Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Longbox Junk - Mother Russia

Except for the Walking Dead, I'm not really a fan of black and white comics at all.  But when I saw these three new issues sitting on the shelf of my local comic shop for the measly cost of $1.50 each, I HAD to get them.  $4.50 total for 3 new comics? Hell, son. . .the first issue of Doomsday Clock on the shelf at the same time cost me $4.99 by ITSELF!

So I bought these comics based on the cover price and not knowing a thing about what was inside.  Did I get my $4.50 worth? Read on!

MOTHER RUSSIA

ALTERNA COMICS (2017)
SCRIPT, ART, AND COVERS BY JEFF McCOMSEY

ISSUE ONE: NO BETTER FRIEND

The zombie apocalypse occurs during WWII in 1943 is the basic premise here.  A lonely Russian sniper (named Svetlana) holed up in a fortified bell tower's routine is interrupted by the sight of a baby among the walking dead below.  She leaves her safe place and manages to rescue the baby, but is prevented from returning.  They are saved by another human survivor, but he is revealed to be a Nazi officer. 

At this point, I'm thinking that Nazis and Zombies are about two of the most overused villains in ANY medium. . .but surprisingly, there's a lot to like about this comic.

First off, the setting of Stalingrad is a great idea.  Hell on earth made even more hellish.  Second, the art is fantastic.  It's in black and white, but very well done and it doesn't shy away from the gore.  Third, the story moves at a frantic pace due to the sparse dialogue and a "Show, don't tell" storytelling method.

But there's some bad as well. . .the art falters toward the back half of the issue, with a few pages being blurry (probably a reproduction or printing error. . .but still) and some panels looking sketchy and unfinished.  Also, the frantic pace of the book makes it an EXTREMELY quick read.  It literally only took me five minutes to read this comic.  In other words, it's very light on actual story.

All in all, this was a good comic.  There were a few issues, but if you're looking for fast-paced zombie action with an unusual setting and great art at a very nice price, you can't do much better than this.

ISSUE TWO: NO WORSE ENEMY

Svetlana's savior introduces himself as Major Otto Steiner and, after making their way to his safe house, tells her what he knows about the zombie apocalypse. . .which isn't much.  They agree on a plan to put aside their differences and try to make it back to her bell tower, which is a better position with enough food and ammunition to last until winter. . .

This issue slows down the extremely brisk pace of the story for a bit more storytelling about the onset of the zombie apocalypse.  It's still a pretty quick read, but I liked this issue more than the first.  Steiner's description of the collapse of his brigade, combined with the great artwork of the Nazi unit being decimated by the undead is fantastic.

But once again, it's not all good.  The baby is more of a plot device than an actual person , and despite the art being generally great, there are places where it looks rushed and unfinished just like in the first issue.  

Overall, there were a few flaws but I found this issue superior to the first.  As I read it, I was thinking that this story would make a great movie.  The writing and art are both very cinematic in nature.

And finally. . .

ISSUE THREE: BALLROOM BLITZKREIG

During a desperate rush for Svetlana's sniper nest, Major Steiner sacrifices himself so that Svetlana, the baby, and Steiner's beloved dog can live. . .

This final issue was pretty much one long running battle as Svetlana and Steiner push their way through a zombie horde blocking their way back to Svetlana's fortified bell tower.  The art is utterly brilliant and carries most of the weight of the issue as there is very little dialogue.  It's an extra-sized issue, but I could hardly tell because of the extremely fast pace.

Steiner's explosive sacrifice at the end was a bit predicable and the "after credits" epilogue (that looks like it's setting up future stories in the same setting with different characters) seems unnecessary for the story at hand, but those were really the only small things I could find wrong with this issue.  All in all a great ending.

CONCLUSION
I'd definitely say I got my money's worth on this three issue mini.  I've never heard of Jeff McComsey before, but this series was pretty much a one-man show, with him wearing ALL the hats.  His art was cartoony, but detailed at the same time, and a great fit for the story.  The overall impression I got from this series is that the art and the storytelling are both very cinematic and that this story could easily be translated to the screen.  There's an economy of dialogue and a fluid motion to the art that makes me want to keep an eye out for more of McComsey's work.

But be warned. . .that same economy of dialogue and cinematic artwork leads to an EXTREMELY fast reading experience.  It literally only took me 20 minutes to read all three issues. . .and I mean literally in the literal sense.   It only took me 20 minutes to read this series.   Also, there's no character development to speak of and the generally fantastic art does occasionally fail, looking sketchy and unfinished in several places.  

Despite a few small flaws, I'd say overall that Mother Russia is a VERY nice little piece of Longbox Junk and I highly suggest it if you like Nazis, Zombies, or Nazi Zombies.  And really. . .who DOESN'T like Nazi Zombies?

Up Next. . .

How about we tip a sacred cow here at Longbox Junk? 

Batman: A Death In The Family - A.K.A. "The one where Robin gets killed by Joker"

Yeah, yeah. . .I know.  It's 4 issues in the middle of an ongoing run, but at this point it's pretty much considered as a story on its own when anybody talks about it.

