Monday, September 25, 2017

Longbox Junk - Batman: Cacophony


I'm not sure exactly when or where I got these 3 comic books.  I have no recollection of ever seeing them before I pulled them out of the depths of the "B" section of my collection.  But what caught my eye and made me want to crack the tape on the plastic was that Walt Flanagan did the artwork.

I like Kevin Smith.  Some of his movies are good. . .some are bad.  I (mostly) liked his Green Arrow and Green Hornet comic work.  But what I like MOST about Kevin Smith is his "Comic Book Men" series on AMC, where Walt Flanagan is the tight-fisted ubernerd manager of Smith's comic book store "Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash".  I never knew he was known as a comic book artist.

Did I like what I saw?  READ ON!


Let's start out with the best thing about this issue. . .the outstanding Adam Kubert cover! Now THERE'S some classic badass Batman. Definitely frame-worthy.

The interior art is. . .okay. It's pretty uneven, going from pretty good to pretty bad randomly throughout the issue. The Joker is heavily derivative of Jim Aparo and the artist seems to have a hard time with Batman's face and hands in general.

Storywise, it's really more of a Joker story than a Batman story. Actually, more of a villain-based story in general, with Mr. Zsasz, Maxie Zeus, Deadshot, Joker, and probably the worst-named villain ever, Onomatopoeia making up the bulk of the story here, revolving around Joker being broken out of Arkham and starting a gang war with Maxie Zeus over his turning Joker Venom into a party drug.

Overall, I found this issue to be a pretty average villain-centric Batman story with some back and forth art and above average dialogue. There was an extremely strange moment where Joker showed that he was perfectly willing to have some gay sex in exchange for money that made me go WTF? but all in all this was a decent issue.


In this issue, Batman figures out who the true villain is (Onomatopoeia. . .who had some run-ins with Green Arrow) and that Joker being released was just bait to draw Batman out. Batman turns the tables and uses the Joker to draw out Onomatopoeia.

This second issue doesn't really have much going for it. The gang war between Joker and Maxie Zeus just seems like padding, and Onomatopoeia has to be one of the lamest villains I've seen in a while. . .and in a book featuring Maxie Zeus, that's not a good thing.

The art takes a sharp downward turn in this issue as well, with some really bad panels of Batman's face in particular, as well as constantly making his torso WAY too beefy. And then there's an attempted homage to the cover of Detective #27 (with Maxie Zeus taking the place of Joker) that fails miserably due to some very strange arm/hand positioning.

All in all, I found this issue disappointing. Even the cover wasn't that great.


After a disappointing second issue, the third brings this mini to an end in a pretty good way. The art is still extremely hit or miss, and Joker's bushy hobo beard was a bit of a WTF moment, but most of this issue focused on a conversation between Batman and Joker while he recovers in the hospital from almost being killed during the battle between Batman and Onomatopoeia. . .where we got a cliche "Save the dying person or chase the villain? YOUR CHOICE, BATMAN!" end to the confrontation.

I liked the idea of Batman wanting to talk to Joker while he was somewhat sane in the hospital, loaded up with anti-psychotic drugs, and that he doesn't get a bit of resolution. Joker hates him and wants to kill him. And like I said above, Onomatopoeia escapes, leaving Batman 0 for 2 in this story. It's a nice change to see Batman at a loss when a story ends.

All in all, despite the iffy artwork, this issue closed out the series nicely.
 I won't say it was great. . .but it was pretty good.

Overall, I found Batman: Cacophony to be okay.  The main villain was weak, the art was extremely hit and miss, and there were some strange WTF character moments.  On the other hand, the dialogue was pretty sharp, it had some good insights into the Batman/Joker conflict, and the Adam Kubert cover on the first issue was almost worth the price of admission alone.

Good taken with bad, I'd suggest this. . .but be warned if you're the sensitive snowflake type: There's no "Mature Reader" warning on this, but there probably should be.  There's a few pretty crude moments in here.

Up Next. . .

One shots! I love one shots!
More randomly-pulled single issue stories from my collection:
Red Sonja, Azrael, G.I. Combat, Scarecrow, Lone Gunmen, Bruce Wayne, and Conan.

Be there or be square!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Longbox Junk - Flashpoint: Project Superman


I feel I might be in the minority here, but (for the most part) I really enjoyed DC's Flashpoint event.  

Once they rebooted everything into the New 52 I thought that it was sort of a shame that they didn't continue a few of the titles as a sort of anthology title in a side universe remnant of the cataclysmic events that led to the formation of DC's "new" universe. . .but hey, I don't make the comic books.  I just read them.  Just saying I really liked the whole "Elseworlds" feel of the Flashpoint books and it feels like DC sort of wasted an opportunity.

Here's one of the many little tie in miniseries that were a part of Flashpoint.  Let's do this!


This first issue flashes back and forth in time, starting 30 years before the "present" (The present being the Flashpoint timeline) when Lt. Neil Sinclair volunteers to be Subject Zero in a top secret project to build a superhero by splicing alien DNA into his own.

As Sinclair's powers increase through the years, his sanity begins to fray, leading to a bloody debacle during his first real mission, where he kills everyone, including his own team.

At the end of the issue, Metropolis is hit with a meteor storm and we see the familiar Kryptonian super-baby in his ship.

I really liked this issue. It read less like a Superman story and more like a Captain America gone wrong tale of a good man slowly being driven mad. The art was also really good. All in all, an outstanding introduction.


In this second issue, most of the story takes place between 10 and 20 years before the "present", and is once again narrated by Subject Zero - Lt. Neil SInclair, the government's failed first attempt at building a "superman".

Kal-El, who we only saw as a baby at the end of the first issue, is now also a captive in the same Project Superman laboratory where Subject Zero is being held. What their captors don't know is that Subject Zero can communicate by telepathic means with Kal-El and he manipulates him into helping him escape.

Kal is willing to help until Subject Zero starts killing, and finally stands up to his "friend" when he tries to kill a young Lois Lane. Using the distraction, her father (Gen. Sam Lane) uses a device that sends both himself and Subject Zero to the Phantom Zone.

At the end, Kal is recaptured and the project comes under the control of a cold scientist determined to draw every secret he can from the alien boy.

I didn't like this issue as much as the first one. That's not to say it's bad at all. It's good. I just liked the "What if Captain America had gone bad?" tone in the first one better. I DO like how Kal-El in this timeline is a timid, scrawny wretch instead of the robust Kansas farmboy we all know and love.

All in all, even though I liked the first issue better, this was still a pretty damn good story. I really like the darker sci-fi take on this familiar character.


A lot of what is going on in this issue is tied in with other Flashpoint mini's as well as the main series, so it feels a bit disjointed and disconnected from the first two issues, which stood on their own quite nicely.

