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

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!
 
As I continue into the second part of my King Conan series review, I feel I should acknowledge the several readers who sent me gently chiding messages regarding the massive heft of the first part.  And I understand. . .my little counter in the corner tells me it clocked in at very close to 4000 words!
 
I was trying to keep it slim, but the fact is, these double-sized issues PACKED with story make it a bit difficult.  What I wrote was only a bare-bones sketch of what's there!  The length of the reviews should serve to illustrate just how much there is to be found in those issues.  
 
I mean. . .SURELY it's not that I just get long-winded sometimes and I no longer have an editor to rein me in.  Nope.  Not that at all!
 
Seriously, though.  Thanks for the feedback.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Here we are at Part 2.  Issues 6-10.  
 
I'm going to TRY to keep things trimmed down a bit. Probably not by much, but I'll try.  
So enough introduction and let's get to it!
 

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART TWO: Issues 6-10

 
ISSUE SIX 
(June 1981)
 
 
COVER: Walter Simonson
 
VENGEANCE FROM THE DESERT!
 
SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
Trocero continues to tell a tale of Conan's early days as King to his son, Conn.
 
As King Conan travels through the desert on his way to Khitai to rescue his kidnapped Queen Zenobia, he saves a Zuagir nomad from his Turanian captors.  He learns that an old friend of his, now a Zuagir chieftan, has been captured by the Turanians and is being held in a nearby city.  
 
Conan (formerly a Zuagir chieftan himself) gathers the tribes and makes plans to sack the city, entering it disguised as a merchant caravan.  
 
 
After successfully infiltrating the city and gaining knowledge of the layout ahead of his Zuagir horde, Conan signals the attack!  As the Zuagirs pillage the city, Conan fights his way to the Governor's palace.  
 
There, he is astounded to find the girl who led him into ambush in the city of Khanyria (in issue #5), but now dressed as a noblewoman.  After killing the Governor, and while the city's defenses collapse under the Zuagir attack, Conan demands answers from the woman, called Thanara.
 
While they speak, Thanara poisons Conan, putting him into a deep sleep.  With the aid of a Turanian Captain, Zanara manages to get Conan past the rampaging Zuagirs and out of the city to the Turanian capital of Aghrapur. . .where Conan wakes up several days later in the dungeon of King Yezdigerd!
 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
The second batch of issues in this series review gets off to a fine start, with Conan temporarily setting aside his journey to Khitai and returning to his days as the leader of a ravaging horde of desert nomads.  There's plenty of action and intrigue here from writer Roy Thomas, who continues to provide rock solid Conan adventure.  
 
BUT. . .
 
There IS a problem with the art in this issue.  Especially when compared to the outright brilliance of the previous one. John Buscema's line work is fine, but there's something wrong with the printing in general.  The colors are garish (it's the same colorist that's been on since the beginning, so no team change), the overall tone is way too bright, and the text is simply unreadable in places, it's so blurry.  
 
The whole comic just seems too bright and a little off-putting.  Just look at the scans above to see what I'm talking about, especially the first one, where Conan's face is bright red for some reason.  I'm not sure what went wrong, but it goes on for a couple more issues before it's corrected.  It makes this and the next couple of issues a bit harder to visually enjoy. . .a shame, because the story itself is pretty epic.
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE SEVEN
 (September 1981)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
A CLASH OF KINGS!

 
SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
Continuing Count Trocero's telling a tale of Conan's early days as King to Prince Conn as they return to Aquilonia after defeating Thoth-Amon. . .
 
Conan finds himself in the dungeons of his old foe, Yezdigerd, King of Turan, after being poisoned by Thanara in the last issue.  He is brought before the old King for the first time in 30 years, and sees Thanara at his side.  
 
After being sentenced to be tortured, Conan breaks free and attacks the King, but is quickly overwhelmed by the King's guards until an unexpected ally joins the fight. . .Rolf of Aesgard, an old companion of Conan who happens to be in Turan at the time.  The pair fight their way from the throne room, but their only escape from the castle is to dive into the sea!
 
 
Conan and Rolf steal a boat and set out on the inland Vilayet sea, where they encounter a pirate ship of the Red Brotherhood, which Conan once led when younger.  Conan takes command of the pirates after winning a duel with their Captain.  
 
Knowing that Yezdigerd is still pursuing him, Conan decides to set a trap.  He lures Yezdigerd's ship onto hidden rocks, and then attacks, killing the King during the battle! The same creature that kidnapped Zenobia flies in to rescue Thanara.  Conan leaves the pirates in the command of Rolf and continues his journey east. . .
 
 
Weeks later, we find Conan in the eastern country of Vendhya, on the border of Khitai.  A mysterious messenger leads Conan into the royal palace, where he is reuinited with an old flame from his days as the chieftan of a nearby tribe of hill people. . .Devi Yasmina, now a Princess upon a troubled throne.  
 
Later that night, Conan and Yasmina are attacked by her cousin and a band of assassins.  He is intent on stealing her throne.  Conan kills Yasmina's cousin and she offers him her kingdom and her hand in marriage.  Conan refuses and sets out once again for Khitai.
 

To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Roy Thomas packs so much great Conan adventure into this issue that it really feels like there's TWO stories here. . .Conan's escape from Turan and his adventure with the pirates to end Yezdigerd's pursuit AND Conan reuiniting with an old flame and helping protect her rule from her cousin's plots in Venhya!  
 
I really wasn't counting on so much story being in these issues when I decided to review the run.  It's making it hard to keep things trimmed down.   I'll say one thing. . .these comics were a little expensive by 80s standards, but Roy Thomas made SURE they were worth every extra penny.
 
On the art side of things.  Once again, John Buscema's line work is just as great as it ever was, but the strange look of the previous issue continues just as badly into this one.  The whole thing just looks washed-out and too bright, with garish colors in some places, really weak color in others, and blurry text on a few pages that can hardly be read.  
 
Overall, this is a great Conan story.  Too bad it's a little hard on the eyes.
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE EIGHT
 (December 1981)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
A QUEEN RECLAIMED!
 
 
SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
Count Trocero finally finishes telling young Prince Conn a tale of Conan's early days as King of Aquilonia. . .AND we arrive at the epic conclusion of this four-issue story arc!
 
As Conan crosses the treacherous Himelian Mountains on the final leg of his journey to Khitai, he is ambushed by a savage snow beast.  Conan barely manages to survive the battle, thanks to the power of the Ring of Rakhamon (Given to him in issue #5).
 
On the other side of the mountains, Conan is finally in Khitai.  After crossing the great defensive wall, he travels through the bamboo jungles near Paikang.  He encounters a beautiful woman being staked out for sacrifice.  After killing the soldiers guarding her, Conan is attacked by a gigantic lizard beast!
 
Using his wits and barbarian cunning, Conan manages to destroy the monster, and then travels with the woman to her village.
 
 
In the village, Conan learns that he matches the description of a prophecy that has been made about the downfall of Khitai's despotic leader. . .the sorcerer Yah Chieng!  Convinced Conan is the foreign Avenger spoken of in prophecy, the surrounding villages gather their few fighting men to join Conan.
 
The plan is to secretly infiltrate the fortress of Paikang during a large festival when the gates are opened to the public.  As Conan's allies spread through the crowd, Conan makes his way to the palace dungeons, where he has learned a band of western mercenaries are being held.  He is surprised to find an old friend, Lyco of Khorshemish, among them.  He puts Lyco in charge of the freed mercenaries and tells them to await the signal to attack.  
 
Conan then delves deeper into the palace dungeons, where he defeats several traps using the magic powers of the Ring of Rakhamon.  Finally, he discovers the chamber where his Queen Zenobia is being held and prepared for a dark ritual sacrifice by none other than Yah Chieng!
 
 
Conan leaps to battle his foe, but even with the Ring of Rakhamon, he is no match for Yah Chieng's dark sorcery and King Conan is defeated!  BUT. . .Conan finds himself standing before the throne of Crom himself!  The of the Cimmerians returns Conan to life and imbues him with the mighty power needed to defeat Yah Chieng and free Zenobia.
 
 
And so ends Trocero's tale told to Prince Conn.  Conan has been listening the whole time, satisfied that his son has heard the truth.  Conn swears to live up to Conan's mighty heritage and all's well that ends well.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Once again, Roy Thomas provides an issue absolutely PACKED with story.  The description above is about as bare-bones as it can get!  This story has it all. . .action, adventure, sorcery, even Crom himself!  It's a truly epic end to this sprawling tale of Conan's journey to the far off land of Khitai, and these four issues are probably worth reading this series for alone!
 
BUT. . .
 
Unfortunately, the problems with the art. . .no, not the ART.  John Buscema's pencils are every bit as epic as the story they illustrate.  The problem is with the printing, for some reason.  Like the previous two issues, there are places with garish colors, places with almost no color, and very blurry text here and there.  The whole issue looks too bright and washed out.  
 
It's not QUITE as bad as the other two issues with this problem.  It looks like maybe they noticed and were trying to correct, so it's a noticeable improvement but it's still bad enough to be the only real disappointment I have with this story.
 
Overall, a great conclusion to Conan's epic four-issue quest.  It's too bad the printing issues in three of the four take the whole thing down a notch or two.  The GOOD news is that the printing problems seem to have been taken care of in the next issue, so let's check it out!
 
ISSUE NINE
(March 1982)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
BONES OF THE BROWN MAN

 
SCRIPT:  Doug Moench
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
King Conan brings his son, Prince Conn, along with him on a trip to the borderlands of Aquilonia and across the River Styx to parley with a Pictish Chieftan called Dekanawatha Blood-Ax.  Conan intends for his son to observe diplomacy in action.
 
Conan and company find Blood-Ax to be an agreeable negotiator and an agreement is made regarding Pictish hunting parties crossing the Aquilonian border.  They spend the night with the Picts, planning to observe the manhood ritual of Blood-Ax's son, Akenak, the next day before leaving.
 
The next day, Blood-Ax's Shaman, Goronda Zek, informs those gathered that Akenak's trial of manhood involves finding and bringing back three prizes: The wings of an eagle, the horns of a sacred white stag, and two bones of an ancestor.  Prince Conn is determined to prove to Conan that he is also a man, and he insists on taking the trial of manhood in competition with Akenak.  Conan and Blood-Ax agree.
 
 
The two youths rush into the wilderness in search of the first prize, the wings of an eagle.  Prince Conn finds an eagle first, but  Akenak manages to claim victory.  As the two competitors begin to track the sacred white stag, we learn that there is a plot afoot to steal leadership of the Picts from Blood-Ax, with the shaman Goronda Zek as the leader.  
 
The trial of manhood is but a ruse, and the three prizes are actually powerful totems for Zek to work his dark magic with!  In the meantime, Prince Conn has successfully tracked and killed the sacred white stag and claimed the second prize.  With the contest tied, they both rush for the river grotto where the bones of the Picts are laid to rest in order to claim the final prize.
 
 
At the grotto, Akenak claims the third prize, but only with Prince Conn's help.  The two youths are taken prisoner by Goronda Zek and his conspirators.  Zek uses the three prizes to work an evil spell, bringing a long-dead river spirit to life in order to kill Conan and Blood-Ax!
 
Conn manages to leave a message for his father with Akenak providing a distraction.  Upon discovering the message, Conan and Blood-Ax set forth to rescue their sons. . .but find themselves falling into a trap!  
 
The two warriors find themselves in battle against a gigantic creature calling itself The Brown Man.  Conan and Blood-Ax discover their weapons do little against the magical giant, but they manage to use their wits and bring the battle to a draw.  Conan negotiates with Brown Man and convinces him to attack the camp of Goronda Zek and his warriors instead.  Brown Man agrees.
 
