Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekly Dose of Weird!

Read it!  We Challenge you!  GHOSTS #81
Ghosts #81 -- DC actually challenges me to read it. And who am I to back down from a challenge?!

I. "Ghosts And The Supernatural" -- A one-pager about various spooky goings-on (all purported to be true, like all of the stories herein) in Washington DC. I think most of the spooky stuff in DC goes down in Senators' offices.

II. "The Specter Struck Twice" -- A greedy doctor steals his colleague's research, then murders him to cover it up. Unfortunately, the ghost of the murdered man hangs around to choke the life out of his killer. Good thing a friendly gypsy comes by, offering to get rid of it for a price. Too bad the guy didn't give him much of a tip. This one's about one double cross shy of being an EC story.

III. "Unburied Phantom" -- The cover story, of sorts. A construction worker rips off the payroll and kills his more-moral buddy, dumping him in a cement mixer. The next day, the dumb sap gets pushed off the ledge by a ghost, and also winds up in the cement mixer. Short and to the point, like most real-life supernatural encounters.

IV. "An Echo From The Tomb" -- When did we get to Weird Western Tales? The brother of a murder victim fingers the killers through the timely assistance of his brother's ghost, coupled with a co-conspiritor in the scheme which lead to his death in the first place. Has more plot than one really expects in a 5 page story.

V. "Voice of the Telephone Phantom" -- Text story from the "files of Dr. Geist." I'd make a "Geist, MD" joke, but I don't like anime. Anyway, a woman is saved from a tidal wave (It's California) by a disembodied caller who may or may not be her dead husband. Needless to say, the art stinks.

Overall Weird Factor: 3 (of 5).

Pretty standard DC horror/mystery fare. Ghosts was usually considered one of the lesser titles in the range, but I liked this issue. The lead story was pretty solid for the era. The three main stories all have a revenge vibe which is always fun. And the oater was just so strange and out of place that it amps up the Weird Factor pretty strongly.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Special "No Content" Update

Bleah. Sorry guys, not feeling too hot today, so here's something to explain my current "Quote of the Now" over on the side of the page, instead. From the Mystery Science Theater 3000 take on Godzilla vs Megalon, popcorn has never been more twisted. "Nightly! Nightly, do you hear me?! Nightly!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What Looks Good?

Just because it's Leap Year doesn't mean that there isn't new comics, dude! So get out there and spend!

Justice Society of America #13 -- I really do like this series, but Geoff Johns, please, do not add any new characters this month! My head is going to explode!

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #10 -- I am of the opinion that Marvel does not publish enough Iron Man material. No I am not joking.

Project Superpowers #1 -- I know I riff on them a lot, but man, this series could use a colon. How hard would a colon be to sneak on in there?

So what looks good to YOU?

Monday, February 25, 2008

What I Read This Week

Iron Man #26 -- For a review, let me just say that this issue features Iron Man and Mandarin going toe-to-toe, Iron Man battling an army of genetically-altered supermen, and a man-made, tactical black hole. At the risk of sounding like Chris Sims, this is the most awesome thing ever. The Knaufs and De La Torre keep on rolling on this hardcore armored series, dishing out equal doses of old-school Marvel Mayhem, "nu-Marvel" relevance, and super-spy espionage action. Still the most under-rated title Marvel publishes.

Tiny Titans #1 -- This has surpassed the super-deformed, plush Kamen Rider toy I got when I was in college to become the cutest thing I own. Whether it's at Sidekick Elementary, or the Titans Tower Treehouse, the Tiny Titans are ready for adorable adventures! I'm obviously a little older than the target audience for this title, but like Patrick The Wolf Boy, this is a true All-Ages title which can be enjoyed by young and old. The old (that is, myself) will be tickled by the cute versions of the Teen Titans old and new, and the amusing interplays that require some knowledge of the characters. The young will enjoy the colorful characters and the gags, which are broad enough to transcend the history of the Titans and stand on their own. The story involving Cassie's costume is a perfect example of this breadth: I read it and laugh because I know Cassie and her "non-costume," whereas a kid with no Titans knowledge can read this and laugh at it based simply on the fashion and costume jokes. This would make a great title to read together with one's kids or neices and nephews. And I love the activity page in the back! This one is definitely on the pull list.

Batman And The Outsiders #4 -- Aaand now we do the 180, as this issue opens with Green Arrow trying to put a shaft through Batgirl's chest! Turns out that Ollie is still ticked at the League of Assassians. But there are more pressing issues right now, as the Outsiders are trying to stop a space launch by the mysterious Mr. Jardine -- a launch carrying strange organic creations which could not function on Earth, designed by Brother I! Dixon turns in another solid adventure, and introduces Green Arrow to the team nicely. Lopez's pencils remain clean and dynamic, and I am really enjoying his work on this series so far. There's a nice piece of design work in here as well, as we see Katana and Metamorpho donning camoflague for their jungle mission! There's a few more mysteries introduced, and a pair of earlier ones keep developing -- Dixon has a nice pacing going on here which keeps things moving along nicely, but still feels substantial. Very enjoyable, and looking forward to the next issue. Only downside: No Geo-Force.

Flash #237 -- Kieth Champagne and Koi Turnbull pop in for a quick fill-in story about the Fastest Man Alive and his wacky family. While Wally West spends his day fighting a robotic space yeti with Superman and trying to get a job, Linda has a field trip to Metropolis planned for Iris and Jai. But the sudden appearance of one of Superman's dangerous foes means a change in plans! Fun two-pronged story, with the narrative jumping back and forth between Wally and Linda and the kids until the end when the stories intersect. Champagne has a pretty good handle on the Flash Family, including Jai who seems really kinda troubled for a kid his age. Turnbull's art is a major turnoff to me, but for a true fill-in, this is not bad. Nice enough outing with the new Flash status quo, but nothing to write home about.