Most of the action here takes place in London, under Amazon occupation and with Lois Lane as an adult in the resistance, Kal-El grown and out of the lab (but still a skinny, pale wretch), and General Lane and Subject Zero accidentally released from the Phantom Zone by the Flash and his team he's been assembling. Most of this isn't explained at all. . .it's just assumed you've read the other books these things happen in.

Most of this issue is the final confrontation between Kal-El and Subject Zero (now more alien than man and almost completely insane) in the streets of London. It's a pretty spectacular fight, and in the process, Kal learns that he must become the hero that Earth needs from Lois Lanes dying words before a very nice homage to Supergirl's death on the cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7.

All in all, this didn't feel so much like the conclusion to this mini so much as a tie-in to Flashpoint in general. That's not to say it's bad. It's not bad. . .it's just not as good as it could have been.


Overall, for an event tie-in (and pretty much a throwaway one at that), I really liked Project Superman a lot. . .especially the first two issues.  The third issue was really more of a tie-in than the other two.  In particular, I liked the first issue the best, and feel that it could have stood alone as a one-shot story of science gone wrong in the name of patriotism. 

I liked that the villain of this mini was a good man driven mad through no fault of his own. . .through the hubris of the government trying to create something they had no business trying to create, and then trying to hide it once things went wrong.  If you look past the crossover ties, there's a really good, really dark story here.  

Up next. . .

Anybody remember when the Joker had a bushy hobo beard and was openly gay?  That time Deadshot took a bullet to the face from a rando villain?  And then Alfred and Bruce Wayne had a short discussion about the Bat-Penis?  Welcome to the wonderful world of Kevin Smith. . .

Batman: Cacophony.  Be there or be square!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Longbox Junk - Rocketeer Adventures 2


I'm a big fan of older, pulp-style characters. . .Green Hornet, The Shadow, Zorro, The Spirit, The Lone Ranger. . .so on and so forth.  I discovered The Rocketeer through the Disney movie and assumed he was a character from that same era of heroes.  After I hunted down some comics and information, I was surprised to learn that the Rocketeer was a product of the 80's!  

Despite that, I consider him one of the greatest pulp heroes ever created, and that he stands perfectly alongside his fellow heroes of a bygone age.  Let's take a look at some of his more recently-written adventures in this 4-issue mini from IDW. . .


In this first issue of IDW's second Rocketeer Adventures anthology series, we have three stories and a pinup to consider.  Let's look at each of them on their own. . .


The first thing that caught my eye on this story is how almost perfectly the artist captures not only the look, but the feel of Dave Steven's art style! It's a little spooky, in a way, but fantastic. . .

The story is okay. Not much to it. The Rocketeer is shot down during a dogfight and the residents of a small town have to decide whether or not to turn him over to the authorities. I give this one 3 stars.


This story is based on the fact that if the Rocketeer DID exist, he'd be celebrated in many ways. . .including being made fun of in Looney Toon-type cartoons before movies. 

This is basically a Daffy Duck/Marvin the Martian cartoon set on paper with Daffy playing the part of the Rocketeer. It's just as wacky and off the hook as those great old cartoons are. I thought it was pretty funny, but Bill Sienkiewicz's art isn't a great fit for it, and sort of takes away from the humor a bit because of the unique nature of his art style. I give this one 3 stars.


This story is rendered in a very cartoony style that would have been perfect for the previous entry.

The story itself is about a boy that saves the Rocketeer and is rewarded with a flight with his hero. It has a clever twist at the end where it doesn't say it explicitly, but hints that the boy is a very young Clark Kent (the future Superman). I give this one three stars as well.

The cover is fantastic and worth of a frame on the wall. The pinup is unfortunately pretty forgettable.

All in all, I give this issue a good 4 star rating. The only criticism I would have on it is that if you aren't already a fan of The Rocketeer, this is NOT a good introduction. It fully assumes you have knowledge of The Rocketeer and just goes from there.


Three stories and a pinup in this second issue of IDW's second Rocketeer Adventures anthology series. . .


This story takes place on a miserable, rainy, European battlefield during WWII. The art is simply fantastic here. . .it's dark and very detailed. Normally I associate The Rocketeer with brighter hues, but the art fits the tone of the story perfectly here.

The story itself is pretty simple. The Rocketeer going to fight a giant war machine, but delaying long enough to save a single wounded man who needs help. It really paints the picture of The Rocketeer as a true hero. I liked this story a lot and give it a solid 4 stars.


This story is played more for laughs, and is based on Cliff Secord's almost insane jealousy over his hot amateur actress girlfriend as he spies on her during the filming of her first big part and accidentally ends up in the movie too.

I like seeing stories about how jealous Cliff is over Betty, but this one sort of fell flat. The art is done in a stiff throwback style that wasn't really that great either. I give this one 3 stars. Not bad, but not that good either.


A simple story about The Rocketeer saving a woman from being kidnapped by thugs and it turning out to be Judy Garland. What I liked most about this story was the fantastic artwork! It's sharp, detailed, and heavily-inked. There's one shot of The Rocketeer flying up from the street that I would love to have as a poster. A solid 4 star story here. Very nice.

The regular cover by Cooke isn't that good, but I have the Stevens cover, which is great. The pinup by Campbell is just okay. . .but the sense of height he puts into the background is awesome.

All in all this issue is the best so far and gets a solid 4, almost 5, stars.


Three more stories and a pinup. 
Let's do this!


After Cliff ruins Betty's night with his jealousy AGAIN, he flies her to the countryside to show her a farmhouse he's been thinking of buying. This leads to reflection from both of them on what their life would be like if they settled down. Cliff becoming a farmer and Betty taking care of the kids. 

They realize they love each other for what they are and they don't have the right to take each other's dreams away. It's a very nice story and digs deep into the relationship between Cliff and Betty. The art is also nicely done. It's a different kind of Rocketeer story, but I liked it. I give this one 3 stars.


This one is played more for laughs, turning the "Cliff is jealous of Betty" thing on its head as Betty interrupts Cliff auditioning a line of pretty girls for a stunt show with a shotgun. Hijinks ensue and Cliff's dog Butch ends up being the hero and saving the day. 

I liked the goofy nature of the story, as well as the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge." un-named cameo of The Shadow's alter ego Lamont Cranston, but I'm not a big fan of Kyle Baker's art, and it seemed even worse than usual on this story. Good with bad, I give this one 3 stars. The Shadow saves it from 2.


This was a pretty unusual Rocketeer story. It's told mostly with a series of full-page montage scenes until the end, when it's revealed that the narrator is teaching a history lesson about The Rocketeer to students in a far future classroom. It ends with school being dismissed and showing that everyone is flying around with jetpacks. A nice little story with an interesting twist. 

Unfortunately, the highly-stylized art is distracting. It's not bad, it's just an odd choice. . .and Rocketeer's helmet just looks weird. Matt Wagner wrote this story, I would have LOVED to see his art on this story as well. Big Wagner art fan here. A damn shame. I give it 3 stars.

