Monday, February 25, 2019

Longbox Junk - Batman/Aliens II

I wasn't really too impressed with the first Batman/ Aliens crossover.

It had its moments, but overall it was average at best, with cardboard cutout disposable 80's action movie cliche characters and art that was half and half. . .good on monsters and backgrounds, bad on human characters.  

A damn shame, given my love of both properties.  I think the main reason it didn't really come together right out of the gate is that Batman doesn't work very well outside of his own dark urban environments.  It just wasn't a good fit.  

BUT. . .

There seems to have been enough people who liked the first one to merit Dark Horse and DC getting back together a few years later for a sequel. . .and this one is set in more familiar Batman territory of  Gotham City.

Is it any better?  Let's take a look and find out!


DC/Dark Horse (2002)
SCRIPTS: Ian Edginton
PENCILS: Staz Johnson
COVERS: Staz Johnson


When a sealed laboratory that has been hidden beneath Gotham for 70 years is opened, an alien horror is unleashed on the city. . .and only Batman realizes the danger everyone is in. 

The first issue of this series is already off to a better start than the original series by placing the action squarely in Batman's home turf, the gritty streets and alleys of Gotham City. I also really like that we get to see Batman as detective in this issue instead of an Arnold Schwarzenegger action hero stand-in as Bats was portrayed in the first series. 

Sure, there's plenty of action toward the end of the issue as Batman confronts a pair of Aliens in a forgotten subway tunnel, but the buildup to that battle has some REALLY good Batman and Jim Gordon character moments, as well as some very Lovecraftian storytelling in the introduction (a doomed Antarctic expedition in 1928) and a flashback toward the middle (where Batman reads the journal of the sole survivor of the expedition).

The art here really stands out as well. It's highly-detailed and crisp, and to tell the truth. . .I like it a lot better than Bernie Wrightson's art in the first series, especially when it comes to the ridiculously-detailed Aliens. Not saying BW's art was bad, and I'm not going to knock down a legend. . .but as I said in my review of the first Batman/Alien crossover, it was definitely not his best work. Staz Johnson really knocks it out of the park here.

Here's a nice example with a great scene between Batman and Jim Gordon. . .

Overall, I liked this first issue a LOT more than I did the original series. Batman is in his proper element, there's some great writing, and the art is fantastic. It's a winner!


After surgically removing 3 Alien embryos from their victims, Batman is prevented from destroying the creatures by a mysterious government agent.  The embryos and the original Alien escape into the city after a massive battle, But Batman enlists the aid of Oracle to track them to Arkham Asylum.

During the battle to destroy the now-grown Aliens, Batman is taken prisoner by the Government Agent, who isn't exactly who she seems to be. . .

There's a lot more action in this issue as Batman goes from fighting two adult Aliens to 4 of them. He's forced to strap on some Bat Armor and use Mr. Freeze's Cold Gun just to hold his own, and even then he only survives because of an unexpected team-up with Two-Face. 

I liked the cameo of Oracle (one of my favorite characters of the time) and Jim Gordon was an utter badass in a way that we haven't seen him in a while. There was also a very nice nightmare scene. . .but other than those few moments, story fell by the wayside as the action ramps up.

That's not to say the issue was bad by any means. It was actually really good. The storytelling and character moments faded to the background in a natural way so I didn't mind the switch from detective mode to action mode at all.

The art also remains extremely strong, with a fantastic double page spread of the Aliens attacking Arkham that has so much detail in the creatures that it's almost overwhelming!

Check it out below. . .but you REALLY need to see it on the actual page!

BUT. . .

We also get the obligatory Alien Franchise cliche "We can't kill the Aliens. . .we have to study them." character, and it's never really made clear as to WHY the Aliens decided to attack Arkham, except (as I suspect) to throw in some cool villain cameos. 

Overall, this is a good, strong issue. There's a few questionable story moments, but not enough to bring it down more than half a notch.

And Finally. . .


Batman is forced to fight his way through a testing ground for human/Alien hybrid soldiers infused with the DNA of Arkham Asylum's worst villains!


After two REALLY good issues, the finale not only goes off the rails but flies over the cliff AND rolls down to the bottom of the hill in a flaming, twisted mess of unrecognizable wreckage.

It's bad. It's real bad. How the flapping f*#& did THIS happen?

