Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Longbox Junk - Avengers: Millenium

Let's get this out of the way right off the top. . .I'm not an Avengers fan.

I'm not a big fan of The Avengers for the same reason I'm not a big fan of The Justice League.  That being I like individual characters on both teams (and on other team books), but it just seems like a failing proposition to keep coming up with stories that can present a challenge to a combined team of the mightiest heroes on Earth.  To me, it all just sort of reeks of fan service, and really I just prefer lower-key super heroics concentrating on fewer characters.

BUT. . .

I seem to be in the minority when it comes to comics starring laughably overpowered super-teams, and that's okay. . .I just pass 'em by and read what I like.  But I occasionally make an exception.  Case in point being the 4 issue Avengers: Millennium series at hand. . .

My local comic shop had all four issues bundled for 5 lousy bucks with that SWEET cover for issue #1 on top.  I may not buy Avengers on the regular, but 4 issues for 5 bucks with at least one cover to make my office wall comic art rotation was a deal I couldn't refuse.

And so here we are.  Let's do this!

MARVEL (JUNE 2015 - Published Weekly)

SCRIPT: Mike Costa
PENCILS: Carmine Di Giandomenico
COVER: Leinil Yu

When The Scarlet Witch senses something very wrong with a seemingly-insignificant Hydra base in Japan, she sends Quicksilver to gather The Avengers to help her investigate. After easily defeating the Hydra forces guarding the base, they discover an open time portal in the tunnels below. . .

First off, the awesome cover by Leinil Yu is definitely frame-worthy. One thing, though. . .Thor is there in the cover's group shot, but don't go looking for him inside. For some reason this Avenger series is Thor-less.

It's a pretty simple story in this first issue, basically getting The Avengers assembled and in Japan for an extended fight scene and a cliffhanger ending. . .but even though it's pretty much all setup, it's well written, with some clever moments in the dialogue, especially Hawkeye and Spider Man's running debate about cheeseburgers.

I'm a fan of Carmine Di Giandomenico's quirky art style, but he's one of those "Love it or hate it" sort of artists. I felt that his extremely kinetic and cinematic style added a lot to the book. I think that with a more mainstream artist, the pretty flimsy story would have really been magnified and suffered for it.

Overall, this was a great opening issue, setting things up nicely with witty dialogue and fantastic art.


SCRIPT: Mike Costa
PENCILS: Carmine Di Giandomenico
COVER: Mike Deodato Jr.

Dr. Bruce Banner (AKA The Incredible Hulk) determines that the open time portal the Avengers discovered leads to two different time periods (prehistoric and WWII) and that Hydra has hidden something in one of them.

The Avengers split into two teams and go to investigate, but something goes wrong and they end up scattered, with Quicksilver, Captain America, and Hawkeye ending up in prehistory, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Black Widow in WWII, and Scarlet Witch and Hulk finding themselves in a post-apocalyptic future.

Captain America's team discovers that whatever Hydra has hidden, it was in prehistoric times, but a captured Hydra agent tells them that the portal is a one way trip. Oops. . .

This second issue is more setup. It separates the large cast of characters into smaller groups and presents them with a major problem in that they are seemingly trapped in time. Worse, the team that lands in the future discovers that Hydra's plan was a success. 

The writing remains snappy and moves the story along without dragging. The writer does a good job of making the extremely thin story interesting.

Di Giandomenico's cinematic art style is a big help in propping up what little story there is here. Unfortunately, his style doesn't lend itself well to the animals Hydra controls and uses in battle in the prehistoric scenes, but that's only a few panels over a couple pages, so it doesn't take away too much from the book.

Speaking of prehistoric animals. . .the cover on this one is deceptive to say the least. There's not a dinosaur in sight inside. 

Overall this issue was good. . .not as good as the first issue, but still going strong.


SCRIPT: Mike Costa
PENCILS: Paco Diaz
COVER: Mike Deodato Jr.

In Japan near the end of WWII, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Spider-Man infiltrate a Hydra base and discover that whatever Hydra is hiding, it needs the seismic activity and radiation of the soon to be dropped atomic bomb.

Meanwhile, in the far future, The Hulk and Scarlet Witch are attacked by Hydra forces. After defeating them, Scarlet Witch decides it's time to get to the bottom of the mystery and discovers not only that whatever was once hidden is gone, but also finds Captain America in a stasis tube!

First off. . .how about that boob-tastic cover? Like the rest of the covers for this series, it doesn't really represent what happens in the issue, but it certainly represents Black Widow VERY nicely. 

*ahem* ANYWAY. . .

After an extremely strong start and second issue, things start to take a turn for the worse in this lead up to the big finish.

Where the jokes and witty banter of the first couple of issues pretty much hit the mark, the humor falls flat in this one, with clunkers like Spider-Man dressing in drag to get past Japanese guards. The whole scene is a little embarrassing and pointless. Thankfully, it's only a few pages.

Beyond the failed attempts at humor, there's also the fact that both of the stories at hand are basically repeats. . .heroes infiltrate base, heroes are attacked by a lone superior Hydra soldier during the larger battle, the superior Hydra soldier is defeated by surprise attack, heroes discover surprising revelation pertaining to plot. Both the WWII group and the far future group follow that exact same outline. 

That's not to say it's BAD. . .the ending cliffhanger with the discovery that Captain America put himself in stasis in prehistory so that he could help the team in the future was pretty clever. There's also some nice dialogue between Scarlet Witch and Hulk.

There's also an artist changeup in this issue that knocks things down a notch. 

In the reviews of the first two issues, I wondered if a more mainstream artist would magnify the flimsy story and I got my answer in this issue. The answer is no. 

The art in this issue looks amateurish compared to Carmine Di Giandomenico's unique style, and without that extra layer of eye candy it's pretty obvious that this mini is really a story that could have been told in two issues.

Overall, this issue isn't bad. . .it's just not as good as the first two. The humor falls flat, the two stories basically copy each other, and the art is disappointing.

And finally. . .


SCRIPT: Mike Costa
PENCILS: Carmine Di Giandomenico
COVER: Mike Deodato Jr.

