Sunday, July 30, 2017

Longbox Junk - World's Finest (2009)


It's a mini-series with a giant Batman/Superman robot AND Robin body shaming Batgirl!
What more could one ask for? LET'S DO THIS!
The original "World's Finest" was an out of continuity team-up book. This mini is also a team up book but it's definitely NOT out of continuity. It was written at a time when DC was doing a lot of shaking up of their character status quo and as a reader, you are pretty much expected to be familiar with all the changes going on. 

The most important things to know this far down the road in order to understand what's going on here was that (almost) everyone thought Batman was dead, Superman had left Earth, and Kryptonians in general were considered enemies of humankind.
This first issue teams up Red Robin (Tim Drake, who is searching the world for clues as to where Batman REALLY is) and Nightwing (No, not that one. A Kryptonian that Superman had adopted as a son). The issue does a pretty good job at explaining who is who. . .and thank God for that. I didn't have to hit the internet for a refresher on 8 year old continuity beats. Unfortunately, the story seems pretty weak so far. The villain is a B-lister (Toyman) and the teamup seems forced. The art is. . .okay. Not good, not bad. Just. . .okay.

All in all, the weak setup, extremely average art, and total immersion in (then current) continuity make this opening issue no more than average at best. 
2 issues in and we're already making the swerve off the rails with a final page reveal of. . .a giant robot that's half Superman and half Batman in appearance. 

This issue teams up the Damian Wayne version of Robin with The Guardian. I don't know much about The Guardian, but if I had to judge from this issue alone, I don't want to learn more. He is easily one of the lamest superheroes I've seen in a while.

Once again, the book does a pretty good job of explaining who is who, so there's that. . .

Unfortunately, even though they switched up the artist on this issue, the art is just as painfully average as in the first issue.

All in all, we have a forced team up via a cliche "Heroes fight until they finally figure out they're on the same side" vehicle, a weak overarching story, an extremely lame superhero, average art, and the good old giant robot. 

It's really starting to smell like crap in here.
Really, all I can say that I really like about this issue is the fantastic cover. Other than that, we have a team up between Supergirl and the Stephanie Brown version of Batgirl, with Oracle, Catwoman, Dick Grayson Batman (And Damian Wayne Robin), and the "Just another Kryptonian Soldier" version of Superman making cameos.

Most of the issue is ridiculous fighting against Toyman's tiny little robots before he decides it's time to power up the giant Kryptonite-powered Batman/Superman robot.

Yeah. . .it's gone off the rails. 

It's bad. So bad. Why does it have to be so bad?
I don't even want to read the final issue. 
But I will. . .God help me. I WILL!
 was surprised to find that I liked this last issue after the serious swerve off the rails the previous two took. 

Yeah. . .there's a giant Kryptonite-powered Superman/Batman robot on the loose that has to be punched, but in between the robot punching there are some really nice character moments between Dick Grayson Batman and "Just another Kryptonian Soldier" Superman that address the new status quo and DC's "Legacy Heroes" tradition.

The stellar art by Noto in this issue helped improve things as well, with a VERY nice opening page. He actually makes giant robot punching look pretty good in the rest of the issue as well.

The ending was weakened by a cliffhanger that I'm sure ties into (then current) continuity, but didn't do any favors to this mini as a standalone story.

All in all, this was probably the best issue of the series, despite a lot of giant robot punching. And when I say it was the best issue, I mean it elevated itself above bad to the exalted ranks of "Pretty Good".
Overalll, this was two bad issues bookended by two pretty good issues.  The story was weak, the villains were second rate, the art (except for issue 4) was painfully average, the team ups were forced using a dusty assortment of comic book cliches, and the whole thing revolved around the reader's knowledge of (then) current continuity instead of standing on its own.
And then there was the giant Kryptonite-powered Batman/Superman robot.
I wouldn't really suggest this mini to anyone except those who have an interest in pre-New 52 characters and continuity, or those who want to see Batgirl get body shamed by Robin.
Up next. . .
Lobo is back! Everyone is all excited (I think).  So let's head back to 1990 where it all began.  
DC's original 4 issue Lobo mini-series.  Be there or be square!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Wayback Wednesday - Tor (Vol. 2) #1

(Vol. 2) #1

I knew nothing about the character of Tor when I stumbled across this comic at an antique store (Junk store would be more accurate) a while back.  All I knew is that it had a great Joe Kubert cover, was in surprisingly good condition for being unbagged and in a stack of battered Richie Rich and Archie comics, and was only going to cost me two lousy bucks. . .

But what I like about these Wayback Wednesday editions of Longbox Junk is that, beside reading and reviewing comics that have probably never been reviewed, I take the opportunity to try and learn a little about the background of the issue at hand and share a bit of what I come to know.

What I found out about this particular comic is that even though it is from 1975, it was actually written and drawn in 1959 as part of a failed pitch to publish Tor as a newspaper comic strip after the character had appeared in a short-lived (5 issue) series in 1953-54 .  This issue is an expanded and colored version of the 12 sample newspaper strips.

While Kubert is famous for other characters such as Hawkman and Sgt. Rock, Tor was one of his own creations. . .thought up while Kubert was on a troop ship during the Korean Conflict in the  early 1950's when the legendary artist was still pretty much unknown.  From what I could find out, Tor held a special place in Kubert's heart for being one of the first characters that he created, even though Tor never really caught on with readers as much as his other work.

So let's take a closer look at this early work of the great Joe Kubert, shall we?

TOR #1 (DC)

First off, what a fantastic cover! The bright, primary red background, the title rising up high behind the main character, who stands fighting off a horde of ape-like creatures.  It's bold, dynamic, and classic Joe Kubert.  It REALLY catches the eye.  

Unfortunately, the cover is the best of the art on this issue.  Joe Kubert was a legend, but he wasn't ALWAYS a legend.  You can plainly see that this comic is some of his early work.  The art inside isn't BAD by any means.  Rough Kubert work is still better than a lot of other artists best work, but this is certainly not his best work by a long shot.  That said, even though the art is somewhat rough, there are still some pretty excellent panels that I assume are part of the later expansion from newspaper strip to comic book.

As for the story. . .

