Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review - Dark Shadows #6

Welcome back to the Longbox Junk Halloween Party!

I know. . .I know.  Since I tend to post these very late at night (or early in the morning, depending on how you look at things), it's probably November 1 for most of those reading.  I DID have 2 more Halloween posts I was planning on throwing down, but due to unforeseen work circumstances (another local hotel had a gas leak and my hotel inherited all their guests, so we've had a sold out house when we're usually running about 30-40%) I haven't had the time I usually have this time of year to read and review comic books.  

For this final (awww. . .) Halloween entry, I've decided to go out with a Retro Review.   So grab your wooden stakes and a warm coat because we're heading back to 1970 and the cold New England coast for a little Dark Shadows!

DARK SHADOWS #6
AWAKE TO EVIL

GOLD KEY (1970)
SCRIPT: D.J. Arneson (?)
PENCILS: Joe Certa (?)
COVER: Photo

As usual with these Retro Reviews, let's wait a minute before we jump into the comic at hand and talk a little bit about what's in the background, shall we?  We shall!

So. . .the basics for those not familiar with Dark Shadows is that this comic is based on a supernatural-themed soap opera that aired daily on ABC from 1966 - 1971.  The stories were centered around the trials and tribulations of the wealthy, yet cursed, Collins family in Collinsport, Maine and mostly took place in a huge gothic mansion called Collinswood.  

There were 1,225 30 minute episodes that aired during the shows run.  Stories featured vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, mad science monsters, witches, warlocks, time travel and a parallel universe. 

Sounds awesome, right? 

The truth of the T.V. show is that it's. . .barely okay.  It still has a lot of fans, but the show honestly doesn't stand the test of time.  Viewed today, it looks incredibly cheap and cheesy.  It has an interesting core, but the technology and storytelling of the time just couldn't deliver on the promise. 

 This was also a show that filmed daily with scripts that were being written with a serious deadline crunch (sometimes they were finished AS the show was filming), interviews with the actors tend to talk about what an exhausting experience it was, so that didn't help much with the overall quality. Enjoying the original episodes of Dark Shadows is pretty much an experience for established fans only. . .sort of like trying to watch the black and white episodes of Doctor Who.

There was a short-lived revival of the show in 1991 that lasted 12 episodes.  It's actually pretty good, but you can literally see the network stop giving a crap after about the halfway point.

Then there's the 2012 movie featuring Johnny "seriously, screw that guy" Depp.  I saw it before I swore off EVER consciously putting another dime in Depp's pocket after he destroyed any chance of me getting another Lone Ranger movie, thanks to his comedy portrayal of Captain Jack Tonto.  It's more of a comedy drama and pretty much resembles the original Dark Shadows in the names only.  

It grits my Depp-hatin' teeth to say it, but the Dark Shadows movie isn't as bad as reviews make it out to be. . .as long as you realize that it is NOT the Dark Shadows you might be thinking of.  It has a lot of good moments.  They should have just named it something (ANYTHING) else and people wouldn't have disliked it so much.  And seriously. . .screw Johnny Depp.

So that's a quick rundown of Dark Shadows on the screen. . .but we're here to talk comics.

Beside the Gold Key series lasting 35 issues (including the issue at hand), there was a 4 issue run from Innovation based on the second T.V. series (I don't have any issues), and a 23 issue run from Dynamite in 2011-2013 that I have a few issues of. . .it's not bad at all, from what I've read.    There's a few other bits and bobs like a Vampirella/Dark Shadows crossover mini from Dynamite and a Dark Shadows : Year One "Origin" mini (also from Dynamite), but I haven't read any of them and from the looks of it, nobody cares. . .so they may yet end up in Longbox Junk, if I ever run across them in the bargain box.

As far as the Gold Key series at hand, there's remarkably little information I could find on it beyond the bare bones basics of years and numbers.  The writers and artists aren't credited on any of the 6 issues I have in my collection (or any of the issues, as far as I can tell), and it was only through a bit of digging that I managed to find who worked on this issue. . .and even that bit of information isn't 100% solid.  

But enough of that.  Let's get into this comic!

The story goes like so:



Several mysterious deaths take place over the course of a single night in the town of Collinsport.  Based on past experience, it doesn't take long at all for the townfolk to start looking toward Collinwood. . .the dark home of the cursed Collins family.  At Collinwood, Vampire Barnabas Collins learns of the deaths and immediately suspects Quentin Collins, who he knows is a Werewolf. . .but he needs proof before he takes action, and so Barnabas decides to investigate in town.



Barnabas hears the cries of a man being attacked.  He arrives in time to save the man, but unfortunately, both the man who was attacked as well as an arriving crowd of townfolk see Barnabas and assume that he is the killer.  Barnabas escapes from the mob and makes it back to Collinwood. . .now convinced that Quentin is indeed the killer.


That night, a mysterious creature rises to kill once again.  When Barnabas learns of it, he decides that something must be done about Quentin, so he concocts a poison to incapacitate Quentin so that Barnabas can dispose of him when convenient. . .never realizing that he's completely wrong.


MEANWHILE, IN EGYPT. . .


Yes, that's right. . .I said Egypt.  