The Cooke cover is simply fantastic. The pinup by Eric Powell is so-so, except for his rendition of The Rocketeer himself, which is outstanding. I'd love to see him illustrate a full story.

All in all, I give this issue 3 stars. It's pretty good. Not bad, but nothing really standing out either.


3 more stories and a pinup to look at in this finale to IDW's second Rocketeer Adventures series. . .


Set in 1942 after the Pearl Harbor attack, Cliff finds himself blocked from joining the military and relegated to making War Bond appearances as The Rocketeer because of his originally stealing his jetpack from the government. He proves his worth to the President by preventing a suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Capital. The story was okay, but fell a little flat. The art was about the same. . .okay, but nothing special. Three stars for this one.


This story is a bit of a mess. It's about The Rocketeer travelling to another world where everything is pretty much the opposite of what he thinks it is. I'd say this is the worst story of the whole series. It has a few funny moments based on his utter misunderstanding of the aliens and their actions, but it just seems like a filler strip at the end of an indie comic. The brightly-colored and overly- simplistic art reinforces the whole Indie comic feel of this. The Rocketeer is pulp, not Indie. 
No Bueno! Two stars.


I got a definite sense of deja vu reading this final story. That's because basically, it's the same story as the first one in this issue. The Rocketeer stops a suicide bomber from killing the King of England during a visit to the World's Fair. It seems like a strange choice to put two stories that are so similar in the same issue. The story itself is okay and art is okay, but neither one are anything special. I give it 3 stars.

The regular Cooke cover isn't that good, but the Stevens cover I have is absolutely spectacular! The pinup by J.K. Snyder III is pretty good, especially the figure of the Rocketeer himself. He's another one I'd like to see illustrate a whole story.

All in all, we have two stories that are almost reflections of each other bookending strange Indie crap. The cover and pinup save the issue from a 2 star rating. I'd still say this one is the worst of the four. A damn shame. The Rocketeer deserves better.


There you have it, IDW's 4 issue Rocketeer Adventures 2 mini series.

Overall, I found this to be a great mini, and would highly suggest it.  It has a few rough spots here and there, but good taken with bad, I feel that there was a lot of respect shown for the character and a pretty wide-ranging variety of stories and art with a nice, high-quality presentation by IDW.

The only real BAD point of this series is that the reader is pretty much assumed to already be a fan of The Rocketeer and to know all about the character coming in.  This is probably not the best doorway to becoming a fan of The Rocketeer if you're coming in cold with little or no knowledge of the character.  It's a good tribute to a great character, but a lousy introduction.

Up next. . .

Anybody remember that little thing DC did a few years back called "Flashpoint" leading into the "New 52" reboot of their whole publishing line? Remember how they put out a bunch of little tie-in mini's about characters that we never really got to hear much about again?

Flashpoint: Project Superman 3-issue mini.  Be there or be square!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Longbox Junk - Captain America: Theater of War


I originally thought that Theater of War was a mini-series until I took a closer look at them and realized that they are actually a collection of one-shots under a single title, with the only things tying them together being Captain America and a similar cover frame.  They cover a variety of times and concepts. . .everything from straight up WWII action to Captain America as the embodiment of the American Spirit, but basically fit into the general theme of  AMERICA. . .HELL YEAH!!
Let's get into it.

-I'm not entirely sure of how these are supposed to be ordered, but snce they are pretty much unrelated with no overarcing story, I'm just going in alphabetical order. . .

Howard Chaykin chooses an unusual setting for this Captain America one-shot. . .the post WWII Cold War era of the 1950's. The Captain America in this tale isn't Steve Rogers (although the world THINKS it is), but the super-patriotic to the extreme William Burnside. It also features a younger, postwar Nick Fury working for the CIA before S.H.I.E.L.D. was formed.

The story itself involves a Nazi super-science Maguffin for sale to the highest bidder and Soviet sleeper agents coming out of the woodwork to acquire it. . .including one from the highest level of the U.S. government.

This is a densely-written political thriller set in a strange time for Captain America. I have to say I really enjoyed it, even though Chaykin isn't my favorite artist, he DOES know how to write a good story. As for the art. . .it's Chaykin. It's unique. He's one of those love him or hate him artists. Not my cup of tea, but it gets the job done.

There are also two backup stories featuring the 1950's Cap. One from "Young Men #24" with the return of Captain America. It's utterly ridiculous and on the verge of unreadable, but hey. . .history, right? It does have decent Romita Sr. art, though.

The second backup (from Captain America Comics #77) is a bit more readable, but probably more so because of the "WTF Racism LOL!" factor than anything else. It is a nice little historic look back at what exactly America thought of those stinking Commie Chinese in the 1950's. Once again, decent Romita Sr. art.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It is a love (?) letter to the Cold War era, with all its propaganda, nationalism, and racism intact and on full, uncomfortable display. . .both in the modern story by Chaykin and the backups.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

First. . .LOOK at that awesome Steve Epting cover! It's worthy of going in a frame. That's MY Captain America. No Hail Hydras from that Captain America.

This Captain America one-shot contains 2 stories, both dealing with present day unfinished business of WWII, so both are told with a combination of flashbacks and the present day resolution of things.

The first story is about Cap guiding a young man who shouldn't even be in the service through the war because he sees what HE would have been without the super-soldier serum. . .bullied, mocked, not taken seriously. After going through most of the war as a bullied coward, the soldier finally finds his courage and makes the ultimate sacrifice, his life for Captain America. The modern portion of the story has Captain America discovering the young man's body and giving him a proper burial in the United States.

I found the story to be overly sentimental. It had a few good moments, but for the most part the emotion of it just felt forced. The art was utterly average, so that didn't help much.

In between the stories was the second best part of this book (the first being the cover). A Sgt Rock/Captain America company crossover pin-up by Andy Kubert! Holy crap! 

The second story involves a man who Captain America and Sgt. Fury's Howling Commandos rescued from certain death during the Battle of The Bulge. The story of his rescue has inspired the following generations of his family to help others, and as he lies on his deathbed, his grandson (now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) disobeys orders and does whatever he can to get Captain America there.

As with the first story, this one just felt like a forced attempt to jerk a tear or two. The art wasn't good on this one either. The WWII flashbacks with Cap, Bucky, and the Howling Commandos were nice, but the modern part of the story was overly-sentimental.

All in all, I didn't like this book very much. The only things that saved it from a 2 star review were the fantastic Epting cover and the unexpected Kubert Captain America/Sgt. Rock pinup.

This one shot is set during WWII, where Captain America and the 23rd Ranger Battalion are deep behind enemy lines in Germany on a mission to take control of a vital dam/bridge and hold it until reinforcements arrive days later. During the battle, a German prisoner tends to their wounded and the men of the 23rd learn that when it comes to soldiers, even your enemy is your Brother in Arms sometimes.

