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  • atom | Male | Utah

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

July 2020




Longbox Junk Halloween - Nosferatu Wars

1551 views • 251 days ago • (0) Comments

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

It's the day before Halloween, but we're still having some spooky fun here at Longbox Junk by spotlighting some of the creepy comics hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) collection.

This month we've taken a look at American Vampires (great!), Vegetarian Duck Vampires (pretty good) and grumpy reformed Vampires (meh).  So even though this Halloween Longbox Junk season HAS been a bit Vampire-Heavy, I'm of the opinion that in this time of year Vampires are like bite-size Snickers. . .you can never have enough in your bucket!

And so. . .more vampires. I pulled this one from my daughter's collection after spotting that SWEET Halloween-y cover while delving for some good Longbox Junk.  I've never heard of this or read it until now, so you'll find out the same time I do:

Is this Snickers or Candy Corn?

Let's do it!



SCRIPT: Steve Niles
PENCILS: Menton3
COVER: Menton3
So the cover on this is what caught my eye.  Let's linger on it for a moment.
Is this or is this not an almost perfect Halloween cover?  I say it is!  It's a bit late to put it up on the office wall (just spotted it this morning), but this one is DEFINITELY on the list for next year.  That  strangely beautiful, yet fierce, face standing out strongly as the focal point against the dark shades of black and grey really makes this cover great.   It's a very simple cover that is outstanding in almost every way.  
Such a great cover.  Let's see what's underneath. . .
The story goes like this:
During the time of the Black Plague, there is so much death that vampires roam the earth freely as sort of an open secret.  Our story begins as Moria and Tarquin, ancient vampires and lovers, leave a plague-ridden city and seek directions to the country estate of Lord Mattering. . .who has turned his home into a fortress against both plague and vampire.
Shortly afterward, the doctor who they speak to is seized by a priest and his men and burned at the stake for being seen talking to vampires.  As the doctor burns, Moira hears the screams of a woman and convinces her lover to avenge the senseless death.
The vampire lovers follow the priest back to his cathedral and confront him, mocking his belief that the vampires are the spreaders of the plague when their great age (they're from the days of the Roman Empire) gives them the knowledge that it's actually rats and fleas.
The pair of vampires kills the priest by hanging him and leaving his body on public display, then continue their journey to Lord Mattering's fortress estate. . .
Upon arrival at Lord Mattering's Castle, Moira and Tarquin see that the rumors are true.  The estate is heavily-fortified, with soldiers everywhere.  Tarquin decides that since every effort to enter will be equally dangerous, a direct attack is as good a way as any to get inside. . .
As the pair of vampires fight their way through the castle guards, Tarquin reflects on how they met about 100 years after the fall of the Roman Empire and became former enemies turned lovers.
Once inside the fortress, Moira and Tarquin surprise Lord Mattering and his family as they hide in their inner sanctum.  The vampires brutally kill Lord Mattering's two young children in front of the terrified nobleman and his wife. . .
Tarquin strikes a deal with Lord Mattering that if the nobleman will marry the two vampires, they will not harm him.  Mattering agrees and so marries Tarquin and Moria.  Unfortunately for Lord Mattering, Tarquin's deal said nothing about his now-vampiric children.  The vampire children slaughter their parents as Tarquin and Moria take their leave of the fortress. . .

Outside of Lord Mattering's estate Moria and Tarquin are confronted by a large group of vampires led by one called Mangus.  He tells Tarquin that the couple's activities. . .namely the public killing of the priest. . .are bringing too much attention to vampires.

The confrontation turns heated and Mangus threatens Moira, who attacks.  Knowing they can't defeat so many other vampires, Tarquin and Moria flee the encounter.  The rest of the vampires pursue them.


As Moira and Tarquin make their escape, a strange craft comes from the sky and Moira is drawn up into it by a brilliant beam of light, leaving Tarquin alone to escape the pursuing vampires. . .

On board the mysterious craft, Moira finds herself surrounded by strange beings.  She attacks them.
The end of the tale comes some undetermined time later in the future, as Moira returns to Earth after having apparently conquered a planet, intent on finally reuniting with her lover, Tarquin, who has been fighting for survival alone since her disappearance.  Her return starts some sort of war.
The End.  To be continued?
Okay.  Well then.  THAT escalated quickly.  Let's try to unpack what's happened here.

Basically, this story went from a pretty decent tale about two vampire lovers during the Middle Ages and turned into a ALIEN ABDUCTION story out of nowhere!  Where the did ALIENS suddenly come from?

It's as if you were watching Lord of the Rings and suddenly Gandalf whips out a machine gun and starts blasting orcs to a heavy metal soundtrack.  It's so incredibly sudden and out of left field that it just sort of leaves me wondering what the just happened.  And then the story just ends!  All I can think of is this:

Okay.  Deep breath.  Let's put the aliens aside for the moment and look at the rest of the comic.
Steve Niles creates a grim world of fanatic priests, wandering vampires, and terrified survivors set against the backdrop of a grimy, plague-ridden Europe.  It's a fantastic setting for a dark tale such as this.   The dialogue perfectly captures the weary feel of a world and its inhabitants at a time that feels like the end of everything.  
Unfortunately, there's not much story here to go with Niles' grimy, desperate world.  It feels more like some sort of disconnected prequel to a larger story that never got written.  It's more of an introduction than an actual story.  There are multiple references to things that we never see. . .such as the Nosferatu Wars of the title itself, Moira destroying a planet, and Tarquin's fight for survival during her absence.  
Reading this is like reading the first and third issues of a four issue mini-series without reading the second or last issue. You can tell what's going on, but it definitely feels incomplete in many ways. 
I can't find any good information on this comic except that it was originally a 4 part story in Dark Horse Presents (Issues 26 - 29 of the 2011 series that I'm surprised lasted 36 issues because each issue cost SEVEN DOLLARS), but it really feels like there was supposed to be quite a bit more coming that never got done.   I think maybe the writer was planning on some sort of Vampire/Alien war from the looks of it.

The art also feels extremely inconsistent. There are definitely moments of greatness here.  The artist has an almost monotone, dreamlike (or nightmarish?), very dark style that perfectly matches the grim and weary world the writer has created. 
Unfortunately, mixed in with this very interesting and appealing style are panels that look like unfinished pencil sketches.  The sketches aren't bad in most cases, but when put next to the other art style on the same page they aren't very complimentary and give the comic a bit of a schizophrenic feel.  Maybe this was what the artist had in mind, but to my eye it doesn't quite work.


What we have here is a strange little piece of Longbox Junk that is contradictory in many ways.  
The setting is amazing, the characters and dialogue are interesting, and there are hints of a larger story to come.  BUT. . .Those hints never pay off, the story is more of a fragmented introduction than a complete story, and the ending is off the hook random craziness that makes you wonder what the just happened.
The art is dark, dreamlike, and perfectly matches the grim and weary setting.  BUT. . .Mixed in with that fantastic art, often on the same page, are what look like unfinished pencil sketches that give the whole comic a disorganized look.
Overall, this whole comic is an exercise in contradiction.  Good mixes freely with bad on almost every page.  I don't think I can recommend this to anyone but the most devoted fan of vampire stories, and even then I warn that there is no follow up to what's here.  This strange introduction is it.
As for anyone else, the cover is definitely worth a buck if you spot it in a bargain bin.  There's also some curiosity value that comes from seeing aliens suddenly appear in a Middle Ages vampire story.
Up Next. . .
That's it for this year's Longbox Junk Halloween fun!  So it's back to business as usual. I'm not sure exactly what will be next. . .so much junk to choose from. 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Longbox Junk Halloween - DCeased #1

1674 views • 253 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome back to Longbox Junk. . .the blog packed FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me for!

Even though the witching hour draws close, we're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by taking a look at some of the spooky stuff hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

It's been a pretty nice Halloween season here at Longbox Junk if I DO say so myself. So far we've seen Vampires (Vegetarian and otherwise), Killer Easter Bunnies,  A sci-fi take on Jekyll & Hyde, Werewolves, Frankenstein's Monster, Spirits of Vengeance, Prairie Witches, and some generally nasty people doing nasty things (like burying each other alive).  So what's missing here?