Classic or Crap?  Be there or be square!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Longbox Junk - Captain America & Iron Man

So what we have here is a relic of the time when Marvel brought back the original Captain America after a fairly lengthy absence (about 4 years) when Bucky Barnes (AKA Winter Soldier) took over as Cap.  For a short time, both Steve Rogers AND Bucky Barnes were Captain America.

Marvel returned to the original numbering, but ALSO wanted a nice, shiny, collectible Captain America #1, so they ran the original numbered series AND a new series starting at #1 at the same time.  Here's one of the handful of team-up series they ran before Marvel decided they didn't need two Captain America's.

CAPTAIN AMERICA AND IRON MAN

ISSUE ONE (CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 5 #633)
ONE NIGHT IN MADRIPOOR



Marvel (2012)
SCRIPTS: Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Barry Kitson
COVERS: Kalman Andrasofszky


Captain America and Iron Man team go undercover to infiltrate a high-tech weapons show after hearing rumors that something extremely rare and dangerous will be up for bid. . .the Harvester Virus, which not only infects and shuts down any technology, but also downloads the details of any tech it comes in contact with.

 The auction is interrupted by an attack from Batroc and his B-list supervillain team (Batroc's Brigade) and the story goes from James Bond to punching everyone in sight real fast. Unfortunately, Iron Man's armor is infected by Harvester and the issue ends with the heroes at a severe disadvantage.

Overall, I'm half and half on this issue. I really liked the first half, with Cap in disguise and Iron Man as Tony Stark infiltrating the weapons show and working their separate angles on the information they have. There's some nice banter between them and there's a smooth heist movie/ James Bond vibe to it.

But then Batroc and his gang attack and it quickly turns into a typical superhero/supervillain quip-filled punchfest.

The art throughout was very nice and the cover was very well done. I was only familiar with Kitson's 90's work at DC (on JLA and Azrael) and was pleasantly surprised to see something more recent by him.

All in all, not a bad issue. . .a fantastic opening half and a ho-hum back half with great art throughout.

ISSUE TWO (CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 5 #634)
 BATTLE ROYALE

The fight between Batroc's Brigade, Captain America, and Iron Man comes to an end as Iron Man battles against his own armor and Cap is outnumbered. The high-tech science thief who hired Batroc and Company ( Kashmir Vennema) orders her team to retreat, allowing Cap and Iron Man the chance to regroup.

While Iron Man tries to find a solution for the Harvester Virus, Cap goes to a safe house and suits up, but is interrupted by Batroc and his team, who feel that since Cap has been gone a while (this story takes place after the end of the Winter Soldier Saga), they need to kick his star-spangled butt for old times' sake.

Iron Man shows up to save the day in a suit of armor cobbled together from things he found at the weapon show. After some punching and quipping, the heroes discover that M.O.D.O.K. and A.I.M. are behind all the shenanigans and the issue ends.

This issue was pretty much a running battle from start to finish. There were some decent moments here and there. . .Iron Man reviewing one of Cap's fight quips and telling him to stop trying to be hip when he's about 100 years old, for example. . .but other than a few moments here and there, it was pretty much one long tiresome superhero/supervillain punch party that's been done over and over since. . .well. . .since the beginning of comic books.

Kitson shares art duties this time with Jay Leisten on inks, but the art was still good from end to end, with the fantastic cover and the design of Iron Man's patchwork military-style armor standing out.

Overall, this issue was pretty weak, compared to the first. It follows a well-worn "middle issue" path of resolving the first issue conflict and setting up the final issue conflict with an extremely "by the numbers" feel that a great cover and decent interior art can't hide.

ISSUE THREE (CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 5 #635)
 M.O.D.O.K. ATTACK



The battle to recapture the stolen Harvester Virus from Kashmir Vennema continues, with M.O.D.O.K. joining the fight and Captain America having to carry most of the weight with minimal assistance from Iron Man while he reboots his armor.

 In the end, Cap recovers the virus and captures both Batroc and Kashmir while Iron Man neutralizes the virus and takes down M.O.D.O.K and the rest of Batroc's B-listers. All's well that ends well.

Once again, this issue was almost nothing but fighting. There were decent moments scattered here and there. . .Captain America telling Batroc he's not even on his top ten villain list after Batroc was bragging about being Cap's arch-nemesis, for example. . .but really, this was 99% punching and quipping.

Overall, this final issue was okay and not more than okay. It's a perfect example of a by the numbers comic book. It's not BAD, it just doesn't really try to elevate itself past an average level.

CONCLUSION

All in all, this mini was okay.  If you like a lot of fighting with a little story instead of the other way around, then you'll probably like this more than I did.  The writing is brisk and I blew through all three issues in about 30 minutes.  The art was surprisingly good throughout.

For what it is, this is a pretty inoffensive and by the numbers mini. A Captain America team up book running alongside a regular solo series was a solid idea, but with extremely average and mostly-forgettable efforts like this one, it's no big surprise that it didn't last very long.  It just seems like they weren't trying very hard.

Up next. . .

Zombies! Nazi's! NAZI ZOMBIES!

Mother Russia 3 issue mini.

Be there or be square!