feature requests

atom's Comic Book Blogs

  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

September 2020

SuMoTuWeThFrSa
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930 

Archives

Tags

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where the opinions are free and if you don't like 'em you get a full refund!

July isn't quite over yet, so there's still time for a little more flag wavin' Captain America Longbox Junk. If you don't like a bit of "AMERICA $%&# YEAH!" in your comics for whatever reason, I can dig it. Just be sure to come back next month for whatever I pull out next. Fair?

The comic at hand is one of a series of seven Captain America one shots that came out through 2008 - 2010 under the collective banner of "Captain America - Theater of War". They tell single issue tales that cover a variety of time periods, styles and stories. . .everything from straight up WWII action to Captain America as the embodiment of the American Spirit. Most of them are good. A few are great. A couple are awful. This is one of the good ones.

It's Captain America vs. Ratzi flying saucers! Let's do it!

CAPTAIN AMERICA 
THEATER OF WAR: 
OPERATION ZERO POINT 
Marvel (2008) 

 
 
SCRIPT: Daniel & Charles Knauf
PENCILS: Mitch Breitweiser
COVER: Mitch Breitweiser

THE COVER:
Cap's face is a little strange, but I really like the feeling of motion coming from this cover! The eerie greenish tone gives a nice retro sci-fi feel to the action. Not the greatest Captain America cover in my collection, but still very nice. Let's get inside! 


THE STORY:
We begin our tale in 1944, flying over Southern Poland as Captain America ponders the mission at hand. . .meeting with a member of the Polish Resistance, who will guide Cap to a secret Ratzi base where they have supposedly invented some sort of anti-gravity aircraft. From there, he'll extract a Ratzi scientist who wants to defect with the anti-gravity secrets and then blow the base sky high. In other words. . .just another day for America's Super Soldier.




Unfortunately, Cap's thoughts are interrupted as his plane is attacked by mysterious saucer-shaped aircraft. It's a little sooner than expected, but Cap's officially on the clock!



On the ground after escaping the crashing bomber, Cap avoids Ratzi patrols as he makes his way to the rendezvous with the Polish agent. . .


Cap and Lior (the Polish Agent) Make their way to the secret Ratzi base, working their way through a junkyard of downed aircraft. . .proof of the effectiveness of Hitler's newest weapon. Upon arrival, the team's recon of the base gives Cap his first look at the imposing commander of the facility's SS guards. . .a giant of a man called "Der Metzger", The Butcher, who is rumored to have lost an eye fighting a bear with his bare hands.

Their recon also reveals Jewish prisoners, who Lior informs Cap are forced to not only work on building the base, but are also used for horrible experiments inside. Cap changes the mission on the spot to include rescuing the prisoners.



Unfortunately, Cap's plans are interrupted as their position is discovered and the base's guards attack, supported by the Ratzi saucers! Captain America puts up a good fight, but they are quickly overwhelmed, with Lior killed and Cap taken prisoner. . .



Cap regains consciousness strapped to a table with Der Metzger and a Ratzi scientist examining him. They inform their prisoner that the whole operation was a trap. They intercepted the defecting scientist's communication and Lior was a double agent. The true prize was the Ratzi capture of America's Super Soldier! Cap is taken to a cell after being told that experiments on him would begin the next day.


But Captain America isn't just going to sit in a cell and wait for Ratzis to experiment on him! After discovering that the man in the cell next to him is Fleischer, the Ratzi scientist he was sent to retrieve, Cap decides that the mission is still on and is going just fine.

Using his enhanced strength and a bit of trickery, Cap breaks the two of them free, retrieves his equipment, and then plans a coordinated attack with Fleischer, with the scientist destroying the saucer's power source while Cap rescues the Jewish prisoners. Afterwards, joining up to escape before Cap destroys the base. Simple, right? What could go wrong?


As the base's alarms go off, Captain America begins fighting his way toward the Jewish prisoners, causing as much commotion as he can in order to give Fleischer time to sabotage the saucer's power source. . .



Unfortunately, Fleischer's efforts weren't quite quick enough, and Cap is attacked by the Ratzi saucers! Using all of his skills, he manages to disable the attacking aircraft.


Cap sees that Der Metzger has captured Fleischer as he escaped the Ratzi base. Metzger mocks the American hero, telling him that in order to save Doctor Fleischer, Cap will have to go through him. Captain America wastes no time in taking up the giant Ratzi's challenge!



A brutal one-on-one battle ensues, with Captain America barely managing to hold his own against the giant Ratzi commander. . .but eventually, Cap's grit and determination wins the day and Der Metzger is defeated!



But as Cap and Fleischer make their escape, Metzger summons the last of his strength and shoots the defecting scientist in the back, making sure the allies will never learn the secret of anti-gravity!




But Metzger's victory is a hollow one as Cap frees the Jewish prisoners and they make their escape while the Ratzi commander is engulfed in the flames of the exploding base.



In the end, Cap didn't get the scientist out of Poland, but he freed some prisoners, destroyed a secret base, and beat a smug SS Commander half to death. All in all, it was a decent day. The End.




THE REVIEW:

Not bad! Not bad at all! I really liked this story. I've said it before and I'll say it again. . .One Shots are my favorite kind of comic because there's nowhere for the creative team to hide. They have one and ONLY one issue to tell a complete story. There are a LOT of bad one shots out there where the creative team fails the test. This isn't one of them.

The story itself is an extremely simple framework. . .Captain America vs Ratzi Flying Saucers. But in that simplicity the creative team delivers in a big way, giving the reader a modern-day throwback to the Golden Age "Point Captain America at the target and let him go" sort of stories. It's not very deep, but it IS fun!

Sometimes you want your Captain America stories to delve a little into the deeper meaning of him being a symbol of a flawed nation. . .but sometimes you just want Cap to punch some Ratzis. This is definitely a Ratzi-Punchin' story and a pretty good one at that!

I think the thing that I liked most about the writing here was the characterization of Captain America himself. It's a grittier version that still paints him as a true hero (changing his mission mid-stream to include rescuing prisoners), but also gives us a good dose of his Lower East Side roots by showing Cap as someone willing to break a few eggs to make an omelet. In this story, he even carries a gun in a few scenes and isn't afraid to use it.

This Captain America actually reminds me a lot of Marvel's "Ultimate" version of Captain America. I happen to be a fan of Ultimate Captain America, so to me that's a good thing. If you didn't like Marvel's Ultimate take on their characters, you might not get as much out of this story as I did.

But writing is only half of the equation in comic books.

Fortunately, the art side of the creative team holds up their end of the effort very nicely, with Mitch Breitweiser delivering one great-looking comic! Just LOOK at that picture of Cap at the end, above. I'd LOVE to have a poster of that full-pager! His dark and gritty style perfectly matches the grittier take on Captain America that the story gives us. It's a style that I enjoy a lot. . .detailed and realistic, but at the same time dark and sketchy. It's the sort of style that reminds me of Tommy Lee Edwards or Butch Guice, two of my favorite artists.

CONCLUSION 

 
Overall, this is a great little Captain America story! The creative team delivers a nugget of Longbox Junk gold with a modern throwback Ratzi-Punchin' adventure featuring a gritty, cocky Captain America and some very nice artwork that makes every page of this one shot a feast for the eyes. This one issue gives me almost everything I could ever want in a short Captain America story!

If you're a Captain America fan looking for a good story, then this one is definitely for you! Grab it from the bargain bin if you should spot it. I come across all of the "Theater of War" series of one shots pretty often while Longbox Junkin', so it shouldn't be too hard to find. It's also been collected in trade and is available on ComiXology, if that's more your lane.

BUT. . .

If you're not a fan of Marvel's Ultimate version of Captain America, then this might not be your cup of tea. This really reads like a story of Ultimate Cap, and Bucky isn't anywhere to be seen, so even though it isn't advertised as an "Ultimate" story, I'm thinking that's what the writers had in mind when they did this, especially since the Ultimate line was still going strong at the time. I might be wrong. I often am.

Up Next. . .

Well, that's it for July. Time to stop wavin' the flag.

So what's next? Hmmmmmm. . . .

You know what? It's been a while since I did some "Retro Reviews".
I think I'll dust off the Longbox Junk time machine and check out some of the older comics in my collection. Yeah. . .Retro Reviews! Let's do it!

Be there or be square.

- read more

Comic Book Realm. . .I love ya.  But your word filter is a pain in my rear sometimes, especially in a review of a WWII comic with lots of N-azis in it.  Oh well. . .guess I'll have to go back through and change them all to Ratzis (with credit to my grandpa - RIP- because that's what he always called them).

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

I'm continuing my flag-wavin' month of July theme with another Captain America one shot.  We started off with a mild bit of social justice (and there's nothin' wrong with a little of that), but this time out we get Cap in his full on wartime Ratzi-Punchin' mode.

Captain America was MADE to punch Ratzis and in this one, punch Ratzis he does. So fair warning: If you don't like Ratzi Punchin' stories, you might want to skip this one. . .but if you do, then travel back to the days of WWII with me for a look at Captain America's first field combat test.

Does everything go as planned? What do YOU think?

Let's do it!

CAPTAIN AMERICA:

THE FIGHTING AVENGER

Marvel (2011)

 
 
SCRIPT: Brian Clevinger
PENCILS: Gurihiru
COVER: Gurihiru
 
THE COVER:
I REALLY like this cover!  It has a sharp and clean "animated" look to it and I'm sort of a sucker for Cap in a more rugged combat gear look for his early adventures.  His costume under the G.I. gear is an unusual look, but a good one.  The screaming eagle on Cap's arm IS just a touch too much "AMERICA, $%#@ YEAH!", but since I'm a flag wavin' kind of guy and it's July, I'll just chuckle and give it a pass.
 
THE STORY:
Our story begins in Germany, 1942.  We are introduced to a highly-skilled four man Special Forces team in the middle of a covert operation. . .
 
 
Later, at headquarters, the team is informed that they will be taking a secret weapon out for a test run.  That secret weapon is America's new super-soldier, who has completed his military training but has never been tested under actual combat conditions.  The team reluctantly accepts their orders and begin planning their next mission. . .
 
 
Not long thereafter, the team (as well as their unwanted new member) parachute behind enemy lines into Germany for what seems to be a simple mission. . .blow up an unguarded bridge.  The veteran close-knit team relegate their Super-Soldier to lookout duty as they prepare to accomplish the easy mission at hand. . .
 
 
Unfortunately, the unguarded bridge is a trap!  Ratzi Panzers take the unit by surprise!  As the Germans take the team prisoner, Captain America springs into action, providing them with a distraction that enables them to escape and take control of one of the Ratzi tanks. . .
 
 
Between the team with their captured tank and Cap's attacks, the German unit is quickly subdued.  Unfortunately, their victory is short-lived as Ratzi reinforcements arrive in the form of a gigantic super tank commanded by Baron Von Strucker. . .evil Ratzi scientist and weapon master. 
 
 
The unit is captured and imprisoned in Von Strucker's headquarters at Hexenhammer Castle, where Von Strucker and his partner, Doctor Schmidt, are intrigued by the seemingly indestructible shield and strange uniform of their new prisoner. . .
 
 
But as the two Ratzi scientists prepare to interrogate their unusual prisoner, the team breaks out of captivity and fight their way to the heart of the castle.  Schmidt leaves Von Strucker in charge of recapturing the prisoners as he flees to the secret laboratory with Captain America in pursuit. . .
 
 
As Captain America confronts Schmidt in the laboratory, the scientist reveals that he knows about the American Super-Soldier program and who Captain America is, and that he has dosed himself with the Super-Soldier serum he had been working on for Germany. . .enhancing his strength enough to fight Captain America on equal terms. . .
 