Flashing back a couple of days, we gaze upon the sorcerer Ka-Ran in the midst of a ceremony to raise the ancient mummy of the sorcerer Amen-Ra.  Ka-Ran is confused as to why the ceremony was seemingly not successful, so he opens the sarcophagus and discovers that somehow, the body of English adventurer and Sea Captain Nathanial Collins. . .the man who was killed attempting to plunder Amen-Ra's tomb. . .has been switched with Amen-Ra.  

Ka-Ran immediately assumes that if Collins is in Amen-Ra's tomb, then Amen-Ra must be in Collins' tomb. . .and so he makes ready to travel to America.

END OF PART ONE


Barnabas Collins finally confronts Quentin Collins and poisons him before dragging him into the family crypt in order to kill him. . .but in the process he sees Nathanial Collins' empty coffin and realizes that he's got the wrong killer.  So he just sort of drops Quentin to sleep off the poison and rushes into town to try and find out what's going on with Nathanial Collins.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT COLLINWOOD. . .


Elizabeth Collins entertains the Egyptian Sorcerer, Ka-Ran, who has arrived at Collinwood with an extremely sketchy story about how his grandfather was good friends with Nathanial Collins and he traveled all the way to America JUST to see his tomb.  Never mind that it's the middle of the night.  Elizabeth falls for Ka-Ran's story and takes him into the tomb. . .only for him to discover Nathanial Collins' coffin empty.  He gets aggressive and reveals his true identity, making Elizabeth pass out. . .from the sheer evil of it, I guess?


Ka-Ran stows Elizabeth in Nathanial Collins' coffin and heads into town to see if he can find Amen-Ra.  In the meantime, Barnabas Collins has arrived too late to save yet another of the townfolk from being murdered by the marauding mummy.   Worse, an angry mob finds Barnabas suspiciously hunched over yet ANOTHER dead man and he has to run for his life again.

Barnabas makes it back to Collinwood, but the mob is on his tail and he has to run from them, leaving things nice and quiet for Ka-Ran to return after wandering around town and finding nothing.  Ka-Ran decides to camp out in the Collins family crypt and wait for Amen-Ra to return, but as the rays of the moon reflect off of his "Moonstone Necklace" Quentin Collins. . .who has been laying forgotten and unnoticed on the floor of the crypt all this time. . .is revived and transformed into a werewolf!



Luckily, Ka-Ran just HAPPENS to carry a silver dagger for these sort of unfortunate situations, and the sorcerer and werewolf start to battle in the Collins family crypt.  Meanwhile, outside of Collinwood, Barnabas (still on the run from the townfolk) accidentally runs into Amen-Ra and a Vampire on Mummy battle ensues!


Barnabas chases the mummy to an abandoned mansion.  The mob of townfolk arrive on the scene and see Barnabas going into the house.  They decide to burn him out because they are literally carrying torches and pitchforks.  


As the deserted mansion goes up in flames, Barnabas jumps from the window.  The townfolk are ready to finish him off, but then Barnabas points out the flaming mummy and manages to convince them that it is the real killer he was trying to save them from all along.  

The townfolk apologize and go on about their business without asking any questions about WHY THE HELL A LIVING MUMMY EVEN EXISTS.  Obviously those are some  jaded townies living in the shadow of Collinwood.  Barnabas returns to the Collins family crypt to discover Elizabeth and Quentin trying to figure out what happened.  Ka-Ran is nowhere to be seen.  

Quentin tactfully decides not to mention how Barnabas poisoned him and nobody asks about Nathanial Collins' empty coffin, the weird Egyptian guy who was REALLY interested in the Collins Family tomb, the mob of angry townfolk wandering the grounds of Collinwood, or wonders why the old Palmer House over there is up in flames.  I guess when you're part of the Collins family, it's best just to leave things alone and take a sort of happy ending when you get one.

THE END.

Hmmmm. . .Okay.  

Vampire vs. Mummy and Werewolf vs. Evil Sorcerer with a nice sprinkle of torch-wielding village mob.  It's got all the parts for a great Halloween monster vs. monster story.  Unfortunately, those parts are fit together with about as much effort and imagination as a snap together model.

This story is so full of coincidences to get all the parts into one place, that by the end of things it's almost straight comedy as characters barely miss each other, accidentally run into each other, and basically end up stumbling into a conclusion where the villain just sort of vanishes and nobody wants to talk about what just happened.

The art on this story is extremely workmanlike and just borderline bad.  The depiction of Quentin as a werewolf makes the T.V. show's cheap makeup look like artistry of the finest caliber.  It's laughable, how bad this artist draws the werewolf.  The rest of it is on the bad side of "okay".  The art tells the story, but that's all it does.


CONCLUSION

What we have here is an obvious cash grab.  From the completely unrelated photo cover, to the story so completely propped up by coincidence that it almost becomes comedy, to the extremely workmanlike and borderline bad art.  It's plain to see that there wasn't much real effort put into this comic.  