Avengers Classic #9 -- The lead story is a reprint of Avengers #9, by Stan Lee and Don Heck, featuring the debut (and death) of Wonder Man. The backup is written by Dwayne McDuffie (EDIT: My mistake! The backup is actually written by Macon Blair, not McDuffie as solicited. Thanks for pointing this out, Mr. Blair!) with groovily bombastic art by Juan Doe, and fills in a gap from the original story -- namely, how Wonder Man managed to capture the Wasp to use as bait for the other Avengers. The lead is classic, old-school Assemblers stuff, with lots of back and forth action. It's still weird seeing Heck working on this title, but he did his share of it with Kirby, so that's mostly just wishful thinking. If you don't like the Silver Age Avengers, this story is not going to convince you. Anyways, the backup is pretty darn cool as well. McDuffie Blair writes Wonder Man as a mix between Rock Hudson and Bruce Campbell, and Doe's artwork is immediately evocative of the Sixties but also quite modern. I especially like his hulking Wonder Man. Interesting to note that this title has two covers (the new one on the front, and a reprint of the original on the back), and no ads -- not bad for $2.99! Wonder Man fans (like me!) should definitely grab this one, and Avengers fans will probably like this series in general as well -- it's nice to get color reprints.

Terror, Inc. #5 -- The blood-soaked finale to the showdown between Mr. Terror and his long-lost (not to mention absolutely insane) lady love leaves little to the imagination. Lapham and Zircher don't deviate too much from what they have established here as Terror has to overcome the loss of the mystical arm which prevents him from rotting away to stop his ex from turning the world into one big void. It's gore galore, in all it's over-the-top manner, which defines this book. Terror himself is a sort of play on the Ennis Punisher, but he is a lot funnier in my opinion, and the horror archetype of the character makes him unique. A satisfying conclusion and a decent set-up: as I said earlier, if this is in fact what Terror is doing in the Marvel Universe, then I am digging it the most.

The Pick Of The Pile normally would be Iron Man. It's a title which has done everything right for months on end and this was no exception. But this week it finished a very close second -- enough that we had to send it to the booth twice just to check it -- to Tiny Titans, an opening salvo of cuteness which appeals to two distinctly different markets of comic book readers and scores a direct hit with each. I cannot remember the last time a new comic (that is, not a reprint!) made me smile and laugh as much as this one did. The Tiny Titans are here to stay, and I for one am looking very much forward to the ride!

So what did YOU read this week?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Adama had better hope that Grant Morrison doesn't get his hands on the Green Arrows Of The World in Final Crisis.

Rick presents the Portrait of the Artist, namely, the awesome Jim Aparo!

It's sad, but G Kendall shines the spotlight on one of the few 90s X-Men Comics I actually remember.

Thanks to rob! for this Super-Sweet House Ad, which both of the Big Two could use some more of.

The Atom: Cat Rider. Where does Damian find this stuff?

Frank gazes into his Martian Crystal Ball.

BONUS: Mmmm, sketch.

And finally, a hero we can all look up to and admire in these troubled times. That's right.

Mr. T.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- Kull The Conqueror #3

Kull The Conqueror #3

Thought I'd start dipping into the large pile of non-superhero comics I have picked up in the last month with this little beauty from '72. I don't know how long it had been sitting in that Discount Bin at Borderlands, but it's in pretty decent shape considering.

Our story opens, as is appropriate for Kull, at the court of Valusia, with the barbarian King engaged in a sparring match with his close friend Brule, the Pict. After Kull wins the fight, he returns to his throne to think about his recent adventure, where he obtained a powerful gem, the Eye of stone Serpent Idol, which grants it's holder invulnerability, and how the other Eye was missing. His revelrie is disturbed by the arrival of a guest at his court, Thulsa Doom.

That night, Kull's consort Shiva, seduces and then murders the sentry outside the King's bedchamber, then sneaks in to steal the Eye. When Kull discovers this, she transforms into a harpie and tries to escape! But Kull is too crafty for her, and grabs ahold of her, grabbing the gem and escaping in time to find Doom, his true skeletal face revealed! Recovering his wits, Kull sets out to give the Eye to his trusted friend, the King of the Picts, Ka-Nu. But he is assaulted by Thulsa's illusions again and again, until finally Kull hands the Eye over to the sorcerer, who has taken the form of Ka-Nu! Thulsa, possessing both Eyes, is now powerful beyond all belief. Needless to say, our hero wakes up the next morning, chained in his own court, and Thulsa Doom plans to achieve ultimate power by combining the two Eyes. But has ole Skull-head bitten off more than he can chew? And can Kull save Valusia from the wrath of the ancient sorcerer?
The True Face of Thulsa Doom
The script is Roy Thomas all the way, filled with his usual Hyborean Age flourishes. It still reads well enough, but it's a little over the top taken in the modern context. I can't hold it at too much fault, though, since I am a big proponent of a genre having a distinctive voice, and that certainly is the case here. Speaking of distinctive, the artwork by Marie and John Severin looks like something of a mix between Barry Windsor-Smith and Joe Kubert, and it looks absolutely fantastic. I mean, the sinewy, muscled look of Kull is masculine without being outrageous, and the bizarre illusions cast by Thulsa Doom -- heck, even Doom himself -- are of the best type of fantasy illustration for the medium.

Thomas does a good job of differentiating Kull from the more well-known and popular Conan, making sure to include scenes of the barbarian king brooding over his fate and his station. There's plenty of action to go along with the thoughtful stuff, and the story has a definite beginning, middle, and end -- always a plus. These sword-and-sorcery comics are not for everyone, but if you enjoy a good hack-n'-slash adventure from time to time, you should take a break from Conan and check out a Kull now and again.

