that could take a little abuse.  Just looking at them, I would have never thought that ANY of these comics would be that "valuable".

As far as my daughter is concerned, though. . .their true "value" lies in having got them from her dad when she was a kid.  She's not interested in selling them for any price, thank you very much.


I'm not reviewing the whole 41 issue series of Harbinger because my daughter doesn't have the whole series.  After issue #10 there's a lot of gaps.  So what I'm going to do here is review the first story arc, which covers issues #1 - #7  and the most "valuable" issues of Harbinger.  I'm also going to break it up into two parts make things a bit more readable.

Merry (late) Christmas, Tenzil!
Harbinger #1 - #7. . .let's do it!


VALIANT (1992)


Children of the Eighth Day

Well isn't this series just FULL of surprises. . .
After a very confusing read of the first issue, I discovered that there's a #0 issue where the Harbinger story ACTUALLY begins.  My daughter doesn't have the #0 issue, but the #1 she has DOES have the coupon you need to send away for it, which means that (K-CHING!) she's got the most "valuable" version of the comic (not that she cares much about that).
A bit of research shows me that this Harbinger #0 is actually pretty rare (even though it was included with collected editions later) because in order to get it, you needed to send in the coupon included in issues #1 - #6.

I find myself a bit confused over this.
In order to get the BEGINNING of the story, you have to spend SIX MONTHS collecting coupons from the series, meaning you will have already reached the END of the first story arc before you can send in for the comic that STARTS the story.  To make matters worse, the coupon in my daughter's #1 has 3 panels of a story ON the coupon.  Research shows me THAT short story told over the 6 coupons is the origin of the main Harbinger antagonist, Toyo Harada.
SO. . .what we have here is the beginning of a story that readers could only get 6 months after the series had been running, with the origin of a major character told in tiny pieces on the coupons you had to send in to get the missing part of the story.
Probably the worst part about this confusing little dance that Valiant set up is that Issue #1 of the series takes place soon after the end of #0, making it practically unreadable without context.

In 2020, I'm fortunate enough to be able to cheat and read #0 online, but this must have been a strange experience for readers in 1992 because #1 starts RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STORY during a fight scene with absolutely NO explanation as to what is going on or who these people are!  
Just how the these comics became so valuable after such an awkward beginning is a complete mystery to me.  But there it is.  A comic  that begins in the middle of an action scene without any context or introduction is worth a thousand bucks slabbed. Go figure.
Like I said, I cheated and read #0 online just so I could figure out what the was going on.  So let's start this thing over from the beginning and throw an extra issue into this review, shall we?  We shall!


