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atom's Comic Book Blogs

  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

February 2019

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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. . .boobs.
 
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

419 views • 310 days ago • (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, HELL 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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Longbox Junk - Mass Effect: Redemption

433 views • 336 days ago • (0) Comments

Let's get this out of the way. . .I'm a HUGE fan of the Mass Effect video games. 

I'm even going to go ahead and put my nerd cred on the line and say that despite my initial misgivings, I liked the much-hated and presumed series-destroyer Mass Effect: Andromeda to the point that I played it until there was literally nothing left to do!  And I didn't like Andromeda nearly as much as I liked the original trilogy of games.

In other words, when it comes to the Mass Effect video games, I'm a fan.

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Longbox Junk - The X-Files Part 5

424 views • Jan 19, '18 • (0) Comments

And so we finally come to the last batch of Topps' X-Files run.  Fair warning, folks. . .it ain't pretty.

This series was never that good to begin with.  It has its moments here and there, but generally speaking it's been mediocre at best up until this point.  From here to the end of things it gets pretty bad.

These issues coincided with the general collapse of the 90's speculator comic market, and specifically the collapse of Topps Comics in 1998.  They also came out when the X-Files T.V. show's popularity began to wane.  The show was still high in the ratings, but nowhere near what it had been.

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Longbox Junk - The X-Files Part 4

420 views • Jan 16, '18 • (0) Comments

As I read this next batch of Topps' X-Files comics. . .moving through the second year of the run and into the third. . .I begin to wonder if perhaps I might be bearing witness to a conspiracy over twenty years old.


I've already touched a bit on on the conflict going on in the background of this series that eventually led to the departure of the original writer in favor of one more accepting of the fate of writing a tie-in to a hugely popular T.V. sensation, but not being able to use any of the ideas, storylines, or characters of the source material beyond bare-bones unchanging sketches of the main characters and a basic outline of the show's overall theme. 

BUT. . .

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Welcome back to the series that's like that one guy at work who just does what he has to do and nothing else. He knows he's never going to get a great review from management, but he doesn't care as long as he just gets paid.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (DC)

ISSUE 191

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