So Batman is trapped on a supervillain base that's an abandoned oil rig with talking, gun-toting creatures that are human soldier volunteers enhanced with Alien DNA and that of Batman villains like the Joker. 

Yeah. . .there's a friggin' JOKER Alien with a giant cheesy grin.  And a Mr. Freeze Alien, and a Two-Face Alien, and a Scarecrow Alien, and a Poison Ivy Alien.  Talking Aliens.  With guns.

God. . .it's so bad.
SO bad. . .

The worst part of it is that the art is still REALLY good! Somehow, against ALL odds, Staz Johnson manages to bring this horrible idea to detailed life. . .his depiction of the giant Killer Croc Alien is awesome!

But the very IDEA that his art brings to life is so bad, so ridiculous, that it's almost unreadable. After the quality of the first two issues, I find it hard to believe that this isn't some kind of strange joke. . .

Overall, except for the art, this issue has no business actually existing. It is a terrible end to what WAS a pretty damn good story. And speaking of the end, it's so abrupt that it's almost insulting. 

My GOD, what happened here? 


This is a series that has a definite curve.  It starts high and ends up REALLY low. 

The first issue is really good in just about every way that it can be.  Batman in detective mode butting heads with Jim Gordon in Gotham City over how to handle deadly aliens stalking the subway tunnels.  

The second issue cranks up the action as the Aliens begin openly attacking and Batman pursues them, desperately trying to end the carnage before it gets out of control.

But then the third issue jumps the rails and goes over the cliff when it pits Batman against talking, gun-toting Alien/Human hybrid soldiers infused with the DNA of Batman's Rogues Gallery characters like the Joker and Poison Ivy aboard a secret oil platform supervillain lair.

The first two issues (especially the first) are EVERYTHING I want in a good Batman story.  The last issue is everything wrong with Batman.  I don't understand how this story can be so GOOD and so goddamn BAD at the same time!

Overall, I find myself in a strange place when it comes to suggesting this story or not.  All I can really say is that the first issue is gold, the second silver, and the third crap.  This story having such a bad ending has to be one of the most disappointing feelings I've had about a comic book in quite a while.

Up Next. . .

Nobody liked him. Everybody hated him.  He wasn't ANYBODY'S Main Man. 
But was it really THAT bad?  Let's find out! 

New 52 Lobo. . .the whole damn series (13 issues and 1 annual). 

Be there or be square!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Longbox Junk - Batman/Aliens

I've said it before, I'll say it again. . .I LOVE the Aliens franchise.  One of my favorite movies is the much-hated Alien 3.  You KNOW anyone who publicly confesses a love for Alien 3 without a single bit of shame or justification is a TRUE Alien fan.  

Dark Horse has been the holder of the Alien comic rights for. . .well. . .ever.  They can be a bit hit or miss.  Some Alien stories are among the favorite comics in my collection.  Others are. . .well, let's be kind and just say they're truly Longbox Junk.

AND. . .

When it comes to DC comics, Batman is pretty much my favorite character of them all.  I have 36 longboxes in my comic collection.  5 of them are nothing but Batman comics.  I have more Batman comics in my collection than a lot of people have in their TOTAL collection.  What I'm saying is that I like Batman.  A lot.

SO. . .

A Batman and Aliens crossover would seem to be a win/win for me. . .right? 

Let's find out!


PENCILS: Bernie Wrightson
COVERS: Bernie Wrightson


Batman encounters a government special ops squad while deep in the Jungle on a mission to find a missing Waynetech scientist.  After they reluctantly join forces, they discover a crashed alien ship and are attacked by deadly creatures. 

Basically what we have here is a fairly large pile of 80's action movie cheese by way of 90's comics. That's not entirely a bad thing if you come into it knowing what to expect. . .the 90's comic version of a borderline bad 80's action movie guest-starring Batman for no good reason.

The special ops group are totally 80's cliche characters, each defined by a single character trait:

There's the burly bully who gets in everybody's face. . . the tough woman out to prove herself in a man's world. . . the jumpy guy who didn't sign up for this $hit. . . the religious guy who knows they're all gonna die. . .and Batman in grumpy "I work alone, stay out of my way" mode.

I'm not a big fan of stories where Batman is out of his dark urban element. . . and it seems the writer is aware that Bats is the odd man out because he references it several times. . .this story is no exception. Batman feels like he doesn't belong at all and doesn't really serve a purpose on the cliche squad except to be the Batman part of a Batman/Alien crossover.  