(Thanks to the awesome Appendix to the Marvel Universe for the picture of Thulsa Doom!)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Looks Good?

This Monday was President's Day here in the United States. Which means that the post office and banks were closed, and your comics may or may not be delayed, so be sure to call your Friendly Neighborhood comics retailer and find out.

(While I am at it, let me say that President's Day gets no respect, and that bugs me.)

Batman And The Outsiders #4 -- We got Geo-Force back last issue, and this one promises Green Arrow. Green Arrow? Green Arrow.

Flash #237 -- I started reading Showcase Presents: The Flash last week, and thus, I really hope this comic is good.

Avengers Classic #9 -- Featuring the first appearance of Wonder Man! Wooo!

Iron Man #26 -- We got an announcement just recently about the second ongoing Shellhead title, but this one is pretty rockin' in and of itself.

Iron Man: The Many Armors of Iron Man TPB -- I probably won't pick this up, since I own all but one issue contained in it, but man, I am glad Marvel is re-releasing this impossible to find collections.

Also, there was a listing at one point for an "TARGET IRON MAN HEART OF STEEL," which is now nowhere to be found. I figured it was a reprint of the first digest of Marvel Adventures: Iron Man, but I have not been able to find any information on it. I guess I could always go to Target and see if I can find anything!

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Not Blog Ex? -- Excalibur #58

(Confused? Check out the inspiration for these posts at G. Kendall's awesome Not Blog X, and check out the previous NBE posts here.)

Excalibur #58
Troll Call

Credits: Alan Davis (plot); Scott Lobdell (script) (Script), Joe Madureira (Pencils), Joe Rubinstein (p. 1-19); Hector Collazo (p. 20-22) (Inks), Kevin Tinsley (Colors), Ken Lopez (Letters).

While Cerise and Feron try to reverse the transmutation of Captain Britain and Meggan, the other members of Excalibur and the X-Men aren't as dead as they looked last time, instead being held captive by the Troll Associates. Nightcrawler seemingly betrays his friends and sides with the rebelous Fairie Folk, who want to kill the human race and take control of the planet. It's a ruse, of course, and it pays off once Nightcrawler fetches Feron to break the magical chains holding the two teams, and battling the Trolls. With some help from Tom Jones , the mutant who caused this problem in the first place, the teams are able to take it to their captors. In the end, Tom and his mother are freed, the Trolls are defeated, and the remaining Fairie Folk are transported to the Crazy Gang's Wonderland to live in peace (revealing the narrator of the story to be the Jester).

I Love The 90s
Jubilee says she couldn't have more fun if she was watching "90210."

A nice conclusion to the previous issue, even if it does cheat a little bit with the explosive cliffhanger, with Jester simply explaining that superheroes -- mutants in particular -- are notorious difficult to kill. Nightcrawler's turn is pretty blatantly a ruse, to the point where Kitty and Cyclops discuss the fact that he has to up to something. The "betrayl" leads to some funny moments, including Nightcrawler teleporting Feron in front of some bewildered Trolls, who assume that the mystic "has slain the elf," and then Nightcrawler and Cerise's reconciliation, where the Shi'ar once more partakes of her favorite Earth custom, the "lip massage."

Madureira's pencils are slightly better this time out, although there is one panel of Gambit "raging" which is so bad, I'd almost think it was intentional. The action flows nicely and never gets too confusing. Still not my cup of tea, and a huge change of pace from the usual smooth Davis art, but acceptable enough, especially considering the use of the X-Men. In the end, a fun little two-parter, hampered most by the excessive use of continuity footnotes (I, for one, like footnotes, but this is a bit ridiculous) and the unusual-for-the-title-but-not-for-the-era artwork. A novice Excalibur fan could read these two and not be too lost, but might wonder what the heck all the footnotes are for.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What I Read This Week

Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin #5 -- Tony Stark, that cool exec with... ah, you know, marches right up to the Mandarin's castle and confronts the would-be Khan of the entire world. Of course, he has his special atache case in tow, and after escaping the Mandarin's wrath, the stage is set for the epic showdown of East vs West, Magic vs Technology, and Tyranny vs Freedom! Canete's depiction of the classic red-and-golds is great, and his Mandarin is vile and vicious and all those things you want the Mandarin to be. Combined with Casey's faithful but still modernist take on the classic Iron Man-Mandarin fight from 40 years ago, and you have one really nice piece of superhero fiction. I have been really enjoying this series and the finale promises to be one but knock-down, drag-out.

Superman #673 -- The saga of the new Insect Queen reaches it's finale here, with Superman desperately trying to break free from the Queen's psychic grip long enough to stop her from seeding Earth as her new hive planet. Meanwhile, just what is going on with young Chris Kent and the bizarre engery build-ups he is experiencing? I still maintain that Busiek is a great choice for this title, and the care and craft that was put into such a "small" story arc is a good example of why. Busiek juggles a few concurrent plots and then resolves them all satisfactorily, without stepping on Geoff Johns' or anyone else's toes in the process. I am very disappointed that he is leaving to do Trinity, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. I really liked the mass and fluidity that Pete Vale's artwork brings to the table as well.

Tiny Titans #1 -- SOLD OUT! Can you believe it? I had to put in a reorder, because evidently Borderlands had sold out in less than 45 minutes. Yikes!

The Pick of the Pile is Enter The Mandarin, unsurprisingly. My Iron Fan colors are flying high right now, and there's no sign of any slowdown in the foreseeable future.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Check out some new Iron Man movie pictures. Looking sweet!

Sims ably points out the perils of falling for your cousin.

