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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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

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

ANYWAY. . .

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

THE ROCK

CHAOS! COMICS (2001)

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

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

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

The End.

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

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

THAT SAID. . .

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

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

A good start this time out. . .NEXT!
 

LADY ACTION SPECIAL

MOONSTONE (2009)

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

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE -

LIGHTSTORM

MALIBU (1994)

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

ENTER THE ZOMBIE

ANTARCTIC PRESS (2010)

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

CONCLUSION

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

- read more

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

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

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

NITROGEN

Arcade Comics (2005)

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

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

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

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

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

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

THAT SAID. . .

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

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


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

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

NEXT!
 

MASTER DARQUE

Valiant (1998)

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE VERDICT:

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

NEXT!
 

SHOTGUN MARY:

SON OF THE BEAST

Antarctic Press (1997)

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

LITA FORD

Rock-It Comix (1993)

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

CONCLUSION

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

- read more

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

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

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

SO. . .

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

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

BUT. . .

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

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

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

RED SONJA

A DEATH IN SCARLET

Cross Plains Comics (1999)

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

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

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

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

The End?

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

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

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

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

NEXT!
 

BOMBAST

TOPPS (1993)

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

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

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

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

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

The End. . .to be continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEXT!
 

GRIMM FAIRY TALES

2017 ARMED FORCES EDITION

ZENESCOPE (2017)

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

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

BUT. . .

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

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

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

To be continued.

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

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

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

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

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

BUT I DIGRESS. . .

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

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

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

I feel dirty now.  MOVING ALONG!
 

MARRIED. . .WITH CHILDREN

BUCK'S TALE

NOW COMICS (1994)

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

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

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

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

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

The End.

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews nobody asked for!

We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk as I take a look at some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

What we have here today for your "I never asked for this, and where the heck did you even find it?" reading pleasure is a strange little comic book crossover of two "cult" horror television programs. . . and by "cult" I mean that generally people who were alive in the 70's might remember these shows, along with a good handful of rabid fans.

I'd be willing to take a bet that any random person  born after 1990 that I might stop and ask has never seen an episode of either one, and probably won't even know either of them ever existed (In their original forms.  One of the shows DID have an ill-advised reboot movie released in 2012 that came and went pretty quickly in the theaters).

The shows I'm talking about are Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Dark Shadows.

Of the two, Dark Shadows will probably ring more of a bell than Night Stalker, due to the aforementioned movie (A strange Johnny Depp/Tim Burton project which wasn't really THAT bad) and that Dark Shadows was originally on T.V. for 6 years and in pretty constant syndication throughout the 70's compared to Night Stalker's one single year of production and a few "Movie of The Week" specials.

Dark Shadows was basically a supernatural soap opera following the continuing spooky trials and tribulations of the Collins family and their Patriarch, Vampire Barnabas Collins, in and around the town of Collinsport, Maine.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker followed intrepid Chicago reporter Carl Kolchak as he investigates stories that lead him into paranormal adventures.  Unfortunately, by the end of each episode, the evidence of any paranormal connection has usually been destroyed. . .so he's a bit of a hard luck guy that just can't catch a break.

SO. . .

A comic crossover of two supernatural 70's "Cult" T.V. shows.  This seems like one of those sort of things that's either going to be a great little hidden gem or it's going to fail and fail hard.  Let's find out which one it is!

KOLCHAK TALES:

NIGHT STALKER ANNUAL #1

MOONSTONE (2009)

 
COVER: Doug Klauba
 
Let's take a look at the cover first.  I like it a lot! It looks like an old-school horror movie poster.   It's got some great colors and Barnabas Collins looming in center stage looks fantastic! The artist doesn't really capture the likeness of Kolchak actor Darren McGavin (a pretty prolific character actor probably most familiar today as the hilariously grumpy dad in A Christmas Story), but other than that, this is a very nicely-painted piece of Halloween fun!
 
Moving along, there's two stories in this double-sized issue. . .
 
INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE?
SCRIPT: Mark Dawidziak & Rafael Nieves
PENCILS: Don Hudson
 
Reporter Carl Kolchak is down on his luck. . .moving from town to town and job to job following a string of supernatural encounters that he has no hard proof ever happened.  The bills are piling up and he's at his wits end.  
 
 
Then he receives a mysterious letter from a stranger named Barnabas Collins on the East Coast inviting him to a meeting.  The letter contains several specific details regarding one of Kolchak's more intense cases involving the Vampire/ Serial Killer Janos Skorzeny. 
 
Kolchak is curious and doesn't have anything else going on, so he travels by train across the country to the town of Collinsport, Maine. . .
 
 
 
Kolchak is met in Collinsport by a strange man named Loomis, who escorts him to the huge, rambling mansion named Collinwood.  He begins to suspect something is wrong when a frantic woman warns him not to go into "The Old House", which is exactly where Loomis brings him.  
 