 
After the Brown Man deals with Zek's warriors, Conan and Blood-Ax confront and kill the traitor Shaman and rescue their sons as the Brown Man returns to the river, greatly wounded from the battle.  At the end of it all, Conan and Blood-Ax ask their sons who won the contest, but they both agree that the other one did, and so both are granted manhood.  All's well that ends well.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
With this issue, comic legend Doug Moench takes over as regular writer of this series until issue #16.  All in all, he does a great job stepping into Roy Thomas' big Conan shoes with this standalone tale.  When I think of Conan I DO think of Thomas, but Moench brings a little something different to the table. . .a more introspective story about what it means to be a man.  
 
Yeah, there's a giant monster too, but Brown Man is only in the last 8 pages.  I liked that most of this story focused on Prince Conn trying to prove something to his father and realizing that it doesn't even matter in the end.  It's just a really good one-shot Conan story with some interesting thoughts weaved into the plot.  It's actually one of the best issues of this series so far!
 
On the art side, as you can see from the page scans above, whatever was going on with the printing has been corrected and the definitive Buscema/Chan Conan art team is really shining again!  It's just page after page of magnificient Bronze Age art that invites the eye to linger.  
 
So, Doug Moench steps up to the task of writing Conan after the great Roy Thomas and does quite well.  The art is also back to being great.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes from here!
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE TEN
(May 1982)
 
 
COVER: Ernie Chan
 
THE FANG OF SET
 
SCRIPT:  Doug Moench
PENCILS: Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
With Queen Zenobia away from the capital city representing Aquilonia at a royal wedding, and Prince Conn away for a month training with the elite Aquilonian Iron Legion, Conan chafes at the boring day to day life of a King and jumps at the chance to leave the palace when an old man petitions the King for help.  His daughter has been abducted by followers of the Serpent , Set.  They plan on sacrificing her at the mysterious "Plateau of Mist" on the border of the Kingdom. 
 
Of course, Conan is unaware he is riding into a trap laid for him by conspirators against his throne.
 
 
Upon arrival at the hidden plateau, Conan and company climb to the top, where they are amazed to discover a sort of lost world on top. . .a misty jungle, heated by volcanic vents.  It's populated by giant living dinosaurs, survivors from a long past age.  
 
After Conan and his men fight their way through the jungle, they finally come upon the altar of Set, with the old man's daughter, Darweena, chained for living sacrifice to a gigantic dinosaur called The Father of Set!
 
Conan leaps to the attack! After losing his sword, he finally manages to defeat the huge creature using one of its own teeth as a spear.  The girl is rescued and what's left of Conan's party returns to the capital city. Conan's adventure is over with. . .or so he thinks!
 
 
Upon their return to the capital city of Tarantina, King Conan finds that there has been a rebel uprising in his absence.  It has been put down, but Conan is disturbed by how things seem to always fall apart when Queen Zenobia is away.  In the meantime, the conspiracy to draw King Conan away from the city and kill him has failed, but the conspirators remain, and they shift their plans in another direction.
 
The old man whose daughter Conan rescued has carved a fine statue and necklace for King Conan out of the tooth that he used to slay the Father of Set.  That night, a foul sorcery is worked on Conan's palace. . .the old man is actually the sorcerer Mimus, a follower of Set! 
 
As a deadly mist engulfs Conan's guards, the King is warned of the attack by Darweena, the sorcerer's daughter, who has decided to aid Conan after he saved her life.  Conan confronts the sorcerer, but he uses the carved tooth to raise the Father of Set from the dead in Conan's own throne room!
 
 
With Darweena's help, Conan manages to turn the giant beast against Mimus, and then kill the creature by collapsing the pillars of the throne room onto it. . .ending the spell and dissolving the deadly mist.  
 
The next day Queen Zenobia returns and is hardly surprised to find the city and palace in chaos and disarray after leaving her husband in charge of things alone for a few days.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Doug Moench settles into writing King Conan with another great little one shot story packed full of action, sorcery, and adventure.  It's not as introspective as the one in issue #9, but it definitely has some interesting character moments from Conan realizing that he may be King, but Zenobia is the one who REALLY holds the Kingdom together.  I love Roy Thomas writing Conan, but Doug Moench is doing a fine job of it so far.
 
Ernie Chan does both pencils AND inks in this issue and it looks great!  It's definitely a different style than what's come before. . .it's a much darker and bolder look than Chan's inks over Buscema's finer pencils, and it really packs a savage punch! To ME John Buscema IS Conan art. . .but you know what?  I didn't miss his pencils a single bit reading this issue.  Ernie Chan does a fantastic job from cover to cover!
 
Overall, this was a really enjoyable issue.  I like that the series has moved away from continued storylines and into one shot King Conan tales.  Not that I didn't like the extended stories.  I just like to be able to read a whole story in one big issue, and the double size of King Conan issues is a perfect platform for exactly for that.
 

CONCLUSION

 
So there you have it.  Issues 6-10 of King Conan.  In this batch, the series moves away from extended storylines in favor of one shot stories. . .and in MY book, that's a good thing.  The oversized double issues are perfect for big, chunky standalone tales. 
 
 Each one of these issues is packed SO full of story that it makes me wonder if maybe I might have done the series a bit of a disservice in reviewing them in batches when each individual issue deserves a full review!  But here we are, and so we go on!  Just know once again that there's quite a bit being left out in the bare bones reviews of these issues.  
 
These comics cost about twice as much as most comics on the stands in the early 80s and brother, they are worth every extra penny!  I'm still trying to figure out WHY not much has been said about this series, and why there's so little information on it.  I'm wondering if maybe that higher price point might have had something to do with it, because it's certainly not the quality of the stories or art, which are both top-notch late Bronze Age work.
 
Overall, despite some sort of strange printing problems on issues 6-8, every single one of these issues are a great read for any Conan comic fan.  They are huge stories packed with great art. . .the sort of comic books that you want to take a little extra time to enjoy.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next batch has in store!
 
Up Next. . .
 
King Conan Part Three!  Issues 11-15.
The art team begins to swing in the wind a bit with the next batch, with several artists coming and going.  Can King Conan continue to stay on the rails and keep up the excellence I've seen so far?
 
Let's find out! 
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place where I write comic book reviews even though nobody asked me to!  To be fair, nobody has asked me to STOP writing them yet, so there's that.

 
ANYWAY. . .
 
It's been a while since I tackled a whole series.  At one time, writing reviews of an entire comic series from issue one to issue done was the bread and butter of Longbox Junk.  Unfortunately, my free time at work (where I write these) tends to fluctuate in a big way. . .especially in summer. . .and Longbox Junk sort of gravitated toward single issue reviews with some mini-series thrown in here and there.
 
BUT. . .
 
Here we are. . .getting ready to jump into the 19 issues of Marvel's 1980 - 1983 run of King Conan.  By my former standards, it's not a long series.  I mean, I reviewed all SEVENTY issues of DC's Pre-New52 Jonah Hex run, right?  But for getting back into series reviews a little bit, 19 issues feels okay to start with.
 
The series at hand came out when Conan hit what was probably his comic book high with Marvel holding the license.  They had this title, Savage Sword of Conan, and the tentpole Conan the Barbarian series all on the stands at the same time (not to mention a Conan newspaper strip).  
 
There's a lot written on the other series, but not much about King Conan.  I'm not sure WHY, but there's almost nothing about this comic series on the internet beyond the most basic information about publishing dates and creative team credits.  Maybe because it came out in the 80s? I don't know.
 
Which is why I'm reviewing it.
King Conan.  Let's do this!

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART ONE: Issues 1-5
 
ISSUE ONE
(March 1980)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE WITCH OF THE MISTS
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
While on a hunting trip, King Conan of Aquilonia's first-born son and heir, Prince Conn, is taken captive by a mysterious old woman.  While searching for his son, Conan discovers a message telling him to follow the sign of the white hand to the northern land of Hyperborea if he wants Prince Conn returned alive.  And so Conan sets forth alone.
 
 
After fighting his way through dangerous marshes on the road to Hyperborea, Conan is led to a dark fortress, where he is reunited with his son.  The captive King and Prince soon discover the hand behind the plot to be none other than a foe from Conan's past, the sorcerer Thoth-Amon!  
 
Now at the head of a powerful group of wizards called The Black Circle, the capture of King Conan is part of a plan to ruin the Western Kingdoms.  Conan and Conn are led before Thoth-Amon and other leaders of the Black Circle, where Conan is forced to fight their fanatic followers for their amusement.
 

 
 
During the fight, Conan manages to escape and wreak havoc on the gathered sorcerers, killing them all except Thoth-Amon, who manages to escape just before Conan's right hand man, Prospero, and a band of the King's Guard arrive.
 
Conan has rescued his son and eliminated a threat on his northern border, but he has been made aware of the bigger threat of Thoth-Amon and his Black Circle.  What will they do next?
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
THIS is how you start a comic series!  This first issue kicks in the door with action, adventure, and intrigue.  It's everything a Conan fan could possibly want in a comic!
 
The definitive Marvel Conan team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema start this series off in grand style with a story that is engaging to read and wonderful to look at from the first page to the last!  
 
There is absolutely NOTHING I don't like about this issue.  It's pure Conan fun, and it makes me want to get right into the next issue.  What a great start!
 
 
ISSUE TWO
(June 1980)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE BLACK SPHINX OF NEBTHU
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
After a failed attack on an Aquilonian border kingdom, King Conan suspects sorcery at hand.  He enlists the aid of a druid and sets forth with an army to the ruins of Nebthu, in Stygia.  He has learned from the druid that his enemy, Thoth-Amon was behind the failed attack and has his lair with the magicians of his Black Ring at Nebthu.
 
 
Arriving at the ruins of Nebthu and joined by his son, Conn, Conan discovers a secret door in a gigantic statue of a black jackal.  Conan and his company enter a twisted maze of tunnels beneath the ruins, eventually coming to a large arena, where Thoth-Amon and his black magicians finally spring their trap!
 
But Conan has brought his own magician. . .the druid.  And so, a battle between white magic and black ensues in the darkness while Stygian troops attack Conan's encamped men by surprise above!  Conan sways the sorcerous battle to his side when he reveals that he has brought the Heart of Ahriman. . .a powerful talisman that Thoth-Amon covets.
 
 
 
With his black wizards destroyed by the combined power of the druid's magic and the talisman, Thoth-Amon makes a hasty escape, but not before summoning a gigantic jackal monster!  
 
As Conan and company flee the huge beast and make their way to the surface, the monster attacks indiscriminately, mowing through the Stygian troops before returning to its hidden underground lair.
 
Despite taking heavy losses, Conan is determined to pursue Thoth-Amon and bring an end to his plots once and for all.  And so, Conan sets for with his son and the remains of his army for the mysterious southeastern land of Zembabwei, following the directions of the druid, who takes his leave of Conan.
 
To be Continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Thomas, Buscema, and Chan keep up the momentum of the first issue with a second that actually gives the reader even MORE action, adventure, and intrigue, backed up with incredible Bronze Age artwork!  This issue had me hooked even harder than the first, right from the opening page! 
 
So far, the two opening issues of this series have delivered everything I could ever want in a great Conan adventure, and it makes me want to get right into the next issue. . .so let's do it!
 
ISSUE THREE
(September 1980)
COVER: John Buscema 
 
RED MOON OF ZEMBABWEI!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Danny Bulanadi
 
As they continue their pursuit of Thoth-Amon into the mysterious southlands, King Conan and his Aquilonian troops are taken by surprise during a night attack by flying lizard like creatures and their human riders!
 