The story is extremely thin and the dialogue is typical gung-ho action movie. Some of Batman's inner monologue is pretty good, especially on the first page.

So. . .let's talk about the art. 

Bernie Wrightson is a true comics legend, especially in the field of horror. I was really excited to see his name as part of the creative team. Unfortunately, this is NOT some of his best work. That's not to say it's bad by any means. . .there are scattered panels that really shine, the backgrounds are very nicely done, and once the aliens appear, he does a fantastic job on them. 

It's just too bad that the same level of care shown to the backgrounds and horrific elements isn't there when it comes to the human characters, including Batman. . .who is drawn in a strange elongated style with a thin neck and extremely long "ears" on his cowl.

Overall, this book is half and half with me. The art is awesome in some places and just pretty bad in others. The story is thin. . .basically being a Predator movie with Aliens instead of Predators and Batman instead of Schwarzenegger.  Unfortunately, Batman just doesn't really fit and his reason for being out of Gotham and in the jungle seems like a really weak excuse.


After the aliens decimate the special ops team, Batman and the two remaining survivors make their way through the passages of an ancient temple complex, desperately trying to make their escape. 

Like the first issue of this crossover, this second issue is pure 80's cheese by way of 90's comics.

It's basically an extended chase/fight scene as Batman leads the two remaining members of the special ops cliche squad ("Tough woman out to prove herself in a man's world" and "Jumpy guy who didn't sign up for this $hit") through an ancient temple, trying to find a way to escape the aliens.

At the end of things, we FINALLY get the missing piece of just about every Alien comic Dark Horse ever put out. . ."Tough woman trying to prove herself in a man's world" predictably turns into the villainous cliche "These aliens would make a GREAT weapon and I'll get rich bringing one back" character.

And then there's the obligatory "New Alien" in the form of a crocodile hybrid that for some unknown reason is as big as a Mu' Fuggin' Tyrannosaurus Rex!


Since there were more monsters and fight scenes in this issue than the first, Wrightson's horror chops have a bit more time to shine. Unfortunately, the great alien moments come at the expense of the human characters, who actually look WORSE than they did in the first issue. . .especially "Tough Women trying to prove herself in a man's world/ These aliens would make a great weapon and I'll get rich bringing one back", who now looks more like "Indian Spirit Warrior who knows everyone is gonna die" from the first Predator movie.

It all ends well with Batman "I work alone, stay out of my way" indeed being the lone survivor and destroying all traces of the alien presence.

Overall, the story on this second part was even thinner than that of the first issue. The art both improved AND got worse. Honestly speaking, this wasn't a very good Batman story OR Alien story.  It wasn't ALL bad. . .there were some good moments with both the writing and the art, but all in all, this was pretty disappointing.


If I had to describe this crossover in on word, that word would be: Disappointing.

The story is paper-thin and the characters are little more than cardboard cutouts of 80's action movie tropes defined by one character trait each: Tough Woman Trying To Prove Herself In A Man's World. . . Jumpy Guy Who Didn't Sign Up For This $hit. . . Religious Guy Who Knows They're All Gonna Die. . . Bulky Bully Who Gets In Everybody's Face. . .and I Work Alone, Don't Get In My Way.  

The story isn't BAD for what's there. . .unfortunately, there's really not much there.

The art by Comic Legend Bernie Wrightson is frankly not his best work.  The aliens and backgrounds are up to his usual horrific standards and are definitely the strong point of this series.  Unfortunately, his human characters (including Batman) aren't very well done at all.

Overall, I'd have to say that unless you are a Super-Fan of Batman, Aliens, or Sorta-Odd Crossovers you can probably skip this story and not be the worse for it.  It's average at best.

Up Next. . .

Since this one was only two issues, how about some MORE Batman/Alien fun?
Skipping forward a few years to 2003 and Batman/Aliens II.  Is it better than the first one?

Let's find out. 

Be there or be square!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Longbox Junk - Cloak and Dagger

I've never been a fan of Cloak and Dagger for a couple of reasons. . .

First and foremost is that I'm generally not interested in "Gimmick" mainstream superheroes (meaning characters built around a single power and everything about that character is about that one thing. . .name, look, etc.) so I don't really seek out comics starring them.

The second reason is pretty much the last part of the first. . .because I don't seek out "Gimmick" mainstream superheroes, I've read very little about Cloak and Dagger.

