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  • atom | Male | Utah

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Longbox Junk - One-Shots (Part 3)

391 views • 32 weeks ago • (0) Comments

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

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

ONE-SHOTS (Part 3)

 

STAR TREK:

OPERATION ASSIMILATION

Marvel (1997)

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 .in command of an outdated ship and tasked with putting down petty rebellions against Romulan Rule, far from the action and excitement of those preparing for the inevitable confrontation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

FLASHPOINT:

GREEN ARROW INDUSTRIES

DC (2011)

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

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

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA:

PEGASUS

Dynamite (2007)

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

GREEN LANTERN PLUS

DC (1996)

 

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

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

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

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

G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES

GOLD KEY (1966)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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Longbox Junk - One-Shots (Part 2)

587 views • 35 weeks ago • (1) Comment

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

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

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

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Longbox Junk - One-Shots (part 1)

451 views • 36 weeks ago • (0) Comments

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

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

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

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Welcome 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.

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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!

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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.

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