During the attack, Conan and his son, Conn are taken prisoner and flown to the mysterious city of Zembabwei.  There they are taken before Thoth-Amon and his ally, the savage wizard-king,  Nenaunir.  Conan and Conn are sentenced to die. . .sacrificed to the snake , Damballah (the same serpent worshipped by Thoth-Amon as Set) during the Red Moon twelve nights hence!
 
 
While imprisoned in the dungeons beneath Zimbabwei, Conan makes friends with a prisoner in another cell named Mbega.  Mbega is the twin brother of Nenaunir, and has been imprisoned for attempting to revolt against his brother's iron-fisted rule.  
 
In the meantime, Conan's troop arrives at Zimbabwei after ten days.  Conan's friends Trocero and Pallantides despair at the heavily fortified city but hatch a plan to secretly infiltrate the fortress by way of the sewers using the rogue's skills of Murzio of Zingara. . .another of Conan's companions travelling with them.
 
On the eve of Conan and Conn's sacrifice, Murzio manages to find their cell in the dungeon, but is unable to unlock it.  Conan has the thief free Mbega instead, hoping that the King's brother can raise the population of the city against its hated ruler.
 
 
Conan and Conn are brought before Thoth-Amon, King Nenaunir, and the gathered priests of Zembabwei at the altar of the serpent Damballah.  As the moon turns blood red and the priests chant, Conan struggles to free himself and his son as the spirit of Damballah forms and begins to squeeze the life out of Conan!
 
While Conan struggles for his life against the serpent 's avatar, Conn manages to strike down King Nenaunir, ending the summoning spell and saving his father!  At the same time, Mbega and his partisans rush the altar and a fight ensues, with Conan's Aquilonian forces arriving to turn the tide of battle in favor of Mbega as Thoth-Amon once again flees.
 
In the end, Mbega takes control of Zembabwei.  Conan and his company of Aquilonians leave the city and head further south in dogged pursuit of Thoth-Amon, determined to end him once and for all!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Although this was another very enjoyable issue, it repeats a lot of elements from the first issue. . .Conan and his son taken prisoner by Thoth-Amon, with a desperate battle to escape breaking out and Conan's Aquilonian companions rushing in at the last moment to save the day, only for Thoth-Amon to escape in the confusion.   
 
Roy Thomas writes the story in an engaging way, with his usual fantastic turns of phrase, but hopefully he isn't already starting to fall into a story rut on only the THIRD issue!
 
The series also changes inker on this issue.  He has a different style than Ernie Chan that knocks the art down half a notch.  It's still really good. I mean, it's John Buscema's pencils.  Of course it's going to be good.  How could it not be?  But Ernie Chan's inks are just SO complimentary to Buscema's work that any change just sort of hits the eye wrong.  The art isn't bad by any means, I just prefer Chan's inks.
 
All in all, this was another good issue.  I'm just a bit concerned by what looks like a story rut starting to form.  Let's see what the next issue holds!
 
ISSUE FOUR
(December 1980)
COVER: John Buscema 
 
SHADOWS IN THE SKULL!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Danny Bulanadi
 
Still in pursuit of Thoth-Amon, King Conan is directed by a wizard to travel further into the southern jungles, and then east, to the Land of No Return at the very edge of the known world, where the serpent folk of old ruled long before the coming of men.
 
And so, Conan sets forth with a host of King Mbega's (from last issue) best men, as well as a group of Amazon warrior-women led by Nzinga. . .the daughter of an old acquaintance of Conan from his younger days.  
 
Conan leads the expedition from the air alongside his son and Mbega's best scouts, riding the serpent-like wyverns used to capture them in the previous issue.
 
After many days of travel, Conan's expedition finally comes in sight of landmarks given to them by the wizard in Zembabwei. . .a huge waterfall and a cliff face in the shape of a skull.  But as the King and his wyvern-riders investigate, a mysterious weakness befalls them and their flying mounts tumble to the ground!
 
In a hidden valley below, Conan and company discover an ornate palace.  They are greeted by a mysterious band of women from the palace and the cave city beyond called Yanyoga.  Conan decides to take them up on their offer of hospitality. . .
 
 
As Conan and Mbega's scouts fall under some sort of spell during the following days of drinking and wanton vice, only Conan's son, Conn is able to keep a somewhat clear head.  As one of the beautiful women attempts to seduce the young prince, he sees her reflection and is horrified to learn that the women are actually serpent-folk in disguise!
 
Mbega's warriors on foot, as well as Nzinga's Amazons arrive in time to help young Conn fight his way through the palace.  Thoth-Amon is spotted with the serpent queen and Conan's friend Trocero presses the attack on their long-sought quarry, though King Conan is nowhere to be seen. The wizard disappears from sight, escaping once again!  
 
 
King Conan wakes on a mysterious shore and finds himself in the company of his foe, Thoth-Amon!
The wizard gloats and taunts Conan, who attacks him.  But as he touches the wizard, Conan finds himself transported to a strange realm where the two enemies battle as spirits!
 
Conan fights well, but finds himself on the losing side of the spirit battle, but unknown to Thoth-Amon, Conan's son has managed to follow the two through Thoth-Amon's portal.  And with an enchanted knife given to him in Zembabwei, Conn kills Thoth-Amon and ends the fight on the spirit plane, dragging both Thoth-Amon and his father back to the real world, where Thoth-Amon dies and crumbles to dust!
 
 
In the end, Conan takes Thoth-Amon's ring of power and throws it into the sea before heading back to the lair of the serpent-folk alongside his son to help his allies finish off the savage creatures, satisfied that Conn is becoming a warrior worthy of being his heir.
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then, there it is.  The big extra-sized finish to the four-issue "Chasing Thoth-Amon" opening story arc.  All in all, a fine ending indeed!  Yeah, there's still some concern that the series is falling into a "Conan gets captured every issue" story rut, but then again, Roy Thomas is able to make even the weakest story sing with his outstanding writing.  The framework may be flimsy, but Thomas makes the "final" battle between Conan and Thoth-Amon an epic adventure!
 
On the art side of things, John Buscema provides visuals every bit as epic as Thomas' writing. . .which comes as no surprise to me or anyone else who is a fan of Buscema's work.  What IS a bit surprising is that Danny Bulanadi seems to have course-corrected his inks a bit to be more complimentary to Buscema's pencils.  I still prefer Ernie Chan's inks on Conan, but Bulanadi makes an admirable effort to step into Chan's shoes.
 
Overall, an epic end to the first story arc, with writing that drips with adventure and art that takes the reader to another world for a while.  What more could a Conan fan want? Let's get into the next issue and see if this creative team can keep up the great work!
 
ISSUE FIVE
(March 1981)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE RING OF RAKHAMON!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Danny Bulanadi (Ernie Chan?)
 
As a weary King Conan and his Aquilonian troops make the long journey back home after almost a year away in pursuit of Thoth-Amon, Prince Conn asks Count Trocero for a tale of his father's early days as King to pass the time. 
 
The rest of this tale is told as a flashback to before Conn was born. . .
 
It was the night of a great feast in the Aquilonian capital of Tarantia.  But the festivities are interrupted by the kidnapping of Queen Zenobia by a mysterious flying creature!  King Conan declares that he will no longer be King of Aquilonia until he has retrieved his queen and had his vengeance.  
 
And so, leaving the kingdom and its armies in the hands of his most loyal advisers, Trocero and Prospero, Conan sets forth alone to the desert city of Khanyria, seeking a wizard of old acquantance, Pelias of Koth, intending to search for clues using his magic powers.
 
Unknown to Conan, a court spy has learned of Conan's destination and that he's travelling alone.  The information is given to a rebellious noble supporter of Aquilonia's former King and a trap is set!
 
 
Several days ride later, Conan arrives in Khanyria.  Almost immediately upon entering the city, he is lured to an ambush in a tavern.  Conan manages to defeat seven men after a brutal battle, but is astonished to find that he recognizes several of them from previous adventures.  He is determined to find out who brought together such a motley crew and why. . .but AFTER he finds Zenobia.
 
In the yellow stone tower of the wizard Pelias of Koth, Conan is greeted as an old friend and Pelias agrees to help him find who kidnapped Zenobia.  Using a magical mirror, Pelias summons a vision of another wizard. . .one who is aware he is being watched!  Conan saves them both by breaking the magic mirror, then demands answers.
 
 
A shaken Pelias tells Conan that the plot goes far beyond a mere kidnapping.  Since he has become King of Aquilonia, Conan has disrupted or delayed many plots and plans for conquest of the Hyborian lands without even knowing it.  The powerful wizard in the mirror is Yah Chieng, who dwells in the far away land of Khitai.  He is behind the kidnapping of Zenobia as a means to lure Conan away from Aquilonia and destroy him.
 
Conan refuses to abandon his vengeance despite knowing he's walking into a trap.  To aid him against the powerful magic of Yah Chieng, Pelias gives Conan a legendary magical ring in his possession. . .the Ring of Rakhamon!  But before he can use the power of the ring, Conan must pass the ring's test.
 
And so, Conan is pulled into a strange world of spirits and finds himself in mortal combat against a powerful creature.  A desperate battle follows, but Conan finally prevails through sheer strength of will, and the Ring of Rakhamon submits to him.
 
 
Now armed with knowledge of who was behind Zenobia's kidnapping, magical aid, and a destination, Conan sets forth with the rising sun for the mysterious and distant land of Khitai!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Usually when it comes to reviews of full comic series, I run into diminishing returns the further I get into it.  Normally by issue five or six (if even THAT long) I start seeing a decline or a plateau.  But not here!
 
Not only does this series continue to maintain a high level of quality, but the fifth issue is the best so far!  It's a pretty rare thing to see a series actually IMPROVE in later issues, but King Conan's fantastic creative team pulls it off with style.
 
Roy Thomas continues to grab and pull me into Conan's savage world with page after page of superbly-written adventure and intrigue.  John Buscema brings Thomas' words to life with fantastic imagery that's simply a feast for the eyes from the first page to the last.  THIS is what a great Conan comic is all about! THIS, right here. This issue has everything a Conan fan could want.  I can't wait to see what happens next!
 
A note about the art in this issue before I finish here.  Danny Bulanadi is credited on the masthead as inker here, and I was pretty amazed at the way he continued to successfully step up and try to match the unmatchable Ernie Chan.  Bulandi is also credited on the Grand Comics Database (GCD)  and elsewhere the stats for this comic are listed as the inker as well.  BUT. . .in the letter column for issue #7 there's an indication that the inks are actually done by Ernie Chan.  
 
With the lack of information about this series beyond raw creative team credits out there, I have a suspicion after comparing this issue to earlier ones that Chan actually did most of the inks (if not all), and that the information online isn't accurate and is based on an error Marvel made in the credits for the original issue back in 1981 and has just been copied from place to place online without actually checking.  
 
Does anyone care?  Probably not.  But I like to think that Longbox Junk reviews add to the general body of comic knowledge as regards comics not many (if ANY) reviews have been done of, so there's that. 
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Let's wrap up this first part now.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I think you can probably tell from the individual reviews above that I had a lot of fun reading these first five issues of King Conan.  Roy Thomas and John Buscema are a hard creative team to beat when it comes to Conan.  I'm not even sure if they CAN be beaten!
 
I've already spent quite a bit of time above singing the praises of Thomas and Buscema's work on this series so far, but I was trying to keep the reviews sort of short so this didn't turn into a total scroll bomb (not sure how well I suceeded, but it's the thought that counts, I guess).  So in this wrap up, I'll touch on a few things I really liked about this series so far that I didn't mention above.
 
First, I love the HEFT of these issues!  They're double-sized and that extra page space gives these stories room to breath and be epic.  These are comics that are simply packed with awesome Conan adventure.  The reviews above are REALLY condensed sketches of what is actually in the pages.  There's so much story in each issue that it would probably take a YEAR in modern comics to cover each one of them.  
 