It's really sort of a shame, because the elements of a really cool 4 way classic monster vs. monster battle are there for the taking.  Vampire vs. Mummy AND Werewolf vs. Evil Sorcerer.  How can that go wrong?  Unfortunately, the creative team on this comic FOUND a way to make it wrong.  I have 6 issues of Gold Key's Dark Shadows in my collection.  I picked this one because it looked like a lot of fun on a flip through.  I sort of wish I had picked another one now.  

And so there it is. . .the final piece of Longbox Junk's Halloween for this year.
A bit of a disappointing close, but it was fun party while it lasted.

Up Next. . .

Back to Longbox Junk business as usual!

Anyone remember that time when the Punisher was an angel?
You know. . .that very short time in Punisher's career that ends up on just about every "Worst Marvel Storylines" list on the internet ever?  Let's go there!  

Wolverine/ The Punisher: Revelation 4 issue mini.

Be there or be square!


Friday, October 26, 2018

Longbox Junk Halloween - Friday The 13th: Abuser And The Abused

Sad to say, but the Longbox Junk Halloween Party is ALMOST over.

So let's see. . .

Superheroes on Halloween non-scary Horror
Infection/Body Transformation Horror
Lovecraftian Creature Horror
Twilight Zone-ish Supernatural Horror
Sexploitation Horror
Elseworlds Superhero Deconstruction Horror
Classic Movie Monster Horror
Zombie Apocalypse Horror
B-Movie Sci-Fi Horror

Not bad.  Not bad at all.  
That's a decent batch of Halloween horror comics right there.

Hmmmmm. . .there's STILL something missing, I think.

*Ponders a moment*

Got it. 

PSYCHO SLASHER HORROR!

Let's do this!


FRIDAY THE 13th:
THE ABUSER AND ABUSED

WILDSTORM/DC (2008)
SCRIPT: Joshua Hale Fialkov
PENCILS: Andy B  (Belanger)
COVER: Brandon Badeaux & Carrie Strachan

The story goes like this:

Maggie is a high school girl with a rough life.  She's got abusive, alcoholic parents. She's bullied at school. She has a boyfriend who regularly beats her.  


She's seen school counselors, psychiatrists, and even a priest, but nobody seems to be able to help her.


But then one day, after a particularly brutal beating from her boyfriend Maggie snaps, goes a little insane,  and decides that the only way she's going to solve her problems is to solve them herself.  

She lives in a town nearby the legendary Camp Crystal Lake, and everybody knows the story of the mysterious serial killer, Jason Voorhees.  Maggie decides to use the local legends to her advantage.  That night, she kills her parents and calls her boyfriend for a midnight makeout session at Camp Crystal Lake, or as the locals call it. . .Camp Blood.

At Crystal Lake, Maggie stabs her unsuspecting boyfriend, but as she gleefully tortures him, guess who shows up to interrupt her murder party. . .none other than the legendary killer, Jason Voorhees!


Instead of being terrified by the sudden appearance of Jason, Maggie gets extremely mad when he brutally finishes off her boyfriend. . .screaming at Jason that he was HERS to kill.  Maggie and Jason engage in an epic battle with blood flying everywhere as they hack at each other, finally ending with a massive explosion as Maggie sets her boyfriend's car on fire.


Both Maggie and Jason barely survive the explosion.  Maggie decides to try and reason with Jason, telling him that she's a monster like him. . .that she was made into a monster the same way he was, and that Jason inspired her to let the monster inside her out. 


Jason hesitates and allows Maggie to embrace him, but then to her horror he chops her head off.  As Jason silently drags Maggie's headless body into the woods, it's pretty clear that there can only be ONE monster at Camp Blood.

The End.

Well. . .that was actually better than I thought it would be.

It's an extremely short and quick read, thanks to the oversized panels of art, but I really liked the idea of someone being driven to think they're a monster and then discovering what a real monster is.  I liked that Jason didn't show up until the end of the story and this was mostly focused on Maggie's descent into insanity.  Without Jason showing up, Maggie might well have proven to be the monster she thought she was.  

The art on this story REALLY caught my eye with the excellent throwback style, strong inking, great colors, and unusual panel borders and shapes.  It's a really unique style and even though I've never heard of this artist, I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more of his work .

CONCLUSION

I was surprised to find myself liking this as much as I did.  It's not a long story, and it's definitely NOT a story for kids. . .There's a hefty helping of sexual innuendo, barely-contained boobs, foul language and buckets of blood packed into this single issue. . .adults only on this one.  The story, short as it is, is an interesting character study on the nature of human monsters.

The art on this comic is simply outstanding in my opinion.  It has a great throwback style that was really unexpected and eye-catching.  I wouldn't have thought that a golden age homage style would fit a story like this, but it somehow manages to in a big way.

Overall, this is a very short, very fast read with an interesting premise and great art.  It's an unexpected little gold nugget of Longbox Junk.  Pick it up for the art alone if you can find it.

Up Next. . .

October ain't over until it's over.  
There's a few more bits of Longbox Junk Halloween fun left.

Be there or be square!

Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review - Worlds Unknown #6

Welcome back to Longbox Junk for another "Retro Review" edition. . .where I take a look at some of the older or more "valuable" single issues in my collection instead of my usual bargain bin fare.

So. . .