Iron Man manages to re-open the time portals and reunite the scattered Avengers back in the present, only to be forced into battle against a time-travelling Superior Hydra Soldier riding a giant monster hatched from the egg that had been buried for 12,000 years and bent on destroying a Japanese city for. . .reasons?

And now for the big finish!
No. Actually it's pretty weak.

This series has been declining at a fairly even pace since the first issue, and this final issue is definitely the worst of the bunch.

The 12,000 year time travel puzzle basically boils down to a discount Godzilla that needs punching and a strangely random Hydra soldier who also needs punching. It's an extremely weak payoff for all the setup. 

Even worse, the way that Hawkeye comes up with a solution to the problem of the egg never hatching and therefore Godzilla. . .er. . .KAKARANTHARIAN that is. . .not needing to be punched, but vanishing back into the timeline, is laughably vague and feels like the writer was sort of desperate to figure out a way to end the story quickly. . .like there might have originally been 5 issues planned for this series.

On the good side of things, Carmine Di Giandomenico is back on art and the issue at least LOOKS great. The double page spread of the Avengers re-assembling is a real standout. The cover is also fantastic, but I want to know why the hell the Statue of Liberty is in the middle of the goddamn city. Doesn't Mike Deodato know the Statue of Liberty is on a friggin' island?


Overall, except for the art and cover, there's not much good about this issue. It's a damn shame that a decent little story about The Avengers trapped in time and trying to solve a puzzle came down at the end of things as just another "Heroes Punch A Giant Monster" comic book cliche.


I'm not really a fan of The Avengers, but I found this min-series to be entertaining. . .at least until the final issue where it basically turned into a "Punch The Giant Monster!" cliche.  The art was great, for the most part.  There were a few funny moments scattered throughout, and the simple framework of "The Avengers Trapped In Time" propped up a story that really should have been two issues pretty well for four.  

Overall, it's not a bad mini. . .but it's really not that great either.  If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be "Forgettable".  It's one of those things you read once and never really think about it again.

Up Next. . .

Star Wars! Vampires! Star Wars AND Vampires! How can it NOT be good?

Star Wars: Screaming Citadel 5 issue series.

Be there or be square!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Throwback Thursday Christmas Special - The Brave and The Bold #148

Welcome back to another special "Retro Review" edition of Longbox Junk, where I step away from my usual dollar box fare and take a look at some of the older or more "valuable" comics lurking in my 45 Longboxes.   Sheesh. . .my local comic shops should send me a Christmas card thanking me for clearing out their unwanted inventory.


Yeah, yeah. . .okay.  That was pretty bad.  But it fits because it's December and THIS Longbox Junk Retro Review is a Christmas Special! So step back with me to March 1979 for some Bronze Age Holiday fun with Batman and Plastic Man!

Wait.  March?  Never mind.  Let's do this!

"The Night The Mob Stole Xmas"

DC (1979
SCRIPT: Bob Haney
ART: Jim Aparo & Joe Staton
COVER: Jim Aparo

So this comic isn't particularly old (as far as comics go) and it's not really "valuable" (as far as that sweet, sweet collector cash money goes), but what it IS is a Supremely Seventies-Tastic story that is SO good, yet SO bad at the same time. . . providing a perfect holiday punch of Bronze Age silliness mixed with sober social awareness that makes a very nice cup of unintentional hilarity to be sipped by a crackling fireplace in the Merry Month of March.

The story goes like this:

It starts with Commissioner Gordon and the G.C.P.D. investigating an empty semi-truck that was hauling bootleg cigarettes.  The driver is dead and it looks like it was the work of a rival gang of cigarette smugglers. . .Buttleggers.

Okay.  Let's stop here for a moment.

They play it with a straight face in this comic, throwing in a bit of social commentary about the danger surrounding illegal cigarette smuggling (which I guess was a bit of a problem in the late 70's), but I HAVE to applaud Bob Haney for being able to smuggle in the word "Butt" 10 times over 20 pages in a  CCA-Approved mainstream superhero comic book.  Well done, sir! 

Continuing on. . .

Batman (literally) jumps in on the scene, Gordon lets him know that a gang of Buttleggers has been buying cheap smokes down south, slapping fake tax stamps on them, and selling them at a big mark-up in Gotham.  They've even killed some store owners that have refused to sell the illegal cigarettes.  For some reason, Batman's being a bit of a jerk and he pretty much tells Gordon he's got better things to do before speeding off in the Batmobile. . .

On an unrelated note, That's one of my all-time favorite Batmobiles right there.  A compact low-slung beast built for speed that younger me thought was impossibly cool. . .and as far as older me goes, that still holds true.  That Batman drives that bad boy around in the snow with the top down so everyone can hear his new Zeppelin 8-Track ( I imagine him just pounding "Heartbreaker" on top volume while on patrol in this comic) just makes it even better.  There's other versions of  Batman's ride that get a lot more attention than this one, but damn I love that late 70's Batmobile!


So even though Batman was pretending not to be interested in the case, he's really right on top of it and starts threatening and beating his way through Gotham looking for information, as Batman does.  Unfortunately, he comes up with nothing.

BUT. . .

While he's shaking down informants uptown Batman takes a moment to admire the world-famous Christmas display outside of "Lacey's" Department Store.  A kid runs into the street  chasing a ball and is saved by a mangy street-corner Santa that turns out to be Plastic Man (revealed when Batman runs over, rips his beard off and shouts "PLASTIC MAN!" to everyone in earshot).

It turns out that Plastic Man has fallen on hard times and is pretty depressed about his situation.  He tells Batman that since their last case together, his life has fallen apart and the only work he can find outside of being a carnival freak is crappy jobs like being a street corner Santa.  BatScrooge tosses Plastic Man a single coin in his cauldron and tells him that he's got stuff to do. . .but hey, Happy Holidays, pal!  

Through the night, Batman continues his patrol and search for clues leading to the Buttleggers, but still comes up empty.  He decides to swing back by Lacey's (presumably to rev his engine and blast some Zeppelin while cruising with the top down past Plastic Man's street corner) and discovers that while he was away the entire Lacey's Christmas display has been stolen right out from in front of the store! 

