Monday, December 25, 2017

Longbox Junk - Solomon Kane: Red Shadows

To me, Solomon Kane is one of the most unique characters out there. . .not nearly as well known as other R.E. Howard creations like Red Sonja, King Kull, or Conan, but still a great character.

For those who are not familiar, Kane is basically a combination of The Punisher and Blade The Vampire Hunter, created long before either of those characters and set in the late 1500's/early 1600's.

 If you like dark stories about the supernatural and those who fight it, then definitely check out some Solomon Kane (Most of his earlier comic appearances are from Marvel).

ANYWAY. . .Let's do this!


SCRIPTS: Bruce Jones
PENCILS: Rahsan Ekedal
COVERS: Guy Davis


It's a bit of a strange thing, but this first issue of "Red Shadows" is not actually the first issue of the story. The main story is actually only 3 issues long and starts with the NEXT issue. THIS issue is actually a completely unrelated one shot.

That bit of strangeness aside, this first issue is really good. . .almost great! I was pleasantly surprised to see that this is one of those rare exceptions where the cover art is substantially WORSE than the interior art. It's usually the other way around.

The cover on this book is extremely crap-tastic, while the painted interior art is of stellar quality! It's grim, moody, and bloody. . .but it's also delicate and brightly-colored in places. I'm not familiar with this artist, but he is PERFECT for a Solomon Kane story!

The writing also delivers. Even though the story is a simple one. . .Kane encountering a vengeful spirit while travelling through a swamp, discovering the truth behind the haunting, and then setting things right. . .the dialogue is spot on and the story moves along quickly. It's a great read with a satisfying conclusion.

All in all, I really liked this first issue a lot, even though (as mentioned above) it's NOT the actual first issue of a continued story, but a one shot tale. It's well worth looking for.


This second issue of "Red Shadows" is actually the FIRST issue of the main story.

Taking place in France during the late 1500's the story is a simple one. . .Kane finds a raped and dying girl and swears vengeance for her. . .then proceeds to hunt and kill those responsible until only one remains, the wily swordsman and bandit, Le Loup.

As in the first issue, the cover is terrible, but the interior art is truly remarkable and a perfect fit for this kind of story. Standout moments include a gruesome page of a wolf feasting on a dead man's face. . .three panels showing the deadly fates of three of Le Loup's henchmen. . .the first face to face encounter between Kane and Le Loup, and the final full page shot of Kane at the girl's grave. But truly, each page is a fantastic work of art!

The story is also well-written, fast-paced, and engaging. It really makes you want to see what happens next.  All in all, I found this issue to be outstanding in almost every way.


Although still some very good work, I didn't like this issue as much as the previous two.

The story moves to Africa, with Kane finally tracking down his foe (Le Loup), who has tricked his way into the leadership of a native tribe. Kane is captured, but finds an ally in ousted witch doctor N'Longa. Kane is forced to battle a hulking warrior (Kulka) in front of the tribe as execution by combat. . .but things get interesting when the previous combatant rises from the dead and joins the fight!

The art is still spectacular, but not as much so as in previous issues. Standout moments include Kane and Kulka's brutal battle. . .including nut kicks, thumbs to the eye, and a knife through the wrist. The risen zombie who joins the fight with half his head cleaved off was also wonderfully gruesome and eerie. But there were also some fairly poorly executed daylight scenes. I think this artist is just better suited to dark and dreary scenes more so than brightly-lit outdoor scenes.

The writing also fell a bit flat on this one as well. Maybe it was the jungle setting, which seems like a strange choice for a character like Solomon Kane, who is more interesting stalking the dark countryside of Europe (to me, anyway).

Still, I'm not saying it's bad by any means. It's still a good read and is well-drawn. It's just not as great as the previous two issues.


Like the previous issue, this is still a very nice piece of work, but the African setting really doesn't do it any favors, and really, this is probably the weakest of the 4 issues in this series. But also as before, that doesn't mean it's bad at all.

The painted, beautifully-colored art is still VERY nice! Standout moments include Chief Songa getting his face torn off by a zombie and the gruesome final fate of Le Loup as he falls into a pond full of crocodiles.

The conclusion of the story is fast-paced and exciting, if not as dark and brooding as previous issues. . .most of this issue was fighting. . .Kane and Zombie vs. Kulka, Kane vs. Le Loup, Kane vs. Kulka. . .so there naturally wasn't very much room for storytelling.

All in all, despite the odd setting for Solomon Kane and fighting taking the place of storytelling, I still found this to be a satisfying conclusion to this series.


As a big fan of Solomon Kane, I really liked this mini.  The art was spectacular and the writing was fast-paced and exciting.  The setting for the final two issues was a little strange, but it wasn't off-putting enough to keep me from enjoying the story.

 I found the first issue to be the best. . .as a stand-alone story set in a dark, haunted corner of England, it really fit the character of Solomon Kane the best.  But I highly suggest this nice little hidden gem of Longbox Junk for anyone interested in dark stories of the supernatural.

Up next. . .

It's not random "Space Marines."  Hell no! It's the United States Marine Corps in space!

Space: Above and Beyond.  Be there of be square!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Throwback Thursday - Merry Christmas Special Edition! Batman #219

BATMAN (Vol. 1)

Merry Christmas one and all! And what better way to celebrate than to take a trip back in time to 1970 with the Dark Knight Detective? Okay. . .I'm sure there MIGHT be better ways to celebrate Christmas, but as far as holiday-themed comic book stories go, I'm pretty sure this one is generally considered to be up in the top ten.

So grab a mug of hot chocolate, plug in the Christmas tree lights, and let's do this!

WAIT!  Hold on JUST a moment! I said this was a CHRISTMAS story. . .what's with the decidedly un-Christmas-y cover here?  Well. . .as it turns out, this is sort of a stealth Christmas tale.  You'd never know it from the cover because, unlike today's "12 issues to tell a single story",  there's three stories in this issue.  The Christmas story is the second story.  So let's not leave the first story out in the cold and take a look. . .