Most of what I DO know about the characters comes from the few issues I have of "Strange Tales", a short-lived Doctor Strange/Cloak and Dagger split book Marvel put out in the 80's, and their small role in the recent "Secret Empire" story.  But I've never been interested enough to go looking for more.

BUT. . .

I came across these four issues bundled at a local comic shop for five lousy bucks.  Who am I to argue with 4 comics for 5 bucks?  What TRUE lover of Longbox Junk can resist a deal like that?  

Not me.  Let's do this!


MARVEL (1983 - 1984)
SCRIPTS: Bill Mantlo
PENCILS: Rick Leonardi
COVERS: Rick Leonardi


Mysterious teen vigilantes Cloak and Dagger come to Hell's Kitchen and begin to wage war on drug dealers and others who exploit the weak. 

Detective Brigid O'Reilly becomes involved when Cloak and Dagger unwittingly cause the death of an innocent during a battle gone wrong. 

This first issue comes out of the gate swinging with an engaging story that introduces all the players without being bogged down with exposition. . .a brief origin of Cloak and Dagger is nicely done on a single splash page. . . likewise, the other characters are introduced and the story moves along without delay at a brisk, extremely readable pace.

But as nicely-done as the story is on this first issue, the art is the real star here. Rick Leonardi's detailed line work, combined with Terry Austin's heavy, dark inks make for a comic where each panel invites you to linger for a while.

Overall, this is a fantastic first issue. It's mostly just putting the pieces on the board, but it's done in a way that makes you want to get right to the next issue.


Detective O'Reilly reluctantly allows Cloak and Dagger help her track down a serial killer poisoning aspirin, but quickly discovers to her horror that Cloak and Dagger's idea of justice doesn't have anything to do with the law. 

This second issue starts to dig deep into the difference between justice and retribution. It's a surprisingly mature and somber story for a mainstream Marvel superhero comic, especially one from the early 80's. I liked it a lot because it was a bit unexpected for the story to dip down into the dark and filthy underbelly of human nature so quickly.

Beyond the serial killer that is the main thrust of the story, there is also a surprisingly dark scene of Cloak confronting the pimp of a child prostitute, only for the girl to tell Cloak that she LIKES the life she's living. This ain't the Fantastic Four, folks.

Speaking of the dark and gritty underbelly, the art on this series is a perfect match for the story. . .scenes of seedy neighborhoods and filthy alleyways are depicted with the kind of detail that makes me turn the pages slower than the brisk story wants me to.

Overall, I found this second issue even more enjoyable than the first for its surprisingly dark and mature storytelling and fantastic artwork.


Cloak finds himself losing the battle against the dark hunger within that feeds on the life energy of others, so he tries to flee from Dagger before he kills her. 

Dagger knows that if Cloak's hunger goes unchecked, he'll feed on innocent and guilty alike, so she continues to sustain him with more and more of her life force until she almost kills herself, ending up in the hospital with Cloak being her only hope of survival. 

This third issue slumps a bit as it delves into the parasitic relationship between Cloak and Dagger, but that's not to say it's bad, it's still a very well written look at the dark underbelly of superheroes and their relationship with the law.

Aside from the main thrust of the story (Cloak's hunger almost draining Dagger of her life), Detective O'Reilly struggles with knowing the killer in the last issue deserved to die, but her allowing it was wrong.

At the same time, Cloak also realizes that if he's going to retain some semblance of humanity, he can't just keep condemning criminals to feed his dark hunger, so he gives O'Reilly back the killer he's been feeding on.

Like I said in my review of the second issue. . .this ain't Fantastic Four. This is a dark and sometimes uncomfortable look at the difference between justice and retribution. . .between what criminals deserve and what the law says should happen.

Overall, there are a couple of scenes that bog the storytelling down a bit, making it less brisk than in previous issues, but this is still a surprisingly dark and mature take on superheroes.

And finally. . .


This final issue tells the tale of how rich, but unloved teenager Tandy Bowen and inner city youth Tyrone Johnson, wanted by the law for a crime he didn't commit, became the vigilante team of Cloak and Dagger after running away from home and then escaping an experiment where they were dosed with drugs that unlocked their latent powers. 

And here we are at the big finish!

Actually, compared with the previous three issues, this origin story is pretty low-key. . .and to be honest, it feels a bit tacked on and somewhat forced.