Commissioner Gordon and the Mayor are on the scene, along with the G.C.P.D.  Gordon is trying to calm the Mayor down, who is literally ready to declare a state of emergency over the situation. Gordon tells Batman that a convoy of trucks was spotted packing the display up.   Still being a jerk for some reason, Batman just drives off  without saying a thing (the art hilariously shows him throwing a rooster tail of slush onto a couple of patrolmen as he speeds away).

Batman heads to Plastic Man's street corner, wondering if he might have seen anything, but Plastic Man is gone and his charity cauldron (presumably with Ebenezer BatScrooge's single coin still in it) dumped in a pile by a message scrawled in the snow. Batman decides it's time to get the portable WhirlyBat-Copter out of the trunk in order to catch up to the departed convoy heading South out of Gotham.  

After he catches up, Batman ditches the WhirlyBat and jumps on to the last truck, where he finds Plastic Man inside. . .along with some live reindeer.  Plastic Man tells Batman that he spotted the crooks packing up the store display, but when he tried to stop them he got sucker-punched from behind and taken prisoner because the robbers were talking about how they "needed a Santa Claus for the shindig".    Luckily, before he blacked out, he was able to leave the message that he just KNEW Batman would find.

Batman spots one of the reindeer eating some loose tobacco and suddenly realizes that by some astounding coincidence that the display thieves are ALSO part of the buttlegging ring!  When the convoy stops at a gas station, Batman decides the detective work is over and we get a nice fight scene including the kind of merciless throat chop that we really don't get from modern Batman.

CHOP!  70's Batman didn't mess around.

Let's take a brief intermission here in order to spotlight one of the things I LOVE about doing these "Retro Reviews".  The ads.  To me, there's nothing that makes an old comic into a printed time machine taking me right back to that time more than the ads.  Call me crazy, but they're one of my favorite things about older comics.  Case in point:

Awwwwwwwwww. . .YEAH!

The rest of the super-swag on this ad is great, no doubt about that, but move your eye over to the left and take in the glory of the Batman Utility Belt!  I remember not just WANTING that belt when I was a kid. . .but NEEDING that belt more than just about anything.  I begged my mom for that belt and she was like "It's plastic junk that won't last a week and I don't have the money to waste." 

Every time I read a DC comic book afterwards that had this ad in it, I felt the bitter sting of denial.  I STILL remember the feeling of emptiness that was my life knowing I'd never have a Batman Utility Belt of my own.  Yes, yes. . .I was a deprived child in an uncaring world.  Truly a more miserable wretch worthy of the finest pity party could not be found.

See. . .THAT'S what is great about older comics to me.  They may not always be masterpieces of literature or art, but they sometimes can bring me right back to a moment in time like nothing else except maybe certain songs or movies.

BUT I DIGRESS (again)!

Despite Batman's brutal throat chops, he's outnumbered and outgunned and finds himself on the losing end of the battle after he makes a bad move and falls into an oil pit.  Luckily for the Caped Crusader, the thugs are more concerned with making a a getaway than finishing him off.  Plastic Man rescues Batman, but not before the convoy has escaped.  But after running Batman through the car wash (?!) to clean the oil off him, Plastic Man informs him that he heard the trucks were headed for Florida, and an overjoyed Batman is back on the chase to the Sunshine State!

Batman's pretty chipper for a guy who just got buffed in a car wash. . .

Batman and Plastic Man (who, for some reason, is still wearing his Santa suit) make their way to Florida.  It's not really shown how they get there.  The next time we see the two of them, they are scuba diving toward their final destination.  Bat-Sub, maybe?

It turns out that the convoy carrying the stolen Christmas display was headed for the Florida estate of a mobster Kingpin named Jake Doyle who is dying and has invited all his mob friends and enemies to his estate for one last big Christmas party before he dies. . .explaining why he stole one of the most famous Christmas displays in the world.  But what the rest of the guests don't know is that Doyle isn't really dying and it's all an elaborate setup to get all his Buttlegging competition in one place so he can take them all down at once.

While Batman and Plastic Man recon Doyle's mansion, some thugs get the drop on them and the pair are captured. Batman folds like a chump without even throwing a single throat chop. Batman is strung up on the giant Christmas tree like an ornament and Plastic Man (still in his Santa suit and beard) is forced to play the part of Santa Claus at the mob Christmas Party/Trap.

When Doyle tells Plastic Man/Santa Claus to open a giant present, a bunch of machine gun-toting thugs jump out of the box and begin hosing the party guests with lead.  Plastic Man drops his Santa disguise and puffs himself up like a giant shield to absorb the bullets.  

Big Jake gets PO'd that his party isn't going the way he wants it to, so he drops the dying act and jumps out of his wheelchair, trying to shoot Plastic Man.  This makes the other mob bosses and their henchmen realize it was all a trap and a big gunfight breaks out between them all.

In the confusion, Batman frees himself and brutally takes down the mastermind of the whole fiasco in a way that leaves absolutely NO doubt that you've gotten on the wrong side of the wrong guy. . .

 You just got Batmanned son!

Out of nowhere, It starts snowing, which freaks everyone out, considering this is taking place in Florida. . .but it’s just a helicopter dropping fake snow as part of Doyle’s party plans. Plastic Man funnels the snow into a whirlwind and buries the gunmen, who quickly surrender. 

Batman laments Gotham’s loss of its holiday display and the ruination of Christmas, so Plastic Man suggests they conscript the crooks into loading everything on the trucks so they can haul it all back to Gotham. 

Using their mob slave labor force (With Plastic Man being the whip-cracking overseer back in full Santa Garb) the world-famous "Lacey's" display is put back in place. . .the Buttlegger ring is broken, and Batman gets the credit for saving Christmas (even though Plastic Man did most of the heavy lifting).  All's well that ends well!

The End.

It would be easy to bag on this comic.  From a modern and objective point of view, it's pretty bad.  The story hinges on coincidence, the team-up is forced, the premise is utterly ridiculous, the dialogue is pretty cringeworthy, and the art is workmanlike to be kind.  Just on the good side of crappy to be unkind.


I can't help but like this comic.  It has a lot of problems to the modern eye, but at the heart of it all, this is just good old fashioned FUN!  It's played with a straight face, but that just makes it unintentionally hilarious to read.  From Batman cruising around through a snowstorm with the Batmobile's top down, to Plastic Man running Batman through the car wash, this comic is just goofy as hell, and that makes it awesome in its own way.

