The Box: Tomb Raider Journeys #3, Flash #88 & Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1

My most recent batch of random comics turned out to be surprisingly good, which was a nice treat. First up, I perused Tomb Raider Journeys Starring Lara Croft #3 from Top Cow. The book came out in 2002, was written by Fiona Kai Avery, and drawn by Drew Johnson and for a video game tie-in comic, it was a lot of fun. I don’t have a lot of experience with the Tomb Raider franchise, but I did play a few of the games for the original Playstation and enjoyed them as much as those blocky, awkward games can be enjoyed.

But the basic concept of a sexy, British lady version of Indiana Jones running around, finding treasure and being awesome is a wonderful (and broad enough) one that it actually makes perfect sense for the world of comics. This issue, which seems to be a one-off story (this is my first Tomb Raider comic, so I’m not sure about how Journeys fits in with whatever else was coming out at the time) where Lara takes a job that will allow a pair of archaeologists to prove whether a potential development site is the original location of Gomorrah or not.

The comic comes packed with some historical intrigue, a few fantasy elements (skeleton army!) and an interesting way of accomplishing her goal that isn’t super obvious, but best of all, it’s all told concisely in a single issue, something you don’t see much of these days. You need to know absolutely nothing about Croft aside from what’s right there in the title to enjoy this comic, but you also get the added bonus of Johnson’s somewhat angular artwork that reminded me of mosaics or stained glass at times. Are there other Tomb Raider comics or trades worth checking out?

Much like Web Of Spider-Man #81, which I read a few weeks back, Flash #88 (1994) written by Mark Waid and drawn by the amazing Mike Wieringo is an example not of a bad comic book story, but one I’ve read plenty of times in my comic reading career. In this case, the mostly carefree Wally West comes face to face (literally) with a woman who got injured while he was working to save other people. This snaps something in him and Flash spends much of the issue pushing himself way too hard to save as many people as possible. It’s the kind of issue where, while reading (and assuming you’ve experienced a story like this before) you get it after a few panels or pages, which makes flipping through the rest of them kind of boring.

But, they’re not THAT boring because damn if Wieringo wasn’t one of the best, most interesting and dynamic artists around. I haven’t read much of his run on Flash, just issues and trades here and there, but I think this is the first book I ever experienced his artwork on. He not only kills Wally (and all the emotions he goes through both in and out of the mask), but also puts the same amount of effort in the small army of normal folks found in this issue. Sure, I wish everyone in the book had cool powers or a fun costume so he could really show off, but you can really feel Wally’s sadness when he collapses in Linda’s arms at the end as well as the emotions flowing through the surrounding crowd.

As an added bonus, this book is jam packed with house ads for DC comics I was reading at the time and will make for a ton of fun Ad It Up posts!

Of the three books, the one I was least enthused about was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 from Valiant (1993). I have not had great luck with the few Valiant issues I’ve read over the years (including Archer & Armstrong and Solar Man of the Atom issues from The Box) and know nothing about this property, but I wound up really enjoying this comic written by David Michelinie and drawn by Bart Sears.

I should note, that I had very little idea what was going on. Even though this is a number one issue, it is steeped (some might say mired) in whatever had just happened before this, which I think was the big Unity crossover that Valiant did around this time. However, even with a pretty low level of comprehension (they try to explain what’s going on, but I think it was all just too big to absorb as a new reader) I kept reading and had a fun time with a book about a Native American with a sci-fi bow hunting talking dinosaurs.

The comic is frontloaded with the continuity stuff, so once you’re done with that you can enjoy the story of a warrior finding a place he feels at home in for a while before his past catches up with him. It’s a standard part of the hero’s journey, but it’s told well and looks awesome as drawn by Bart Sears. I’ve mentioned before that the Valiant books were colored in a way I’m not as familiar with where it looks like they were finished with colored pencils or possibly water colors. That is done the best I’ve seen in this comic. I’d be very interested in reading more Turok comics by this team, any suggestions?

The Box: Defenders #10, Amazing Spider-Man #351 & Archer And Armsstrong #17

For my birthday, my pal Jesse sent me a long box full of comics from a company called Cardsone that does all kinds of bulk sales. I highly recommend checking out their site and also perusing the catalog which has some amazingly weird stuff in it. The box was packed to the gills and I felt bad for the UPS guy who had to carry it all the way to my door, but got over that pretty quickly and dove right in. Flipping through the box, I quickly realized that the majority of the books in the box were doubles, triples and whathaveyou. That’s probably a good thing because I don’t think my wife would me okay with me storing yet another long box in the house.