The second thing I loved about these issues that I didn't touch on above is that each one of these (except the last one) comics can be read on their own as an individual awesome Conan story without reading the others.  They're all tied together, but they can also be enjoyed separately.  This is probably because this series was published quarterly, with just four issues coming out per year.  So if you do spot one of these in the bargain bin, don't worry too much about not knowing what happened before or after.  The whole story is great, but the individual parts are great on their own.  I like that a lot!
 
Oddly enough, considering what I JUST said above, the third thing I loved about these issues was that they have a continuity with OTHER Conan comics. . .particularly Savage Sword of Conan.  All through these issues there are characters and references to Conan's previous adventures.  For example, in the fourth issue, the leader of Conan's Amazon allies is Nzinga, the daughter of an Amazon Queen Conan met in Savage Sword of Conan #4.  
 
There's a lot of effort in these issues to tie the series into continuity with what came before.  There's even a few references to Marvel's short-lived Kull the Conqueror series!  So while these issues can be enjoyed as stand-alone stories, they can ALSO be enjoyed by those who love following those editorial continuity notes to discover the whole story. 
 
Overall, I really enjoyed these first few issues of King Conan.  If you are a Conan fan then I heartily recommend you check them out if you haven't already.  Each oversized issue is packed from cover to cover with awesome Conan adventure and wonderfully savage arwork.  These first five issues are truly some premium Bronze Age sword and sorcery comics.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's see if Marvel can keep up the quality as King Conan continues!  Looking ahead, I see some creative team changes coming, so we'll see what happens.  
 
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I just keep on writing comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!

 
October is done!  Halloween is here, and that means the end of this year's Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party!  Not too bad this year. . .I got 16 spooky reviews done.  I think that's more than I did all this summer!
 
I hope you enjoyed reading the Halloween Horror entries as much as I enjoyed writing them.  It's nice to just relax with a spooky comic book, good OR bad. . .but now it's time to get back to Longbox Junk business as usual.
 
BUT WAIT!
 
Before I get back into digging random stuff out of the bargain bins, how about one more Halloween Horror review?  Most of you won't see this until the 1st because I tend to post things late at night, but I AM writing it at 11 p.m. Halloween night, so it counts. . .BECAUSE I SAY IT COUNTS!
 
One more for the road. . .Let's do it!

THE WITCHING HOUR #27

DC (1973)

 

 
 
COVER: Nick Cardy
 
THE COVER:
 
What a great Halloween cover. . .courtesy of the late, great Nick Cardy!  Can it get ANY more Halloween than a witch straddling Locomotive #13 while she guides it flying into the gloomy grey sky?  This may not be the greatest comic cover in general, but as far as HALLOWEEN covers go, it's definitely a winner.
 
Let's get inside this thing!
 
THE STORIES:
 
FOUR stories in here for your two thin dimes!  That's one of the things I love about older comics. . .good or bad, they're STUFFED with four color fun!  These days, you pay four bucks for a little part of ONE story in a comic.  But THAT'S a rant for another day!  Let's check out these stories. . .
 
THE BODIES AT 13 RAVENWOOD LANE
 
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Alfredo Alcala
INKS: Alfredo Alcala
 
The tenants at Mrs. Haggerty's boarding house begin to disappear one by one, leaving only their best clothes behind.  The killer is eventually revealed to be Mr. Duncan, a dealer in used clothes.
 
He is caught by the police digging a grave in the yard, but as he unearths the other graves there is only old clothes.  Duncan is committed to an insane asylum. Were the murders real, or the delusions of a madman?
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This story is a little confusing to me.  It seems almost like two stories mashed together.  But maybe confusion is what the writer intended from a story that may or may not be the delusion of an insane man.  
 
BUT. . .
 
While the story is a bit of a headscratcher, the art is simply fantastic!  For MY money, Alfredo Alcala is one of the great, unsung comic artists of the Bronze Age!  His finely detailed work can elevate even the most mundane story into a feast for the eyes.  Just LOOK at the opening page I scanned above.  The shading, the detail. . .just SO great! 
 
NEXT!
 
WAKE UP AND DREAM!
 
SCRIPT:  Gerry Conway & Sal Amendola
PENCILS: Sal Amendola
INKS: Sal Amendola
 
We follow a man named Larry through his miserable life.  Larry is a bit of a clumsy loser, and to make things worse, he is plagued by a recurring nightmare of falling toward some unknown darkness.  Eventually, the dream drives him to madness and an overdose of sleeping pills. 
 
But when Larry wakes up, he finds himself the ruler of a kingdom on an alien world.  A mighty warrior married to a beautiful queen.  He has been in a coma for the past several years after being poisoned but is now awakened and ready to take his rightful place as King.
 
Which life is real?
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad little story.  Maybe a bit thin, but interesting.  The "twist" was a bit of a surprise, which is a GOOD thing when you've read as many of these anthologies as I have.
 
But, like the first story, the art is the REAL star of the show here.  It's a less realistic and more stylized and experimental art style than Alcala's, but very visually interesting.  It makes great use of odd angles, different panel structures, and deep shadows.  So once again, interesting art elevates the story a bit more than one would think.  Nicely done.
 
NEXT!
 
FRIGHTMARE!
 
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Win Mortimer
INKS: Win Mortimer
 
Stan and Lionel are competing for the same Vice President spot at their company, but while Stan chooses to let his work speak for itself, Lionel decides sabotage is the best way to the position.  After Lionel destroys an important file, the despondent Stan is hit by a bus.  As he dies, he swears vengeance on Lionel, promising to inhabit the body of someone close to him in order to destroy him.
 
With Stan out of the way, Lionel gains the coveted Executive position, but as the weeks pass, strange accidents keep happening.  Lionel eventually becomes convinced that Stan is possessing the body of the company's President, and his behavior get him fired.  As he leaves the building, he falls down an elevator shaft to his death. . .realizing at the last moment that Stan had possessed HIS body.
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This story feels more like filler than anything else.  It's just not that interesting.  A pretty by the numbers "ghost revenge" tale with an obvious "twist" ending.  It's not a BAD story, it's just not really engaging.
 
Unfortunately, the great art that elevated the first two stories isn't to be found here.  The art is serviceable, in a workmanlike way.  It illustrates the events of the story but doesn't try much harder than that.  Like the story, the art isn't necessarily BAD, it's just not very engaging.
 
AND FINALLY. . .  
 
JOURNEY TO OBLIVION
 
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Gerry Talaoc
INKS: Gerry Talaoc
 
Richard Dolan is a chronic complainer.  Nothing makes him happy.  When he finds himself on a mysterious train crowded with passengers heading for an unknown destination, his constant complaints wear on the nerves of those around him.
 
When the train arrives at its destination, Richard is unimpressed with the bright, sunny weather and the overwhelming happiness of everyone he meets.  He decides he wants to return to the dreary streets of the city that he's at least familiar with.  He secretly boards the train again as it pulls out of the station to return.
 
In the end, we see that Dolan was in the hospital, presumed dead, but now fighting for his life.  The train had taken him to Paradise, but Dolan would rather be happy complaining about his life than anything else.
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad little story.  It's a well-written character study with a "twist" ending that I didn't see coming, so yeah. . .a pretty good read.  I actually found this story to be the best of the batch.  I've been known to be a bit of a complainer myself, so I can sort of relate.
 
As far as the art goes, it's pretty good.  I like the dark inks and realism, but it's missing the supreme detail of Alcala's art in the first story and the experimental style of Amendola in the second.  It's not quite as workmanlike and uninspired as Mortimer's in the third, though.
 
Overall, a pretty good story.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
A sort of mixed bag for this last bit of Halloween Horror fun.  Two so-so stories saved by fantastic artwork up front. A very workmanlike story that feels like filler in the third slot.  A good story with decent art to finish things up. 
 
 All in all, a pretty good issue.  Even the "worst" story in here wasn't actually BAD.  More like just sort of . . .there.  I've definitely seen worse.  To be fair, I've also seen better, but for a nice Halloween read I can certainly recommend this issue to anyone just looking for a pretty good "twist ending" style comic book to read.  
 
If you're a fan of Bronze Age artwork, then I say definitely give the two opening stories a look.  Alfredo Alcala is quickly becoming one of my favorite unsung Bronze Age artists.  Any time I see a comic with some of his distinctive style of art now, I buy it!  So far, my favorite work by Alcala is in Weird Western Tales (#16-17), but anything by Alcala is worth a look in MY book.
 
And there you have it.  One last bit of Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun for 2022.  Not a bad way to end things for this year.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
Back to Longbox Junk business as usual when I return to the review of all 19 issues of the King Conan run from 1980 that I put off for the Halloween fun.
 
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where nobody asked me to write any of these comic reviews!

 
The Longbox Junk 2022 Halloween Horror party is just about over. . .but not quite yet!  There's still a couple of days left before I wrap it up and get back to Longbox Junk business as usual.  Until then, how about another spooky retro review?
 
So, there I was. . .on Facebook browsing through the posts provided by the fine and friendly folk of OLD GUYS WHO LIKE OLD COMICS .  And here's a free plug. . .if you have ANY love for all things comic book-related from days gone by (as in, before 1986), then join this group!  It's one of the best comic groups out there, and I'll sing their praises any old time. Plug over. 
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
There I was browsing the posts of one of my favorite Facebook groups and I saw someone had posted a spooky comic book cover.  I said to myself, "Hey! I have that one!"  And so here we are, because why not share what's INSIDE the comic too?  That's what Longbox Junk is all about!
 
We're heading back to 1973, folks! Let's GOOOOOOO!!

GHOST STORIES #35

Dell (1973)

 
 
COVER: Jack Sparling
 
THE COVER:
 
Jack Sparling was a Dell and Gold Key mainstay.  If you have any Dell or Gold Key comics in your collection, you've probably got some Sparling in there.  This cover isn't his best work (my personal favorite is probably Emergency #3), but it's a solid cover.  Not bad. . .I just like Sparling's painted covers better. Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Four original stories in this one.  That's just a nickle apiece!
Let's give each one their own turn.
 
FORGET-ME-NOT
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
 
The Ghost of an ancient Egyptian King shows two archaeologists where ruins they've missed are in a valley that is about to be flooded.  The Ghost also convinces the disbelieving Engineer in charge of the project to delay long enough for the treasures of the hidden temple to be found and preserved.
 

 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Meh.  A pretty bland and forgettable story.  The ending is a little abrupt and anticlimactic.  Sparling's art is pretty good.  Like the cover, not his best work, but solid visual storytelling.  An underwhelming start to this issue.
 
NEXT!
 
THE SECOND CREW
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
 
After a U.S. Navy Captain destroys a sub on the last day of WWII just before receiving notice that the war is over, he is consumed by guilt for the death of the men he killed.  He spends his lifetime trying to make amends. . .even going so far as to move to Japan and adopt the families of the submarine crew.
 
When he dies and is buried at sea, his ghost joins the ghostly crew of the sub and together they bring the wrecked ship home so they may all rest in peace.
 

 
THE REVIEW:
 
Unfortunately, another pretty bland and forgettable story.  It's not BAD, it's just sort of. . .there.  Sparling's art is once again the high point of the story and even that seems sketchy and rushed in places.
 
*sigh* This isn't going well, so far.
 
NEXT!
 
DO UNTO OTHERS
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
 
When an old man named Horace is killed during a robbery in broad daylight, four witnesses to the crime give various reasons why they didn't help him when they could have.  Horace's spirit rises from the grave, determined to teach them a lesson in caring.
 