I was looking with justifiable pride at all the Halloween entries I've made this month in Longbox Junk but my big, cheesy grin faltered a bit when I realized something was missing from the mix. . .that being the "So bad it's kinda good B-Movie" style horror.

You know what I mean, right? The kind of horror which isn't really scary, and even verges on comedy at times. Stuff like Giant Ants, Alien Blobs, Robots from Outer Space, and. . .THE THING CALLED KILLDOZER!

Let's do this! 

WORLDS UNKNOWN #6
KILLDOZER!
Ridiculously Awesome!

MARVEL (1973)
SCRIPT: Gerry Conway
PENCILS: Dick Ayers
COVER: Dick Ayers

Once again, part of the fun of these retro reviews for me is to not just read and review the comic at hand, but to try and learn a little bit about it in the process, and sharing a bit of my new knowledge if you don't mind indulging me a few paragraphs. . .

As you can see from the ridiculously awesome cover of this comic, it's based on a short story by Theodore Sturgeon that was written in 1944 and originally published in Astounding, a Science Fiction magazine.  From what I've read, it was one of Sturgeon's most popular stories, although I have to confess I've never heard of it before this comic book.  I guess I need to up my classic sci-fi reading game a bit.

As you can ALSO see from the ridiculously awesome cover of this comic, there was a television adaptation of the story.  It was an ABC Movie of The Week in February 1974. . .for younger readers, this was during the late dark ages of home entertainment when there were only 4 channels and you had to actually watch movies on T.V. when they were on or you just didn't get to see them. No DVR, no DVD, no Streaming.  The Movie of The Week was sort of a big deal.  

NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

Ahem. . .anyway.  

Retro Review movin' pitcha BONUS!

If you want to enjoy a super-cheesy unintentionally funny "horror" B-Movie, here's Killdozer in its entire 70's glory.  Enjoy!  





The T.V. adaptation strays from the original source material in pretty significant ways, especially in the beginning and the end of the story.  The comic version is closer to the original story (the beginning in particular), but has a different ending than either the original or the T.V. movie.

There was also a band called Killdozer.  I listened to some tracks and I'm probably safe in saying that unless you like your music yelled at you in an as loud and incomprehensible manner as possible, it's best to just leave Killdozer the band as an obscure late 80's/early 90's musical footnote where they belong.

Enough of  this. Let's get into the comic!

First off. . .the cover.  

I bought this comic for the cover, and there are really only two words that can truly describe it: RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME.  It's ridiculous. . .a living bulldozer with headlight "eyes" shouting at a guy in a disco-tastic green shirt?  So bad.  But at the same time, it's awesome. . .I mean, just look at it!  The colors, the title, the menacing Killdozer. This is a cover that makes you WANT this comic!  So good. 

Too bad it's pretty misleading.  There are no women in the story, there's no shooting, and the Killdozer doesn't talk or look nearly as menacing.  This is without a doubt one of the best AND worst comic book covers I have in my collection. I love it!  It's Ridiculously Awesome!  Moving along.

The story goes like this:

We start with a prologue explaining that a billion years ago, Earth was inhabited by an advanced race of humans, but they came under attack by strange sentient clouds of intelligent electrons that were able to turn any weapons or technology against its creators.  

Eventually, the human race was on the edge of extinction until they employed one final weapon that they were able to shield from their enemies.  Unfortunately, it was a bit of a doomsday weapon and the Earth itself was almost destroyed. . .but the human race barely survived.  A lone alien entity also survived, burying itself in the Earth and hiding safely undisturbed for a billion years. 

The movie just uses the old B-Movie standby of "A mysterious meteor from outer space with unknown radiation".  A bit less epic than a massive war a billion years in the past ending with a burning Earth, but much more budget-friendly.  
BUT I DIGRESS. . .


Flash forward a billion years to the present day and a seven-man construction crew contracted to build an Air Force landing strip on an isolated island that looks a lot like the same island the mysterious electron entity hid itself under in the distant past. . .DUN-DUN-DUN!


After a bit of casual 70's racism toward their hispanic mechanic/bulldozer operator, the crew gets right to work.  Rivera (said hispanic mechanic and casual racism target) discovers some ruins and gets a strange feeling about them (DUN-DUN-DUN), but the foreman of the crew (Tom Jaeger) isn't having any of Rivera's non-white superstitious nonsense and he doesn't give a damn about poindexter crap like archaeology (and HE'S the tolerant one, by the way), so he tells Rivera to bulldoze that old temple down. . .he's got an airstrip to build and by God, he's gonna build an airstrip!


Rivera's fears are confirmed after he knocks a hole in the side of the ruins and a mysterious cold wind suddenly causes the bulldozer to start acting on its own.  It throws off Rivera, killing him, and then comes after Jaeger. . .and so The Killdozer is born!  

Jaeger barely manages to escape and disable the bulldozer, but back at camp, the rest of the crew are having a hard time believing Jaeger's story because all the pieces don't fit right.  After another man is killed (electrocuted while trying to restart the bulldozer) and Jaeger is once again the only witness, the whispers start turning into accusations.  The accusations turn into full revolt as yet ANOTHER man is killed with Jaeger as the witness when the bulldozer runs him over. 

