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

 
As usual, during the summer things get a little crazy in my corner of the world.  I do these Longbox Junk reviews in my spare time at work, and since that work is managing a hotel, that spare time is kind of sparse during the height of the tourist travel season.  What I'm trying to say is that I apologize for the random delays this blog experiences during summer.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Since I was delayed even more than usual during July and only managed to get out one Captain America review, I thought "Why not just spotlight some Cap in August?" and here we are!
 
I've had the first issue of the series at hand for several years (bought for that great cover), but have never been able to completely read the story until recently when I came across the rest of the issues in a box of comics at the flea market.
 
So we've got a story about Captain America meeting Black Panther for the first time during WWII, with Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos in the mix.  Sounds like a good time, right?  Let's find out!

CAPTAIN AMERICA/ BLACK PANTHER:

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS

MARVEL KNIGHTS (2010)

 
ISSUE ONE
 
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Klaus Jansen
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Klaus Jansen
 
THE COVER:
 
I like this one a lot!  I'm not normally a fan of Denys Cowan's sketchy art style, but there's a dynamic feel to this cover that can't be denied. It showcases the two main characters in a couple of great hero poses and has an explosive background that really makes the whole cover pop.  This one's a winner!
 
THE STORY:
 
As World War II rages, the elite commando unit known as "The Howlers", led by the tough as nails Sgt. Nick Fury, encounters the Allies' new secret weapon for the first time. . .the brightly clad super-soldier called Captain America!
 
In Berlin.  Adolf Hitler's scientists have discovered what they believe is the solution to creating an intercontinental guided missile capable of hitting the United States from Europe. . .a rare metal known as Vibranium that is only known to come from one place, the mysterious African nation of Wakanda.  Hitler places Baron Von Strucker in command of the important mission to retrieve the Vibranium from Africa.
 
Meanwhile, the Howlers are assigned to back up Captain America on a secret mission to (You guessed it) find out what Von Strucker and his men are searching for in Africa.  Shortly after arriving, Cap discovers the grisly remains of a squad of Germans who have been slaughtered.  He finds himself surrounded by Wakandan warriors and confronting their masked leader. . .the Black Panther. . .and being told to go home.  
 
Captain America demands answers from Black Panther.  He is told the Germans are there to steal the Vibranium from Wakanda for their missiles.  Panther will not allow them OR the Americans to have the metal for their weapons.  Outraged by the Wakandan leader's blunt refusal to share the secret of Vibranium with the allies, Captain America and Black Panther fight while the captive Howlers look on.
 
In the meantime, at Von Strucker's nearby hidden base, he is informed of the death of his advance scouts.  As he considers how to proceed, he is surprised to learn that Hitler has sent another special agent to Africa to ensure the vital mission does not fail. . .The Red Skull!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay, not a bad start.  It's mostly setup to get Sgt. Fury and the Howlers together with Captain America and in Africa, but I DO love a good wartime Captain America story, and having the Howlers as supporting cast (The story is actually told from one of their perspectives. . .Gabe, the Howlers' African American musician) is definitely a great addition!
 
Black Panther doesn't really come into the story until the issue is almost done. . .and then just for a bit of obligatory "Heroes Fight Until They Realize They Need To Work Together".  It's a well-worn comic book team-up path, but it works here.  It's wartime and Wakanda knows they have something that will be used to kill millions, whether in the hands of the Axis OR Allies.  Therefore, the Black Panther seen so far is blunt and ready to fight. . .not the heroic and thoughtful warrior/diplomat he is usually presented as. 
 
On the art side of things, I mentioned in my look at the cover that I don't really enjoy Denys Cowan's sketchy art style.  He's one of those artists with a unique style that has evolved over the years.  In my humble opinion, it hasn't evolved for the better. 
 
He made a name for himself on The Question and I really liked his work there, but over time, his art has become sketchy and more impressionistic.  I don't think he was the best choice of artists for this fairly straightforward war story. His comic-noir style is much more suited for stories as vague and rough around the edges as his art.
 
The colors are also a bit of a problem, as far as the art goes.  The whole comic is presented in a very washed-out and muted way, with bright splashes of color here and there to set things off a bit.  It all comes off as somewhat dull and is pretty muddy in places. . .especially scenes where Captain America isn't there to lend a little burst of red and blue.  It's not really a great choice for a Captain America comic, in my humble opinion.
 