SCRIPT: Frank Robbins
ART: Irv Novick & Dick Giordano

Bruce Wayne goes to the state capital to try and get government funding for a social services program he's come up with.  While there, he meets a senator who wants to combine an anti-crime bill with Wayne's social services program and so Bruce Wayne and the Senator fly to Washington together to work out the details.

The plane is hijacked midway by thugs working for an organized crime syndicate wanting to delay the Senator's arrival in Washington so that he will miss a crucial vote and his anti-crime bill won't pass.  Through a series of misdirections and tricks, Batman AND Bruce Wayne take down the hijackers and the Senator arrives in Washington unharmed and able to pass the anti-crime bill.

This is really more of a Bruce Wayne story than a Batman story, as the number of witnesses on the plane limit Bruce's ability to gear up.  I found the story to be interesting, but ultimately forgettable.  It was nice to see a more Bruce Wayne-focused story, but it just seemed that the writers felt they HAD to force Batman in there somehow, and really it weakened the story.  I'm not saying the story was BAD, it just wasn't really as good as it COULD have been if it would have focused more on Bruce Wayne taking down the hijackers while preserving his secret identity.

The art on this story was really very nicely done, except that the artist couldn't really draw the airplane itself very well and some of the action scenes were not that great.  The coloring was also pretty sloppy in places.  On the other hand, faces were very well done, with even random thugs having their own individual appearance.  

Overall, this was a decent little story with good art.  The coloring could have been better and the story could have been better by focusing on Bruce Wayne solving a situation without Batman, but the good outweighs the bad here.

And now on to the Holiday portion of our trip back to 1970. . .

SCRIPT: Mike Friedrich
ART: Neal Adams & Dick Giordano

It's Christmas night in Gotham City and Batman is summoned to GCPD headquarters by the Bat-Signal, only to find out that there's no emergency.  Instead, Commissioner Gordon tells Batman that even HE deserves the night off on Christmas and invites the Caped Crusader to sing some Christmas carols with the department.  Batman is skeptical, but decides to play along until something comes up.

As Batman sings with the police officers, scenes of crimes ALMOST happening, but stopping for one reason or another are shown, until the sun rises and Batman realizes that for once he wasn't needed for the entire night.

This is definitely a great comic book Christmas story!  There's a bit of a strange moment where Batman sees. . .or THINKS he sees. . .a ghostly spirit and it doesn't really make much sense, but other than that, the story here is nice and tight.  It's not very long at all and actually, most of the story is told through visuals. . .silent vignettes of crimes almost happening with the lyrics of Christmas carols Batman is singing as the background, so the art does most of the heavy lifting. . .and does a fine job of it. This is a very nicely illustrated little story. 

 If you can get past the modern grim-n-gritty portrayal of Batman enough to think that him singing "Silent Night" with a bunch of cops isn't silly, then this story will definitely hit the holiday sweet spot.  I can see why this is considered a bit of a classic.

And finally. . .

SCRIPT: Henry Kuttner
ART: John Guinta
Reprinted from The Phantom Stranger #5, 1953

For some strange reason, they decided to throw in a weird little sci-fi story reprinted from 1953 without Batman into Batman. . .don't know what the hell that's all about, but it's there, so let's take a look.

A scientist travels into the future to assassinate another scientist that he has had a bitter rivalry with for many years.  He is successful and returns to the past to take credit for the other scientist's work, satisfied that nobody will ever suspect him for a murder that hasn't taken place yet. . .but in a strange twist of fate, it turns out that the person that he killed was. . .himself.

Even though the inclusion of this story was a bit confusing, I have to say that I really liked the "Twilight Zone" style of it, and if I'm honest, I really liked it the most of the 3 stories in the issue!  The art wasn't particularly strong, but it wasn't bad at all. 


This comic book was DEFINITELY a mixed bag. . .and not in a bad way.  The main story focused (mostly) on Bruce Wayne instead of Batman. . . then there was a short and sweet  Christmas story with Batman belting out "Jingle Bells" with the cops of the GCPD. . .and THEN a strange sci-fi time travel tale with a twist that had nothing at all to do with Batman.  And really, not a bad story among the three!  

Overall, I don't think this issue will appeal very much to Batman readers who prefer the "Post-Miller" Grim-N-Gritty Batman, because honestly, the Batman portrayed here can be seen as a bit silly through a modern lens. But if you're just looking for a good, fun read without a lot of darkness and angst this issue definitely hits that nostalgia spot.

To the fine readers of this blog, I thank you and heartily wish you a Merry Christmas, a happy and prosperous New Year, and many more to come!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Longbox Junk - The Brave and The Bold Part 2

ISSUES 191, 192, 195 & 196

Welcome back to the series that's like that one guy at work who just does what he has to do and nothing else. He knows he's never going to get a great review from management, but he doesn't care as long as he just gets paid.


SCRIPT: Cary Burkett, Gary Cohn & Dan Mishkin
PENCILS: Jim Aparo & Dan Spiegle 
COVER: Jim Aparo

In a strange turn of events, Batman and Joker team up to find the truth after Penguin is killed and Joker is framed for the death. Will you be surprised if I tell you it's the worst team-up ever? Didn't think so. . .

This unlikely team-up between Batman and Joker was actually pretty good. . .in an 80's hilarity way, of course.

The Aparo art is barely passable and the story is thin and ridiculous, but you have to love the gymnastics needed in order for this teamup to take place. Then there's the hilarity of Joker trying to kill Batman twice "Out of habit" during their partnership, the ridiculous "Jokermobile", and how Batman finds Joker by just going up to his "Ha-Hacienda" and knocking on the door.

Even Grant Morrison stayed clear of THESE events. And that's saying something.
All in all, this was actually decent, but only for the "Really?" factor.