It's bookended by an introduction and epilogue featuring Joe Kubert himself describing the genesis of the character, and is narrated as if it is a story being told by Kubert to the reader.  I really liked this method of narration.  I felt it added a very personal touch to the story and the character.

The story itself involves Tor during a hunt thinking back to his younger days when he was badly beaten by a warrior from a rival tribe for trespassing.  He asks his father to help him learn to fight and is sent into the wilderness to find a handle for an axe.  While searching, Tor is attacked by a river dinosaur and is saved by the same tribesman who beat him earlier.  In turn, Tor saves the rival tribesman from drowning and their debt to each other is declared even.  In the end, Tor learns that it is possible to win a battle in other ways than fighting.

Overall, I liked the story a lot.  It reminded me of some of his stories featuring the greatest anti-war war hero ever written, Sgt. Rock, in that sometimes what you might THINK is the solution to a problem might not be the best way to solve it after all.  It's a story that's been done over and over, but it still rings true.  It's an extremely simple story when you get right down to it, but in this issue, Kubert tells it well.

So while the story itself was straightforward, timeless, and enjoyable, I couldn't help but be a bit put off by the overall feel of the setting.  Maybe it's because Tor is a product of the 1950's, but there's a part of me that had a really hard time accepting humans and dinosaurs living together, clean-shaven (and as The Walking Dead's Abraham put it, "Dolphin Smooth") Neanderthal tribesmen, and a completely utter disregard for biological accuracy of the dinosaurs.

Okay. . .I get it.  It's an action story set in prehistoric times.  There's some artistic wiggle room.  But there's a difference between wiggle room and just throwing all scientific knowledge out the door.  If Kubert had just set this tale in some sort of a "Lost World' scenario (Like Turok or Ka-Zar) this would have not even lifted my eyebrow, but it's not.  So my comic suspension of disbelief was severely put to the test by this whole setup.

In addition to the main story, there is also a 1 page text feature about the dinosaur monster movies that inspired Kubert to create Tor.  It was actually pretty interesting, for a proto-Wikipedia page.

There was also a 2 page text piece by Allan Asherman on the character of Tor and his previous appearances, along with a montage of a few pieces of the art from the earlier Tor series from 1953.  I found it to be somewhat interesting (in the same proto-Wikipedia way as the dinosaur movie page described above) but a bit unnecessary.


All in all, I really liked this comic.  It has a fantastic cover, decent art, and a good story.  The setting is ridiculous and the extra text information features feel like unnecessary page padding, but the good here outweighs the bad.  It's a bit of a shame that Tor never really caught on.  I can tell just from this issue alone that Tor held a special place for Joe Kubert.  Perhaps with a different setting that didn't throw scientific knowledge completely out the window, this series would have gained the legs it needed to stand alongside the legendary artist's more popular work.

Up next. . .

Longbox Junk business as usual until next Wayback Wednesday.

I have no idea what this series is about.  I got it in a cheap batch of comics I picked up last month at a store that was closing down.  All I know is that it features "Red Robin" and takes place when everybody thought Batman was dead.  That and it isn't worth a damn, as far as money value goes. . .so Longbox Junk!
DC's World's Finest (2009) 4 issue mini.  

Be there or be square!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Longbox Junk - Weird War Tales (Vertigo)


One of my favorite comic anthologies of all time gets a modern (90's modern, that is) update!
Unfortunately, it's Vertigo. . .which means (Like everything Vertigo) it's 1 part great to 2 parts crap.
Let's do this!
I LOVE the 70's Weird War (and Weird Western) Tales! They are some of my favorite comics of all time. Unfortunately, for every piece of brilliance, there were several pieces of crap. This Vertigo revisitation to the title is the same. For every good story, there's 2 bad. Really, when you think about it, that's what can be said about Vertigo in general. Shining bits of goodness surrounded by pretentious crap. Let's take a look at what we have in this first issue. . .

THE SURVIVOR: A nice little tale set during WWI about several different ships coming across an island straight out of the Cthulu mythos. A very nice opening with fantastic Corben art. The best of this particular bunch.

ARES: I really liked the concept of this one. . .that the inner cities are just as much a war zone as any other battlefield, with their gang "armies" and "soldiers". Unfortunately, the art is weak and the story takes a turn for the worse. Great concept. . .weak execution.

THE WILLOW WARRIORS: This one goes back to feudal Japan to tell an unexpected tale of honor and peace in war. Very nicely written and beautifully drawn. I really liked this one.

TUNNEL RATS: The last story is about a horrific discovery in the tunnels beneath Vietnam that still haunts a veteran of that war. This one is a straight up horror story, but it's also a bit far fetched. 

All in all the first issue had two great stories and two so-so stories. None of them were bad, so this one gets an average score.
This second issue only has 3 stories (2 fairly long and one extremely short). Let's take a look. . .

LOOKING GOOD, FEELING GREAT: I didn't really like this story about a young man who wants so much to be in the military finally snapping after multiple rejections and shooting up his town. The art was second rate and the storytelling is a bit of a mess. A perfect example of how some of these Vertigo writers can get a bit pretentious. This COULD have been a straightforward story, but the writer decided to try and have the narration come from a completely unrelated source. That and a confusing ending make this the worst of the three in this issue.

MIGHTIER: Kuper gives us an extremely short (2 pages) meditation on the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword. The full page illustration of a nuclear attack is powerful and disturbing. This was easily the best of the issue. . .and one of the best in this series.

THE ELOPEMENT: The Landsdale/Glanzman team is one of my favorites. As far as I'm concerned, there is NOBODY else who should write and draw Jonah Hex. This story plays to their strengths and takes us to the Civil War in the Andersonville POW camp for a tale of revenge from beyond the grave. Unfortunately, although the art is spot on, the story falls a bit flat. The concept is a bit of a reach and could have been better. That doesn't make it bad, just not as great as I wanted a Lansdale/Glanzman story to be.

All in all, this issue had a bad story, a great story, and a pretty good one. Another average score.
Once again, another 3 story issue. 

NEW TOYS: I've asked this question before, and I'll ask it here again. . .Is Grant Morrison capable of writing a simple story? Once again, Morrison's insanity is on full display as he gives us an incomprehensible tale of. . .God, I don't even know. It's awful, though. The art by Quitely is stellar, by contrast, and the final page of this story is a horrific vision that will stick with you. Great art. . .bad story. The worst of these three.