Zombies.  We need some zombies!

And so here's some zombies.

What we have here is a fresh chunk of Longbox Junk that's on the stands even as I write this.  I only have the first issue because I basically bought it for the extremely Halloween-y zombie Batman variant cover and somehow have kept missing the following issues.  I'm sure I'll spot the whole set eventually in a bargain bin, but for now I just have this first issue, so let's take a look at it!



DC (2019)

So I bought this thing for the cover. Let's take a look at the cover, shall we?  
*shudders* Now THAT's some creep-tastic cover art right there!  Fransesco Mattina outdoes himself with a nightmarish vision of one of DC's greatest heroes gone straight to zombie !  Just look at the detail in things like Batman's nasty teeth and jaundiced eyes.  This is NOT the Batman you want to meet in a dark alley.  Very well done!
That's the cover.  Let's get into the story.


SCRIPT: Tom Taylor
PENCILS: Trevor Hairsine & Stefano Gaudiano (pgs. 1-6, 15-26)
                    James Harren (pgs. 7-14)
COVER: Francesco Mattina (Variant)
The story goes like this. . .
We begin with the Justice League defeating Darkseid and forcing him to leave after he invades Earth. But as he goes, Darkseid gives the League an ominous farewell that doesn't quite sit right with the heroes. . .
Indeed, all is not as it seems.  Darkseid's invasion was merely a distraction.  His true purpose was to capture the hero known as Cyborg. . .now held prisoner on Apokolips.  Darkseid's search for the Anti-Life Equation has led him to believe that the second half of the Equation rests in Cyborg's technology. . .
Darkseid's scientist, Desaad, informs his master that although the combining of the two halves of the Anti-Life Equation is possible, the Equation will be lost entirely if Cyborg dies in the process.  To ensure that Cyborg doesn't die, Darkseid summons Death and uses him to slightly alter the Anti-Life Equation to make sure Cyborg survives the process. . .
The change that Darkseid makes to the Anti-Life Equation has disastrous effects as the corrupted Equation combining the physical and technological drives Darkseid insane.  Desaad quickly transports Cyborg back to Earth to try and stop the spread of the Techo-Organic Virus, but he's too late.  An insane Darkseid destroys Apokolips. . .
Cyborg reappears on Earth in Metropolis, and his internal systems immediately connect him to the internet and all surrounding online devices.  Cyborg is horrified to see the Techno-Organic Virus he's infected with begin to quickly spread among the people nearby.  He is unable to do anything to stop the Virus as people begin to go insane and tear each other apart. . .
In the meantime, Superman is putting together a plan with Big Barda and Mister Miracle to rescue Cyborg from Apokolips, not knowing that Cyborg has already been sent back by Desaad.  He hears the screams of people from the street and sees the spreading insanity.  Realizing  that the situation is already out of hand and getting worse, Superman rushes to his wife and son. . .
While Superman is busy saving his family from the spreading madness, the scene shifts to the Batcave, where Batman is monitoring the situation on isolated systems safe from the Techno-Organic Virus. . .and the news isn't good.  
The computer estimates that there are ALREADY 600 million infected people, and at the current rate of spread BILLIONS will be infected in a matter of days.  This is definitely a problem Batman can't punch a solution to!
Batman quickly sets off an EMP pulse in Wayne Manor above, but he's too late.  As the Dark Knight heads upstairs to check on things, he is attacked by an infected Nightwing and Robin (Tim Drake)!
After a brutal battle with his infected partners, Batman orders Alfred to escape and we are left with a cliffhanger scene of Batman being bitten by Nightwing. . .
The End.
Okay then.  There it is.  It's not a "Dead Rising Up And Slowly Wantin' To Eat Your Braaaaaains" sort of zombie apocalypse.  More of a "Virus Driving People Insane Enough To Kill You, So RUN!" sort of thing.  Despite the unique connection to the DC Universe by having the virus originate as a corrupted form of the Anti-Life Equation, it's still. . .well. . .it's just another zombie apocalypse.
Don't get me wrong.  It's not bad.  It's actually pretty good and makes me want to pick up the next issue.  The idea of a zombie apocalypse in the DC Universe IS an interesting one.  It's just that, do we REALLY need more zombies?  Okay, sure.  There's superheroes in this zombie story.  But really, hasn't that also been done before?
There's going to be inevitable comparisons between this and Marvel Zombies. . .but from what I've read of Marvel Zombies (which admittedly isn't very much, just a few issues here and there), they are two different things.  Sort of like how there's a definite difference between a Corvette and a Pickup Truck even though at the heart of it, they're both basically automobiles.  So despite what you may think, DCeased is NOT a copy of Marvel Zombies. 
The writer does a fine job.  I want to see what happens next.  There's nothing wrong with the writing.  The art is good, but not great.  I actually enjoyed the chunkier, darker look of the art during the Apokolips sections. . .it reminds me of the artist everyone else hated on the recent X-Force series that I liked (Dylan Burnett) enough that I pulled out an X-Force issue to see if it was the same guy.  I guess I just like that chunky, dark sort of style.
So nothing wrong with the writing or art.  It's just. . .zombies, I guess.  Maybe they could have told the story of a Techno-Organic Virus destroying the world without zombies? Maybe? I think they could have.  


What we have here is a well-written story with a DC Universe-specific angle on the extremely well-worn framework of a zombie apocalypse backed up with some good art.  It's interesting enough for me to want to get the next issue, but not interesting enough to make me want to order it if my local shop doesn't have the next one sitting there.
If you're a fan of zombie stories, then definitely pick this one up.  If you're getting a bit tired of zombies then this isn't really something you'll miss out on if you don't read it.  If you don't like zombie stories in the first place, then this won't change your mind one bit.
Up Next. . .
I think there's still time for at least one more piece of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for that you could ever ask for!  Wait. . .did that make sense? You know what, I don't care!  Welcome!

We're in the last week of October and it's the Halloween Home Stretch for Longbox Junk before we get back to our random business as usual.  So sit back and enjoy a few more posts where we spotlight some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

I was sort of on the fence about labeling this one as a Longbox Junk "Retro Review".  It sits solidly at the end of the Bronze Age in 1980. . .and at 40 years old, it's not exactly a new comic.  But on the other hand, the art and the stories inside definitely have a more Modern Age feel to them. . .despite paying lip service to the CCA by sporting the (then increasingly toothless)  seal of approval on the cover. 

In any case, no matter where this comic may fall in terms of  defining "Age", at a top value of twelve lousy bucks for a mint copy (according to Comic Book Realm) it's definitely what I would call Longbox Junk. . .so let's take a look!



DC (1980)