SCRIPTS: Mike W. Barr & Cary Burkett
PENCILS: Jim Aparo & Dan Spiegle
COVER: Jim Aparo

It's time travel madness as C-List villain I.Q. somehow manages to make a time machine from parts bought at a local electronics shop, sending Superman back in time so he won't interfere with his nefarious schemes. . .but accidentally pulling Superboy forward so he can team up with Batman to take him down. Oops!

Pretty bad.

Aparo's art is better than usual on this one, and the cover is actually pretty cool, but the time travel shenanigans needed to force the Superboy/Batman teamup are so weak it's ridiculous.

And then there's Superboy fashioning long underwear out of lead to resist the Kryptonite the villian has for. . .reasons? No. EIGHTIES reasons! That's it.

So bad. No bueno.


SCRIPTS: Mike W. Barr
PENCILS: Jim Aparo
COVER: Jim Aparo

Vampires have come to Gotham! Batman and Andrew Bennett (I. . .Vampire) team up to rid the city of filthy bloodsuckers and, in doing so, save the daughter of a mob boss before she turns into a cursed creature of the night!

I found this issue to be a lot of fun and a good read. The writing was grim and moody (mostly from Andrew Bennett's miserable perspective) and a nice change from the goofiness of some of the previous issues.

Also, unlike some of the other Brave and Bold stories that are extremely dated, I think this one holds up pretty well today.  Another decent example of when this series did things right.


SCRIPTS: Robert Kanigher
PENCILS: Jim Aparo
COVER: Jim Aparo

After Ragman saves Batman from a trap, they team up to take down a group of domestic terrorists. All that AND the origin of Ragman!

To me, Ragman has always been sort of an unnecessary character. This issue is no different. It's not terrible, but the writing is overblown in trying to be dark and grim, but just doesn't pull it off in the way the I. . .Vampire teamup in the previous issue did. Here, it just comes off as trying too hard. That and Ragman's origin is just ridiculous, no matter WHO writes it (at least in his original form. The revamped origin in the 90's was better).

All in all, like Ragman himself, I found no real reason for this to exist.
It was utterly average in every way.


This handful of Brave and Bold really only had ONE good issue in it.  I don't have the full run, but I have the definite feeling that's the basic ratio.  Even from the limited number of issues I do have, it's pretty plain to see that this was a series that really didn't try too hard. . .

Up next. . .

Meet a man who has denied himself all pleasure except for the beautiful screams of the wicked. I'm talking about R.E. Howard's grim puritan himself, Solomon Kane, in Dark Horse's "Red Shadows" mini.

Be there or be square!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Longbox Junk - The Brave and The Bold Part 1

ISSUES 176, 184, 185 & 186

Welcome back to the 80's!  Smell that cheap paper, boy! SMELL IT!

That's right.  We didn't need fancy paper in my day.  And stories that made sense?  Didn't need those either.  You kids don't even know how good you got it now.  I had to buy MY comics from the grocery store.  One story in every issue.  None of that continuity crap you kids talk about.  Didn't need it. NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!


SCRIPT: Cary Burkett
PENCILS: Jim Aparo
COVER: W.M. Kaluta

Batman and Swamp Thing accidentally cross paths in the Louisiana Swamp when Batman discovers that Selina Kyle's Sister, Felicia (in her only appearance. . .or mention. . .ever) is in danger. 

Overall, I feel that this is one of the better issues on the back end of Brave and Bold.

The cover by Kaluta is great, for starters. The interior art by Aparo is pretty good. The colors are a bit dodgy, but hey. . .80's right? The story is a bit convoluted, but really written quite well. It's more thoughtful and grim than one would expect to find in a mainstream 80's superhero team up book.

All in all, this is a good example of when this title got it right. Nicely done.


SCRIPT: Cary Burkett & Mike W. Barr
PENCILS: Jim Aparo & Dan Spiegle
COVER: Jim Aparo

This Christmas issue teams up Batman and Earth-2 Huntress (Helena Wayne), putting Bats into a somewhat awkward and confusing father/uncle/partner position. 

When Batman finds evidence his father was actually bankrolling mobsters, he decides to quit being Batman, leading to some scenes of sad Bruce Wayne trying to party it up, but failing. Eventually (of course) Huntress helps him find the truth and Christmas is saved! YAY!

Overall, this was a pretty good issue. The cover is basically pre-internet clickbait, which makes it sort of awesome. 

The interior art is better than I usually expect from Aparo, and the whole concept of Earth-2 is nicely summed up in a page or two where today an entire issue would be needed. 

All in all, this was a pretty good issue. Not great, but not bad at all. But someone needs to get Huntress a coat for Christmas if she's gonna be swinging around Gotham in the snow wearing a purple swimsuit.


SCRIPTS: Cary Burkett & Don Kraar
PENCILS: Adrian Gonzales & Dan Spiegle
COVER: Rich Buckler, Sr.

Green Arrow and Batman team up to take down Penguin after he tricks them both like chumps with his previously-unknown (and never mentioned again) ability to create perfect robot versions of Black Canary and Robin. Who knew? 

Okay. . .this one was pretty bad.

Bad cover, bad interior art, ridiculous story, just. . .bad. 

This issue is a perfect example of how wrong this title could go. Moving along.


SCRIPTS: Cary Burkett, Gary Cohn & Dan Mishkin
PENCILS: Jim Aparo & Dan Spiegle
COVER: Jim Aparo

Batman and Hawkman provide an outstanding example of using too much power to solve a problem when they team up to take down C-List antiquities thief Fadeaway Man while completely ignoring the Penguin standing right there!

Another pretty bad one.

Glaring pink (PINK!) cover. Extremely contrived team-up. A weak villain who didn't really need both Hawkman AND Batman to bring down. A ridiculous scene of Batman ripping off a mask to reveal he's wearing his complete cowl beneath it.  

