atom's Comic Book Blogs

  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

July 2024




Soooo. . .
I've actually had this review finished for about two weeks.  I didn't realize I forgot to post it until I came back to start on the second part tonight and saw it was still in draft! I must be gettin' old!
Anyway.  Better late than never, I guess.  Enjoy!
Welcome to Longbox Junk! If you're looking for comic reviews nobody ever asked for, you're in the right place!

A while back, a buddy of mine who sells comics at the flea market and reads Longbox Junk told me that he had what he considered to be one of the worst comic series ever written RIGHT THERE, and that he would give me the whole run for FREE if I reviewed them one day.
Okay.  Challenge accepted.  He gave me a slim stack of 6 issues.  I commented that it was a pretty short series.  He told me I'd see why after I read them.  And so I took the comics home and promptly forgot about them. . .until this weekend when I was doing some bagging and boarding and came across them again.
SO. . .if you're reading this, Jared. . .this one's for you!  Sorry I took a little while getting to it.
When Image Comics came on the scene in the mid-90s, they caused a seismic shift in the comic world, to say the least.  They came right out of the gate targeting Marvel's readers. . .which is to be expected, since most of Image's founders were Marvel defectors.  Marvel fought back, and the two companies soon engaged in an extended Ouroboros of a battle that lasted until it basically imploded the comic industry in general.
BUT. . .
Just because Marvel was Image's MAIN target, that didn't mean it was their ONLY target.  
DC took some shots from Image as well.  The battle between DC and Image wasn't quite as epic as the one between Marvel and Image, but when titles like ShadowHawk and Glory took direct aim at DC's Batman and Wonder Woman readers (and there were a few more, but this introduction is already long enough for more than two examples), DC fought back. . .giving us things like Azrael Batman and Artemis Wonder Woman.
But then DC decided to throw something into the ring they never really touched before during their friendly rivalry with Marvel. . .Mutants.  DC (and Marvel?) seem to have decided at some point that Mutants were just going to be a Marvel thing.  
Think about it a moment.  Can you think of a DC hero that is a mutant and that they call a mutant?  I can't.  There might be some, but I can't think of one right now.  But in their 90s desperation to hold the line against Image, DC decided it was FINALLY time for some mutants (I'm thinking they might have smelled a little of Marvel's blood in the water as well).
And that's how we got Xenobrood!  Let's check it out. . .


ISSUES #0 - #3

DC (1994)

COVER: Tomm Coker
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Tomm Coker
INKS: Kieth Aiken
Archaeologist Zecharia Leight makes an astounding discovery in the desert of Kuwait. . .a collection of ancient Sumerian tablets and a mysterious temple dating back to 4000 B.C.  It's a discovery that Leight hopes will shed some light on his research into the "missing link" of humanity's sudden and inexplicable rise to civilization.  But the most amazing discovery is a strange metal cylinder, a seemingly out of place artifact that would be impossible to manufacture given its great age.
After narrowly escaping an attack by mysterious ninjas, Leight is determined to solve the mystery of the cylinder.  Unfortunately, despite bringing it for study to several respected scientific institutions such as NASA and STAR Labs, he gets no answers beyond that the alloy could not have possibly come from 4th Century B.C. Sumeria.  
After accidentally managing to open the cylinder, Leight discovers four crystals inside.  He decides to take a chance and reconnect with his ex-girlfriend and colleague, Lorna. . .a brilliant genetic scientist.  After showing her the cylinder and the crystals, they agree to work together in her lab.  
After many weeks of unsuccessful experiments, they finally discover the solution!  A simple mix of saline water and sunlight.  The crystals grow into blobs of protoplasm, but soon begin to grow even larger and take on human-like shapes in their saline tanks.

As the growth of the crystals progresses, Leight receives news of the translation of the ancient tablets discovered in Kuwait.  They seem to tell an incredible story of an advanced civilization visiting Earth in the distant past. . .but the connection between the tablets and the strange crystals remains unclear.
As Leight and Lorna discuss the implications of the tablets and the crystals, the lab is attacked by the same sort of mysterious ninjas that attacked Leight earlier!  The two scientists are outnumbered and heavily outmatched, fearing for their lives, they try to run.
But as their escape is blocked, they are rescued by a most unlikely group of strangely-costumed people with amazing powers!  After the ninja are defeated by the mysterious group, they address Leight and tell the stunned scientist that they are his to command!
Okay. . .not bad.  Unfortunately, not really that great, either.  This one rides a very shaky track right down the middle line of the road.  It's pretty clear that Moench was taking a lot of inspiration from the "ancient astronaut" theory, and specifically from the work of Zecharia Sitchin (who gives Doctor Leight his first name, and Sitchin is also mentioned in upcoming issues) and his theories about the extraterrestrial nature of the ancient Sumerian gods known as the Anunnaki.  I won't dive into that rabbit hole here with three more issues to review, but it IS an interesting twist on your standard "X" team origin story.
Unfortunately, the execution of the idea is a bit lacking.  Moench is a modern comic legend in his own right, but this is definitely NOT his best work.  This seems less like a good superhero origin story and more of a vehicle to present the Anunnaki/Alien theory as a basic sketch in comic book form aimed at readers unaware of the theory.  It's really not up to Moench's usual writing standard.
On the art side of things. . .well, you can definitely tell this comic was made in the 90s during the Image incursion into the comic industry.  The art isn't BAD, it's just very 90s.  It tells the story just fine, but you can tell that Coker would really rather be drawing sexy women than anything.  The females in this issue definitely have more attention paid to them by the artist than anything else.
So let's see what happens next!