SNIPER'S ALLEY: This tale brings us to a very recent (at that time) war zone in Sarajevo for a very nice little story about snipers who are former friends hunting each other. It reminds me of the best stories of the original Weird War Tales. The best of this issue.

RUN: This story takes us back to the trenches of WWI for a brutal look at what happens when duty to authority outweighs survival instinct. I really liked the story on this one, but Pratt's art was a little TOO impressionistic. So we have the opposite of the opener. . .Great story, bad art.

All in all, we had one awful story, one good story, and one okay story for another average score.
And here we are at the end of things. All in all not a bad series. Unfortunately, the bad taken with the good made the series average on the whole. . .

WAR AND PEAS : A pretty good story about an elderly English WWII veteran and how memories of war can still affect the lives of others. Nicely written, nicely drawn.

BAD DAY ON THE SAJO: This tale takes us to a little-visited war zone. . .Hungary in the 12th century for a battle between Christians and Mongols. The tale of spirits leading an unlikely warrior to glory is nicely written, but Winslade's art is the star of this show! It's hyper-detailed and every page is a showpiece! This is another story that reminds me a lot of the greatest stories of the original Weird War Tales. The best of this issue.

SALVATION: A tale of a Vietnam (?) veteran slowly going mad living alone in the woods. The story is another one of those pretentious pieces of crap that COULD have been a bit more straightforward. The art is brilliant, though. . .dark, moody, and twisted. So once again we have a half and half story. Bad writing, great art.

So we had 3 okay stories this time out for yet another average score. Like I said above, this mini was just average because of the Vertigo tendency to be 1 piece of good for 2 pieces of crap. That was the norm for Vertigo in general, and this mini was no exception.
7 stories in this 64 page special. Let's take a look at each one of them individually. . .

NOSH AND BARRY AND EDDIE AND JOE: This story about 4 Gulf War era British Special Ops veterans finding out that they were part of a secret experiment isn't nearly as good as I would expect something from a Garth Ennis/Jim Lee combo to be. It's okay, but not much better than that.

IMAGINE: This Vietnam story about finding life among the death of war is nicely drawn and pretty good. It reminds me of the original Weird War Tales.

THE ISIHLANGU: A very nice story taking place during the Zulu wars of the 1800's reminds me of the very best original Weird War Tales with its twist ending. That and the art by Alcantena (one of my favorites!) is fantastic. This is one of the two best of this bunch.

THE SPOILS OF WAR: Taking place at the end of the Trojan War, this is a nicely written tale about how sometimes what you fight for isn't what you end up winning. Unfortunately, the art isn't great, so we get a half and half here. . .good story, bad art.

MIND FIELD: And here we have the worst of the bunch. A pretentious piece of crap story that is almost unreadable. It seems to be about a man losing his mind living alone in a bunker on a future battlefield.  It's a bit hard to tell, though. I know there are those who think Paul Pope is some sort of comic art Messiah, but I'm not one of them. Bad art. Bad story. Just. . .bad.

SPIRIT DE CORPS: One of my favorite artists from the original 4 issue mini returns. . .and this time he gets to illustrate a GOOD story! This tale of two Vietnam vets returning a favor to spirits who saved them on the battlefield is really the best written and drawn story in this issue.

A PRAYER TO THE SUN: I really liked this story told through captions and single panel shots of wars through time from prehistoric days to modern times. . .one panel for each and just the words of a woman praying for the sun to not rise so she can spend more time with her man before he goes to war. It's pretty powerful and shows the other side of war, those who remain at home.

So all in all, 3 really good stories, 2 okay stories, and 2 bad stories in this special gives it an average score.
All in all, I liked this series.  It had some of my favorite artists and writers and some really great little stories.  Unfortunately, it also had some God-Awful writers and artists on some really bad little stories.  All things considered, the good taken with the bad, it all sort of averaged out.  I would certainly suggest this mini for anyone who loves anthologies.  I see they also did a Weird Western Tales mini I don't have any issues of, so now I have to go looking for it (Even though I expect the standard Vertigo recipe of 1 part good to 2 parts crap will apply).
Up next. . .
Wayback Wednesday!

This week, we take a look at some of legendary artist Joe Kubert's early work with Tor #1

Be there or be square!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wayback Wednesday - The Occult Files Of Doctor Spektor #1



After the Golden Age of horror comics (the 1950's) came to a screeching halt, thanks to the Comics Code Authority, pretty much any comic book horror material was to be found in titles slipping through a CCA loophole in the form of larger-sized black and white "magazines".  

But in the 1970's, publishers began to push against the CCA and there was a major resurgence of horror comics in color. . .Swamp Thing, Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula, and many others.  Unfortunately, the horror resurgence was pretty short-lived and didn't really last far into the 1980's.

From what I understand, the short life of the 1970's horror resurgence was mostly due to the fact that the comics weren't particularly horrific. . .99% of them would more properly be described as "Supernatural Comics" rather than "Horror Comics", mainly because they still adhered to the CCA even though they were skirting around the edges of it.  

What we have here for this edition of Wayback Wednesday is a NON-CCA horror comic that came out in 1973 as part of that big horror resurgence. From what I've been able to find out about it, Doctor Spektor is a practically forgotten character, and remains little more than a footnote in horror comic history.

So let's take a closer look at this artifact from the 70's, shall we?


So right off the starting line, this comic has a VERY nice painted cover.  It's a bit deceptive as to the actual story inside, but that was pretty much par for the course when it came to horror comics in general.  I couldn't find a credit for the artist, but it LOOKS like the same artist who did the interiors (Jesse Santos).  In any case, no matter who did the cover, it's 70's-tastic in every way!

Inside, there's two stories.  "Cult of The Vampire", the longer main story, and a 4 pager in the back by the same creative team called "Little 'Ol Coffin Maker".  I'll take a look at them separately.

So when I take a look at the art and script credits, something catches my eye.  The name of the writer (Don Glut)  seems familiar, but at the same time, not familiar for some reason.  I look up his name and it hits me.  He wrote one of my favorite books. . .one I read at least a dozen times when I was younger. . .the novelization of "The Empire Strikes Back".  