And okay. . .speaking of Bats and his miraculous mask, let's talk about Aparo a minute. Can we just say it? Except when someone is wearing a mask, everyone looks the same. You literally cannot tell the difference between Carter Hall and Bruce Wayne in this issue. Please don't tell me I'm the only person who has ever noticed this.


This first batch of Brave and Bold was hit and miss.  And when it misses, it misses big.  It's almost hilarious how bad issues 185 and 186 are.  Of course, you can't expect the bar to be TOO high on what was pretty much the 80's printed version of shovelware social media games. . .newsstand clickbait meant to gather money from kids who haven't learned the difference between good and crap yet.

That's right.  I said it. 

Up next. . .

More Brave and Bold. 
Batman teams up with Joker, Superboy, I. . .Vampire, and Ragman. 

Be there or be square!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Longbox Junk - The Crow: City Of Angels


City of Angels was the sequel to The Crow. . .and in my humble opinion, the only decent sequel.

I like the movie quite a bit, which probably puts me at odds with a lot of Crow fans who (according to reviews I've read) hated it for being even darker and more relentlessly depressing than the original, with not even the small bit of light and hope represented by young Sarah and the detective from The Crow.  The second movie is so grim that the ending was changed so there would be SOMETHING happy in it.

But that's the movie.  This is the comic book tie in.  Let's take a look, shall we?

Kitchen Sink Comix (1996)
SCRIPT: John Wagner
PENCILS: Dean Ormston
COVERS: Tim Bradstreet


This 3 issue series is the comic book adaptation of the second Crow movie. It follows the original script, rather than the version that was released in theaters, so there are a few departures, especially the ending, which is completely different.

For a 1990's movie tie in from a small press, this book has some pretty serious talent behind it. . .John Wagner on scripts, Dean Ormston on art (probably better known for Vertigo work and more recently, Dark Horse's Black Hammer) and awesome covers by Tim Bradstreet.

The story is extremely dark and isn't going to be for everyone. It starts right off with a literal bang as Ashe Corven is forced to witness his son being shot in the head before he too is shot and they are both dumped off a pier.

The spirit of vengeance known as the Crow finds kindred soul Sarah and leads her to the pier to witness Ashe's resurrection. She explains that he's only back long enough to get his revenge and as he struggles to accept that, the issue ends.

Overall, I felt the story was a bit rushed. It seemed extremely compressed. It wasn't BAD, though. . .it's actually quite good. But like I said, it's a very dark tale and those with delicate sensibilities (those who need safe spaces because elections don't turn out the way they like, for example) might just want to steer clear entirely.

The art is definitely unique here. It's very boldly inked. . .incredibly detailed in places, yet very vague in others. I can see how this style can be a very "love it or hate it". I don't love it, but I think it fits the dark and apocalyptic tone of this story very nicely.


This middle issue focuses on Ashe hunting and killing his way through the gang members who killed him and his son. Also, as Judah Earl learns of the deaths, he consults Sybil (a blind psychic) and learns about the Crow. He captures Sarah in order to lure both Ashe and The Crow to him.

I felt this middle issue slumped a bit. Once again, it felt extremely rushed and compressed. The dialogue was pretty cheesy in places as well. You can tell this was definitely written with a Goth audience in mind as Ashe spouts dark poetry while in the middle of dealing bloody death. It's hard to care about any of the deaths when there was so little context beyond "You killed us". I'm thinking this series could have used a 4th issue to slow things down and give a little more meaning to events.

The art also shows a bit of weakness in this issue. It's still extremely dark and brooding in its own unique way, but it comes apart a bit during more bombastic scenes of violence. And the artist struggles with motorcycles which figure in a key sequence.

Overall, this issue was still pretty good, but not as good as the introductory issue.


This final issue picks up quite a bit as it explores the dark mythology of The Crow a bit more now that Ashe's trail of death has led him to Judah Earl.

Earl captures The Crow and kills it, using its blood to take on its powers for himself and leaving Ashe vulnerable to injury and pain, even though he still can't die.

This issue also has the most departure from the movie in two scenes. . .one where the spirit of Ashe's son tells him he's finished with his mission of vengeance and if he doesn't return, they'll be separated forever. Ashe decides to stay and rescue Sarah.

The second departure from the movie is the ending. In the movie, Sarah, Danny, and Ashe are united as spirits in the afterlife for a fairly happy ending to a pretty grim movie. In the ending to this series (the original ending in the script), because he stayed to rescue Sarah (who was killed by Judah Earl anyway), Ashe is doomed to roam the earth forever as an undead spirit. Quite a bit darker.

Unfortunately, the impact of the grim ending is lessened by the rushed telling of the story. . .something that has been a fault of this series since the first issue, but overall, this was a satisfying ending to this dark and violent series.


As a fan of the movie, I liked this mini.  If you aren't already a Crow fan, or are a sensitive type, this will probably not be your cup of tea.  I liked that it was based on the original script, even though that meant the ending was definitely NOT a happy one.  The art was unique, and not really my favorite style, but it fit the grim and unearthly tone of this particular story very nicely.

My main problem with this mini was that it felt extremely rushed and compressed from start to finish.  It probably would have benefitted from a 4th issue to give a bit more impact and meaning to events that seem almost disconnected in the finished product.

Up next. . .

Even though I don't have the full run of the series, old school Brave and Bold are pretty much all one shots anyway, right?  So let's head back to the 80's and take a look at some crazy team-ups!

Brave and Bold. . .Batman teaming up with Swamp Thing, Huntress, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Joker, Superboy, and I. . .Vampire.  Be there or be square!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Longbox Junk - Two Shots Part 2: The Thing From Another World & Punisher


More Two Shots. . .and I've got a couple of GREAT ones this time out, folks! 


Dark Horse (1991 - 1992)
SCRIPT: Chuck Pfarrer
ART & COVER: John Higgins


Where to start? I found this first issue to be excellent in every way!