 
Based on his previous encounters with vampires, Kolchak quickly determines that the mysterious Mr. Collins is one, and he prepares himself to confront Collins.  When Kolchak finally meets Barnabas Collins, he attacks him with a mirror and crucifix. . .neither of which have any affect on Collins.
 
Barnabas confesses to Kolchak that he WAS a vampire, but his curse has since been lifted.  He reveals that he was the one who turned a woman named Marie Cosgrove into a vampire in 1795, and it was she that turned Janos Skorzeny into a vampire in 1919.
 
Collins tells Kolchak that he met Skorzeny at one point and could tell he was a vicious killer, and that this meeting was so that Collins could thank Kolchak for ridding the world of the creature he was responsible for creating. . .and to warn him that Marie Cosgrove was still somewhere out there.
 
 
And with the burden of confession off Barnabas' shoulders and Kolchak warned that there was yet another vampire on the loose, the reporter returns by train to begin a new job in Los Angeles.
 
The End.
 
Hmmmmmmmm. . .okay then.  Not really what I was expecting.
 
Basically we have Kolchak travelling to Maine, thinking he's being lured into a trap, and then having a conversation with America's (former) King Vampire before heading back home.  When I put it THAT way and read it, this is a VERY thin story.
 
THIS is a perfect example of never judging a book by its cover (especially a comic book).  The cover promised a snarling Barnabas Collins menacing intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak.  Instead we get the later, non-vampire, Barnabas Collins just sort of standing around talking and apologizing for the misunderstanding that Kolchak thought he was going to be killed.
 
The art just makes it worse.  In the hands of a great artist, this extremely thin story might have been taken up a notch with some superbly-illustrated character moments.  Instead, we get some very basic and workmanlike art that doesn't really capture the likeness of either character's actor and is the very definition of "Average".
 
Overall, I'm not sure why this story even exists beyond Moonstone at one point having the comic rights for both characters.  This could have been so much more interesting.  As it is, it just seems lazy and pointless.  I'm not even sure rabid fans of either show would find this interesting beyond curiosity value.
 
Moving along. . .
 
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE
SCRIPT: Joe Gentile & Dave Ulanski
PENCILS: Ron Harris
 
Reporter Carl Kochak and his editor, Tony Vincenzo, travel into the Nevada desert to investigate the disappearance of two people in an area that has become known for mysterious disappearances.  When they arrive, the reporters find the police less than helpful, so while Tony tries to pry information out of them, Kolchak investigates the surrounding area. . .
Kolchak finds several huge footprints that he follows into a natural maze of rocks, where he discovers a hidden cave entrance.  Inside are tools and objects much too large for normal human use. . .
As Kolchak further explores the maze of tunnels, he finds an exit outside and an area filled with human bones.  The horrified reporter is taken by surprise and thrown into a shallow pit by a gigantic human-like creature, who buries Kolchak alive!
Fortunately, Tony noticed Kolchak was missing and followed his trail up the mountain where the reporter was buried.  He digs Kolchak up and the two of them make a frantic escape back through the maze of tunnels with the enraged giant pursuing them. . .
After escaping the giant's lair, Kolchak and Tony tell the police that they found the bodies of the people who have gone missing, but beyond that there's no proof of the giant that almost killed them. . .but that's something Kolchak is used to.
The End.
 
This story was. . .well, it was bad.  There's no way to sugarcoat it.  It's just bad.  At least the first story had the curiosity factor of Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Barnabas Collins coming together on the comic page, as well as a few decent character moments here and there. 
 
The best way I can describe the "badness" of this story is that it's just sort of annoying.  The dialogue is grating.  The situation of an actual giant in the Nevada desert is ridiculous.  The art doesn't try to do anything other than simply exist, and the whole thing just feels like it was thrown together to pad out this comic's page count so that Moonstone could charge SIX DOLLARS AND FIFTY FRIGGIN' CENTAVOS for this "special" issue.
 
I. . .I just can't.  This story sucks.  That is all.  Carry on.
 

CONCLUSION

 
The cover price on this comic is $6.50.  That's about six bucks too much.  Okay. . .I have to admit the cover is worth the dollar I paid for this, but the rest of it feels like pure money grubbin'.  
 
The first story is a "Crossover" barely worthy of the name.  The second story is practically unreadable and is basically page count padding.  The whole thing reeks of minimum effort for maximum money.
 
Unless you are a rabid fan of Kolchak or Dark Shadows that simply MUST have everything to do with one or both properties, do yourself a favor and steer clear of this one.  It's a major disappointment.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to my completely unnecessary reboot and renumbering of the Longbox Junk blog! I'm celebrating my 175th comic review that nobody ever asked me for by doing something else nobody ever asked for. . .reviewing the handful of issue #175 comics in my (and my daughter's) collection!