Is this story great?  Not even close to it.  Is it even good?  Not really.  But did I like it? Yeah. . .I liked it a lot for what it is, and that is a time capsule of a lost time in comics history when publishers were in a transition between the passing Bronze Age and the upcoming Modern Age.  A time where comics were caught between the ridiculous and the serious. It's a time that I was growing up in and these are the kind of comics I grew up on.  

So in the spirit of the season, despite this comic's many faults I can't really be negative about it.  It's bad, but it's FUN. . .and  I think that these days we could all probably use a little more fun in our lives. 

And so I end this Longbox Junk Christmas Special Retro Review in the best way I can think of. . .

Merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous New Year from me to all the readers of Longbox Junk!

Up Next. . .

Back to Longbox Junk business as usual.

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Longbox Junk - One Shots

That's right. . .more one shots!  What can I say?  I love 'em!

Let's get right into it!


Marvel (2006)
SCRIPTS: Karl Kesel, Mark Sumerak, John Byrne & Chris Eliopoulos
PENCILS: Lee Weeks, John Byrne & Chris Eliopoulos
COVER: Lee Weeks

3 illustrated stories and a text piece in this hefty one shot. Let's break it on down. . .

When The Invisible Woman is accidentally killed, her brother (The Human Torch Johnny Storm) travels back in time one hour in order to save her.

Overall, not a bad story at all. It's basically a shortened superhero version of "Groundhog Day", where even though he makes changes, things still manage to turn out about the same until he's finally able to save his sister with the help of his past self. What I liked most about this story was the sad twist at the end where it's revealed that he knows that nothing will have changed in his OWN time. He just wanted to save Sue and create a timeline where she was still alive.

The art was a bit blocky and workmanlike, but it did the job. All in all, a good little story.

(Reprints Fantastic Four #245)

After a humiliating T.V. interview where the Invisible Girl is called out as being a damsel in distress fifth wheel on the team, she finds herself in the position of single-handedly saving them all when their infant son somehow manages to grow into an ultra-powerful adult with the mind of a child.

I'm not sure WHY this reprint was included, but beyond the great John Byrne artwork, it's pretty bad. The dialogue is decent, but serves a laughable plot that tries a bit TOO hard to show the Invisible Girl's place on the Fantastic Four. It comes off as forced and a bit sappy, then defeats its own purpose as the story becomes all about The Thing at the end.

Good for a bit of 80's nostalgia, but not much else.

A short story about Franklin Richards getting into mischief with an invisibility ray while trying to peek into some birthday presents.

There's not much to this story. It's sort of charming, and the art has a very cartoony look to it that sells the light tone, but to tell the truth it seems a bit out of place.


This all-text piece looks like it might be from one of the Marvel guides to their universe. It's densely-written and pretty detailed, but the black letters on a blue background make it practically unreadable.

Overall, this one shot seemed pretty unfocused and all over the place. I'm not even sure why it even exists or what the thinking was for deciding on the other material in it along with the main story.

I guess Marvel didn't feel that the main story alone could justify the extra price they wanted to charge, so they just threw in some random stuff to pad it out.


Marvel (2006)
SCRIPT: Ed Brubaker
PENCILS: Marcos Martin, Mike Perkins, Frank D'Armata & Javier Pulido
COVER: Eric Wight

While on a secret mission with Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos during WWII, Bucky Barnes is wounded and ends up falling in love with the daughter of a resistance fighter.

In the Meantime, Captain America and The Howlers disrupt The Red Skull's nefarious scheme by way of massive explosions and punching a giant robot!

First off, I have to give good points for that excellent cover! I wouldn't mind a poster of that one. The art throughout is also nicely done. There's two artists switching off, but they share a similar style (it reminds me of Darwyn Cooke, and there's nothing wrong with that) so you can hardly tell.

As for the story, it seems a bit. . .light. . .for what is touted as an anniversary special. It's basically Cap and The Howlers putting a stop to yet ANOTHER Red Skull scheme involving a giant robot while Bucky recuperates from a wound and falls for a girl.

That's not to say it's a BAD story at all. It's actually pretty good, in a well-worn sort of way. It's just not what I'd think of being worth an extra-priced "Anniversary Special" treatment.


DC (1994)
SCRIPT: Alan Grant
PENCILS: Martin Emond
COVER: Martin Emond

After Lobo is captured and humiliated by The Winter Brothers, things don't end well when The Main Man finally escapes.

The story here is basically a bare-bones excuse for a one shot full of great art in the service of hilarious sight gags. Martin Emond knocks it out of the park with his exaggerated art style.

Some of the jokes fall a little flat or seem to be trying too hard, but overall, this is definitely one of the best Lobo one shots I've seen. The panel of Lobo with a gigantic 70's afro is almost worth the cover price alone.


DC (1998)
SCRIPT: John Byrne
PENCILS: Keron Grant & Sal Buscema
COVER: Jason Pearson

Following Darkseid's imprisonment, civil war rages across Apokolips. . .

For a comic named "Darkseid" and with a picture of Darkseid on the cover, there's remarkably little Darkseid in this one shot.

Instead, what you get is civil war in Darkseid's absence between the forces of Granny Goodness and Desaad vs. Virman Vundabar with a little Darkseid at the end when he animates a statue of himself and tells everyone to stop fighting among themselves and work together to destroy New Genesis.

Honestly, if you're not a fan of Kirby's "Fourth World", you're not going to like this very much. I'm not a fan of Kirby's Fourth World.

This one shot very much feels like you are stepping into the middle of a complicated ongoing story where everyone and everything has the most stupid name possible.

If you're a fan of Kirby's Fourth World saga, you might get more mileage than I did from this one, but if you're not a fan I'd definitely suggest skipping this mess.


DC (2016)
SCRIPT: Rob Williams
PENCILS: Jim Lee & Sean Galloway
COVER: Jim Lee

Harley Quinn is invited by a mysterious message to become psychiatrist to supervillains, but it turns out in the end to be a plot by Amanda Waller to get Harley into custody and part of her Suicide Squad.

