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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey with comic reviews nobody asked me to write! Say a prayer and pass the gravy!
 
Before we begin, I want to wish a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to all of my Longbox Junk readers, and to take the opportunity to say that I'm thankful for each and every one of you who takes a bit of time from their busy lives to read my unsolicited ramblings on comic books!
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
I've got a lot of Longbox Junk on my plate!  I decided to do something I haven't done in a while and review a whole series from issue one to issue done.  I spooned out a hefty helping of comics by choosing sixty issues' worth of Marc Spector: Moon Knight.  I'm not sure I'll have room for pie.  
 
Ah, who am I kidding. . .there's ALWAYS room for pie!
 
So far I'm a third of the way in at 20 issues down.  You can read the first two batches of reviews  HERE (Part 1) and HERE (Part 2), but I'll recap my thoughts a bit. . .
 
So far what we have is a stripped down version of Moon Knight, portrayed as a two-fisted urban crimefighter without any of the usual supernatural or psychological trappings associated with the character.
 
Some might think writer Chuck Dixon's take on Moon Knight is a bit basic, compared to other series runs or writers, but personally I find it sort of refreshing to see such a simple take on what is usually a pretty complex character.
 
But enough introduction!
 
Let's get into this next batch, which includes the final few Dixon issues, and see what happens next.
 
Ready?  LET'S DO THIS!
 

MARC SPECTOR: MOON KNIGHT

PART THREE (ISSUES 21 - 30)

MARVEL (1989 - 1994)

 

ISSUE TWENTY-ONE

 
NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET
SCRIPT: Chuck Dixon
PENCILS: Sal Velluto
INKS: Tom Palmer
COVER: Denys Cowan
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue. In the aftermath of their attack on the hidden Secret Empire compound, the Secret Empire leadership manage to escape Spider-Man, Punisher, and Moon Knight.  Punisher has his assistant, Microchip, search ownership records connected to the original base Punisher tracked Secret Empire to (in issue #19) and discovers a link to a midtown Manhattan construction project.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .we find Jeff Wilde (AKA Midnight) alive and waking up tied down to a bed in some sort of laboratory.  He's terribly burned and under the care of a nurse who claims she was kidnapped.  The remaining Secret Empire leadership watching him on monitors talk about turning their captive into some sort of living weapon.  
 
We also see that Secret Empire is planning on launching a low-orbit satellite called "Skyclaw" that is capable of grabbing other satellites from orbit.  Part of a plot to hold the world's communication network for ransom.  They decide that due to the interference of the heroes, they need to launch immediately.
 
BACK WITH THE HEROES. . .After a fight between Moon Knight and Punisher over whether or not Midnight is alive and worth saving if he even is, the three heroes move in on the Secret Empire construction project. . .with Spidey taking the high road and working his way down while Moon Knight and Punisher work their way up.  
 
It doesn't take long for Moonie and Punisher to raise the alarm, and against Moon Knight's better judgement, Punisher starts shooting his way through the building.  Up top, Spider-Man discovers the launch silo for the missile carrying the Skyclaw satellite and destroys the launch doors, making the missile unable to launch.
 
As the Secret Empire leader realizes his plans are done for, Moon Knight and Punisher confront him.  After a short fight, Moon Knight almost kills the Secret Empire commander, who insists that Midnight is dead.  Spider-Man stops Moon Knight from going too far, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is contacted to take over the remnants of the Secret Empire cell and the hidden launch facility.  The heroes part, with Moon Knight mourning the death of Midnight.
 
The story ends by taking the reader back to the laboratory where Midnight is held captive.  He's convinced that Moon Knight left him to die and vows vengeance if he ever sees him again.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This last issue of the Spidey, Moon Knight, and Punisher team up is pretty much just an extended fight scene that ties up the Secret Empire threat.  It's a fairly standard comic book punch fest that gives each of the three main characters a few good action moments.  
 
But like the previous issue, it's not the fighting I enjoyed here, it's the play of the three characters off of each other.  We've got Spider-Man on the side of good old fashioned heroics and the classic "with great power comes great responsibility". Then there's Punisher on the side of black and white justice with no grey area between the guilty and innocent, a "They get what they deserve" simplicity. And Moon Knight caught in the middle between the two.  He eventually falls on the side of Spider-Man, but you can see how easily he might go the other way.  It's just some really good writing in between the fight scenes.
 
The scenes with Midnight seem to be a bit of a cop-out after I was impressed with Dixon's handling of the unwanted sidekick previously.  That said, it's interesting to see the "Sidekick who everyone thought was dead turned into a villain" story path that we saw started with Batman's Red Hood, and then polished with Captain America's Winter Soldier, show up years before either of those stories were published.  I wonder if either of them might have taken a bit of inspiration from this storyline.
 
