Monday, September 25, 2023

Longbox Junk - Star Trek Unlimited #7

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place where I write comic reviews that nobody asked me to!

Can you smell it? Awwww. . .YEAH! That's FALL in the air, folks!  You know what that means, right? RIGHT? Well, if you don't, it means that it's time for what's become a bit of a Longbox Junk tradition. . . the annual LONGBOX JUNK HALLOWEEN HORROR MARATHON!

It's where I make the effort to cram as many spooky comic book reviews into the month of October as I can!  Sometimes there's a theme, sometimes there's not.  But there's always a lot of fun to be had!

Ready? Let's do this!

Wait. . .WHAT?  It's still September? Ah, you party poopers.  
I guess let's check out a Star Trek comic instead.

Marvel/Paramount Comics (1998)


SCRIPT: Dan Abnett & Ian Edginton
PENCILS: Ron Randall & Tom Morgan
INKS: Art Nichols & Scott Hanna


It's very simple, and in that simplicity, it REALLY catches the eye.  The gold and silver insignias and title against the flat black background pop out in a big way.  Quite a few of the Star Trek covers from the short time Marvel held the license are pretty cluttered and crowded.  This is definitely one of the better ones of the bunch.  Let's get inside this thing!


We begin our tale as two godlike beings, Q and Trelane, grow bored and decide to play a game.  A game with the very fabric of existence as the prize and with humans as the playing pieces!  Trelane makes the first move. . .

We shift scenes to the 24th century and the bridge of Starfleet's new flagship, the Sovereign class U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 E on the day of her maiden voyage.  

Commissioned after the destruction of the fabled Enterprise D on Veridian III (as seen in the movie Star Trek: Generations) the powerful new starship is under the guidance of Starfleet's finest Commanding Officer, the legendary Captain James Kirk. . .wait, WHAT?

Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise E sense that something is wrong, but unable to put their finger on it, they proceed as planned with the ship's maiden voyage.  

In the meantime, Q mocks Trelane's choice of player, but Trelane is confident that Kirk will thrive with the technological advantages of the 24th century.  Q decides turnabout is fair play and reveals HIS player. . .

On the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, in the 23rd century, we are introduced to Captain Jean-Luc Picard as his ship comes under attack from a Klingon cruiser!

Picard manages to fight off the Klingons despite his confusion, and that of the crew over his strange orders.  Finally, Q steps in to freeze the action and reveal the game to Picard.  

Predictably, Picard is outraged and refuses to play Q's games.  Q tells him that he's got no choice. The game is afoot, existence itself is at stake, and Q expects Picard to win.

Likewise, aboard the Enterprise E, Trelane shows himself to Kirk and reveals the game.  Kirk protests that he can't win a game that he doesn't know the rules to, but Trelane leaves without providing anything more than that he expects Kirk to win the game.

Upon Q and Trelane's exit, the Captains of both ships are informed by their crew that they have somehow been transported to a strange uncharted section of space, with a total absence of all interstellar matter except themselves and a planetoid called "Salvation" that was previously in neither ship's data banks.  

Both Captains set course for the planetoid, as it seems to be the only possible source of answers in this strange space.  In the meantime, Q and Trelane are satisfied with the chosen players and the game space.  All that remains is to provide a challenge. . .

With a snap of his fingers, Trelane summons Picard's old foe Gowron and his Imperial Klingon Vor'Cha Cruiser.  He places the hulking battleship near Picard's ancient Starfleet vessel.  A confused Gowron immediately begins pursuit of the Enterprise!

Q protests Trelane's unequal match.  Trelane mocks Q for perhaps not being up to the challenge.  Q decides that once again, turnabout is fair game.  With a snap of HIS fingers, a challenge is presented to Kirk and the Enterprise E.

Kirk's old foe, Commander Kang, is transported to the strange playing field.  They detect the Enterprise E and immediately set course to intercept!

Aboard the Enterprise E, the approaching ancient Klingon warship is detected on an attack course!  The crew is certain that the Klingon weapons will not be able to harm them, but Q throws another twist into the game, disabling the Enterprise E's shields as Kang attacks, causing heavy damage!