First off, the title is a bit misleading. The Suicide Squad (or at least 3 members of it, not including Waller) appear only in one panel on the last page of the book.

Although this story shows how Harley became a member of the Squad, it's definitely a solo Harley Quinn book.

That aside. . .

The story is actually pretty good. There's action, humor, and even a bit of sympathy for Harley Quinn when she realizes she's been duped and all she really wanted to do was go back to helping people like she did before she went bad.

The art is a mixed bag. Jim Lee knocks it out of the park on his parts, but the middle section of the book is drawn in an extremely cartoony and childish way by Sean Galloway and it's a pretty abrupt change in look and tone.

Overall, not a bad issue. Good story and mostly good art.
I just want to know why the hell DC put out an April Fool's Day issue in June.

And last, but not least. . .


Marvel (1992)
SCRIPT: Fabian Nicieza
PENCILS: Javier Saltares & Angel Medina
COVER: Angel Medina

A team of Soviet superheroes and a group of Soviet mutants both find themselves in conflict with government forces as the Soviet Union collapses and criminal elements within the government make a grab for power.

It's a pretty simple story, but there's a LOT going on in this one shot. I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with ANY of these characters except for Crimson Dynamo, and there's a damn big cast in this book.

Mostly, the story revolves around a team of Soviet superheroes that are pretty much analogues of The Avengers. . .Crimson Dynamo being Iron Man, the shield-throwing Red Guardian being Captain America, there's a Thor counterpart, a Vision counterpart, a Scarlet Witch counterpart, etc. . .

There's also a group of Soviet Mutants that are basically the X-Men, led by a Professor X copy and hounded from hiding place to hiding place by the government.

Overall, the story is a bit of a hot mess because of the large amount of characters involved. The motivations of many of them are unclear and you really only know who they are and what their powers are because they shout out exposition in the middle of battle.

The pencils and inking in this book are excellent! There is a large amount of detail crammed into every panel, and there are some truly impressive pages in this comic. Unfortunately, the colors are garish and extremely sloppy. . .in places to the point of distraction. It's a damn shame because it takes away from what is otherwise a VERY nicely drawn comic.

Overall, this is a comic that is packed with too much story and too many characters, with great art marred by lousy coloring.

I found it interesting as a relic of the early 90's and the fall of the Soviet Union, and can appreciate that Marvel was trying to show us something a little different. . .unfortunately, with most of the characters being direct analogues of more popular Marvel characters, it wasn't really that different at all.

Still, despite its flaws, I'd suggest this one for a read, if for curiosity value alone.


Not too bad of a batch of one-shots. I'd have to say that Lobo was my favorite, with Captain America a close second.  To me, Darkseid was the only REAL stinker in the bunch, but if you're a fan of Kirby's Fourth World stuff, you might like it a lot better than I did.  Fantastic Four would probably be my second choice for the bottom of the pile. . .it's just way overstuffed with unrelated padding, but that's not to say it's BAD, just padded for price.

Up Next. . .

The Avengers are trapped in time, and there WILL be dinosaur-punching!
Avengers: Millennium four issue mini. . .

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Longbox Junk - One Shots

Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows I have a love for the one shot.  If you're new, now you know. . .and thanks for reading!  One shots are tasty little bites of comic book tapas where the creative team has one and only one issue to impress the diner.  You never know what you're going to get with a one shot. Sometimes they hit it out of the park, other times it's a foul ball.

Wait. . .how did I go from food comparisons to baseball?


One shots! Let's do this!


Marvel (2006)
SCRIPT: Dwayne McDuffie
PENCILS: Casey Jones
COVER: Leinil Wu

While Reed Richards and Doctor Doom have dinner together, the rest of the Fantastic Four, along with Captain America and Spider-Man, fight Doombots in search of a unique component Doom needs to open a portal to another world that Richards has kept hidden since he and Doom were college roommates. 

I'm not a big Fantastic Four fan, but this one shot was pretty damn good! The ending in particular was very nicely done, as Richards returns the item Doom has been searching for willingly. It's a very sentimental moment between mortal enemies. The whole comic is very well written and surprisingly engaging. . .especially for someone who isn't a real fan of "traditional" superheroics like myself.

The art isn't anything spectacular. It's very nicely done in a clean, dynamic, cartoony way. The opening few pages (set during Doom and Richard's college years) could have been ripped straight from a Silver Age comic. 

Overall, this was a surprisingly good one shot with a great story and nicely done art. 


Marvel (2009)
SCRIPT: Peter Milligan
PENCILS: Laurence Campbell
COVER: Clayton Crain

Moon Knight spends Christmas Night tracking down and punishing a group of thugs who killed a store Santa in cold blood. In the meantime his lover, Marlene, waits for him over a cold Christmas turkey.

I liked this one shot quite a bit. Milligan digs deep into both Marc Spector and Marlene. Both of them want normal lives, but both of them also realize that they sort of get off on the dirty, brutal life of being a street-level superhero and loving one. 

It's a really dark look at a "you can't have your cake and eat it too" situation where they feed into each other's insanity in a vicious circle of trying to change someone, but not REALLY wanting them to change.

The art on this one is as dark and gritty as the story and is a perfect fit for this grim little tale.

Overall, very well done all around.


Dynamite (2006)
SCRIPT: Brandon Jerwa & Michael Avon Oeming
PENCILS: Lee Moder
COVER: Gabriele Dell'Otto

In 1986 The immortal Highlander Connor McCleod is once again dragged from his peaceful life when followers of the defeated Kurgan start to cause havoc in Paris and Russia.

This very short one shot serves as an introduction to Dynamite's ongoing Highlander series. It's heavily tied to the first movie (while at the same time sort of ignoring it), so anyone who hasn't seen it or doesn't remember it will be lost because this story just jumps right in without any background on who, what, or why.

The art is decent, but completely unsuited for this sort of book. McCleod looks NOTHING like his movie counterpart and the bright coloring and exaggerated features belong more in a superhero comic than one about immortals hiding in the shadows.

An extremely weak and short story tied into a movie on one end and an ongoing series on the other with an unsuitable art style make this one shot worth every penny of the .25 price tag. . .but not one cent more. 