 
Overall, despite some backpedaling on Midnight's "death" I really enjoyed this last issue of the Spidey, Moon Knight and Punisher team-up.  Not so much for the action-packed fight scenes, but for the moments of character interaction between the three heroes.  I don't normally like Spider-Man very much, but his role in reminding Moon Knight of what kind of hero he CAN be was really very nicely done here, so credit to Chuck Dixon for giving me a Spidey appearance in someone else's comic that I actually like, for once.
 
TEAM UP TIME OVER! MOVING ALONG. . .
 

ISSUE TWENTY-TWO

 
THE HATE FACTORY
SCRIPT: Chuck Dixon
PENCILS: Sal Velluto
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: Denys Cowan
 
THE STORY:
 
Moon Knight returns to the Secret Empire launch facility (from last issue) and evades the S.H.I.E.L.D. guards to hack into the mainframe, trying to get any information he can on Midnight.  Unfortunately, what little he does find only convinces him that Jeff Wilde is dead.  
 
In the process, Moon Knight discovers a name he recognizes. . .Bo Ollsen.  He was the other mercenary with Marc Spector the night he killed the Presidente of Bosquverde, and the only other person who might know the truth of what happened!  He is in the city and connected with a Secret Empire White Supremacy splinter group called "The Pretorians".
 
ELSWHERE. . .We see a terrified man being pursued through a maze and eventually murdered by a masked man on a motorcycle as a crowd chants the man's name. . .CHAINSAW!
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .We see that Midnight is alive, but still near death as Secret Empire troops hustle him and his nurse to yet another hidden location.  The few remaining members of the Secret Empire leadership fight among themselves over who will take over as "Number One" and discuss their plans to make Midnight into one of their agents.
 
BACK WITH OUR HEROES. . .Frenchie manages to infiltrate the Pretorians, posing as a possible recruit for the white supremacist organization.  Marlene (keeping watch on the front of the building) is captured while Moon Knight sneaks in from the rooftop.  Moon Knight spots his target, Bo Ollsen, while "Chainsaw" delivers a hate-filled speech.  But the recon mission suddenly turns into a rescue mission when the captured Marlene is thrown into Chainsaw's maze.  Moon Knight jumps in for the attack!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
You can sort of tell that Chuck Dixon's run on this title is starting to wind down to its finish.  This issue (and, not to get ahead of myself, the next as well) feels like filler meant to begin wrapping up some dangling story threads. . .Midnight's fate, as well as the resolution to "The Trial of Marc Spector".  As a villain, "Chainsaw" is a pretty generic homicidal maniac that you just KNOW is going to be Moon Knight's punching bag next issue.  The new inker brings a scratchier, grittier tone to the art that I really like, but other than that, this issue is pretty forgettable.
 
Overall, this issue just feels like filler meant to start tying up loose story threads as Dixon coasts toward the finish line of his time on this run.  It's not BAD, just sort of generic.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWENTY-THREE


THE MAZE
SCRIPT: Chuck Dixon
PENCILS: Sal Velluto
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: Denys Cowan
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Moon Knight jumps into the maze to face Chainsaw and rescue Marlene while Frenchie fights his way through Pretorian thugs above to clear the way for a getaway.  Moon Knight gets the upper hand on Chainsaw and the killer attempts to escape, only to be gunned down by Moon Knight's original target, the mercenary Bo Ollsen!
 
Moon Knight pursues and captures Ollsen, taking him along as Frenchie and Marlene rendezvous with him for their escape from the Pretorians.  Moon Knight interrogates Ollsen and learns that he was infiltrating the Pretorians because he has a score to settle with Secret Empire after one of their schemes he was hired for went wrong and he spent 5 years in a Southeast Asian prison.
 
Moon Knight makes a deal with Ollsen, he'll tell him where to find what's left of the Secret Empire leadership in exchange for the truth of what happened 10 years ago in Bosqueverde.  Moon Knight learns that Presidente Dominguez and Raposa were actually working together, but Raposta double-crossed him and used Marc Spector to do his dirty work, with both Ollsen and Dominguez's wife in on the plot.  
 
Finally, Ollsen tells Moon Knight that Raposa is in Miami and running a cocaine cartel.  Moon Knight and Ollsen part ways after keeping his half of the bargain and telling Ollsen that "Number One" is being held on Ryker's Island awaiting trial.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .We see Jeff Wilde (AKA Midnight) waking up after an operation and discovering to his horror that his arms have both been amputated and replaced with robotic limbs, we leave him screaming in terror and denial as we return to see Moon Knight beating his way through the underground, looking for information on Raposa and his operation.
 
At the end of the issue, Moon Knight leaves for Miami alone.  Raposa is personal, and Moon Knight doesn't want to put Marlene or Frenchie in danger for a personal vendetta.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Like last issue, you can sort of see Dixon coasting on this one as his time writing this series comes to a close with next issue.  Chainsaw was basically the most generic of throwaway villains and the rest of the comic is pretty much an exposition dump leading to Dixon's final issue on the run.  
 
It's not badly-written. . .Dixon keeps on his established straight and narrow here, showing Moon Knight as a two-fisted street hero punching his way "Batman-Style" through underground informants until he learns what he wants to know.  It's just that you can TELL that Dixon's about done with Moon Knight and there wasn't really much effort put into things.
 
