The Box: Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos #3, G.I. Joe Sigma 6 #1 & The Crossovers #4

This week’s trio of random comics were pretty interesting both in story and variety but also because I didn’t think any of them were stinkers, even though two of them are based on kid’s cartoons. First up we have Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos #3 (1987) from Marvel’s Star Comics, written by Jo Duffy and drawn by, ahem, STEVE DITKO (doing breakdowns) and Jon D’Agostino (finishes). I have fond memories of the cartoon and action figure line this comic was based on. In addition to being Karate Kommandos (which is inherently awesome), everyone on the team had a cool, unique power, weapon or skill set that made young me very curious.

The comic was pretty basic and surprisingly action-light, but it was still a well put together book. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to not worry when things that are not intended for me as the audience don’t interest me. I mean, this is a comic clearly intended for a kid in the 80s, it’s not going to blow my mind. The plot is a simple one, one you’ve probably seen before, but still done well with the sumo fighter Tabe telling different people different stories about how he met Chuck Norris in the first place. It’s fun and cute, but like I said, it’s also light on action. There’s only a few fight scenes and they’re either training or in good fun.

I was a bummed out because I didn’t get to see Steve Ditko draw those rad costumes I remember so distinctly from the toys and cartoon. Ah well, maybe I’ll pick up another issue along the line.

Interestingly enough, the next comic I grabbed from The Box happened to be another toy/cartoon tie-in, this one G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 #1 (2005) by Andrew Dabb and Chris Lee. I was leery because I haven’t had good luck with G.I. Joe comics from the box and also knew nothing about the Sigma 6 version of Joe aside from the cool toys that came out in the mid 2000s.

So, I was pretty surprised to find myself enjoying this issue. It helps that it’s basically just Duke in a cool underwater armor suit trying to single-handedly take down a below-the-ocean Cobra base. Sure it’s a bit silly and light, but it’s also fun and tells a story with robots and things blowing up, so what’s to complain about.

I also liked the art and character designs for the most part, which was a surprise because, aside from one or two books, I always thought Devil’s Due didn’t get the best artists around. There are a few pages that look pixelated and strange, but I think that’s a printing error.

I wouldn’t tell someone to go out of their way to pick this issue up, but if you happen to find yourself in possession of one, check it out before tossing it in the recycling bin, you’ll have a fun few minutes with the book. Oh, and it ends with Destro’s metal mask frowning and him saying “I need a vacation,” so there’s that.

Guys, I have no idea what went on in The Crossovers #4 (2003) by Robert Rodi and Mauricet, but I still kind of liked it. Unlike a lot of other books I’ve randomly read for The Box, Rodi did a great job of giving me just enough information to understand what’s going on in a broad sense of this series, but not necessarily laying down every aspect of who these characters are and what they’re doing. The Crossovers is basically a superhero family in the vein of the Fantastic Four or the First Family in Astro City (I think).

The reason I don’t know what’s going on is because there is just so much going on in this series. There’s lots and lots of characters, many different locations and all kinds of things going on I’m not caught up on, but I kind of felt like finding out, which is a mark in the plus column for sure.

The art is also pretty interesting, kind of a mix between Mike Wieringo’s and Amanda Palmer’s style with bold figures with great expressions, but still on the cartoony side of the spectrum.

At the end of the day, I dug this issue, but did a little research and saw that it only lasted 9 issues. Are there any Crossgen fans out there? Did this series end with an actual ending or because the company fell through? I’d be interested in keeping an eye out for those other issues, but only if it feels like a complete story.

The Box: Solar #21, Ultraverse Break-Thru #2 & Micronauts #1

Here we have three more random books chosen at random and reviewed to the best of my abilities. I started off with Solar: Man Of The Atom #21 from Valiant, printed in 1993. The issue was written by Kevin Vanhook with pencils by Peter Grau and I’ll be honest, it didn’t do much for me making it the second Valaint book in a row that I didn’t like.

The main problem is that this is the 21st issue of a comic and I have close to no understanding of what’s going on. There’s some recap in the dialog boxes, but overall, I didn’t feel much connection to the characters or what was happening to them.

I did however like Grau’s art. It’s solid from a storytelling point of view and it looks like he got to have some real fun with the more outlandish characters and how some of the powers looked. His normal people aren’t particularly interesting, but when you’re dealing with super people in body-covering spandex, that’s not uncommon. There’s also an interesting kind of coloring going on in this comic that reminds me a bit of the original Milestone books as well as the other Valiant comics I’ve looked through. It’s got a pastel or colored pencil feel to it as opposed to the deep, rich colors you see in most comics these days. That might be thanks to different coloring methods or a difference in paper (this is newsprint and therefor not glossy).

The coolest thing about this comic? That rad Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti cover.

I had a lot more fun reading Ultraverse Break-Thru #2, though I had equally less knowledge of what the heck was actually going on. The issue came out from Malibu in 1994, was written by Gerard Jones with art by the amazing George Perez. There is a gigantic amount of information foisted upon the reader in this issue which acts as the second part in what appears to be a gigantic crossover featuring (I think) every character in the Malibu universe. You’ve got Prime, Hardcase, Ultraforce, Mantra, Sludge, The Strangers, Rune, Freex and lots more. If those names don’t ring a bell, we’re pretty much in the same boat. I had read two Prime comics in my life as a comic fan and remember watching the Ultraforce cartoon when it was on, but that’s about it.

Still, it seemed like Jones gave me enough information to follow along with what was going on, no small feat considering this is the SECOND issue of a COMPANY WIDE event. I didn’t feel lost about what was going on in the story, though I did not necesarrily know who the characters were or what their pasts were. This was a much better reading experience than something like Deathwatch 2000 Earth 4 which had a slew of characters I didn’t know or understand whatsoever. That book turned me off to pretty much all of Continuity Comics, whereas this one made me want to actually read a few more Malibu comics. I was always curious about the other Prime issues and I’ve heard from quite a few people that Sludge was actually pretty good. That alone makes this one of the better experiences I’ve had with The Box thus far.

Are you a Micronauts fan? Did you stumble across the toys at the toy store as a kid, then go on to discover and love the Marvel comic? Then, Micronauts #1 from Devil’s Due written by Dan Jolley with art by Pat Broderick might be a great read for you. If not, you’ll be shown a series of actions that mean next to nothing because they have almost no context. As a new reader I know that the Micronauts have been beaten down and their villain Baron Karza is seemingly on the loose. Or something.

They wind up working for another guy which sets a new status quo, we learn who the new Baron Karza is and what happened to the original. The problem, though, is that there’s nothing in this issue that makes me care about any of that. A number one issue like this should be a perfect entry point for everyone and get any possible reader absorbed right in. Not the case though.

I did like Broderick’s artwork, it has a fun cartooniness to it in certain panels. There’s one priceless look of shock on a regular guy’s face at one point in one of the scenes that made me chuckle. I think some of the line work was overdone with lots of extra black lines that give some of the finished product a cluttered look, but overall he did a solid job.