Bully takes us on a trip to the Circus! *shudder*

Adama sez: "That is ACE!"

This is probably the most messed up Justice League story I have seen. Hence, I must read it.

Rick wants to know: What's your rank?

rob! brings it hardcore with an interview with J.M. DeMatteis.

Damian shows us Hawkman Meets Hembeck! Part 2.

And, on a sad note, it saddens me to note that Steve Gerber, creator of Howard the Duck and all around comics genius, passed away this week after a long bout with fibrosis of the lungs. My condolences go out to his family, and the comics world has lost one of it's champions.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fair Trade: The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story

The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story
For whatever reason, ever since I decided to do a Google search one day last year for "Comic Book Blog," and had my eyes opened to the inane "blogosphere" which seemingly popped up all around me without my notice, it has come to my attention that I, evidently, like a lot of comics which suck. And, similarly, that I dislike some of the best comics being published today. I don't know quite why that is, but it is. But that's okay. I don't mind too much, really, because I read what I like and don't read what I don't like.

Take this title, The Immortal Iron Fist, for instance. Now I never really liked Iron Fist as a character all that much until I started collecting Power Man And Iron Fist. From there, the guy started to grow on me, with his naive worldview and the nice contrast between him and Luke. So I was happy to see him popping up a bit more in the last few years, and when Marvel announced a new ongoing series starring "The Living Weapon," I figured I would try it out. And, uh, needless to say I was underwhelmed by the whole thing.

For one thing, the fun, chop-socky hero I was familiar with was gone, replaced with a brooding, moody loner who has all the personality of a mid-boss in a versus-fighting game. The art was flat and lifeless, to the point that even a pitched rooftop battle with a HYDRA battalion -- which should have been a kinetic setpiece -- is an inanimate, cold mural. And the whole affair seemed to be informed more by modern, ultra-violent "serious" kung fu films mixed liberally with smart-mouth dialogue and "attitude" than the Shaw Brothers stuff. I ended up dropping the title after the second draggy issue, and didn't look back. That is, until I found the trade paperback on sale one day at Barnes & Nobles, and thought to myself, 'Hey, you know, everyone else online really raves about this title, maybe it's better in the trade.' So I bought it, hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

I wasn't.

Now, I know what the roar echoing throughout the halls of the Bunker is right now (that is, if I had any readers): You're just pining for nostalgia, you're too close-minded to appreciate what Brubaker and Fraction are doing, you just want everything to stay the way it was when you were a kid. And in most cases I won't deny those accusations, because, honestly, yeah, I like older comics more than the majority of new stuff these days. But in this case, I don't think that's a fair assessment. The are some elements of this book that are good. Brubaker and Fraction seem to have a good handle on what they are doing, and I actually really liked the world-building stuff from the end of the volume. And the costume designs for Danny and the other historical characters that Aja put together are very cool. But if I had to try to put my finger on the reason why I don't like this series, I think it would have to be that I don't like Daredevil.

See, this isn't a series about Iron Fist. It's a series about Iron Fist acting like Daredevil, sneaking around on rooftops at night and getting the crap beat out of him and having his personal life be a mess and having daddy issues. Iron fist isn't Daredevil, despite what went down in Civil War. And again, my idea of what Iron Fist "is" is formed based on what kind of Iron Fist stories I like to read. If you took this series, and photostatted Shang Chi, Master of Kung-Fu into it's pages (maybe replacing Luke Cage with Bob Diamond?), I'd be right there in line ranting about it. But to have Iron Fist behaving this way just doesn't click right in my mind.

I really wanted to like this title, because I think that Iron Fist is a cool character who deserves to have a little bit of attention. So, in that sense I am glad the series is proving to be a decent seller and have a good deal of fans. But, unfortunately, I cannot number myself amongst them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Looks Good?

Honestly, after all the money I have spent on comics the last few weeks, I really shouldn't, but yet, here I am buying up some new comics nonetheless. It's like a weekly habit, or something.

Superman #673 -- The Insect Queen story wraps up, just as I have learned that Kurt Busiek is leaving the title. Oh well.

Showcase Presents: Enemy Ace V.1 -- Man, these phonebooks are really starting to pile up!

Tiny Titans #1 -- This is too cute to pass up. I mean. Seriously.

Wonder Woman #17 -- I can't afford this title any more, which stinks, because it really, really kicks it. Hard.

Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin #5 -- It's a good time to be an Iron Fan, what with the main book tearing it up, the movie on the horizon, the second ongoing just announced, and awesome minis like this one out there.

Spooks #1 -- This series looks like part GI Joe and part Wetworks, leabing more towards the former than the latter. IE, Sounds pretty cool.

So what looks good to YOU?

Unbridled Capitalism II: The Wrath of CON!

You know the old saying that violence only begets more violence? Well, evidently, buying comic books only begins buying more comic books. Admittedly, this result is substantially less gory, unless one considers their bank account. Anyway, as detailed over in his blog, Adama and I hit Atlanta Comic Expo this past Saturday, with me making that long, lonely nerd-trek down I-85, desperately hoping that I could find the local John Boy and Billy Big Show affiliate and resisting the temptation to stop for some biscuits at Hardee's. And I do like biscuits.

Anyway, the show itself was good-sized, easily the biggest show I have been to since the last time I went to the Big Apple Comic Con at the Paramount Theater (which was held on the same day as the Gay Pride Parade, and is a whole story in itself). The dealer room was good-sized, with your various types of dealers you typically see at these shows. One of my favorite comic book stores, Heroes & Dragons from Columbia, SC, was there in force (more in a bit), and Adama's regular shop, Titan Comics and Games, serving the Atlanta area, were there as well. Lots of very friendly folks from all over the Southeast were in town to get down to business: comics!