Overall, the story here is good.  It's a simple and straightforward setup to get all the characters in Africa for a wartime adventure featuring Captain America, Black Panther, Nick Fury (and His Howling Commandos), Baron Strucker, and Red Skull.  There's plenty of action and adventure to be found, as well as an ending introducing Red Skull to the scenario that makes me want to jump right into the next issue.  In other words, a solid comic book team-up story so far.
 
Unfortunately, the art is distracting and sketchy, made worse by an extremely muted coloring style, so the story as a whole suffers a bit. . .but not enough for me to call it bad.  Another artist could have bumped this up a notch or two from where it sits right now at "pretty good".
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE TWO
 
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Klaus Jansen
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Klaus Jansen
 
THE COVER:
 
I like the dirty white background on this one a lot, and it's pretty dynamic, but it lacks the force and power of the first issue's cover.  Cap's face is also a little strange.  It's not a BAD cover, it's just not a GREAT cover.  
 
THE STORY:
 
After Black Panther and Captain America finish fighting, the Americans are invited into Wakanda, where Cap and Panther talk terms for a cooperative effort against the invading Germans.  Nick Fury isn't so sure that Panther can be trusted, so he puts one of his men (Gabe) onto the mission of trying to learn more.  Fury assures Gabe that he's got the job because he's the best man for it.  Gabe knows that it's really because he's the only black man in the Howlers.
 
In the meantime, Baron Strucker plans an attack on the Wakandan capital using all the forces at his disposal. . .five full regiments.  But the Red Skull demands that no more than one regiment be used, causing Strucker to doubt the sanity of his new commander.
 
Later, as the Germans attack, the Howlers are kept prisoner for their own safety as Captain America and Black Panther rush to the defense of the city.  The German tanks are disabled by strange Wakandan devices called "Panther's Teeth", forcing the Germans into a brutal hand to hand battle at the city gates, where they are easily driven back by Captain America, Black Panther, and the Dora Milaje (Wakanda's all-female royal bodyguards).
 
After the German retreat, we learn that the underpowered attack force was merely a test of Wakanda's defenses, and that the Red Skull has not arrived alone.  With him are some of Germany's own superpowered "heroes". . .Master Man, Warrior Woman, and Armless Tiger Man.  Now armed with the knowledge he wanted about Wakanda's high-tech defense systems, Red Skull plots a devastating attack with the German superhumans in the lead. 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Most of this issue was action, focusing on the battle between the Wakandans and Germans at the city gate, but there were a few interesting moments in between.
 
Nick Fury tapping Gabe to try and spy on the Wakandans because he's black, as well as conversation between Black Panther and Captain America about how America fights for the rights of people overseas while oppressing their own citizens at home, lends a bit of depth to what is otherwise a pretty straightforward military action story sprinkled with a bit of superhero seasoning.
 
Another interesting little bit to the story in this issue informed me about something I'd been wondering about in the first issue, which was how Black Panther met up with Captain America in WWII in the first place.  I chalked it up to this being a "Marvel Knights" series, most of which had a sort of strange relationship with established Marvel continuity. . .not quite "What If?" stories, but not quite standard "Marvel Universe" either.  
 
It's revealed (by showing his sons with their mother during the German attack) that the Black Panther in THIS story is actually T'Challa's (the "current" Black Panther) grandfather.  Which explains why this version of Black Panther is more direct and brutal than the one I'm used to reading.
 
Unfortunately, Denys Cowan's art remains the weak point of this otherwise solid wartime superhero story.  His sketchy style and the muted color palette just aren't a great fit for this series at all.  
 

Overall, this issue is pretty solid when it comes to the story.  Lots of action backed up by some interesting commentary on race that doesn't come off as preachy or forced.  I just wish they had tapped another artist for this project.  Cowan's art is perfectly fine in the right setting, but this isn't that setting.
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE THREE
 
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Tom Palmer
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan & Sandu Florea
 
THE COVER:
 
This one's a bit of a mess.  It's cluttered and the coloring is pretty muddy. It's okay, I guess, but this isn't really the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic book. Let's get inside. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
In the aftermath of the failed German attack (last issue), we find Nick Fury changing Gabe's secret mission from just spying on the Wakandans to discovering the location of Wakanda's Vibranium, with the intention of denying it to the Germans and delivering it to the Allies.  Gabe is conflicted, but assures Fury that he'll do his job.
 