COVER: Luis Dominguez
So before we get into the comic itself, let's linger a moment over the cover. 
In my extremely humble opinion, that's a fine Halloween cover right there!  I mean, just LOOK at it.  It's so wrong. . .yet so right!  This is the sort of cover that makes me buy an old comic without seeing or knowing anything else about it.  And that's exactly how I ended up with this.  How could I possibly pass up a comic with a cover like this?  I can't! I  just can't!  
This is just a great horror comic cover.  It's one of my favorites and it makes regular appearances as part of my Halloween comic cover display on my office wall at work.  
Let's get into the comic itself.  There's four stories in here for the fifty cents this cost in 1980. Plus each story has an introduction page starring The House of Secrets' Abel or The Witching Hour's trio of witches.   That's a pretty hefty pile of pages for two measly quarters.  
SCRIPT: Carl Wessler
PENCILS: Torre Repiso
After an inmate escapes from the local insane asylum, a police captain's wife receives a visitor claiming to be an investigator on the case.  She becomes suspicious and tries to escape the house, narrowly avoiding death when her husband arrives just in time to shoot the disguised inmate.  
There's not really much to this story.  It's basically a "stalker chase scene" horror trope with the twist that the Captain's wife became suspicious in the first place because the inmate was female and she could tell the disguised "investigator" was female by the way she held her arms.  
Even though it's light on actual story, it's well written and the art is very nicely done.  Not a bad story, but not great. It feels like page-filler more than anything.  I'm not sure this should have been the lead-off here.
SCRIPT: Michael Uslan
PENCILS: Tenny Henson
Three kids join the festivities after signs advertising an Easter Egg hunt at an old mansion pop up around town overnight.  At the party, the three are invited inside the mansion for a "special" hunt with a big prize.  Instead of prizes, they fall into a trapdoor that drops them into a vat of chocolate.  
One of them is pulled out by a giant Easter Bunny, who immediately bites the head off of the chocolate-covered kid. . .leaving the other two still trapped in the vat of chocolate watching as the first is devoured, horrified and knowing that they will die the same way. . .
Wow. . .just. . .wow.  Even toward the end of the CCA's influence, I find it hard to believe that this story made it past.  It's not ambiguous at all. . .the Easter Bunny gets his revenge by biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid.  It's a classic "Turn-about is fair play" horror comic trope.
It's a very short little tale, but it's just SO random that it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  Why does the Easter Bunny choose THIS Easter for his revenge? Wait. . .is that the Easter Bunny at all?  Why does the Easter Bunny Monster live in a trap-filled mansion?  What does the Easter Bunny eat the rest of the year?  So on and so forth. . .so many questions! 
This strange little nugget of horror was written by one of my top 5 old-school comic writers, Michael Uslan.  I stand here and give him a round of applause for giving the world this unexplained and probably unexplainable piece of hidden Longbox Junk gold.  
Bravo, Mr. Uslan! *vigorous clapping*
SCRIPT: Peter John Palmer
PENCILS: Ken Landgraf & Joe Orlando
A pet shop owner being harassed by an extortionist performs an occult ceremony as a last resort, trading his soul to the "Agent" he summons to rid himself of the hoodlum and restore his ruined store.
Over the coming years, he regrets his deal and tries his best to be a good and righteous man, hoping he will be able to bargain his way free at the end.  Later, as he lays dying, the "Agent" comes to collect on the bargain.  The man tries to plead his case, only for the "Agent" to reveal that he had summoned supernatural help from Heaven, not . .and that his good behavior has indeed saved him. 
The twist that the shop owner had summoned an angel instead of a demon was pretty good here and actually caught me by surprise.  Another thing that caught me by surprise is that even though the late Joe Orlando is credited on art, this story actually has the worst art in the comic.  It's not BAD, it's just. . .very average and workmanlike.  Maybe I was just expecting better after seeing Orlando's name on the credits. 
SCRIPT: Ms. Charlie Seeger
PENCILS: Arthur Geroche
At Milestone National Park, a Ranger and his Deputy investigate a camper's death they believe was caused by a renegade bear.  When a close examination of a second victim is made, it appears that she was killed by rabbits!  
Now convinced the Ranger himself is killing the campers and making it look like animals are responsible, the Deputy tries to protect himself, but when the Ranger is also killed, the Deputy finds himself facing a small horde of animals. . .including rabbits, deer, and birds. . .that kill him as well.
At the end of things, it's revealed that the Park itself turned against humans for revenge against littering, forest fires, and bad treatment of nature.
Allrighty, then.  It's a horror story with an environmental message!  Unfortunately, that message falls flat.  Really flat.  It's actually a pretty decent story with some great, darkly-inked artwork. . .until the "twist" that the Park itself was rebelling against human abuse of nature.  It's just sort of cringeworthy.
What I DID like about this story (besides the very nice artwork) is that it's the second story in this comic with killer rabbits (even if these are off-panel instead of biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid).  Even though it has a September publishing date, I'd have to say that the two killer bunny stories make this issue a great unsung Easter Horror comic!  I don't think there's many of those out there, so there's that.


Overall, I'd have to say that this was a pretty good comic.  At the time it was published, the comic horror anthologies were well on their way out the door.  This issue still has a nice little spark of life to it that I liked a lot.  Generally-speaking, the stories were all pretty good and nicely-illustrated.
The Michael Uslan killer Easter Bunny story is the definite star here, just for its complete randomness and for seeming like something that was sort of sneaked in under the radar.  The final story has the best art, but the worst story.  The other two are just sort of "pretty good", but everything in this comic displays little glints of gold here and there in single panels of art or lines of dialogue.
This is a comic that I absolutely love for the cover.  That said, what's inside isn't bad at all.  If you spot this one for a decent price (as in five bucks or less) then definitely pick it up and enjoy a strange little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  
Up Next. . .
Halloween ain't over until the 31st! 
So there's still a little more Longbox Junk Halloween fun to come.
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews nobody asked for!
There's still a couple weeks left in October, so we're still having some Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by looking at some of the spooky things hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.
This time out, we have a Dark Horse one shot adaptation of a couple of Edgar Allan Poe's shorter works written and illustrated by comic legend Richard Corben.
If Halloween were to have a central figure. . .a mascot, if you will, like Christmas has Santa Claus or Easter has the Easter Bunny, or. . .er. . .okay, that's all I can think of.  ANYWAY. . .if Halloween were to have its own mascot, in MY extremely humble opinion it should be the grumpy ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.
For the sake of TRYING to keep my introductions to a manageable length I won't go too far into the history of Poe. . .he basically lived a short, tragic life and died a mysterious death, leaving behind a body of some of the darkest literature ever written that is now regarded as the work of a mad genius, but was mostly ignored during his lifetime. 

Poe's life story is one of heartbreak, death, poverty, and unappreciated genius.  If you really feel like loving the life you have, then read Poe's life story and then thank you aren't him.  
SO. . .
We have an undisputed comic book legend adapting two short tales by one of the undisputed masters of dark and creepy literature.  How can this NOT be good?  Let's take a look!




There's two stories in this one-shot and, as you can tell from the credits above, this is pretty much a one man show with Richard Corben wearing all the hats.  Before we get into the comic, let's take a brief look at the cover. . .
Now THAT'S a Halloween cover!  I love Corben's use of negative space to frame the ghoulish scenario in the center.  The dreary colors highlight the living flesh of the man in the coffin as well as the title.  The supreme attention to detail in things like the terror in the eyes of the living man lets you know before you even open this comic that there's a master at work here. 
Wait. . .did I mention I'm a big Richard Corben fan?  No?  Well there it is, then.  This isn't Corben's best cover ever, but it's still a great cover.  Let's get inside.


We begin the tale in a graveyard where Lucian and his fiancee, Victoria are having a picnic.  Victoria rebuffs Lucian's advances and leaves him without realizing that Lucian has given her poisoned wine.
Appearing dead, Victoria is buried in the same graveyard.  Lucian digs up her grave the night of her burial, but Victoria wakes up as he is groping her body.  In a panic, Victoria flees and Lucian hits his head on a gravestone as he tries to pursue her. . .
A funeral is held for Lucian as the blow to his head has made him appear dead as well, but Victoria realizes he's not actually dead and hires the gravediggers to dig the terrified man who has been buried alive back up.
As Lucian recovers from his ordeal, he is informed by his outraged father that Victoria has told him exactly what happened and that, for some reason, she still wants to marry Lucian.  The two are married, but Lucian can't find happiness because he's become obsessed with his short time of being buried alive. . .
As Lucian sinks deeper into his obsession with being buried alive again, he takes many precautions to avoid that horrible fate. . .an above-ground tomb with a bell he can ring, a coffin that comes easily apart, a supply of food, and so on. 
Even so, he finds himself unable to sleep, terrified that he will wake up in a coffin again.  Victoria gives him tea so that he can sleep, but he finds himself having a horrible nightmare of being buried alive. . .
In Lucian's nightmare, he wanders a hellish landscape of the tormented dead who have been buried alive.  Their screams are relentless.  He spots Victoria and runs to her, hoping she can help him escape the nightmare. . .
But instead of helping him, Victoria grins wickedly and ignores his cries! 
Lucian's worst nightmare comes true as he wakes from his dream confined in a coffin!  But he is quickly relieved to hear another voice as he realizes he's not in a coffin, but in a small berth aboard a ship he is travelling on for a hunting trip. 
Relief turns to horror as Lucian realizes the truth. . .the ship is a fantasy and he is indeed buried alive after being drugged by his wife.
The End.
For those who haven't read Poe's original "The Premature Burial", it's less of a story and more like what one would hear at a lecture, the sort of which were popular entertainment in his day.  An introduction to the subject, several short examples, and then the speaker's personal experience.  It's a very matter-of-fact piece, compared to Poe's other tales, and there's actually not much narrative to it at all.
What Corben has done here is to meld the various elements of the original piece together and add to them in order to create an actual story out of what is more of a dry lecture on Premature Burial.  So this becomes less of an adaptation and more of a re-imagining.  
For someone who's read Poe's work many times such as myself, this is a fantastic interpretation of what is really one of Poe's less memorable works.  The moving and combining of the separate elements of the original by Corben in order to make an actual story out of them is brilliant.
Corben's reliably outstanding artwork is in top form here.  The wicked grin of Victoria as Lucian realizes she's purposely buried him alive is probably the creepiest thing in the entire story.  Corben's use of the comic panel itself as Lucian's coffin on top of the final page is another standout moment, as is the small image of the terrified Lucian enduring his awful fate at the bottom of the final page.
What we have here is a fantastic re-imagining of one of Poe's less memorable works, backed up with some top-notch art by one of the most legendary comic illustrators in the business.  I can find nothing wrong with this chilling little tale.  