Robocop: You'd think a licensed book from the 90s would be easier to find, but no, you'd be wrong. In any event, I got the two #1's which had been eluding me, for 50 cents apiece -- both the regular #1 from the ongoing, as well as #1 of the Marvel adaption of Robocop 2.

(Batman And) The Outsiders: In a lot of ways, I am very, very predictable. This is one of them. My collection of what is rapidly becoming my favorite DC superteam got an injection of issues, as I picked up the Batman And The Outsiders Annual #2, the final six issues of Adventures of the Outsiders (#33-38, featuring Alan Davis on art!), and then #1 and #2 of the Baxter-paper series. You know, for DragonCon, I think I might make a Geo-Force costume.

Oh, you think I'm kidding?

Steel: The Indestructible Man: Victory! The good folks at Titan had the whole run, and dirt cheap to boot, so I snatched up the last two remaining issues of Hank Heywood's solo title which I needed! (Which reminds me that I need to email Frank.) Amazingly enough, this has no become the only ongoing series published before 1990 which I have a full run of. What does that tell you about 1) my buying habits and 2) my collecting habits? Yeesh! I couldn't find a cheap copy of All-Star Squadron #8 or #9, featuring essentially what would have been Steel #6, but now they are on the hunting list.

Weird War Tales: Now this is just strange. Crazy Ed, whom Adama was all-too-eager to pay big bucks to for some bee-yoo-tee-ful Green Lantern/Green Arrow mags, was a little too pricey for me. I'm not big into the high-dollar collectible books, partially because a lot of the titles I like just don't fetch the kind of prices and demand one usually sees from this sort of dealer. So while Adama and Ed were bargaining, I was flipping through his boxes of War comics and came across Weird War Tales #61, a very odd little gem featuring science fiction war stories as a change of pace, and possessing one really, really sweet cover. At $7.95, it was a little higher than I wanted to pay, but I really dug the cover and I figured I could negotiate. So I get up to him, and Ed has just finished working out some big-dollar deal, and I hand him my one comic. He stares at me for a second, then says "That's it? That's all you want? Just one skeleton is all you want?" I just shrugged, and he casually hands it back to me and says "Six bucks." I hand him the cash, and he's just flabbergasted, "Who only brings six bucks to a Con?!" and so forth. At the time I was kinda annoyed, but now, I'm just laughing. I don't think I'll ever forget that -- and now, when I see him at HeroesCon or DragonCon, I'm going to see if he remembers me.

Iron Man: Now, you may recall that at Borderlands, I only found a measly two issues of my favorite comic. 2 issues! Surely I'd have better luck this time out? Oh yeah. Thanks to the good folks at Heroes and Dragons, and their insane number of longboxes, I've suddenly made a huge dent into my missing issues. Once I made the decision to do it -- and honestly, and $1.50 a pop, that's about the best price I am going to find for books of this age in this nice of shape -- I ended up with thirty-two comics, entailing 51-54, 58-59, 62-65, 68, 70-72, 75, 78, 82-83, 87, 89, 90-91, 93-94, 96-97, 99, 101, 104, 108-109, and 112. Whew! Good thing I brought my backpack. Titan got in on the fun as well, with a trio of modern books I needed, adding 308, 309, and 313. I now possess a literal mountain of Shellhead comics to read, you know, in addition to everything else I have bought this month. Eeeep!

Stuff left behind: Quite a bit, actually, as my Shellhead spend-a-thon left me mostly tapped for funds. Titan had a great selection of DC War titles, including lengthy runs of both Sgt. Rock and Unknown Soldier, along with a few Weird War Tales, which I knew I couldn't afford. Crazy Ed had the entire run of Marvel's Kull The Conqueror/Kull The Destroyer, as well as the Kull And The Barbarians magazine, as well as a sorely tempting pack of the complete Shadow War of Hawkman, which I forced myself not to buy lest I somehow start collecting Hawkman. And Heroes and Dragons still have a bunch of Iron Man that I need, but the ones I left were of a higher price point -- I figured, this time, go for quantity and buy cheaper books. Still, while it sucks not being able to afford these titles, I was more than happy with the ones I did buy.

All told a great con and a lot of fun spending time with Adama and his two super-cute cats, Ollie and Dinah (*groan*). I'm also pleased to report that The Film Crew does an admirable job of emulating the Sci-Fi era of MST3K, and that the line of the weekend (in my mind), belongs to TV's Frank:

"And then, suddenly, it starts to get weird."

Truer words, my friends, have never been spoken.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What I Read This Week

Justice Society of America #12 -- I'm not sure why exactly Geoff Johns feels the need to introduce EVEN MORE characters into this title, but a new trio of heroes make their debut this time out anyway, while Wildcat puts Judomaster through her paces and Jakeem Thunder makes his return. It's enjoyable to see the interactions between heroes new and old, but considering that this is part of the ongoing "Thy Kingdom Come" storyline, there's precious little having actually to do with that plot. There's an interesting development of a sort of "Boys' Club" in the JSA this issue as well, with Wildcat, Wildcat Jr, Citizen Steel, Starman, and Damage all hanging around being dudes. Also of note is not one, but two old school Outsiders references, including the wholesale slaughter of one of Barr's villain teams (the New Olympians).

Annihilation Conquest #4 -- While reading this issue, I started thinking about the major differences between this title and its predecessor from last year. And the biggest change is of course the fact that in Annihilation, it was all-out war, where here in Conquest, it's about resistance. What that means is that this entire series seems a little smaller in scope, because we don't have vast cosmic armadas duking it out, but instead focus on smaller conflicts and groups. If nothing else, it helps to make this a wholly different experience from the first story, while still being a recognizeable part of the same over-reaching corner of the universe. Things look bleaker and bleaker by the minute for our heroes, but it looks like Ronan has the tools to break the occupation -- but what about the cost? Really fun science-fictiony stuff.