Meanwhile, in the German camp, we learn that in addition to the three German superhumans, Red Skull has also allied himself with the brutal leader of a tribe that has long been rivals of  neighboring Wakanda, The White Gorilla.  His team now complete, Red Skull plots the destruction of Wakanda.
 
Back in Wakanda, Gabe manages to bluff his way into the Vibranium mine, but as he gathers information for Fury, Wakanda comes under surprise attack by Master Man and Warrior Woman, attacking from the air and easily breaking through Wakanda's defenses!
 
At the Royal Palace, Captain America confronts Warrior Woman and White Gorilla while Gabe faces the powerful Master Man at the Vibranium mine.  Black Panther crashes an airplane into Master Man as the German superhuman tears through the mine's defenders.
 
Elsewhere, Nick Fury and the rest of the Howlers are searching for the hidden German base.  They discover it, but are confronted by Red Skull piloting a gigantic combat robot!
 
Meanwhile, back at the Palace, Captain America battles White Gorilla while Black Panther's sons try to escape, only for one of them to be captured by Armless Tiger Man, who demands Captain America surrender or he will kill the young Prince.
 
To be concluded. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Another pretty solid issue that leans more into action than story, but with a few small diversions here and there.  I like the side story of Gabe being conflicted over following Fury's orders as he learns more about Wakanda and sees a thriving kingdom of free blacks and knowing he's been given the mission just because he's a black man.  
 
It's an interesting commentary on race that is presented naturally as part of the story and doesn't feel forced. . .of COURSE Fury is going to give his only black guy the mission to infiltrate Wakanda.  He doesn't even think twice.  Gabe knows he's being used just because he's black, but he's loyal to the commander who gave him a chance to prove himself that not many other black men in the 1940's were given.  It doesn't take up much page space, but I like this story sort of simmering in the background.
 
The rest of the issue is okay.  I can see it sort of sliding down into comic book cliche action territory, especially when Red Skull jumps into action driving a giant Ratzi robot.  Giant Robot Punching is probably my LEAST favorite comic book trope, and I'm a bit disappointed to see it telegraphed that there's going to be plenty of Giant Robot Punching in what's sure to be a slam-bang finale.  
 
I know I keep going on about the art on this series, but it's really the worst part of the whole thing.  The sketchy art style of Denys Cowan just isn't a good fit, and that's especially clear in this issue.  The closer we get to the end, the more sketchy the art gets.  It looks like maybe Cowan was being rushed a bit.  The muted and washed out color scheme just adds to the sort of messy look of this comic.
 
 

Overall, even though the story is obviously starting to slide down into what surely will be a pretty standard comic book superhero punch-fest finale (including a dose of good old-fashioned Giant Robot Punching), there are some surprisingly interesting character moments hidden in the background story of a soldier conflicted by being used for his race.
 
The artwork remains consistently disappointing, and maybe even a little worse as the story heads into the final issue.  A different artist could have definitely taken this tale up a few notches.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
ISSUE FOUR
 
SCRIPT: Reginald Hudlin
PENCILS: Denys Cowan
INKS: Tom Palmer & Sandu Florea
COLORS: Pete Pantazis
COVER: Denys Cowan &Sandu Florea
 
THE COVER:
 
We come full circle back to a great cover to finish things off after two "okay" covers in the middle of the set.  It's dynamic, it showcases the two title heroes very nicely, and the explosive background highlights everything in a great way.  It's just a well done superhero comic cover all around.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, as Gabe tries to survive the attack on the Vibranium mine, he manages to steal a piece of the rare metal.  In the meantime, Nick Fury and the Howlers fight for their lives against Red Skull and his giant robot.
 
Gabe manages to escape the mine by a secret passage leading to the Wakandan Royal Palace, where he saves Prince T'Chaka by shooting Armless Tiger Man in the head.  Captain America arrives on the scene just a little too late.  He and Gabe decide to team up to find out where the Red Skull is.  In the Vibranium mine, Black Panther easily defeats both Master Man AND Warrior Woman, using some sort of poison on his gauntlets.  
 