The Beginning

SCRIPT: David Lapham
PENCILS: David Lapham
COVER: David Lapham
After high school student Peter Stanchek begins to manifest strange mental abilities, including mind reading, levitation, and telekinesis, he answers a mysterious newspaper ad placed by "The Harbinger Foundation" that claims to be looking for people like him.
After meeting a representative of Harbinger, Peter's powers seem to increase.  He uses them to mentally control his mother, and to make one of the most desirable girls in school, Kris Hathaway, want to go out with him against her will.
Peter is taken to the Harbinger Foundation complex in Pittsburgh and we are introduced to Toyo Harada, the head of Harbinger, as he secretly watches Peter being interviewed.  We learn that Peter is unusual in that his powers manifested on their own instead of being fully triggered by Harada's own ability to do so, and that Peter manifests multiple powers instead of the usual single power Harada is able to unlock in others.  Harada takes Peter personally under his wing, becoming a sort of father figure and mentor.
The story skips ahead two months later.  Peter's best friend, Joe, confronts him.  He's concerned about the nasty changes in Peter's personality since becoming involved with Harbinger.  He also suspects that Peter is forcing Kris to be his girlfriend against her will.  
During that day's training at Harbinger, Peter is distracted.  He knows that his best friend is right and Harbinger has changed him for the worse.  Peter decides to leave Harbinger for a while in order to clear his head.  This doesn't sit well with Harada, who has been personally training Peter.  He quickly identifies Joe as the problem.
Later that night, Peter removes his mind control from his girlfriend, Kris, and tries to explain.  She is disgusted by what she's been forced to do under his influence and makes him leave.  Peter goes to Joe's house in order to apologize to his best friend.  He finds Joe dead. . .covered in blood.  He's been murdered.
Turning to the only place he thinks he can, Peter returns to Harbinger. . .but he (rightly) suspects that they were behind the murder of his friend.  As his mental state worsens, Harada sadly comes to the conclusion that Peter must die as well.  A despondent Peter calls Kris to make amends and discovers that despite his mind control, she did develop feelings for him.  They agree to meet.
As Kris drives to Pittsburgh to meet Peter, Harada's assistant takes advantage of Peter's trust to get close enough to shoot him in the head.  The assassination doesn't go as planned.  In a massive explosion that destroys the Harbinger building, 32 people are killed and 200 are injured as Peter's mysterious powers somehow subconsciously save him.    Harada is intrigued by Peter's survival and decides that instead of killing him, Peter needs to be captured and studied.
The story ends with Peter and Kris fleeing Pittsburgh together.
First off. . .despite the very "collectible" nature of this comic, it has one of the most -Awful covers I've seen in a while. But that's neither here nor there, as far as the story goes. . .
The story here is actually pretty good.  It introduces the two main characters very nicely and with a minimum of exposition.  It's well-written for the most part and flows well from start to finish, nicely setting up the rest of the series (which was already through with the first story arc by the time anyone could get their hands on this. . .but enough about THAT).
At the heart of things, it's basically a sort of discount X-Men origin story.  However, there's just enough differences to make me want to see what happens next.  I like that they flipped the X-Men script and made the most powerful Psychic in the world (Harada, playing the role of Professor X) a villain finding and recruiting potential superhumans for training (The Harbinger Foundation playing the part of Xavier's School for Gifted Students).  This reversal on the standard formula is an interesting one.
I also liked that as Peter's powers increased, he uses them in a way that (come on and admit it) many of us would if we suddenly had mind control powers as a teenager. . .he snags the hottest girl in school and makes her do, well. . .whatever he wanted her to do.  There's no nobility here.  There's no heroism. He uses his powers to get what he wants. It's a pretty honest and realistic look at how powers would probably actually be used by a teenager.
Overall, I liked this issue.  It's a great introduction to the series.  It follows a pretty well-worn path, but flips the script JUST enough to make me want more.  Too bad readers in 1992 had to jump through hoops to get it.