Aboard the Enterprise NCC-1701, Picard is faced with an advanced Klingon warship bearing down on his ancient and highly outmatched vessel.  He decides that the Klingons thinking that he won't fight will be their advantage.  

Using his knowledge of the Klingon vessel gained from the 24th century, Picard turns the Enterprise in and strikes a weak point, taking the Klingons by surprise and heavily damaging their engines.  

Picard takes advantage of the temporary gain and warps away from the battle and toward the Salvation planetoid.

Meanwhile, aboard the heavily-damaged Enterprise E, Captain Kirk desperately tries to think of a way to escape with his crippled and unarmed ship.  The crew informs him that repairs will take hours.  Obviously, fighting isn't the way out of this one.

He hails the ancient Klingon ship and Commander Kang seems not at all surprised to be facing Kirk.  Kang demands surrender.  Kirk refuses and makes Kang an offer. . .the secrets of the weapon technology on the planetoid in exchange for safe passage.  A deadly bluff if the Klingons manage to see through it.

As Picard's Enterprise flees from Gowron, he gathers the command crew, revealing to Spock and McCoy that he isn't who they think he is.  He's from the future and they're all pawns in an insane game between immortal beings.

Spock and McCoy are skeptical, but Picard invites Spock to mind-meld with him. . .as in the future, he mind-melded with an older Ambassador Spock and that traces of that time should still be within his mind.  Spock does the mind-meld and is convinced Picard is telling the truth.

Aboard the Enterprise E, after stalling Kang's attack, Kirk decides to come clean and reveal the truth to Deanna Troi.  Using her psychic abilities, she becomes convinced that Kirk is telling the truth.  She immediately thinks he's talking about Q.  Kirk informs her that there is another. . .Trelane.

The two Enterprise crews contact each other and join in orbit around the Salvation planetoid.  Picard, Kirk, and their command crews beam down to the planet to discuss the situation, driving Trelane into a rage as their respective playing pieces "cheat" by working together!  Q is just surprised it took them this long to do it.

Trying to salvage what's left of their game, Q and Trelane also travel to the planetoid to confront their wayward champions. . .just as Kirk and Picard knew they would.

As Picard and Kirk argue with Q and Trelane, trying to convince them that their game is childish and beneath the dignity of immortal beings with unlimited power, the Klingons Gowron and Kang ALSO beam down to the planetoid.

Kirk and Picard reveal to the Klingons that they have also been used as pawns in a petty game played by immature immortals.  The Klingons stand with the humans in refusing to play any longer.  Q realizes that the game is over.   He challenges Trelane to abandon this game and resolve their contest in another way. 

Trelane agrees, and with a snap of Q and Trelane's fingers. . .

. . .Kirk finds himself back on the bridge of HIS Enterprise, still engaged in battle with Kang.

. . .Picard finds himself back on the bridge of the Enterprise E, ready for her maiden voyage.

. . .And  Trelane and Q ready to decide their contest with trial by combat.  All's well that ends well.

The End.


What we have here is a story that can literally ONLY be told in comic books (or novels).  Even in 1998, twenty-five years ago (TWENTY-FIVE YEARS? I feel old as dirt about now!), the actors in the original Star Trek series were getting up there in years enough that this would have been impossible to do in live action. 

And see. . .THAT'S why I love comics like this!  They can give us stories that we could never have otherwise (okay, there's novels too, I guess).

As far as the story itself goes, it's fun.  It ends a bit abruptly, but getting to that ending where Q and Trelane are put in their place by their "opponents" joining together and letting the Godlike beings know that they've underestimated humanity AGAIN is a pretty fun ride.  

I like the twist that Kirk is put into a situation that he can't fight his way out of, and Picard fights his way out of a situation that he can't talk his way out of.  It shows that Starfleet values both the fighter AND the thinker, and always has.  And really, that's the heart of this story.

On the art side of things, the art is decent.  There are a few standout moments, but not many.  There's two artists and two inkers credited, so I'm thinking one did the original crew's story and the other did the Next Generation crew.  

They DO match up pretty well, but I think the artist on the original crew did a better job capturing the likeness' of the actors.  On the Next Generation side, Troi, Q and Worf in particular are pretty poorly-done.  