 
A brutal hand to hand battle ensues between the two Super-Soldiers, and it seems that Schmidt has gained the upper hand. . .but then something goes wrong and he begins to writhe in pain, burning from the inside!  As a horrified Captain America watches, Schmidt's skin burns away and the skeletal figure collapses. . .
 
 
With Schmidt defeated, Cap returns to his team, who have been recaptured by Baron Von Strucker and his men.  Jumping to the attack, it isn't long before they escape again. . .rushing to leave the castle before the explosives planted by Cap in the laboratory go off. . .
 
As the team make their escape from the exploding castle, they don't see that Dr. Schmidt is still alive.  Instead, they congratulate their new team member on a job well done. . .even if it wasn't exactly the job they set out to do. 
 
 
 
The End. . .or is it?
 
THE REVIEW:
All right, all right. . .not bad!  You know, sometimes you just want a fun comic with some action and adventure that doesn't get too deep.  This one shot delivers just that in a big way!

The story is simple, with a tried and true "capture and escape" plotline mixed in with some "new guy joins the team and has to prove himself" character building along the way.  But it's well written, with a lot of humor. . .I liked the running gag that Steve Rogers hadn't been named Captain America yet, so nobody knows what to call him. . .and snappy dialogue that moves the story along at such a quick pace that even for a double-sized 48 page one shot, it ends before you really want it to, and end up wanting more.

Between the snappy, humorous writing and the crisp art style (more on that in a minute), what I see MOST in this comic is something that could EASILY be translated into an animated movie or series!  Now that's something I'd really love to see. . .an animated series focused on a very inexperienced Captain America learning the ropes with a gang of goofy veterans.  The Ratzi imagery would likely be pretty problematic, though.  Still. . .it's a nice thought, and that thought is a testament to the solid foundation laid down here making me want more adventures set in Cap's early career.

So let's talk about the art a bit.

As you can see from the scans above, this comic has a pretty unusual art style that really took me by surprise by how much I liked it. It's crisp and clean, with minimal backgrounds and a mild anime influence lending it a very fluid sense of movement and exaggerated facial expressions that REALLY make it seem like one is reading something based on an animated series like the Batman Adventures comics.  Is it the best comic art I've ever seen?  Not even close. . .but it DOES give this comic a really fun feel.

CONCLUSION


Overall, what we have here is a comic that can be described with one word: FUN.  Like I said at the beginning of the review, sometimes you just want a little fun in your comics and this one delivers big time!
 
The story is extremely simple and is one you've seen already many a time, but it's well-written, humorous, and moves at a snappy pace.  The art is clean, crisp, and extremely cinematic.  The two come together perfectly to give the reader a fast-paced story long on action and humor and short on depth and drama. 
 
Yeah. . .there's Ratzis , but here they're more stock movie villains than depraved white supremacists.  Basically they're punching bags for the best Ratzi Puncher in comics. . .Captain America.  So like I said in the introduction, if you DON'T like Ratzi Punchin' stories, you'll probably want to skip this one.  On the other hand, if you're just looking for a fun comic with a few chuckles and some good old fashioned Ratzi Punchin' then definitely keep your eye out for this great little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's still July, so MORE Captain America!
 
Let's step back a few decades to 1985 for a tale of Captain America fighting home-grown terrorism. It's Marvel Fanfare #18. . .straight from the dollar box with a mighty patriotic punch!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where comics are worth more than money.  That's my way of saying that if someone broke into my house to steal my comic collection, they'd find it more trouble on their back hauling them out than what the job would be worth  . . .BUT I DIGRESS!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. . .I'm a sort of patriotic guy.  I come from a long line of military men, and as a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps myself, I tend to be a bit of a flag waver and I ain't ashamed to admit it. And with times the way they are, maybe we need to wave the flag just a little.

Wait! Wait. . .don't go!  I'm not gonna get political.  I'm just introducing the Longbox Junk "theme" for July!  It's Captain America, okay? I'm going to be looking at some Captain America comics through this month. 

BUT. . .

It IS Captain America, so if you aren't the kind to tolerate a little "AMERICA, %$#& YEAH!" in your funny books, then maybe you might want to skip the next few posts. But come back in August!

Okay, everyone in that's staying in?

Let's start this off by stepping outside of the usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds with a little something brand new and on the shelves right now.

DC gets a bit of flak for squeezing every possible drop out of their seminal "Watchmen" series by constantly trying to add to something that doesn't really need anything added to it. But never let it be said that Marvel isn't just as guilty of the exact same thing with their own critically acclaimed series, "Marvels".

What we have here is the first of a new series of one shots trying to capitalize on what little magic is left in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' masterwork of seeing superheroes through the eyes of the common man.

The series is called "Marvels Snapshots", and the first one out of the gate features Captain America (and The Falcon) in a continuation of Jack Kirby's 1970's "Madbomb" storyline. . .the first issue of which (Captain America #193 from 1976) got a a fine Longbox Junk Retro Review  HERE .

SO. . .

We've got a one shot walking the tightrope of adding to a fan favorite series that doesn't really need anything added to it AND trying to continue a classic Bronze Age story from one of the giants of the comic world.  It's got some work cut out for it.  Let's take a look!

CAPTAIN AMERICA:

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS

MARVEL (2020)

 
SCRIPT:  Mark Russell
PENCILS: Ramon Perez
COVER: Alex Ross

THE COVER:
Marvels was the series that put superstar artist Alex Ross on the mainstream map, so it's a good call in my book getting him on board to do the covers of the "Snapshots" one shots.

As far as the cover itself, it's a great portrait shot of Cap painted in Ross' trademark hyper-detailed and realistic style.  I love the determination in Cap's eyes and the grim set of his jaw!  I don't know who's about to get punched, but I can see by the look on Cap's face that they definitely deserve it.  Alex Ross is a fantastic visual storyteller and in this simple shot of Cap getting ready to deliver a New York Special, there's a story being told.

It's not the greatest Captain America cover ever, but this is definitely worthy of a turn up on the rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  Let's get inside and see what else is going on here.
 
THE STORY:
Felix Waterhouse is a teenager living in a poor South Bronx neighborhood.  Extremely gifted with electronics, he's working in his father's television repair shop and trying to earn enough money to escape poverty and go to college.

BUT THEN. . .

The Madbomb attack hits Manhattan.  Felix's neighborhood is on the edge of the attack, but it is still devastated by the ensuing riots before Captain America manages to destroy the device causing people to go mad and attack each other.

 
In the aftermath of the Madbomb attack (during which Felix's mother kills his little brother), life returns to normal for most of the city.  The superheroes of New York turn their attention to new threats as the city begins to rebuild.
Unfortunately, conditions in Felix's neighborhood only get worse as the devastation of the Madbomb causes businesses to leave and gangs to move into the blocks of  abandoned and burnt out buildings.  Crime is rampant and even worse, loss of business at the T.V. repair shop means that Felix has to spend his college savings just to keep his family going.
 
 
Things are looking bleaker and bleaker for Felix until one day a mysterious man comes into the shop with a strange offer. . .he represents an organization interested in Felix's talents with electronics and will give him a good job, as well as pay for his college education.  The catch is that the organization he represents is A.I.M.  A well-known part of the villainous Hydra!
 
Felix declines at first, but as he sees repairs being made to the wealthier sections of the city while neighborhoods like his are ignored, he decides to take the man up on his offer.  He is taken to an elaborate secret research base hidden beneath Manhattan to begin his new life.
 
 
Felix quickly fits in with his new A.I.M. colleagues and his extraordinary talents with electronics gain the attention of his superiors.  Because of this, he is one day taken to the most restricted level to assist with problems plaguing an ultra-secret project.  When he arrives, Felix is amazed to see that A.I.M. is trying to build a massive Madbomb of their own!
 
As he joins the Madbomb project, Felix slowly begins to realize that by helping to create a weapon of mass destruction, his talents aren't helping make a better future for anyone, and that his whole life is now built on lies.  He decides to sabotage the Madbomb, but is caught in the act.
 
 
After Felix is informed that he knows too much and has to die, he desperately activates a pulse meant to destroy the Madbomb, but his unfinished device is stronger than he expected and the resulting effect is enough to attract the attention of Captain America, The Falcon, and Iron Man, who quickly make their way to the hidden A.I.M. base and attack!
 
 
During the battle, the Madbomb is destroyed and Felix is rescued by the superheroes.  He informs them that he is the one who disabled the bomb and Iron Man is impressed by the young man's technical know-how.  A few days later, Felix is surprised to receive a job offer from Stark Industries.  
 
 
In the end, Captain America and The Falcon help with the long-overdue reconstruction of Felix's devastated neighborhood after realizing that simply defeating a problem and then ignoring what comes afterward doesn't solve anything and sometimes makes things worse. 
 
 
Lesson taught.  Lesson learned.  The end.
 
THE REVIEW:
What we have here is less of a Captain America story and more of a Felix Waterhouse story. . .which is a little disappointing right out of the gate considering the giant picture of Captain America on the cover and the fact that this is sold as a Captain America story.

SO. . .

Let's look at this from the angle of it being the story of a young man seduced by Hydra with Captain America and friends in a supporting role.  On THAT side of the coin, it's not a bad story.  I do like the way that it looks into the aftermath of the original Madbomb attack from Captain America #193, so as an epilogue to "Madbomb" I think this story actually does a good job.

Felix is a pretty interesting character. Seeing him put his morals aside to try to make things better, realizing that he's been seduced by lies, and finally trying to make things right is a pretty good character arc.  Yeah, it's been done before and done better, but sometimes a little "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is okay if it's done well.  Here, it's done well.

The story DOES get a little preachy toward the end as we get a healthy dose of "Superhero is forced to realize that the little people count too" moralizing.  It's not QUITE to the point of being cringeworthy, but it's pretty close to that edge.

So this story works as a sequel to Madbomb that digs in and takes a close look at the consequences of the original 1976 story from the perspective of one individual. . .but as a "Marvels" expansion, not so much.

The story of Marvels is rooted in an ordinary man's lifetime of observing Godlike beings around him without his really understanding them.  Here, the ordinary man understands MORE than the heroes.  It sort of defeats the whole point of Marvels in that these are extraordinary beings in the world of ordinary people when the ordinary person is ALSO the extraordinary in this story.

Marvels put the reader in the shoes of an ordinary person.  It made us feel the awe and wonder of seeing a man fly, or throw a car.  This story has none of the magic of Marvels and makes Captain America feel small and unimpressive as a teenager teaches him a lesson.  Maybe it was the writer's intention to make Captain America seem small instead of the powerful force rushing through an ordinary world he appeared as in Marvels. . .

 
I said at the top that I wasn't going to get political, but it seems to me like Captain America being humbled by a black teenager about what parts of the city got repaired first after an attack has a definite whiff of recent social justice trends to it.  It makes Captain America less of a hero and more of a representative of "privilege".  This perspective might not sit well with some readers.

CONCLUSION

In my introduction I said that this one shot had some pretty heavy work cut out for it.  Not only is it expected to add to a fan favorite story that doesn't really need anything added to it, but it ALSO is trying to be an epilogue to ANOTHER fan favorite story.
 
As an epilogue to "Madbomb" it works pretty well as it tells a story set in the aftermath of the original attack and after the heroes turn their attention elsewhere.  It has an interesting main character and follows a pretty good arc for a one issue story.
 
BUT. . .
 
As a "Marvels" supplement, it doesn't stick the landing.  Where Marvels is a timeless story about the awe and wonder of superhumans in the ordinary world, THIS story is firmly rooted in this particular moment in time by reducing Captain America to a representative of "privilege" that needs to be taught a lesson in social justice by the teenage protagonist.
 