The main story quickly introduces us to the main character. . .Doctor Adam Spektor, his assistant. . .Lakota Rainflower, and the general series setup. . .he's a scientific investigator of monsters and the paranormal and she's a paranormal skeptic.  Like I said, it's all done very quickly.  The info-dumping takes up about 2 pages and isn't intrusive or annoying.  The writing in general moves at a snappy pace through the whole book, but I really liked how the introductions were handled.

The story itself goes like this:

Doctor Spektor has been researching a drug that might possibly cure vampires.  He hears about a possible vampire in Transylvania, so he decides to go there, hunt down the vampire, and try to cure him.  The vampire in question is called Baron Tibor, who was defeated and staked about 40 years before, and has been revived by a cult who will serve him in exchange for immortality.

When Spektor and his assistant arrive in Transylvania, they are immediately targeted and attacked by the cult, leaving Spektor for dead and bringing Rainflower to Baron Tibor so that he can feed on her.

What the cult doesn't realize is that Baron Tibor doesn't WANT to lead a cult or feed on the innocent any longer.  While trapped between the world of the living and dead when he was staked in the grave, he realized he was a monster and deserved to be punished.  He's more than a little angry that his punishment has been interrupted, so he fights his blood thirst and flees the cult. . .but leaves Rainflower in their hands.

Doctor Spektor and Baron Tibor encounter each other, and after a short battle, Tibor tells Spektor the truth of things, he's a changed man and wants to do no harm, and will help Spektor rescue Rainflower.  In exchange, Spektor agrees to use his new drug on Tibor and try to cure him of his curse.

They rescue Rainflower with a ruse where Tibor pretends he's going to drink her blood, then make their escape and leave the cult in the hands of a mob that has gathered from the nearby village.  Spektor's cure isn't a full cure, Tibor is still a vampire, but the drug eliminates his thirst for blood.  They part ways as friends, with Tibor promising to make the best of his second chance.

Overall, I really liked this story quite a bit.  The writing was snappy and moved at a fast pace, and the twist of the vampire not wanting to be a vampire any more was unexpected.  I could definitely tell that this was a product of the 70's with some of the dialogue, but that didn't make the story any less enjoyable.  

As for the art, I found it to be very nicely done, with a dark and moody, detailed look to it that perfectly matched the story being told.  I had never heard of this artist, but compared to a lot of the other comics from the 70's I've read, he's really quite good.  I Wiki'd him up and found out that he wasn't very prolific, having only worked on a handful of comics before going into animation, but I think he could have stood toe to toe with any of the more well known artists at the time.  His work on this particular issue is outstanding!

As for the second story:

It's done by the same writer and artist, so it shares the same snappy writing and fantastic art as the main story.  It involves a hunted criminal who breaks into a coffin maker's shop to hide from the police.  He doesn't realize that the coffin he hides in was specially made for Count Dracula himself.  The coffin maker locks him inside, and when Dracula comes to pick up his new coffin, there's a little something extra waiting for him when he gets home and opens it up.

For being so short, the backup is really enjoyable.  I think in most part due to the talents of the writer and artist.  It COULD have fallen flat on its face, but it didn't.  It wasn't quite as funny as it was trying to be, but still a very nice little piece of filler.


I bought this comic at a flea market for $1 and had never heard of Doctor Spektor before.  Now I want to try and find more issues (it had a 24 issue run) of this title.  The story was unexpectedly good, the art was fantastic, and all in all I have to say that was probably one of the best dollars I've ever spent.  I only have one real negative with this book and it's that I feel the lack of a CCA seal was totally wasted here.  Being a horror book focusing on vampires, it was remarkably bloodless for not having CCA approval.  That small gripe aside, I would definitely suggest this issue to any fan of 70's horror comics that hasn't read it yet.

Up Next. . .

Back to Longbox Junk business as usual until next Wayback Wednesday.

I wondered what happened to those great anthology titles of the 1970's when I reviewed Marvel's 2009 "Astonishing Tales" mini.  So now let's take a look at one of DC's efforts to revisit the anthology. . .

Vertigo's 5 issue return to "Weird War Tales".

Be there or be square!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Longbox Junk - Terminator: The Burning Earth