Anyway, my first order of business was to alphabetize everything and then go through and pull out one each of the books which was about a quarter of the contents. There were a lot of CrossGen books as well as some Valiant and Comico and a few Marvel and DC comics. With everything in order, I put them in a stack in my table (it’s got a sliding top, so you can actually put things inside of it) and have been reaching in and pulling comics out at random. I will be reviewing them in threes here on the blog moving forward, so let’s have fun with it.

I actually grabbed The Defenders #10 (2001) by Kurt Busiek, Eric Stephenson and Erik Larsen first because I remember buying the first issue when it came out. Not sure why I didn’t continue reading, but in the many years between then and now I’ve come to greatly appreciate Busiek and Larsen as creators in their own right, so then working together should be rad, right?

Yeah, it pretty much is. I’ll admit to feeling a little lost, but that’s to be expected when reading the tenth issue in a series of comics, I think. But there are enough flashbacks to get you caught up. In addition to the rad art by Larsen who gets to draw not only the Defenders, but also M.O.D.O.K. and an army of supervillains that includes Venom, Rhino, Sandman and more. It’s a fantastic example of his powers and Busiek’s ability to work so well within the world of continuity-heavy comics. Both these guys are fantastic and do an excellent job in this book. It makes me want to go and get the rest of the issues so I can enjoy this one all the more.

Up next was The Amazing Spider-Man #351 (1991) written by David Micheline and drawn by Mark Bagley. If the blurb inside the issue is to be believe, this was Bagley’s first issue as the regular ASM penciler, which is pretty cool. Man, that guy was born to draw Spider-Man, wasn’t he? He’s also no slouch rendering Nova and the Tri-Sentinel who gust star in this particular issue.

I’ve gone on record as saying I’m not the world’s biggest Spidey fan. I loved his cartoon, some of the video games and the first movie, but I’ve never really been able to sink my teeth into the comics. I don’t know what it is, but I was able to jump in and enjoy this comic. I think that’s partially because it stars Nova, a character I’ve grown to appreciate both in my own reading of books like Annihilation and also just be being friends with Rich Rider’s number one fan Ben Morse. Plus, like I said, Bagley’s art is so good and accessible that it’s hard to feel lost. He makes everyone look and feel familiar, even with characters like the Tri-Sentinel who I had never seen before.

Apparently Spidey and this thing had beef in a previous issue, but Web Head had the power of Captain Universe to help him defeat the mechanical menace. He and Nova stumble upon this while trying to find out where some high tech weapons are coming from.

Overall, the issue’s pretty fun. You’ve got great banter between Spidey and Nova, some static between Mary Jane and Peter and a big fight with a big ol’ machine. Can’t go wrong with that.

I did not enjoy Archer & Armstrong #17 (1993) by Mike Baron and Mike Vosburg nearly as much as the other two issues, however. I actually know more people who used to work at Valiant than characters in their comics (many Valiant folks moved to Wizard when the former closed up shop). I have one issue of this book in my collection where a dude is hitting another dude in front of a slot machine I think (okay, I looked it up and oddly enough it’s the issue before this one, #16) but never actually read it.

The problem with this issue isn’t necessarily in the story or the art, which kind of looks like it was colored with colored pencils, but the fact that absolutely no attempt is made to explain who these characters are. They hint that Archer (or maybe Armstrong, who knows?) is some kind of ancient indestructible fighter guy…or something. I could look it up on Wiki and maybe some day I will, but I honestly don’t care that much. If you’re writing a book like Spider-Man or Batman where the character is out there in the consciousness, then you can get away without overtly explaining who your leads are, what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. When you’re only in your second year of publishing a pair of characters you just made up? Might be a good idea to throw in some kind of explanation page or even one of those text boxes in the front that explain the basic concept. You know, something like: “Sent from a dying world, an alien boy grew up on Earth to gain amazing powers under its yellow sun. Now he fights for truth, justice and the American way as Superman!” Something like that. Based solely on this one issue, I’m not surprised that the big V didn’t work out so well.