Back in the jungle, The Howlers realize their weapons are useless against Red Skull, and they retreat into the German camp, accidentally running into Baron Strucker's tent.  A tense standoff between Fury and Strucker is interrupted by Red Skull bursting back onto the scene.
 
As Gabe, Captain America, and Black Panther fly a plane toward the German camp to assist the Howlers, Gabe is shocked when Black Panther offers him Wakandan citizenship in gratitude for saving his son and conducting himself with honor while a guest of Wakanda.  Gabe tells him he needs to think on it.
 
Arriving at the German base, Cap and Panther find the Howlers in desperate need of aid.  They jump into battle and GIANT ROBOT PUNCHIN' COMMENCES!!  
 
 
 
After defeating Red Skull, Strucker surrenders.  Black Panther lets him and his defeated men go, but with a warning that if another German is even seen near Wakanda, they will join the Allies and Black Panther will personally go to Berlin and kill his way to the top of the command chain.
 
At the end of it all, Gabe declines Panther's offer of citizenship. . .telling him that there's still fighting left to be done in Europe.  On the other hand, he also lies to Nick Fury. . .telling him that he wasn't able to find any information on the Vibranium.  
 
In a short epilogue, we see Nick Fury at a mission debriefing being asked his opinion of Captain America.  Nick was impressed by Cap's fighting ability, but not so much by his unwillingness to help find Wakanda's vibranium.  He suggests that the army train a partner for Cap who is willing to get his hands dirty if the mission calls for it.
 
The End.
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Yep. . .Giant Robot Punching.  Easily one of the most abused tropes in comic books.  One of the main reasons I don't read many mainstream superhero titles.  There's ALWAYS going to be a robot (giant or otherwise) being punched in at least one issue of ANY mainstream superhero comic.  Don't try to prove me wrong.  You can't.
 
Giant Robot Punching aside, this was a slam-bang all action (well, until the end) finale to this story.  I liked that even through all the fight scenes, the writer still managed to slip in bits of the underlying story of Gabe's personal conflict. . .ending with him deciding to just let things stay the way they are.  A cop-out?  It can be seen that way. But I prefer to think of it being a simple man keeping things simple.  If that means maintaining a crappy status quo, then that's what it means.  
 
I have to give credit to the writer for being able to provide a thought-provoking commentary on race inside a story about superheroes punching Ratzis in Africa.  It was unexpected and nicely done.
 
The art actually seemed to improve a bit in this issue.  I chalk it up to the addition of a new inker.  Whatever was the cause, it's unfortunate that it came in the final issue.  A definite case of "Too little, too late" in my humble opinion.  But at least they managed to tame Cowan's sketchy and vague pencils enough to be a noticeable improvement over previous issues.  The muted color palette remains a real weak point, though.  Not much an inker can do about that.
 

Overall, a solid piece of almost non-stop superhero action that takes a little bit of time to reflect on a conflicted soldier caught up in it all.  It's a good finish to the story.  Too bad the art remains disappointing, despite showing a bit of improvement.
 

CONCLUSION

 
There you have it.  Captain America and Black Panther meeting for the first time in the middle of WWII.  For Captain America fans, you get a Cap that's still a little "green", proving himself in battle.  For Black Panther fans, you get a look at a brutal wartime Panther in T'Challa's grandfather.  And then you've got Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos doing what they do best.  Mix them together in an unusual WWII African setting and you have a pretty darn good little superhero war story.
 
The artist wasn't the best choice, and there's a trip down the extremely well-worn comic path of giant robot punching, but that's not enough to keep this story down.  It's enough to knock it down a notch or two, but all in all, I can recommend Flags of Our Fathers to any fan of Captain America, Black Panther, or WWII comics in general.  Give it a try.  It's a pretty good read.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's still EXTREMELY busy at work, so I think I'll hit a few one-shots until things settle down a bit. I've picked up some fantastic Flea Market bargains this past month, so maybe some tasty Retro-Reviews.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed FULL of comic reviews you never asked for!

Before we begin. . .

Sorry my posting schedule has become a bit spotty lately.  As the chief bonehead managing a skeleton crew running a hotel, I'm working various shifts 6 days a week for the time being.  It's a bit chaotic but at least I still have a job, which is more than a lot of people can say these days, so I ain't complaining.