COVER: Tomm Coker
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Tomm Coker
INKS: Kieth Aiken & Dennis Cramer
Picking up directly from the end of issue 0, Professor Leight and Lorna find themselves with four strange beings who insist that Leight is their "processor" and is therefore their master and commander.  
The first task at hand is naming his new "genies", as Leight calls them.  In doing so, we get a nice little bit of exposition demonstrating each of their powers as they are given a name to match. . .
Astra: A female being who is able to astrally travel into the bodies of others to control them.
Blip: Another female that is able to teleport (or "blip") objects that she can see.
Thrasher: A huge male with superhuman strength.
Zapatak: A male who is the group's (sort of) leader.  Able to project radiation in blasts or focused beams.
After giving the group what has to be some of the WORST names (Zapatak? Really? Come on, Doug Moench. . .you're better than this!) a bit of time passes.  Leight and Lorna decide that they need a bit more room for six people than her laboratory and so Leight buys a "fixer upper" in the worst part of town.
The building turns out to be less of a fixer upper and more of a literal crack house.  The two scientists and their new mutant "genies" are forced to fight a street gang and a bunch of addicts in order to be able to move in. . .not realizing that they are still being watched by the mysterious ninjas from the previous issue.
After throwing out the gang and addicts, the team. . .now called "The Xenobrood", due to Leight presuming they are aliens who have been bred for some specific purpose (but really because Xeno has an X in it. . .for that sweet, sweet "X-Book" money), fix up the building and the Xenobrood begin assimilating human knowledge and trying to figure out their purpose for existing.
Leight and Lorna take the Xenobrood out in public, trying to acclimate them, but when they return from a pizza party, their building is aflame!  A fire set by the enraged street gang engulfs their new home, and Leight realizes that there are still a few homeless living on the roof they hadn't cleared out yet.
He commands the Xenobrood to save their lives, and in doing so, they appear using their powers for the first time in public.
As the Xenobrood go into action, they are being watched by the mysterious ninjas.  As they report the team's activities, we are finally introduced to their previously-unknown master. . .a three-eyed being who proclaims that the Xenobrood belong to him, and with their powers, he will at long last be able to come out of hiding and rule the Earth! DUN-DUN-DUNNNNN!!
To be continued. . .
Okay. . .now I'm beginning to see why my buddy Jared considers this a bad series.  Starting right off with the cover (which I have to admit IS nicely done) and moving along to the awful names. . .Astra, Blip, Thrasher and *sigh* Zapatak. . .and the unimaginative powers. . .energy beams? Super strength?  This could be EASILY mistaken for any Image team comic of the time, which, to be fair, seems like DC's purpose here anyway.  But coming out of the gate as a blatant copycat is NOT a good look. . .especially with the benefit of hindsight.
The one thing that sort of gave Issue 0 an interesting twist. . .the ancient astronaut/Annunaki angle, is almost completely missing here.  This gives the issue even MORE of a cheap copycat feel and it's just weird to me that Doug Moench was the writer here.  His work is usually darker and more introspective.  Moench may not be my favorite comic writer, but credit where it's due, he at least puts his own unique stamp on things.  Here, that unique feel of Moench's writing that he brought to characters like Moon Knight and Batman is just not there.  The story feels generic.  Doug Moench is usually anything BUT generic.
On the art side of things, it's still 90s-Tastic to the Xtreme, but I DO see an improvement over the 0 issue.  The females definitely still get most of the attention, but there are actually a few other standout moments, to the point that the art in this issue stands slightly above Moench's uninspired storytelling.  But when I say "above", I mean maybe a single notch.  The art may have improved a bit, but it's still firmly rooted in the prevalent art style that makes most 90s comics instantly recognizable as products of that decade.
COVER:  Tomm Coker
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Tomm Coker
INKS: Kieth Aiken & Dennis Cramer
After the destruction of their new base, Doctor Leight, Lorna, and the Xenobrood are hounded by the press.  They head back to Lorna's laboratory and try to hide from the unwanted attention while they plan their next move.  
While the rest of them discuss plans for the future, Blip visits a gang member she teleported who is in the hospital.  Learning that her powers have caused unnecessary suffering to him, she decides not to use her teleport powers on living beings.