Welcome back to 1990.  A long-ago time where people apparently didn't understand the concept of "Backup Power Generators" and they didn't know there were  going to be several movie sequels to The Terminator. . .
Right out of the gate, let's get this out of the way. . .this is NOT the Alex Ross we all know and love. 
This is ALEXANDER Ross's first professional comic work.
It's not bad at all, it's pretty damn good, really. . .but it's not superstar Alex Ross as we have come to know hm. It's dark and pretty muddy in some spots. It's a lot rougher than his work to come. The lines aren't sharp and defined in his more well-known hyper-realistic style. This book looks like he drew it with colored pencils. That said, like I said above, that doesn't make it bad at all. You can see flashes of brilliance to come here and there, but there are also some pretty rough spots.
The story is as dark and grim as the art. It's 40 years after the first Terminator movie (this book came out before T2, so it has nothing to do with the timeline established in later films. It's based on the first movie only) and John Connor is a grizzled, grey-haired warrior tired of fighting to the point that one scene shows him with a gun in his mouth wishing he could sleep for more than an hour at a time. Pretty brutal. No "Hasta La Vista Baybee" quips in this book.
I have to say I liked this first issue a lot. If you read it, you just have to come into it with the viewpoint that ONLY the first movie existed at this time. I have high hopes for the rest of the series.
If there's one thing I really have to complain about. . .and really it's more of a questionable thing. . .it's that Ross doesn't draw the Terminators like they were in the movie, with the skull-like heads and skeletal metal frames, but more like. . .Cylons? They have red-lit slits for eyes and helmet-like heads. WTF?
This issue has the best cover of the series. . .except for one thing. I actually mistook the white highlights in her hair for fingerprints (I bought these at a flea market so I wasn't surprised), but when I looked closer I saw they were intentional.
Those rough spots on the otherwise fantastic cover carry over into the issue itself. The art veers from awesome to crap from page to page and even sometimes from panel to panel. There's only two humans who are distinguishable. . .Connor and DeVerona. Connor because of his gray beard and long hair and DeVerona for his eye patch. I'm going to have a hard time caring for the inevitable deaths to come if I can't even tell the characters apart.
The story itself switches perspective to that of Skynet when it decides that allowing 3.7% of humanity to survive means that its programming is flawed and decides it's time to repair that flaw with some close range nuclear bombing.
I'm still liking this a lot. Second issue not as strong as the first, though. . .and the subplot of Skynet creating sexy woman terminators (like the one on the cover) just seems like an excuse for Ross to draw some awesome D-Cups because "Aurora" is actually the most detailed art in the issue.
The quality of the art takes a serious dip in this issue, with hardly any flashes of the brilliant artist to come to be found. The entire issue is extremely dark and muddy. At first, I was like "It's raining and at night. Okay." But then one of the humans yells out "Sun's going down. We don't want to be out here after dark!" And I was like, "This is supposed to be during the DAY? WTF Alexander Ross? WTF?"
And then there's still the Cylon Terminators. I'm wondering if Ross watched the movie before coming on this project. Maybe he should have. . .
Still, all things considered, despite the rough art, this was a pretty good issue. The weakest of the bunch so far, but not BAD. . .just not great.
The art improves a good deal in this issue over the last. Unfortunately, the writing takes a turn for the worse as the humans assault the Skynet CPU and its power station in separate teams. Once again, I find it hard to care for any of these characters, as they are hardly distinguished between in either the art or the story. There is a decent sense of urgency, but there is also a bit of ex machina as Skynet's nuclear bombs are so powerful they cause seismic disturbances that weaken it. Skynet is located in a NORAD base modeled after Cheyenne Mountain. A base created specifically to stand strong if a nuclear bomb is dropped directly on top of it. "Thunder Mountain" is in Nevada. Earthquakes from the bombing of Phoenix, Arizona shouldn't even bother it.
Then there's the idea that "Thunder Mountain" is powered by an outside power station and has no internal backup power. Ridiculous.
Still, despite having to suspend disbelief twice in 32 short pages, it's not BAD. . .it's just sort of lazy and not well thought out.
And here we are at the big finish!
Unfortunately, this series ends with a whimper after it started with a bang. A damn shame.
Where Ross's art slumped a bit, then quickly improved, Fortier's writing went on a steady decline after a great setup.
I'm not sure if the blame can be placed on 1990 and that the internet didn't really exist at the time the way we know it now, but to base the climax of a story where the villain is basically a supercomputer gone mad on "If we just turn off the power, the computer is defeated" just seems so ridiculous that it pretty much ruined the ending for me as the human forces did exactly that. . .turned off the power by blowing up a power station. And there wasn't a backup power source in "Thunder Mountain". They just. . .switched off Skynet and won the day.
Didn't they have backup generators in 1990? I realize the writer may not have understood the concept of "Internet" or "Cloud Storage" as we do today, but one has to wonder if Fortier understood the concept of "generator".
Then there's the whole "Aurora Model Terminator" that was introduced in issue 2. I think I called it right as an excuse for Ross to draw some D-Cups because after the big introduction, she was forgotten until this last issue, where she caught a grenade and was unceremoniously blown up. But hey, at least she looked great!
All in all, it was. . ,.okay.  The suspension of disbelief in the last two issues pretty much ruined the ending for me.  I'd still suggest this mini, if just to see how far Alex Ross has progressed.  The story itself isn't bad, it's just not great, and can't really be considered part of "Terminator Canon" because about everything in it was gone with the release of T2 a few years later.  Well. . .at least we got a superstar artist out of this, so the good outweighs the bad.
Up next. . .
Wayback Wednesday with a relic of the 70's horror comic resurgence.
From The Occult Files Of Doctor Spektor #1

Be there or be square!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Longbox Junk - Astonishing Tales (2009)


What we have here is a brief return to the anthology format comics that used to be super popular in the past, but are pretty much gone now (and in 2009, when this book came out).  Over the 6 issues of this run, there are 3 continuing stories and 1 short one shot story in each issue. Let's break it down and take a look at them separately, shall we?



A VERY nice wrap-around cover (above) from Rocafort on this one!

Punisher/Wolverine: I LOVE Rocafort's artwork, which is why I even picked this series up in the first place. It's insane how good this guy is! Here, I especially liked his version of Wolverine. Not my favorite character. I like him better when in "Logan" mode instead of in his X-men outfit and was glad to see that's the way he's shown in this story. The story itself is a well-written introduction, if a bit simple. Punisher and Wolverine meet in a bar in Madripoor and violence ensues as Hydra and some kind of giant creature show up. A very promising beginning!

Iron Man 2020: I'm not familiar with this character at all, but the story does a good job of introducing him in the short space it has. The art is a bit of a let down. . .it reminds me of the "Kid Friendly" Marvel titles on the bottom shelf of the comic shop. This part of the book isn't bad at all. . .it's just not outstanding in any way.

Iron Man: The short one shot explores the difference between the public and private identity of Tony Stark/Iron Man. It SHOULD be good, but falls flat in execution. The art isn't that great and the story is cramped by the writer feeling they just HAD to put some fighting in it. Worst part of the issue.

Mojoworld: I have no idea who ANY of these characters are (2 b-list New Warriors mutants and the ruler of an entertainment obsessed other dimension) but I liked this story a lot. It's played for laughs and the art reminds me of something that would be in a Deadpool comic. Some of the jokes fall a little flat, but this was a pretty good introduction due to the totally ridiculous nature of the story.

All in all, this book was 50/50. Two good stories bookending an okay story and a pretty bad one.


With one exception, this issue was stronger than the first. Let's take a look at the pieces separately. . .

Punisher&Wolverine: This was the exception. Rocafort's art remains the stellar high point of this series, but the story this time out was pretty much just a fight scene. Not bad, but not as good as the introductory chapter.

Iron Man 2020: The art on this one remains the most "Comic booky" of the series, but the story was nicely done by concentrating on the character of Arno Stark Starking it up at a high class party. The ending makes me think this one might slide off the rails first as Starks luxury skyliner is attacked by sky pirates. . .

M.O.D.O.K. : Not a bad little story. Played for laughs as the villain comes across a superhero themed restaurant and attacks it, only to be foiled by a sticky dart to the eye shot by a kid. The story was ridiculous, but what stood out was the best art by Ted McKeever I've ever seen. Normally he's a bit. . .abstract. Here, his art is awesome!

