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.

The Box: Batman vs Predator II #4 & Defenders #119

For the full rundown of what The Box is all about, check this out. This week’s picks (I went with two because I had some spare time and felt like trying my luck again) are Batman vs. Predator II #4 and The Defenders #119. One thing I forgot to mention before is that, as you can clearly see in the picture, there are actually two boxes (“The Boxes” just doesn’t have the same kind of ring). Also the box that’s completely full of comics is full of Marvel, the less full one is mostly DC and Dark Horse with some incredibly random stuff thrown in (there’s even a copy of Spawn #1).

Alright, enough explaining of things. Let’s get into the comic reviews. First up is BVPII #4 from 1994 which was written by Doug Moench and drawn by Paul Gulacy. I’m 90% sure I haven’t read this series before. I have read–and own–the original and more Predator comics than I care to admit (or am able to remember), but I’m still thinking this one wasn’t on the list. I’m glad I snagged the last issue and not a random one in the middle (I think there’s a few more in the box, but I’m not sure). Anyway, you pretty much get the full story right here even though there’s nothing like a flashback to catch newbies up. Batman’s got a contract out on him while one Predator is attacking Gotham. Meanwhile, another Predator is there to stop the bad one. I’m not sure what makes him bad, as Predators all love to hunt humans. Unlike the first volume there’s some government dudes in weird costumes and Huntress is involved. It’s not a great comic, but the last bunch of pages were a lot of fun as the poo hits the fan and we get our final battle. Maybe I’ll check the trade out online.

And now we have The Defenders #119 by Steven Grant and Sal Buscema which has a cover date of May 1983. Having only ever read one Defenders comic (the first issue of Erik Larsen’s series), I was glad to find out that, even though the issue number was so high, this was actually a “never told story” that takes places between issues #68 and #69. That might not seem like much help, but, apparently at this time, the team still consisted of the main members I’m vaguely familiar with: Namor, Dr. Strange, Hulk, Hellcat, Valkyrie and Nighthawk (who apparently died right before this issue came out). The flashback shows us a tale of Yandroth taking mental control of most of the Defenders only to have them fight the ones who aren’t controlled in the end. When I first looked at the cover it was just a glance and I read the text “MARVEL SUPER-HEROES BATTLE SIDE BY SIDE AGAINST…EACH OTHER.” I thought “Awesome, big huge fight issue. Then I looked at it a little closer and saw that Namor, Clea and Dr. Strange were on the opposing side. That’s not really that interesting of a stand-off and unfortunately the issue mimicked those sentiments. I guess the real point of this story is that Nighthawk’s nurse Luann Bloom was actually a robot, spying on him for a shadowy organization yet to be revealed. All of which would make a lot more sense if I knew anything about the Defenders. Oh well, it was a fun enough issue to read and did make me curious about checking out other Defenders comics.