Deep under the ocean, in a hidden base, we learn that the mysterious three-eyed man at the end of last issue is called Lord Vimana.  He is disappointed in the abilities of his ninja warriors and decides to unleash ancient creatures long held in reserve to bring the Xenobrood to him. . .the true faces behind the legends of Minotaur, Khali, Gargoyle, and Medusa.
Blip returns to the group and they continue their discussion of what to do next.  Doctor Leight is determined that they should use their powers for good, to try and help with some of society's ignored problems.  Their discussion is interrupted by a helicopter carrying ANOTHER group of mysterious black-clad attackers. . .different from the ninjas. 
The Xenobrood manage to defeat these new, unknown enemies (who claim to be Federal Agents) and escape, using Astra's ability to take over living beings to steal first the helicopter, and then a jumbo jet.
The Xenobrood have decided that before they can do the world any good, they have to investigate their mysterious origin, and are therefore headed to Kuwait, where Dr. Leight discovered the metallic cylinder that held the crystals they grew from.
In Kuwait, Leight, Lorna, and the Xenobrood are met by Doctor Jameson, a colleague of Dr. Leight who has taken over the dig site where the Xenobrood crystals were discovered.  He has astounding news for Leight. . .they have continued to translate the ancient Sumerian writings and have discovered tales of otherworldly beings engaging in massive battles with flying machines.  But more than that, they have ALSO discovered the entrance to the hidden structure below where the strange metal cylinder was found!
While Leight and Jameson discuss the implications of the Xenobrood being able to prove that what was previously thought to be myth as reality, the dig site is suddenly attacked!  The four creatures sent by Lord Vimana have tracked the Xenobrood. 
 They demand the Xenobrood return with them to their rightful master.  The Xenobrood refuse, acknowledging only Doctor Leight as their "Processor".  An epic battle ensues! As Vimana's creatures and the Xenobrood fight, Leight, Lorna, and Jameson flee.

The humans fall through the dig site and into an undiscovered portion of the ancient temple. . .finding themselves surrounded by mysterious high-tech devices that shouldn't have existed so long ago!
To Be Continued. . .
One would THINK that in a comic based in the mainstream DC Universe (Superman even guest stars in the next two issues) that new superheroes, and even aliens wouldn't be such a big deal.  But I guess Moench wanted to dig into that old X-Men persecution.  It just feels a little forced as a motivation to get the Xenobrood on the run.  
On the other hand, there's a bit of a return to about the only thing that sets this series apart, the Ancient Astronauts/Annunaki angle.  To be fair, there's not much of it . . .the issue is more of a series of running battles to escape press attention, the Federal Government, and Lord Vimana. . .but the little taste we do get is a nice bit of flavor.
But even with that, this is clearly not Doug Moench's best work.  Three issues in and it's painfully obvious that Moench isn't really suited for writing a mainstream Image-style team knockoff. 
On the art side of things, Tomm Coker's art has shown slight, but steady improvement over the course of the three issues at hand.  It's sort of a shame that this is his last issue on this series.  I'm not sure why he departed Xenobrood, but it would have been interesting to see how much more he could have improved along the way.  That's not to say the art is GREAT. . .it's definitely a product of the 90s in every good AND bad way that implies.  But I did like to see the steady progression in style going on.
COVER:  Chris Hunter
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Chris Hunter
INKS: John Lowe
After a brief recap of the previous issues, we join the Xenobrood as they battle Lord Vimana's monstrous servants amidst the ruins of an ancient Sumerian temple.  Below the ruins, in a previously undiscovered chamber, are the humans the Xenobrood are protecting. . .Dr. Leight, Lorna, and another scientist named Jameson.
After Vimana's creatures are driven off, the Xenobrood join the humans as they investigate the strange, technologically advanced ruins beneath the temple.  They discover twisted alien form inside shattered glass tubes, as well as a cache of dozens of crystals exactly like the ones the Xenobrood were grown from!
The group returns to the surface and Jameson continues to tell them what he's translated from the ancient texts discovered along with the temple. . .fantastic tales of beings engaging in battle from flying machines, beings that came to Earth to plunder the resources to be found. . .beings that brought their slave labor with them in the form of crystals!  
The Xenobrood quickly realize that they weren't the advanced beings, as they HAD thought previously, but their slaves. . .with their powers enabling them to carry out various duties involved with mining and processing ores.  Worse, Jameson's translations ALSO reveal that the slave DNA was mixed with primitive humans in order to jump their evolution process forward several million years, in order to make them better slaves to their alien overlords!