The story is a fast-paced direct sequel to John Carpenter's 1982 horror masterpiece "The Thing" and maintains the movie's tense atmosphere, but not so much as in a "We're all locked in here together with a THING!" way as in a "There's a goddamn THING and I have to prevent it from escaping!" way as a team of Navy SEALS investigate the ruins of Antarctic Outpost 31 and find MacReady the sole survivor admitting to killing everyone and babbling about aliens and infections.

Of course, the alien latches onto these new life forms and the SEAL team is decimated one by one until only MacReady and Erskine (the commander) are left.

The art is beautifully painted by John Higgins (Who I knew mostly as a colorist) and is hyper kinetic and gruesome. The colors on this book are FANTASTIC! The bright splashes really pop in the dull Antarctic scenery.

Overall, this comic should have been filmed as the sequel to the movie. It's that good.  Well done, Dark Horse!


In the second issue, the stakes get even higher as MacReady, Childs, and Erskine go to a large Argentine base with hundreds of people. An infected Erskine escapes the base after calling a submarine for extraction.  MacReady and Childs corner the alien as it decimates the submarine crew.

In the end, Childs sacrifices himself so that MacReady can escape to tell the tale before the submarine is sunk and destroyed, once again leaving MacReady as the sole survivor.

The art remains impressive in every way as the bleak Antarctic landscape changes to the base buildings and submarine interior. One sequence of Childs on a rope in a crevasse with the alien below him lit with a flare was unbelievable, how good it was! I tell you, the colors really elevate this book.


If you are a fan of horror movies or horror comics, you owe it to yourself to find this great little two shot from Dark Horse's early days! This story really delivers where other horror comics barely show up.  Even if you don't really like horror comics and want to know what a sequel to the horror classic "The Thing" would have looked like, take a look at these comics and find out.  


Marvel (2013)
SCRIPT: Marc Guggenheim
ART:  Leinil Francis Yu (issue 1) & Mico Suayan (issue 2)
COVERS: Leinil Francis Yu


What happens when The Punisher just walks into a police station with a dead assistant D.A. in a duffle bag and gives himself up? The trial of the century! Of course, nobody wonders WHY Frank Castle gave himself up and is willing to stand trial. . .everyone just assumes he's crazy and leaves it at that.

I really liked this first issue a lot. You KNOW that Punisher is doing it for a reason, and so does his Public Defender, but this is an interesting take on the Marvel Universe legal system, where it's just assumed every superhero and supervillain is insane in some way.

The art in this book is especially impressive. Probably one of the top 10 best looking Punisher books I've ever seen. It's dark, gritty, and super detailed in such a good way that every page is a true work of art!

Overall, this issue is a winner in every way. Nicely done, Marvel!


So we get an artist switch on this second issue, which would normally be a red flag not being able to keep a team together for TWO lousy issues. . .but this time, I don't even care because the art on the second issue is even MORE impressive than on the first (and the first was damn good)! It's super-detailed and dark. . .almost like Tim Bradstreet's cover work. There's a 4 page scene flashing back to Daredevil and Punisher fighting that was a true standout in a book where EVERY page is a work of fantastic art.

Storywise, Punisher finally makes his move. It turns out that he had a target that was on the Federal Witness Protection list that he couldn't find, so he needed to be in the courthouse on the day of THAT trial, and he knew the security would be so tight that there was no way he was sneaking in. It really showed the strategic side of Frank Castle, but I still couldn't help but think that they would have had a lot tighter security on THE FRIGGIN' PUNISHER than some mob boss.

All in all, I really enjoyed this story, even if it DID seem to be a bit of an excuse to put The Punisher into a legal setting instead of his regular combat scenarios. It was really worth it for the art alone.


Despite wondering why they didn't have a lot more security on a man known for killing hundreds and constantly escaping the authorities, I really liked this unusual little Punisher story.  The art was more than worth the admission price alone on this one.  If you like The Punisher, you'll love this story.  If you don't, then it's not going to do a thing to change your mind.  In other words, very well done, but pretty much for fans only.

So there they are. . .two GREAT little two-shots! I highly suggest both of them.

Up next. . .

The comic book adaptation of the movie sequel to a comic book adaptation movie.  

Wait.  Did I get that right?  

The Crow: City of Angels 3 issue mini.  

Be there or be square!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Longbox Junk - Two Shots Part 1: Predator vs. Magnus, Robot Fighter & Hellboy: Almost Colossus


The Two Shot is a form of comics that doesn't exist in today's market (as far as I can tell).  It seems to have been popular in the short time between the phasing out of "Prestige Format" squarebound books (A Two Shot is generally the same length as a double-size PF book) and the coming in of "Writing For The Trade" 6 issue ongoing series story arcs and mini series.
I like two shots for the same reason that I like one shots. . .they are compressed storytelling where the creative team is pretty much forced to swing for the fences.  They don't have the 6 issues to tell a story.  They have to get right up on it and get the story started and finished in an extremely limited amount of page space.

Two shots. . .more than a one shot, less than a mini.  Let's do this!


Dark Horse/ Valiant (1992)
SCRIPT: John Ostrander & Jim Shooter
PENCILS: Lee Weeks

There's nothing fancy about this first issue. The art, starting with a decent cover by the great Barry Winsor-Smith, is good, but not great. It's standard 90's layout, fairly heavily inked and colored. It does the job it's supposed to do.
The story is set in the far future and revolves around an encounter with the Predators where humans barely win and even manage to steal a trophy from the Predator ship before it explodes. Fast forward a bit and the Predators return to get their stolen trophy back. It's in the hands of a rich "Hunt Club" that hunts robots and people for sport, which brings them on the bad side of Magnus.The first issue brings together the 3 sides mostly as setup for shenanigans to follow.
The story is okay. Like the art, not great, but good. The problem here is that if you don't know anything about the Valiant version of Magnus and his world, you're probably going to be lost. This is not so much a Predator book as it is a Magnus book.