I have to say that I REALLY liked this book. From the fantastic, classic Cap cover, to the sharp, detailed art inside.

But what I really liked about this straightforward tale of discovering brotherhood in war was that it reminded me of something that could have easily been in Our Army at War, or Sgt. Rock, or any of those great old war comics of the past. All in all, I found this book to be a very nicely done tribute to a genre all but forgotten today.

This Theater of War issue steps away from telling a specific tale of Captain America and pulls out to look at the bigger picture of America itself and the events that shaped it. and Captain America as the embodiment of the Spirit of America.

The "story" is told in a series of vignettes. . .some several pages long (the writing of the national anthem, for example) and some are only a single panel (the first moon landing). The vignettes go from the beginning of the U.S.A. at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to modern times with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They are all framed with phrases of a patriotic poem written by John Adams during the Revolutionary War and Captain America appears in each vignette as an incorporeal spirit.

As a veteran, a patriotic American, and a fan of Captain America, I liked this issue. If you are none of the things I listed, you will probably find it overly-nationalistic and a simple piece of flag-waving sentimentality created to tug at the patriotic heart strings, because basically, that's exactly what it is. With me, it found its audience. Not everyone will agree.

All in all, if you're looking for some outright patriotism, it's in here. If you're looking for a Captain America adventure, it's not.

This Theater of War issue focuses on WWII Captain America on a top secret mission to destroy. . .Nazi flying saucers. Okay, the story is better than the description.

I really liked this issue. It was a modern throwback to the simpler days of Captain America. Pretty much a "point our secret weapon at the Nazi target and win!" kind of story.

Other than the simple lines of the story itself, two other things that really sold me on this issue being one of the best of the Theater of War one shots was the fantastic artwork. . .dark, gritty, dirty. . .it reminded me a lot of Tommy Lee Edwards, and that's not a bad thing.

The other thing that I really liked here was the characterization of Cap himself. It's a gritty version that still paints him as a hero, but really brings out his Brooklyn roots and shows him as someone willing to break a few eggs to make an omelet. He carries a gun in a few scenes and isn't afraid to use it.

All in all, this was a great throwback adventure story with a lot of action and fantastic artwork. I couldn't ask for anything more.

This Theater of War one shot takes place in modern times during the occupation of Iraq. It asks the question of whether or not Captain America has a place in modern war. The answer, surprisingly enough is no. . .not really.

I'm not sure if that's what the answer was SUPPOSED to be, but the whole time I read this, I couldn't help but feel a little awkward as I read a story that tried to cram superheroes and forced emotion into a conflict that was in full swing when the book was published.

I guess this is why they didn't write "The 'Nam" until the 80's. I'm not saying it's BAD. . .the art is pretty good, and the story about a triple amputee veteran getting past how he feels that Captain America is responsible for his condition because of his outdated tactics is okay. . .even though it's a bit of an intentional tug on the "Wounded Warrior" patriotic heartstrings.

I just found it slightly uncomfortable in the same way I found all the superhero 9/11 tributes. I realize that writers want to touch on current events, but sometimes they also need to realize that superheroes aren't always the best tools for commentary. 

This story just wasn't a good fit for Captain America.On it's own as a standalone war story, it would have been fine.
And there you have it.  Captain America: Theater of War.  
Overall, I'd say I enjoyed this "series" of one shots.  Some I liked a bit more than others.  My favorite was probably Operation Zero Point for it just being a damn good Captain America WWII story with fantastic artwork.  My least favorite would be To Soldier On.  It's just sort of awkward and forced to try and have Captain America in a story about Iraq. In my humble opinion, If you're going to have a Captain America war story, just keep him busting Nazis.  The most interesting one was America First, as a densely-written look back at the extreme nationalism and politics of the 1950's Cold War era.  
But they ALL had their good points.  There wasn't a truly BAD one in the bunch.  I'll go ahead and suggest them all.  Some of them might not be agreeable to others, depending on their level of tolerance for unashamed America flag waving, but all in all a pretty good collection of stories.
Up next. . .
He's insanely jealous about his hot girlfriend.  He has no powers.  He's just a guy with a stolen jetpack and a lack of common sense.  One of my favorite heroes. . .The Rocketeer!
IDW's 4 issue Rocketeer Adventures 2.  Be there or be square!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Longbox Junk - Warrior Nun Areala

(Vol. 1)

Welcome to a world where ass-kicking nuns show more cleavage than Dolly Parton, the Vatican has a high tech military branch, and Satan communicates with earth via human sacrifice-powered computer.  Welcome to the world of Warrior Nun Areala!
I really have no idea where or when I picked these up, but on investigating them a bit, I was very surpised to learn that they are NOT English reprints of Japanese comics, as the manga-style art would suggest.  Instead, they are from a company based in Texas.  Go figure.  
Wow. . .there's a LOT going on here as Ben Dunn lays down the framework for an entire (then) new religion-based superhero universe pretty much in a single issue!

The basic idea here is that the Vatican secretly fights the forces of evil in modern times through a high-tech S.H.I.E.L.D. - like military branch. Some of their agents also utilize magical powers.

The story focuses on a young "Warrior Nun" just out of training named Shannon and on her first assignment in New York just as a wave of demonic attacks begin.

Also introduced is Shotgun Mary, a former Warrior Nun who left the order and now fights evil no-holds barred on her own as a sort of female (Holy) Punisher.\

The villain of the story is Julius Salvius, a Roman Emperor who traded his soul for eternal life, who is now tired of living and has made another deal. . .the destruction/sacrifice of New York City (and all the souls in it) in exchange for death.

All in all, I have to say this is a quality production. The art is top notch on every panel, and the colors REALLY stand out as being deep and rich in every way. The story is a bit crowded, but it's a nice introduction to the universe. There's a few clunky moments of exposition, and although the art is fantastic, it's a bit juvenile in many places, with plenty of spread legs, barely-restrained boobs/cleavage, and erect nipples under cloth. 

To be honest, it's all really sort of a hot mess. . .but it's still a good sort of hot mess with fantastic artwork, nicely introducing us to an interesting universe of religious superheroics.
After the crowded introduction of the first issue, this one settles into a crowded, pretty much issue-long battle between the forces of good (The Warrior Nuns), evil (Julius Salvius) and MORE evil (Demon Queen Lilith) in a round robin battle where the Vatican and Hades are fighting together against Satan, and don't realize they're on the same side.

The art is still fantastic (I LOVE the deep, rich colors on this series), but still remains a bit juvenile in many places (lots of spread legs and nipples under cloth). 