As the years go by, Horace's ghost helps each one of the witnesses survive a life-or-death situation, revealing himself to them so they know it was the man who they let die helping them live.  In the end, the four witnesses do indeed learn how to care.
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Yet another bland and forgettable story.  Once again, the art by Sparling is about the only saving grace. . .and once again, this isn't even his best work.  So disappointing.
 
I don't have high hopes for the last story, but here we go anyway.
 
NEXT!
 
YOU SEE, THERE'S THIS MONASTERY IN OREGON. . .
 
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
 
After Carrol's best friend, Brit is killed in a car wreck, she remembers an urban legend about a monastery in Oregon where people who are supposedly dead live.  Following a mysterious hearse, Carrol discovers the monastery and the ghost of her friend!
 
But as she rushed toward Brit, Carrol falls off a cliff and dies.  Now she and Brit live together at the monastery. . .forever.
 

 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not only is this another disappointing story, but it's also probably the worst of the bunch.  It really doesn't make much sense.  Even Sparling's art is weaker than anyplace else in the issue.  This whole story just feels rushed and sort of thrown together. Not a good end for the issue at all.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: They can't ALL be winners.
This issue isn't a winner.  
 
The main problem here is the writing.  It's bland and uninteresting through the whole thing, giving the reader four stories that will be forgotten moments after reading them.  The writer of this issue is unknown, and it's hardly surprising that they didn't want to take credit for such a lackluster offering.
 
One would THINK that with four stories, at least ONE would be decent, but no.  And it's not that the stories are necessarily bad, it's that they're all just sort of. . .there.  
 
This isn't a BAD comic. . .it's just so forgettable that I can't think of anything to recommend it for beyond some pretty solid art from Jack Sparling, and even THAT isn't his best work by a long shot.
 
It's extremely disappointing for me writing this pretty poor review because I KNOW that it's probably the first, last, and only review that will ever be written about this issue.  This is it.  Truthfully, it makes me a little sad just thinking about it.  This issue gets ONE review in almost 50 years and it's not a great one.
 
I guess I'll just say it again:  They can't all be winners.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I think I can squeeze in a little bit more Halloween Horror fun before the end of the month!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!

 
October is almost done. . .Halloween is almost here!  But the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party isn't over just yet, folks!  It's been a pretty good party so far, but you know what will make it even better?  Frankenstein!  
 
Okay, nerds. . .OKAY!  Frankenstein's MONSTER.  Better?
 
Marvel has had a long and successful relationship with Dracula in their comic books, but it's easy to forget that they ALSO held the rights to Frankenstein for a while (I know. . .I know).  I have a couple of issues, so how about we take a look at one?
 
I'm cranking up the Longbox Junk time machine again for a trip back to 1973 and another Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Retro Review. . .featuring the one and only Frankenstein's MONSTER!  
 
AAARRR!! Fire BAD! Retro Review GOOD!  Let's do it!

FRANKENSTEIN #5

Marvel (1973)

 
 
COVER: Mike Ploog
 
THE MONSTER WALKS AMONG US!
 
SCRIPT: Gary Friedrich
PENCILS: Mike Ploog
INKS: John Verpoorten
 
THE COVER:
 
Now THAT'S a Bronze Age beauty right there!  Maybe not the greatest HALLOWEEN cover, but a great cover anyway.  Mike Ploog packs in so much detail and energy into this image that it almost seems to move!  The colors are great, I love the big chunky logo and hype text.  There's nothing I don't like about this cover!  They do NOT make 'em like this anymore.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
As the Monster returns to civilization from the Arctic in search of the last living Frankenstein, he happens on a flaming boat and risks his life to save that of a woman tied to the mast. . .thus setting into motion a strange and tragic series of events, wherein lies the tale at hand.
 
 
Taking the unconscious woman to a nearby village, the Monster is shocked to see the villagers celebrating her death.  The woman revives long enough to tell the Monster that the entire village has come under the demonic possession of a mysterious man in black, and that they must flee!
 
Against the womans wishes, the Monster carries her to her home, where he is attacked by the woman's father!  As the man shouts that his daughter must die, the Monster defeats him and leaves the village with the woman, now convinced that she was telling the truth about the villagers being possessed by demons.
 
 
Wandering through the woods in search of sanctuary, the Monster finds a beautiful, secluded clearing hidden deep in the forest.  As the weeks pass, the woman, named Lenore, heals and grows stronger while the Monster finds himself falling in love with her.  
 
When he finally tells Lenore about his feelings, he is elated to find them returned!  For the first time in his miserable existence, the Monster knows love and joy!
 
 
But one day, upon awakening, the Monster finds Lenore has vanished!  Following her tracks, he finds signs of a fight and pieces of her clothing.  Continuing on the trail, the Monster discovers it leads back to the village. 
 
Convinced that Lenore has been captured by the possessed villagers, he waits until night and begins to search for her.  As he does, he witnesses a guard being brutally attacked by a wolf-like monster!  As he watches, he realizes that THIS is the creature that must have taken Lenore!  Filled with rage, the Monster attacks the wolf creature.
 
 
As the battle between the Monster and the wolf creature rages through the village, he manages to finally defeat it by using a silver sword belonging to Lenore's father, pulling it from the tree where it was lodged during their earlier battle.  But to the Monster's horror, the slain wolf creature transforms into the beautiful, beloved Lenore!
 
 
As the villagers surround the heartbroken Monster, he readies for a fight, but a man in black steps forward. . .a priest.  He gently tells the Monster that it was Lenore that was possessed by a demon, and that he knows the Monster is the true victim and not their enemy.
 
And so, the Monster leaves the village behind him, knowing that the only love he's ever known was a lie.  Now all that he has left is to continue on his journey to find the last living Frankenstein.
 

The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I'm gonna come right out and say it. . .this comic was a GREAT read! 
 
Yeah, it follows the extremely well-worn story path of "The beautiful woman is actually the horrible monster", but Gary Friedrich puts so much emotion and pathos into it that you hardly notice until the (admittedly predictable) end of the story when the "twist" is revealed.  There is some seriously good writing here! It's engaging from the first page to the last.  You can definitely tell that Friedrich had his heart in writing this story.
 
On the art side of things. . .Mike Ploog delivers in a big way!  The art in this comic has such a sense of energy and motion that it almost seems to move across the page.  Every page is so full of wonderful detail that you just want to linger on for a moment or two extra before turning to the next one.  
 
Together, Friedrich and Ploog give the reader something really interesting and unusual.  I am definitely going to keep my eye out for more Frankenstein comics, especially if they can engage me like this one did.
 

CONCLUSION

 
When it comes to Bronze Age Marvel comics, I think of superheroes. . .Captain America, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Spider-Man. . .all the greats that made Marvel "Mighty".  But every now and then, I read a comic like this one that reminds me Marvel DID step outside the superhero box, and that there's some really great Marvel comics out there without a single spandex costume to be found!
 
The tale of Frankenstein's Monster is a tragic one, and writer Gary Friedrich leans into that with this dark story of hope torn from the Monster's grasping hand.  Artist Mike Ploog fills each page with fantastic, detailed art that perfectly complements the grim tale being told.
 
This comic is just a great read from cover to cover, no doubt about it.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great example of Bronze Age comic art and storytelling.  For fans of Frankenstein movies, books, etc. in general like myself, I'm going to say this issue is a must-read!  It's been collected a couple of times, so if you can't find the back issues, collected and online versions are out there.
 
Overall, this issue was a slam-bang winner, and probably the best of the bunch so far for this 2022 Longbox Junk Halloween party.  It's a shiny nugget of back issue gold!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Yep. . .you guessed it.  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

 
What's a Halloween party without some ghosts?  You know the answer just as well as I do, it's not a Halloween party at all!  So, let's crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for trip back to 1974 for some Bronze Age comic book ghost stories, shall we? WE SHALL!
 
It's another Longbox Junk retro review nobody asked me to write! Why isn't anyone clapping?
 
Let's do it!

GHOSTS #28

DC (1974)

 
 
COVER: Nick Cardy
 
THE COVER:
 
Now THERE'S a real Bronze Age beauty, courtesy of the late, great Nick Cardy!  A horrific vision rendered in supreme detail by a true comic legend.  It's simply a great piece of horror comic art.  The title takes up too much room that could have been used to give us MORE of Cardy's fantastic artwork, but that's the only thing wrong with this cover.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Three full ghostly comic stories and a one-page text piece in this one.  That's some darn fine value for two thin dimes!  Let's give each one their own turn. . .
 
FLIGHT OF THE LOST PHANTOM
 
SCRIPT:  Leo Dorfman
PENCILS: Don Perlin
INKS: Don Perlin
 
In 1965, as a reporter covers a story about the decommissioning of the aircraft carrier, Washington, he hears the tale of a fighter pilot lost during WWII at the battle for Saipan.  A pilot whose death has haunted the former Captain of the Washington since the day he let it happen to protect the men on the carrier.  
 
The disbelieving reporter soon learns the truth of the strange tale when he sees the ghostly plane finally coming in for a landing, and the former Captain guiding it in before he dies on the deck of the Washington!  
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad start.  It's not the most memorable story I've ever read, but this tale of a retired ship Captain sacrificing himself to right a wrong and give a lost spirit rest is a decent read.  The art is the high point of the story, with Don Perlin making great use of dark shadows and bold lines, a great job of inking!
 
All in all, a good start.  Let's see what's up next!
 
THE CORPSE IN THE CRADLE
 
SCRIPT:  Murray Boltinoff
PENCILS:  Alfredo Alcala
INKS: Alfredo Alcala
 
Long ago in the Scottish Highlands, farmer Clyde Jameson and his good wife prepare for the birth of their first born child.  Though they are poor, Clyde is determined to give his son all the things he never had.  And so, Clyde takes a job as a fisherman, leaving his wife until the harvest season.
 
Upon his return, Clyde is shocked to find his wife in poor health.  On a rainy night, her time to give birth comes and Clyde rushes through the downpour for the doctor.  His son is born and they live happily ever after.
 
Except that's not what happened.  His wife and son died in childbirth and it broke Clyde's mind.  The rest of his life, he lives with their ghosts, never admitting the truth, becoming a living ghost himself.
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This was a really well-written little story!  The stinger that the happy ending wasn't really what happened was actually a surprise.  When you've read as many of these horror/suspense anthology comics as I have, an ending that comes as a surprise is a rare thing!
 
But as good as the story is, the art (like the first story) is the real star of the show!  Just LOOK at the page I scanned above!  That upper panel of the farm has such rich detail and personality!  It's not just a great piece of comic art, it's a great piece of art, period.  Each page of this story is filled with the same fine detail.
 
Overall, a well-written story with a twist ending that's actually a surprise, backed up with some truly great Bronze Age artwork.  This one's a winner!
 
NEXT!
 
THE SPECTRE OF THE IRON DUCHESS
 
SCRIPT:  Leo Dorfman
PENCILS: Jerry Grandenetti 
INKS: Jerry Grandenetti
 
In an Eastern European country during the Soviet era, transportation minister Jan Rasek finds himself in danger of losing his job and possibly his life when supply trucks keep disappearing on a mountain road.  
 
Upon investigating, he learns of a legend that a ghostly Duchess protects the road from the ruins of her ancient castle and will do so until the castle is destroyed.  Although the Soviet council doesn't believe him, a late-night encounter with the ghost convinces Rasek of the truth of the legend.
 
Determined to destroy the ancient castle and release the trapped spirit, Rasek drives a truck filled with explosives to the castle, but the ghostly Iron Duchess attacks him.  After a tense fight, Rasek is finally able to destroy the castle with the explosives, but at the cost of his own life.
 
The next day, the first vehicle to be able to freely pass the ruins of the castle is the hearse bearing Rasek's body.
 