We begin our tale with the Lord Montresor leading the widowed Madam Fortunato into his family crypt, promising to shed some light on the mysterious disappearance of her husband nearly 50 years ago. . .
Montresor tells her that many years ago, he found her drunken husband celebrating at a carnival and invited him to his home. . .to the very crypt they are in. . .to sample some Amontillado wine, for her husband was a great lover of rare wines. . .
As they traveled deeper and deeper into the depths of the crypt beneath the Montresor Pallazo, her husband was offered several times to turn back, but Fortunato greatly desired to sample the Amontillado, and so the pair pressed on, deeper into the crypt. . .
Finally, Montresor led Fortunato to a small alcove, promising the Amontillado was within.  But there was nothing in the alcove but a chain, which Montresor quickly used to bind Fortunato within the dark alcove. . .
Once Fortunato was securely confined, Montresor began to brick the alcove up.  Fortunato thought Montresor was playing a cruel joke right up until the time that Montresor placed the final stone. . .burying Fortunato alive within the walls of the very crypt they now stood within, and where Madam Fortunato's missing husband has been for the nearly 50 years since!
Madam Fortunato is understandably horrified by Montresor's confession.  She demands to know what her husband did that so wronged Montresor that he did such a thing.  Montresor thinks a moment, but is unable to remember!  
Montresor explains to the horrified Madam Fortunato that he merely wanted someone to know the truth after all the years had passed, and that he has come to the crypt to die. . .a glass of poisoned wine and Montresor falls dead beside the tomb of Fortunato.
The End.
"The Cask of Amontillado" is one of Poe's better known works, and one of my personal favorites.  It's basically a very short, very simple tale of one man luring another into a crypt and walling him up alive.  
What Corben does here is add a framing device to add more depth to the original tale.  In the original story, beyond vague insinuations of insult, it's never explained WHY Montresor walled Fortunato up.  Here, the lack of explanation becomes truly horrible as Montresor confesses to Fortunato's widow that he can't even remember why he killed her husband in such a cruel way.  
It's a brilliant touch by Corben that makes a great story even better!  The confession of Montresor becomes even more horrifying than the deed itself, due to the absurdity of his not even remembering why he did it.
The art in this story is simply fantastic!  This is a tale that has very little action or supernatural elements to it, so facial expressions need to do a lot of the heavy lifting.  Corben delivers in a big way here.  Fortunato's manic grin as he walls up Fortunato, as well as the insanity in that same grin as he makes his confession are real standout moments in a story full of great art.
What we have here is a brilliant expansion on an already great story, backed up by some extremely detailed and creepy art focusing on facial expressions.  For me, THIS is the definitive adaptation of Poe's classic tale.


If you're looking for a good horror comic, look no further.  You won't find gore or monsters here, but what you WILL find are two creepy little stories of madness and revenge that use the primal fear of being buried alive as their foundation.
In the first, we have a brilliant re-structuring and re-imagination of what is otherwise one of Poe's less memorable works, turning it from a dry lecture and into an actual story.
In the second, we have more of a straight re-telling of a classic story, but with an outstanding framing device that makes an already great story even better.
In both we have incredible artwork by one of the undisputed legends of comic art.
If you are a fan of horror comics, Richard Corben, Edgar Allan Poe, or any combination of those things, then do yourself a favor and grab this comic if you happen to spot it in the bargain bin.  It's pure Longbox Junk Halloween gold.
Up Next. . .
MORE Halloween fun!  That's right. . .MORE!
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk, spotlighting some of the spooky stuff haunting my (and my daughter's) comic collection.  This time out, we're going into the lighter side of horror with Count Duckula!

FAIR WARNING:  I'm going to digress a bit here before getting into the comic at hand.

As far as I'm concerned one of the best parts of comic collecting is the ability of a simple floppy stack of stapled paper to transport me back to various periods of time. . .I like to call it "The Paper Time Machine".  This Count Duckula comic book took me back in a big way.

I don't have a personal connection to this particular issue.  It came from my daughter's collection.  But as I was looking through it, I was brought straight back to the very beginning of my days as a bargain bin hunter.  See, before my daughter was old enough to start enjoying comics, I mostly collected what was new on the rack or what I had on subscription.  I pretty much ignored the back issue boxes.

But when my daughter got to be about 4 or 5 years old, that changed when I decided to find some cheap comics for her that I wouldn't mind if she banged them up a bit.  My thinking was to get her interested first and teach her how to take care of them later.  So I began my long career as a "Longbox Junker" digging through bargain bins for Richie Rich, Archie, Casper, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and any other bright comic aimed at kids I could find for a quarter. . .and here we are now.

My daughter is 25 now and she's the Marvel fan of the two of us (I'm more of a DC guy).  Getting deep into the convoluted continuity of Marvel's connected superhero soap opera is definitely her thing. . .but it all started with comics like this one.  Just looking at this comic brings me back to the days of us sitting together on the floor of her bedroom. . .me with my new comics and her with a handful of  cheap Richie Rich comics after dinner on Wednesday nights.

It's amazing to me remembering how something so inexpensive and simple as a Casper The Friendly Ghost comic from the quarter bin could bring my young daughter such happiness.  What's even more amazing to me now that she's older is discovering (while digging through her collection looking for good Longbox Junk) that she still has so many of those comics I bought as throwaways!

They're worthless for all intents and purposes.  Heavily read. . .some of them with covers detached, some with Kool-Aid stains, corners bent, just all sorts of damage.  But she has them just as carefully bagged and boarded as the most valuable comics in her collection!  When I pulled this Count Duckula comic from the box to do this review, she told me to be careful with it, even though it's probably not even "worth" a dollar.

And so even though the pages are barely hanging onto the staples, I treated this comic like a Silver Age collector item. . .because to my daughter, it's valuable.  Her telling me to be careful with this "worthless" comic reminded me in a BIG way that sometimes the value of a comic has nothing to do with how much money it's worth.

Well. . .enough of that.

The comic at hand is one that I bought at some unknown point in the past for my daughter.  I assumed on first look (based on the cover)  that it was from the Warner Bros. stable of characters because the main character looks sort of like Daffy Duck or someone related to him.  But as I said above, in those early days of Longbox Junkin' I just pulled anything that looked good for kids from the quarter box.  I never actually READ any of them beyond a quick flip in the store and maybe a little reading together with my daughter if she needed help with a word or wanted to show me something funny.

BUT. . .