Marvel (2009)
SCRIPT: Jesse Alexander
PENCILS: John Paul Leon
COVER: John Paul Leon

Sgt. Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos go to Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia on a secret recon mission and find themselves teaming up with a Soviet Black Widow to infiltrate a base where Baron Zemo is building a Nazi nuclear weapon. 

After destroying the weapon and failing to escape, the Howling Commandos and Black Widow are taken prisoner and taken to ANOTHER secret base, where they pretty much punch to death a giant robot built by Baron Strucker. All in all. . .business as usual for Nick Fury and The Howling Commandos. 

I found this 2009 one shot to be a lot of fun. The story is pretty ridiculous. . .especially parts where Fury jumps from tank to tank with the help of an umbrella, and the ending where the Howlers basically punch a giant robot to pieces. . .but there were also a lot of moments that were nothing but good, goofy throwback war comic fun.

The art on this one shot is fantastic from cover to last page, with a gritty, dark tone. A double-page spread introducing the Howling Commandos is a real standout in a book full of great panels. The depiction of the WWII Black Widow was also fantastic. The art isn't a perfect match for the light silver age throwback tone of the story, but it's impressive on its own.

Overall, a fun story with great art makes this one shot a winner!


Dark Horse (1998)
SCRIPT: Alan Grant
PENCILS: Guy Davis
COVER: Geof Darrow

Skynet discovers new information on John Connor's childhood and sends 2 Terminators back in time to a Satanic cult's Death Valley hideout.

This one shot serves as an introduction to Terminator D-810X, a female Terminator that is the main villain in the following 4 issue Dark Horse Terminator mini.

The story itself is pretty light. Skynet discovers information and sends Terminators back in time to investigate. Terminators completely eliminate Satanic cult. There's a bit of a side story about a private detective tracking down a girl who joined the cult, but both he an the girl are killed, so it's a bit pointless. It's not a BAD story, it's just extremely light.

The art is a bit uneven on this one. Machinery and tech, including Terminators, are very nicely done. The introductory 3 page battle against a Skynet tank in the future is a real feast for the eyes with all the detail. Unfortunately, the artist isn't so great with humans, so the art is a bit of a mixed bag, swerving from fantastic to borderline bad.

Overall, this one shot is pretty forgettable and since it's tied in with another series, I wouldn't suggest it to anyone but Terminator completionists.

And last, but not least. . .


DC (1982)
SCRIPT: Bruce Jones & Wes Craven
PENCILS: Mark Texeira
COVER: Richard Hescox

Scientist Alec Holland discovers a way to combine plant and animal DNA and is killed by a wealthy man wanting the secret for himself. A woman survives the attack and manages to escape with a vital piece of Holland's research. As mercenaries hunt her through the swamp, they are hunted in turn by the creature Alec Holland has become. . .The Swamp Thing! 

This fairly hefty one shot is the adaptation of the original Swamp Thing movie. . .which I've seen, but barely remember anything but Adrienne Boobeau swimming topless in the swamp.


The story is pretty much one long chase scene. Nothing is really explained and beyond names, the comic book mythology is pretty much ignored in favor of all-out action. I understand that this is an adaptation of a script and a movie has to tell a story in an exact amount of time, but they COULD have expanded on things a little bit in written form. I'll be honest here and say that based on this comic, I don't really want to re-watch the movie. The ending battle with Arcane in final boss form is a particular stinker.

The art on this one is pretty good, as far as pencils and inks go. The coloring is garish and pretty sloppy in places. This probably would have looked a lot better as a black and white book. The painted cover (of the movie poster) is fantastic, showing off Ms. Boobeau's best movie starlet assets very nicely. . .and Swamp Thing looks cool too.

Overall, good art in service to a flimsy story makes this a pretty average effort. I wouldn't really suggest this to anyone but curiosity seekers.


All in all, not a bad bunch of one shots.  Only a couple of clunkers among them.  I'd say my favorite was probably Sgt. Fury. . .just because I love the old war comics and it was pretty much a Silver Age story told with modern art.  A close second was the surprisingly good Fantastic Four Special because I'm not even a fan of the FF and it hooked me in.

On the other end of things, I'd have to say that Highlander was the real stinker of the bunch.  It had an extremely thin story and art that was a definite mismatch for the subject.  Second worst would probably have to be Terminator. . .a damn shame since I'm a huge Terminator fan, but there just wasn't that much to it beyond some bits of nice art.

Up next. . .

MORE one shots, son!

Fantastic Four, Captain America, Lobo, Darkseid, Suicide Squad, and Soviet Super Soldiers.

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Longbox Junk - HEX Part 3

Here we are. . .the end of the trail for DC's Post apocalyptic Jonah Hex.

It's the final 6 issues, and they're definitely the worst of the bunch.

I have to admit, they were a little hard to get through. . .but giving people comic book reviews they never asked for is what I do, so let's get it done!

DC (1985 - 1987)
PART 3: ISSUES 13 - 18


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Mark Texeira
COVER: Denys Cowan

In the Seattle Wastelands, gang members are being captured and enslaved by a team of super-powered warriors. . .survivors of Borsten's "collection" of time-displaced gladiators, including Stanley Harris (Hex's Vietnam War-era companion), who have been given their powers by and are working for a mysterious being called S'ven Terah.

In New York City, Hex resumes his search for Stiletta by going after The Combine with guns blazing.

This series sad attempt to revitalize itself by including superheroes continues in this issue and relegates Hex to almost becoming a secondary character in his own series.

The worst part about it is that "The Dogs Of War" are probably one of the worst superhero teams I've ever seen, with clumsy dialogue that you can easily tell Fleisher was uncomfortable writing and cliché shape-changing, berserker, and light beam powers. If Batman seemed out of place in this setting, The Dogs of War are just ridiculous.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Mark Texeira
COVER: Mark Texeira

Hex manages to finally track down Stiletta, but she's being controlled by The Combine with drugs. Hex is finally able to beat some sense into her, and after they make their escape Hex overhears an escaped slave of S'ven Tarah talking about how his mysterious captor is rumored to have come from the future. Hex decides to go take a look. . .