Oddly enough, I've discovered that it seems nobody really cares about hitting their 175th issue. The Walking Dead started a new (and pretty epic) storyline in #175, but I'm not sure if that was actually planned or if it just worked out that way.  Superman #175 was celebrating being the 100th issue since the iconic "Death of Superman" finale. . .but I'm not convinced that's an actual celebration of hitting issue #175.

So. . .nobody cares about the one-seven-five except me.

- read more

Welcome back to the Longbox Junk Halloween Party!

I know. . .I know.  Since I tend to post these very late at night (or early in the morning, depending on how you look at things), it's probably November 1 for most of those reading. 

I DID have 2 more Halloween posts I was planning on throwing down before the 31st, but due to unforeseen work circumstances (another local hotel had a gas leak and my hotel inherited all their guests, so we've had a sold out house when we're usually running about 30-40%) I haven't had the time I usually have this time of year to read and review comic books.  

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk for another "Retro Review" edition, where I take a look at some of the older or more "valuable" single issues in my collection instead of my usual bargain bin fare.

So. . .

There I was. . .looking with justifiable pride at all the Halloween entries I've made this month in Longbox Junk. But then my big, cheesy grin faltered a bit when I realized something was missing from the mix. . .that being the "So bad it's kinda good B-Movie" style horror. 

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Halloween!  It's that special time of year when children get their first basic lesson in the cornerstone of  Socialism. . . Redistribution of Wealth!  I have a giant bowl of candy.  Those who have less candy than me come to collect a portion of my candy under the threat of punishment if I do not comply.  This continues until I have no more candy. 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

But enough of THAT.  We're here to talk about Halloween comics!
 
I'm going to come clean right off the top here.  I've never bought a Vampirella comic on purpose.  The 3 or 4 I have in my collection (including the comic at hand) have come to me by way of buying packs of comics where there's 10 random comics for $5 and they're sealed up so you can only see the top and bottom comic.  
 
Most comic stores have these deals, so I assume you know what I'm talking about. . .it's the true definition of Longbox Junk because it's a total random spin of the wheel on what you're getting beyond those two comics you can see.  
 
Vampirella is a character that's been around for a long time.  There are a LOT of Vampirella comics out there.  I've never bought a Vampirella comic on purpose because it's pretty obvious that they exist for one reason and one reason only. . ..
 
I've flipped through plenty of Vampirella comics on the shelf and I find it hard to believe that anyone actually buys Vampirella for the stories any more than when guys protest that they read Playboy for the articles.   
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
My opinion of Vampirella is based on an extremely low actual exposure to Vampirella. And so I decided that since I'm having Halloween comic fun and I HAPPEN to have a Halloween Special starring Vampirella, why not give her a chance and actually read one of her stories for once and see if I'm judging these comics unfairly. . .
 
Let's do this!
 
VAMPIRELLA
HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2013
 

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Longbox Junk - Human Bomb

685 views • Apr 18, '18 • (0) Comments

When I discovered these issues bundled at my local comic shop for 5 bucks, I had no idea who the Human Bomb was.  I just knew Longbox Junk when I saw it and forked over Mr. Lincoln.  After a bit of research, I discovered a character with a long and illustrious history as a DC C-Lister. . .mostly on a team of heroes known as "Uncle Sam and The Freedom Fighters".  

I've seen a few issues of the series here and there, but to be completely honest, DC sort of sucks at patriotic comic heroes.  Except for the Big Blue Boy Scout, who else do they really have?  No. . .when I want a dose of AMERICA, YEAH! I go straight to the original Star Spangled Avenger, Captain F*CKING America.

But I paid 5 good American dollars for these four comics. . .what was I going to do, just let them sit there in a longbox unread?  Let's do this!

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I have to admit that I'm not very familiar at all with Star Spangled War Stories.  What I DO know about it is from later issues featuring The Unknown Soldier, which is a great character. . .but really, as far as war comics go, I've always been more of a Sgt. Rock and Weird War Tales kind of guy.


I found this issue at a flea market last year in pretty good condition for the measly five bucks I paid for it, and it's been sitting lonely and unread in a longbox ever since. . .the only pre-1974 issue of this title in my collection.  

BUT. . .

Since "Longbox Junk" is all about reviewing comics that have probably never been reviewed before, and these "Retro Reviews" are about taking a look at some of the older comics in my collection, I decided to crack the plastic on this lonely outcast and see what's going on under the cover. 

Let's do this!



STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES #120

DC (1965)
SCRIPTS: Robert Kanigher
ART: Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
COVER: Joe Kubert

First off, we have a cover by the great Joe Kubert.  Unfortunately, it's not that great of a cover.  His trademark sparse/primary color background make it pop nicely, and the tank is great, but other than that it just seems sort of. . .phoned in.  The creature seems very generic.  The purple and green coloring of it is just not good. The positioning is kind of strange.  A mediocre cover by Kubert is STILL better than a good cover by a lot of artists, but this is certainly not one of his better efforts.

MOVING ALONG!

The interior art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito is. . .okay.  It's not great, but it's not bad, either. The art tells the story in a competent way, but it doesn't have a single really good moment in the entire issue.  The coloring brings the art down another notch with pink and purple dinosaurs.  

The art in the backup story (Dryland PT Boat) is actually better than what's up front because it takes place in a darker and more realistic setting than "Dinosaur Island", and it looks like the inker (Esposito) had more of a hand in things.  

Overall, the art in this issue isn't really bad. . .it just seems somewhat workmanlike and uninspired, especially considering the science fantasy elements featured in the main story.

So, that was the art.  Let's consider the writing. . .

There's two stories in this issue, both by writer Robert Kanigher. Unfortunately (Like the art), there doesn't seem to have been much effort or inspiration put into either of them, although of the two, I found the backup story to be better than the main.  Let's take a look at both.

THE TANK EATER

The lead is a "War That Time Forgot" story involving two members of DC's proto-Suicide Squad on a secret mission to deliver and test a new tank that can do just about everything but fly.  On the way to their destination, they are attacked by a flying dinosaur and end up stranded on Dinosaur Island after a mid-air battle where they are rescued from falling to their death by a baby dinosaur they themselves had rescued during an earlier mission (in a previous issue).

On the island, their tank is attacked by another creature and dragged underwater.  They manage to escape, but the tank ends up on a Japanese submarine.  They decide to find the submarine's lair and destroy the tank, and during their search, they come across a young caveboy fighting a giant dinosaur.  They save the caveboy and he joins up with them.

While tracking the submarine, they are attacked by ANOTHER dinosaur and are dropped into the water by their friendly flying dinosaur baby.  While the Suicide Sqad members fight off Japanese frogmen, Caveboy plants explosives on the sub.  They make their escape as the sub and tank explode, then the baby dinosaur carries them to safety.

Ooooookay. . .hmmmmmm.

If I had to describe this story in one word, it would have to be "Juvenile".  

Like the art, it doesn't seem as if much effort was put into this story at all.  It has interesting elements, but the execution of those elements are so simplistic and uninspired that one has to wonder if this was written as part of a bet over whether or not a comic book story can be written in 60 minutes or less.  

Okay, maybe I'm being a bit harsh.  I completely understand that in the 1960's, comic books weren't exactly written with a 50 year old reader like myself in mind.  They were being written for kids.  Given that, I suppose that the writer did the job he was hired to do.  Unfortunately, that was all he did.  Now, I'm not going to say this story was terrible.  It's not.  But it's definitely not good, either.

DRYLAND PT BOAT

The backup story involves the son of a famous naval officer being put in command of a PT boat that is almost sunk during his very first mission.  He is told that he needs to rescue some army officers on the other side of a peninsula, but there is to many mines and enemy patrols to get there by sea, so his PT boat needs to be trucked overland to the other side.

On the way, the truck carrying his boat is attacked by Japanese planes and tanks, which he fights off by commanding his boat like he was on the water instead of on a trailer, eventually destroying a pursuing tank by dropping a depth charge on a bridge.

Once back on the water, he is faced with an overwhelming enemy in the form of a destroyer, but hoping to live up to his father's famous deeds (He rammed a battleship with a cruiser during WWI), he goes on the attack and risks his life diving into the water to repair his last torpedo, winning both the battle and gaining the respect he had not been given living in the shadow of his father.

I found this backup story to be the better of the two.  The art, the subject matter, and the writing were all a notch above "The Tank Eater".  That's not to say it's a great story. . .it still seems as if not a great deal of effort was put into it. . .but it holds up better to a modern reading than the Dinosaur Island shenanigans of the lead story.  I thought the idea of a PT boat commander having to wage a battle from the deck of his boat while on a trailer driving across dry land was pretty clever.  And like I said above, the art was a bit better with a more realistic story to illustrate.

CONCLUSION

Overall, even though there were some good elements to be found, this issue was pretty mediocre.  It wasn't like the artists and writer didn't have some interesting stuff to work with, it just seems like they were doing their jobs and nothing more than that.  Even the great Joe Kubert's cover was uninspired and average!

I know that there are pretty good issues of this title later on with Unknown Soldier, but if all I had to go on was THIS issue, I'd probably just take a pass on the whole thing.  

Up Next. . .

Back to Longbox Junk business as usual with a trip back to 1994 and Image's "We REALLY want to be Marvel!" Superhero overload glory days.  Black & White three issue mini.

Be there or be square!

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