A quick bit of research shows me that Count Duckula is actually a character based on a British cartoon series I've never heard of called "Danger Mouse", and has nothing to do with Disney or WB.  So this comic and the main character is as new for me now as it was for my daughter all those years ago.  Let's do it!


MARVEL (1988)

COVER: Warren Kremer
As usual, let's take a look at the cover first. . .
It's great!  I like it a lot.  On first glance, it looks like Duckula is one of the Warner Bros. gang.  Between that and the short gag you get before you even open this up, you can tell this comic is going to be on the "wacky" end of the comedy dial, so it does a perfect job of selling what's inside the comic right off the bat.  The colors are also great, with lots of eye-catching and contrasting reds, blues and yellows mixed in with splashes of green on the main character. 
Overall, this is a really fun and colorful cover that catches the eye and perfectly sells what's inside.
Moving along. There's two stories in this issue, both by the same team.  Let's take a look. . .
SCRIPT: Michael Gallager
PENCILS: Warren Kremer

Our story starts with the origin of Count Duckula.  A ceremony to resurrect Count Duckula is "fowled" up when the housekeeper of Castle Duckula substitutes catsup for blood during the ritual, accidentally creating the first vegetarian vampire!
As the new Count Duckula discovers his musical talents, the sworn enemy of the Duckulas, Vampire Hunter Doctor Von Goosewing hears the sounds from the supposedly empty castle and investigates.  Hijinks ensue as he falls victim to his own clumsiness and the pitfalls of the castle.
In the meantime, Count Duckula's butler tells him about Castle Duckula's ability to magically teleport anywhere in the world, and that it will always return to Transylvania before sunrise.  Count Duckula accidentally transports the castle to Outer Mongolia, where he, the butler, and the housekeeper are quickly captured by Attila The Hen and her Hen-Chmen. . .who decide to cook and eat the three of them.
It's Count Duckula's arch-enemy, Doctor Von Goosewing, who saves the day because HE wants credit for destroying Count Duckula.  He frees the trio of prisoners and they all return to Transylvania.
The End.
On looking at my synopsis, I realize its sort of hard to describe a zany story where puns, one liners, and physical comedy fill every single panel!  There's not a single bit of wasted space in this story.  The writer and artist cram as many gags as they can into every bit of this, and I love it!  It definitely has more of a Warner Bros. fast-paced "wacky" style than Disney, and that's more my speed of cartoons. . .where the jokes come fast and furious and never stop.  
Sure, this is written for kids.  But like the best of the old cartoons, adults can find fun in this as well.  Not all of the gags hit the target, but enough of them do to make this first story a good read.
SCRIPT: Michael Gallager
PENCILS: Warren Kremer

Count Duckula decides he wants to be a movie star, so he teleports Castle Duckula to Hollywood.  At Alfred Peacock Studios, Duckula gets his big break when a message he delivers to the famous director makes leading man Bird Reynolds run off the set.  
Count Duckula presents himself as Bird Reynold's stand in and with a bit of movie magic and makeup, Duckula becomes the spitting image of the famous actor.  Unfortunately, the reason Reynolds left becomes clear when his co-star, John "The Duke" Crane arrives on set. . .furious at Reynolds for going out with his girl.  
Hijinks ensue as John Crane mistakes the made up Duckula as Bird Reynolds and he chases him around the movie set, much to the delight of Alfred Peacock, who thinks the two of them are improvising a chase scene.  Duckula finally makes it back to Castle Duckula and escapes back to Transylvania.
The Butler, Igor, gives Count Duckula the bad news. . .Vampires can't be filmed.  But despite his Hollywood dreams going down the drain, Duckula is determined to be a star. . .next time on Broadway!
The End.
Like the first story, this one doesn't waste a bit of space.  The writer and artist work together to fill every panel with gags and give the reader fast-paced, zany, mistaken identity chase shenanigans.  I'm thinking this might be a running theme in Count Duckula because the second issue also follows the mistaken identity form (My daughter has 3 of these) in a very similar way.  
Once again, it's sort of hard to do justice to a story filled with constant art and story gags when trying to do a synopsis.  So I'll just say that once again, the gags don't all hit the mark, but the ones that do make this a fun read for all ages.


I think that this is actually the first pure "kid" comic I've reviewed here in Longbox Junk.  I took away a couple of interesting things:  First is that it's kind of hard to write a synopsis of these sort of gag-filled stories that doesn't sound a of a lot worse than the actual story. 
Second, I learned that (like a good classic cartoon short) just because something is aimed toward a younger audience, that doesn't mean there isn't some fun for adults too.  This comic was packed SO full of visual and written gags that there's a little something for everybody in here.
This comic was pretty far outside my usual zone, so I hope I at least did a decent job reviewing it.  The bottom line is that, even though it's written for kids, this was a fun read packed from end to end with zany gags.   It's not the greatest comic I've ever read, but it's far from the worst.  If you spot it in a bargain bin definitely grab it if you have a young kid who likes comics.  But be sure to give it a read yourself first!
Up Next. . .
It's still October, so that means MORE Halloween fun!
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where you can find more comic reviews you never asked for than you could ever ask for!

We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here in Longbox Junk by spotlighting  some of the spooky stuff lurking in the shadows of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

This time out, join me in taking a look at a Halloween Special one shot featuring Red Sonja. . .a character I wouldn't normally associate with Halloween.  But then again, I just reviewed a Jonah Hex Halloween issue a few posts back, so I guess in the world of comics just about anything goes.

SO. . .Red Sonja Halloween.  Let's do it!