It's not a BAD story.  But it certainly won't sit well with many Captain America fans that prefer to see the Star Spangled Avenger painted in a more heroic light.  If you are one of those fans. . .I'd say steer clear.  But if you are of the mind that there's some room in your superhero stories for a little social justice agenda, then definitely check this one out.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
More Captain America!
 
Steve Rogers is America's only "Super Soldier", but he hasn't been tested in the field yet.  Join me as I take a look at the story of Captain America's first N azi-Bustin' combat mission in 2011's Captain America: Fighting Avenger one shot.  SPOILER: Everything goes wrong!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

My apologies for a bit of delay during some nice, brisk holiday business, but that's what happens when you manage a hotel.  I should have plenty of time for some good Longbox Junkin' during the next few slow winter months ahead.

So, back to Longbox Junk business as usual. . .which for now at least is working my way through a stack of non-DC/Marvel single issue stories I came into as part of a pretty massive purchase of about 600 comics from a closing comic shop.  I call them Longbox Junk Off-Brand One Shots!

My comic lovin' daughter has been pulling the comics I've been reviewing lately.  She made me squirm a bit last time out by giving me a bunch of -tastic comics I couldn't take to work without risking an awkward HR appointment, and couldn't read in front of my wife without earning a bit of silent mockery regarding my questionable reading habits. . .but there were actually a couple of pretty good ones in there despite my daughter's best efforts.

Let's see what she's given me this time.  Off Brand One Shots. . .Let's do it!

DIESEL

ANTARCTIC PRESS (1997)

 
MASTER OF DRAGONS PART ONE
SCRIPT: Joe Weltjens
PENCILS: Joe Weltjens
COVER: Joe Weltjens
 
THE COVER:
Hooray! I can read this one at work! I like the portrait style on this cover.  The main character looks a little generic. . .I'm expecting a discount Dollar Store version of Hulk, Wolverine, or a combo of the two inside.  That said, he's well drawn and nicely contrasted in the frame against the black background.  The title seems to be about twice as big as it needs to be, but overall this is a pretty good cover.
 
THE STORY:
 
When Thomas Diesel decides to unexpectedly visit an old friend, he discovers that his mentor (and her father) has been killed.  Worse, the killer is the same man who killed Diesel's own father in the past.
 
Diesel is prevented from rushing into a foolhardy act of vengeance by being asked to join a group of others that have the same power as he does. . .the ability to manifest super-powered avatars known as "stands". . .and fight together to take down the killer.
 
Unfortunately for the fledgling team, Mr. Botha (the killer) has anticipated their move and has sent an assassin to destroy them.  After a brutal battle where several of the team are taken down, Diesel confronts the attacker on his own and manages to defeat him.
 
It is at that moment that a mysterious warrior called Chibot appears and tells Diesel that he has passed some sort of test. . .
 
The end.  To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
It seems that a lot of these Off-Brand One Shots are unfinished projects.  So it is with Diesel.  This obviously was supposed to be the first issue of a larger story.  It starts in the middle, hits the ground running with explanations assumed to be coming later, and ends on a "to be continued" cliffhanger.
 
Unfortunately, the "start in the middle of the story" nature of this issue makes it practically unreadable except for the most basic understanding of what's going on.  If this were part of an ongoing or limited series, one would expect information to be forthcoming in coming issues.  Instead, this bare-bones introduction is all there is. . .and based on what there is of it, I'm not sure I'd be interested in reading more even if there was more to read.
 
Putting aside that this is basically a story fragment, it's just not written very well.  It almost looks like a translation from another language, like if this was an imported Manga.  There's nothing in the indicia to show that it's been previously published or translated, so I'm thinking the stilted, somewhat confusing way the characters speak is just how it was written instead of the fault of a translator.
 
 
On the art side of things, it's okay.  Not good, not bad.  Just riding right down the center line of telling the story without trying too hard to impress.  It's in Antarctic's signature "American Manga" art style that I usually like a lot, but this isn't really the best example of that style.  
 
Overall, this is a pretty poorly-written story fragment that is practically unreadable because it starts in the middle of the tale and ends on a cliffhanger with little information on what the is going on to be found in between.  What there is of it doesn't really make me wonder what happened next.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one 2 out of 5 obvious Hirohiko Araki "inspirations"
 
Not a great start.  Moving along!
 

ROBOCOP:  KILLING MACHINE

AVATAR PRESS (2004)

 
KILLING MACHINE
SCRIPT: Steven Grant
PENCILS: Anderson Ricardo
COVER: Juan Jose Ryp
 
THE COVER:
I love RoboCop, but this cover is pretty bad.  It's hyper-detailed to the point of it being so busy and cluttered that those details are lost in the mess.  It's like the artist didn't know when to stop.  Hopefully, the story inside is better.
 
THE STORY:
When a bored rich kid's hacking attacks on Detroit's traffic grid are constantly thwarted by RoboCop, he attempts to hack into the robotic police officer's original OCP programming.  
 
Instead of finding a way to control RoboCop, the hacker discovers and activates an experimental combat robot that was never put into production.  As the "Urban Pacifier" wreaks havoc across Detroit, Robocop confronts the killing machine and, even though he is physically outmatched, defeats it through human ingenuity.
 
Due to the sudden destruction of the killing machine and his inability to disconnect from controlling it, the unfortunate hacker finds himself mentally imprisoned and unable to escape the internet as his body falls into a coma.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
Like I said above, I love RoboCop and was happy to see a comic with a character I actually know.  Unfortunately, this isn't a great RoboCop comic.  It's extremely short. . .coming in at a slim 10 pages long, with the rest of the comic taken up by ads for upcoming Avatar comics and their MANY variant covers.  It's basically a short fight scene with a sort of interesting twist ending that is over and done with before you know it.  I literally read this comic in about 5 minutes.  
 
There's also a lot of gratuitous "adult" language in here that just seems thrown in for. . .reasons?  This whole thing just seems like it should be a single scene in an actual RoboCop comic, or maybe a short story in an anthology.  It's just way too short and ultimately forgettable.
 
This is literally the only page of this story without an "F-Bomb" on it.
 
As far as the art goes, it's pretty good.  It has bold lines, is brightly colored, and tells what little story there is well.  It doesn't strive for excellence in any way.  It does the job and that's all it does.  It's pretty much as forgettable as the story is.
 
Overall, what we have here is an extremely short and forgettable story backed up with some artwork that doesn't try to go beyond the level of "pretty good".  Thanks to HALF of this issue being ads for variant covers, this comic feels more like a preview than an actual story. If I had paid the $2.99 price on the cover, I'd feel about two buck's worth of ripped off.  Disappointing.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I give this one 2 out of 5 Convention Special Gold Foil Wraparound Limited Variant Covers.
 
So far, this isn't going well at all.  NEXT!
 

YOUNGBLOOD SUPER SPECIAL

MAXIMUM PRESS (1997)

 
GOOD ENOUGH
SCRIPT:  Eric Stephenson
PENCILS: Chris Sprouse
COVER: Chris Sprouse
 
THE COVER:
Hmmmmm. . .I can't really decide if I like this cover or not.  On the one hand, it's pretty well drawn, I like the bold lines and dark inks. It's colorful, and I like the arrangement of the characters looking like they are being sucked into (or maybe blown out of?) the center of the cover in a pretty dynamic way. 
 
On the other hand, the characters themselves are just SO 90's.  There's cybernetic limbs, pouches, straps, and big shoulder pads all over the place. They just look like a bunch of generic off-brand X-Men (actually Wikipedia tells me Teen Titans were the Youngblood inspiration).
 
THE STORY:
When a routine training mission goes wrong and their transport plane crashes in an isolated forest, members of Team Youngblood, including four young new recruits, are all challenged with making life or death choices after they are separated from each other.
 
In the end, it is revealed that they were being tested by an immortal alien race in order to judge one of the recruits who is actually one of them in a regressed human form.  He is judged a failure and sent elsewhere for further testing, but the beings invite another of the young recruits that has impressed them to join them.  
 
The alien beings erase the memory of the tests and the two missing recruits from the minds of the Youngblood team and life goes on as if nothing ever happened.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
I came into this comic knowing absolutely nothing about Team Youngblood or any of the characters involved with it.  The story did a pretty good job of introducing the characters without a lot of obvious exposition, which was a big plus in my book.  It seems that a lot of the Off-Brand comics just sort of assume that you're already a fan and throw you right in.  This one is actually pretty new reader friendly and spends a little time getting to know the characters you're reading about.
 
The story itself isn't anything new.  The "twist" of none of it actually happening and the heroes being tested is fairly easy to see early on.  That said, for a bunch of characters I knew nothing about, this was a pretty good read.  I'm not saying it's the BEST comic story I've ever read, but I'd be interested in reading some more Youngblood if I came across it. 
 

 
As far as the art goes, it's pretty typical 90's superhero art.  There's straps, pouches, and shoulder pads all over the place.  That said, it's not the worst 90's art I've seen.  It's pretty clean and uncluttered, and there are a few very nice moments to be found here and there.  The colors are a bit garish in places, but not so much to be distracting.  There's actually a bit of effort to be good here.
 
Overall, what we have here is a surprisingly new reader-friendly superhero story backed up with some decent 90's style art that makes a better than average attempt to impress.  It's not a GREAT story, but it's good enough to make me interested in maybe checking out some more Youngblood comics.  Not too bad.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one 3 out of 5 giant shoulder pads.
 
NEXT!
 

AIRMAN

MALIBU (1993)

 
SHALL THE SEA GIVE UP HER SECRETS?
SCRIPT: R.A. Jones
PENCILS: Matt Reynolds
COVER: Thomas Derenick
 
THE COVER:
Not a bad cover here.  Not great, mind you. . .but I think I'd give this one a turn up on the "Wall O' Covers" at work.  The main character looks like a knockoff Hawkman, but I'm liking the colorful and old-school style of this cover. It has an interesting late Bronze Age feel to it.  The menacing villain has a kind of Egyptian look to him, which makes me expect an Off-Brand Hawkman story inside even more, but this isn't a bad cover at all.  I like it.
 
THE STORY:
High-flying hero Airman receives a distress call from old friend and fellow superhero Thresher telling him that he has been captured.  As Airman rushes to the location he was given, we learn that Thresher is being tortured by a  villain known as The Conqueror, who is trying to gain information on something called "The Secret of The Doors".
 
Airman arrives at the isolated island prison and breaks Thresher free so that he is able to enter the ocean and rejuvenate his powers.  After Thresher has recovered, the pair of heroes decide that rather than escape, they will attack!
 
Thresher and Airman attack The Conqueror's base, taking the villain and his minions by surprise.  During the brutal battle, the Conqueror makes his escape with Airman in hot pursuit.  Unfortunately, he has enough of a head start that Airman is unable to keep up and the villain gets away.
 
Returning to the prison, Airman tells Thresher the bad news and then invites the aquatic hero to join the group of heroes Airman has recently become part of known as The Protectors.  Thresher agrees to meet them, but doesn't give a definite answer.  Elsewhere, we see that the Conqueror was actually working for another villain called "The Great Question", who has some sort of ultimate plan involving The Protectors.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
This was a pretty good read overall, but there's some definite problems.  When I read a one-shot, I expect a story told in a single issue.  One and done.  You don't get that here.  Okay. . .you DO get a self-contained story about one hero breaking another out of prison, so there's that. 
 
 Unfortunately, this comic seems to be filling some sort of continuity hole in Malibu's (then existing) superhero "universe" (how Thresher joined up with The Protectors), and in doing so, references events taking place elsewhere, leaves plot threads hanging for resolution in another series, and ends on a "To be continued" note directing readers elsewhere for the actual ending of the story.
 