ANYWAY. . .

The past couple months haven't exactly been a party, to say the least.  There's no news but bad news.  Heck, it's gotten to the point that I don't even want to read the paper or watch the news any more.  I've got about 60 rolls of toilet paper in my house, and I don't even know why.

Keeping that in mind, I've decided to try and keep things on the lighter side here at Longbox Junk.  There's not much that I can do about everything going on in the world, but hopefully MY small corner of the internet can be a place to visit and get your mind off of things for at least a few minutes.  I think we can all sort of use a place like that now and then these days.

SO. . .

How about we take a look at a Pulp-Tastic IDW/DC  intercompany crossover adventure featuring a team up between two of my favorite characters of all time. . .The Spirit and The Rocketeer?

It's The Spirit and The Rocketeer! Two of the most fun comic characters ever created.

How can this NOT be good?

LET'S DO IT!

THE ROCKETEER/ THE SPIRIT:

PULP FRICTION

IDW/ DC (2013)

 

ISSUE ONE

 
SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: Paul Smith
COVER: Paul Smith
 
THE COVER:
It's great to see two of my all-time favorite heroes together on a comic cover!  I think the Rocketeer is better done, but then again, I love the design of the Rocketeer in general.  Overall, this is a great cover that shines the spotlight (literally) on both main characters in a big way.
 
THE STORY:
The Year: 1941.  The body of a man is discovered in California, which begins the mystery of how a dead Central City Alderman who had just been seen at a city council meeting on the East Coast ended up 3000 miles away in only eight hours.

Since the victim was a friend of Central City police commissioner Dolan, he recruits resident vigilante detective, The Spirit, to get to the bottom of things.  Dolan's daughter (and Spirit's sorta-girlfriend) Ellen insists on going as well (for some California sun), and Dolan grudgingly agrees to accompany them.

IN THE MEANTIME. . .

We see that the model who discovered the body is Betty, girlfriend of pilot Cliff Secord (AKA The Rocketeer), and that millionaire tycoon Benjamin Trask (on the West Coast) and elusive criminal "The Octopus" (on the East Coast) were behind the mysterious death.

Upon arrival in California, mistaken identity shenanigans ensue as Cliff's friend, Peevy, accidentally overhears the masked stranger (The Spirit) talking about taking care of business and assumes he's there to kill Betty.

Cliff flies to the "Rescue" as The Rocketeer and fights with The Spirit in the sky over the airfield until Peevy and Dolan recognize each other from the war (WWI, that is) and realize that there's been a big mistake.

On the ground, strained introductions are made and Cliff takes The Spirit to talk to Betty. . .who immediately falls for the square-jawed detective, much to the consternation of both Cliff and Ellen.

To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:

This issue is pretty much concerned with setting up the central mystery, bringing the two main characters together, and introducing conflict between the two reluctant allies.  That's a lot to pack into a single issue, but veteran writer Mark Waid handles it all with ease.  The dialogue is snappy and everything moves at a fast pace. . .but not too fast.  Waid definitely keeps a steady hand on the wheel here as he pushes the pieces into their initial places.

Okay, the old "Heroes fight until the realize they're on the same side" crossover hook IS a very well-worn path, but sometimes you just have to go with a "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude.  I've seen it done a lot worse in other comics.  It actually fits the story here instead of feeling forced.

The art here makes a good story even better with sharp, realistic lines and great facial expressions that make even scenes of characters standing around talking interesting to look at.  The action scenes are dynamic and have a great sense of movement.  The backgrounds are sparse, allowing the artist to draw the reader's focus to the detailed characters. The style serves this particular story very nicely.
Overall, a very nice first issue!  It quickly introduces the characters and conflicts in a very readable way. . .despite reliance on the good old "Heroes mistakenly fight each other" crossover hook.  The art style fits the story perfectly. 
 
I would have liked a little more information on The Spirit and The Rocketeer for new readers (but reading ahead I can see that's covered in upcoming issues, so no harm no foul) but other than that very small complaint, I call this one a winner!
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

 
SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: Loston Wallace
COVER: Paul Smith
 
THE COVER:
As big a fan of The Spirit and The Rocketeer that I am, I find this cover to be a bit "Meh".  Once again, it's great to see two of my favorites together on a comic cover, but this one just seems underwhelming.  Not that it's bad.  Just sort of. . .average.  Not really the kind of cover that makes me want to buy a comic.
 