Mojoworld: I liked this part the best this time out. Mojo and the 2 B-List mutants make an entertainment deal and it's negotiated by them playing hilarious Mojo versions of different earth game shows and board games. There were several laugh out loud moments here, and the artist nails the visuals. Very well done.


First. . .that cover by Rocafort. ASS-Tastic!

Wolverine & Punisher: This episode is split between finishing the big fight scene from last issue and Wolverine, Punisher, and Tyger Tiger talking amongst themselves trying to figure out what's going on. It's not bad, and Rocafort can make people sitting around talking look GOOD. Still. . .if he wasn't on art, this would probably be the worst of the bunch this time out.

Iron Man 2020: This one starts to slide as Arno Stark suits up and heads into battle along side a team of. . .babies in robot bodies (Wha ?) against a sky pirate ship. Definitely belongs on the kiddie rack.

Mojoworld: Not quite as funny as last time out, but still got a few chuckles as the Mutants start making a Civil War movie starring a bunch of superheroes. . .in the civil war (and civil war uniforms). . .but fighting about superhero registration. Complete with a "Gone With The Wind" love scene between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage wearing a wig. Completely ridiculous. The double page spread of the "Civil War" itself is over the top detailed.

Spider-Woman: A short, but sweet tale with outstandingly realistic artwork by Fiona Staples with Jessica Drew being lured to investigate vampire snuff films with the intent to make her the victim without knowing she's Spider-Woman. It's a nice little story. Nothing special, but it has it's moment. The art is the star of this particular show.

All in all, this issue slumped a bit compared to the others.


Probably the best cover in the series on this one. . .

Wolverine & Punisher: The story picks up a bit as the hunted become the hunters in a plan to turn the tables on Hydra. Some good moments in this one, including Punisher telling Wolverine how he buys his famous skull shirts in bulk. The art is still stellar. I hate Wolverine's yellow X-men costume but Rocafort manages to make it look badass anyway. Nicely done.

Iron Man 2020: This story has devolved from a nice examination of the character of Arno Stark into a standard superhero punch-fest against a bunch of flying robots. Not completely off the rails, but getting there.

Daredevil: Definitely the weak point of this issue. Bad art in an almost completely silent story. If you're going to let the art do the heavy lifting, it has to be better than this. Fail.

Mojoworld: In a riff on "Wedding Crashers", the mutants try to get Mojo laid and fail spectacularly when they give a bunch of money to Elektra to do the deed and she thinks she's being paid to kill. Completely ridiculous, but still extremely enjoyable. And once again, the art on expressions is spot on. Probably the best part of this issue.


Hitting the home stretch!

Wolverine & Punisher: Another pretty much all fighting episode as Hydra doubles down on their efforts to take out Punisher & Wolverine. Not great, but not bad. Has some pretty good moments, like the smile on Punisher's face as he pulls a giant 90's-style rocket launcher from a duffle bag. Of course, Rocafort's art saves this from being a groaner of a punch fest.

Iron Man 2020: Unfortunately, this one doesn't have Rocafort to save it. The art belongs on the kiddie rack and the story is now all about robot punching and nothing else. Too bad. It started pretty strong.

Shiver Man: Now HERE'S the star of this show (to me, anyway). I have no idea who this character is, but this short silent (except for caption boxes) story is dark, moody, and has me interested to find out more about the ghostly western gunman it features, who is apparently doomed to walk the earth until there's no more earth to walk. Fantastic!

Mojoworld: A hilarious sequence of vignettes featuring takeoffs on cop movies, romantic comedies, Princess Bride, and so on. This story hasn't failed to entertain me yet. Probably the strongest part of the series just for embracing the total lunacy of itself.


And now for the big finish!

Wolverine & Punisher: Not a bad ending. It all wraps up nicely. All in all, it was a very simple story. . .pretty much a cliche "Two characters searching for the same thing on different paths get thrown together against their mutual enemy" comic book team up. Fortunately, the superior art of K. Rocafort elevated it above the mundane level of the overused story. 

Iron Man 2020: This one started strong and went on a quick slide down into robot punching territory. The art and the story (after the first 2 episodes) puts this one on the level of the "All Ages" Avenger and Spiderman books. Too bad. . .I really enjoyed it at first, with the great introduction of Arno Stark who is (if at all possible) an even bigger jerk than Tony Stark. I'd say this turned out to be the worst of the 3 continued stories in this series.

Sabra: Never heard of this character. Even though the idea of an Israeli superhero is interesting, this story doesn't really make me want to find out more. The art is incredibly "90's Good/Bad Girl" cheesecake. No bueno. . .

Mojoworld: This was probably the most consistently entertaining continued story. The art never failed to hit the mark. The writing always had at least a chuckle in it. The finish is no exception, as the Mutants make a Magnum P.I./Indiana Jones mashup before figuring out how to get home without becoming Mojo's slaves. Well done all the way through on this one.


Overall, I really enjoyed this series and would certainly suggest it.  It had a few slips, but not so much that I had to force myself through.  Wolverine & Punisher had the best art. Mojoworld was the most entertaining. Shiver (from issue 5) was the best of the one-offs. All things considered, both good and bad, I'd certainly suggest this series. . .but it would probably be better in Trade with the separate stories put together.

Up Next. . .

Travel back in time with me to a long-forgotten age where the internet was in its infancy, there were no smart phones, and an unknown artist by the name of Alexander Ross was just starting out in comics. . .NOW Comics Terminator: The Burning Earth mini-series.

 Be there or be square!

Wayback Wednesday - X-Men #35

X-MEN (vol. 1) #35

Face front, true believers! For this week's Wayback Wednesday edition of Longbox Junk we take a trip back to 1967 for some Merry Marvel Mutant Madness, guest starring the one and only Wisecracking Wallcrawler. . .The Sensational Spider-Man! 

Sit back and enjoy another comic review nobody ever asked for, brought to you by the Astounding Authorship (AND Humongous Humility) of yours truly!

X-MEN #35: Along Came A Spider

So the story basically goes like this:  Banshee is in Europe on the hunt for a sinister group called Factor 3.  He discovers their hidden lair, but is attacked and defeated by a spider-like robot.  Before he is captured, he manages to send a message to the X-Men about his discovery, and tries to warn them about the robot, but the message is incomplete. . .just telling them to "Beware the Spider".