Futurama Comics #35 -- Go Go Go New Justice Team! The new (old) adventures of Captain Yesterday, Clobberella, and (the greatest one of them all!) Super King take center stage here as our intrepid heroes battle the fiendish Son Of The Human Sun! Great, goofy fun with sight gags a-plenty as lots of Silver Age tropes are sent up in riotous fashion. Also, be sure not to miss the Professor's venomous hatred of the 1980's musical scene. Considering that this title is published bi-monthly, I don't think you have much of an excuse not to buy it, really.

Transformers: Beast Wars Sourcebook #4 -- Foreword: My review of this title shall consist of only two words. As such, some opening remarks. Namely, if you enjoy sourcebooks and Beast Wars Transformers, you should have already bought this series. This issue contains a few more major characters, including Tigatron and Waspinator, and otherwise continues with the same quality as the previous installments. Thank you.


The Phantom #21 -- After the breather last issue with the flashback story, we're back in the present-day for the Ghost-Who-Walks, and kicking off a big new storyline to boot. When groups of armed soldiers begin using a small Bangalan village as a battleground, the Phantom puts a swift end to it. But in the process he catches wind that one of his past enemies is making a comeback, and the wife of recently defeated dictator, child-kidnapper, and all-around piece of crap Him has begun to make waves as well. And then everything comes off the tracks, and the fight turns personal. Bullock's script and Szilagyi's pencils are in sync, and this comic really looks great (especially on the newly glossy paper). And the story itself builds up vrey nicely -- slowly at first, but then taking a harsh and nasty twist which redefines the Phantom (at least in the context of this series) in a way which both intrigues me and angers me. Hopefully it will be played for what it is and not just used as a plot device. But given the history interent to the title, I have a lot of hopes that it's not going to go the typical route. In any event, this series rarely disappoints, and it doesn't here.

The Pick Of The Pile this week goes to Futurama Comics, which despite being light and silly, was super-enjoyable (pun intended). All of my purchases were enjoyable, and quality comics, but after the grim stuff going on in most of them, Futurama was a really nice change of pace.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

G. Kendall shows us the horror of when the X-Men invaded Pizza Hut.

HEMBECK! meets Hawkman?

rob! shows off Michael Netzer's Triple Threat Sketch. If only, my friends. If only.

I am so glad that the Falcon changed his costume.

How do you like your Martian Manhunter? Do you like him as a detective, or being all mysterious, or having adventure? Don't worry, J'Onn knows how to roll.

I never knew that Klingons liked fast food.

The Atom vs Ant-Man? Right here, right now!

And you guys all saw the new Iron Man spot during the Super Bowl, right?

And now, I am heading down to Adama's place for the Atlanta Comic Expo. Ciao!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- Iron Man #195

Split personality?  IRON MAN #195
You ever notice that you tend to find certain back issues with more frequency than others? Now, I know what you are saying. "Of course, Luke. There's a massive pile of old X-Force and Brigade and Secret Weapons comics at my shop!" But that's not what I am getting at here. No, what I mean is, have you ever noticed that certian particular issues show up with more frequency than others? It's an odd phenomenon, and one which I have seen multiple times with this particular issue, Iron Man #195.

For whatever reason, this cover, with it's eye-catching split-face graphic dominating, seems to pop up a lot when I go back issue hunting. It was one of the first back issues of Iron Man I ever got from a discount bin years ago, and yet I keep on seeing it. I don't really see any of the issues around it all that often, only this one. What could the reason be? Maybe this issue had a slightly higher print run? More non-regular readers bought it due to the cover? Shaman being hugely popular at one point and then his fandom crashed? I don't know the answer. It's one of those great unexplainable head-scratchers of American comics, like how Jack Kirby designed costumes for two different guys named "The Sandman" at two different companies.

Anyway, onto the actual comic, brought to you by Denny O'Neil on words and Luke McDonnell on pencils. As implied by the cover, this is during the period when Jim Rhodes was wearing the red-and-golds, and he is going through a bit of a personal crisis. For months now, Rhodey has been having intense, debilitating headaches every time he puts on the Iron Man armor. Having exhausted his medical options, he heads north of the border to seek out Shaman, thinking a mystic might be able to help him. Shaman acts as Rhodey's guide of sorts on a journey into the metaphysical, which brings our hero into some dangerous territory inside his own psyche. Meanwhile, recovering alcoholic Tony Stark is inspired by his old Hawkeye to work on a new armor, as a sort of therapy technique.

This era of Iron Man was blessed by having not one, but two really strong creative teams working on the title. Starting from when "Bob & Dave" (Layton and Micheline) took over, through O'Neil's tenure, then back to Bob afterwards, it was one of Marvel's superior titles in the late 70s and early 80s, before the rise of the mutant franchise and the decline of the "heroes" books. Denny O'Neil's run is characterized by Tony Stark's collosal collapse off the wagon, and the ascension of long time second banana Jim Rhodes into the armor. And unlike a lot of other identity swaps, it works out well and holds up to re-reading. (It helps that Stark, in his alcoholic state, remained a supporting focus of the title, and that Rhodey himself was so well built and characterized since his introduction.)