Because of these connecting threads to other comics, THIS comic is not new-reader friendly at all.  It's assumed you know these characters and situations from elsewhere coming into it.  This is less of a stand-alone story and more of an episode taking place in the background of an ongoing series.
 
But like I said above, it's still a pretty good read.  The story is simple and action-packed, moving across the page for a nice quick read. Straight superheroics with nothing deep or complicated to it. There's JUST enough exposition to keep from having to hit Wikipedia to understand what's going on and who the characters are, which is more than some of these off-brand one shots give you.
 
The art here is actually the best part of this comic.  It's not the greatest art I've ever seen, but I like it quite a bit.  The lines are thick and dark, the characters have a sort of chunky feel to them and everything is nicely detailed.  The colors are great.  It has an obvious Barry Windsor-Smith Rune-era inspiration to the style, which in my book is a good thing.  Some of the faces are a bit too exaggerated, given the otherwise pretty realistic look, but other than that, this is a good looking comic.
 
Overall, I'm disappointed in this being a "one shot" that is actually a background scene in another ongoing series, but it's a still a pretty good read backed up by some decent discount Barry Windsor-Smith style art.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give Airman 3 out of 5 editorial box notes referencing previous issues of another series.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

DEATHANGEL

LIGHTNING COMICS (1997)

 
SCRIPT: John Cleary
PENCILS: John Cleary
COVER: John Cleary
 
THE COVER:
A lot of these Off-Brand comics I've been handed have a heavy Rob Liefeld influence.  This one takes a swerve into the lane of the OTHER 90's mega-influential artist. . .Todd McFarlane.  I've sort of been wondering when I was going to see some McFarlane-style covers.  When you have a pile of 90's comics, it's only a matter of time.
 
The Spawn is strong with this one, especially in the Violator looking creature at the bottom.  I like the colors here, everything is nicely-detailed, and the logo is great!  Yeah, you have to look twice to make sure it's not a Spawn comic, but it's not too bad, for what it is.  I'm actually surprised that a 90's comic cover featuring a female hero doesn't have a giant set of in my face, so extra points for that.
 
THE STORY:
Eons ago, the demon scribe called Scrum is tasked with creating The Necrinomicon, a book that will imbue a human host with the powers of and transform them into an evil champion of Satan called The DeathAngel.
 
Moving forward in time to 18th Century England, we witness the forces of led by the Archangel Raphael defeating a fallen Angel-turned DeathAngel named Susanna.  After the battle, the Necromonicon is lost in time. . .
 
. . .until 1997, when divers exploring the wreck of a pirate ship accidentally discover the evil book.  It destroys the Captain and crew of the ship and then steers the vessel toward New York City, where it senses a human host worthy of its power. . .
 
As F.B.I. Agent Rachael Killian and the the NYPD investigate the mysterious ghost ship that ended up in New York with a crew of dead men, the Necronomicon is found and taken by Killian for testing at F.B.I. headquarters.  As Rachael translates the writing in the book, she reads an intriguing passage out loud. . .AND YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!
 
Powerful forces rip through the unsuspecting F.B.I. agent's body as she is transformed into the half-naked warrior of , The DeathAngel!  The transformation does not go unnoticed in either Heaven OR .  The Demon Scrum heads to Earth to welcome 's newest warrior.  The Archangel Raphael heads to Earth to stop her.
 
Reveling in her new power, the transformed DeathAngel kills a man as he attempts to rape a woman.  The Demon Scrum berates her for the good deed, telling her that the rapist was an ally of and that she shouldn't have intervened.  Rachael tells the Demon that she's not interested in serving and the two engage in battle.
 
Raphael shows up during the battle and ends it, mocking Scrum and telling him to deliver the message to Satan that the book chose the wrong host, Rachael has the light of the Lord within her.  After the Demon leaves, swearing vengeance, Rachael agrees to join Raphael's Warriors of Light and use her new powers in the service of .
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
No.  Not good.  Pretty bad.  The McFarlane inspiration on the cover heads inside and we get basically a sort of female Spawn.  A character with the power of that chooses to fight evil with the Demon Scrum basically outright imitating Spawn's Violator.  There's also some beats swiped from Witchblade thrown in for good measure, because if you're gonna grab someone else's ideas, why stop at one?
 
To make matters worse, this comic is poorly-written.  The dialogue is extremely wordy, repeats itself often and honestly reads like it was written by a D&D Dungeon Master testing out the unedited first draft of his novel disguised as an adventure scenario on his unsuspecting game group.
 
Then there's the art.  My . . .the art.  Take a look at the page I scanned above.  Do I really need to say anything other than 22 pages of that gave me a headache?  I literally wanted not to read this comic because of that over-cluttered art.  But I ain't a quitter, son! I read the whole thing!
 
If you can stand to look closely, the individual parts of the art are actually pretty good in a "I wanna be Todd McFarlane!" way. . .but there's just so MUCH in each panel that it becomes something awful.  Say what you will about McFarlane's art, but at least he understands the concept of negative space.
 
Overall, what we have here is a female ripoff of Spawn with amateurish dialogue and extremely cluttered pages of eye-bleeding art. I had to take a Tylenol and relax after reading this.  Reading this comic was like some sort of mental punishment for a crime I didn't even know I committed.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I give this one 1 out of 5 throbbing forehead veins.
 

CONCLUSION

I have to admit that I'm glad I'm done with this batch of Off-Brand One Shots.  This handful really sort of confirmed what I was expecting when I started this strange journey through comics and characters I'd never heard of.  Two out of Five of them are "pretty good", with two more being "pretty bad" and one being "I don't even want to read this" awful.  Even then, the "Pretty good" ones feature derivative characters and predictable stories.
 
Overall, I think I've finally had enough of this for now.  Even though I still have enough off-brand one shots for what WAS planned for two more entries, these five comics have made me lose my appetite.  I'll probably return to the rest of the comics I was planning on reviewing at some point, but for now I think it's time for something else.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's get back into some Longbox Junk Reader Requests!
 
Normally, I'd pick one from the pickin' hat (a set of monogrammed Mickey ears from Disney World), but Comic Book Realm member Tenzil put forth a Christmas wish that I somehow might find it in my heart to review his fine selection at some point.  And who am I to deny someones Christmas Wish?
 
SO. . .
 
Merry Late Christmas, Tenzil! 
Next up is the Longbox Junk take on issues #1 -#6 of Valiant's "Harbinger" series.
They're in my daughter's collection and I've never read them.  Please, . . .let them be good.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I review comics that nobody asked me to!

The comics I've been reading lately, I don't think ANYBODY has ever been asked to review.  From what I can see, I'm writing the first (and probably the last) reviews of most of them. . .but truthfully, that's the fun part!

What we have here are what I've been calling "Off-Brand One Shots".  They're single issue stories pulled from a recent massive purchase of roughly 600 NON-DC/Marvel comics bought on the cheap from a closing comic shop.

I've put a little twist in things by letting my comic lovin' daughter pick the one shots I've been taking a look at, and so far she's done a pretty good job at mixing things up.  Everything from straight superhero stories, to horror, manga, comedy, and everything in between.

Let's see what she's given me this time!

ONIBA: SWORDS OF THE DEMON 

ASPEN COMICS (2015)

 
"NO, MASTER"
SCRIPT: Vince Hernandez & Paolo Pantalena
PENCILS: Paolo Pantalena
COVER: Paolo Pantalena
 
THE COVER:
Now THAT'S a pretty impressive cover! The colors are amazing, the main character and the dragon are very nicely detailed, and everything really pops up against the plain background.  It's a little bit -tastic, but it's not done in an exploitative way (like the other covers below), so I think I can get away with putting this one up on the "Wall O'Covers" at work (I have to think twice about ANY cover with a female I put up there).  I really like everything about this cover!  Let's hope the story is as good.
 
THE STORY:
In feudal Japan, Daimyo Nobunga Oda is a powerful and ruthless ruler. Expert swordswoman and assassin Yukiko is his most feared and trusted warrior.  After helping decimate a rival clan, Yukiko begins to have doubts about her powerful Master when she secretly witnesses him sacrifice two of his own warriors while praying to something unseen.
 
After confiding what she's seen to a fellow warrior and friend, Akechi, he also confides that these dark doings are partly what is behind a planned coup he will be leading.  Yukiko declines to join Akechi in his rebellion, but also keeps what she knows secret from her Master.
 
Shortly afterward, the attack Akechi warned Yukiko about comes, and after a brutal battle, Akechi confronts the fleeing Nobunga, but the fight between the two goes badly for the rebel leader.  Yukiko secretly strikes the killing blow, stabbing her own Master in the back during his moment of triumph, leaving Akechi victorious. . .but the betrayal of her Master is too much for Yukiko to bear.  
 
Beacause of her shameful secret, Yukiko leaves the clan to wander the land as masterless warrior. . .a Ronin.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
I really liked this comic a lot!  It has a well-written story full of action and intrigue that hints at a darker supernatural center that I want to know more about.  Likewise, the main character is interesting and I want to know where her journey takes her.  Unfortunately, this looks like a project that never got past this single introductory issue, which is a shame because there's a lot of great story potential here.  
 
Admittedly, this is a story that's been told before. . .Many times before.  That said "Wandering Warrior carrying a dark secret" is a classic story framework for a good reason.  It's a narrative hook a writer can hang almost any kind of tale they want on. The journey of a disgraced warrior through a supernatural-tainted version of Japan is a comic series I want to read.
 
 
On the art side of things, the excellence of the cover is carried through to the inside pages.  I love the uninked, sort of watercolor style the artist uses. The colors are great.  The elaborate character designs are fantastic. This comic is simply a feast for the eyes!  EVERY page is worth lingering over. 
 
Overall, this comic is pure Longbox Junk gold!  It has an interesting story I want more of (and sadly will never get), backed up by some incredible art.  It's a shame that this is the only issue of this series that was ever put out, because I'd be on the bargain bin hunt for the rest if there were more.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one FIVE out of FIVE Yojimbo homages.
 
A GREAT start! Let's see what's next. . .
 

WITCH HUNTER #1

MALIBU (1996)

 
BLOOD HUNT
SCRIPT: Laurie Sutton
PENCILS: Joyce Chin
COVER: Renee Paniccia
 
COLORS: Roberta Conroy, Camelia , Sharleen Gaertner, Lucy Koeoeian, Edie Moses, Rebecca Maiden, Renee Paniccia, Kim Pettijohn, Alicia Rodriguez, Sheri Rohrbacher, Jacquie Roman, Serina Sahakian, Carolyn Shaver, Jennifer Schellinger, Kelli Young.
 
I just thought I'd point out that there's FIFTEEN color artists credited for this ONE issue! That's gotta be some sort of record. . .
 
THE COVER:
Oh, boy.  Nope.  This one ain't going up on the office wall.  It's WAY too -tastic, and not in a somewhat excusably artistic way (Like Oniba, above), but in a straight-up exploitative 90's "LOOK AT THE !" Sort of way.  Setting aside the , it's a decent cover, but not great. . .like a lot of 90's covers, it definitely has the stench of Rob Liefeld's influence on it in the stretched-out proportions, impossible hair, and cybernetic arm. 
 
THE STORY:
Maria Delorentti (AKA Witch Hunter), an agent of the mysterious supernatural watchdog agency known as The Seventh Sign, follows a trail of clues across the city as she searches for a missing Seventh Sign agent.  
 
Eventually, she learns the location of the agent, but must work quickly to rescue him.  He is due to be sacrificed at the height of the moon, mere minutes away!  Leaping into action, Witch Hunter disrupts the ceremony in progress and finds herself fighting a cult of female vampires.  
 