COVER: Reilly Brown
First, the cover.  Hmmmmm. . .not bad.  I like it.  I tend not to hang Red Sonja covers on my office wall's rotating comic collection because I don't want to get red-flagged for an awkward HR meeting, and this one definitely fits into that danger zone. . .that said, it's really well done.  It has a great feeling of motion, the pumpkin creature is amazing, and the colors are perfect.  I may not be able to hang this one up. . .even though the ladies at work don't seem to mind some Thor covers inviting them to the gun show. . .but it's a great Halloween cover.
Two stories in this issue. . .let's take a look.
SCRIPT: Erik Burnham
PENCILS: Tom Garcia
Red Sonja rides into a village preparing to celebrate The Festival of Valahiei. . .which falls on the last day of Valahiei, when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and when spirits are most easily able to visit the world of the living.  Halloween, in other words.
Later, while drinking and carousing in the local tavern, Sonja is approached by an old woman who claims to be in need of a warrior.  Her son is being held prisoner by a beast in the woods outside of town. . .a dangerous forest that only the most foolish would venture into on this night, of all nights.  Sonja agrees to help the old woman.
Red Sonja's new friend/drinking partner, Konnar, offers to guide her through the forest, and so the two of them set out on their adventure.  It isn't long before the pair discover why the villagers are so afraid of the woods as they are surrounded by spirits.  Sonja recognizes them as harmless shades, but then she hears a voice from her past. . .
It is the mocking voice of Sonja's arch-enemy, the sorcerer Kulan Gath, who Sonja had slain years before!  Sonja goes on the attack as the figure of Gath rises before her, but her sword does no harm because he is also merely a ghost, but one that has come to taunt her.  As Kulan Gath tells her that he is there to watch her last battle and he waits to torture her in , she ignores him and continues deeper into the forest.
Suddenly, a vicious creature attacks from the darkness, taking Sonja and Konnar by surprise and beheading Konnar.  It's a werewolf! A brutal battle between Sonja and the creature ensues, but in the end Sonja kills the beast. 
As Sonja recovers from the battle, the old woman from the tavern appears to thank her for killing the beast and freeing her son's soul. . .for they were one and the same.  Sonja is understandably upset by the old woman's deception.  The old woman turns into a spirit as the sun rises and thanks Sonja again, but the spirit's words ring hollow as Sonja considers the senseless death of her new friend, Konnar.  
The End.
Spirits and Werewolves in a dark forest.  I guess that technically makes this a Halloween story.  It's not a bad little tale, even though I'm not entirely sure of the reason it even exists. . .beyond the obvious reason of Dynamite squeezing a few bucks out of Red Sonja fans for a "special" issue.  But like I said. . .it's not bad.  It's well-written and has a nice mix of action and slower moments in the short space it's given.  
Probably the best part of this story for me was the art.  It's very nicely detailed and I really like that the artist portrays Sonja a bit differently than usual.  Where she is usually drawn as sort of a thin and very beautiful woman (see the cover for an example), this artist gives us a thicker, more muscular Sonja with a somewhat plain face. . .a more realistic look for a warrior, even if she IS still sporting a ridiculous barely-there chainmail bikini.  But it ain't Red Sonja without the trademark chainmail bikini, I guess.  
So. . .a pretty good story with lots of spirits and a cool battle against a werewolf, backed up with some great art featuring an unusual look for Red Sonja.  This first story is a winner! Moving on. . .
SCRIPT: Tom DeFalco, Anthony Marques & Liam Marques
PENCILS: Anthony Marques & Avery Marques
Red Sonja's meal at a tavern is interrupted when a young girl tries to warn her about something, but is quickly taken away as hooded men attack.  Sonja is so enraged by this turn of events that she decides to beat her attackers down with a leg of mutton and mug of ale instead of even bothering to draw her sword.
After Sonja easily defeats her attackers, she learns from one of them that they were trying to capture her for a sacrifice to "Lord Halcoose".  Worse, the little girl that tried to warn her is also supposed to be sacrificed.  This doesn't sit well with Sonja at all.  She vows to find and kill this Lord Halcoose.
Elsewhere, a robed priest prays to a gigantic purple monstrosity. . .Halcoose.  The little girl who tried to warn Sonja is bound and prepared for sacrifice, but Sonja arrives just in time. . .
A short battle ensues and Sonja easily defeats both the priest and the creature. . .
When the battle is over, Sonja warns any other followers of Halcoose to steer clear of her or meet the same fate.  She then frees the young girl and advises her to get a sword.
The End.
Okay then.   Hmmmm. . .
Quite a bit of difference between this story and the first one, both in tone and art style.  This story looks and reads more like one of the all-ages DC Super-Hero Girls comics than a Red Sonja comic.  It's much lighter in tone than the somewhat dour first story, and the ending has a happy "Girl Power!" feel to it, rather than the unhappy ending of the first story.  
Likewise, where the art on the first story was finely-detailed and interesting, the art here is much more cartoony and exaggerated.
It may seem unfair to base my thoughts on this story by comparing them to another one, but the differences are jarring.  Taken on its own, this isn't a bad story at all.  It's extremely short and seems to have been written for a young female audience, but it's still pretty good.  The art is also quite different than what I would expect from a Red Sonja story, but for what it is, it's good and it fits the light tone of the story perfectly.
Still. . .it's a bit confusing to me exactly who this story was written for.


If I had to describe this comic in one word, that word would be: Confusing.
The two stories given in this issue aren't bad at all, but I fail to see anything but the thinnest connection to Halloween beyond the cover and a brief mention of a holiday of spirits in the first story, which could have been an adventure in ANY issue of Red Sonja without being in a special Halloween issue.
And then while the first story seems to have been written for existing fans of Red Sonja, the backup looks more like an all-ages "Girl Power!" offering aimed at young female readers. . .which I'm not sure is the average readership of Red Sonja's adventures.  The differences between the two stories are jarring.  
You can't really give this comic to a young girl because the first story is for a mature audience. . .but then again, half of this comic is written for kids, so adult readers are really only getting half a comic for their money.
Overall, despite a bit of confusion on my part as to who this comic is for, I enjoyed it.  The first story was well written and the art style spotlights an unusual vision of Red Sonja I'd like to see more of.  The second story is quick, light, and features some nice cartoon-style art.   
I'd say that if you're a fan of Red Sonja, then pick this one up if you spot it hiding in a bargain bin.  I'm not sure that anyone who isn't already a fan will get much mileage out of it.
Up Next. . .
There's still two weeks left before Halloween, so yep. . .MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO. . .

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




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


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

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed FULL of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!
It's October.  Leaves on the ground and spirits all around! We're having a little Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by taking a look at some of the spooky comics in my (and my daughter's collection).
This time out, we're taking a look at one of the more unusual issues of Jonah Hex and. . .
Wait?  What's that you say?  Jonah Hex is a WESTERN comic?
So it is, my friends.  So it is. 
BUT. . .
Like in the Hulk series I reviewed the first issue of just a few days ago Jonah Hex is a character that's USUALLY pretty straightforward, but sometimes his series heads into some strange territory.  This particular issue being a fine case in point.

What we have here is a Jonah Hex Halloween Special guest starring Bat Lash and El Diablo (that was published in DECEMBER, for some strange reason) fighting against demonic creatures and a Prairie Witch.  It doesn't just head into strange territory, it runs in with guns blazing!  Let's take a look. . .

JONAH HEX (vol. 2)

DC (2007)




Script: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencils: David Michael Beck
Cover: David Michael Beck
Let's talk about the cover a moment before we get into the story.
It's. . .pretty good.  Nothing spectacular.  The cameos of Bat Lash and El Diablo look good, but Jonah Hex has a sort of goofy expression on his face.  The monochromatic tone doesn't really work great here either.  It just sort of mutes the whole cover down when it really calls for a sharp contrast between night sky, full moon, and fiery whip.
Plus I'm still wondering why a Halloween issue shipped in December. . .
The Story goes like this:
We begin in a bar where Bounty Hunter Jonah Hex and Gambler Bat Lash are betting on bare-knuckle fights.  After taking on a challenge from Lash, Hex easily beats the local champion.  A messenger brings Jonah a telegram and he immediately heads for the town of Coffin Creek with Bat Lash tagging along out of boredom.
Three weeks' ride later, Hex and Lash arrive in Coffin Creek.  The head to the local brothel to meet with the Madam, Crystal Ray, who is an old friend of Jonah's.  She is the one who sent the telegram.  She's called in a favor Hex owes her because there's a man in one of her rooms that nobody can get to leave.  Every person she's sent up to oust him has come back beaten.  The stranger has been asking specifically for Jonah Hex. . .
Inside the room is none other than El Diablo.  A hellbound living spirit of vengeance that Hex has encountered several times before.  His human host, Lazarus Lane, is nowhere to be seen.  Normally they aren't far apart.  Jonah demands to know where Lane is.  
El Diablo ignores him and wraps Hex in his fiery whip, telling the Bounty Hunter that the town of Coffin Creek is marked for death that very night and he has been imprisoned in that room and separated him from Lazarus Lane so he won't interfere with the town's fate.
As Hex struggles against El Diablo's whip, the spirit tells him that a Prairie Witch named Esmeralda lured Lane away from Diablo, and unless he is reunited with his human host within three hours, El Diablo will be forced to return to and everyone in town (including Hex) will die.
When Jonah leaves the room, Bat Lash is terrified when he sees Hex's eyes are glowing and he speaks with the twisted voice of El Diablo. . .who has possessed the Bounty Hunter!  Hex/Diablo demands that Bat Lash follow him.

As Hex and Lash walk through town toward the saloon where Esmeralda waits, Bat Lash sees everything as normal, but the possessed Jonah Hex sees twisted demonic entities roaming the town.  Two of them try to stop Hex and Lash from entering the saloon, but Jonah guns them down using the supernatural power of El Diablo . . .revealing their true form to Bat Lash as they die.

Once inside the saloon, Hex and Lash find Lazarus Lane bound and gagged, hanging from the ceiling.  The saloon is filled with dozens of people possessed by demons, as well as the Prairie Witch Esmeralda herself.  The demons all begin to whisper the name of Jonah Hex when he enters.

The Witch orders her demons to attack.  While the possessed Jonah Hex is able to gun down the possessed townfolk using the power of El Diablo, Bat Lash's bullets have no effect.  Seeing this, Jonah cuts down Lane and orders Lash to get him back to the brothel. . .


