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.

Super Fun Comics: Silver Streak Comics #24

My buddy Rickey is always passing me comics that, now that I don’t have full access to each month’s comics, I probably wouldn’t get around to reading. In this case it’s Silver Streak Comics #24, which is really the next issue in Image’s Next Issue Project series. This is a series of one-shots where Image publisher and Savage Dragon writer/artist Erik Larsen helps bring back some both classic and long forgotten Golden Age characters with help from a number of other characters (for more info on this issue check out this story by my buddy Josh Wiggler over on CBR). This Golden Age comic-sized book has a nice card stock-like cover and the art and layout are done in a way to recreate the feelings of flipping through one of those old books. There’s a kind of yellowed quality to the pages, full on real and fake Golden Age-era comic ads and even that great fake price sticker on the cover. Even knowing it was a printing effect, I still had to touch it just to make sure.

Anyway, there are five stories in this comic, all of which are kept pretty short to match the style of the books from back then. Larsen wrote and drew a story starring the original Daredevil (who also apparently appeared in Savage Dragon along with a different version over in Alex Ross’s Project Superpowers) that, according to the aforementioned interview, picks up from Silver Streak Comics #23. Then, Paul Grist, who writes and draws the fantastic Jack Staff comics, worked on the title speedster character. Joe Keatinge jumps in for a one page Kelly the Cop story, Michael T. Gilbert does a The Claw story and Steve Horton and Alan Weiss came together to work on a Captain Battle strip.

For me the draw for this comic wasn’t the characters, in fact Daredevil is the only one I had ever heard of before picking this comic up and maybe the Claw, but I couldn’t have told you what he looks like. What got me excited about this comic were the creators. I’m a big supporter of Savage Dragon. At one point I read through the first hundred or so issues, maybe more, but then I fell off the wagon and couldn’t keep up. Even so, I still like the book and appreciate Larsen’s style, so a one-off story starring one character that I recognize from this company? Sold. Flipping through, I then saw Grist doing Silver Streak, almost missed Keatinge’s one-page strip, didn’t really get too excited about the Claw story and liked the look of Weiss’s art on the Captain Battle story.

After reading through, my first impressions proved to be pretty right on. I really dug the Daredevil story. I read through it so quickly that by the time I got to the end I realized I hadn’t really absorbed what had happened and went back to make sure I got it. Not that the story is ultra complicated, it’s just whiz-bang fast. Basically Daredevil and his kid sidekicks fight a monster. I’ll leave it at that.

Grist’s Silver Streak yarn was a lot of fun with him using his super speed to figure out who was trying to kill one half of his favorite TV comedy duo. I think my favorite strip might be the Kelly the Cop one even though it’s the shortest. There’s a funny sadness to it that I think speaks volumes about a lot of those wacky cartoony characters who seem so one-note. It’s cool to see behind the curtain a little.

The Claw story didn’t really grab me much. It’s about a Golden Age villain who now runs a corporation and looks back on his past life with a bit of wistfulness. It’s not bad, but I’ve seen it before. Same goes for the Captain Battle story, but, unlike with the Claw, Captain Battle made me want to read more about his exploits. He’s a patriotic super hero with a son side kick, rockets to fly around on, guns and power gloves of some sort. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in future comics.

Generally, I’m not a big fan of bringing back these kinds of GA characters. It seems so full of fake enthusiasm. That’s why I never got into the Project Superpowers books, even though I could have easily read them all. I just didn’t care. Alex Ross used to be a draw, but he doesn’t pencil or paint the books, so it’s not enough to draw me in. With this book, you know it’s not an overwhelming thing you’re getting yourself into. Twelve issues of characters I know nothing about with character designs and plotting by my favorite painter? Nope, no thanks. One issue of a book with at least 50% characters I recognize and creators I really like in a fun format that hails back to the feel of the GA books without being, let’s be honest, not very good like a lot of mass produced Golden Age books were. Larsen did a good job and this comic makes me want to go back and check out the previous issue Fantastic Comics #24. I also want to start writing comics based on a character called Captain Marvel who can shoot his feet and hands at people. Or something. It’s crazy.

Trade Post: Last Week’s Pile 8-9-09

It’s been almost a month since I ran down what trades I’ve read recently and I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit for more of my “insight” (ie blathering). To catch up on a few things. I finished Tor and Barry Ween from last time. Barry was awesome from beginning to end, while Tor felt a little long, though it might be solely worth checking out for the art.

MAJOR BUMMER #1-15 (DC) written by John Arcudi, drawn by Doug Mahnke
Okay, obviously this one isn’t a trade, but that’s because it hasn’t been collected yet (not my fault). I remember reading about this book in Wizard all the time back in 1997-1998. It’s about this guy named Lou who gets super powers thanks to a couple of aliens working on a college project, but he wants nothing to do with being a super hero. But that doesn’t stop other similarly afflicted people from trying to get Lou into the super hero game. I love this creative team. Arcudi’s doing rad things with B.P.R.D. and Mahnke’s the sickest artist out there right now. No offense to JG Jones, but I really wish they would have gotten Mahnke to draw all of Final Crisis. And pretty much any other comic ever. Oh, also, one quick thought about this book: I wonder if it would still be going on (or at least gone on for longer) if it had been a creator-owned book from Image, Dark Horse or one of the smaller companies (this book has no connections to the DCU). Ah well, I think it works very well in its 15 issues.