As the X-Men ponder the mysterious message, Peter Parker (AKA Spider-Man) has chosen that EXACT time to take a motorcycle ride out in the country, where he is attacked by a Spider Robot that Factor 3 sent to recon how much of a message Banshee was able to get through to the X-Men.  While he is fighting the robot, the X-Men get an alert from Cerebro about an evil mutant nearby.  They rush to check things out.  Spider-Man defeats the Spider Robot and it self destructs just before the X-Men arrive on the scene.  

It quickly turns into a classic "Heroes battle each other until they discover that there's been a mistake made" situation.  Spider-Man hilariously and easily defeats the entire (well. . .almost entire.  Jean Grey stays back at base to monitor communications) X-Men team single-handed before they get a message from Jean telling them that the message was incomplete and that Spider-Man isn't the enemy.  They all sort of apologize to Spidey and then take off in Professor X's Rolls Royce, leaving Spider-Man standing there wondering what the hell just happened.  The X-Men get back home and start making plans to head to Europe in order to rescue Banshee.  The End. . .To be continued.

Okay.  So let's break it down a bit. . .

Overall, a pretty simple story.  Mostly an elaborate excuse to get Spider-Man into an X-Men comic, as far as I can tell.  The story is pretty much propped up by a string of improbable coincidences and extreme stretches of comic book logic.  It seems like they were struggling a bit to get this crossover done and still fit in with the ongoing story being told (Professor X is missing, kidnapped by Factor 3).

Not that the writing is bad.  Roy Thomas does a fine job with the dialogue, especially during the fight between Spidey and the X-Men.  It's really entertaining in that bombastic early Marvel way.  It's just that the PLOT itself is forced and even somewhat confusing.  Spider-Man picks the EXACT day all this is going down for a quiet day in the country, AND he ends up in the EXACT spot the Spider Robot lands. Cerebro can distinguish between good and evil mutants?  Cerebro can detect a ROBOT made by a mutant?  Jean JUST happens to find Xavier's note about putting a special crystal in Banshee's headband that can be reached by adjusting Cerebro's frequency? So on and so forth.  I haven't read a LOT of these older X-Men issues, but I have to wonder if Cerebro was used as such a Deus Ex Machina crutch as often in other issues as it was in this one. . .

But like I said, it's not all bad.  I thought it was great how the X-Men had to drive around in a borrowed car, and how Spider-Man was basically spanking the whole team single-handed before they were like, "Sorry, our bad." and took off, leaving him standing there by himself wondering what just happened, and thinking the X-Men were a bunch of nuts.  I actually got a pretty good laugh out of that.

So that was the story. What about the art?  The cover of the book is fantastic!  It's bright, energetic, and hits all the marks for a classic Marvel cover that I'd want to put in a frame on my office wall for my rotating comic art collection.  The interiors are. . .decent.  Not bad, but there's nothing very inspired about it.  No panels stand out as being particularly impressive.  The art tells the story just fine, but it doesn't try any harder than that.  There are also a few pages with some sloppy coloring, but not nearly as bad as other comics from the same time, and so they don't really distract from the overall picture.  If I had to use one word to describe the art in this issue it would be "Workmanlike", even though I'm not sure if that's even a word.  The artist did their job, but that was it.


All in all, I liked this issue.  Sure, the story was contrived and extremely forced, but it had some good moments. The art was okay, and the issue has a very nice cover.  What more could you ask for in a 50 year old comic book?  I've seen issues of more recent comics that make this one look like a masterpiece, so it speaks to the quality of Stan Lee era Marvel comics that this issue still stands up and entertains after so many years.  Despite its faults, it's just plain fun!

Up Next. . .

Back to Longbox Junk business as usual until next Wayback Wednesday.
It's 9 Stories in 6 issues with Marvel's 2009 Astonishing Tales mini.

Be there or be square!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Longbox Junk - Aliens (2009)


I'm a big fan of the Alien franchise. . .movies, comics, novels, video games.  I love it all.  I even love those movies everyone hates (Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, Prometheus, AVP. . .).  Did I love this 2009 Dark Horse "Reboot" of the comics end of the franchise?  Read on!

ALIENS (2009 - Dark Horse)
What a fantastic opening to this 4 issue mini-series! The excellence starts with the awesome cover and continues inside with the gritty, detailed artwork.

The story is well-written and for such a short space, has several twists. Starting with a prologue throwing us right into Alien action, then twisting to show that takes place sometime in the future of the story. THEN we follow one character through most of the issue, assuming she's the main character. Nope. . .twist again as she's gunned down later on. THEN we're introduced to the actual main character at the very end in another twist as he claws his way up from a mass grave. Very well done!

If I have one complaint about this issue, it's the design of the Aliens. They aren't the sleek black Xenomorphs I was expecting (and featured on the outstanding cover). They are reddish in color and have odd bumps and tusks. The artist draws them well, but it's just strange.

Other than that, I couldn't ask more from an opening issue. Mystery, action, plot twists. . .let's hope the quality keeps high on this one.
Another fantastic issue. The art continues to really impress me and once again, the story takes several twists that just make me want to keep turning the page.

First we find out the identity of the true main character, then we find out he's the Alien franchise's favorite ex machina (literally), an android. Then we find out that there's something MORE than "just" Aliens on this world. . .something that plays with the minds of humans and controls them. THEN we find out that the people that need rescuing are the ones that killed everybody (almost) in the first issue, but they don't remember any of it except as a dream. 

Once again, lots of plot twists in a little space. I really liked it. I only really have two complaints. . .first, the cover is decent, but not really that good. The second, I mentioned above. . .the Alien franchise over-reliance on android ex-machinas to carry a story. Too convenient. Too often. That doesn't make it a bad story, I just rolled my eyes a bit when it was revealed that once again, an android saves the day. Stop it, Dark Horse. Just. . .stop.
Although still pretty damn good, I didn't like this issue as much as the previous two. The artwork is still stunning as the action (and gore) kicks up a notch when David and the miners he has teamed up with are attacked by Aliens.

The problem I have with this issue is the same one I had with the last, but magnified even more in this issue. . .the ex machina of the android in almost every situation. His "systems" can lead them to their lost member, Andrea. His "systems" can call down and remotely pilot the orbiting ship. His "systems" allow him to target and kill Aliens with relative ease (even though he introduces himself as a science model). And a main plot element is how his "systems" have been damaged to the point that he no longer is compelled to protect humans and at the end he hallucinates because of his damaged "systems". It just seems like a bit too much.