By the time Jaeger has witnessed three fatal "accidents" by the same machine, and narrowly escaped with his own life, the Foreman has figured out that there's something definitely wrong with the bulldozer.  Unfortunately, the remaining crew members are convinced that they're trapped on an island with a homicidal maniac who is killing them off, and his insane ramblings about the bulldozer coming to life aren't changing their opinion.



Luckily for Jaeger, his seemingly insane story is confirmed as the 3 remaining crew members try to take him down.  The driverless bulldozer cruises right into their camp and starts revving its engine before it chooses a target and runs him down as the horrified men watch.  


As the Killdozer wreaks havoc and destroys their camp, Jaeger and one of his remaining crew hatch a wild plan to destroy the living machine before it kills them all. . .lure it into the water and then hit it with a shot of electricity from an arc welder.


Using himself as bait, Jaeger manages to get the Killdozer to pursue him off the beach and into the water.  His other crewman hits the juice and Killdozer is down!  The plan worked and the three remaining crewmen are safe. . .but who's going to believe their story?

The End.



Hmmmm. . .okay.

What we have here is an extremely simple story that's basically a monster chasing and killing its victims until they manage to defeat it.  It's a pretty well-worn kind of story that's been seen many, many times.  To tell the truth, it's not nearly as exciting as that ridiculously awesome cover makes it seem like it should be.  It's actually pretty straightforward and predictable. 

It's not that the story is bad. . .it isn't.  It's just told in a somewhat flat way, considering that it's a tale of a bulldozer coming to life and killing people.  The writer TRIES to bring some life to things by having a lot of shouting back and forth, but it all comes off as sort of trying too hard.

The art is likewise pretty straightforward and predictable.  Except for the cover and a nice double-pager of the burning Earth during the prologue there aren't any panels that really stand out.  The art isn't BAD at all. . .but it isn't really that good either.

CONCLUSION

If I had to describe this comic in one word, that word would be: Workmanlike.

The story is simple in a "this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened" sort of way.  It moves from start to finish in a steady, predictable line.  The art is also steady and predictable.  It's not bad. . .it's not great.  It just rides right down the middle line of telling the story, but not trying too hard to stand out in any way.  

Truthfully, the cover is the best part of this comic.  
The rest of it is just sort of. . .there.

Up Next. . .

There's still a bit more Longbox Junk Halloween fun to be had!

Be there or be square.



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Longbox Junk Halloween - Marvel Zombies Halloween

Welcome back to the Longbox Junk Halloween party!

Please remember, ladies. . . just because you CAN buy "sexy witch" costumes in size XXL doesn't mean you SHOULD buy "sexy witch" costumes in size XXL.  Just sayin'.

Public service announcements aside, let's take a look at another Halloween comic!

Through this month, I've spent a bit of time with DC's version of Halloween Specials, how about we take a look at what Marvel does for Halloween?  Unfortunately, I'm generally more of a DC guy, so the Marvel Halloween Special pickings in my collection are more than a little slim.  

The Marvel Halloween Special choices in my collection pretty much boil down to  a "Spider-Man: The Short Halloween" one shot from 2009. . .which is a madcap comedy set during Halloween (Short Review:  It's pretty funny.  Pick it up if you can find it.) and this one, which is a bit more "Halloweeny" to me. 

Yeah. . .I know.  I need to up my Marvel game a bit.  

So, Marvel Zombies.  Let's do it!

MARVEL ZOMBIES
HALLOWEEN

Marvel (2012)
SCRIPT: Fred Van Lente
PENCILS: Alessandro Vitti
COVER: Francesco Francavilla

Before we start, I've got to come clean. . .

I've never read any Marvel Zombies comics before.  I know the basic concept and outline just from general comic fandom osmosis, but this is the first Marvel Zombie comic I've ever done more than flipped through.  I know. . .I know. . .Marvel Zombies are REALLY popular and there's a lot of the comics out there.  It's just that I've never been interested enough in the idea to buy into it.  And for some strange reason, they don't show up in bargain bins either.  This is the only one I've ever pulled from a dollar box.

What I'm trying to say here is that I have no clue where this comic fits into Marvel Zombie continuity or if it's consistent with any sort of established Marvel Zombie-verse (?) rules.  Okay? 

Moving along!

The story goes like this:

A woman and her young son live in an isolated farmhouse where their daily routine is just trying to survive the zombie apocalypse through superior firepower.
During reading lessons, the boy is curious about the word Halloween, and his mother explains it away as a thing of the past, but her son wants to celebrate, so she goes to the basement and drags up some old decorations and a Wolverine costume. . .but the kid still isn't happy because mom promised candy.  So mom gets her gun and heads out to scavenge some candy from an apocalyptic zombie-infested wasteland for her ungrateful brat. . .telling him to just stay put until she gets back.


So OF COURSE, as soon as mom's out of view, the kid accidentally lets his pet kitten out of the house and he decides to go after it. . .and since this is a Marvel zombie apocalypse he's wandering through, it doesn't take long before he runs into a bunch of zombie-fied superheroes intent on eating him. . .including Squirrel Girl, DarkHawk (the only two I recognized.  Had to wiki up the rest), Karolina Dean, Mettle, and Zero-G.