Once again, there's nothing bad about this issue. The art is nicely done, but not great. The Windsor-Smith cover isn't as good as the first issue, but there's nothing wrong with it.
After the setup in the first issue, this half deals with the running battle between the rich "Hunt Club" after the Predator and Magnus. . .Magnus after the Predator unwillingly trying to save the Hunt Club after discovering exactly what they're dealing with, and the Predator after the Hunt Club to recover the stolen trophy, and then after Magnus when it realizes that he's the best trophy around.
So basically, everyone is hunting everyone. The Hunt Club is the biggest loser, as they are decimated before the final showdown between Magnus and Predator. Of course, in the end Magnus triumphs. . .then refuses a trophy from the other Predators who arrive.
Once again, the only real problem is that the reader really needs to be familiar with Valiant's version of Magnus, as well as X-O Manowar. . .the trophy is an X-O helmet and figures heavily in the story, as Magnus' girlfriend is able to telepathically communicate with it.
I'm not a big Magnus, Robot Fighter fan, but I DO love me some Predator. . .so this two-shot fell a little flat for me.  There was nothing wrong with it overall, and it was interesting to see a FAR future Predator visit to Earth, but I had a hard time getting behind this story since I have no particular like for the hero or the world he lives in.  If you are a fan of Magnus (Valiant's version) then you might really like this book, as it's basically a Magnus book with a Predator being his "Monster of the month".  

Dark Horse (1997)
SCRIPT: Mike Mignola (Almost Colossus) & Gary Gianni (Autopsy in B Flat)
PENCILS: Mike Mignola (Almost Colossus) & Gary Gianni (Autopsy in B Flat)

Be warned that this is not a stand-alone story. It leads on directly from events in Hellboy: Wake The Devil and sets up events in Hellboy: Conqueror Worm.
That said, it's not bad at all. Mignola's art is one of those unique flavors of "Love it or hate it." and I'm definitely on the "Love it" side.
The story concerns Hellboy trying to save Liz Sherman, who gave up her soul to revive an ancient artificial man (Roger the Homniculus). He travels to Romania and tracks the creature to an ancient, cursed ruin, but discovers that there's a lot more going on than he thought.
The story is good, but fairly short. . .first because there's quite a bit of exposition up front, secondly because there's a backup story in back.
The backup, by Gary Gianni is a "Corpus Monstrum" tale where two agents are in a tomb waiting for a vampire to return and one of them tells the strange story of when he was alone on a tropical island and is pretty much raped by a squid-headed woman.
Oooookay. . .Hmmm. . .I like the art and the imagination, but what the hell was Gary Gianni smoking?

If you like Mignola's art, you'll find his work in this issue remarkable. If not. . .well. . .you won't. He's one of those kind of artists. I found it remarkable. Mignola at his best when Hellboy was still his baby alone.
The story concludes as Roger is offered immortality in a giant, Godlike body by his "Brother". . .a failed first attempt by Roger's creator. Hellboy stumbles into the plot and starts punching things, as Hellboy will. In the end, Roger destroys the gigantic "God Of Science" using Liz Sherman's fire powers, then he returns with Hellboy to B.P.R.D. and returns Liz's power/soul to her, thereby sacrificing his own life and coming out the hero of the tale.
I liked this half of the story. Unfortunately, it isn't really a resolution of anything. As I said in the review of the first issue, this is just a filler to set things up and tie loose ends between two larger stories (Wake The Devil and Conqueror Worm). As a matter of fact, while I enjoyed this, I wonder if it needed to exist. It could have easily filled a single issue without the backup, and could have been the first issue of Conqueror Worm.
Speaking of the backup. Once again, I have to wonder just what the hell Gary Gianni was smoking when he wrote it. Whatever it was. . .I want some.
Squid-faced pirates kill the narrator while he watches from outside his body, then they bury him alive (dead?) with a violin in a treasure chest.
I'm a huge fan of Mignola's art, and this early Hellboy stuff is some premium Mignola at his best.  But like I said above, this story just feels like filler. . .like Mignola felt like he HAD to put out something Hellboy while he was working on his next big story.  Really, it could have fit into one issue.   Still, there wasn't anything really WRONG with it, I just had a hard time thinking of a reason for it to exist when (by dropping the backup) it could have just been the first issue of the next story.
Coming next. . .
More Two-Shots! The Thing From Another World and Trial of The Punisher.
Be there or be square!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Longbox Junk - Green Hornet Part 6

PART 6: ISSUES 33 - 42

I discovered that I DON'T actually have the full run of this series like I thought.  I am missing issues 32, 36 and 37.  But trust me, you aren't missing much.  Last batch of Dynamite's Green Hornet. . .let's do this and end the pain!

With this issue, Green Hornet's status quo completely changes as Britt Reid Jr. is presumed dead (but is actually in a coma) and Mulan is missing and also presumed dead. Clutch Kato and Jeffrey Hollister (AKA Scowl/Moonbeam) decide to continue the Hornet's work with Hollister taking on the name "Green Hornet 2.0" and wearing a high-tech suit of armor.

As Hornet 2.0 starts cleaning up the city, it becomes plain that he is a lot more brutal than Britt Jr. as he maims and kills his targets.

The art is still awful, but shows improvement. . .only because with more masks involved, the horrible faces aren't so much on view.

The story is extremely derivative of Batman's "Knightfall" arc, with Hollister playing the part of Azrael taking over as a more brutal Batman. There is also very strong resemblances to Iron Man in both the design of the Green Hornet 2.0 armor and the super-intelligent A.I. "Hive" that runs it and provides information.

Also, with the introduction of not one, not two, not three. . .but SIX costumed supervillains, it's plain to see the direction this series is taking. Clearly, Dynamite blamed the foundering title on not enough superhero cliche instead of the poor writing and awful art. Nice.