Other than that, the art overall is fine.  It tells the story nicely, but doesn't try very hard to do much more than that.


So I WAS going to just do a random comic again for this review, but picked this one specifically because another blogger I really enjoy has been doing overviews of Star Trek comics and had never actually seen one of these Star Trek Unlimited comics.  It was a pretty short-lived series. . .only 10 issues published quarterly during the short time in the 90s when Marvel had the Star Trek license.  

There's really not much information to be had on this short series, which told stories set in both the original series timeline and the Next Generation timeline (as well as this issue, which combined the two).  I picked this issue because of the interest the other blogger expressed in it, and I hope this review helps add to the scant information to be found on Star Trek Unlimited.

Wait. . .what? Who is that other blogger I mentioned?  Glad you asked!

His name is Josh Turnbull and he runs a GREAT blog called JOSH'S GEEK CAVE that can be found at the link, or where he regularly posts as a contributing member at COOL COMICS IN MY COLLECTION . . .the place where they keep comics FUN!

I don't mind throwing a shoutout to either one of these great places to get your geek on!  Josh's Geek Cave reviews just about EVERYTHING, from Star Trek to Sesame Street. . .and NO, I ain't kidding!  This guy loves it ALL!

As far as Cool Comics In My Collection goes, it's a great little gathering place for all things nerdly and fun!  There's a little bit of everything and I say if you want a fun hangout that keeps things loose and friendly, then join the Cool Comics Crowd!

OKAY. . .unsolicited (I swear) plugs for places I really like are done!

If you're a Star Trek comic fan then this story combining the original and Next Generation crews is a lot of fun and well worth a read.  The series has never been collected, so you'll have to keep your eye out in the bargain bin for individual issues.  I see them fairly often, so they're out there to be found by the diligent Longbox Junkers willing to hunt them down.

Is it the greatest Star Trek story ever told? No.  Is the art the best Star Trek art out there? No.  Is it a fun story that can only happen in comic books (or novels)? Yes!  So keep your eye out and give it a try.

Up Next. . .

Okay, NOW we can begin the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Marathon!

A couple of years ago (2020) I did an all retro review edition of the Longbox Junk Halloween party. I think I'd like to do that again!  Why not? I have a LOT of old spooky comics that have never been reviewed by anyone.  So let's do it!

The Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Marathon 2023 Retro Review Edition is ON!

Be there or be square.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Longbox Junk - All-Star Western #3

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews you never even knew you wanted!

So, I've been having a little fun just getting random with the Longbox Junk.  I generate a number between 1-40 (the number of boxes I have in the comic cave) online and then close my eyes and grab a comic from the box.

This time out, I got my hand into one of my "A" boxes and pulled out ANOTHER Bronze Age Beauty! Thing is. . .it's not exactly Longbox JUNK.  It's not the sort of comic you're gonna find in the bargain bin, and it DOES have some collector "value" to it.  

But then again, this ain't a comic that's "valuable" enough to plan on selling it to finance a vacation to Disneyland, either (It won't even cover a single ticket, truth to tell).  So it's not bargain bin and it's not top-tier.  It's just a cool old comic in very nice condition that might be worth a few bucks. You know what? Let's just call it a Longbox Junk retro review and get 'er done!

Ready? Let's do it!

DC (1970)

COVER: Neal Adams


Is there ANY cover by the late, great Neal Adams that isn't good?  I haven't seen one yet!  Don't get me wrong, this isn't the BEST or most memorable cover by Adams, but it's still a darn good one. 

El Diablo is one of my favorite western characters, and I'm a bit disappointed that Adams didn't put the spotlight on him a little more here. That said, the flowing cape of the mysterious hero, as well as the flying mane of his trusty steed as they leap into action are awesome details that grab the eye, even if they ARE crowded toward one side by big hunks of text.  The flat green background is also very cool and provides a really interesting look for the whole cover.

Let's get inside this thing!


Three stories for your 1970 dime and nickel in here! You'll never hear ME say a Bronze Age comic doesn't give you your money's worth.  Two comic stories and a one page text piece.  Let's give 'em each their own turn, shall we?  WE SHALL!