The story itself (being mostly a running battle) isn't great, and I can tell where the writer liberally borrowed from Dungeons & Dragons lore with references to the "Prime Material Plane", low-level "Lemurs", and the demon lord Orcus. . .among others. The fights have some eye-rolling moments as well, especially when Shannon shouts out the names of the powers she's using, anime or video game style. . .VIRGIN KICK! ROSARY ATTACK!

So the great art and interesting universe save this issue from a 2 star rating, because at the end of the day, it's just a long fight scene. . .
This short series comes to a close with a crowded, messy, bang! The good thing is that, as much of a hot mess as it is, it's STILL a pretty damn good read.

The art remains fantastic (Still lots of spread legs, erect nipples, and barely-contained boobs. . .including a demon whose boobs are covered pretty much with two band-aids on the nipples), with the coloring (for me) being the standout star of THIS show from first issue to last.

Once again, this issue is pretty much a long battle as the 3 forces involved. . .the Vatican with Warrior Nuns and Magic Priests. . .Hades with Lillith and her minion demons. . .and Satan with Julius Salvius and his demon minions. . .all rush into climactic battle with each other.

Oh. . .and the U.S. Marines jump in because. . .reasons? 

It's chaotic, it's messy, and it's a lot of fun. There's even a moment where I think Dunn is poking fun at DC's attempt at making a religious superhero as Lillith easily takes down a Vatican hero called "The Cleric" who is such an obvious copy of Azrael (O.G. red hooded 90's Azrael) that I'm surprised a lawsuit didn't come of it. Maybe they just never noticed. The scene is only a few panels. 


The final battle is a mess, but it was still a lot of fun. There were some "What are you going to do now." moments at the end that nicely set up future stories in this universe. 

All in all, this series was an excellent introduction to Dunn's religious superhero universe and it left me wanting to know more. Could have used a bit more story moments, but the series did the job it was supposed to do, and it did it pretty well.
And there you have it. . .Antarctic Press' 3 issue Warrior Nun Areala (vol. 1) mini.
All in all, I enjoyed this series.  The art was great, even though it often seemed to be pretty much an excuse to draw sexy women.  The story was a bit light, and was mostly fighting, but it served as a good introduction to the world of religious superheroes that Dunn had created.  Overall, with the good taken with bad, I'd suggest this mini to anybody interested in a different take on superheroes as long as they don't mind a LOT of manga-style boobs on the page. . .
Up next. . .
Captain America: Theater of War.  6 one-shots that form a loose series showing the heroic legacy of my favorite super-soldier from WWII to the modern Middle East conflicts.  Be there or be square!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Longbox Junk - The Lone Ranger (Vol. 3) Part 2: Issues 13 - 25

PART 2: ISSUES 13 - 25

Let's finish this.  Hi-Yo Silver! Away!  
THE LONE RANGER (vol. 3 Dynamite)
We get away from "Gritty Wild West Batman" (For the most part. It's still in there a bit) in this issue and focus more on what makes Lone Ranger a hero as he and Tonto rush into a wildfire to save a family, and then join the bucket brigade to help save a nearby town. I really liked this part of the story, although (AGAIN!) it was ruined visually by the substandard art. What SHOULD have been an epic full panel of the Ranger riding Silver through flames to rescue a child is definitely hampered by the artist.

Other than the Ranger, Butch Cavendish's story thread picks up steam as he re-unites with his former assistant, WInthrop and the two of them begin plotting how to draw out and kill the Ranger.

All in all, the story on this arc is pretty strong. If they could have only found a different artist, the whole thing could have been epic. As things are. . .it's average.
As you can see by the cover, they finally decided it was time to put the Lone Ranger in his god-awful light blue outfit from the T.V. show. They throw it in as replacement for the clothes he burned saving the town from a fire last issue. The artist completely fumbles the look and makes what was already a bit ridiculous into a major fail. He STILL occasionally makes the Ranger look like a kid wearing adult clothes. Through this whole issue, the art is even worse than usual, if that's even possible.
It may have something to do with the fact that this is the SECOND issue to come out in September 2008. So we go from 4 or 5 month delays to double-shipping. I'm beginning to wonder if Dynamite had just given up on this series at this point. The shipping schedule seems to have been completely random in 2008.

Other than the crap-tacular art, the story still remains pretty strong. At this point it's really making me have a love/hate relationship with this series. I like the story, but hate the art. 

It turns out that the killer that the Lone Ranger and Tonto were brought in to help find is actually a serial killer. . .and possibly one that Sheriff Loring failed to capture years before, leaving behind 5 dead women. God, I wish they would have found a different artist. This is a pretty good story. . .
I have to say, that besides the pretty bad artwork, Scorched Earth was a pretty good story arc.

In this final issue, the Ranger reveals the serial killer by using detective work. It still smacks a bit of Wild West Batman, but the scenes where he lays down how he figured things out was pretty nice. Sure, the killer was pretty easy to figure out anyway, and it ended with a good old fashioned "The killer confesses and then monologues about how nobody will believe the masked man while the authorities listen from hiding" cliche, but all in all this was a pretty good ending to a pretty good story.
A 2 month delay between this issue and the last (which double shipped) keeps the random distribution streak of this title going.

The story itself pulls in and away from the Lone Ranger and Tonto to focus on Butch Cavendish confessing his sins to a priest after he kills a lawman using silver bullets (as part of his plan to destroy the Lone Ranger) and the lawman prays to God before he's gunned down.

I liked this close in, personal look at what makes the "Big Bad" of this series tick. Even the art didn't bother me that much this time around. For some reason, the artist draws flashbacks better than "in the now". I saw this in the first couple issues of this series, and it returns here.

It's pretty much a standard "Sensitive boy is abused by his father and fate into growing up tough and never looking back." story, but it's still pretty good for what it is. I especially liked Cavendish's conclusion that he can do all the evil he wants because God will forgive him in the end. . .and if he doesn't then there's no God and it doesn't matter if he does evil or not.
All in all, a pretty thought provoking one-off issue.
Wow. . .SEVEN MONTH delay between this issue and the last! Anyone with this title on hold would be forgiven for thinking the series had been cancelled completely at this point.

But that aside. . .LOOK at that cover! Wow! He's not my favorite artist, but when he hits it right, he hits it RIGHT.  Moving along to the inside. . .

The story itself seems to pick up a few months past the last issue as well. At this point, the Lone Ranger and Tonto are becoming well known as heroes in the area. The Ranger has gone from creepy staring in Linda Reid's (his brothers widow) window to cooking dinner for her and wanting to have serious talks about what might be what. He also has ditched the blue jumpsuit for his previous outfit (thank God). Elsewhere, Butch Cavendish is busily killing lawmen with silver bullets and Commissioner Gordon. . .er. . .Sheriff Loring finds out that there's a federal agent in town investigating the murders.