Trade Post: Umbrella Academy Dallas, Goon Fancy Pants Vol. 1 & Iron Man Doom Quest

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS (Dark Horse)
Written by Gerard Way, drawn by Gabriel Ba
Collects UA: Dallas 1-6
Okay, here’s the the thing. I didn’t actually read the Dallas trade, but the single issues. This is how we used to do Bookshelf back in the Wizard days. Being in the research department it fell on me to go through the massive, unorganized comic book library and dig up all the single issues from so many months back. It was terrible and dusty and hot up there, but when I wasn’t forced to dig for comics, I would do that anyway because it’s the most well stocked comic library I’ve ever seen. Anyway, I was a big fan of the first Umbrella Academy series Apocalypse Suite. Who would have thought that a rock star would write such a rad story? Anyway, I picked up the single issues as they came out, but waited to read them all at once and had a great time. Dallas isn’t an easy story to explain, but it picks up shortly after the previous story with family members going their separate ways. The main thrust of the story has to do with time travel and what happened to the diminutive #5 on his way back from the far future in the previous story. Like Apocalypse Suite, Dallas covers all kinds of territory from the aforementioned time travel to heavy-duty sci-fi killers to cartoon-headed assassins. It’s got a kind of Grant Morrison feel to it, without being as confusing. And man, Ba’s art is just sick. Way gives him all kinds of fun things to draw and I love seeing how they work together. This probably isn’t a very informative review, but if you liked the original, you’ll like Dallas and if you haven’t read either, go pick them up. Stat. Did the trade have any cool extras? I’ll get it on my shelf eventually.

THE GOON FANCY PANTS EDITION VOL. 1 (Dark Horse)
Written & drawn by Eric Powell
Collects Goon #1, 2 (Albatross), Goon #1, 3, 5, 9 (DH)
It might be hard to imagine nowadays, but even just a few years ago, Wizard magazine had the ability to help boost a book into more readers’ consciousnesses. The Goon was one of those books. It was really popular around the Wizard offices and ended up getting some pretty good coverage in the mag which helped boost the book’s sales. As a thank you for the coverage, Dark Horse and/or Powell sent the Wizard office a big box of these hardcover Fancy Pants books. I actually came in towards the end of most of this, but I benefited from it on one of my first days when a buddy handed me this volume. For some reason it took me almost four years to actually read it. I think one of the big reasons I didn’t get to it sooner is because the book reprints everything in chronological order and not as the issues came out. You can see above that the issues skip around a lot. I know some people like to read comics that way, but it puts me off going in. But, my reading experience wasn’t hindered once I actually started into this book (which Powell signed!).

As it turns out, this book is completely up my alley and awesome. The Goon killed a mobster who killed his carnie family. Now he’s got the mobster’s debt book and goes around acting like he’s working for the mobster and keeping the money for himself. He’s also assisted by his little buddy Frankie who used to be a wuss and, kind of like the kid from Son Of Rambow, now loves violence. The world is a kind of dirty, rundown version of what you might think of a larger small town back in the 40s, but with zombies. So, in addition to laying into mobsters, Goon also gets to slice, dice and punch his way through armies of zombies. I have no idea how much this book costs now, but it makes me want to get either the regular trades or the next Fancy Pants volume.

MARVEL PREMIERE CLASSIC VOL. 10 IRON MAN: DOOMQUEST (Marvel)
Written by David Michelinie & Bob Layton, drawn by Bob Layton & John Romita Jr.
Collects Iron Man Vol. 1 #149-150, 249-250
My love of Michelinie and Layton’s Iron Man is well documented in my Iron Mongering posts (find them all in the drop down to the right). As such, my buddy Ben got me this book for Christmas last year, which was super nice of him.Doomquest is definitely an interesting book, especially because the two two-issue stories have 100 issues between them. The basic idea is that the first two issues send Iron Man and Dr. Doom back into the times of Camelot where they have to deal with King Arthur and Morgana Le Fey and all that. The second two issues have them rocketing into the future where King Arthur has been reborn as a kid (as legend says will happen) along with a much hipper Merlin. This really is a wild little book. M&L nail Dr. Doom’s character. He’s just as arrogant and conniving as you would expect him to be, but in both stories he’s thrown out of his elements and has to make allegeiances he normally wouldn’t. Of all their comics I’ve read, I think this one might be the easiest to just jump right in and read because of the time travel. Aside from some stuff in the very first issue, you’re pretty much in these vastly different settings the whole time, so you’re learning things as the characters do. Well, for the most part. Iron Man 2020 kind of shows up in the future stuff. That part is kind of a combination of Camelot 3000 and any other Marvel story set in the future of the 616 where the legacies of the heroes live on in weird ways. I loved the book, but it also really makes me wish Marvel would start putting out more complete M&L runs in a Visionaries kind of series.