While possessed Jonah Hex and Esmeralda fight it out in the bar, Bat Lash carries Lazarus Lane through town, but all has broken loose!  Townfolk and demonic creatures are fighting in the streets.  Back in the saloon, Esmeralda is getting the upper hand on Hex.  El Diablo's powers are much weaker without his proper human host. . .

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

It's October, so we're having a bit of Halloween fun by spotlighting some of the spooky stuff in my (and my daughter's) collection.  This time out we're stepping into the Longbox Junk paper time machine and travelling back to 1963 for a Retro Review! 

As you can see from the number of "unknown" credits below, information on this issue is a bit sketchy.  To my knowledge, the review below is the only one that has ever been (and probably ever will be) written.  Once again, it makes me happy to know that writing this blog sometimes gives me the opportunity to fill in some missing comic knowledge out there for people who might be looking. 

The information on this series in general is pretty sketchy.  It had a pretty hefty run of 97 issues, because in those days publishers didn't care much about that sweet, sweet reboot #1 with multiple variant covers money.  They wanted a reliable seller to chug along as long as it possibly could.  Heck, 97 issues could probably be called a SHORT run back then!  This comic series actually outlasted Boris Karloff himself , who passed away in 1969 (the final issue came out in 1980).  But I digress. . .

This is actually a licensed property.  A tie-in to a short-lived anthology show similar to The Twilight Zone called "Thriller" that was hosted by Boris Karloff.  It only lasted 2 seasons. . .but once again, in those days a "season" was about FORTY episodes!  The show actually boasted a pretty stout roster of acting talent (including Karloff himself in several episodes).

I watched a couple episodes of the show last night while looking up information on this comic series, and I have to say I found it was actually pretty good (at least the ones I saw. . .one of which starred a young William "I. Will. Enunciate!" Shatner).  If you like Twilight Zone, you'll like Thriller.  It's a bit obscure, but definitely worth a look.  Full episodes can be found on Youtube.

The comics actually started coming out AFTER the final episode of the T.V. show and, like the show, had Boris Karloff as the host, setting up each story at the beginning and then showing up at the end to deliver a punch line, moral, or similar pithy epilogue.

But enough background.  Let's take a look at this comic. . .



GOLD KEY (1963)


COVER: Unknown (George Wilson?)
As usual, let's take a look at the cover before we get into the stories inside.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  In my extremely humble opinion, Gold Key has some of the best painted comic book covers EVER.  No matter what's inside, Gold Key has some reliably great covers. . .and this one is no exception.
I love the dark sea stretching from top to bottom and side to side, filling almost the entire cover.  In a small space, the artist manages to capture the vast emptiness of the ocean perfectly!  The tiny figures on the storm-tossed boat reinforce the sense of scale, and the beautifully-detailed ring adds a sense of mystery.  
This isn't the BEST Gold Key cover (My personal favorite is on their 1968 one shot adaptation of King Kong), but it stands right up there in the long list of great covers put out by the company.
There's no firm information on WHO painted this cover, but based on the Gold Key covers I DO know the artist of, my best guess would be prolific Gold Key cover artist George Wilson.  Don't take it as absolute, but I'm 90% sure Wilson painted this beauty.
So that's the cover.  Let's get into the stories. . .
SCRIPT: Eric Friewald & Robert Schaefer
PENCILS: Dan Spiegle
16 pages
A trail of murder and betrayal follows those who possess an ancient and priceless Aztec ring, beginning with the death at sea of famous explorer (and the ring's discoverer) John Ruskin.  Ruskin's daughter Mary is convinced that an Aztec curse is at work as those around the ring die under mysterious circumstances.
When the ring finally passes into the hands of her brother, Mary decides to end the curse by throwing the ring into the sea. . .but as she does, she slips and falls down a cliff, almost dying herself.  Mary's brother reveals that the ring is a fake.  The real ring is in a museum vault.  
All the death following the Aztec ring wasn't from a curse, but the result of greed.
The End.
Not a bad story at all.  A bit predictable, but very well-written as it follows the twists and turns of the fates of the men who die for their greed.  The art is also surprisingly good for a Silver Age comic, but once I found out Dan Spiegle was the artist, I wasn't as surprised.  He was an extremely solid and prolific artist  and his fine character work here elevates the story beyond the simple morality tale in the script.
All in all, a very enjoyable story and a great start!
SCRIPT: Unknown
Next, we have the first of three one page features spotlighting actual historic mysteries in this issue.  This one briefly sketches the true story of the only man known to have been swallowed by a whale and survive to tell the tale.  There's nothing spectacular about this page-count filler.  It's a straightforward retelling of the event with serviceable artwork.  Here it is in its entirety. . .
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Unknown
Next, we come to a text piece that I found pretty interesting.  It's a straight science piece about the danger the Earth is in from being hit by an asteroid, using previous impacts as examples of our imminent doom.  It seems a bit out of place, but it's also probably the scariest thing to be found in this comic.
SCRIPT: Unknown
Now we come to the second of the three one page features spotlighting actual historic mysteries.  This one briefly sketches out the discovery of the Oak Island Money Pit. . .something my wife is now absolutely obsessed with, thanks to "The Curse of Oak Island" reality show on History Channel.  But I digress!  Basically, a mysterious pit with some strange artifacts was discovered on an island off the coast of Canada, but nobody has managed to get to the bottom of it yet, despite hundreds of years and millions of dollar's worth of trying. 
This brief introduction to the mystery is pretty straightforward (Here, they credit pirates with creating the Money Pit), with art that tells the story, but doesn't try too hard.  Here in its entirety. . .
SCRIPT: Unknown
PENCILS: Mike Sekowsky
12 pages
Next, we come to the second "feature" story.  It goes like this. . .
In the Amazon Jungle a Witch Doctor keeps the local villagers in constant fear of the evil spirits she can summon.  Only her daughter, Zilma, is free to do as she pleases. . .up to a point.  Zilma is in love with a man named Pablo.  The Witch Doctor doesn't like Pablo.
The Witch Doctor tells her tribe that she has seen Pablo bring sickness to them in her dreams, driving them into a frenzy.  With Pablo's life in danger, he and Zilma run away with the help of two friendly Peace Corps volunteers. . .but the Witch Doctor uses a voodoo doll to make Zilma sick.
Pablo uses a little magic of his own when he throws a rock and tells it to find the cause of Zilma's sickness.  The Witch Doctor is seen falling to her death off of a cliff.  It's uncertain whether it was an accident or if Pablo's magic was the cause.
Pablo becomes the tribe's new Witch Doctor and all ends well.
The End.
Okay, I'm gonna be honest here.  This story is pretty bad.  Unlike the tight and clever narrative of the opening story (even if the ending was a bit predictable), this one wanders all over the place.  In my description of the story above, I just followed the main line of the story.  There are several sub-plots that appear and disappear throughout the story.
There's an alligator that may or may not be a spirit creature.  There's the Peace Corps workers accidentally opening the tomb of Pablo's father with dynamite and his angry spirit wandering around.  There's another spirit that comes out of a stew pot that may or may not have been summoned by the Witch Doctor to attack Zilma.  That's a lot of sub-plot in twelve lousy pages. . .especially since most of it has little to no bearing on the main storyline.
The art also takes a downhill slide compared to the opening story.   There, fine lines and great character work enhanced the story.  Here, the art is clumsy and workmanlike, featuring sloppy colors and Amazon natives with Elvis Presley hair.  There, I found the art unexpectedly good for a Silver Age comic.  Here, it's sadly exactly what I expect.
I realize that comparing one story with another might seem a bit unfair, but even taken on its own and without comparison, this story has an unfocused narrative and art that is okay, but doesn't even try to reach any higher than that.
SCRIPT: Unknown
The comic closes out with the last one page spotlight on true mysteries in history.  This one briefly sketches the mystery of the Count of Saint-Germain. . .a historic figure who made outlandish claims that led people to believe he was hundreds of years old.  I'm no expert, but from what I've read of this, it seems to be a case of someone saying whatever he wanted without fear of anyone being able to prove him wrong.  These days, I'm pretty sure a $30 background check and some Google detective work would be enough to keep his name out of the history books.  Here's the feature in its entirety. . . 