All in all, a pretty good setup for things to come. The writing is still strong, and once again I see a bit of improvement in the art. . .but then again, with 7 months between issues, one would expect there would be.
I guess at this point, a 2 month delay between issues is pretty good. . .

In this issue, 3 story threads move toward converging. First is Sheriff Loring letting the Ranger and Tonto know that they are now wanted for murder, but that he doesn't believe it and will help them figure out who the real killer is and why he wants to frame the Lone Ranger.
Second, Butch Cavendish, after successfully framing the Ranger for murder, begins to gather enough weapons for a small army.
Third, the federal agent (Winston Marle) sets out on the trail of the Lone Ranger to bring him in for murder.
Then there's the continuing subplot of John and Linda Reid's awkward attraction to each other as his dead brother spins in the grave. . .

All in all, a pretty good story that seems to be heading for a massive confrontation of some sort. The art still disappoints, but I think the extra time between issues helps a bit.
Not a bad issue. Not great, but not bad.
Another 2 month delay didn't do the art any favors in this issue. It's some of the worst in a while. The artist seems to have a REAL problem drawing interiors, making windows and furnishings much bigger than they should be. There's one panel of the agent Winston Marle sitting in a hotel room waiting for Sheriff Loring where the window behind him looks about 15 feet square and Marle looks tiny. Just one example. There's more. The art in this issue is really distracting. . .

The story itself is strong, with the threads coming closer and all the players converging in the same town. 

But the romantic sub-plot is the big surprise in this one. John and Linda get into a heated "Is you is or is you ain't my baby?" discussion in the Bat-Cave and John tells her to show him exactly how she feels. . .so she grabs Tonto and smacks a big kiss on him. Now THERE'S something new in the mythos. . .the Lone Ranger doesn't get the girl!
I admit I was surprised, so I give this issue an extra star, even though the art royally stinks.

As you can see by the cover, a good part of this issue is based around Linda revealing she's got the itch for some private Tonto Time.

The Ranger's initial reaction is pretty funny as he tries to make it sound like he knew all along. Then he admits he was stupid not to see it. THEN we make a return to "Wild West Batman" as he puts silly nonsense like love behind him and dives into the darkness as he sets out with Tonto and Sheriff Loring to prove their innocence.

Once again, the turning of the mythos on its ear by the Ranger NOT getting the girl is refreshing. The story here is strong. The art still is extremely weak. 

The artist makes the Ranger's "Bat-Cave" bigger and more elaborate every time he draws it. It went from being a relatively cramped silver mine in early issues to a vast cave with a hundred foot ceiling. This time out, he even shows a small room with a half-dozen identical Bat Suits. . .er. . .Lone Ranger costumes. 


Things are moving toward a big finale as this series nears its end. Cavendish discovers where Linda Reid lives and breaks in to cause havoc after the Ranger and Tonto ride off to find Winthrop in order to pry Cavendish's location out of him. Also, Sheriff Loring and Agent Marle have a confrontation where Marle lets Loring know there's more to things than meet the eye.

I sort of figured the whole Tonto/Linda thing would end badly. Unfortunately, much of the punch of the story is weakened by consistently bad artwork. This series could have been epic if only they had switched out the artist. I congratulate Dynamite for keeping a team from start to finish. Not many comics can say that. But I hate them for it as well. . .
3 issues from the end of the run and things are rushing toward a (hopefully) explosive conclusion. 

Butch Cavendish leaves Linda and Dan Jr. in the hands of his henchmen while he blows up the Lone Ranger's "Batcave" with dynamite. 

Linda and Dan Jr. fight for their lives. Dan escapes, but comes back and saves his mom from being raped with a hornet's nest. It's a nice nod to Dan Jr. being the father of Britt Reid (AKA The Green Hornet), but it's completely ridiculous that Linda and Dan aren't stung once by a room full of hornets, but the bad guy is swarmed and stung to death.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto confront Winthrop to find out where Cavendish is at and learn that his favorite tactic is to kill the family of his enemy. The have an "OH $H!T" moment and rush back home to find dead bad guys and a traumatized Linda and Dan Jr.

AND. . .Comissioner Gordon. . .er. . .Sheriff Loring is taken prisoner by Cavendish and has his hand chopped off.

As you can see, there's a lot going on in this issue. The writer juggles the balls nicely, and the story is pretty strong. Unfortunately, even with what seems to be a steady bi-monthly shipping schedule, the art is still extremely disappointing. Some panels border on awful.
Another AWESOME cover by John Cassaday on this one. . .

Inside, things get real when Cavendish brutally burns Sheriff Loring with a pot of boiling stew. When the Ranger finds him, Loring reveals that he knew who he was the whole time and then shoots himself.

Linda Reid tells the Ranger that there's no way he can do what he has to do if he's always worrying about her, so she decides to move along without the Lone Ranger OR Tonto. Sorry, T. . .

And as Tonto escorts Linda and Green Hornet's dad to safety, the Ranger rids off solo to decide if he's a killer or not as he heads toward destiny, Butch Cavendish, and the end of this series in an isolated church.

These story moments could have been so much more epic in the hands of another artist. As it is, the crap-tastic artwork keeps this whole series at a steady average level. A damn shame, because there are some great story moments in this issue as the Lone Ranger rides off to meet his destiny as the LONE Ranger.
Another frame-worthy cover by Cassaday. The only thing is that the Ranger looks like he's in his 40's instead of the young man in this "Year One" series. Still fantastic, though. God, I wish Cassaday had been doing interiors on this. . .

In this penultimate issue, Tonto decides "Bros before Hoes" and leaves Linda and Dan Jr. with his tribe before riding off to team up with the Ranger against Cavendish.

Speaking of which. . .Cavendish and the Lone Ranger finally meet face to face for the first time and a fight to the death ensues (sure to be resolved in the last issue). Unfortunately, what should be an epic and dramatic reveal moment is severely weakened by one of the worst panels of the Lone Ranger in this series. No, really. . .in the ultimate moment of decision. . .is the Ranger a hero or does he just want revenge? He looks like a kid wearing clothes 2 sizes too big.
This SHOULD be a defining moment and it just looks like crap. No fault of the writer. The script is suitably heroic and epic. It's the art that brings a climactic battle between good and evil down to merely average.
And here we are at the end of the trail for The Lone Ranger. A series that took 5 years to put out 2 years worth of issues. A series that re-told the origin of The Lone Ranger, turned him into Batman, and finally let Tonto get the girl for once.

As the final battle between the Ranger and Cavendish turns bloody, Cavendish runs outside to his. . . *facepalm*. . .coal-fired steampunk tank and gives the Ranger hell with a. . .*sigh*. . .mounted gatling gun. Tonto rides in to save the day, just about gets his Apache @$$ handed to him, and is saved in turn by the Ranger and his last silver bullet.

It all ends thusly. . .