SCRIPT: Robert Kanigher
INKS: Gil Kane

Rick Wilson is a young man that once had a lot of potential, but now rides the outlaw trail, pursued by his own father! 

 All his life, Rick wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as a Texas Ranger, and so he trained himself over the years to be the fastest gun around.  But his father, Ranger Captain Sam Wilson, tried to discourage the young man, because being a lawman also means being a target.  

Not realizing his father was just trying to keep his son safe, Rick rebelled against him and threw in with the Dix Gang, led by a ruthless gunman with a grudge against Captain Wilson.

When Captain Wilson's trusted deputy is killed in an ambush that seemed to have been set up by his outlaw son, he becomes more determined than ever to bring Rick to justice.  In the meantime, the Dix gang plots to rob a train carrying a gold shipment.  A train that will be guarded by Rick's own father.  

As they pull off the daring train robbery, Dix tells Rick that he set the whole thing up in order to finally get his revenge on Captain Wilson.  The rest of the gang draws their guns, ready to kill Rick.  They never really trusted him, as the son of a lawman.  But Rick turns the tables, fighting off the gang as Dix goes to kill his father!

Dix confronts Captain Wilson, but the Texas Ranger is a wily old veteran and manages to get the upper hand on the outlaw, pushing him off the train as the dynamite the criminal is carrying explodes!  Rick, now done with the Dix Gang, calls his horse and makes his escape as his father shoots at him and swears to bring him to justice.

As he rides away, Rick wonders what the future will hold for him.

The End.


Not a bad little story.  Unfortunately, it's the second chapter in a four part tale concluding in All-Star Western #5, so it's not the best place to jump into the story of Rick Wilson: Outlaw.  But taken on its own, this was still a good read. Like Neal Adams' cover, it's hard to find a Robert Kanigher story that doesn't deliver.  Even though this is just one part of the tale, Kanigher definitely makes me want to read the rest!  It's just a good, solid western action tale. 

And then there's the art.  I'm gonna take some slings and arrows for this, but I've never been a fan of Gil Kane's earlier art on what many fans consider his best character. . .Green Lantern.  Whoah! Settle down, folks! That said, I DO really like his later stuff, and this little story is a premium example.   It's fluid and cinematic.  I think (remember, just MY humble opinion) that the Kane art everyone loves most is stiff.  THIS art seems to move across the page.  The art is really the best part of this story.



SCRIPT: Mike Friedrich (One page text story)

An outlaw fleeing through the barren desert, doggedly pursued by the law following a train robbery, discovers that even the finest horse is no match for the searing heat of the Texas sun.  Read the whole thing below. . .


Most of the time, these text pieces are just filler and not really worth much mention.  But this one I found to be one of the best parts of the comic!  It's not actually a story. . .more of a vignette.  It starts in progress and doesn't really have an ending.  But it has a quality to the writing that sticks in my head and makes me wish it could have been illustrated into a two page intermission.  A very nice little  surprise!



SCRIPT: Robert Kanigher
PENCILS: Gray Morrow
INKS: Gray Morrow

We begin our tale with a prologue.  A miner, saved from an outlaw ambush by a mysterious black-clad and masked rider.  The grateful miner tells the masked man that the outlaws are from the Hanged Man gang. . .a ruthless band roaming the area and responsible for several deaths already.  

We then shift back in time. . .thirty days in the past.  

We meet banker Lazarus Lane and his lady love Nora Hayes in the peaceful town of Puerta Del Sol, in southern California.  But the town's peace is soon shattered by a rowdy gang of outlaws that assault Lane on the street in broad daylight. Later, they rob the bank where Lazarus works.  He freezes, unable to draw a pistol and shoot as his friend is killed before his eyes!

Lane is labeled by the entire town as a coward and blamed for the death of his friend.  Lazarus seeks solace in the company of his native American friend, Wise Owl, who tells Lane that the Great Spirit gives all men a chance to redeem themselves.

A week later, a country ride with Nora suddenly turns violent as the same gang attacks the two of them.  As the outlaws taunt Lane for being a coward, he tries to fight back, but is mysteriously struck down by a bolt of lightning!