Just as the super-zombies are about to eat her son, momma comes to the rescue with guns blazing in the nick of time and the two of them make their escape.  As she phases through a wall, it becomes clear that the mom is actually an adult Kitty Pryde.  


Unfortunately, she and her son are both outnumbered and outpowered by the pursuing superhero zombies and it's not long before they're cornered.  Kitty tries to sacrifice herself in order to save her son, but the zombies don't take the deal and it seems that both Kitty and her son are going down.

Until Satan. . .er. . .I mean MEPHISTO shows up for the rescue!


After he destroys the zombies threatening Kitty and her son, Mephisto 'splains that with a dwindling supply of human souls to corrupt, it's in his best interest to keep as many of them around as he can. . .and then Mephisto lets Kitty's son know that he will DEFINITELY be seeing him again in the future.

Back at the farmhouse, the son is a bit upset that Mephisto is ALREADY staking a claim on his soul.  His mom shares some memories of the boy's father. . .Colossus. . .and tells him that there's a hero inside him and he'll be able to fight Mephisto when that day comes.  And then she reveals that during her scavenging, she found the runaway kitten and there's love and hugs and lessons in appreciation to go around.  

The End.


Okay. . .not bad.  Better than I expected.

The story here is pretty simple, but well-written and surprisingly emotional at the end.  I'm still not sold on the whole Marvel Zombies idea, though.  It seems that even the C-List zombie superheroes in the story would know about Kitty Pryde's hideaway due to the constant gunfire and the corpses littering the farm's perimeter. . .after all, a couple of them can fly.  

But then again, I have the feeling (even from this small dose of Marvel Zombies) that logic isn't the driving factor in the world of Marvel Zombies. . .considering that the entire conflict of the story is based on the twin ex-machinas of a super-protective mother leaving her only son alone in order to scavenge candy AND a kid raised in a zombie apocalypse by a super-protective mother having a remarkably low sense of self-preservation to the point that he just wanders into zombie territory alone.

I really liked the art style on this story.  The artist was going for gritty realism and it really helped me take the somewhat questionable story more seriously than I probably would have otherwise.

CONCLUSION
Despite some gaping plot holes, I found this Halloween Special to be surprisingly entertaining and it even sticks the landing nicely at the end by bringing in some parent/child emotion that rings true and was a bit unexpected in a zombie story.  The gritty, realistic art really helps sell the somewhat ridiculous premise.  Overall, this isn't the best story I've ever read, but it's not bad and definitely worth a read.

Up Next. . .

How about another Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review?

Step back in time to 1973 for some good B-Movie fun with. . .THE THING CALLED KILLDOZER!

Be there or be square.







Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Longbox Junk Halloween - Frank Frazetta's Dracula Meets The Wolfman

Welcome back to Longbox Junk for some more Halloween comic fun!

So far through this month, I've posted about DC Superheroes in sort of Halloweeny situations. . .A comic book sequel to The Fly II. . .Lovecraftian Sea Creatures. . .Twilight Zone-ish tales from the 1960's. . .Alien Vampire boobs. . .and DC Elseworlds Horror.  A pretty interesting mix, in my extremely humble opinion.

BUT. . .

There seems to be SOMETHING missing.  I see a sort of big hole in my Longbox Junk Halloween that needs to be filled with classic monsters. . .I'm talking about some old school Dracula and  Wolfman.  Let's do it!

FRANK FRAZETTA'S
DRACULA MEETS THE WOLFMAN

IMAGE (2008)
SCRIPT: Steve Niles
PENCILS: Francesco Francavilla
COVER: Frank Frazetta

There was a time when Image Comics partnered up with Frank Frazetta and they put out a line of one-shots (and a couple of mini-series) where they took a classic Frazetta painting and built a story around it.  It's actually a pretty sweet idea.   I'm not sure of the sales numbers, but I'd venture a guess that Death Dealer was probably the most popular, since they ran 6 issues from it. 

The cover. . .I've never seen this particular painting before, and to tell the truth, it doesn't look like one of Frazetta's best. . .but in my book, even so-so Frazetta is still better than most.  It's good enough to hang on my office wall, so there's that.  Let's get inside and see what's happening.

Here's how the story goes:

Moldavia. . .1849.  In a small village, a young man named Nicolae and a beautiful young woman named Marta are in love.  Unfortunately, it's a doomed love that can only be from afar because Nicolae happens to be cursed as a werewolf, and it's too dangerous for them to actually be together.

The good thing is that the villagers seem to be okay with Nicolae's curse.  Everyone knows about it and instead of hunting him down and burning him at the stake, as one usually does with the werewolves, they simply trap Nicolae when he changes and hold him captive until the full moon passes and then they release him and village life returns to normal for the rest of the month.


On this particular full moon the story takes place during, Marta has been invited to dine with a passing nobleman.  The whole situation (and the old castle he's staying at for the night) is a bit creepy to Marta, who was sort of forced into it against her will, but the nobleman assures her that he only wants some feminine company. . .AND HER BLOOD!  Yep, it seems that Marta has the bad luck to be having dinner with the one and only Count Dracula.