Cavendish survives, but in a coma, conveniently killing the two birds of possibly being able to use him again later, and keeping his blood off the Ranger's hands.

Linda and Dan Jr. set off for Chicago to leave The Ranger and Tonto to their hero business without her having to be molested by random villains from time to time. And with a "Sorry, Tonto, I'm out." She's out.

The Lone Ranger meets up with Winston Marle and finds out that he's not there to take him down, but to make him a government agent. The Ranger says he'll help if he thinks he should, otherwise Washington can sit and spin.


The Ranger and Tonto ride off into a poorly-illustrated sunset to become heroes of legend and lore.

Except for the stupid steampunk tank, this was a suitably epic ending to this series, perfectly setting up the Lone Ranger and Tonto for further adventures. . .hopefully with a better artist.
And there you have it.  Dynamite's 2006-2011 26 issue run of The Lone Ranger.
Like I said at the very beginning, I am a Lone Ranger super-fan, but I feel I've judged this series well.  It can be summed up fairly simply:  The story was good.  The art was bad.
There were SO many epic moments (or what SHOULD have been epic moments) that were completely ruined by the borderline awful art on this title, and that was a damn shame because I could tell that the writer had respect for this great American character.  While the story was pretty strong from start to finish, the artwork only rarely elevated itself above average, and usually hovered down in the "pretty bad" range.  
It just makes me a little sad to think about how great this run could have been if only it had been illustrated by someone else.  All in all, I see this whole series as a sadly missed opportunity.
Up Next. . .
A slightly-uncomfortable mixture of Godly devotion and sexy, revealing outfits.  
What? Japan? Oh. . .okay then.  Warrior Nun Areala!
Be there or be square!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Longbox Junk - The Lone Ranger (Vol. 3) Part 1: Issues 0 - 12

PART 1: ISSUES 0 - 12

The Lone Ranger.  A great American hero and one of my all-time favorite characters. 
I love ALL things Lone Ranger. So let's get this out in the open right here.  I was one of the few who really liked the Disney reboot that came out a few years ago that seems to be hated by one and all.  Okay,  there was no reason to have Captain Jack Tonto in it, but other than that, I'm a fan.  
So. . .now that everyone knows my opinion can't be trusted, let's review some comics!
THE LONE RANGER (Vol. 3 Dynamite)
ISSUE 0 (Free Comic Book Day 2007)
--This Issue takes place between issue 6 and 7 of the regular series--
This is a free comic book day giveaway flipbook with Battlestar Galactica on the other side, so the Lone Ranger story is only 8 pages long. Before we get to it, forget about the BSG tale. Lousy art, lousy story, ends on a crappy cliffhanger. If you aren't a big BSG fan already, it won't make you want to become one. Nuff said about THAT.
The Lone Ranger, on the other hand. . .
VERY nicely done! The cover art is fantastic and frame-worthy. The short story is mostly silent until the end, and focuses on an already-established Lone Ranger and Tonto chasing a bandit while the Ranger thinks back on some of the things his father taught him about doing the right things. It's a very simple setup, but it serves as a great introduction to the character without rehashing his origin.