Taken on it's own, this issue is a satisfying Marvel comic, with lots of self-doubt and heroic flaws on display. The main story of Rhodey's "vision quest" (of sorts) is filled with trippy visuals of the kind one doesn't normally find in this feature. In an oblique way, this issue reminds me of one of a few other favorite issues of Iron Man which deal with similar themes: #232, the epilogue of "Stark Wars/Armor Wars," and #300, where Tony overcomes his paralysis (which takes up about half of the oversized length). All three deal with the nature of the men wearing the armor and just what the armor is protecting them from, a central theme in the Shellhead mythos going back to the Tales of Suspense days. The issue does lack the main focus of most Iron Man comics -- that is, technology and armored action -- but you don't mind too much as you are reading since it allows the characters to shine through instead.

So, the next time you are perusing a discount bin and you happen to see this title (and trust me, at some point, you will!), pick it up and try it out. Even if you are not an Iron Fan, I'm willing to bet you might find something worthwhile inside.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What Looks Good?

Like clockwork, every week, thanks to hardworking comic book shop retailers across the nation, new comic books appear on shelves and in pull-boxes every week -- just like magic! Do your part, and keep chasing that rainbow!

Justice Society of America #12 -- Wherein I hope to finally see the confrontation we have all been waiting for -- Citizen Steel and Kingdom Come Superman! Also: The new Judomaster makes me squeal like a tween girl going to see Hannah Montana in concert.

Annihilation Conquest #4 -- Being as this is about the only Marvel "event" I am reading, and seeing as it has rocked hard so far, this selection should be obvious.

Essential Avengers v.6 -- Between this and Showcase Presents: Aquaman v.2, I'm starting to get really backed up with these things!

Halloween: Nightdance #1 -- You guys know I am a big horror fan. And Halloween? Yeah, one of the best American horror film ever made, and the impetus for the birth of "modern" horror. So, this series will have some big shoes to fill.

The Phantom #21 -- The solicitation promises that this is the start of the biggest story Moonstone has ever published about the Ghost-Who-Walks. Considering how awesome this title is, that's really saying something.

Transformers: Beast Wars Sourcebook #4 -- Must get Sourcebook need Sky Shadow profile Sky shadow Sky Shadow SKY SHADOW!

So what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Unbridled Capitalism

Saturday was the continuation of a great tradition here in the Upstate of South Carolina -- the gathering of nerds outside of Greenville's favorite comic and gaming shop, Borderlands, braving surprisingly chilly temperatures in order to get some great deals in the aptly named Big Annual Sale. (The flyer for the sale this year actually said "How long can we keep doing this? Apparently forever!") Now, when I was in college, I came to the B.A.S. primarily for gaming models and equipment. But at this point, I own pretty much all I need on that front, and despite the non-stop lure of that Heroclix Legion of Super Heroes boxed set, I managed to once more avoid all of the higher-prices pitfalls of pewter and plastic. No, once more, this year I was there for the comics. Namely, the giant rows of 3/$1 longboxes, and the "Half-Off or $5, whatever's cheaper" table of trade paperbacks and graphic novels.

Aww yeah.

Iron Man: For whatever reason, Borderlands has never had a huge amount of Shellhead back issue stock, and this time was no different. I did manage to find a pair of pre-Bob & Dave issues, though, from the discount bins. Issues 111 and 115 are now in the collection, and though 111 was a bit ratty, at 33 cents I can afford to replace it later!

Magnus, Robot Fighter: Last year's B.A.S. started my Magnus collection, and this year added a few new additions to it as well. Issues 38, 43, and 57 were the only new ones I managed to find, but overall there was a distinctly shorter supply of Valiants this year than last -- perhaps as part of a trend for what seems to be the seemingly inevitable return of Valiant? One can speculate on that, I suppose. In any event, I enjoy getting Valiants in this form, since they seem to hold up very well this many years after the fact. Unlike a lot of Image books -- I was sorely tempted by the large runs of Wetworks available, but I just wasn't sure if plopping down cash (even at 3/$1) on a mid-90s Image title was the best way to go (though I did pick up the Ashcan just for fun).

ShadowHawk: Which makes this all the more bizarre. But loyal readers know that I dig me some ShadowHawk and Jim Valentino. I had all of Valentino's 'Hawk work from when it was first released, but ended up having to unload it along with a lot of other stuff a few years back when I was moving. I always regretted dumping the title and so have been reconstructing it from back-issue and bargain bins as of late. So I hit the mother lode on saturday, as I not only managed to find all of the issues I was seeking really cheap (I: 1-3, II: 2, and III: 1-4), but also the Special, which I bought (despite not being written or drawn by Valentino) entirely for the Silver Age ShadowHawk backup. I also found the "ongoing" series, which followed after the third miniseries, but like I said -- I like ShadowHawk AND Valentino, so I left them without a second thought.

(Batman And) The Outsiders: My newest DC obsession doesn't seem to be well-represented in back issue bins in South Carolina, but I found a few issues. Issues 21 and 29 of the first series (which will become redundant for me if DC ever releases a second Showcase for the title), and then #3 of the second, Baxter-paper series (appropriate, as I have the second part of the story already) were all I could find of the title in all it's incarnations, but hey! Barr and Aparo! That's all I need! (And yes: The Baxter paper still looks gorgeous.)

The Bronze Age of Madness: My friend Adama spotted a "vein" of Bronze Age genre titles, and knowing my interest in such things, alerted me to them. Thanks Adama! Anyways, I was very pleased to find a nice offering of DC books from the 70s, including an issue apiece of The Losers, Unknown Soldier, and The Witching Hour, along with a few issues of Ghosts. I also managed to locate one random Charlton horror comic, an issue of Haunted. Between these finds, and my recent acquisitions of some old Weird War Tales, and my brother's Christmas gift of a ton of Vault of Horror reprints, expect to be reading about some 4 Color Frights in this very space!

And, as pure gravy, I found the third issue of Marvel's Kull The Conqueror series. How's that for appropriate?