 
 Overall, a pretty forgettable filler issue that serves as more of an information dump than anything else.  It's not BAD, but you can tell that Dixon is phoning it in at this point and ready to move on to writing The Punisher.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWENTY-FOUR

 
BLACK TIDE
Trial of Marc Spector Epilogue
SCRIPT: Chuck Dixon
PENCILS: Sal Velluto
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: Denys Cowan
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, we find Moon Knight in Miami, attacking drug shipments and working his way up from the bottom toward his target, former Bosqueverde Dictator Emmanuel Raposa.  Hearing that Moon Knight was also targeting his biggest competition, Rory Valdez, Raposa decides to also strike Valdez, making him fight two battles at once.
 
BACK IN NEW YORK. . .We see the mysterious leader of Secret Empire, "Number One", being held and awaiting trial on Ryker's Island, where he is killed by Bo Ollsen, who is disguised as a prison guard and acting on Moon Knight's information from last issue.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .We see Midnight, now more machine than man, brought out before the Secret Empire leadership for a demonstration of their new Cyber-Warrior.  Unfortunately, Midnight's human rage makes him go into a killing frenzy and Secret Empire are forced to shut him down until they can find a better way to to control him.  And that's the last we see of Midnight in this series. 
 
HEADING BACK TO MIAMI. . .Moon Knight has infiltrated the Valdez compound, seeking information on Raposa when Raposa pre-emptively attacks!  Moon Knight makes his escape as the gunmen of the two drug lords battle it out, and then tries to follow Raposa back to his hideout, but he's discovered and a battle in the air over the streets of Miami between Moon Knight in his stealth fighter and Raposa's thugs in a trio of gunship helicopters breaks out.  
 
Moon Knight defeats two of Raposa's copters and follows the survivor back to Raposa's hideout, where Bo Ollsen has also arrived, with plans to kill Raposa.  Moon Knight stops Ollsen from killing the former dictator, but Ollsen is badly wounded during the fight.  Ollsen reveals that he knows that it's Marc Spector wearing Moon Knight's costume, and that he was trying to make amends for setting him up all those years ago.  
 
Marc forgives Ollsen and the wounded mercenary holds off Raposa's gunmen while Moon Knight makes his escape with their leader.  The issue ends with Moon Knight bringing Raposa to a waiting ship, so that the former dictator can be returned to Bosqueverde for trial, fulfilling Marc Spector's promise to Presidente Silva to bring Raposa to justice.  
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
And so we come to the end of Chuck Dixon's time writing Moon Knight.  Where the previous two issues in this final arc felt a bit loose and lazy, this one was tighter and seemed to have a lot more effort put into it.  Yes, it basically serves to tie up two big loose ends, but this was a slam-bang adventure that brings Dixon's run to an end in fine form.  
 
Midnight's ultimate fate isn't revealed until later in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man (and his death even later in Moon Knight vol. 5), so the resolution here is a bit unsatisfying, but the main story of Moon Knight finally bringing Raposa to justice is a very nice epilogue to "The Trial of Marc Spector" that I enjoyed quite a bit.
 
Overall, Dixon goes out in style with a two-fisted action-packed adventure tying up loose ends from his run and leaving a blank slate for incoming creative teams.  I have to say that I really enjoyed Dixon's stripped down, simplified take on Moon Knight, even though I might be in the minority on that opinion.  So let's see what the next team does with that blank slate Dixon left them with, shall we?
 
WE SHALL!
 

ISSUE TWENTY-FIVE

 
GHOSTS OF THE PAST
SCRIPT: Howard Mackie
PENCILS: Mark Bagley
INKS: Tom Palmer
COVER: Denys Cowan
 
THE STORY:
 
Our story begins with Moon Knight fighting terrorists attacking the Statue of Liberty.  Just another night out on patrol except that the thugs are wearing costumes very similar to his and keep shouting about how they are the "True Knight of the Moon" as Moon Knight punches them.
 
AND THEN. . .Ghost Rider shows up out of nowhere to finish mopping up the remaining terrorists.  He interrogates one of them and discovers that there is another attack planned on Grand Central Station.  That means it's TEAM UP TIME!
 
At Grand Central Station, there is a charity benefit party going on for the homeless, which is interrupted as more "Knights of The Moon", as well as other mercenaries attack and take the guests (including Moon Knight's lover, Marlene) hostage.  It is revealed that the mutant known as Plasma is the leader of the terrorists.  
 
By the time Moon Knight and Frenchie arrive on the scene, the hostage situation is in full swing and the police have blockaded the whole area.  Moon Knight decides to infiltrate using the train tunnels.  He discovers more Knights of The Moon fanatics placing explosives to destroy the terminal and takes them down.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .Plasma receives news that some of her men aren't reporting, and she assumes it's the police, which means it's time to start killing hostages.  Below, Moon Knight is fighting his way through her henchmen, encountering several mercenaries that he had once worked with.  He isn't able to make it up top fast enough to stop Plasma from blowing a hostage's head off with her powers.
 