There's not much going for this book. The art seems very rushed and is borderline bad. The story is basically setup for Hex to return to Seattle. The Dogs of War shout exposition about their powers in the middle of a battle like some sort of Silver Age throwback. . .and I don't mean that in a warm and fuzzy nostalgic way. I mean that in an eye-rolling "didn't we move past this $hit by the 80's?" way.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Keith Giffen
COVER: Keith Giffen

Hex and Stiletta make their way back west to Seattle and stumble onto the aftermath of a Dogs of War attack. As they investigate, Hex is attacked by the Conglomerate assassin he thought he had killed in issue #5, only this time he's wearing a super-powered suit of armor.

While Hex and the assassin battle, Stiletta goes crazy because of the Combine implants they put inside her brain to make her a stronger and faster fighter.

After a brutal fight, Hex barely defeats the Conglomerate assassin, but can't catch a break as he is attacked by The Dogs of War.

Holy art change!

With this issue until the end of the road, Keith Giffen brings his unique style to HEX.

While I'm generally a fan of Giffen's work, the garish colors and weak inking that kicked Texeira's art down a notch do the same thing to Giffen's. It's a damn shame, because done right Giffen MIGHT have bought this series a bit more time. The cover on this one is one of the top 3 of the series. . .so there's that, at least.

As for the story itself. . .pretty weak. Hex and Stiletta's 3,000 mile trip across country is given about 3 panels. Hex battles a villainous Iron Man copy. . .and that's about it. This issue is pretty much one long fight scene.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Keith Giffen
COVER: Denys Cowan

Hex is captured and enslaved by S'ven Tarah. It is revealed that the mysterious being is from the far future, where the human race is enslaved by aliens called Xxgg's. He is enslaving 21st century humans in a desperate bid to build a device to save his own time from invasion.

Hex engineers a mass slave escape so that he can try to find S'ven Tarah and the means he uses to travel through time. In the meantime, Stiletta infiltrates S'ven Tarah's compound in order to try and rescue Hex.

As Hex explores the compound after his escape, he is attacked by The Dogs of War, but is recognized by Stanley Harris.

The story here is pretty much a lot of robot punching and setup for the finale and not much else. The art makes it a bit of a hot mess because of Giffen's use of 9 and 12 panel pages. The tiny panels make it hard to tell what's going on when there's so much action.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Keith Giffen
COVER: Keith Giffen

After Hex and Stiletta are brought before S'ven Tarah, an Xxgg liquidation team arrives from the future to put a stop to his plan to save the future.

The Dogs of War are beaten badly and forced to retreat, but Hex comes up with a plan that destroys the aliens, but S'ven Tarah tells him that they will never stop, so he must return to the future.

Jonah asks to be sent back to the past, but is refused because the time machine only has enough energy for one trip, and if S'ven Tarah doesn't return, then the aliens will simply invade the 21st century instead of in his time.

The Dogs of War leave earth in a starship, S'ven Tarah returns to the future, and Jonah Hex remains trapped in 2050.

This issue wraps up the whole Dogs of War/ Xxgg War storyline, but does it in a pretty sloppy way. It's basically one long fight scene as the aliens invade and S'ven Tarah desperately tries to delay them in order to launch the starship he's been building.

Giffen's art and tiny panel method aren't well suited for the amount of action involved. Plus it's been plain from issue #13 that Fleisher isn't comfortable with superhero dialogue and it REALLY shows in this issue.

There's a great character moment as Jonah Hex swallows his pride and practically begs to be sent back to 1875, and his disappointment in finding out that he can't. . .and then does the right thing by not trying to force it.

Probably the best moment for Hex in the whole series as he truly becomes the hero he insists he isn't.

Unfortunately, except for those two pages, this isn't a great issue at all. It ties everything up pretty neatly, but the art's a mess and the story it wraps up was generally weak and a poor fit for this series in the first place.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Keith Giffen
COVER: Keith Giffen

A badly-wounded Jonah Hex fights off bandits and hallucinates about his early life with his brutally abusive father.

After he is rescued by Stiletta and recovering from his wounds, he discovers his own stuffed corpse in a museum warehouse and realizes it means that he will return to his own time eventually.

Although the Hex storyline ended with issue #17, this standalone epilogue is a decent ending to the run as a whole.

The story is pretty well worn. . .the hero thinks back on his life as he bleeds out. . .but it's not too bad, especially compared with the superhero/alien invasion storyline that came before it.

Giffen's art has more of a chance to stretch out when not forced to portray constant, chaotic battle scenes, and the coloring isn't as garish as it had been.

The final scene of Jonah Hex coming face to face with his own corpse, stuffed and mounted as a sideshow display, was very nicely done as well.

Overall, most of this series has been a bit of a mess. . .especially since issue #8. . .but the final issue is a nice sendoff for this unusual fish out of water tale.


Although there were good moments scattered here and there, HEX was a comic series with some serious problems. . .

After the initial story arc, the series never really found its footing and was unable to continue forward in a successful way.  I'm not sure what sort of background drama was going on, but as of issue #10 there is a definite push to include superheroes into HEX. . .unfortunately, it's plain to see that Michael Fleisher wasn't comfortable with writing superhero dialogue or storylines and it pretty much sunk the whole boat in terms of storytelling.

The art on this series was never spectacular in any way. . .which is strange considering that artists like Mark Texeira and Keith Giffen were featured.  Unfortunately, the coloring from the first issue was garish.  The inkers never really complimented the artists either, so the art never reached the level that one would expect based on the names involved. It's too bad, because great art MIGHT have carried this series a little farther.

So overall what we have in this series is a strange concept that MIGHT have worked better than it did, but the whole thing was shot down by substandard art and storylines that didn't really fit either the character or the writer.

As a huge Jonah Hex fan, I was interested in reading this series, but now that I have, I can't really suggest it to anyone except those like me who want to read EVERYTHING with Jonah Hex in it and are curious to see the character in an unusual setting.  Nobody else is going to like this.

With a bit more care, HEX could have been great.  I look at the short stack of 18 issues and all I can see is wasted potential and Longbox Junk.  A damn shame.

Up Next. . .

ONE SHOTS!  I DO love the one shots.

Bite-size chunks of Fantastic Four, Highlander, Terminator, Sgt. Fury, Swamp Thing & Moon Knight.