Finally, in the Fair Trade Department, I had to restrict myself to only two purchases from the aforementioned "Half-Off or $5" table, lest I blow my budget. First was Harvey Pekar's American Splendor: Another Day, which was the 4 issue stint that Pekar did for Vertigo a while back. I'm a sucker for his work ever since my friend Jon bought me that AS collection a few years back. The other was the complete collection of Murder Me Dead by David Lapham. I am more familiar with his work for Harbinger and Terror, Inc. than I am for Stray Bullets, but it looked like a meaty mystery and the art was very appealing, and for $5 how could I resist?

So all in all a good haul and a good time had by all. I may not have made out like Adama did, what with the literal pile of D&D books at a buck apiece (which then proceeded to play the role of a tripping hazard in my living room for the rest of the weekend), much to the dismay of those shoppers who had failed to notice this deal. I probably shouldn't spend any major cash on comics for a while.

... Of course, Atlanta Comic Expo is this coming weekend. Oh boy.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What I Read This Week

Trials of Shazam #11 -- With two Trials remaining, Freddie Freeman must race against the clock to reach the god Mercury before his rival Sabina finds him and takes his power for her own. A bit of a let down after a pretty snazzy issue with #10. The art remains nice, but the story runs into a bit of a pacing problem as the Mercury issue is resolved too quickly in order to set up the final showdown with Zeus. Disappointing for the penultimate issue of a maxiseries.

Captain America: The Chosen #6 -- Morrell and Breitweiser's tale of heroism in the face of steep odds and unyielding opposition closes here, in a tale that starts out quiet, then turns with a bang, and ends with a certain uplifting feeling. I'm not a huge Captain America fan, but this miniseries has really made me take another look at the character and what he represents. From start to finish Morrell has impressed me with his ability to tell a story with both his words and the action, and Breitweiser's art is harsh and horrific and beautiful all at once. Cap may be in something of a personal rennaisance under the pen of Ed Brubaker, but fans and non-fans should definitely check out this series in trade form if you missed it as singles.

Project Superpowers #0 -- After being delayed a few weeks with a bit of a dispute over the title (annoyingly), the Golden Age revival masterminded by Alex Ross and implemented by Jim Krueger and Stephen Sadowski bows, and oh boy, was it worth the wait. Starting in the present day and then flashing back to World War II, the costumed adventurers of yesteryear -- including the Fighting Yank, Black Terror, the Death-Defying 'Devil, Green Lama, The Flame, and others -- defend America and the world from the Nazi threat. But what is the cause of this Great Evil that has been unleashed upon the world, and what does it have to do with these heroes who fight against it? Krueger is game, and have crafted an exciting, intriguing look at the nature of heroism and hope in the face of the most unspeakable evil. It ties into a lot of Ross's previous work, thematically, and I am left truly wondering where things go from here. And Sadowski's pencils bring these mostly-forgotten heroes to life, with all their bright colors and vivid period costumes. For a buck, you really can't go wrong -- definitely check this one out.

Iron Man #25 -- This Double-Sized issue continues the clandestine Iron Man vs. Mandarin arc, as Tony begins to put the pieces together about what Mandy is up to, and what Maya Hansen has to do with it. The feature is normal length, and is (as usual) excellent. The Knaufs have "gotten" Tony since their shot back in issue #7, and have continued to portray Iron Man as a complex character with both admirable ideals and humanistic flaws. De La Torre's pencils have grown on me as his stint has gone on -- normally I perfer a cleaner style for Iron Man (given to my entusiasm for Bob Layton, no doubt), but his gritty, expressionistic pages fit the storyline and the characters very nicely. There's a plethora of bonus material here which should keep Iron Fans happy -- a six page preview of the upcoming John Favreau/Adi Granov Shellhead mini Viva Las Vegas, a reflection on some past armors by Layton, a little preview of the movie, and a reprint of a short, 3 page retelling of Shellhead's origin, from Iron Man #1, by Archie Goodwin and Gene Colan. All in all, a really solid main story paired with some really nice extras makes for a great pickup for anyone who likes to have Iron in their diet.

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash #4 -- Act 2 comes to a close, and you know what that means: yup, our heroes are in it, and deep.Freddy possesses the Necronomicon, and Jason... well, let's just say that Jason is not so much of a dope anymore. And stuck in the middle is Ash , who's up against a bit more than your average Deadite. The art is better this time out, although Jason Craig is still only doing the layouts, but it's not nearly as weird as last time. Plenty of great setpieces this time out, including a pair of Evil Dead/Army of Darkness homages sure to bring a smile to the face of any Raimi fan. Fun, gory horror romp which accurately captures the "party film" atmosphere of the film it is sequelizing.

The Pick of the Pile is a two horse race this week. On the one hand, Iron Man continues to be a fantastic read, easily the most under-rated superhero title on the market. On the other hand, Project Superpowers exploded out of the gate and looks to have a ton of upside. In the end, I have to go with Superpowers. It's a great introduction to this new heroic world, the art is great, and it's only a buck. You can't beat that.

So what did YOU read this week?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

I know, I know, you haven't even looked at the last set of links yet. So sue me!

(Note: Please do not actually sue me.)

Bully makes me hungry for Pac-Man.

Rick has a sit-down with a cetain monarch.

G Kendall finishes up looking at "Fatal Attractions" with the only issue of the crossover I own.

The Return of Ambush Bug!

Also be sure to check out the creators' commentary for the fourth issue of Freddy vs Jason vs Ash.

And honestly, I really don't think I am not doing nearly enough to save the Martian Manhunter, unlike rob, Damian, and Frank are. Cmon DC! Show J'Onn some love! Is it too much to hope that these rumors are just misdirection? Yeah, I thought so too.