 
THE REVIEW:
 
I sort of had high hopes that this last story would maintain the quality of the first two, but it falls flat in both writing and art, leading to a disappointing finish.  The story is. . .okay. It's pretty weak, to tell the truth.  Not much put into it. The art looks sketchy and unfinished in many places.  Writing and art combined have a definite stench of minimum effort.  This story feels like a filler.
 
Oh well, I guess they ALL can't be winners.  
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE FOREST OF NO RETURN
 
SCRIPT: ?
ILLUSTRATION: ?
 
We have a one-page text filler to finish off this issue.
 
It's about the true unsolved mystery of 4 different children who disappeared without a trace in the Los Angeles National Forest between 1956 and 1960.  It's written in a very matter of fact way and is probably the most frightening thing in this horror comic for being completely true.
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
Two good stories, one. . .not so good.  All in all, not bad.  The last comic story is a bit of a stinker, but the rest of the comic is pretty good, and there's some very nice Bronze Age comic art showcased in the first two stories.  The text piece filler is sort of take it or leave it.  It's the facts of a true unsolved mystery and you'll either enjoy it or not based on your like or dislike of the subject in general.
 
Overall, this was a pretty good read and I feel I can recommend it for fans of Bronze Age horror/suspense anthologies if you spot one at a decent price.  I wouldn't suggest going out of your way to find this issue or pay a premium price for it.  There are some good stories with some good art inside, and the cover is absolutely awesome, but there's also a pretty bad story with awful art in here too.
 
Up Next. . .
 
You guessed it.  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic reviews nobody asked me to write!

 
The 2022 Halloween Horror party has been going pretty strong so far, so how about we crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for another trip back to the Bronze Age?
 
This time out, we'll be taking a look at the second issue of an extremely short-lived (3 issues) DC anthology series from 1975. . .Tales of Ghost Castle!
 
Everybody ready?  Make sure your safety belt is fastened and all belongings are securely stowed beneath your seat.  Please put on the goggles provided for your safety.
 
*Grasps gigantic lever with both hands and yanks it down*
 
LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOO!!

TALES OF GHOST CASTLE #2

DC (1975)

 
 
COVER: Luis Dominguez
 
THE COVER:
 
I like this one a lot!  It's dark and moody, it tells a story that I want to know more about.  I can definitely see some Joe Kubert influence in the art, and in MY book, that's a good thing.  I really like the giant and pretty unusual title dominating the top of the cover.  This one is a Bronze Age winner!
 
Let's get inside and see what's going on, shall we? WE SHALL!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Three stories in here for your 1975 quarter.  You don't get value like THAT anymore.  You're lucky to get ONE story for five bucks these days.  Actually, more likely you'll get the first fragment of a story that's going to take 12 issues to finish up.  But enough of THAT. . .let's check out what we've got here.
 
SNAKE-EYES
 
SCRIPT: Robert Kanigher
PENCILS: E.R. Cruz
INKS: E.R. Cruz
 
One night, a lab worker that enjoys torturing snakes is bitten by a deadly Bushmaster. She takes an untested experimental anti-venom formula.  It saves her, but somehow turns her into a snake!  When she is discovered, she is unable to speak and save herself from being thrown into the venomous snake pit along with the hated snakes she tormented.
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
A pretty good story of the time-honored "You have become that which you hate the most" story path. The short tale hangs on an overly worn framework, but Kanigher does a good job with it.  But what REALLY puts this story a notch above the ordinary is the art!  If you don't like snakes, then the art on this story will crawl up your spine and hiss at you!  Just LOOK at the page I scanned above.  The snake-tastic art in this story definitely delivers the creep factor!
 
A good start.  Let's see what's next!
 
THE INHERITORS
 
SCRIPT:  Jack Oleck
PENCILS: Alex Nino
INKS: Alex Nino
 
2000 years after Planet Earth was abandoned as a radioactive wasteland following a devastating worldwide nuclear war, humans return to their home planet for the first time.  
 
The explorers quickly discover that Earth is now clear of radiation but is inhabited by brutal savages. . .humans that did not escape and were mutated.  After losing several men, the Captain of the starship decides that the only way for humans to reclaim their world is to completely eliminate the half-human savages.
 
Once the deed is done, the crew celebrates with a swim in Earth's clean waters. . .revealing that they are themselves scaly mutants and hardly human at all.
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Another tale that hangs on a pretty worn story hook. . .this time of the "You're no different than those you hate" category.  But classics are classics for a reason, and this is a well-written story.  But like the first offering in this issue, it's the art that really brings this short story up to a higher level.  The hyper-stylized look of the art REALLY stands out in a bold way.  It's unusual and memorable and I'm definitely interested in finding more work from Alex Nino to enjoy.
 
Two for two! Hopefully, the last story can keep up the quality.  Let's bring it on home!
 
THE FATE OF THE FORTUNE-HUNTER
 
SCRIPT: Mal Warwick
PENCILS: Ruben Yandoc
INKS: Ruben Yandoc
 
Two ruthless mercenaries on the trail of a fortune in hidden Inca gold blaze a trail of blood across South America until they finally find an old man and his grandson who claim to know where the treasure is and will guide the fortune hunters to it in exchange for a halt to their violence.
 
As they travel, the old man angers the mercenaries and they kill him in cold blood.  They follow his grandson to an ancient mine, pursuing him into its depths until they are taken captive and brought before the Prince of a mysterious tribe. . .the old man's grandson. 
 
He sentences the mercenaries to a lifetime of labor in the gold mine they were so eager to find.
 
 
And we finish off this issue with a tale following yet another well-worn story path, this time it's "Your greed earned you a fate worse than death".  But like the first two stories, it's well written and engaging. The ending of the story actually took me by surprise!  And ALSO like the other two stories in the issue, the art is the real star of the show!  The art in this story is just FULL of fine detail and a feeling of motion that really brings life to the narrative.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Three stories. . .three winners!  Not a bad one in the bunch.  What more could a comic fan ask for?
 
The three stories in this issue are all hanging on classic, one might say overused, story hooks, but the writers do a great job of keeping them interesting and very readable, even 47 years down the road.  
 
But even though the stories are enjoyable, the REAL hook for me in this issue was the art!  From the cover to the last page, this comic is PACKED with fantastic Bronze Age art that really brings these stories up to a higher level than you would think a trio of Twilight Zone-style twist ending tales would rise to.
 
Overall, this comic is a grand slam winner!  It's rare I can't find ANYTHING to criticize in a comic, but this is one of those times.  From end to end, Tales of Ghost Castle #2 is entertaining and enjoyable, and I highly recommend it to any fans of classic comic anthology horror/ suspense titles.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Keepin' the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party going with MORE spooky fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find a bunch of comic reviews you never asked for!

 
It's October! The scent of pumpkin spice is everywhere and it's that time of year when Longbox Junk heads to the spooky side of comics for a little Halloween Horror fun!
 
This time out, I'm cranking up the Longbox Junk time machine for a trip back to 1978 and a look under the fantastic cover of the second issue of a short-lived DC anthology series starring the one and only Madame Xanadu.
 
Ready? Let's do this!
 

DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE #2

DC (1978)

 
 
COVER: Michael Wm. Kaluta
 
 
DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE
 
SCRIPT: Gerry Conway
PENCILS: Vicente Alcazar
INKS: Vicente Alcazar 
 
THE COVER:
 
Now THAT'S a fine cover!  I mean. . .just LOOK at it!  Kaluta is one of my favorite Bronze Age artists and he definitely knocked this one right out of the park.  The detail, the composition, the colors, the shading on Xanadu's dress. . .and all set perfectly against a monochromatic background.  I LOVE this cover and it's one of the favorites in my comic collection. It's just a beautiful piece of art.
 
THE STORY:
 
After physicist Melissa Mann gets a warning about the danger of pursuing science that she shouldn't from the mysterious fortune teller Madame Xanadu, she ignores the warning and throws herself even more into the research project she shares with another physicist, Nobel Prize-winning Doctor Hampton Hill.  Believing Xanadu's message to be an attempt to make her quit her work by her boyfriend, artist Douglas Holt, she distances herself from him.
 

 
Doctors Mann and Hill are working on Project Doorway.  An ambitious undertaking to use science to breach the barriers of time and space in order to open a doorway into another dimension.  But when they finally activate the device, the scientists are horrified to discover that the dimension beyond the doorway is full of twisted, demonic creatures rushing toward the opening!
 
Luckily for them, Douglas was nearby, having taken Xanadu's warning seriously.  He rushes into the lab and smashes the machine, closing the dimensional doorway just in time. . .or so he thought!
 
 
 
In the days that follow, Melissa undergoes a terrifying change.  From shy and quiet scientist, she becomes lusty and violent.  Finally, she becomes so out of control that Douglas and Doctor Hampton have her committed to the psychiatric ward at Bellvue Hospital.  
 
The doctors at Bellvue are unable to determine the cause of Melissa's strange, violent behavior.  The distraught Douglas returns in desperation to Madame Xanadu, who informs him that Melissa has become possessed by a creature from beyond the doorway!
 
Reluctantly, Douglas agrees to help Xanadu perform an exorcism.  The supernatural ritual works, drawing a horrific creature out of the body of Melissa.  As it rushes to possess Douglas, Xanadu manages to capture the being in an arcane crystal.
 

 
In the end, Melissa is freed of the demonic presence, but witnessing the exorcism and the creature that came out of her was too much for Doctor Hampton.  His mind snaps and the brilliant scientist is fated to remain a patient at Bellvue.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
What we have here is a modern comic re-imagining of the 1934 H.P. Lovecraft story "From Beyond".  A story that combines science and the supernatural with the idea that there is a horrific dimension just out of our sight with creatures trying to find a way into ours.  It's a classic story that has stood the test of time through many different re-imaginings in various media and it works very nicely here in comic book form.
 
Gerry Conway is in fine form here, providing a chilling tale of science gone wrong with a supernatural twist.  The story is almost 45 years old and it still reads well.  There's a timeless quality and feel to this story that I really appreciate.  It's a simple story and Conway keeps it simple.  That's what makes it good.
 
On the art side, Vicente Alcazar does a fine job, with dark shadows and bold lines dominating the pages (He inked his own pencils here) and giving this tale a moody, almost gothic look.  I know Alcazar's work more for his run on Jonah Hex, so it was a surprise and treat to see something else from him. 
 

CONCLUSION

 
The combination of dark, striking artwork and good writing on a straightforward story that stands the test of time make this 1970s re-imagining of a classic Lovecraft tale worth a read for any fan of horror comics!  
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
Black Panther is one of those characters I like a lot in a supporting role.  I've been a fan of Black Panther for a long time, but I have to admit that I've never read a full solo run of the character.  I guess there's just some comic characters I like in smaller doses.  He's an awesome hero with a really cool costume design, but I'd rather see him and go, "Cool! Black Panther!" every now and then than follow him on a regular basis.
 
That said. . .
 
Because I DO like Black Panther, I wasn't able to resist a short stack of 6 pretty banged-up Jungle Action comics I spotted on a trip to some antique/junk stores my wife wanted to check out a couple of weeks ago.  I figured for five bucks each, I might not be bringing something too "valuable" into my collection, but I WOULD have something fun to read out on the back porch after dinner.
 
I was a bit interested to learn that one of them (the comic at hand) was sort of a minor "key" issue because it has the origin of Black Panther.  Mine isn't in the best condition (it's actually pretty bad), but I still always get a kick out of finding a little something unexpected for my collection, especially at a random junk shop.
 
Which brings us here. . .
 
Let's crank up the Longbox Junk time machine and head back to 1974 for a look at the origin of Black Panther, shall we?  That's right. . .it's another Longbox Junk retro review nobody asked for!
 