Knowing that her blood is poison to vampires, Witch Hunter allows them to drink.  To block out the pain, she reflects back on her life before she joined Seventh Sign. . .
 
Massachusetts, 1936.  On her 21st birthday, Maria is attacked by evil spirits that open a portal to another world and attempt to pull her in.  An agent of Seventh Sign who had been watching the house breaks his instructions to observe and report in order to save her. . .but not before her youngest sister is pulled into the portal, her mother dies from the horror, and her other sister falls comatose.  
 
Upon hearing the news of the devastation her family has suffered, Maria swears vengeance and immediately accepts the offer to join The Seventh Sign as an agent against evil forces.
 
Returning back to the present, the minions of the Vampire Queen lay dead around Witch Hunter, poisoned by her blood.  She confronts their leader, who knew not to drink from her, and they join in battle.  After a brutal fight in the skies above the city, Witch Hunter manages to behead the Vampire Queen with her holy sword.  With the cult defeated, Witch Hunter returns with the kidnapped agent to headquarters.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
What we have here is a pretty lackluster story.  It has a main character I just couldn't get interested in, with vaguely-defined powers that seem to match whatever the story needs her to have.  The story is weak and forgettable, and is obviously just a hook to hang a comic filled with pictures of half naked women on.  I always tell my daughter to never judge a comic book by its cover. . .but in this case, the cover tells you exactly what you're going to get.
 
 
 
Unfortunately, for a comic where the story is in service to the art, the art isn't even that great.  It's okay, but lacks a sense of motion needed for a story that's basically a long fight scene with a flashback thrown in the middle.  Characters look like they're posing more than moving.  It's pretty obvious that posed pictures of scantily-clad women is the focus of the artist. . .and indeed, the focus of the comic in general.
 
Overall, what we have here is a comic book laser focused on the lowest common denominators for young men. . . and violence.  The sad part is that they don't even get THAT completely right.  This comic is an utterly forgettable relic of the 90's "Bad Girl" trend.  There was never a #2 and it's not hard to see why.
 
THE FINAL VERDICT:
I'll give this one 2 out of 5 Liefeld-Inspired Cybernetic Arms.
 
One good. . .one bad.  NEXT!
 

ULTRAVIXEN

HOUND COMICS (2013)

SCORPIO RISING! . . .OR WAS THAT FALLING?

SCRIPT: Marcelo Bravo
PENCILS: Jed Dougherty
COVER: Jed Dougherty

THE COVER:

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write reviews of comics that nobody ever asked for!

Recently, the whole "nobody ever asked for" part has been more true than ever as I've been exploring a stack of one shot comics included in a purchase of 2 longboxes full of nothing but random NON-DC/Marvel comics.  I've gotta say. . .digging into those longboxes has definitely been a new experience in obscurity for me.  There's a LOT of stuff I never knew existed just in those two boxes of comics!

ANYWAY. . .

I've been letting my comic lovin' daughter pick the comics I review for these "Off-Brand One Shots" editions of Longbox Junk.  So far, she's done a pretty good job of mixing things up and giving me a nice variety of genres from horror to comedy and everything in between.  Let's see what she gave me this time, shall we?

THE ROCK

CHAOS! COMICS (2001)

 
THE PEOPLE'S COMIC BOOK!
SCRIPT: Steven Grant
PENCILS: Fabiano Neves
COVER: Photo
 
THE COVER:
It's a photo cover.  What can I say?  If you're a fan of Dwayne Johnson in his pro-wrestling "The Rock" persona, then this is probably an awesome picture worthy of being part of some sort of shrine.  To me. . .it's just a picture of a younger Dwayne Johnson giving me "The People's Eyebrow".

Moving along. . .
 
THE STORY:
The Rock is a simple man.  A man of the people.  A man who just wants a little peace between the times he lays the smack down in the wrestling ring.  When The Rock accidentally finds himself caught between two competing illegal underground fight promoters. . .one of which has a fighter pretending to be The Rock, it's time to teach some candy their roles!

The Rock invades the underground fight club and shows every Jabronie that dares to step up to him what it means to look upon the glory of the most electrifying presence in sports entertainment.  After defeating all comers. . .as was ordained the moment The Rock entered the building. . .he makes the crooked promoters smell what The Rock is cooking by forcing them to end their pathetic excuse for a tournament unless they want a piece of the people's elbow.

The End.

 
THE REVIEW:
I have to admit that I'm not a pro wrestling fan.  That said, I had a roommate in the late 90's that was rabid about it, so I'm familiar with it through a bit of osmosis from his constantly watching it.  There's also been a few wrestlers who have broken away from the ring and into the general public consciousness, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is probably the most successful of those, so I know him more than most wrestlers. . .and even then I'm not a big fan.  I'll watch his movies, but I don't go out of my way to see one just because he's in it.

What I'm trying to say is that I came into this comic not as a fan of The Rock, but as a comic fan who got handed a Rock comic by his daughter to review on its own merits.  I could care less about The Rock in general.

THAT SAID. . .

I liked this comic a LOT! Quite a bit more than I thought I would when I got it handed to me and I was like, "Really?"  It's the dialogue that makes this book great.  It's hilarious and over the top all the way through, from page one to page last.  Rock talking about himself in the third person and just blowing past everybody like a force of nature laser-focused on doing whatever the he wants to do is just FUN.  This comic is just entertaining fun from start to finish!  A very pleasant surprise.

 
On the art side of things, this is a pretty well drawn comic.  Not the greatest art I've ever seen, but it's good and at least it captures the likeness of the main character, which is a lot more than can be said for most licensed property comics featuring actual people (I'm looking at YOU Deep Space Nine a couple of reviews below).  There's also a great sense of motion during the action scenes.  The art here is pretty much perfectly matched with the story.
 
Overall, I was really surprised by how much I liked this comic.  It's fast, it's funny, it's over the top and just plain entertaining.  It's not thoughtful or deep in any way, but sometimes you just want a good simple FUN story.  This comic delivers just that.
 
THE VERDICT:
I give The Rock 4 out of 5 candy taught their roles.

A good start this time out. . .NEXT!
 

LADY ACTION SPECIAL

MOONSTONE (2009)

 
SCRIPT: Tony Lee
PENCILS: Jake Minor
COVER: Paul Gulacy
 
THE COVER:
I like a cover that tells a story and this cover tells me that there's a Lady and there's gonna be some Action!  I have no idea who Lady Action is, but without even opening this comic I can tell that her kind of action involves guns, fast cars, and possibly some sort of kinky uniform-oriented shenanigans when it's all said and done.  I like this cover a lot.  It's not the greatest comic cover I've ever seen (her face and gun hand both look a little strange), but it's nicely done and lets you know what you're in for with one image.
 
THE STORY:
Nicola Sinclair (AKA Lady Action), an agent of the British A.C.T.I.O.N. Directorate, infiltrates the mansion of crime lord "El Caso" during an exclusive party.  With the assistance of an American A.C.T.I.O.N. agent named Adam, she successfully hacks into El Caso's private computer files and discovers that he has information that only A.C.T.I.O.N. should have.
 
Nicola's fears of a traitor are proven correct when El Caso and a group of his armed bodyguards arrive to take the British agent prisoner and Adam shows up with them and admits that he's working with El Caso.  As the criminals discuss how to execute her, Nicola causes an explosion and flees the mansion with El Caso's men in hot pursuit.
 
Lady Action grabs a motorcycle and leads El Caso's men on a running gun battle chase through the surrounding woods.  Nicola encounters Adam and tries to regain the flash drive with El Caso's files on it, but the American Double Agent shoots and kills Nicola as El Caso hovers overhead in a helicopter.
 
EPILOGUE: Two weeks later Nicola and Adam meet in a Texas diner.  The information theft was a distraction and her death was faked so that Adam could infiltrate deeper into El Caso's organization.  
 
Adam gives Nicola the information the British Branch was REALLY looking for, gained by El Caso's trust in Adam.  Shortly after Nicola leaves with the files, Adam is shot in the head by one of El Caso's assassins and El Caso is informed that Lady Action is alive and has the stolen information.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
Not bad.  Not bad at all!  This is a fast-paced, well-written "infiltrate and escape" spy story with a (somewhat predictable, to be honest) double twist.  It makes me want to know what happens next.  That said, even though it's a good story, it's not perfect.
 
This is firmly connected to the continuity of the Moonstone Captain Action series, so there are quite a few references to characters and events that have taken place "off stage".  There is an assumption that if you're reading Lady Action, then you already know vital Captain Action-related information. . .like what the A.C.T.I.O.N. is in the first place! (I had to wiki up and discover that it's sort of like the Mission Impossible Force, but their main enemy are aliens who have infiltrated the world's governments) In other words, there is NO background information here.  This story hits the ground running and stays that way to the end.
 
On the art side, I like this style a lot.  It has heavy lines, chunky forms, and is just slightly exaggerated with nice bold colors and a great sense of movement.  It's a perfect fit for a fast-moving story like this.  Like a lot of these "Off Brand One Shots" there's a lot more effort and detail put into the female figure than anything else.  This isn't QUITE as -tastic as some of them, but you can definitely tell what the artist's favorite thing to draw was.
 
Overall, I liked this comic a lot.  It has a fun, fast-paced spy story backed up with some good art.  There's no background material, so there's references that don't register well with a new reader like myself, and it has a "to be continued" ending, but that didn't stop me from enjoying this little story.
 
THE VERDICT:
I give Lady Action 4 out of 5 menacing gunmen.
 
Two good ones in a row! Let's see if we can keep this going.  NEXT!
 

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE -

LIGHTSTORM

MALIBU (1994)

 
LIGHTSTORM
SCRIPT: Mark Altman
PENCILS: Rob Davis
COVER: Rob Davis
 
THE COVER:
 
*Sigh* This again?  Why do you keep doing this to me, Star Trek?
 
I'm a HUGE Star Trek fan, but Star Trek comics (especially those from the 80's and 90's) have pretty much consistently disappointed me with their art.  It seems like the built-in audience and sales for Star Trek comics leads to a "Minimum Effort" standard.  This cover is no exception.  It's okay. . .but it doesn't look like the artist put any more work into it than he absolutely had to.  And when I see the interiors were done by the same guy, it doesn't give me much confidence.  Here's hoping that at least the story is good.
 
THE STORY:
After the newly-established Federation colony Gakora in the Gamma Quadrant comes under attack by an unknown enemy, the Klingon cruiser A'v Wi, under the command of Captain Krol, answers the distress call, but finds the colony destroyed and only one human survivor.  Krol decides to take the comatose survivor to the closest Federation base, Deep Space Nine.
 
Captain Krol is determined to find and destroy the attackers, while Katha, the Imperial Adjunct aboard the A'v Wi, insists on a more diplomatic first contact with the mysterious aliens.  Deep Space Nine Commander Sisko agrees and asks to join the Klingons, along with his science officer, Dax.
 
Shortly after entering the Gakora system, the Klingon cruiser is attacked, but the attacking ships are technologically inferior and pose little threat.  After opening communication, the alien commander seems to recognize the Klingons as allies and thinks that the humans he sees are prisoners.  He offers to guide the confused Klingon Captain to their base.
 
After arriving at the alien homeworld and meeting their ruler, Malek, Sisko and Dax are imprisoned and scheduled for execution.  Adjunct Katha and Captain Kol demand an explanation and are told that humans are the enemy of the Myvock people because they violated the ancient holy ground of the planet Gakora.  Katha and Kol become more confused as Malek tells them that he was informed by other Klingons that the alliance between the Federation and Klingon Empire had collapsed.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
On Deep Space Nine, the human survivor of the Gakora colony regains consciousness and informs Dr. Bashir that after the attack, when the aliens were slaughtering the survivors, they were accompanied by two female Klingons who Bashir realizes match the description of Lursa and B'etor. . .dangerous Klingon sisters who have constantly attempted to erode the Federation/ Klingon alliance.  Doctor Bashir and Chief O'Brien volunteer to travel to Gakora and try to warn Sisko and Dax.
 