THE STORY:
Now that our heroes are reluctantly working together, they head into the city to see if they can gain any clues from the autopsy of the dead Central City Alderman.

Since morgues are more in Dolan and The Spirit's wheelhouse, Ellen and Cliff find themselves making an unexpected connection while the two detectives meet with the coroner.  Dolan and The Spirit make the incredible discovery that the organs of the dead man are scrambled beyond recognition. . .another mystery!

Meanwhile, back at the airfield, Peevy and Betty discover an image of the dead man burnt into the screen of Peevy's experimental homemade television set. . .adding yet more to the mystery at hand.

Cliff, Dolan, Ellen, and The Spirit rush back to the airfield to check out the new wrinkle in the case.  Shortly after they arrive, the airfield is attacked by two airplanes armed with machine guns!  Cliff jumps into action as The Rocketeer, and The Spirit insists on helping.

After a tense mid-air battle, the attackers are taken down.  Dolan and Peevy interrogate the captured pilots and discover they are working for Millionaire Tycoon Benjamin Trask.  Deciding to follow up on this new clue, the pair of heroes make plans to follow Trask to Central City.

IN THE MEANTIME. . .

While the airfield is being attacked, Betty is auditioning for a producer that is promising to make her the first star of America's newest form of entertainment, television.  It turns out that the producer is none other than the newly-discovered villain, Benjamin Trask.  DUN-DUN-DUN!!

To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
Now that the two heroes are in the same place and on the same side, Mark Waid begins adding layers to the mystery with an issue that is mostly the characters finding and following clues. . .with a nice bit of aerial action thrown in.  The dialogue remains snappy and light, making the story move along at a very nice pace.  We get to see both The Rocketeer and The Spirit doing what they do best. . .The Spirit as a detective and Rocketeer in high-flyin' action, with both characters getting their own moments in the spotlight.  All in all, very nicely done.

We get an artist change in this issue as well.  The style is a little lighter, less realistic and more cartoony than in the first issue, but I think it fits the story even better!  I've never heard of Loston Wallace, but a quick dive into the Wiki-Well tells me that he's mostly known for illustrating "all ages" comics for DC.  I really enjoy his art style a lot and his work here is excellent.  I wish he had more regular comic work on his resume I could keep an eye out for!


Overall, we have a great second issue here.  It adds to the mystery at hand, gives The Spirit and The Rocketeer both time in the spotlight, and features some really enjoyable art.  There's nothing I can possibly complain about here!  This is the kind of comic book that really makes me want to jump right into the next issue.
 
So let's do it!
 
 

ISSUE THREE

 
SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: J Bone
COVER: J Bone
 
THE COVER:
J Bone is an artist I don't really know, but his chunky cartoon style works a lot better on the delightful interior art than it does on this cover.  It's not BAD. . . I love seeing two of my favorite characters together on a comic cover, and it's sort of fun, but there's just something missing. . .
 
THE STORY:
Moving from sunny Hollywood to the cold and snowy streets of Central City, we begin the story inside The Spirit's crypt hideout where he is recounting his origin to The Rocketeer, who is understandably disturbed by hearing such a strange story from a dead man in the middle of a cemetery. . .
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
Betty and Trask have also arrived in Central City, and Betty is put up in a suite at the swankiest hotel in town.  Their arrival has not gone unnoticed by Commissioner Dolan's informants.  The Spirit, Dolan, and The Rocketeer make ready to confront Trask.
 
While the heroes make their plans, the full scope of the villainous plot is finally revealed as Trask meets with Central City Crime Lord, The Octopus in a dockside warehouse.  
 
It seems that Trask and Octopus have been working with a German scientist named Goessel and have discovered a way to use the new technology of television to transmit not only images, but matter!  A secret that Trask demonstrates during a television meeting of various powerful American crime figures by firing a machine gun at them through their television screens!
 
After Trask's demonstration seals an alliance among American organized crime, he returns to the hotel where Betty is staying, along with Goessel and the television/teleportation equipment.  He reveals to Betty that he was merely using her as bait to lure The Spirit and The Rocketeer to him.
 