BUT THEN. . .Ghost Rider finally makes it to the scene! As the Spirit of Vengeance wreaks havoc on the terrorists, Plasma joins the fight and seemingly vaporizes him with a blast of her power.  Plasma decides to leave before more superheroes show up and abandons the hostages as she gets on a train with her remaining men.
 
Moon Knight arrives to find the police in charge of the hostage situation, hears what happened to Ghost Rider from Marlene, then rushes to pursue the mutant leader and her religious fanatics.  Ghost Rider returns and Moon Knight hitches a ride on his bike in order to chase the escaping train.  The two heroes board the train and proceed to pound the Khonshu out of anyone standing in their way until they get to Plasma.
 
Ghost Rider is blasted out of the fight again and Plasma shouts out her entire history and power set while Moon Knight mercilessly kicks her around the cabin of the train.  Her exposition distracts Plasma from the fact that the train is heading too fast into a curve.  Moon Knight jumps out onto Ghost Rider's bike just in time as the speeding train plows into the wall and explodes, taking Plasma along with it!
 
At the end, Ghost Rider and Moon Knight part, having served a mighty fine dose of both justice AND vengeance this night.  
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
*Sigh* Not good.  Not good at all.
 
What we have here is a one-off filler issue coming between the departing creative team and the incoming one.  Unfortunately, despite the great talent involved in this double-sized issue, it's really not that good. I'd say it's just "okay". With the team up of Moon Knight and Ghost Rider fighting an X-Men villain, this actually reads sort of like a leftover script from the "Acts of Vengeance" crossover that got dusted off and used on short notice.  
 
It's pretty much a standard superhero punch-fest all the way through from page one to page done.  You can see that there's very little effort to actually make this issue good.  Instead, it looks like Marvel was hoping the Ghost Rider appearance would coast this one along until next month when the new regular team takes over.
 
What's especially disappointing is that usually I like Mark Bagley's art quite a bit.  He's one of the most solid artists Marvel had at that time, but here it looks like he hurried up and illustrated this issue in between better things he had to do.  
 
 
Overall, this issue was the first actual clunker of this series.  It's a shame because there's some good names working on it, but the whole thing obviously looks like a rushed filler issue padding a month between regular creative teams.  Nothing to see here, let's move along. . .
 
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!
 

ISSUE TWENTY-SIX

 
SCARLET REDEMPTION PART ONE: SINNERS
SCRIPT: J. M. DeMatteis
PENCILS: Ron Garney
INKS: Tom Palmer
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz 
 
THE STORY:
 
Our story begins as a mysterious woman cloaked in red attacks one of Moon Knight's informants, Mr. Crawley, badly wounding him with a crossbow bolt.  Crawley barely makes it to the diner his (and Moon Knight's) friend Gena owns.  The woman pursues him into the diner and blows it up using explosive crossbow bolts.  It is shown to the reader than she calls herself Scarlet and she attacked Moon Knight's friends to try and get his attention.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .Moon Knight is back on patrol and we see him fight a group of young thugs, but he shows them mercy, explaining to Frenchie and Marlene that since HE got a second chance at life, everyone deserves the same.  
 
THAT NIGHT. . .at the altar of her church hideout, Scarlet receives a fiery vision of Moon Knight replacing the crucifix.  At the same time, Marc Spector is awakened and receives a vision of Scarlet replacing the statue of Khonshu in his mansion.
 
Later, Moon Knight visits the hospital to check up on his wounded friend, Mr. Crawley.  He learns from Gena about the attack, and combined with his earlier vision, he realizes that Scarlet Fasinara (AKA Stained Glass Scarlet), is back in New York after being gone for many years.
 
He immediately heads to the grave of Scarlet's son. . .who she was forced to kill, making her mind snap and turning her into a murderous vigilante.  There, Moon Knight is attacked by three of Scarlet's disciples.  They fight until Scarlet herself appears, telling Moon Knight that she just wanted to be near him that night, but there would be another time for her to reveal her true purpose.  Moon Knight lets them all leave for some unknown reason.
 
We end the issue with Moon Knight receiving yet another fiery vision at the statue of Khonshu.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Well, alrighty then.  Talk about a major switch in. . .well, pretty much everything!  
How do I begin to unpack this? Even the COVER is completely different.  Okay, here goes!
 
Chuck Dixon departed this title after two years of solid superhero action, with his stories nicely tied up and leaving a blank slate for the incoming creative team.  But instead of building on or refining what had been the status quo for Moon Knight for 25 issues, DeMatteis and Garney decided to take things in a completely different direction by making this issue a direct continuation of the 38 issue 1980 run of Moon Knight!
 
This issue features characters and story beats from issues almost ten years in the past!  In particular, Stained Glass Scarlet was featured in issues #14 and #24.  Gena and Mr. Crawley were frequent supporting characters of that run as well, even though they've never been mentioned until now in this one.
 