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Longbox Junk - HEX Part 2

After a pretty good start, can DC's post-apocalyptic fish out of water Jonah Hex series manage to stay on the rails for another 6 issues? Let's find out!

DC (1985 - 1987)
PART 2: ISSUES 7 - 12


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Mark Texeira
COVER: Mark Texeira

Hex's plan to allow himself to be captured in order to get inside Borsten's base and use his time machine succeeds with the help of a Conglomerate inside man. Stiletta (unaware of Hex's plan), infiltrates the base in disguise to kill her father (Borsten) and joins up with escaped time prisoner Stanley Harris.

Hex, Stiletta, and Harris all find their way to Borsten's time machine, but the plan falls apart and mayhem ensues. Harris manages to escape using the time machine, but it's destroyed before Hex can use it. Stiletta and Hex barely escape the destruction of Borsten's base and Borsten is seemingly killed in the explosion.

I probably should have included this issue with Part 1 of these reviews because it ties an action-packed bow on top of just about all the storylines from the previous 6 issues with an explosive finale that leaves Hex trapped in the future and pretty much ends the first arc of the series. 

For some reason, it seems that Texeira's art is getting worse. Not sure if these issues were rushed or if the inking is to blame, but as this series continues I can see a definite downward trend in the art department.  The art's never been GREAT, but it's trending from pretty good down toward bad.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Ron Wagner
COVER: Denys Cowan

After Hex and Stiletta escape the destruction of Borsten's base, they find themselves without fuel for their flyer.

Hex heads into a nearby town to try and find fuel and through a series of circumstances finds himself as a contestant in a deadly shooting gallery maze.

After fighting his way through and winning against the odds, Hex returns to find Stiletta has been abducted. . .

This issue is pretty much setup for the next story arc, which involves Hex's search for Stiletta. Overall, even though the art shows improvement, it feels half-baked, its purpose only to separate Hex from Stiletta and serve up some halfway decent action scenes.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Mark Texeira
COVER: Mark Texeira

While searching for Stiletta, Hex is taken prisoner by a mad scientist and has to fight his way out of a compound full of killer cyborgs.

This one and done issue can be summed up in one simple phrase: "Jonah Hex shoots a bunch of robots". And really. . .that's about all there is to it.

Moving along.

SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Ron Wagner
COVER: Mark Texeira
Hex is hired to save the daughter of a wealthy man from the violent cult she has joined. PLUS a pointless cameo by some of the Legion of Super Heroes.

I've noticed a pretty steady decline in the writing since issue #7 tied up the introductory storylines. . .and this is probably the worst issue in the series so far. The cult that worships and dresses like 1930's gangsters is beyond ridiculous and borderline insulting to my suspension of comic book disbelief.

The ballyhooed appearance on the cover of The Legion Of Superheroes is pretty much a pointless 3 panels of a few members of the Legion (including Superboy) saying "Where the heck are we?" before moving along.  It's a pretty obvious and extremely weak attempt at a reader grab.

Not good. After a pretty strong start, it looks like Hex is jumping the rails and heading for the cliff.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Mark Texeira
COVER: Denys Cowan

Agents of the organized crime syndicate known as The Combine convince Hex that a vigilante known as The Batman in New York City is behind Stiletta's disappearance. Hex agrees to take down Batman without realizing he's being used to do their dirty work.

So about halfway through the run of Hex and it's becoming pretty obvious that DC is trying to lure readers by bringing in some traditional superheroes. . .the pointless Legion of Super Heroes cameo in last issue and this issue's future Batman.

Unfortunately, the attempt to cash in on Batman just seems painfully obvious this far down the line. Not sure how it looked then, but judging by the fact that there's only 7 more issues left, the tactic didn't work.

All in all, this issue seems forced, rushed, and desperate. Batman just seems out of place in the post-apocalyptic world of Hex, and the hoops that were jumped to get Hex to New York to team up with future Batman are pretty ridiculous.


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher
PENCILS: Mark Texeira
COVER: Mark Texeira

Batman and Hex engage in a good old fashioned "Heroes fight until they realize they don't need to be fighting" battle. After it's been established they aren't enemies and Hex has been played for a chump, Batman sets Hex on the trail to find Stiletta while he goes to take down The Combine.

Hex finds Stiletta brainwashed and fighting as a gladiator, but is unable to rescue her for the time being, so he joins Batman in taking down The Combine's giant terminator robots. After a brutal and destructive battle, the Combine robots are destroyed, the city is saved, and Batman is apparently dead.

Well. . .the future Batman didn't last long. Two issues in a weak-a$$ robot punching. . .er. . .shooting story. I guess DC decided that IF they wanted to do a future Batman, they'd better steer clear of connections to the failing Hex title.

All in all, except for the decent Stiletta/ Blonde Fury gladiator fighting scenes, this issue was pretty much giant robot fighting.

One sort of creepy thing that DID catch my eye. . .and I wonder why nobody else has mentioned this before. . .but Hex takes down a giant robot by dynamiting the foundations of the World Trade Center and collapsing the twin towers on top of it. This comic was written in 1986.


After a decent start, I have to say that there's not much to like at all in the second batch of HEX issues. . . except for issue #7, which REALLY belongs in the first part of these reviews as it is the conclusion to the storylines of the first 6 issues.

The art is beginning to severely swerve in quality from pretty good to downright bad and the writing is increasingly aimless and wandering. . .it seems like they were wanting to go toward "one and done" issues like most of the previous Jonah Hex series but really couldn't manage it.  Not sure if there was editorial/executive interference with the story, but there's definitely some sort of conflict going on.

Lastly, there are obvious signs of this comic beginning to fail on the stands with a sudden swerve toward including superheroes in the story. . .a pointless cameo by the Legion Of Superheroes in issue #10, and Hex teaming up with a future version of Batman in issues #11 and #12.  It just looks forced and desperate. . .and SPOILER FOR PART 3. . .the superhero shenanigans just get worse.

All in all, this batch of issues is just sort of sad.  DC should have made HEX a 6 issue mini instead of trying to sustain it as an ongoing series.  After a clearly defined first story arc, it's just sort of wandering at this point.

Up Next. . .

The last (and worst) issues of DC's HEX.

Be there or be square!