It's a good thing that Nicolae's family witnessed the sketchy nobleman heading toward the old castle with Marta and decided to release Nicolae, who shows up just in time to interrupt Dracula's dinnertime. . .and he is NOT happy with what he sees.


An epic battle ensues between Nicolae and Dracula.  When Marta sees Dracula getting the upper hand on her love, she jumps in and stabs the vampire in the back, but Dracula swats her away and she falls onto a sharp piece of the room's wreckage and is impaled.  Nicolae is distracted enough by Marta's death that Dracula is able to kick him over a cliff. . .resisting the urge to shout, "THIS IS SPARTA!"  and Nicolae the Wolfman falls to his death.

The End.

BUT WAIT. . .


We skip forward about 150 years or so to modern times and get an epilogue where Nicolae confronts Dracula at an airport and the two resume what appears to be a battle that has been going strong since that fateful night they first met.  

The End?


Okay.  Not bad.  Short and sweet, and to the point.

The Comic is called "Dracula Meets The Wolfman" and that's pretty much what happens.  The story is extremely slim, but well-written.  The ending sort of leaves you hanging like a denied high-five,  making this feel like it SHOULD have been the first issue of a mini, but even so this is a pretty fun read.

I'm sort of half and half on the art.  Francesco Francavilla is one of my all-time favorite comic artists.  Normally, it's my opinion that he can do no wrong.  

THAT SAID. . .

This is not some of his best work.  It seems rushed and even unfinished in many places.  It's a lot rougher and more sketchy than what I would expect from Francavilla.  

Even so-so Francavilla art is still good in my book, and his trademark cinematic style IS present and there are some really good panels scattered throughout. . .but between the sketchy lines and the odd choice of sepia tone through the whole thing (maybe trying to evoke the look of old movies?), what this really reminds me of are animated movie storyboards. . .almost like something not completely finished.  Being a fan of Francavilla, it's just sort of strange.

CONCLUSION
On the one hand, you have an extremely fast-paced story centered around an epic battle between two classic creatures, illustrated in cinematic style by one of the best artists in the business (in my extremely humble opinion).

On the other hand, you have a story that ends too quickly and feels unfinished, that is illustrated in a rough and sketchy manner. . .making the whole comic feel like it was done in a hurry.

Overall, despite its faults, Dracula Meets The Wolfman is a decent little piece of Halloween Longbox Junk.  There's not really much to it, but what IS there is a quick, fun read.  Don't pay full price, but go ahead and pick it up if you run across it for cheap.

Up Next. . .

October ain't over yet.  There's still a bit more Halloween fun to come.

Be there or be square!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Longbox Junk Halloween - DC House of Horror

Welcome back to Longbox Junk's Halloween Party!

Just remember. . .Human Resources is still coming in on Monday, and they don't base decisions on how much you had to drink.  Got it?  Let's do this!

Previously, I reviewed a handful of DC's annual Halloween Specials and was pretty disappointed.  For the price they were charging, there were very few good stories.  The running theme seemed to be 2 good, 2 bad, and the rest filler in all three issues I took a look at.  Worse. . .for comics with taglines like "Embrace the Terror!", there wasn't a single story that really could be called a horror story.  They were mostly just DC Superheroes in sorta spooky situations or having Halloween fun.

If I'm paying a solid 6 bucks on a comic shouting "13 TALES OF TERROR!" on the cover, is it unfair to expect possibly getting some horror stories?  Look. . .I get it.  DC was trying to focus a bit more on the fun side of Halloween than on terror.  There's nothing wrong with that.  They weren't all bad, but I was disappointed that what they were selling and what I got were two different things.

SEE THE REVIEWS HERE:

DCU Halloween Special 2008

DCU Halloween Special 2009

DCU Halloween Special 2010

So why am I going on about three comics I've already reviewed instead of getting to the comic at hand?  Because the comic at hand today is DC's 2017 Halloween Special. . .titled DC House of Horror.  Will THIS Halloween Special actually live up to its name, or will I once again feel the bitter sting of an EIGHT DOLLAR comic book delivering two bucks worth of quality?  Let's find out!

DC HOUSE OF HORROR
DC (2017)
Cover by Michael Wm. Kaluta

BUMP IN THE NIGHT: A SUPERMAN STORY
SCRIPT: Edward Lee
PENCILS: Howard Porter

Martha Kent is relentlessly pursued by a malevolent creature from another world that crash-lands on her Kansas farm.

This is a great opener for this issue!  The story is told in an extremely cinematic style in both writing and art for an Elseworlds-style retelling of baby Superman's arrival on Earth.  It's a pretty brutal little story that's basically a "monster chase", but I'm happy to finally see some actual horror in one of DC's horror anthologies.  
A solid 5 out of 5!




MAN'S WORLD: A WONDER WOMAN STORY
SCRIPT: Mary SanGiovanni
PENCILS: Bilquis Evely

During a Ouija board party, a young woman becomes possessed by the spirit of an ancient Amazon warrior and goes on a bloody killing spree.