The terrified outlaws flee, leaving Lazarus for dead.  Nora quickly brings him home, where Wise Owl cares for his friend while Nora rushes to get her father, the local doctor.

Nora and her father find Lane in some sort of coma.  Alive, but nonresponsive, with Wise Owl chanting over him.  The doctor is stumped as to how he can help and leaves Lazarus in the care of his native friend.

The days pass, Wise Owl chants and administers concoctions of herbs and roots until days later, Lane wakes from his coma.  He tells Wise Owl that he dreamed that he is neither dead or alive now.  His body is now host to a strange being that roams the earth while Lane sleeps.  A shadow of vengeance and justice called. . .EL DIABLO!

That night, at the cabin of the miner saved from an ambush in the prologue, the Hanged Man gang. . .so named because their leader survived a hanging. . .has taken him and his family prisoner.  The leader of the gang tells the miner that he is determined to kill everyone who was on the jury that condemned him to death.  But in the darkness outside the cabin, the mysterious El Diablo is coming!

The outlaws slowly come to realize that something strange is happening.  But by then, it's too late.  El Diablo has fought his way through the guards posted and confronts the Hanged Man himself.  The outlaw desperately tries to use the miner's daughter as a hostage, but El Diablo attacks with a bolo, wrapping it around the outlaw's neck and hanging him from a post.

The Hanged Man now dead and the miner's family safe, El Diablo silently rides away, back to the home of Lazarus Lane.  Wise Owl sees the black rider and tells him that he cannot truly die until he pays what is owed to the Great Spirit.  Without answering, El Diablo once again returns to the sleeping body of Lazarus Lane as Wise Owl chants.

The End.


Awww. . .Yeah! The second appearance and origin of El Diablo!  What a great idea for a character.  Combining gritty western storytelling with the supernatural makes such a fantastic combination, I love it!  Once again, Robert Kanigher does not disappoint.  

This story has just the right mix of the weird supernatural eeriness and the dirty western feel to hit a spot that not many characters can get to.  I REALLY would have liked for this to be an entire issue, because it does seem a little rushed.  But other than that, this is a nice little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.

On the art side of things, comic legend Gray Morrow gives this tale a dark, moody, gritty look that perfectly matches the story.  There are some really great moments for the artist in these panels. . .moments that show why Morrow stands up there with just about any other Bronze Age artist you can think of.  Like the first story, it's really the art that makes this special.


Neal Adams. Robert Kanigher. Gil Kane. Mike Friedrich. Gray Morrow.  Just LOOK at those names.  LOOK at the talent on this one single comic.  How can it NOT be good? There's NO way this comic can't be good.  There's Bronze Age greatness on EVERY SINGLE PAGE.

If you are looking for a great Bronze Age western comic, look no more.  It's right here.  More than that, this is just ONE issue of what I consider (in my humble opinion) to be one of the BEST Bronze Age comic series, period.  

I have all the issues of All-Star Western (Yes, even the coveted first and second appearances of Jonah Hex in issues #10 and 11), and page for page, I say that it can stand right up there with ANY Bronze Age comic series in terms of story and talent.  And when I say any, I mean ANY.  

Once again, just look at the names behind this ONE issue.  And THEN add in Carmine Infantino, Tony DeZuniga, Jim Aparo, Gardner Fox, Joe Kubert, Joe Orlando, Dick Giordano, Gerry Conway, Frank Frazetta, Sergio Aragones, Denny O'Neil, and more!  All in ELEVEN ISSUES!

If that's not pure comic gold, I don't know what is.  If that's not pure comic gold, NOTHING is.

If you enjoy gritty western stories, then this entire short series (it was renamed Weird Western Tales and went on for 60 more issues) is for you.  Some of the individual issues ARE a bit pricey and you're not gonna find these in the bargain bin (The mentioned #10 and #11, first and second appearances of Jonah Hex, are the most pricy of the bunch).  Fortunately, all the issues have been reprinted in various Showcase editions.

Overall, great issue.  Great series.  Highly recommended.

Up Next. . .

It's almost time for the annual October Longbox Junk Halloween Horror festival!
But not quite yet.  There's still time for another random grab before I get into the spooky stuff.

Be there or be square!