Frankly, it's a jarring disconnect from the series I had been reading.  These days, Marvel would have just ended the series at issue #25 and made #26 a brand new #1 reboot of the series, but the semi-predatory practice of rebooting a series every couple of years for that shiny and collectible #1 (with 27 variant covers, of course) is still a ways down the road for the comic industry.  So what we get instead is basically an entire change in a series between one month and the next.
 
I'm pretty sure that fans of Moon Knight pining for the earlier run. . .which, credit due, IS some fantastic work from (mainly) Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz. . .were excited for a return to that series.  Unfortunately, it's a pretty abrupt departure for readers who might have jumped on Moon Knight from the first issue of THIS series.  Put kindly, this new creative team and direction pretty much abandons new Moon Knight fans of the time for established fans from almost a decade previously.
 
Okay, so the complete change in direction is jarring and somewhat unwelcome. . .what about the story itself?  Let's put it this way. . .J.M. DeMatteis is no Doug Moench and Ron Garney isn't anywhere close to being Bill Sienkiewicz.  Their attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle falls flat.
 
The most obvious problem is that Stained Glass Scarlet herself is written almost completely different than seen previously.  In the earlier Moon Knight issues this storyline attempts to continue, Scarlet is a former nun who left the church to marry into the mob.  After her husband is killed and she is forced to kill her own son, something snaps in Scarlet and she begins to hunt down and kill anyone in the mob connected with the tragedy her life became.  She ran afoul of Moon Knight, who sympathized with her, but didn't approve of her methods, and the two connected before she disappeared. 
 
 In other words, she was Marvel's version of DC's Helena Bertinelli (AKA The Huntress), right down to the religious aspect (that DC has since abandoned), mob connection, and crossbow as a favored weapon.  
 
But HERE, Scarlet is written as someone willing to kill innocents just to get Moon Knight's attention.  Also, she seems to have gained some sort of mental super powers as well.  She's able to manipulate Moon Knight's mind, drawing him to her and making him unable to act if she wants to (that's how she and her disciples escape the graveyard fight).  The original Scarlet was a street level vigilante on a specific mission.  This Scarlet is an indiscriminate killer with mind control powers.
 
As far as the rest goes, the running internal monologue of both Spector and Scarlet (that tells most of the story) is overwrought and pretentious almost to the point of comedy at times.  Ron Garney's art is wildly inconsistent. . .with some pages standing out as borderline great, while others look sketchy and incomplete.  The combination really makes me a bit discouraged from continuing on with the next issues in the story.
 
 
 
Overall, we have a jarring change in direction that completely abandons the established status quo (and new Moon Knight fans at the time) in favor of returning to a previous series.  The writing is pretentious and laughable where it's supposed to be dark and dramatic, and the artwork is uneven.  Chuck Dixon left a blank slate, and instead of going forward, this issue takes the series a step backward.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWENTY-SEVEN

 
SCARLET REDEMPTION PART TWO: SNARES
SCRIPT: J. M. DeMatteis
PENCILS: Ron Garney
INKS: Tom Palmer
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz 
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, we find Frenchie and his new lover (Marc Spector's housekeeper, Chloe) enjoying some time together in one of Marc's penthouses that he rarely uses.  Scarlet and a group of her disciples attack, badly wounding Frenchie and taking him captive and sending Chloe to Marc with a message to meet Scarlet on the Brooklyn Bridge.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .Since encountering Scarlet, Marc has been plagued with constant thoughts and visions of her, as well as random hallucinations of Khonshu.  We see that Scarlet is also suffering from constant hallucinations of beings who want to punish her for her sins.  Moon Knight follows a lead to an abandoned church, but discovers that she's already gone.  
 
LATER THAT NIGHT. . .Chloe finally makes to to Spector's mansion to deliver Scarlet's message, Moon Knight goes to the Brooklyn Bridge and confronts Scarlet, who lets him know that Frenchie has already been released and that she wants Marc to save her soul.  They embrace and kiss, but Scarlet becomes overwhelmed with shame and stabs Moon Knight in the back, pushing him off the bridge and into the water after declaring that she doesn't deserve to be saved.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
The pretentious and overblown nature of the running internal dialogue in the previous issue was pretty bad, but DeMatteis says "You ain't seen nothin' yet" and steps it up a notch to the point that the story in this issue is practically unreadable. 
 
 Scarlet's new powers are also inconsistent with the previous issue.  Last issue, she was able to draw Spector to her with her psychic ability, in this issue, she has to take Frenchie hostage and send someone with a message for Spector to meet her.  So not only does the character barely represent the original material, the writer can't even keep her straight over the course of TWO issues. 
 
With this treatment of Stained Glass Scarlet, I can definitely see why creators (Like Tony Isabella with Black Lightning) get upset when others change characters they create completely from their original vision.  BUT I DIGRESS!
 
Thankfully, the uneven art seems to have been straightened out to the point that I can now call it "Pretty Good" as a whole and even saw a few panels that are downright great.  Plus there's a very nice cover by Sienkiewicz, so at least the comic is good on the eyes.
 