That's not to say it's bad. . .this final issue just feels out of place when taken as a whole with the rest of the series. Truthfully, Tandy and Tyrone's back stories really aren't that interesting, compared to what they became as a result.

The art even takes a bit of a downward turn. . .not by much, but I can tell that the art team is much more comfortable in the dark, seedy alleyways of Hell's Kitchen than in the brightly-lit worlds of rich kid Tandy Bowen and promising basketball player Tyrone Johnson.

Overall, this final issue wasn't bad by any means, but it's definitely the worst one of the series. There's no real explanation of WHY the two runaways got the powers that they did. . .that was all explained, retconned, and explained again in comics yet to come. . .so this wasn't really a great origin story when you get right down to it.


Overall, I found Cloak and Dagger to be a highly-enjoyable read with a surprisingly dark and mature story for a mainstream Marvel "gimmick" superhero team.  The artwork was likewise dark and gritty and was a perfect match for the story at hand.  

Unfortunately, the final issue. . .telling the origin of Cloak and Dagger. . .seemed out of place and of lower quality than the rest of the issues, honestly making this series seem more like a 3 issue mini with an origin issue thrown in.

One other thing I noticed through these issues is that Tandy (Dagger) is pretty sexualized for being a character that is only 16 years old.  I have a feeling that her costume alone would raise an eyebrow these days, let alone (off-panel) scenes of her being taken advantage of by an older man.

There is a pretty constant undercurrent of Tandy's sexuality through the whole series.  Nothing overt (except her costume), and it DOES sort of fit in with the dark and mature themes, but to a reader in 2019, it might come off as a bit uncomfortable seeing an underage character portrayed this way.

Those issues aside, I was pleasantly surprised by this mini.  I found it to be a nice little nugget of Longbox Junk gold panned from the river of crap that normally flows through the bargain boxes.

I love Batman!  I love Aliens! A Batman/Aliens crossover with art by the great Bernie Wrightson HAS to be good, right?  Let's find out when I take a look at Dark Horse and DC's Batman /Aliens 2 issue mini. . .

Be there or be square!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wayback Wednesday - The Six Million Dollar Man #1

"Steve Austin, astronaut.  A man barely alive."
"We can rebuild him.  We have the technology.
We can make him better than he was.
Better. . .stronger. . .faster."

There might be some disagreement out there, but in MY extremely humble opinion, Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man (also known to us kids at the time just as The Bionic Man) is the ultimate 70's superhero.  

There are some that might claim that he isn't a superhero at all, and belongs in the realm of science fiction. . . but as far as I'm concerned, the work of the finest scientific minds fused with the soul of a man isn't just A great 70's superhero, but is THE superhero that defines the 70's.  

Science today is taken for granted.  I'm probably making myself sound old, but in the 70's, Astronauts were still the great American Hero.  The moon landings were still fresh in the collective memory.  The world was on the edge of major change in technology.  You could SEE the future coming.

The Six Million Dollar Man was a reflection of these things.  He was technology ahead of his time in a world that was advancing toward major breakthroughs, but not quite there just yet.  This was a character that seemed possible and real in a way that someone like Superman could never be.

I don't think I speak for ALL the children of the 70's, but I'm pretty sure I speak for a lot of them when I say that the Bionic Man was OUR hero for OUR time.  Steve Austin always used his powers for the greater good, even if it meant going against the direct orders of his O.S.I. "controllers", and THAT makes him a hero, whether he wears a cape and mask or not.


My love of this character is based almost entirely on the extremely popular (at the time) T.V. show and accompanying movies starring Lee Majors.  At the time, I didn't even know that there WERE Six Million Dollar Man comic books.  The spinners at my local stores when I was a kid only had DC and Marvel comics. . .maybe a few Disney comics for the little kids.  It wasn't until the early 90's when I started seriously collecting comics instead of just reading them that I discovered the existence of companies like Charlton.

I managed to FINALLY find a few of the Charlton Six Million Dollar Man comics (This one plus Issues #2 and #6) in the back issue bins of a comic shop in Idaho while visiting one of my nieces a few months ago.  So how do the comic books stand up against my nostalgic memories of the T.V. show featuring one of my favorite superheroes of all?

Let's find out!


PENCILS: Joe Staton
COVER: Joe Staton

There's two comic stories and a short text story in this book.  Let's take a look at them each. . .