But like I said, that doesn't make it BAD, just a bit of an overused plot device. I did like the flashback scenes where the discovery of the mysterious alien (not Alien with a capital A, but something else that hasn't been revealed yet) is told about, but there are still plenty of questions I hope are wrapped up in the final issue. . .
I have to say that this was a pretty disappointing ending to this series. After an extremely strong opening 2 issues, the story went a bit downhill. Not a complete slide off the rails by any means. It was still decent, and the art remained of fantastic quality through the whole thing. . .it's just that the ending didn't really resolve anything. It's less of a "The End" and more of a "To Be Continued".

This issue was pretty much all out action as the android, David, and the small group of miners under his protection fight their way out of the alien (small a) city and are relentlessly attacked by Aliens (big A) on the way back to his ship. Yeah, they escape after losing a few members along the way, but that's not where the disappointment comes from.

One of the miners breaks away from the group because he (sort of rightly) doesn't trust a damaged android to lead them to safety. He returns to the heart of the alien city and we see him pretty much worshipping some sort of giant glowing alien (small a) being that has no resemblance to the Aliens (big A). Then. . .nothing. It's like this whole mini was a prologue to another story. 

It left a lot of questions unanswered. How could the android, David, dream and hallucinate? Who or what built the alien city? What was the giant glowing being that Red was worshipping? Why are the Aliens different in form and color? So on and so forth. 

I'm not sure if there was a follow-up to this story, but as a stand-alone tale, the ending is no bueno. . .
Despite an over-reliance on the tried and true android ex machina and an ending that leaves you hanging and wanting more, I really enjoyed this mini.  The art was outstanding in every way, on every page, and in every panel.  The story kept me turning the page, even though the plot twists of the first couple issues took a back seat to action on the back half.  I just wish this would have gone a couple more issues and given a more satisfying ending.
All in all I would definitely suggest this mini for anyone who likes the Aliens franchise.  If you don't like the whole Aliens thing, this mini won't change your mind.  
Next up. . .
Wayback Wednesday with Merry Marvel Mutant Madness!
Be there or be square!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Longbox Junk - Deathblow Part 3: Issues 23 - 29

PART 3: ISSUES 23 - 29

And now we fly completely off the rails. . .
So it's come to this. . .Deathblow becomes a guest in his own book again. This time, Backlash takes the spotlight as Deathblow and Dane (who is completely out of character as established in last issue) try to warn him about the assassin targeting Team 7 members.

It's basically a comic cliche "I must fight my friends because they're now my enemies. . .oops. . .not really?" battle for most of the issue.

At least the art is pretty nice. Unfortunately, they can't seem to keep a steady artist on at this point. Not a good sign.
This issue becomes pretty crowded as Image throws Grifter, Backlash, Dane, and Gen 13 into the mix. There's barely any room left for Deathblow in his own book at this point. 

God, it's bad. So bad. This title has become an excuse for more popular characters to appear on another comic cover. It's gone off the rails and is in free fall.

The art is okay in this one. Once again we've got another (two) here today gone tomorrow artists. At least they know how to draw the teen T&A better than some of the others. . .as once again, the dark and gritty Deathblow becomes a showcase for spandex booty.
Thank God this arc is finally over.

It's all hands on deck for pretty much one long battle ending in a bullet to the head for Team 7's nemesis, Craven.

It's crap is what it is.

Deathblow is now in superhero crossover hell. Brightly colored panels (one with Deathblow shooting a machine gun has a lovely light purple background. Deathblow? Purple? PURPLE?) filled with spandex-clad superheroes bouncing and flying, shooting this and that from their hands. 

Who the hell thought this was a good idea? 4 more issues of this?
I need a friggin' Tylenol.
I have no idea what this crap is about. It's obviously some sort of big crossover called "Fire From Heaven". Looks like it has something to do with an Image Thanos ripoff wanting something, something, reasons. . .

The plot is lost in crossover translation. The art is brightly-colored superhero crap with pink and purple backgrounds. . .in DEATHBLOW! The title character is in 3 or 4 pages total. 

I don't even want to read the next issue. This series has gone so far off the rails, that the rails are but a distant memory. Each panel of this issue is like a stab to my eye.
The bright colors assault my sanity. The plot dares me to make sense of it. I hear laughter as I stare dumbly at the page, then force myself to turn to the next. I don't want to turn the page. I don't want to see more of this. I realize with horror that I am the one laughing. It's not funny. Why do I laugh? Why do I continue to read? Is THIS the joke? 

God help me. I must finish this.
Finally! The sweet release of death! 

Deathblow dies for some reason. I shed a tear for the mercy the writers have shown him. The poor shell of what he once was, stumbling through a series that is no longer his, though it bears his name. 

I wipe my eye and envy his departure, for I still have one more issue to read before I too can leave this abomination behind. Slowly. . .I reach for it.
And so Deathblow is laid to rest. Both the character and the series. If only the end had come sooner for both. As I stare at Deathblow's tombstone on the last page, I think only of the wasted potential of this fictional life now at an end. 

Thank God it's over. R.I.P Deathblow.
And there you have it.  Probably the hardest 7 issues of a comic book I've forced myself to read yet. I can't help but wonder why I stuck with it back in "Tha Day".  Was I hoping it would become better?  These days, I would have quit around issue 17. . .if I would even keep up with it THAT long.  
Thinking about it, I would say that (Like Winter Soldier), the end of the series was NOT the actual end of it.  This series REALLY ended on issue #14.  After that, it became a crossover vehicle that didn't resemble the earlier issues at all.
For the love of all that is holy.  If you decide to read this series for yourself. . .stop reading at issue #14.  After that, it goes off the rails and it goes down quick.  It's really like reading two different series.
I would definitely suggest Deathblow to anyone interested in a moody military/supernatural title.  But like I said, ONLY the first 14 issues.  The back half of this run I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
Up next. . .
I need something short and sweet to try and rinse the bad taste of the back half of Deathblow from my mind. 
Dark Horse Aliens 2009 4 issue mini.  Be there or be square!