Overall we have a story that's practically unreadable without eye rolls at the constant cribbing of William Blake's poetry posing as deep and dark inner dialogue (That's right, DeMatteis, I see where you're pulling it from.  I don't just read comic books.) and featuring a character that is not only a hollow shell of the original, but inconsistent from issue to issue. 
 
 Three more issues of this PLUS an epilogue? All I can say is. . .
 
The flames of that round me roll;
If she refuse, I still go on
Till the Heavens and Earth are gone
Because I ain't a quitter, son


(See, I can do it too 😉)

NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWENTY-EIGHT

 
SCARLET REDEMPTION PART THREE: COMING FORTH
SCRIPT: J. M. DeMatteis
PENCILS: Ron Garney
INKS: Tom Palmer
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz 
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Moon Knight has been stabbed by Scarlet and pushed off the Brooklyn Bridge.  As he sinks into the river, bleeding out, he has visions of Khonshu, his father, and his dead brother, Randall. . .all berating him for being worthless and weak.
 
While Marc struggles against his inner demons, Scarlet is wracked with guilt and prays to Jesus to help Marc, while at the same time, Marlene prays to Khonshu for the same thing.  Or at least I think that's what is going on.  At this point, the story is such a mess with three simultaneous running internal dialogues that I can barely stand reading it.  ANYWAY. . .both of the women are somehow physically touched by the statues they are praying to.
 
By the intervention of Khonshu, Jesus, or both (Or neither? Maybe? Who knows?), Marc struggles through the hellish visions of disappointment and failure and is guided by a beam of light to the surface, where he is rescued by Frenchie and Marlene in his copter.  Marc is skeptical when Marlene tells him the statue of Khonshu told her where to find him, ignoring the fact that he wears a weird costume and fights crime every night because that very same statue told him to.
 
AT THE END. . .We see that Scarlet has also been led (by Jesus?) to where Moon Knight was. . .Even though she should have already known because SHE was the one who pushed him off the bridge in the first place.  Just one of the many plot holes to be found. BUT I DIGRESS! 
 
When she realizes that she's arrived too late and he's already been rescued by Marlene, Scarlet gets mad that seems to take delight in constantly punishing her.  She begins to summon fire (adding pyrokinesis to her new set of superpowers) and declares that now the world must burn!
 
To be (unfortunately) continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This story just gets worse as it goes on.  Sort of like a drunken uncle at Thanksgiving who ropes you into a political discussion.  Yeah. . .that bad.  
 
There are there three separate running internal monologues that converge and overlap each other at times, making it hard to understand who's thinking what (Scarlet and Marlene's visuals and dialogue mirror each other through the whole issue, as you can see in the page scan below).  
 
There are gaping plot holes. . .For one example: This issue starts exactly where the last left off, but Scarlet has been able to return to her hideout, change clothes, pray to Jesus, AND return to try and rescue Marc in the time it takes him to fall and sink to the bottom of the river.  Just one of several holes in the plot where it's obvious that the writer was more concerned with the FEEL of what he's trying to say than with telling a cohesive story.
 
Adding to the confusion, Scarlet now seems to be able to summon fire. . .which begs the question of why she had to burn down Gena's diner with explosive crossbow bolts in the first issue of this arc.
 
Look, I understand.  DeMatteis is trying to tell a dreamlike (nightmarish?) story that takes place mostly in the heads of the characters.  Unfortunately, the execution falls flat.  The artist does a decent job in trying to keep up, but as it stands, this story is a meandering mess.
 
 
Overall, we have a story that's just getting worse as it goes on.  DeMatteis is trying hard to say SOMETHING, but it's hard to tell exactly what that is because he keeps adding new elements to an already muddled narrative.  That's not good when you just want to read a decent superhero story.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWENTY-NINE

 
SCARLET REDEMPTION PART FOUR: THE CLOUD
SCRIPT: J. M. DeMatteis
PENCILS: Ron Garney
INKS: Tom Palmer
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz 
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, we find Scarlet in her hideout, still wracked with guilt and conflicting emotion.  She begins to have nightmarish hallucinations and memories of killing her abusive father, her failed bid at salvation by becoming a nun, her failure to change the ways of her abusive mob husband, her being forced to kill her own son.  She blames , but begs for His forgiveness at the same time.  She implores Satan to take her soul to . . .ANYTHING to atone for her past.  But no answer comes from either Heaven or .
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .we see that Scarlet's mental torment is affecting Moon Knight as he recovers from his injuries.  As Scarlet's rage with being ignored by both Heaven and grows, she sets fire to her hideout, sending her disciples fleeing into the night.  Feeling himself drawn to Scarlet against his will, Moon Knight suits up despite the protests of Marlene and heads into the night for a final confrontation.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
As you can see from the abbreviated summary above, this issue leading up to the big finish is a bit light on story and heavy on hammering the reader with the inner torment of Scarlet. . .basically a very pretentious and overwrought exposition dump of her origin story, but without any explanation of what she's been up to for the past ten years or where her shiny new mental superpowers came from. . .which is sort of what I was wanting to know.  
 