As the group ponders the history-changing implications that every human on Earth may be the product of genetic tampering by an ancient alien race, they don't realize that some of Vimana's ninja servants have remained behind and have been searching the ruins.  They find the crystals and retrieve them, bringing them to their master, who is pleased that he no longer needs to try and capture the Xenobrood.
The dig site once again comes under attack!  This time by the Iraqi military.  The scientists and Xenobrood scramble for cover under the heavy bombardment.  They rush back into the hidden ruins.
The Iraqi artillery begins to collapse the ruins on the group as they seek shelter within them.  A blast separates the humans and the Xenobrood.  As they try to dig the humans back out, the Xenobrood are attacked again. . .this time by a strange being dressed in blue and shooting heat beams from his eyes!
As the Xenobrood battle the new threat, Dr. Leight manages to dig his way free. . .and is startled to see the Xenobrood are fighting SUPERMAN! 

To be continued. . .
And it's. . .CROSSOVER TIME!  It's never a great sign for a comic series when they have to pull out a fan favorite character to make an appearance this early in the run to prop up sales.  It's an even worse sign when they start making creative team changes this soon, which is exactly what happens with a new artist and inker swapping in starting with this issue.  
You can definitely see the writing on the wall for Xenobrood as an ongoing series.  Doug Moench scrambles as he tries to swerve the story back to the ancient aliens/ Annunaki twist that was really the only thing making this series stand out in the first place, so we get a hefty dose of it here. . .but he ALSO needs to cram in a sales-bumping Superman appearance as well.  The two things don't really mix well. 
Pounding another nail in the coffin is the new art team.  Tomm Coker might not have been the BEST 90s artist I've seen, but at least his art had some personality and quirkiness to it, and it was also showing an interesting (if slow) progression through his three issues. 
Chris Hunter's art is much more straightforward. . .with a lack of backgrounds and fine detail, and heavily inked by John Lowe to the point that it gives the issue an almost cartoonish feel.  Don't get me wrong. . .the art isn't BAD.  It just looks like something more like you'd expect in a filler issue. . .which is what Chris Hunter went on to do after this series, a few filler issues before getting out of comics entirely to  start his own studio doing storyboards for movies and graphic design.  And you can sort of tell his heart wasn't really in it here.



There is VERY little information to be found on this series.  It's not even mentioned on Tomm Coker's Wiki page. A couple of sketchy reviews of the 0 issue.  A bit of nuts and bolts description and creator credits on comic archive sites, but that's it.  The characters were never seen or mentioned again.
But I can see that there was some fairly high concept thought put into this by Doug Moench, and there was some decent work put into it by original artist Tomm Coker.  What little information I CAN find on Xenobrood seems to indicate that it was supposed to be an ongoing series that was shortened down to a mini-series when it landed with a resounding sales thud.
Doug Moench isn't my FAVORITE comic writer, but he's definitely got some industry swagger gained from working on characters like Moon Knight and Batman.  One would THINK that if anyone could pull off a superhero team book wrapped in ancient alien astronaut theory, it would be Moench.
So WHY is this series a practically-forgotten footnote?
Like I said, there's not much information to be found, so I can only speculate.  I'm thinking that the failure of this series lies in the purpose for which it was created. . .to try and compete with 90s Image.  An uphill battle for ANY series at the time. . .even worse of a battle for DC, which was sort of on the edge of the epic fight for sales going on between Marvel and Image.  
DC brought in a solid writer with some good fan credit under his belt, but it wasn't enough.  90s Image was a powerhouse!  From the looks of it, this series was swatted out of the collective comic fanbase so hard and fast that it's been pretty much forgotten that it ever even existed!  DC had a little better success giving their established characters like Guy Gardner, Wonder Woman, and Batman the "Xtreme" treatment, but their very short-lived attempt at an "X" team book?  Nope. 
So where does that leave the series itself.  Sure it's a failed and forgotten experiment, but is it any good?
Wellll. . .it's okay, I guess.  It DOES have an interesting story hook in the ancient astronaut theory, and it's definitely worth a look as a sort of 90s time capsule and example of how hard DC and Marvel were scrambling to keep up with Image at the time.  But other than that?  It's a pretty typical "X" team book, and not even close to the best example of such.
I'm not sure it's one of the worst comic series ever, like my friend pitched it to me as. . .but it surely ain't something to brag about, either.  It's just sort of okay.  Not really good, not really bad.  Just okay.
But maybe it will get better?
There's still three more issues left, and I ain't a quitter, son!
UP NEXT. . .
Let's finish this thing!  Xenobrood Part 2: Issues 4-6. 
Be there or be square!

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Moon Knight is a character that is often referred to as "Marvel's Batman". 

I disagree.

Sure, there are similarities. . .some of them are pretty obvious.  Both are super-wealthy, cape-wearing non-super powered vigilantes with themed weapons and vehicles.  Okay, I can see where people draw the "Marvel's Batman" conclusion from that kind of surface observation.

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