On the Myvock homeworld, Captain Kol and Katha are introduced to Hernai. . .the Myvock military commander who led the attack on Gakora.  Hernai is determined that the execution of Sisko and Dax be carried out as quickly as possible.  Kol and Katha arrange a secret meeting with the humans to tell them that they will not allow them to be executed.  Katha reveals that she's actually a Klingon intelligence agent trying to track down the Klingon sisters Lursa and B'etor and prevent them from selling explosives to Bajoran terrorists.
 
On Gakora, Bashir and O'Brien are almost immediately captured by Lursa and B'etor while back on the Myvock homeworld, Sisko, Dax, Kol, and Katha confront Malek and inform him that he's being used by Klingon terrorists.  Commander Hernai interrupts and they are all taken prisoner and scheduled for immediate execution, along with Bashir and Dax. . .which reveals that Hernai is working with Lursa and B'etor.  
 
The Klingon cruiser transports the prisoners out of danger, and they quickly head for Gakora.  Following a battle in mines beneath Gakora, Lursa and B'etor make their escape.  Hernai reveals to Malek that he allowed the sisters to mine beneath their holy ground in exchange for technology to improve their weapons. Malek removes him from military command.  Katha goes in pursuit of Lursa and B'etor while Sisko and Malek make peace between the Myvock and Humans.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Well now. . .that's a lot of story!  And it's pretty well condensed too.  I left out a couple of sub-plots (Doctor Bashir and the Klingon First Officer Koleth's friendship, for one example.  The simmering conflict between Captain Kol and Katha for command of the Klingon ship is another) and there's STILL eight paragraphs.  So yeah. . .this double-sized comic is definitely on the dialogue-heavy side.
 
The good news is that the story is very well done.  The writer (who is a pretty prolific author and screenwriter. . .including a two-volume 50 year history of Star Trek) very accurately captures the voices and personalities of the Deep Space Nine characters in such a way that this comic reads like it could EASILY be the script for a Deep Space Nine episode set in the first season of the show.  You can almost feel where the commercial breaks are supposed to go!  This is great read for Deep Space Nine fans like myself.
 
Unfortunately. . .there's the art.
 
 
Once again, a Star Trek comic fumbles the ball with the art.  It's clunky and uninspired from cover to last page.  The artist mostly fails to capture the likeness of the T.V. characters and backgrounds are minimal to non-existent.  There's just a feeling that not much effort was put into this. . .which is a shame, considering the really good writing.  With a little more effort on the art, this COULD have been a great comic. 
 
Overall, this comic is the definition of conflicted.  On one hand, you have a good story that absolutely captures the essence and voices of established Deep Space Nine characters and reads like a "Lost Episode" of the first season of the series.  On the other hand, you have clunky, uninspired art that demonstrates a "minimum effort" standard that is just one notch away from being outright bad. 
 
THE VERDICT:
I'll give this one a half and half score of 3 out of 5 bowls of Gagh (served live, of course)
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ENTER THE ZOMBIE

ANTARCTIC PRESS (2010)

 
ZOMBIES OF SHAOLIN
SCRIPT: Fred Perry & Robby Bevard
PENCILS: Ben Dunn
COVER: Brian Denham
 
THE COVER: 
I wish I'd had this comic when I was pulling covers for my Halloween comic display on my office "Wall O' Covers".  It's chaotic and crazy in a good way.  I like the colors a lot, especially the plain green background that really sets everything against it quite nicely.  The gigantic nasty smile on the featured Kung Fu zombie is creepy and hilarious at the same time!  It's not the greatest comic cover I've ever seen, but I like it!
 
THE STORY:
A talented but impatient young American Shaolin trainee is denied the chance to take the initiation test.  His master explains that decades of training lie in front of the young man before he can take the test. After learning the location of a hidden forbidden chamber on the Temple grounds, the student becomes convinced it holds the secrets of martial arts mastery he needs to take the initiation test.
 
Disobeying the command of his Master to not disturb the chamber, the student opens the sealed door and accidentally unleashes 36 evil, undead spirits that quickly begin to possess the rest of the students in the Temple. . .turning them into Kung Fu Zombies!
 
A friendly guardian spirit also released from the chamber informs the student that only HE can return the evil spirits to the chamber, because he was the one who released them.  The student gathers his courage and sets off to prove that he's worthy!
 
After fighting his way through the possessed students to come to his teacher's aid, the student is surprised to find that his Master had used him to open the chamber's seal and betray the Shaolin Temple to the evil spirits.  The battle between them is short and the student is easily defeated, but the Guardian Spirit infuses the student with the power of the SENTAI SHAOLIN TIGER!  
 
Transforming into a heroic, armored figure, the empowered student defeats his former Master and the rest of the evil spirits before changing back into a powerless young man.  The Guardian Spirit tells him that he is now the Guardian of the Secret Chamber.
 
Years later, the student has become the teacher.  A young, impatient student of his discovers the location of the Secret Chamber. . .
 
The End?
 
THE REVIEW:
Not bad.  Not bad at all!  This is an extremely fast-reading and stripped-down story that moves quickly from Point A to Point B to Point C without anything to slow it down.  This is a lean story that is over before you know it.  I literally finished this comic in five minutes.
 
But even though this is an extremely simple and action-heavy story, I liked it.  It's quick and entertaining.  It's not a great story.  It might not even be good, when you think about it.  It's like comic book junk food.  You know it's not really great, but before you know it, you're done with the whole thing and you sort of want some more.
 
 
Ben Dunn is actually an artist I like a lot.  I'm always happy to see his name on a comic.  I appreciate his (and Antarctic) bringing the Manga style to an American audience.  It's not my favorite style, but I like it in small doses now and then.  This is a pretty straightforward, no-frills example of that American Manga style.  It helps the fast-paced story move quickly across the page, and it's very nicely done.  
 
Overall, this is pretty much what I call a "junk food comic".  Sure, there's better comics out there, but sometimes you just want a little bit of fun entertainment that might not be what other people would call great, but screw those people.  Not everything has to be great.  This is just a fast-paced, fun little story.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
THE VERDICT:
I'll give this one 4 out of 5 poorly-dubbed episodes of One Piece.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Well now. . .THAT was an unexpected surprise.  This handful of "Off-Brand One Shots" my daughter gave me was actually pretty darn good!  Except for the extremely weak art on Deep Space Nine (But that's par for the course on almost ANY 80's or 90's Star Trek comic, to be fair) there's not much bad to say about any of these.  That doesn't happen very often.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
Plenty more Off-Brand One Shots in the pile. 
Let's see what my daughter hands me next!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews that nobody ever asked for!

This time out, I'm going to take a look at another handful of one shot issues that were included with my recent purchase of a massive pile (about 600 issues) of non-DC/Marvel comics.  I've let my daughter pick the ones to review, and I have to say that I was a little disappointed with what she gave me last time.

I'm crossing my fingers for better luck with this batch. . .so enough introduction, let's get right into it!

NITROGEN

Arcade Comics (2005)

 
SCRIPT: Rob Liefeld & Brandon Thomas
PENCILS: Jon Malin
COVER: Jon Malin
 
THE COVER:
Hmmm. . .okay.  Not bad.  Not great, but it's pretty good in that signature "in your face" 90's-Tastic way.  Rob Liefeld is the writer on this one and not the artist, but I can definitely see his influence here in all the straps, spikes, giant guns and all around shiny metal look of things. . .as well as in the general composition and posing of the characters.  This cover simply screams "THE 90'S!!" at me. 
 
Wait.  What?  This comic isn't from the 90's, it's from 2005? Ohhhhhh. . .okay then.  My mistake. Ha-Ha! You got me!  Heh. . .heh.  *sigh*  Let's take a look inside.
 
THE STORY:

The Nitros, a team of young superpowered heroes, have rebelled against the morals of the past generation of heroes that taught them to use their powers for the good of humanity.  Instead they have embraced the path of power and follow the commands of hero-turned villain Zang.

Under Zang's ruthless leadership, the younger generation uses their intimate knowledge of the older heroes to easily defeat them. . .but in their overconfidence, they don't understand that there were things that the older generation never taught them or told them about because they were too dangerous.

One of the few remaining heroes of the past uses this knowledge and desperately opens a hole in the time-space continuum through which a horde of strange beings come through to confront the young rebels.

The End. . .to be continued?
 
THE REVIEW:

As I read this comic, I was struck by the similarities between it and "Jupiter's Legacy", by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. . .which came out 8 years after this in 2013.  The resemblance is mostly in the subject of a younger generation of heroes turning against their mentors, and Jupiter's Legacy is a superior look at the subject, but I still found it pretty interesting to see a Rob Liefeld-written version of Jupiter's Legacy that came out a decade earlier.

THAT SAID. . .

Rob Liefeld isn't exactly known for his great writing, and he's certainly no Mark Millar.  The writing on this isn't great. It's not awful, but it's not great. It's just sort of "pretty good".  Reading this will take you right back to the 90's like it's a paper time machine.  People shout about their powers to each other in the middle of fights, for example.

I have to admit that the plot itself was pretty interesting if you can look past all the shouting, but even though it ends on a "To Be Continued" note, this is it.  It seems to be the first issue of an unfinished project.  Sort of a shame because there's actually some potential to be good here.


 
As far as the art goes. . .it's even more of a trip back to the 90's "We want to be like Marvel!" Image team books than the writing.  Rob Liefeld isn't given any art credit here, but he probably should have been for inspiration alone!
 
Like the cover, Liefeld's influence is all over the place in the exaggerated proportions, overly-elaborate costumes, spiky hair, and constantly-exposed teeth of the characters. The pages are so cluttered with action that it's sometimes hard to keep track of what's going on.  The art is actually well done for what it is.  Simply put it's 90's-Tastic in every good AND bad way that it can be. 
 
Overall, I actually enjoyed this one.  It's not the best-written comic ever, but it does have a decent premise, some nice 90's-style art, and the potential to be a good story.  Unfortunately, this is all there is of it, so there's really no way to see where it went.
 
THE VERDICT:

I'll give this one 3 out of 5 costumes with useless straps and gigantic shoulder pads.

NEXT!
 

MASTER DARQUE

Valiant (1998)

 
SCRIPT: Christina Z.
PENCILS: Leonardo Manco
COVER: Leonardo Manco
 
THE COVER:
I'm a big fan of Leonardo Manco's art, and seeing his name on the cover of this makes me very happy. . .BUT. . .this cover isn't his best work.  It's dark and muddled and the main character's face just looks strange.  There's a lot of wasted space in the frame and logo area. This isn't the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic book. I hope whatever's inside is better. Let's check it out!
 
THE STORY:
When a desperate young man seeks aid from the mysterious Alexandre Darque to save his dying mother, he is taken on a nightmarish and dangerous journey to the darkest edges of the Valiant Universe to retrieve three artifacts.

Unfortunately, even though his mother is saved, he learns that he was just a in Darque's twisted games.  The artifacts he risked his sanity for weren't to save his mother at all, but to give Darque a glimpse into the future end of the world and what part Alexandre Darque will play in it.

The End. . .to be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
Like Nitrogen above, I was actually reminded of another story while reading this hefty double-sized issue.  This time it was DC's 1990 Books of Magic mini-series, where fledgling magician Timothy Hunter is led through the occult side of the DC Universe by characters like John Constantine and Phantom Stranger, with cameos of various other DC mystic characters along the way.