Children of the Eighth Day

SCRIPT: Jim Shooter
PENCILS: David Lapham
COVER: Jim Shooter & David Lapham
So HERE'S where the Harbinger story actually started for readers in 1992.  
Let's do it!
Our story continues directly after Issue #0, with Pete Stanchek and Kris Hathaway on the run from the Harbinger Foundation after a failed assassination attempt on Pete leads to the death of more than 30 people.  Harbinger is in hot pursuit of the couple, with Toyo Harada determined to capture and study Pete.  
After a battle with three of Pete's former friends and fellow superhuman Harbinger "students", Pete and Kris manage to elude their pursuers and go into hiding, where Pete decides to fight against Harbinger by intercepting mailed responses to the Foundation's newspaper ads seeking new recruits.
After robbing a post office and finding a likely contact, Pete and Kris make their way to the home of Faith Herbert.  Pete reveals his powers to her and, in doing so, unlocks Faith's own powers of flight.  She quickly agrees to join Pete and Kris on their mission, but there's immediate jealous tension between the two women.
A few days later, during a raid on a Harbinger building to intercept more ad responses, Pete encounters Charlene Dupre (AKA Flamingo), a recent Harbinger recruit with the ability to manifest flames from her body.  After witnessing Pete using his telekinetic abilities to wreck the Harbinger office, Pete fully unlocks Charlene's powers and she quickly joins the growing group of Renegade superhumans.
Charlene's arrival at their hideout immediately causes more tension, with Kris coming to the conclusion that Pete is less saving people from Harbinger and more building a mind-controlled harem.  She is determined that the next recruit for their group will be male or she's leaving Pete. . .and so they decide to investigate a John Torkelson in Georgia.
Torkelson is a massively strong man, but not superhuman.  Pete immediately becomes jealous as all three of the women are obviously strongly attracted to him.  They invite "Torque" to join their group despite his lack of powers and against Pete's wishes.  
Later, while Pete is away from their hideout, the women are all trying to attract Torque's attention, leading to a fight between Kris and Flamingo that Pete arrives in time to break up. Pete uses his powers to look deeper into Torque's mind and unlocks his hidden superhuman strength.  Reluctantly, Pete admits that Torque has a place in his group of Renegades.
While the group discusses Torque's place with them, Harbinger attacks their hideout!  A brutal battle between Pete's group of Renegades and Harbinger's gunmen, backed up by several superhumans, takes place.  The Renegades fight together as a team and barely manage to defeat the Harbinger hit squad, but Kris is injured during the battle. . .
To be continued.
It's basically a "Gettin' the team together" story that concentrates mostly on introducing the members of the "Renegades" and showing them fighting together for the first time.  As I mentioned before, it begins abruptly and with no context. . .lacking the essential Issue #0.  The picture below is literally the first introduction the reader has to these characters:
It's an extremely odd way for a comic series to start.  It still amazes me that this issue is so valuable to collectors, given the almost unreadable nature of the story at the beginning.  And if you think you're going to get some exposition later. . .you're wrong.  There's VERY little background given.  The story jumps right into a fight scene and then Pete and Kris start gathering recruits for their group without any real explanation as to who the they are or why they are doing what they are doing.  It hits the ground running in the middle of the story and doesn't look back.
My first read through this issue before discovering there was a #0 was confusing to say the least.
I've already gone over the strange beginning of this series WAY too much.  Let's look at the issue on its own merits.  Like I said, it's basically a "Let's get a team together" story that is mostly introductions to new characters and setting up conflict for future issues.  It covers a lot of ground, so even though it's well-written, it does feel a bit rushed.  Even so, I still liked this a lot.
What I like most is the underlying sexual tension that keeps this from being a straight X-Men clone and gives it a bit of a darker edge.  I like how Kris calls out Pete for only recruiting women to his group, and then turns hypocrite when she (and the other two women in the group as well) falls for Torque, who immediately takes over Pete's place as Alpha Male.  It's an interesting setup for an extremely dysfunctional team where every decision is made based on jealousy and physical attraction.
Overall, moving past the problem of starting a story in the middle, this is a pretty interesting take on what would otherwise be a standard superhero team comic. By giving everything a dark undertone of tension and jealousy, it flips the script just enough that I'm interested to see where this is going.