As the Rocketeer attacks the hotel, Goessel uses the teleportation camera on Betty, teleporting her to the warehouse where The Spirit is attacking The Octopus' gaurds.  Unlike the dead Alderman at the heart of the original mystery, Betty survives the teleportation intact and alive, but her mind is practically blank and leaves her completely open to suggestion.
 
As The Rocketeer battles his way through the streets of Central City in pursuit of Trask, The Octopus' minions subdue and capture The Spirit in the warehouse.  The story ends with Octupus and Goessel preparing to have the mind-controlled Betty kill The Spirit live on television for the viewing pleasure of their new organized crime allies. 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
As we head into the big finish of Pulp Friction, this issue very nicely sets up the final confrontation between our heroes and the villains by revealing the master plan behind everything that's happened so far.  Yeah. . .it's kind of corny when you think too hard about it, but on the other hand, it's also a lot of fun!  
 
Mark Waid channels his inner Golden Age and gives us the kind of story you'd expect if this comic were actually written on the edge of an emerging technology like television.  It's complete fantasy based on speculation and possibility. . .but those kind of stories were common in the years when this comic is supposedly taking place.  A bit of modern suspension of disbelief is needed, but I think Waid pulls off bringing the reader into the Golden Age quite well.
 
All that AND we get a great little retelling of The Spirit's origin story!
 
We also get ANOTHER artist change with this issue.  Like I said in the look at the cover above, I'm not familiar with J Bone (and wasn't really impressed with the cover), but his chunky, exaggerated, darkly-inked art style is a great look for this issue!  I have to confess that I'd rather have seen more of Loston Wallace's work on this, but with J Bone's art and the great sense of movement it has, I can easily imagine this story as an animated feature!  
 
 
Overall, writer Mark Waid very nicely sets things up for the big finish with an action-packed issue that brings the Golden Age of comics onstage in a big way.  Another art change gives us a glimpse of what this would look like as an animated movie.  It looks great, but I wish that they would have stuck with one artist through the whole series.  That very small complaint aside, this issue is a winner in my book, and everything is standing strong heading into the final issue.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 

ISSUE FOUR

 
SCRIPT: Mark Waid
PENCILS: J Bone
COVER: J Bone
 
THE COVER:
This cover by J Bone actually works a lot better than the one he did for the previous issue.  His cartoony animation style art perfectly fits this "Damsels in distress" shot.  The colors give a great contrast to the two leading ladies of the story.
 
THE STORY:
Continuing from last issue, The Spirit manages to break through Betty's mind control and she frees him.  As the Octupus sets his henchmen on Betty and The Spirit, the police and The Rocketeer arrive on the scene in time to win the fight. . .but just a moment too late to prevent The Octopus from escaping.
 
With everyone safely reunited, The Octopus' and Trask's henchmen arrested, and the mystery of the dead Alderman solved, it seems that all that is left is to track down Trask, Goessler and The Octopus in order to bring them to justice.  
 
But as the heroes ponder what their next move will be, they suddenly realize that the plot goes much deeper than they thought as they see on a television screen running at the warehouse that Trask is filming President Roosevelt live on television at the White House!
 
Knowing they have to take action quickly in order to save the President, the heroes use the teleporting equipment at the warehouse to transport Roosevelt to them. . .but they also accidentally teleport a squad of Ratzi (BECAUSE I JUST NOW DISCOVERED THAT CBR'S FILTER WON'T LET ME WRITE N-AZI) soldiers that Trask was teleporting from Europe (in partnership with a Ratzi General) to assassinate Roosevelt.
 
The heroes manage to get President Roosevelt to safety before the fighting begins by strapping The Rocketeer's jet pack on him and shooting him out of the warehouse. . .and then it's Ratzi Punchin' Time!
 
As The Rocketeer and The Spirit take down the Ratzi assassination squad, Trask's Ratzi General ally destroys the teleport connection between Europe and kills Trask by transporting explosives through the television. . .erasing the evidence of the Ratzi plot to assassinate Roosevelt.
 