The mysterious, mystical, self-serving title character resembles John Constantine in a very obvious way (even in appearance).  The resemblance is barely copyright-dodging enough that this could have EASILY been a Hellblazer comic as Darque leads an unsuspecting young man through mystical realms and meets characters like Shadowman, The Eternal Warrior, and Turok.

Setting aside the very obvious. . .I'll kindly call them "influences". . . this isn't a bad story at all.  Like Books of Magic, it serves as a good introduction to the dark corners of Valiant's recently (at the time) rebooted universe through the eyes of a relatable non-powered character.  The ending makes it clear that there is a lot more to the tale (there was a follow-up 4 issue series called Darque Passages), but despite that, this is a complete and pretty enjoyable story in itself.

 
When talking about the cover above, I mentioned that I'm a fan of Leonardo Manco's art, but that the cover was disappointing.  The good news is that the interior art here is simply amazing!  Manco's signature darkly-inked and supremely-detailed style is definitely the star of THIS show, and (in my extremely humble opinion) is reason enough alone to pick this comic up!  Just look at the awesome full-pager above and know that Manco was the PERFECT artist for a story like this.
 
Overall, even though the story is highly derivative of Books of Magic and the main character is a discount version of John Constantine, I liked this issue for the guided tour through the dark side of the Valiant Universe.  Throw in some fantastic artwork that fits the mystical and sometimes horrific story perfectly and this one's a winner!

THE VERDICT:

I'll give this one 4 out of 5 copyright-dodging differences.

NEXT!
 

SHOTGUN MARY:

SON OF THE BEAST

Antarctic Press (1997)

 
 
SCRIPT: Miki (Miljenko) Horvatic
PENCILS: Esad Ribic
COVER: Esad Ribic
 
THE COVER:
Yep. . .there it is, front and center, folks. The Boo-Tay! 
 
I actually like this cover quite a bit for the way the main character is contrasted against a plain background.  I've always liked covers that use this method.  Shotgun Mary is nicely-painted and detailed as well. I also like the unusual pose of her looking over her shoulder.  I'd let this one take a turn on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" on my office wall at work, but I don't feel like having to go to an awkward HR appointment to talk about it.
 
BONUS: Good News! I seem to have come into an extremely-limited "Gold Seal" Variant of this comic, of which I am now the proud owner of 1 of only 100 copies out there!  The bad news is that nobody cares and it's still not worth a (less than 10 bucks). *sigh*  Moving along. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
Renegade former Warrior Nun "Shotgun" Mary Delacroix follows a trail of victims with their hearts torn out into the desolate desert after learning that the sacrificial murders are meant to attract her attention.  After purposely walking into a demon's trap, Mary is offered a chance to join the forces of .  She declines with a combination of faith and firepower, defeating the demon and moving on to the next target in her lonely mission. . .
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
I'm familiar with Shotgun Mary from Antarctic's "Warrior Nun" comics, and I generally like the character.  She's a bit derivative of Marvel's Punisher, but with a Catholic religious angle that sets her against demons instead of criminals.  
 
This one shot puts Mary in full violent "Religious Punisher" mode in a fast-reading, action-heavy story that moves from point A to B to C very quickly and without any background material at all. . .so this one is NOT for new readers, but for existing fans.  If you don't already know what Shotgun Mary is about, this ain't the place to start.  
 
That said, despite the extremely thin story, I liked this quite a bit.  It's fast. . .it's simple. . .it's not deep or complicated.  It's Shotgun Mary purposely walking into a trap in order to kill a demon.  That's it.  Sometimes you just want a simple story and this one shot serves up just that.
 
 
On the art side of things, I was pleasantly surprised to find this to be a fully-painted comic.  I'm a bit more used to Manga-Style artwork in Antarctic comics. . .especially their earlier offerings from the 90's.  The art here is nicely-detailed and richly-colored.  It's not the BEST painted art I've ever seen, but it looks great and definitely takes the issue up a notch in quality.
 
Overall, this is a fast-paced and simple page-turner with some unusual (for Antarctic) painted art.  As an existing fan of the main character, I liked it quite a bit.  If you're not familiar with Shotgun Mary, this isn't a great introduction.
 
THE VERDICT:
 
I'll give this one 4 out of 5 scorched Rosary Beads.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

LITA FORD

Rock-It Comix (1993)

 
THE QUEEN OF HEAVY METAL
SCRIPT: Lita Ford, Laurel Fishman & Roland Mann
PENCILS: Jim Balent
COVER: Jim Balent
 
THE COVER:
Allrighty, then! It's a nicely painted depiction of 80's rocker Lita Ford proudly showing off the OTHER two reasons she's famous beyond her ONE hit song! Okay, two songs. . .if you count her sappy duet with Ozzy Osbourne where he's singing like he's reluctantly paying up on a lost bet.
 
I have to admit that this IS a pretty metal cover.  Too bad Lita Ford ain't metal. Still, I'm liking  all the skulls and the general throwback album cover look of it. Wait. . .is that a WIENER DOG bottom left? What the ?
 
BONUS: 
Good news! My copy of this comic is signed by writer Roland Mann. 
Bad News! A signed copy of this comic STILL isn't worth !
 
THE STORY:
Shortly before a concert at Madison Square Garden, rocker Lita Ford breaks her guitar but is given a new one by a mysterious stranger who claims the guitar has unusual powers.  In the meantime, Libby Snore. . .head of the P.M.R.C. and wife of Congressman Al Snore. . .is plotting to destroy the sinful Lita Ford at the very same concert.
 
As Lita and her band take the stage, Libby Snore uses black magic to open a gate to , releasing demons that possess her Young Republican followers. . .who attack the band and their fans.  As the demons attack, Lita's guitar transforms her into a heavy metal super-hero!
 
Using her new powers, Lita is able to defeat the Young Republican Demons and confront Libby Snore, forcing her to close the gate to .  Lita transforms back to her regular self and Libby Snore promptly has her arrested for starting a riot.  Lita's manager bails her out of jail and we are assured that the story hasn't ended yet.
 
The End. . .to be continued?
 
THE REVIEW:
Oh Lawd.  What the did I just read? 
 
I don't even know where to begin with just how bad this is, but here goes. 
 
At the heart of it, this is less of a story and more of a protest rant against the PMRC, which (for anyone under the age of 45 reading this) was an organization started in 1985 by Elizabeth (Libby) Gore that is responsible for those "Parental Advisory" labels that still adorn album covers today and the main censorship supervillain for heavy metal and rap music at the time.  
 
The PMRC is practically forgotten today, except in some songs from the era protesting it and relics like this comic.  But at the time, it was a pretty big deal complete with congressional hearings and all the associated hoopla censorship generally garners when it rears its ugly head in the US of A.
 
In other words, this is a comic that is stuck so firmly in a specific political moment in time that it's practically unreadable today.  It doesn't help that even if it wasn't a heavy-handed censorship protest thinly disguised as a comic book, it's very poorly written.  The "plot" is forced to fit the message instead of writing the story around the message in a more natural way.
 
Things happen for no reason except to address specific points of PMRC censorship, so the whole thing just feels forced and preachy. . .which is just strange for something that's supposedly AGAINST an organization that's forced and preachy!  
 
To make matters worse, unless you're someone who even REMEMBERS the PMRC, what little narrative drive this comic does have will be completely meaningless because all that's left of the PMRC are those little parental advisory stickers.
 
 
As far as the art goes. . .it's okay.  It tells the story, but beyond a hard focus on Lita Ford's mostly-naked body, there's nothing remarkable about it.  It's not the worst art I've ever seen, but it certainly doesn't try too hard either.  
 
Overall, this comic book is a sort of embarrassing relic of the time.  It features a one hit wonder fighting against a censorship organization that nobody cares about today and leans pretty heavily on being full of pictures of a scantily-clad woman drawn in an extremely average way.  Just read Red Sonja instead. . .at least you usually get a decent story that doesn't preach at you along with your sexy pictures. 
 
Beyond the story, there's a pretty extensive interview with Lita Ford that's actually pretty interesting, as well as a discography. . .who knew she had enough songs to fill not one, but TWO "greatest hits" albums?  So if you're a Lita Ford fan, you might get some extra mileage out of this.  But if you just grab this from the bargain bin because of the -tastic cover and expect a good story or great art, you're gonna be pretty disappointed.
 
THE VERDICT:
 
I give this one 1 out of 5 spiky leather bras.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Hoo-Boy.  My daughter gave me a mixed bag with this batch!  
 
I'd say the theme this time was reading one thing and being reminded of another.  From Nitrogen being a 90's-Tastic Liefeld version of Jupiter's Legacy, to Master Darque being THIS close to being a Valiant version of Books of Magic starring a bargain bin John Constantine, to Shotgun Mary basically being a Religious Female version of The Punisher that kills demons instead of criminals.  
 
Of the four, I'd say my favorite was Master Darque.  Yeah. . .it's really close to being a straight up copy of Books of Magic, but that Leonardo Manco art though!  The worst was Lita Ford.  It's amazing just HOW bad that comic is.  But that one bad apple aside, the other three were actually decent reads.
 
Up Next. . .
 
only knows what my daughter will give me next.  
MORE off-brand one shots!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

I believe I've mentioned in a couple of posts that I've recently come into two longboxes STUFFED with non-DC/ Marvel comics. . .mostly from the 90's.

I bought the boxes from a closing comic shop (another one bites the dust, R.I.P.) for a measly FORTY BUCKS because the shop owner knew that nobody else but me was going to touch them.  Indeed. . .his closing sale had been going on for a week and he hadn't sold but a few comics from those boxes.

SO. . .

Here I sit with about SIX HUNDRED random comics from mostly-defunct comic publishers like Valiant, Malibu, Innovation, Eclipse, NOW, Impact, Continuity, Topps, CrossGen Chaos, and others I've never even heard of.  Along with a healthy sprinkle of older comics from companies that are still chugging along like Dark Horse, Image, and Antarctic.

What to do with all of that fine Longbox Junk? Unfortunately, there isn't much that's complete, as far as runs or mini's. . .so despite the bounty of bargain box books at hand, they don't really fit my concept for Longbox Junk, where I generally try to get into full runs and complete stories.

BUT. . .

Among all the incomplete runs and story fragments, there is a big, beautiful stack of ONE SHOTS!

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you know the love I have for the one shot!  It's probably my favorite form of comic art.  The creative team has ONE and ONLY ONE issue to tell a complete story.  There's no room for error. . .no "well, maybe next issue will be better", like there is in a series.  I absolutely love seeing if a creative team can step up to the challenge of the one shot.

So let's get into some of these non-DC/Marvel one shots, shall we?  We shall!

RED SONJA

A DEATH IN SCARLET

Cross Plains Comics (1999)

 
A DEATH IN SCARLET
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas & Steve Lightle
PENCILS: Steve Lightle
COVER: Steve Lightle

THE COVER: 
Very nicely done! Lots of detail, great colors.  I like the way the main subject sits against the stark black background.  Sonja's face is a little strange, and there's no way I can hang this one on my office wall without an awkward appointment with HR (but that's Red Sonja covers in general, not just this one), but I like this one a lot!

THE STORY: 
A young Sonja learns the trade of thievery from a woman named T'Shika in the city of Khorsun.  When a theft goes wrong and the two find themselves pursued by the private army of a rich trader, Sonja stumbles into knowledge that the trader had something to do with the death of her family.

Sonja turns from hunted into hunter as she and T'Shika infiltrate his palace and find an ally in the form of an enslaved shape-shifting priestess called Sabra.  Unfortunately, in the battle to get close to the trader and gain information, Sonja accidentally kills him and is forced to leave without getting any closer to those who killed her family.

The End?