As of this issue, it's pretty clear that Dynamite has pretty much given up on this Green Hornet series. This issue had a 3 month shipping delay, the title is changed to "Green Hornet: Legacy" to set it apart from Mark Waid's new ongoing classic Green Hornet series, and none of the issues from here to the end have variant covers. . .and for Dynamite that definitely is a sign that things are wrapping up. They DO love their multiple covers!

The story inside also reflects the "F%ck it. This is almost done." attitude as it basically turns into pretty standard derivative superhero cliche.

A supervillain team robs a train to steal radioactive material for a dirty bomb in order to punish Green Hornet 2.0 (Or, as I like to call him. . .Iron Hornet) for "Breaking the rules" and killing a supervillain. Britt Reid recovers from his coma and realizes that things are going to hell in the month or so he's been out. He suits up and joins the battle with Iron Hornet just in time to save the day.

The fact that nobody really cares any more about this series is plain to see. It's a damn shame.


This issue was mostly a fight between the two Green Hornets and a gang of supervillains ready to set off a dirty nuclear bomb.

Green Hornet tries to get them to surrender peacefully, but Green Hornet 2.0 (Iron Hornet) decides to start killing. This all leads to Clutch Kato shutting down the Iron Hornet suit and Jeffrey Hollister meets his end by falling into the radioactive chemicals.

Overall, this was an abbreviated version of the Bruce Wayne/ Azrael Batman confrontation that ended "Knightfall" but with a more final ending for Azrael. . .er. . .Iron Hornet. . .er. . .Robin. . .er. . .Scowl II. . .er. . .Moonbeam. . .er. . .Jeffrey Hollister. Whoever, whatever. We've seen this story before.

It's just a shame that Dynamite didn't grant this series the same merciful death. 

They kept it painfully crawling on the floor and bleeding slowly out for 7 more issues.


In this one off story we get a cliche "Let's fight until we realize we're on the same side" team up between Green Hornet and Nikki Stripez (one of the supervillains that was going to set off a dirty bomb in Century City a few issues back). But since this crappy artist loves to draw boobs and Mulan has been missing for 7 issues, we also get an extremely awkward and forced sex scene between the two.

Ridiculous on so many levels.

God, why didn't Dynamite cancel this series 10 issues ago? 


In another one off issue, when an old flame of Britt Reid Jr. is robbed, Green Hornet discovers a new hero in town (El Gato Rojo) who robs from the rich to give to the poor.

So we've had Robin, Iron Man, and Azrael in this series. Now we have a male Latino version of Catwoman. 

It's all so forced. So derivative. So weak.
Thank God it's almost over. . .


Why, Dynamite? Why couldn't you let this die with some honor at issue #27? Why must this poorly-drawn and written corpse shamble toward me, pitifully moaning at its awful fate?

Why must I be the witness (indeed one of the last witnesses) to this sad, forgotten creature's prolonged demise? Can it be that you have no soul, Dynamite? Can it be that you enjoy the torment of this unfortunate living corpse, and by extension, you enjoy my torment as well?


Doctor Creepy (facepalm) unleashes a horde of exploding radioactive zombies on Century City and. . .oh F%ck it. Why does this even exist?  I can't even do this. Let's just get to the last issue.


This is the final issue. Thank God.

A poorly-written and drawn unsatisfying conclusion to what has to be one of the worst storylines I've ever seen. It ends with the return of Mulan Kato and the revelation that she left because she was pregnant.

The final page leaves it open for further adventures of the new Green Hornet and Kato. . .but with so much damage done, we never saw them again in a regular series.  A damn shame. This COULD have ended so much better, but with this issue we're well past the point where nobody cared any more.


After starting off SO strong on this series, reading the last handful of issues just made me sad. It was obvious where Dynamite stopped caring (Issue #28 ), and that's a damn shame because Kevin Smith left them a great foundation. At the end they wasted it all on embarrassing, derivative plots, some of the worst art I've ever seen in a regular comic series from a major publisher and completely out of place superhero/supervillain nonsense.

The worst part about this all is that the whole IDEA was ruined. Except for appearing in the "Masks 2" mini (also by Dynamite), we never got to see these characters again. The back half of this series left me with such a bitter, disappointed feeling of waste that I find it hard to suggest it to anybody.

Do yourself a favor. . .if you decide to check out this version of Green Hornet, PLEASE stop reading at issue #27. Issues 28-42 have no real reason to exist.

Up next. . .

We're done with Dynamite's Green Hornet and ready to move on!

What's bigger than a one-shot, but not quite a full mini-series?

Two-Shots! Two issue stories. . .
 Punisher, Hellboy, The Thing, Predator and Magnus The Robot Fighter!

Be there or be square!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Longbox Junk - Green Hornet Part 5

PART 5:  ISSUES 25 -  31

And over the cliff we GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


I'm not sure exactly WHY they needed 5 color artists on this issue, but the art roller coaster this arc is on hits the top of the curve with the best looking issue yet. 

Lt. Chritton (the chubby, fedora-wearing Harvey Bullock version in this issue) traps Mulan, but decides to help her, and pays for his good deed with a bullet to the face from a crooked cop. At least he'll be spared the future indignity of never looking the same from one issue to the next. . .

Elsewhere, Green Hornet and Fake Green Hornet engage in a no-holds barred brawl at the scene of a rooftop wedding massacre while the police close in with orders to shoot them both.

All in all, not a bad issue. Mostly fighting and chasing, but Chritton's death took me by surprise and the art really delivers this time. Not GREAT, but not bad at all this time out.


I'm surprised. . .they kept the same artist on this arc for 2 issues in a row! AND it's the good one! Maybe this won't be so bad after all. . .

Well, it turns out the bullet to the face Harvey Bullock. . .er. . .Lt. Chritton took last issue didn't kill him, but he's in a coma that lets Kent Palmer whip up some public anti-Hornet sentiment. . .which leads to an all-out manhunt for Green Hornet by just about everyone in the city with a gun.