Not bad.  Not quite as good as the opening story, but as far as these anthologies go, 2 for 2 good stories is a solid start.  I liked the idea of Diana being an ancient spirit, and how a lot of this story is left up to the reader to figure out what is happening (Diana speaks in a foreign language.  Greek, maybe?)  Diana's brutal joy in slaughtering men is pretty terrifying, just check out that insane grin below!  This one gets a 4 out of 5.




CRAZY FOR YOU: A HARLEY QUINN STORY
SCRIPT: Bryan Smith & Brian Keene
PENCILS: Kyle Baker

The spirit of Harley Quinn torments a construction worker after encountering her during the demolition of Arkham Asylum, turning him into a killer.

And now we come to the first filler story.  The idea of Harley Quinn as a malevolent ghost torturing an innocent man into becoming a killer is pretty interesting, but the execution falls a bit flat.  The art is a bit disappointing here as well.  Normally, I like Kyle Baker's art, but here it just seems really sketchy and rough.  This one barely gets a 3 out of 5.




LAST LAUGH: A BATMAN STORY
SCRIPT: Nick Cutter
PENCILS: Rags Morales

Bruce Wayne is forced to confront the truth of why he can never defeat The Joker. . .because he IS the Joker.

This story is probably my favorite in this issue.  It's a VERY dark psychological journey into a different version of Bruce Wayne than we're used to. . .one that killed his abusive parents and was sent to an insane asylum as a child.

This version of Batman is brutal and deranged, but still convinced he's a hero.  His finally realizing that he is is own worst enemy drives him over the edge to suicide.  I really like the mental struggle as Bruce tries to reconcile what he believes and what the truth is about his crusade against crime.  A nice little Elseworlds story and a definite 5 out of 5.




BLACKEST DAY: A JUSTICE LEAGUE STORY
SCRIPT: Brian Keene
PENCILS: Scott Kolins

At the Justice League's Moon Base, Hal Jordan is the last survivor of a virus that has swept over Earth, turning humans into the living dead. . .

I'm not very familiar with Marvel Zombies, but superhero zombies seem to have been pretty well done already.  That said, this is a pretty good story.  Jordan trying to survive against the likes of The Flash and Batman without his power ring makes for a pretty desperate narrative. 

I didn't really like the way that Zombie Batman was drawn, though.   The rest of the art was fine. . .especially the final panel of Jordan blowing up the tower (and himself) to stop the infection from spreading via the League teleporter to other planets.  I give this one a 3 out of 5.



STRAY ARROW: A GREEN ARROW STORY
SCRIPT: Ronald Malfi
PENCILS: Dale Eaglesham

When the "Arrow Killer", a brutal vigilante, takes a beautiful woman prisoner, he discovers that sometimes the predator is the prey. . .

I really liked this story's take on Green Arrow as a grungy, deranged serial killer convinced he's a hero. . .but the twist of his prisoner (Black Canary) ALSO being a serial killer and taking him down was a surprise.  The dark, twisted artwork perfectly compliments the dark and twisted story.  I give this one a 4 out of  5.




UNMASKED: A TWO-FACE STORY
SCRIPT: Wrath James White
PENCILS: Tom Raney

District Attorney Harvey Dent discovers that the serial killer he has been pursuing is actually himself.

And here we are at the first bad story in this collection.  It's toward the end, so at least there's that.  The angle of Dent being the killer is okay, but it's set against a ridiculous giant monster invasion that really makes this story as schizophrenic as Harvey.

 Is it a sorta-noire detective story with a horror twist. . .or is it a Giant Monster B Movie without a hero?  The art is good.  The story is bad.  A disappointing 2 out of 5.



And finally. . .

THE POSSESSION OF BILLY BATSON: A SHAZAM STORY
SCRIPT: Weston Ochse
PENCILS: Howard Chaykin

Voices and visions relentlessly provoke a young man to say a single word.

And we finish this thing off with another bad story.  A damn shame, considering the strong start.  This story isn't quite as bad as the Two-Face entry.  It's actually an interesting idea. . .Billy Batson slowly becoming obsessed with the word "Shazam", seeing and hearing it everywhere, but fearing what will happen when he says it.

Unfortunately, the execution isn't great and the ending when he finally says the word just sort of leaves the reader hanging.  It's supposed to be thought-provoking, but it's just kind of annoying.  A weak 2 out of  5.
CONCLUSION

Overall, I have to say that I liked this DC Horror Anthology quite a bit more than the other three I reviewed earlier this month.  With 4 stories out of 8 being good, 2 being pretty good, and 2 bad ones, the ratio of good to bad is a lot more what I'd expect out of a comic that DC had the guts to ask EIGHT DOLLARS for. 

Value for cost aside, what I really liked about this issue was that there's actual HORROR in it. By taking this issue in an Elseworlds direction, the writers were free to run with some pretty brutal and dark stories.  This comic is NOT for kids.  There's some pretty twisted stuff in here.  But if you're looking for some actual horror in a horror comic, this is a decent way to go.

It's not worth eight bucks, but it's definitely worth a read if you can find it cheap.

Up Next. . .

This Halloween Party ain't over yet!

Be there or be square.