Colonel Steve Austin is a veteran Astronaut and test pilot who barely survives a bad landing in an experimental aircraft.  Oscar Goldman (An agent of  O.S.I., the Office of Scientific Intelligence. . .or Office of Strategic Information, depending on the source ) informs Austin's doctors that the government has taken an interest in him, and is willing to pay to "improve" the injured man with millions of dollars worth of cybernetic implants.

After the successful operation, Goldman tells Austin that the price for his life is that he now works for the O.S.I., and after some intensive training missions, Colonel  Steve Austin. . .the Six Million Dollar Man. . .is ready for his first assignment.

The End.

The first story in this comic is basically the origin story of the Six Million Dollar Man, expanded out from the narration at the beginning of the T.V. show to give a bit more detail to Austin's deadly accident and the process that led to him becoming the Six Million Dollar Man.  As a big fan of the character, I REALLY liked this story a lot, and it made me like the character even more!

One thing that especially stood out is the last panel pictured below (the page very nicely shows the struggle to keep Austin alive) where the critically-injured test pilot regains consciousness for the first time and realizes the shape he's in.  The first words from his mouth are "Why? Why didn't you let me die?"

That's a really dark place that the show never went to, and that one single panel gives the character a layer of depth and reality that I'd never considered before.

Also unlike the show, one of the training montage panels shows that Austin's bionic parts can be swapped out for different missions. . .in this case, retractable swim fins for an underwater training mission.  The T.V. show probably didn't have the budget (or special effects technology) to show this aspect of the character, but now that I've seen it, it makes perfect sense.

The line art and inking on this first story are both very nicely done. . .unfortunately, the art is marred by extremely sloppy and occasionally garish coloring.  It's a damn shame, to tell the truth, because there are several scenes that SHOULD be epic and dramatic that are practically ruined by the bad colors obscuring the great art underneath.

Overall, if this one story were all that there was to this comic, I would be more than happy.  It's a great expanded origin story for the Six Million Dollar Man that goes beyond the sketch we got at the beginning of the T.V. show.  It's pretty short, and the otherwise great art is botched with bad coloring, but to me, this story is worth the price of the comic alone.



Colonel Steve Austin is assigned to fly an SR-71 spy plane over China to gather intelligence on a new long-range missile system.  A malfunction causes the jet to crash near the missile base, and Austin is captured.  The sadistic director of the base decides to use both Col. Austin and a Chinese scientist (a woman named Nai Ku) that has been working with O.S.I. to field test a deadly combat robot also being developed at the secret weapons base.

After a tense battle, Nai Ku manages to reprogram the robot to attack the Chinese soldiers guarding the laboratory, making it possible for her and Austin to escape.  After commandeering a helicopter, Austin uses his laser eye to destroy the experimental missiles before making their way to a nearby airfield to steal a jet and fly back to friendly territory.

Back at O.S.I. headquarters, it's revealed that the intelligence gathering was a ruse, the jet was purposely sabotaged to crash near the secret base, and that the REAL mission was to extract Nai Ku.  Steve takes Oscar Goldman's dangerous subterfuge in stride, chalking it up to just another day at O.S.I.

The End.

After the great opening story, I felt a little let down by this one.  Not that it's BAD, it's just that it had to follow a pretty good act.  While the story itself seemed a bit contrived and weak, there were parts of it that I really liked a lot.  First off, we got to see Steve Austin in the kind of adventure that a T.V. budget and 70's special effects could never have pulled off. . .him piloting an SR-71 Blackbird over China. . .

. . .and then destroying a missile with his LASER EYE!

Like I said about the first story, this story shows new powers for The Six Million Dollar Man that make perfect sense once you see them.  Laser Eye. . .how could they NOT have had that on the T.V. show?  I feel a bit cheated now, that all those times I played Bionic Man with my friends, I COULD have been zapping them with my awesome laser eye!

On the bad side of things is that about half of this story is basically a "punch the giant robot" comic cliche battle that's STILL being used as story filler to this very day (Black Widow #1, 2019.  I'm looking right at YOU).

The line art and inking remain pretty strong in this story, perhaps just a BIT weaker than in the opening story, and still badly marred by sloppy coloring that occasionally obscures the good art underneath.  One thing I really DID like about the art in this story is the way that Austin's bionic powers were portrayed.  