Hornet and Kato are in bad shape by the time they have a final showdown with Jensen (Fake Green Hornet) in an abandoned department store. But just when it looks like the end. . .Moonbeam (the most unfortunately-named hero I can think of) shows back up in the story out of nowhere to shoot Jensen in the back.

All in all, a pretty good issue. Even though it's once again mostly running and fighting, the art delivers the goods and makes up for the so-so story. Still. . .I'm glad this arc is almost over.


And so we come to the finale of the 6 part "Outcast" arc. I have to say that it ended better than it began.

Hornet, Kato and Moonbeam team up to take down Mister Jensen. Lt. Chritton remains in a coma. The Hornet confronts Palmer and lets him know that one of his crooked cops is turning witness, so his game is up. The Hornet reveals his identity to a reporter that was a friend of his father's and decides to give up pretending Green Hornet is a villain and let Central City know that it has a hero instead. Lastly, Moonbeam joins "Team Hornet". 

All in all, this arc came to a nice conclusion (except for the teen sidekick thing) after starting out as a derivative mess with extremely uneven art. I'm not saying it was GREAT. It ended JUST this side of "Pretty good" and that was mostly thanks to finally getting the art under control.


Sweet baby JESUS! WHY?

I don't even know where to start. The last arc ended on a pretty good note, but this issue gets a creative team switchup and with it, this series goes off the rails and straight over the cliff.

The art. . .my GOD, the art is so bad. It all seems sketchy and unfinished. And when I say unfinished, I mean that on page 5 there's a guy with artist guidelines across his face! Not only that, but Mulan is now rendered with a rack of boobs that Dolly Parton fans can truly appreciate. No longer is she a lithe ninja. . .now one wonders how she keeps balance being so top heavy. And vehicles look like something a teenage boy would draw on his school folder while dreaming of the day he can finally get his learner's permit.

It's bad. Real bad.

And don't think the art is the only reason for the bad review. The story here is god-awful as well. I don't even want to talk about the story. Okay. . since this IS a review, I guess I HAVE to talk about the F'ING story!

Kato Sr. goes to Iowa where he has a son he never knew about. . .a fat slob named Seymour. Kato takes down a redneck meth ring and decides to accept Seymour into the Kato clan with a samurai sword "knighting" ceremony with Green Hornet, Mulan, and Hornet's new Robin (Moonbeam) in attendance.

The whole thing is poorly written, poorly drawn, and just so far outside of what has come before in this series that I can't help but wonder if it was all an intentional joke.


After the pile of steaming, reeking crap that was last issue, this one elevates itself to the exalted ranks of a plain old pile of crap. . .

The art is still bad to the point of distraction. Faces are rough, vehicles are a joke, and each one of Mulan's boobs are as big as her head. All that and Green Hornet's hat is way too small for his head. Please, God. . .let this guy just be a fill in and not the new regular artist.

So while the art is still in the "weird slime at the bottom of a dumpster" territory, the writing has marginally improved.

Basically, it follows three threads. I DID like the way it was presented, with each thread running across the page in small panels from front to back of the book, so you can read each one from start to finish if you wanted before moving down to the next one . .so a nod to that small bit of originality.

In story one. . .Green Hornet and Kato finally get down to bedroom business after getting turned on while reconning a gang.

In story two. . . Moonbeam (Now a "Ward" of Britt Reid, for God's sake!) and Nikita Gravilov (son of arms dealer Sergi Gravilov) go through their first day at a swank private school, becoming friends. I'm sure that's gonna end well.

In story three. . . Century City's new Mayor gets assassinated on his first day after a night out on the town and his assistant gets sworn in. They might as well issue a red shirt to Century City Mayors at the swearing in.

God-awful art + so-so story = No Bueno


Please, God. . .let this arc end. 

I pondered a couple issues ago if this was an intentional joke. The further I go down this rabbit hole, the more I think it might just be.

The art is still so distractingly bad that I don't think that "bad" describes it accurately. It's more like. . ."What the hell? Was this guy the editor's out of work brother in law?" 

The story? Okay. . .the story is okay, but not much more than that. Arms dealer, blah blah. Lethal weapons in the hands of street gangs, blah blah. New mayor is an old friend of Britt Reid, Blah blah. Police now cooperating with Green Hornet, Blah blah.

What's REALLY important in the story here is that Moonbeam changes his name to Scowl and gears up in full superhero sidekick kit in such an obvious rip-off of Robin THAT HE EVEN WEARS A FRIGGIN' YELLOW CAPE!

Yeah. Robin is now in Green Hornet.



This issue maintains the low quality of the rest of this terrible arc, with some of the worst art I've ever seen on a regular comic series and writing that strives to reach the lofty goal of "Okay".

Most of this issue is told from the viewpoint of Robin. . .er. . .Moonbeam. . .er. . .Scowl, as he makes romantic moves on a classmate and provides lengthy chunks of caption box thought exposition.

Wait. Let's discuss this classmate a moment. London Thompson is a high school freshman. Freshman is what? 14 or 15 years old? She is drawn with a giant rack of boobs, a short skirt, and hooker stockings. THERE is where the art is. 


Arms dealer makes his move, blah blah. Thugs track down Green Hornet's hideout, blah blah. Big attack on the Hornet's nest, blah blah. Robin realizes his new best friend's dad is the arms dealer, blah blah.

Did I mention the artist draws a 14 year old girl with giant tits and hooker stockings? 

No bueno.


This batch of Green Hornet was pretty much just plain bad.  Dynamite probably should have stopped when they were somewhat ahead.  The 'Arms Race" arc is some of the worst comics I have ever read. . .with blatant Robin ripoff sidekick, sketchy, unfinished art, and oversexualized female characters. . .including underage girls.  This series has become an awkward shadow of what it started out as. 

 Where it was once a great tribute and modern update to a classic character, now it's just embarrassing.

Coming next. . .

More Green Hornet.  The final issues in this run.  God help me.

Be there or be square!