I mean, she leaves New York as a somewhat successful street vigilante with a vendetta against the mob and then returns a decade later as a murderous psychic powerhouse?  Where's THAT story?
 
On the good side of things, Garney's art has been improving with each issue, so as the story gets worse, the visuals get better.  He does a lot of interesting things with panel layout in this issue as he tries to fit four pages of story into a thirty page comic book.  I gotta give credit where credit is due.  He does a fair job of it.
 

Overall, what we have here is too little story for too much comic.  Thankfully, Ron Garney is up to the task of making it work.  Unfortunately, there's not much some decent art can do to improve this half-baked origin story that doesn't even really tell the story it needs to tell.  All I can say is thank it's almost over.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ISSUE THIRTY

 
SCARLET REDEMPTION PART FIVE: THIRST
SCRIPT: J. M. DeMatteis
PENCILS: Ron Garney
INKS: Tom Palmer
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz 
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, we find New York City is plagued by a spree of firebombs.  Scarlet has written a letter to the Daily Bugle claiming that she is purifying the city with fire in the name of .  Which, of course, begs the question of why firebombs when in the previous two issues she was able to summon fire?  And where are all the other NYC superheroes?  Spidey WORKS at the Daily Bugle, right? BUT I DIGRESS!
 
We see that Scarlet is plagued by a vision of a man and a woman dancing around a campfire, with lots of extremely pretentious and wordy mental monologuing about the ecstasy of burning and ancient priestesses which makes no sense at all, but at this point, I'm just sort of rolling with things.  All I know is that if I were actually subscribing to this series in 1991, I probably would have cancelled it around #28.  BUT THERE I GO AGAIN!
 
Moon Knight is busy saving people from burning buildings on his own because I guess he's the only superhero noticing dozens of buildings blowing up in New York City.  He encounters a group of Scarlet's disciples setting a bomb. . .because I guess she's lost her magical fire powers since last issue. . .he fights them, but the group of four young girls beat the superhero martial arts master unconscious. Probably not Moon Knight's finest moment.
 
When he wakes up from his beating at the hands of teenage girls, Moon Knight starts having visions of the same thing that's been tormenting Scarlet. . .but thankfully minus about half of the cribbed William Blake internal anguish she was having.  This somehow tells him exactly where Scarlet is, because, well, just because?
 
We switch scenes to the hospital where Moon Knight's friend Mr. Crawley has been recovering from Scarlet's attack in the first issue of this merry mess.  Scarlet is standing over the bed with a lit match (Her fire powers once again mysteriously absent in the exact issue where she would have been using them the most) and muttering to herself about .  
 
SURPRISE, CRAZY LADY! Moon Knight jumps up out of the bed, where he'd been hiding, and grabs her.  He demands to know just what the is going on with her. . .exactly the same thing I demand!  She tells him that it's too late for love and. . .blasts him with her friggin' fire powers that have been absent until now!  The whole hospital goes up in flame due to her plot-specific moment of  fire rage.
 
Scarlet makes her escape while Moon Knight saves people from the hospital.  She waits for him to get done and find her by dancing in the rain and lightning on top of the Brooklyn Bridge while having visions of an ancient priestess dancing around a campfire. . .visions that Moon Knight is also having back at the hospital.  Once again, they somehow tell Moon Knight were to go.
 
Moon Knight confronts Scarlet on the bridge again (hopefully this time standing away from the edge) and they start talking about past lives, reincarnation, and how there's no salvation for her.  Scarlet begs Moon Knight to kill her because she doesn't deserve to live, any more than this comic deserves a decent review.  
 
Moon Knight calms her down a bit, but then she pulls the old surprise knife again!  Moonie ain't falling for that game a second time, seeing as he's still got stitches from the last time she pulled a sticker on him.  He grabs her hand and tells her to stop acting crazy. . .he's just a man and he can't save her soul, and he sure isn't going to let her stab him again.
 
Scarlet sees a vision of flames in the water below and decides it's time to finally end this rotten story by jumping off the bridge.  Moon Knight dives in after her, but comes up empty.  He looks for her all night, before saying a prayer for her soul and giving up.
 
The End 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Thank it's over.  I've read reviews of this series that bag on Chuck Dixon as the worst writer of the whole run.  I heartily disagree.  Dixon may have been a bit basic, but at least he was consistent and his stories were actually readable.  In the course of Longbox Junkin' you can believe I've read some pretty bad stories.  This was one of the worst that I've read in quite a while.   
 
The writer was so far in his own headspace that he forgot he was writing for other people.  There might have been a point to this story DeMatteis was trying to make, but I can't see it.  Hopefully, this is a low point for this series, because I've still got a LOT of issues to go.
 