Watch your step boarding the craft.  Please make sure all items are secure.  Fasten the safety belt for your protection.  All set? Next stop. . .THE BRONZE AGE OF COMICS!
 
*Lowers ridiculous steampunk goggles and pulls gigantic lever*
 
IS EVERYONE READY?
 
*The floor begins to vibrate.  A weird humming noise fills the cabin*
 
LET'S GOOOOOOOOO!!

JUNGLE ACTION #8

MARVEL COMICS (1974)

 

COVER: Rich Buckler
 
MALICE BY CRIMSON MOONLIGHT
 
SCRIPT: Don McGregor
PENCILS: Rich Buckler
INKS: Klaus Jansen
 
THE COVER:
 
They don't make 'em like THAT anymore!  
 
It's a real Bronze Age beauty, with vibrant color and a nice feeling of motion and action.  Black Panther looks great in his iconic dark costume against the bright primary colors of the background.  The whole thing is a feast for the eyes, and just looking at it makes me happy. There's nothing I don't like about this cover!  Let's get inside.
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale in the forest outside of the Wakandan Palace, where Black Panther is engaged in a test of his physical power. . .fighting off a large group of attackers. . .as part of a ceremony to fully imbue him with the Panther powers locked within a mysterious heart-shaped herb that cooks nearby.
 
Unknown to Black Panther or his royal aides in attendance at the ceremony, an agent of Erik Killmonger has infiltrated the palace.  Her name is Malice and she's on a mission to find and rescue another recently captured agent of Killmonger's called Venomm.
 
 
Malice makes her way through the palace, interrogating guards until she discovers Venomm's location.  As she approaches, she hears Venomm talking with his guard, a friend and Lieutenant of King T'Challa named Taka.  Malice listens as Venomm confides the strange origin of his ruined face and fall to evil to his sympathetic guard.
 
 
A savage attack by a bully with a bottle of acid when Venomm was young led to his becoming withdrawn from society and taking company with snakes.  He managed to build up immunity to all but the strongest venom. . .a skill that Erik Killmonger admired, and so he recruited Venomm to his cause.
 
As Malice listens to Venomm's sad tale, in the forest outside the palace, the ceremony continues.  Black Panther's guest from the United States, Monica, hears strange chanting in the woods and investigates.  She sees Black Panther laying on the ground, surrounded by dark figures!
 
 
Not knowing what is happening, Monica leaps to rescue Black Panther, unwittingly disrupting the ritual of the heart-shaped herb!  After a tense confrontation with his royal attendants over the forbidden outsider interrupting the sacred ritual, King T'Challa abandons the ritual against the protests of his attendants and escorts Monica back to the palace.
 
 
When they arrive, Panther immediately senses something is wrong, and discovers the unconscious palace guards.  Before he can react, Malice attacks!  Black Panther is taken by surprise and is amazed at the strength and skill of his attacker.  He recovers quickly and engages Malice, who becomes distracted by Monica and the arrival of T'Challa's royal attendants.
 
 
 
As T'Challa's attendants recapture Venomm, Malice makes her escape.  Black Panther doesn't pursue her, instead choosing to stop one of his more vigilant Lieutenants from killing Venomm.
 
 
To be Continued. . .
 
There are also a few pages of supplemental material in the back of the comic, taking the place of the reprint backup story from the original 1950's Jungle Action series that usually ended the issues in this series.  There are some images of Black Panther by various artists reprinted from previous appearances in other comics. . .
 
 
 
As well as a map of Wakanda reprinted and corrected from its original appearance in Jungle Tales #6 of this series, as well as a map of the interior of the Royal Palace. . .
 
 
 
THE REVIEW:
 
And there it is.  Jungle Action #8. . .the Origin of Black Panther.  Let's break it on down!
 
Sooooooooo. . .
 
Despite saying so on the cover and being bumped up in collector "value" because of it, this is NOT a Black Panther origin story.  The previous issue and some of the following issues have more origin material for Black Panther than this issue does!
 
Except for a little bit of information regarding the "heart-shaped herb" that gives the Kings of Wakanda their powers and the physical test that comes before that sacred ritual, there isn't ANYTHING in this issue that could give cause to label it an origin issue.  Actually, there are a solid two pages devoted to VENOMM'S origin, making this more of an origin issue for Venomm than for Black Panther!
 
It's pretty disappointing and even a bit strange to have no origin in an origin issue. . .and it's even stranger knowing that there are people who are out there paying more for this comic on the collector market because it's being sold as an origin issue.  
 
Is it misleading, or is it "buyer beware"?  To me, there's nothing in this issue that would make it any more "valuable" than the one before or after it.  But I guess it's a pretty good example of how a lot of comics being sold these days aren't being read.  People will pay more for a Black Panther "origin issue" just because they're told it's a Black Panther origin issue and therefore is "worth" more.
 
I'm going to resist getting into a rant about comic collectors who don't actually read comics here, so let's just leave the missing "origin" of Black Panther behind and take a look at what we actually have here.
 
SO.
 
This issue is the 3rd part of an extended 13 issue story called "Panther's Rage" that ran through most of the 24 issues of this series.  This story introduced Black Panther's greatest foe, Erik Killmonger.  We don't get any Killmonger in this issue, but his presence is felt through his agents Malice and Venomm.
 
As a standalone issue, it's not very new reader friendly at all.  There are a lot of people and events in this issue that are firmly connected to previous issues.  That said, as part of the ongoing story (That I read online to fill in the gaps between the issues I have), it's a great little break. . .a sort of segue between Killmonger initially being in T'Challa's face, and then working through agents to try and collapse the monarchy of Wakanda.  
 
Overall, the complete "Panther's Rage" is some darn fine Bronze Age storytelling. . .it's commonly regarded as one of the stories that started moving Marvel toward tighter continuity and longer storylines.  Unfortunately, unlike a lot of Bronze Age comics that can be read on their own, reading just one issue out of context (like this one) isn't the best experience.
 
That's not to say this issue isn't well-written.  It is.  There are some great descriptive passages in here that really set a mood of simmering intrigue and conflict that Black Panther doesn't understand yet.  There's some good writing in here.
 
The art?  The art is good. . .not great.  It tells the story well and even has a few standout moments.  Just that there's not enough of those moments to push the visuals into anyplace remarkable.  If I had to describe the art in one word, that word would be "solid".
 
So, the writing is good, the art is solid.  The main thing holding this issue back from being more enjoyable is the tightly connected place it holds in an ongoing storyline.
 

CONCLUSION

 
What we have here is a fine example of how comics can become "valuable" just because someone says it is, and the buyer doesn't question WHY.  But this isn't the place for THAT can of worms to be opened.
 
This is part of an ongoing story that is an interesting piece of Bronze Age comic history in being one of the first multi-issue tightly connected storylines. . .13 issue stories were pretty much unheard of at the time.  Most continued stories were 2-4 issues at the most.  
 
As a part of that story, it's a very nice transition issue.  As a standalone comic, it's decent, but not great.
 
If you are a Black Panther fan and haven't read "Panther's Rage" then I certainly recommend you do. It's been collected and reprinted several times so it's pretty easy to find.   As far as just reading this single issue. . .I can't really say it's a great idea.  It's not a BAD read, but it's definitely out of context by itself.   And one more time, buyers beware. . .this is NOT a Black Panther origin issue!
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's been a while since I reviewed an entire series from top to bottom, so why not?
I've recently completed the full run of Marvel's 19 issue 1980-83 series of King Conan.  Let's take a look at what sort of sword swingin' fun is going on in there, shall we?  WE SHALL!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
For those of you who have been sending me messages of concern about the frequency of Longbox Junk posts, I have good news and bad news:
 
The good news is that my health has taken a turn for the better and I'm feeling about 90% normal, with just a few bad days here and there now, and thank for THAT.  
 
The bad news is that it's summertime and the hotel I manage is SUPER busy!  I write these things during my down time at work, and this time of year that's pretty scarce.  One would THINK that with gas prices above five bucks a gallon that people would want to put off their interstate travel plans.
 
Nope.  Not happening.  I've observed before that Americans are a bit psychopathic about doing what they want, when they want (during the supposedly strict state Covid lockdown when our hotel's business didn't slow down one single bit), and this is just more evidence of that.  I have the distinct feeling that even if gas was TEN dollars a gallon, it wouldn't stop people from rolling out on vacation.
 
What I'm trying to say is that the long gaps between entries are pretty normal for this time of year.
 
BUT ENOUGH OF THAT!
 
I've got a retro review for you! Summertime may be super busy at work and a slow time for Longbox Junk, but it's also flea market and yard sale season.  I LOVE flea markets and yard sales!  For a Longbox Junker like me, it's a great time to pick up old comics at a price that won't break the bank.  Every weekend this time of year is like a treasure hunt!
 
CASE IN POINT. . .
 
The comic at hand is part of a stack of six from this series that I recently bought at a yard sale for the sweet price of five lousy bucks apiece.  Now THAT'S the kind of summertime Longbox Junkin' I'm talkin' about!  
 
I already have an issue of Marvel's "Rampaging Hulk" Magazine in my collection that's in black and white, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that THESE Hulk Magazines are printed in full, glorious SUPER MARVEL-COLOR!  Look! It even says so right there on the cover!
 
I did some checking, and thanks to the fine and friendly folk of the "Old Guys Who Like Old Comics" Facebook group, I learned that Marvel-Color was a process where the colored plates are shot from the colored artwork, making the artwork pop in a sharp and bright way that was rare at the time.  All I know is that it REALLY looks good!  
 
And not for nothin' but if you're looking for a comic book group second to none, go check out "Old Guys Who Like Old Comics" on Facebook.  No, really. . .go.  I'll wait.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Let's crank up the Longbox Junk time machine and head back to 1979 for a look inside this awesomely colored comic book magazine I found at a random yard sale, shall we?  WE SHALL!

THE HULK MAGAZINE #14

Marvel (1979)

 

COVER: Bob Larkin
 
THE COVER:
 
At the heart of things, The Hulk is a nuclear age horror story and this cover showcases exactly that.  I like it a lot!  The black border really makes the brilliant colors of the title and the feature text pop.  At the center of it all is the Hulk!
 
 Between the black sky and lightning framing the raging beast, to the torch-wielding villagers below, THIS is a fantastic image!  It's full of detail and atmosphere. There's NOTHING I don't like about this cover.  It's a beautiful example of some great Bronze Age comic art.  
 
Let's get inside this thing!
 
THE STORIES:
 
There's two big stories in this magazine for your 1979 buck and a half!  We've got The Hulk leading things off and a Moon Knight backup.  Let's take a look at each one in their own turn. . .
 
A Cure For Chaos!
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Ron Wilson
INKS: Rudy Nebres
COLORS: Steve Oliff
 
Our tale begins as Doctor Robert Bruce Banner (AKA The Hulk) arrives in Switzerland.  We follow the thoughts of this gentle man of science as he dwells on the Gamma radiation accident that turned him into the monster known as The Hulk.  
 
He's in Europe trying to find one Doctor Hans Feldstadt.  A scientist who has recently won the Nobel Prize for his research into Gamma radiation.  It's a long shot, but Banner is willing to take any chance to rid himself of the monster inside him!
 

Unfortunately, upon arrival, Banner discovers that Doctor Feldstadt has departed Zurich for some unknown reason.  Desperately, Banner seizes upon information that Feldstadt may be in the village of Jungfrau, and so he continues to follow Feldstadt's trail to the Swiss mountains. . .

 
But once again, Banner finds only dead ends.  With Feldstadt seemingly nowhere to be found, Banner decides to make his way to a mysterious castle overlooking the village where a Doctor Klein is said to be in residence, hoping that Doctor Feldstadt may have been acquainted with Klein. . .