I really liked the "silent storytelling", and the art definitely carried the load. Not the best I've ever seen, but nicely done. My favorite moment is the look on the Ranger's face when the schoolteacher he saves (when the bandit takes refuge in her schoolhouse) plants a big kiss on him for thanks.
All in all, very well done in such a short space. This was a great little introduction and I couldn't ask for anything more in a zero issue.
In this first issue, Dynamite resets everything back to the beginning for a re-telling of the Lone Ranger's origin.
The story switches back and forth from the past. . .showing John Reid (the future Lone Ranger) as a child, returning from Law School, earning his Texas Ranger's badge. . .and the present, as he rides with his father, brother, and 3 other rangers in pursuit of a small-time criminal named Collins who leads the ranger posse into a deadly ambush, of which John is the only survivor. . .rescued at the last moment by Tonto (making a brief, but bloody appearance).
I found this first issue to be a fantastic introduction to a character I already knew well. The flashback scenes helped it from becoming a simple retread. The art isn't the greatest I've ever seen, but it served the story well. The flashback scenes in particular. . .rendered in sepia tones. . .were very nicely done.
All in all, this was a great beginning!
The retelling of The Lone Ranger's origin continues as a badly-wounded John Reid is nursed to health by Tonto and swears revenge on Collins, not knowing that Collins has already been silenced by "Bart", an assassin in the employ of the mysterious person who was REALLY behind the death of the rangers. . .
The story continues to be strong as the new villain is introduced and Tonto talks about the difference between being ready and being able to do something as John heals. Unfortunately, the art takes a bit of a dip in this issue. . .it's odd, but some panels are outstanding, and others are on the verge of being plain bad. It almost looks like two separate artists, but the credits list only one. Bart in particular is drawn pretty badly. . .
All in all, despite the oddly schizo art, this was a good issue.
The art takes a pretty severe dip in this issue, it's still a bit schizo, with good panels and bad, but this time around the bad to good is about 3 to 1, with some panels sliding into "real bad". Once again, most of the bad art involves Bart, for some reason.
That said. . .
The story (continuing the origin of The Lone Ranger) remains pretty strong. John leaves Tonto to get his revenge, only to find someone beat him to it. Bart digs up the graves of the rangers and finds one empty, then begins a mission to find out who is missing. Also, the REAL bad guy (Butch Cavendish, a rotten politician) is revealed, plus we get an appearance by Silver at the end.
As a fan, I liked the nod to the original Lone Ranger by having John wear a red shirt on his search for revenge. So it's clear the creators are trying to respect the character. . .Unfortunately the poor art was distracting and brought this one down to average.
The art in this issue is an improvement on the last, but still remains oddly schizo. . .getting worse toward the end, almost as if the artist found himself against a deadline. Still, an improvement is an improvement.
The story still remains strong as the retold origin of The Lone Ranger hits on more of the established aspects of the character. He begins training the wild horse, Silver (though Tonto claims it's the other way around). He discovers the silver mine his father left him. Tonto starts calling him "Kemosabe". Tonto makes him his mask (previously, it was just a bandana with eye holes ripped in it). So John Reid is now beginning to more resemble the legendary character we know and love.
All in all, despite the hit and miss artwork, this was a pretty good issue.
First. . .just look at that cover! Now THAT'S the Lone Ranger! 
Unfortunately, the inside art in no way matches the epic nature of the cover. And that's a damn shame because this is the issue where John Reid is finally transformed into the legendary Lone Ranger.
I don't get this artist. Some of the panels are outstanding. Others are really bad. The revelation of the Lone Ranger falls flat because the artist draws him like a kid wearing clothes that are too big for him. What should be an epic moment turns into a WTF? Why? moment instead.
Still, in this issue we finally get the Lone Ranger we know and love as he and Tonto start trying to draw attention to themselves in an effort to draw out the unknown (to them) person who was behind the ambush that started John down the path of revenge.
Unfortunately for them, Bart is busy elsewhere trying to track down who the missing ranger is and killing his way through the dead ranger's families.
All in all, this was a decent issue. The art problems ruined what should have been an epic moment, and there was no explanation as to why Tonto decided to dye John's shirt blue, and it was just sort of a strange story moment. . .good taken with bad, this issue is average.
It should have been awesome.
Once again, the hit and miss art (mostly miss this time, unfortunately) ruins what should be an epic conclusion to the first arc of The Lone Ranger and the final issue of his retold origin.
There was some BAD art in this one. It looked really rushed in places. And the Lone Ranger still looks like he's wearing clothes 2 sizes too big.
The story here is still pretty strong, though. John comes to the rescue of his brother's wife, only to find out that Tonto already saved her. Then Tonto and the Lone Ranger team back up to take down Bart, who gives the Lone Ranger his pearl-handled pistols as he dies in one last origin moment. He also reveals that Butch Cavendish is the real villain and sets up the next arc as Tonto and the Lone Ranger ride off together in an epic moment ruined by pretty un-epic art.
God, why couldn't they have found another artist for this title?
Taken as a whole, the first 6 issues of Lone Ranger form a very nice reintroduction of a great American hero, and a good re-telling of his origin. The unfortunate art brings the whole thing down, but not far enough that I didn't enjoy the story being told.
I didn't realize until I started on this run that I was missing issue #7.  I remember I USED to have it because I had it in a frame on my office wall for a long time (at my old job, I had a rotating collection of 12 comic covers on one wall) because the cover is a fantastic picture of The Lone Ranger on a rearing Silver. . .but it has somehow vanished over the years.
This issue was fairly average.  As an early issue in a new story arc, it's pretty much setup for later resolution.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto save a man named Rafael from being lynched, and decide to bring him in for justice while being pursued by a posse.
There's some nice scenes of the Ranger doing some detective work, but unfortunately the art in this issue is some of the worst so far. . .there's also an awkward sub-plot about the Ranger's brother's widow and the Ranger starting to get feelings for each other. It just seems forced.
The "innocent" man the Ranger and Tonto are trying to protect turns out to not be so innocent and turns on them once the heroes are done doing his dirty work for him in helping him escape the posse. The Ranger throws himself in front of a bullet meant for Tonto and Rafael escapes.
This issue didn't really have much going for it. The artwork still is ruining what SHOULD be epic moments (Lone Ranger and Tonto riding up on the posse guns blazing comes to mind). There were some pretty good scenes of Butch Cavendish deciding he's gone soft in politics and "Breaking Bad" before heading back west to get his revenge on the Ranger for ruining him. Those scenes are the only thing saving this issue from a 2 star rating. . .
Things start to take a turn toward "Wild West Batman" territory in the final issue of this pretty underwhelming arc.
After the Ranger takes a bullet for Tonto and is nursed back to health by his brother's wife (who turns out to be a nurse), we get scenes of the Ranger lurking in the shadows, intimidating the prisoner (Rafael) in his silver mine "Batcave". We also get to see him sleeping in his mask in the same cave. Plus, the Lone Ranger and Tonto get their very own Commissioner Gordon in the Good Sheriff Loring. They leave Rafael in his hands, tied up Batman-Style on the porch after mysteriously appearing in the dark and disappearing mid-conversation.
There's so many Batman beats in this issue, I was expecting the Ranger to don a cape. . .
Please, God. Don't let the Lone Ranger decide to wear a cape.
Talk about a delay. . .this issue came out FIVE MONTHS after #10. I was sort of hoping that they swapped out the artist when I saw a new name on the cover. Paul Pope isn't my favorite artist in the world, but he's better than the regular on this title, at least.
BUT. . .
Pope only illustrates half this issue. . .a story about a wolf that Tonto tells a condemned Rafael before his hanging. Still, it was a nice change for what it was.
While Tonto is telling a condemned man confusing wolf stories, the Lone Ranger is sharpening his Wild West Batman skills by having SURPRISE! WAKE UP! Conversations with Sheriff Loring about how he's got his eyes on him and he'll work with him as long as he does the right thing, and then disappearing into the night to creepily stare in the window at his Brother's sleeping widow. It's sort of funny in an awkward way when Tonto catches him being the Peeping Ranger.
The regular artist is still pretty bad, even with five months to put out an issue. The Ranger is turning into a Creepy Wild West Batman. I think maybe this series is starting to swerve off the rails. . .
It seems the publishing of this title started to get a bit. . .unreliable in 2008. This one came out 4 months after issue #11, making it only the 2nd issue of The Lone Ranger to come out in a YEAR.
Unfortunately, if I were picking this up on subscription (if I even remembered I had it after months between issues) I wouldn't find it worth the wait.
Now, let's get this straight. . .the cover? Absolutely brilliant. One of the best of the bunch. But you can definitely see the "Wild West Batman" direction this title has taken in the cover alone.
The theme is continued inside as Commissioner Gordon. . .er. . .Sheriff Loring lights a big Bat-Signal bonfire to summon the Ranger and Tonto for help finding a killer. We also get a scene of the Ranger's silver mine "Batcave" complete with proto-Batcomputer corkboard covered with maps and clues, a workout area, a weapons workshop, and stable for the Ranger's "Batmobile", Silver.
Once again, I say. . .please, God. Please don't let the Lone Ranger wear a cape.
The story itself is just setup for things to come, with Loring asking the Ranger for help and old foe Butch Cavendish arriving in Texas with his first order of business to find his former assistant, WInthrop, who made off with all his money.
Except for the Batman beats, the writing is still JUST good enough to keep this title on the rails. I actually think I see a bit of improvement in the art as well. . .not sure if that's the benefit of having 4 months between issues, or just me getting used to it.
And there you have it.  Issues 0-12 of Dynamite's first 26 issue run of The Lone Ranger.
As a true fan of The Lone Ranger, I'm a bit conflicted so far by this series.  I loved the re-telling of the Ranger's origin in the first 6 issues.  The covers, for the most part, are fantastic.  And I feel that the writer and Dynamite had a lot of respect for one of America's oldest and greatest heroes.
BUT. . .
The interior art has been disappointing from the start, and is really a distraction from the story in many places.  Also, once the origin was done, the title took a pretty sudden swerve into "Wild West Batman" territory, to the point of being REALLY obvious.   With this only being the front half of this series, I'm hoping that the writer can keep his  hand steady, because I can see a swerve off the rails coming on quick.
All in all, good with bad, I enjoyed this series.  The art is no bueno, but I would still suggest this series so far for a good introduction to the Lone Ranger.  As for the back half. . .we'll see.
Coming Next. . .
More Lone Ranger!  Issues 13 - 25.  Be there or be square!