The Root of All Evil

SCRIPT: Jim Shooter
PENCILS: David Lapham
COVER: David Lapham
Continuing directly from Issue #1, Pete and his team of Renegades rush an injured Kris to a nearby hospital.  Pete desperately uses his powers to pull the bullets out of Kris, but he lacks the medical skill to save her.  He reluctantly allows an actual doctor to operate.
Realizing that Harbinger is hot on their trail, the Renegades flee the hospital with Kris as soon as she is stable.  They are attacked by Harbinger snipers outside and the doctor who saved Kris gives them his car in order to escape.  After they elude their pursuers, Doctor Heyward gives them directions to his secluded summer house, where he allows them to stay until Kris recovers from her injuries.  Pete and the Renegades are glad to have found a new ally and hideout.
In the meantime. . .Faith flies to their former hideout in order to retrieve their belongings.  She finds the area completely cleaned of any sign of the battle that took place shortly before.  As she investigates, she is attacked by two Harbinger agents waiting for anyone to return.  Pete arrives just in time to save her, and mentally interrogates one of the gunmen.
Following a vague lead in the mind of the Harbinger agent, Pete and Faith discover a warehouse full of Harbinger uniforms.  They steal enough to outfit the team.  Also at the warehouse, they discover information pointing toward another secret Harbinger training facility.  
As Pete tries to rally the Renegades for an attack, Torque asserts his new dominance and tries to take over command of the team (and the team's women) from Pete.  Kris makes it clear that Pete is still the official  leader of the Renegades. . .for now.
The Renegades quickly travel to New York City and assault the Harbinger facility, meeting little resistance until they discover a secret elevator that leads them straight into an ambush!  The team is attacked by dozens of Harbinger gunmen, led by Toyo Harada and backed up by several superhumans.  
The rest of the team are quickly subdued by Harada's mental powers, and he informs Pete that he is too dangerous to be allowed to live.  Pete desperately fights back, managing to revive his friends and helping them to defeat the Harbinger forces until only Harada is left.   The Harbinger leader retreats, and as as Pete and the Renegades try to pursue him, they discover his office and break open the hidden safe.
The story ends with Pete and the Renegades flying back to their new hideout in possession of a huge pile of cash money and celebrating their first victory as an actual team.
To be continued.
Moving past the "Gettin' the team together" stage and into the "Comin' together as a team" phase of the story, the second issue is well-written, fast-paced, and carries a nice sense of tension and jealousy. . .especially in the scene where Torque tries to take over the team from Pete by openly asserting his dominance over the women.  It's an interesting take on the usual "superteam" dynamic. . .at least for a comic from the early 90's.  This kind of deconstruction of "traditional" superhero tropes is pretty common in comics today.
But underneath the interesting angle on superteam dynamics there is a glaring continuity problem rooted in. . .*sigh*. . .that strange Issue #0. It's established in #0 that Toyo Harada was a father figure and mentor to Pete, whose betrayal was so brutal that Pete is now gathering a team of his own to gain revenge.  In THIS issue, Harada introduces himself to Pete for apparently the first time. . .
What's the REAL introduction?
Issue 0
OR. . .
Issue 2?
It's just a strange little moment that sort of breaks things if you actually read issue #0 as the beginning of the story instead of #1.  It makes me wonder when exactly #0 was written. . .before the main series or after it was already going?  There are a few other disconnects that I've noticed in these first two issues. . .namely Kris' steadfast devotion to Pete (despite her physical attraction to Torque) and extreme jealousy toward other women on the team when in issue #0 she was disgusted by the things she had to do for him under mind control and they were barely speaking to each other at the end of that issue.  
Strange continuity disconnects aside, this was a pretty good issue.  Jim Shooter does a nice job of keeping an edge of physical attraction and jealousy in almost every interaction between these characters, which make the conversations between fight scenes just interesting enough for me to want to keep reading.  I can see where this sort of writing can drive right off the cliff into superhero soap opera territory, but for now Shooter is keeping a pretty steady hand on the wheel.


One Small Step. . .