Later, at the White House, President Roosevelt allows The Rocketeer to keep his jet pack (which IS officially stolen government property) in exchange for keeping the secret of The President's polio, which was discovered by The Rocketeer during the warehouse battle.  The Spirit and Rocketeer say their goodbyes before departing to their respective cities, having earned each others respect and becoming friends and allies during their adventure together.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
And everything wraps up very nicely in an action-packed final issue that takes time at the end to slow down and pay a lot of respect to two of my favorite heroes as the bow on top of the package.  I really couldn't ask for anything more.  The end of this issue just brings a smile to my face.  In these times, that's something that's sort of rare these days.  Mark Waid definitely hit it out of the park with this issue.  No. . .with this whole series!
 
J Bone stays on art for this final issue, and everything good about his chunky animation-style art from the third issue stays good here.  You can almost imagine seeing these panels in motion on a T.V. screen.  I think I'm going to keep my eye out for some more of his work now.
 
Overall, this was a great finish to a great series!  Everything wrapped up nicely and as a big fan of The Spirit and The Rocketeer, the ending made me happy and wanting to see more adventures with them teaming up.  The only complaint I have is that this is probably the only time I get to see these two great heroes in the same comic.  Other than that, I've got nothing bad to say about this.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I have to confess that I cheated a little on this one.  
 
Most of the time when I do a Longbox Junk review, it's either my first time reading a comic or the first time in so long that I don't really remember much about it.  This time out, I picked a series that I ALREADY knew was good and have enjoyed reading several times.

I just didn't have it in me to throw out anything too negative right at this moment.  I'll get back to gritting my teeth through some lousy comics soon enough, just not right now. Fair?
 
ANYWAY. . .

As you can tell from the reviews of the individual issues, I don't have much bad to say about this series:   The Rocketeer didn't get much background information compared to The Spirit, which doesn't matter to a fan such as myself, but might be an oversight when it comes to new readers who might not know these characters.  A couple of the covers are "So-So".  Some people might think the whole "Heroes fight until they realize they're on the same side" crossover setup is a golden oldie that needs to be retired (I thought it worked here better than it usually does).  Some people might think that Ratzis being the ultimate villains is a bit tired (okay. . .maybe they're right).

BUT. . .

Those are small complaints when you take in the overall view of this series:  It has a pretty good story bringing together two great pulp heroes for the first and probably only time.  It showcases some great art.  Most of all. . .it's FUN!  Mark Waid  successfully brings the nonsense of the Golden Age into the Modern Age and it's just a plain old good time!

If you are a fan of pulp adventures or are just looking for some fun comics, then I heartily recommend this series. I bought this one off the rack when it was coming out, but I've seen the issues in back issue bins and it's been collected in both hard and soft cover.  It's also available on Comixology for you high-tech folks out there.

Up Next. . .

I'm not really sure.
I've been digging through my daughter's comics for some Marvel-Style fun.
Right now, I'm reading a pretty good Spider-Man/ Human Torch five-issue mini that might be just what Longbox Junk needs to stay on the light side of comics next time out.  Until then. . .

Be there or be square!

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Retro Review - Cloak and Dagger

3996 views • Feb 5, '19 • (2) Comments

Welcome to another "Retro Review" edition of Longbox Junk!  

Once again, I step outside of my usual bargain bin finds to take a closer look at a comic from my collection that might be considered more "valuable" than most of what I own and give the internet a classic comic review that NOBODY ever asked me for.

This time out, I think I've really outdone myself on the "Review that nobody ever asked me for" front, in that I believe that this will be the only review of this comic that has EVER been done. . .and I'll take a safe bet that there probably won't be another one. 

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Longbox Junk - Mother Russia

7011 views • Nov 29, '17 • (0) Comments

Except for The Walking Dead, I'm not really a fan of black and white comics at all, but when I saw these three issues sitting on the shelf at my local comic shop for the measly cost of $1.50 each, I HAD to get them.  $4.50 for 3 new comics?  Heck, son. . . the first issue of Doomsday Clock costs $4.99 by ITSELF. 

So I bought these comics based on cover price and gave them nothing more than a quick flip through, enough to see there were Nazis and Zombies.  Other than that, I was coming in cold.  So did I get my $4.50 worth? Read on!

MOTHER RUSSIA

Alterna Comics (2017)

Script, Art & Cover by Jeff McComsey

ISSUE ONE - NO BETTER FRIEND

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