 
At the castle, Banner immediately recognizes the man who opens the door as the missing Doctor Feldstadt.  
 
As Banner demands to be let in and assist Feldstadt in his research, he learns that the Doctor has taken on a false name and hidden himself far from prying eyes in order to continue his research in peace. . .the Nobel Prize has brought him too much unwanted attention.
 
Mistaking Banner's desperation for the desire to ride the coattails of the famous scientist, Feldstadt turns him away.  Banner's persistent attempts to get inside the castle cause Feldstadt to call the police.  As Banner gets more frustrated, he feels the change coming over him!

 
Banner changes into the Hulk and begins to rampage through the village, leaving a trail of destruction as he searches for the one person who was kind to Banner, Katrina, the serving girl at the local inn.

 
The next morning, Banner returns to Feldstadt's castle.  After witnessing the destruction from the night before, Feldstadt has come to realize that the strange visitor is the infamous Doctor Banner.  
 
Feldstadt sees the great opportunity before him to study the most famous example of Gamma irradiation and invites Banner to join him in his research. . .

 
But as time goes by, Banner is dismayed to find that Feldstadt is less interested in reversing the effects and damage of Gamma radiation, but more in discovering new effects. 
 
 Feldstadt explains that all avenues must be explored in a scientific manner, but Banner becomes frustrated and convinced that Feldstadt will use him to accidentally create another monster like him. 
 
 Banner realizes he won't find the answers he was looking for with Feldstadt and leaves.

 
That night, Banner reconsiders his hasty departure.  Feldstadt may not be pursuing the exact thing Banner is looking for, but his research may still be an important step in ridding himself of The Hulk.  Banner decides to return to the castle and apologize.  
 
But as he dines at the inn, Banner overhears a group of villagers talking about attacking the castle and driving Feldstadt out. . .believing him and his strange experiments to be the cause of the monster that ran rampant through the village the night before.
 
Banner rushes to the castle to warn Feldstadt of the danger.  Breaking in and making his way to the laboratory, Banner is shocked to see Feldstadt engaged in some sort of experiment on the serving girl from the inn, Katrina!  

 
As Banner berates Feldstadt for using human guinea pigs in his experiments, Feldstadt counters with the fact that only by experimenting on humans can he research the effects of Gamma rays on humans, which may possibly lead to Banner's cure.  
 
Torn between the two moral opposites, Banner suddenly remembers the villagers and their plan to attack.  As he warns Feldstadt, they arrive and surround the castle.  
 
Enraged by the villagers, Feldstadt grabs a pistol and begins shooting!  In response, they throw lit torches into the castle windows, trying to burn Feldstadt out!

 
As Banner rescues Katrina, the flames spread and ignite chemicals in the laboratory, causing the Gamma ray machine to explode, exposing Feldstadt to a massive dose of radiation.  To Banner's horror, Doctor Feldstadt transforms into a brutish monstrosity!

 
The creature that was once Doctor Feldstadt attacks Banner, savagely beating him until he can't help but to transform into The Hulk!  Unfortunately for Feldstadt, he can't match The Hulk's power and ferocity, and after a short battle he is easily defeated by the Jade Giant!

 
After defeating the Feldstadt creature, Hulk saves him from the burning castle before leaving the bewildered villagers behind. . .

 
But the next day, Banner learns that the radiation and the beating the Hulk dealt out to him were too much and Feldstadt has died, taking his secrets to the grave, since his laboratory and notes were destroyed in the fire.  Banner moves along, leaving Switzerland with little hope of ever ridding himself of the curse known as The Hulk.


The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I said in my look at the cover that at its heart, The Hulk is a nuclear age horror story. . .a Jekyll and Hyde tale shadowed by the looming Cold War fear of radiation.  This tale leans hard into the horror aspect of The Hulk, and I liked it quite a bit!
 
We have a mysterious castle overlooking a mountain village, a mad scientist overtaken by his own experiments, and a battle between two rampaging monsters while a mob of villagers burn the castle down around them!  It's just a great little gothic romp that I found very enjoyable.
 
Is it the greatest story I've ever read?  Not even close, but I really liked the way Doug Moench pays homage to classic horror tropes here.  I mean. . .there's literally torch-wielding villagers!  
 
If you're a fan of old-fashioned horror movies, then this story will bring a smile to your face.  There's no super-heroics here, just clandestine experiments carried out in a dank castle and the grim misunderstood monster called The Hulk.  
 
Let's talk about the art.
 
I mentioned the "Marvel-Color" brag on the cover, so let's take a look at what they're talking about.  Frankly, I'm impressed!  Just LOOK at the pages scanned above.  The colors really are sharp and brilliant, making each page pop!  
 
Compared to other Marvel comics I have from 1979, the color here is simply on another whole different level.  I'd say that Marvel had a right to brag about their Super Marvel-Color process!
 
Ron Wilson's art takes full advantage of the sharper color process, filling each page with wonderful detail (Just look at the scans above of Feldstadt's laboratory for some prime examples) that perfectly complements the dark science fiction horror tale being told.  
 
A very nicely done story all around.
 
Now for some Moon Knight!
 
Countdown To Dark
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Bill Sienkiewicz, with Gene Colan & Keith Pollard (Story recap pages)
INKS: Bob Mcleod, with Frank Giacoia &Tony DeZuniga (Story recap pages)
COLORS: Steve Oliff
 
This story is actually the final chapter of a story continued from the previous two issues.  Unfortunately, I don't have those issues.  The good news is that Marvel was kind enough to provide a couple of nice recap pages. . .
 

 
To boil it down to the gravy. . .While on the hunt for a stolen Egyptian artifact, Marc Spector (AKA Moon Knight) has stumbled into a terrorist plot to blackmail New York City with a nuclear bomb.
 
Not knowing who the head of the plot is, Moon Knight's only lead is a planned hijacking.  He joins the hijackers in his identity as Marc Spector, international mercenary. . .and that brings us to the events of this issue.
 

We begin our tale in progress, as Marc Spector is shocked to find Moon Knight attacking the terrorist group he has infiltrated!  Elsewhere, we learn that a mysterious man called Lupinar is aware of Spector's infiltration AND his identity as Moon Knight, and that he is behind the deception.  

 
As Marc Spector fights the fake Moon Knight, the terrorists open fire and believe they've killed both Spector and Moon Knight, leaving them both for dead.  But Spector is protected by his armored Moon Knight costume beneath his clothes, and he resumes his pursuit of the terrorists. . .

 
The terrorists split up and Moon Knight contacts his comrade Frenchie in the skies above, tasking him to follow one of the cars while Moon Knight rides unnoticed on the roof of the other, hoping the terrorists will lead him to the head of the nuclear plot. . .

 
After a day spent in hiding, watching the terrorists as they go to ground and wait for orders, night falls and they are on the move again with Moon Knight following.  His hunch pays off as the car he's been following heads to a massive fortress-like mansion.  Moon Knight takes out the terrorists in the car as Frenchie circles overhead and tries to contact N.E.S.T. (a government nuclear emergency response agency) with their location.

 
Moon Knight gains entry into the mansion and easily takes down Lupinar's assistant, Smelt.  As he explores the halls of the building, not knowing exactly who or what he's looking for, Moon Knight is surprised to open a door and find himself being invited into the room for a glass of wine!
 
A mysterious figure in the shadows informs Moon Knight that not only has he been expecting him, but all that has transpired has been in the service of luring Moon Knight to the very place he stands!  The figure steps into the light and is revealed to be a twisted wolf-like monstrosity of a man. . .

 
The man, Lupinar, rails against a world that has rejected him because of his condition.  He reveals to Moon Knight that his plan was to take the ransom and detonate the nuclear bomb anyway. . .and then burn the billion dollars.  But once he learned Moon Knight was involved, he knew he had finally met a worthy challenge, and so lured him to the mansion. 
 
As Frenchy circles above, trying to contact N.E.S.T., Lupinar draws two swords, throwing one to Moon Knight and challenging him to a duel!

 
As Moon Knight and his opponent clash, Lupinar gloats that should Moon Knight defeat him, his terrorist henchmen have orders to demand his release from custody or they will destroy New York, so even if he does lose, he will still win in the end.  
 
Little does he know that Frenchie has managed to contact N.E.S.T. and they have apprehended the remaining terrorists and now have the mansion surrounded.
 

 
When Moon Knight informs Lupinar of the failure of the nuclear plot and his intention to take him alive and into custody, Lupinar throws himself onto Moon Knight's sword, preferring to kill himself than to be taken prisoner.  Moon Knight is saddened by the outcome and leaves the mansion. . .

 
Outside, N.E.S.T. has finished rounding up the terrorists and begin disabling their nuclear bomb.  Disgusted by being forced to kill again, Moon Knight calls for Frenchie to pick him up and take him home.  His work is done here.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I'm a big Moon Knight fan and was excited to see some early Moon Knight stories were to be found in these Hulk Magazines. . . especially when I saw that the classic Moon Knight team of Moench and Sienkiewicz were on the job!
 
I have to say that I wasn't disappointed.  Okay. . .maybe a little bit because I don't have the rest of this story to enjoy, and only have the conclusion to it.  Reading this story brings back memories of the great original Moon Knight series by Moench and Sienkiewicz.  Just good, solid superhero action with a psychological twist.  
 
I had a big smile on my face the whole time I was reading this story.  THIS is the Moon Knight I remember and like the most! There's something to be said for changing a character to keep up to date for new readers, but sometimes you just want to get back to the basics, and THIS is classic Moon Knight right here.
 
The story itself sort of connects with the classic horror tropes of the Hulk main story by giving us Moon Knight swordfighting a werewolf (sort of) in a spooky mansion.  It's kind of a Halloween-themed issue, even though it came out in April.  
 
As for the art, what can I say?  It's Bill Freakin' Sienkiewicz before he went insane and just started scribbling all over the place.  In other words, it's rock solid and made even better by the same SUPER MARVEL-COLOR process that gave the lines of the Hulk story such a fine, sharp look.
 
Overall, even though this is just one piece of a multi-issue story, it really makes me want to dig out my original run of Moon Knight and read it all over again!
 

CONCLUSION

 
I'm gonna come right out and say that I really enjoyed this magazine and, in my humble opinion, it's a great little nugget of 1970s Longbox Junk gold!  
 
The first story was a very nice gothic tale spotlighting the desperation of Doctor Banner to rid himself of the Hulk.  Even to the point of working with a mad scientist.  It leaned hard into the nuclear age horror story aspect of the Hulk and paid homage to classic horror tropes.  It's the kind of Hulk story I never knew I wanted until I read it!
 
AND THEN. . .
 
We ALSO get an early Moon Knight tale from the classic Moon Knight team of Moench and Sienkiewicz!  Even though it was the conclusion of a multi-part story and I wasn't able to read the whole thing, it hit me HARD with nostalgia for some old school Moon Knight.
 
The two together provided me with a very enjoyable reading experience! The stories both hold up well, even 43 years down the road. I can highly recommend this magazine to fans of the Hulk, Moon Knight, or both.  Even if you aren't big fans of the characters, this issue is worth a look for the beautiful, sharp Bronze Age art alone.  Every page is a feast for the eyes!  Just LOOK at the scans above!
 
Overall, if you're a fan of the Hulk or Moon Knight, you WANT this magazine!  I can't really think of anything to complain about beyond a bit of disappointment that the Moon Knight story wasn't complete.  I give Hulk Magazine #14 the official Longbox Junk Gold Seal of Approval!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Not really sure.  I've been piling up a LOT of Longbox Junk!
This has been a great year for comic hunting.
 
But no matter WHAT I throw down next. . .
 
Be there or be square!

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