SCRIPT: Jim Shooter
PENCILS: David Lapham
COVER: David Lapham
Continuing shortly after issue #2, Kris has recovered from her injuries and the team plans their next move.  They fly to Seattle to enlist the aid of a computer hacker called "Ax" in order to see what's on some heavily-encrypted computer disks they stole from Harada's office during their recent assault on a secret Harbinger training base.
Ax is unsuccessful until Pete reaches into his mind and unlocks his hidden power (the ability to speak to and understand electronic devices), leading Pete to wonder if EVERYONE has a hidden ability that he can unlock.  They discover that the discs contain lists of suspected and confirmed "Extraterrestrial Landing Sites".  The team votes Ax in as the newest member of the Renegades and decide to investigate the closest site on the list.
Deep in the forest of Olympic National Park, the team discovers what seems to be some sort of beacon.  As they try to decide what to do next, they are attacked by strange beings driving a heavily-armed vehicle.  After defeating the creatures by turning their own weapons against them, Ax discovers a control box, which he uses to open a hidden holding area containing a large alien ship!
Inside the ship, Ax's new abilities compel him to launch the ship on a pre-determined course off of Earth and toward the moon, to the horror of the rest of the team.  The ship automatically lands at a hidden alien base on the dark side of the moon.  As the team exits the ship to investigate the base and find a way back home, they fall victim to gas that knocks them all unconscious.
Shortly after, Faith is woken by Ax, who has been recruited by the aliens to use his powers to help them build a ship that will enable them to return to their home galaxy.  They have been stranded since their original ship was somehow destroyed.  Ax informs Faith that part of his agreeing to work with the aliens is that they have given him Faith to use as he pleases.
Faith quickly wakes Pete, who uses his psychic powers to disable Ax as they rouse the rest of the team.  They leave Ax behind as they try to find the ship they came in so they can escape the deadly alien base.  They are quickly cornered by a large group of aliens and their human ally, Rexo. . .who is a former quadriplegic that was given a powerful robotic body by the aliens for. . .reasons?
The battle doesn't go well for our heroes and they are quickly overwhelmed by the superior numbers and weaponry of Rexo and the aliens, leaving only Flamingo, cowering and terrified.   Ax rejoins his new alien allies and Rexo gives Flamingo to him.  He orders the rest of the team executed.  Flamingo finally summons the courage to attack, burning Ax and then facing Rexo and the aliens alone!
To be continued. . .
*Sigh* I KNEW it couldn't last.  
Only three issues in (four, if you count #0) and this series hits the first dud.  There's still some interesting things going on between the characters in the first part of the book. . .Torque trying to be a bit more discrete in his takeover of the team (and the team's women) from Pete by concentrating on Pete's main defender among the women, Kris. . .Flamingo noticing this and admitting to Pete that she's nothing but a "Hosebag" to any guy who wants her as she makes a move of her own to seduce the leader of the team. . .other small moments between characters through the issue maintaining the interesting level of sexual tension and jealousy that underlies their every action.
But then there's the aliens. 
The story is just so contrived and forced. It honestly feels like the lowest amount of effort  was put into it, like they were starting to get behind a bit and just threw this out there.  It's just. . .it's bad.  After a pretty good start in the first two issues, all of a sudden we get an extremely weak alien story like this?  There's no imagination here.  There's absolutely nothing interesting about the aliens or their laughable robo-warrior, Rexo.  They even LOOK stupid!
I haven't really talked about the art in this series yet, as the story has been pretty interesting up to this point.  The art is actually very nice.  It seems to have a light Neal Adams influence, with expressive faces and a good amount of detail.  It's nicely-colored and there are some interesting panel layouts.  It's not GREAT comic art, but it's good comic art that I don't have much to complain about. 
The aliens and especially Rexo are just. . .stupid-looking.  I don't know what happened here, but the art after the first half of this comic takes the same steep downhill slide that the story does.  It's pretty disappointing, to say the least.
Overall, there are still some good parts taking place outside of the main thrust of the story during the lead-up in the first half of the issue, but once you're past the midway mark and the alien story is in full swing, it's garbage.  It looks like maybe this issue wasn't going to hit the stands on schedule, so the creative team just rushed something out.  There's an obviously clear divide between good at the front and bad at the back.


As I said in my introduction, I've never really given any Valiant superhero comics a fair chance until now.  I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find Harbinger to be a pretty good read.
It has a well-written story that flips the standard teen superhero team comic script (of the time) by having every single action by the main characters influenced in some way by physical attraction and/or jealousy, leading to a constant underlying theme of dysfunction and tension.  I can easily see this sort of writing going off a melodramatic cliff at any time, but for now it's an interesting team dynamic.
That said. . .
It's not perfect.  Not even close.  This series has problems that keep it from being as good as it COULD be.  The major problem and the Pink-Covered elephant in the room is that the first issue starts in the middle of the story, hits the ground running, and never looks back long enough to explain what's going on.  The actual beginning of the story wasn't available until the first arc was done with.  
But THEN, the #0 issue directly contradicts events and story beats in the main series, leading to several "Wait. . .what?" moments that made me wonder exactly when the beginning of this story was actually written.
Worse, a mere three issues into the series and there's unfortunate signs of decline in terms of both story and art with an unimaginative alien brawl that I hope isn't a portent of things to come because I still have four more issues of Harbinger to review before I'm done.  
Overall, despite some pretty big flaws, I like Harbinger so far.  Hopefully the extremely weak third issue is just a bump in the road because I can see a lot of promise for good stories that DON'T involve punching aliens.
Up Next. . .
MORE Harbinger!  
I wrap things up for this Reader Request Edition with issues #4 - #7
Be there or be square!

- read more

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