In the show, it went to slow-mo and we got that iconic "NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA" sound.  Hard to do in a comic book.  Instead, the panels break down into smaller panels focusing closer and closer on the bionic action.  It's a nice compromise that works very well. . .

Overall, this story is a bit weaker than the first, but I still found it pretty entertaining.  It showcased the kind of missions and new powers for Steve Austin that the budget and technological limits of 70's T.V. could never have given us.



The last story in this comic is a two page text piece. . .

After successfully landing an experimental aircraft from orbit for NASA  (obviously an early version of what the 70's were imagining the Space Shuttle would be), all Colonel Steve Austin wants is a 10 day rest.  Oscar Goldman and the O.S.I. have other plans and Steve's next mission is planned for the following day.

To make sure he stays put, Goldman has Steve put under guard, but the Bionic Man uses his laser eye to make a stealthy escape.  Later, he calls Goldman to remind him that he's still a man and not just a tool, and that he'll be back in 10 days.

The End.

I liked this little story quite a bit.  It's well written and perfectly captures the "Man" in the Six Million Dollar Man in a very short space.  I'm not normally a fan of text stories taking up space in comic books that could be used for actual comic stories, but this is one of the exceptions.


As a fan of the Six Million Dollar Man, I've been wanting to get my hands on some of these comic books for years.  I'm happy to say that I wasn't disappointed.  

This comic had a fantastic opening origin story that gave the character some unexpected depth, a somewhat weaker but still entertaining main story that showcased the kind of missions that 70's T.V. could never give us, and a short text finisher that illustrated that there's still a Man in the Six Million Dollar Man.

Despite sloppy coloring, the line and ink art was strong, and despite some comic cliche robot punching, the writing was likewise strong.  All in all, this is a pretty great comic book for fans of The Six Million Dollar Man.

BUT. . .

What about for those who AREN'T already fans of the character?  I had my comic lovin' daughter give it a read.  She's watched a few episodes of the T.V. show with me here and there, but old T.V. shows aren't really her thing.

She also found the coloring to be extremely sloppy, but her general opinion of this comic is that it's pretty good, and better than some of the superhero comics of the 70's she's read.  I asked her if she'd want to read another one and she was like, "Sure, why not?"  So I'll chalk that up in the win column.

That said. . .

My daughter also pointed out to me that to HER eyes, some of the dialogue was pretty cringeworthy in a casual 70's misogynist way.  Steve Austin gives the female scientist he rescues in the second story two "Honey's", two "Baby's" and a "Sweetheart" in the space of 15 pages and about 1 hour of knowing her.  She found it more "Funny-Cringe" than "Offended-Cringe", but I can agree that the Bionic Man's swagger is definitely 70's-Tastic.

So. . .in the end, sloppy coloring marring the otherwise good art, some cliche robot punching, and a bit of 70's dialogue that might fall flat on younger readers doesn't stop this comic from being a good read for both fans of The Six Million Dollar Man or those new to the character.

Up Next. . .

Back to Longbox Junk business as usual with Marvel's 1983 4 issue "Cloak and Dagger" mini.

Be there or be square!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Longbox Junk - Robin II: The Joker's Wild

If you (like me) are fond of digging through the bargain boxes at your local comic shop, trying to find those nuggets of comic gold among the Longbox Junk, then you have more than likely spotted at LEAST one issue of this four part mini.

As far as I know, those shiny hologram-enhanced covers are as much a fixture of dollar bins as anything Image ever put out during their "Gotta be like Marvel!" 90's Heyday.  They must have printed a billion issues of this series because I come across them ALL the time.

So let's take a closer look at this common Longbox Junk find. . .

What we have here is actually a pretty interesting effort on the part of DC to make a sidekick into a hero in his own right.  Previous Robins had sort of fallen into the job. DC wanted to build Tim Drake into not just a sidekick, but into a PARTNER for Batman. . .and judging from the ongoing (to this very day) popularity of the character, they succeeded.

This mini takes place during the very early days of Tim Drake's time as Robin.  It places him on his own for the first time and forced to face Batman's greatest villain with very little help. . .a brilliant move on the part of DC to separate Robin (Batman sidekick) from Robin (High-Tech Detective). 

So the IDEA is a good one. . .how did the EXECUTION of that idea work out? 

 Let's take a look!

DC (1991)

SCRIPTS: Chuck Dixon
COVERS: Various (15 different variants by different artists!)