First, I realize this isn't a "Horror" comic at all.  I didn't know that coming in.  Since Boris Karloff was such an influential figure in the horror genre, I assumed that a Boris Karloff comic would be a horror comic.  It's actually more of a "Suspense" comic in the vein of Twilight Zone.  
Does that make it a BAD comic?  Not really.  It's not a great comic by any means, but it has a very nice signature Gold Key painted cover, a really good opening story, and a couple of somewhat interesting features.  Unfortunately, the second story isn't very good, which basically puts about half the comic under the bar.
Good taken with bad, I'd have to say this comic is still pretty good and worth picking up if you come across it for a decent price.  It's not something I'd really recommend putting effort into hunting down, but I'd also say not to pass it by if you happen to see it.
Up Next. . .
I'm fillin' your pumpkin bucket as full of Halloween Longbox Junk as I can.
Be there or be square!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked me for!

It's October!  That means trick or treatin', candy eatin', and horror comics in Longbox Junk!

What we have here today is part of Marvel's short-lived effort at a bit of a monster comic revival a few years back.  This particular one shot is one of a set of three (the other two are Satana and Man-Thing) meant to re-introduce some Marvel Monster characters back into continuity in order to form a supernatural "Legion of Monsters" team.

Well. . .as you can probably guess by this comic landing here at Longbox Junk, it didn't really work out.  Legion of Monsters made just a few appearances as a team (most notably in the notorious Punisher "Franken-Castle" storyline and their own 4 issue mini) before they faded back into obscurity.

BUT. . .

Just because something didn't take hold and ended up in the bargain bin, does that make it bad?  That's the sort of question I started Longbox Junk to answer!  Let's take a look a closer look at this little relic of a failed Marvel experiment. . .



MARVEL (2007)

COVER: Greg Land
As usual, before we get into the comic, let's take a look at the cover.  And what a cover it is!
Greg Land is a sort of divisive figure among comic fans.  He's got a bit of a bad reputation that I'm not going to get into.  You either like Greg Land's art or you don't.  I happen to fall on the "Like" side of the controversy fence.  
Controversial artist or not, I LOVE this cover!  It simply screams Halloween at me.  It's a pretty simple composition, but just look at the werewolf's feral face and reaching, clawed hand!  There's a feeling of depth and motion. . .a story moment captured in one image that is simply outstanding. In my extremely humble opinion, the cover alone is worth grabbing this comic from the bargain bin if you spot it.  
Now let's check out the two stories inside. Fair warning. . .if you're a Greg Land hater, just skip to the backup because he's on art for the opener.  Everyone in that's staying in? Let's do it!
SCRIPTS: Mike Carey
PENCILS: Greg Land
The story goes like this:
A young woman named Rhona was born a werewolf in a small Alabama town, but learned ways to control herself. Shortly after her mother and sister are killed by self-styled monster hunters, she goes to the local bar, knowing they will come for her too.  While there, she has a chance encounter with a handsome stranger. . .the only person besides her family who has ever treated her kindly.
It isn't long before the group of "Monster Hunters" shows up.  One of them uses tarot cards to briefly reveal the monster inside Rhona.  She calmly accepts that it's her fate to die that night. . .
What Rhona doesn't know is that the handsome stranger is none other than Jack Russell. . .Werewolf by Night!  He's not going to just sit there and watch Rhona let herself be killed by amateur Monster Hunters.  He takes them by surprise as he transforms into a werewolf and goes on the attack!
As Jack fights the rest of the Monster Hunters, Rhona is caught up in a deadly struggle with the woman who read her tarot cards and revealed proof she was a werewolf.  Rhona realizes the only way she can survive is to fully release the monster inside her for the first time. . .
After the battle is won, Jack comforts a traumatized Rhona as she looks over the slaughter she was part of.  Jack tells her that suppressing the beast just made it worse, and he can help her.  They leave together.
The End.
Not a bad little story.  Very short. . .really more of a vignette than anything.  But it was well-written and engaging.  That said. . .
For a re-introduction of Jack Russell to Marvel continuity supposedly aimed at new readers, there wasn't really much of an introduction here at all.  The story is told from Rhona's point of view and looking back over it again, I realize that Russell's name isn't even mentioned once!  This is much more an introduction to Rhona (who I'm not even sure even appeared anywhere else other than here) than it is to Werewolf by Night Jack Russell.
Does that make it a bad story? No.  I liked it quite a bit.  It just seems like a strange story choice for what's supposed to be an introduction.
As for the art.  It's Greg Land.  In the eyes of some comic fans, no matter WHAT he does it's not going to be good.  I'm not one of those fans.  I like his realistic style and I don't really care if he photo-references.  If you don't like Greg Land, you're going to hate this.  I didn't hate this.  Taking an honest look at just the art and leaving the artist's reputation out of it, I say it's pretty good.
SCRIPTS: Skottie Young
PENCILS: Skottie Young
There's a backup story in all three of the Legion of Monsters one shots spotlighting one of the supporting characters of the team.  In Satana, it's The Living Mummy.  In Man-Thing, it's Simon Garth: Zombie.  In this one, it's Frankenstein's Monster. . .er. . .The Monster of Frankenstein.  Not sure if that's a copyright thing, but it doesn't sound right for some reason.  But I digress!
The story goes like this:
Our story begins long ago (it looks like maybe the story is set in the late 18th Century) as an escaped prisoner flees for his life from the men hunting him.  He stumbles upon a church in an abandoned town and seeks sanctuary, only to meet a fate. . .
In a neighboring town, local clergy have gathered to decide what to do about the false priest luring and killing people using the mask of the church to carry out his nefarious deeds.  It is known among them that one of their number hides a powerful monster in his own church. . .a monster that could be used to destroy the false priest.  
The priest who hides the monster protests, insisting that the creature has come to know peace through and has put aside his old violent ways.  He is commanded by his superior to set forth the monster upon the false priest. . .
The Monster reluctantly agrees to take the task given to him and leaves for the church in the abandoned town.  Inside, he finds evidence of gruesome experiments.  He discovers a journal and begins to read. . .
The Monster discovers the tale of a Doctor McCauley, who fell from good standing by using and furthering the research of the Monster's own creator, Doctor Frankenstein, to bring life to corpses.  Disgraced, McCauley left for the wilderness, where he poses as a priest in order to lure victims for his continued experiments. . .
As the Monster reads McCauley's journal, the false priest confronts him. . .along with several of his creations, more powerful than the original Monster of Frankenstein by virtue of having been created with freshly-killed bodies.  The Monster informs the mad scientist that he has been sent to end him.  Upon hearing this, a brutal battle between the Monster and McCauley's creations begins. . .
After defeating his creations, the Monster kills McCauley and sets fire to his laboratory before returning home.  The priest that had hidden him shows remorse for sending the Monster to kill again and begs for mercy, but the Monster kills the priest and leaves. . .knowing he will never have peace as long as the church knows where he is.
The End.
What a great little story!  As much as I enjoyed the opening Werewolf by Night story, I very much preferred this one.  Skottie Young does a great job writing (I know him more as an artist) a dreamlike, thoughtful tale of mankind as the monster.  Like the opening story, this one is very short, but seems longer because there's quite a bit more meat on the bone.
Like I said above, I know Skottie Young as more of an artist than a writer, but I'm used to a more cartoony, whimsical, humorous sort of art from him. . .so the art in this story took me by surprise as much as his writing did!  It's dark and twisted. . .adding to the heavy, dreamlike nature of the story and perfectly complimenting it.
The final full-pager of the Monster leaving yet another false sanctuary is a stunning portrait that I'd really like to have a poster of and is a fine piece of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
Overall, I liked both of the stories in this one shot, but found the backup to be superior in almost every way to the main feature.  If you are a horror comic fan (and aren't a Greg Land hater) then do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for this little Longbox Junk gem in the bargain bin.  You won't be disappointed.
Up Next. . .
MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun.
Be there or be square!

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