Overall, the finish to this story was all over the place.  Scarlet's flame powers come and go as needed by the story.  Moon Knight gets the Khonshu pounded out of him by teenage girls.  Buildings are exploding in New York City and Moon Knight is the only superhero on the job.  DeMatteis doubles down on the pretentious William Blake-infused inner monologue with each issue.  Summed up: This was a hard story to get through.   I feel like I've accomplished something by actually reading every word of it.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Talk about contrast.  This batch of Marc Spector: Moon Knight issues is a study in contrast.  Two good issues, three "okay" issues, and a solid FIVE bad issues.  We go from straightforward two-fisted superhero action to overwrought internal drama.
 
Look. . .I've read good stuff by J.M. DeMatteis.  Captain America, The Defenders, Weird War Tales, even : Apocalypse (No, really. . .it's pretty good. Check it out).  This is not good.  I'm not sure where his head was when he was writing this, but the decisions made here and the inconsistency of the whole story where DeMatteis is normally a lot tighter make me wonder if he was going through something that was distracting him from his work.  This is so bad that I don't know what to make of it.
 
Whatever was going on with DeMatteis when he wrote the stinker of a story that makes up half of this batch of Marc Spector: Moon Knight, it made getting through the back half of these issues a hard row to hoe.  
 
The first half was pretty good.  Yeah, Dixon was coasting along toward his finish line, but at least his last issues were decent, with the Spidey/Moon Knight/Punisher teamup showing some really good writing.  
 
The filler issue between Dixon and DeMatteis was a bit of a clunker, but I highly suspect that it was actually a leftover unused "Acts of Vengeance" story that was dusted off and thrown in on short notice.
 
SO. . .here we are, halfway through.  Thirty more issues to go.  What happens next?  Let's find out!
 
Up Next. . .
 
More Marc Spector: Moon Knight!  
Issues 31-40, heading down the back half of the series.
Will it get any better?  I sure hope so!
 
Be there or be square.

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

I've decided to return to one of the things that makes Longbox Junk special by reading and reviewing an entire series from issue one to issue done. .. something I haven't done in a while.  I chose a pretty epic chunk of comics with SIXTY issues of Marc Spector: Moon Knight.

To recap the first ten issues (or you can just go HERE ), so far writer Chuck Dixon has given us a very straightforward and simple interpretation of Moon Knight, dispensing with most of the supernatural elements and not even touching on the mental health issues that usually define a Moon Knight story.  

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Longbox Junk - Spider-Man/ Human Torch

1707 views • 266 days ago • (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.

ANYWAY. . .

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.

THAT SAID. . .

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.

DISCLAIMER. . .

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!

SPIDER-MAN/ HUMAN TORCH

MARVEL (2005)

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

ISSUE ONE

PICTURE PERFECT

 
 
 
THE COVER:
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.
 
THE STORY:
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.

 
THE REVIEW:
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!
 

ISSUE TWO

CATCH YOU ON THE FLIPSIDE

 
 
THE COVER:
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.
 
THE STORY:
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.
 
THE REVIEW:
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.
 
NEXT!

ISSUE THREE

AUTO MOTIVES

 
THE COVER:
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.
 
THE STORY:
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.
 
THE REVIEW:
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!
 

ISSUE FOUR

CAT'S PAWS

 
THE COVER:
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.
 
THE STORY:
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.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
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!

ISSUE FIVE

TOGETHER AGAIN

 
THE COVER:
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. 
 
THE STORY:
 
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.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
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.

CONCLUSION

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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Fair Warning: This is an "All Ages" series.  Just bear with me. . .

I know that I'm writing toward an adult audience, but sometimes even adults just want to have a little fun in their comics, right?  I know I do from time to time.  So why not check out what's going on in some of those comics you might otherwise pass over as kiddy fare?

Allow me to explain. . .

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Longbox Junk - Avengers: Millennium

3479 views • Mar 8, '18 • (0) Comments

I'm not a big fan of The Avengers for the same reason I'm not a big fan of The Justice League.  I like individual characters on both teams, but it just seems like a failing proposition to keep coming up with stories that can present a challenge to a combined team of the mightiest heroes on Earth.  It all just sort of reeks of fan service, and I prefer lower-key super heroics.  

BUT. . .

I seem to be in the minority when it comes to comics starring laughably overpowered super-teams,  and that's okay. . .I just pass 'em by and read what I like.  But I occassionally make an exception.  Case in point being the 4 issue Avengers: Millennium series at hand.  My local comic shop had all four issues bundled for 5 lousy bucks with that SWEET cover for issue #1 on top.  I may not buy Avengers on the regular, but 4 issues for 5 bucks with at least one cover to make my office wall comic art rotation was a deal I couldn't refuse.  

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Face front, true believers! It's another Retro Review edition of Longbox Junk as we take a trip back to 1967 for some Merry Marvel Mutant Madness, guest starring the one and only Wisecracking Wallcrawler, The Sensational Spider-Man! 

Sit back and enjoy another comic review nobody ever asked for, brought to you by the Astounding Authorship (AND Humongous Humility) of yours truly!

X-MEN (vol. 1) #35

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