While Batman is out of the country, leaving Robin behind to patrol Gotham alone, The Joker breaks out of Arkham Asylum.  After killing (!?) Mr. Freeze, Joker kidnaps a computer scientist and escapes Robin, who was investigating the scientist as a possible lead.

Robin realizes that the only thing that keeps Joker somewhat under control is Batman, so he decides to try and convince Joker Batman is still in Gotham.

To be continued. . .

Overall, I found this first issue to be fairly bland. 

It had interesting spots here and there. . .Robin choosing his nerd friends over the cool kids. . .Joker killing a pre-Batman Animated Series Sympathetic Mister Freeze. . .Joker's surprise turning to rage when he sees Robin the first time (Not realizing it isn't Jason Todd). . .Robin having to be driven around in a van by Alfred. But other than those few good moments, the story here is pretty predictable and forgettable.

The art is pretty good, but suffers a bit from "The 90's" with X-TREME spiky hairdos and elongated legs. The artist has a hard time with vehicles, backgrounds are pretty sparse, and the colors are garish in places. But that said, it's not as full-on 90's craptacular as it COULD be. It's right on the border of good and bad.

All in all, this first issue serves as a decent setup with a few good moments in the story and pretty good art. Unfortunately, it's walking a 90's tightrope and all it's going to take is one bad step. . .


As Robin continues his solo patrols of Gotham, using a holographic projector to convince Gotham's underworld that Batman is still in town, The Joker begins to put his plan to take the city hostage in place.

To be continued. . .

This second issue is mostly setup for things to come. It slumps a bit as pieces are moved into place without much resolution. 

The art continues to teeter on the edge of 90's-Tastic and 90's-Terrible with some pretty good scenes of Robin on patrol, and some pretty bad backgrounds and garish colors.

Overall, this issue is a little better than the first one, but not by much. This mini is still just BARELY staying on the rails.


Joker disrupts Gotham's computers and throws the city into chaos. His ransom demand for a billion dollars cash in a truck driven by Batman lets Robin know that Joker has called his bluff and knows that Batman isn't in town.

To be continued. . .

This setup for the final issue begins to pick up the pace as Joker realizes that Batman is gone and calls Robin's bluff. 

The scheme is technology-based (Joker controlling the city's computer systems), so Robin's hacking efforts and a lot of the jargon in this issue have not aged well at all, making this story feel somewhat like a relic of another time.

And finally. . .

Robin puts a plan to trap the Joker by using his own game against him into motion, and barely survives the encounter when he finally draws the madman out.

The End.

And here we are at the big finish!

Robin baits his trap while Alfred and the GCPD track down Joker's brainwashed computer scientist, and it ends with a decent fight scene and Joker getting kicked into a sewage tank.

Once again, the extremely outdated technical aspects of the story bog it down, with Alfred jumping from payphone to payphone hooking up dial-up modems to try to track Joker's hideout down. Reading the computer-heavy parts of this story is pretty bad, from a modern perspective. 

The rest of it is pretty typical "punch the bad guy and WIN!" comic book fare. To tell the truth, that part hasn't really aged gracefully either.

Overall, this issue wraps everything up nicely, but it leaves a dusty old taste in my mouth.


The legacy of Tim Drake's Robin as an extremely popular character continues to this day, and this mini was an early part of the effort by DC to make him not just another sidekick, but a hero in his own right. . .so in that way this mini is an interesting part of comic history and worth a read.

Unfortunately, beyond that, what we have is an extremely dusty relic of the 90's.  The high-tech jargon of 1991 that set Tim Drake apart as a "modern" hero on the cutting edge of technology is hopelessly outdated to a modern reading.  

Underneath the outdated computer trappings is a pretty average story about Joker escaping and coming up with a mad plan to take Gotham hostage, then being foiled by Robin turning his own game against him.  It's the same kind of story that's been played out over and over again, it's just that the hero is different in this case.

Ultimately, this mini is pretty forgettable.  It's interesting as a look back at the beginning of a popular character, but other than that there's not really anything I can point at that elevates this story beyond average at best.  It's a REALLY common find in bargain boxes, and I can see why.  

If anything defines Longbox Junk, it's this mini.

Up Next. . .

There's been a bit of interest in these characters recently, thanks to a pretty decent T.V. show.  But how are the comics the show is based on?  Let's take a look at Marvel's 1983 4 issue "Cloak and Dagger" mini series!

Be there or be square.