THE REVIEW:
  Although listed as a one-shot on comic reference sites, this comic looks a lot more like what was supposed to be the first issue of an ongoing series.  It stands alone as a pretty good story, but there are a lot of obviously-dangling plot threads, including an ending that's more of a "to be continued".  That said, the legendary Roy Thomas does a great job returning to one of his signature characters.

BONUS: There's a nice little essay in the back by Thomas on how he created Red Sonja for Marvel.

 
 
The art is very nicely detailed, but the colors are often a little garish.  Not often enough to bring things down too much, though.  There's also a LOT of cheesecake going on.  Like the cover (same as the interior artist), there's a pretty hard focus on Sonja in sexy poses throughout the whole comic.  So even though the story is pretty good, this isn't really a comic you're going to want to read at work.

THE VERDICT: 
I give this comic 4 out of 5 barely-covered .

NEXT!
 

BOMBAST

TOPPS (1993)

 
BOMBAST LIVES!
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas & Gary Friedrich
PENCILS: Ayers & John Severin
COVER: Jack Kirby

THE COVER: 
A great, colorful, old school character cover by the legendary Jack Kirby. . .complete with the signature Kirby Krackle! To be honest, the character himself looks a bit generic.  That said, this is the kind of cover that makes you want to see what's inside.  I REALLY like the bombastic text advertising the all-star classic creative lineup and the hilarious (to me, anyway) "1 of 1 COLLECT 'EM ALL!" tag.

THE STORY: 
A strange earthquake rocks the city of Chicago, opening a deep chasm that a young street punk named Darren falls into.  He finds himself in a mysterious cave with glowing rocks and a strangely-dressed man in a crystal pod.  As he investigates, he accidentally opens the pod and frees the man, who speaks in a strange language. . .but we readers know that he's a "ninth man" named Bombast with a mission to save the world of the "tenth men" and he's been in the pod for 15,000 years!

The confused Bombast leaves the chasm with Darren and begins to explore the unfamiliar world of technology he's found himself in.  When Darren is attacked by drug dealers he owes money to, Bombast saves him by using superhuman powers that allow him to turn almost anything into a deadly thrown weapon.  The battle brings Bombast to the attention of Chicago's resident super-cop, The Savage Dragon!

Bombast realizes he can't defeat Savage Dragon and is forced to escape.  Soon after, he encounters a strange metal-clad being named Death Flash who speaks his language.  Death Flash reveals that he is also a ninth man, but he is there to destroy humanity.  After a short battle, Bombast returns to the chasm, hoping to find some information to guide him.  He encounters yet another ninth man called Glida.  As they battle, their fight is interrupted by ANOTHER ninth man named Captain Glory, who somehow knows both of their names.

The End. . .to be continued.

THE REVIEW:  
There's a LOT of old school talent on this book!  That said. . .the finished product sadly doesn't  match the promise held in those names.   It's a shame to see such a waste.  The story is actually pretty poorly-written. . .especially in the dialogue, and in particular the dialogue of the reader's entryway into the story, the young, black "junkie" who discovers Bombast.  To be perfectly honest, most of his dialogue is extremely cringeworthy and borderline racist.  It almost breaks the story, it's so bad.

Setting that aside, the character of Bombast himself is just as generic as I was afraid of based on his cover appearance.  His powers are vaguely defined (he can. . .throw stuff?), he looks pretty ridiculous, and his dialogue is slightly annoying.  To make matters worse, his foe "Death Flash" rolls around Chicago on roller skates.

I realize that the creative team were going for a sort of late Silver/ early Bronze Age throwback style, and to their credit, they succeeded. For a comic written in 1993, this looks and feels exactly like something from the early 70's!

Unfortunately they didn't succeed in a GOOD way.  Instead, this is the sort of cringeworthy stuff that people making fun of the Silver/Bronze Age point and laugh at.  Maybe it was done on purpose? I sort of hope so, because then it's kind of brilliant, in a way.  If not, then it's just a pretty poor effort.  Sadly, I have the feeling this wasn't SUPPOSED to be bad.

 
 
The art serves the purpose of telling the story, but doesn't try to reach any higher than that.  Like the writing, I was expecting a little more from names like Ayers and Severin.  This whole comic just sort of feels like the minimum effort was put into it.

BONUS DISAPPOINTMENT: My copy didn't even have the Super Deluxe KirbyChrome trading card.  A single tear slowly trickles down my cheek. 

THE VERDICT: 
I give this comic 2 out of 5 old white guys trying to figure out how young black people talk.

NEXT!
 

GRIMM FAIRY TALES

2017 ARMED FORCES EDITION

ZENESCOPE (2017)

 
BLOODLINE
SCRIPT: Joe Brusha & Dave Franchini
PENCILS: Ario Murti
COVER: Alfredo Reyes

THE COVER: 
As a former Marine, a red-blooded male, and a general "America, Yeah!" kind of guy, this cover immediately grabs me.  It's bold and very nicely done.  If I could hang this on my office wall without multiple HR complaints, I would.

BUT. . .

As an adult comic reader, it's a little embarrassing.  I would never have bought this if it hadn't come to me in a giant box of random comics.  My daughter was laughing when we were pulling one shots to the side in a separate pile (there's about 30 more) and she spotted this one.  She asked who buys these kinds of comics.  I didn't have a good answer.  That's why it's in this review.

THE STORY:
In the dead of night at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., a mysterious hooded woman tracks her prey through the dark halls of the museum, pausing to briefly reflect on her family's long and dedicated military service to the United States through history as she passes by various displays.

Finally, she confronts a giant bull-headed creature with glowing red eyes and leaps into action, revealing herself as Belle, Hunter of Beasts! And. . .nope. That's it.

To be continued.

THE REVIEW:
What little "story" there is in this comic takes up a total of three and a half pages, and is actually just a preview for a (then) upcoming series.  For what it is, it's well-written and nicely-illustrated, but it's hardly worth even calling a story.

So this is a pretty thick comic.  What's in the rest of the pages?

It's all single page pinups of scantily-clad women with barely-there "military" wear and guns.  So, yeah. . .except for the preview at the front, the rest of this comic is -tastic military soft .

 
Now, don't get me wrong.  The art is great on all of them, and I've got nothing against some fine-lookin' comic ladies. . .but it's just sort of embarrassing that comics like this exist.  It reminds me of the old "Swimsuit Specials" Marvel used to put out before they realized everyone was making fun of them for it.  And indeed, my daughter was laughing when she challenged me to review this.

Challenge accepted, punk! BOOM! Here's your review!

BUT I DIGRESS. . .

Talking about the cover above, I mentioned that my daughter and I were pondering who exactly buys these comics.  Who are they created for?  The only answer I really can think of is that there's a LOT of fantastic artistic talent being wasted appealing to the most basic interests of young men, and that (based on the other handful of comics from this publisher I now own) Zenescope as a company in general exists to profit from those basic interests.  Those basic interests being .

Seriously. . .there's some great talent in this "comic" going to waste on stuff like this.  Judged on the art alone, there's a lot to like.  Unfortunately, the direction that art is pointed is disappointing.

THE VERDICT:
I give this comic 4 out of 5 anonymous HR reports for the art.
1 out of 5 skipped ads for the "story".

I feel dirty now.  MOVING ALONG!
 

MARRIED. . .WITH CHILDREN

BUCK'S TALE

NOW COMICS (1994)

 
BUCK'S TALE
SCRIPT: Geoffrey White
PENCILS: Eddie Pittman
COVER: Tom Richmond

THE COVER:
Not good.  It looks like something a teenager would draw for high school art class.  The (accidental, I promise) running theme with this batch of one shots (except Bombast) seems to be focused on nicely-illustrated with the woman's face as an afterthought.  This cover is no exception. Everything but Kelly Bundy's is pretty poorly done.

 I'm familiar with the Married. . .With Children T.V. show, but until now have never read one of the comics.  This cover does NOT give me confidence that it's going to be any good. Let's do it!

THE STORY:
We follow the tragic tale of the Bundy's dog, Buck, beginning with his early days as the unwanted pup of a stray and a purebreed poodle living on the streets and searching for his father among the mongrels of the stray dog underground.

After finally finding his father and being rejected, Buck is saved by Bud and Kelly Bundy, who use him to gain sympathy as they scavenge for food.  After proving himself useful, Buck becomes a member of the dysfunctional Bundy family.

The End.

THE REVIEW:
I came into this without much confidence based on the minimum effort given to the cover.  I wasn't wrong.  This whole thing feels sort of pointless and random.  None of the jokes really hit until Buck is in the Bundy home and we get some of that classic "Peg vs. Al" back and forth that made the T.V. show a hit, but it's too little and too late.  The rest of it is just sort of "This happened and then this happened" with surprisingly little humor for what is supposed to be a comedy-based comic.

I digress a bit, but I see this often in licensed comics.  Some things just don't translate well from screen to page.  Comedy is definitely one of them.  It's a rare thing for a comic book to be able to capture the same spark of comedy as its source material.  This comic not only doesn't capture that spark (with the exception of a few gags toward the end), but doesn't even try that hard to do so.

The art is bright, cartoony, and very exaggerated.  For what it is, it's pretty good.  The art tells the story, but doesn't try to go any higher than that.  The artist doesn't really capture the essence of any of the T.V. characters very well beyond the world-weary Al Bundy, who is the only real bright spot in either writing or art in this comic. . .and his few scenes are at the very end of the story
 
Overall, this is just a very forgettable comic with surprisingly little comedy for being based on a classic T.V. sitcom.  Where Married. . .With Children the T.V. show subverted normal sitcom tropes to become something unusual, Married. . .With Children the comic book is pretty much by the numbers.
 
THE VERDICT:
I give this one 2 out of 5 hands down the pants.

CONCLUSION

 
This first handful of off-brand one shots was pretty disappointing.  For me, Red Sonja was the best of the bunch, with the rest showing either a lack of effort or too much effort in the wrong direction.  Let's hope for a bit of improvement in the next batch my daughter has picked for me to review.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Single issue offerings from Rock-It Comix, Arcade Comics, Antarctic Press, and Acclaim Comics coming in the next Off-Brand One Shots Edition of Longbox Junk. 
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

Once again, my apologies for the longer than usual gap between entries this time of year.  As a hotel manager, the summer tourist season takes a pretty severe cut into my comic readin' and reviewin' since I do these at work in my down time.

As you can see from the title, this time out we're going to take a look at another handful of Captain America one-shots from my collection.  The first part turned out pretty good. . .with 3 out of 4 being well worth hunting down in the bargain bin and 1 being. . .okay. 

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!  Once again, my apologies for summertime delays.

I've admitted before that I'm not a very big fan of what many think of as traditional comic book superheroes. . .the "capes and tights" crowd, in other words.  I like my heroes to be a bit more "grounded", even if they ARE inhabiting a comic book world.  Lone Ranger, Zorro, Jonah Hex, Tarzan, Green Hornet, Rocketeer, The Spirit, Sgt. Rock, The Shadow. . .THOSE are the kind of heroes that I love.

BUT. . .

- read more

World Community Grid Logo
ComicBookRealm.com: 57 years, 346 days, of Run Time
Help projects like: Smash Childhood Cancer, OpenZika, Help Stop TB, FightAIDS@Home - Phase 2, Outsmart Ebola Together, Mapping Cancer Markers, FightAIDS@Home
Join World Community Grid today!
  • Newest
  • Marvel Comics's Amazing Spider-Man Issue # 48frankies-b
  • DC Black Label's Batman: Three Jokers Issue # 2c
  • Valiant Entertainment's Punk Mambo Issue # 1knowhere-a
  • Valiant Entertainment's Quantum & Woody Issue # 1fight or flight-a