DAREDEVIL: HELL TO PAY 1 & 2, CRUEL AND UNUSUAL (Marvel) written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka for CAU, drawn by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Lee Weeks, Marko Djurdjevic, John Romita Sr., Al Milgrom, Gene Colan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, Lee Bermejo & Paul Azaceta
Altogether these three trades cover Daredevil #94-110 which is everything post Brian Michael Bendis’ run minus Bru’s first two trades. I started reading DD with Kevin Smith’s first issue and enjoyed the book (for the most part) up through Bru’s first arc called Devil Inside and Out which had Matt Murdock in jail. I really liked the secret agent-like quality of Murdock at the time and after he broke out of jail, but dropped off somewhere in the second arc when everything revolved around smell. The problem with basing a written story around the idea of smell is that, well, I can’t smell it. So, I lost track of the book, but I still am a huge Ed Brubaker fan and heard his re-team with Rucka was good so I gave these books a shot and I liked them but I won’t be adding them to my shelf. I think I’m all set when it comes to reading about a mentally unstable Daredevil. It was one of the aspects of Bendis’ run that didn’t really work (though, to be fair, I was reading monthly comics about once every five months, so I was cramming a lot in on college breaks). I did like how Bru got rid of Murdock’s wife Milla without killing her and the #100 issue had a lot of cool art sequences, though watching yet another “drugged hero relives his mistakes” comic wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world. All in all, they were solid comics, just not the kind of thing that I was looking for. I’d like to see a drastically new direction for DD. Maybe not something bright and sparkly, but maybe a little less crazy?

SUPERMAN MAN OF STEEL VOL. 4 (DC) written by John Byrne, Marv Wolfman & Paul Levitz, drawn by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Greg LaRocque, Erik Larsen
So, the deal with the MOS trades is that they’re (in theory) reprinting every post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman in order from John Byrne’s reboot Man of Steel miniseries on. Being a huge Superman fan, these books were on the top of my “must get” list and as of this last Christmas, I acquired all the ones available as of then (and now I think). The thing about these comics (Superman 7-8, Action 590-591, Adventures 460-431, Legion 37-38) is that some of them are kind of hard to slog through. Partly because they still fall into that “I’m describing what I’m doing” writing style and partly because, by the time I started reading Superman in the early 90s I had heard about a lot of these stories already. But, this book does include the first appearance of Rampage, an encounter with the Metal Men, a convoluted origin for Chemo that includes multiple earths and Crisis, an adventure drawn by Erik Larsen and, most interestingly, a crossover between Superman and Legion that explained why Superboy was still appearing in the future even though, post-Crisis, he wasn’t supposed to exist. It’s kind of convoluted, but it also seems like Geoff Johns was very familiar with the story when he wrote the end of Legion of 3 Worlds (a series I REALLY liked). Another interesting thing about these books is that, after Crisis, they were still trying to figure out how Crisis effected everything and they were really focused on nailing down Superman’s abilities. For instance, he’s not as strong or fast as he was pre-Crisis and even has trouble fighting a goon like Mammoth from the Fearsome Five (sporting two new members in the form of Charger and Deuce, characters that I’ve never heard of). And, finally, I know this is just a coincidence, but doesn’t this look kind like one of the new Corps symbols:

My only complaint about these books is that I wish they reprinted the covers between the issues. Kudos for including all relevant issues though and not skipping over tie-ins!

MILLENNIUM (DC) written by Steve Englehard, drawn by Joe Staton & Ian Gibson
I’ve read a lot of crossovers in my days. Some can be easily contained within the miniseries/crossover they were originally sold as (Sinestro Corps War), while some rely heavily on tie-in issues in addition to the main book to tell the full story (Civil War, Secret Invasion). I’m not sure if I prefer one way of telling a story to another, but I definitely prefer a trade that has all of the pieces of the puzzle in one place, which, unfortunately, Millennium doesn’t. Huge story elements take place in the tie-in issues. See, the whole idea (which wasn’t explained very well in the main series) is that the Manhunters from Green Lantern have infiltrated the lives of every hero (or at least every hero with an ongoing book at the time). One of the big ones at the time was Wally West’s dad. I’m not sure if that still holds up, or if his dad was always a Manhunter or was just replaced at some point like a Skrull (for an incredibly in depth comparison of Millennium and Secret Invasion check out J. Caleb Mozzocco’s Every Day Is LIke Wednesday “The Other Secret Invasion” posts). It would have been nice to read a fuller version of the story that might include more (or all) of the tie-ins. I love a good omnibus as long as it’s not too heavy (I’m a contrarian). So, as a solo story, the Millennium trade doesn’t really work, but it is a fun little time capsule that focuses heavily on the Green Lantern Corps (it was a weird time for them) and tries to launch a brand new team that I’ve seen in ads as The Wanderers, but I’ve never read an actual issue.

[Note: I haven’t actually read Justice Society Vol. 1 yet, it must have snuck it’s way into my pile on accident, or thanks to me cleaning up for the in-laws’ visit.]

HOUSE OF MYSTERY VOL. 2 LOVE STORIES FOR DEAD PEOPLE (Vertigo) written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Luca Rossi (plus guests!)
I am loving this book and with the cancellation of Exterminators, 100 Bullets ending and my inability to keep up with Scalped unless I’m reading trades, I’m still struggling to keep up with my current favorite Vertigo title. I think the “problem” is that there’s so much going on that I can’t really keep track of it from month to month. Anyway, this trade collects issues 6-10 of the Sandman spin-off, which really digs deep into why these people are stuck in the House of Mystery (I love that these old DC houses are still being used, the Secret Six were using the House of Secrets at one time as an HQ). We also get some more history of our heroine Fig. I’ve heard from friends that HOM comes off as kind of hitting all the right notes, but not being exceptional as far as Vertigo titles are concerned. I think this doesn’t bother me because I haven’t read all that many Vertigo titles in this vein. Plus, having just read Sandman in the past couple of years, it’s nice to see some kind of continuation. I’m also, of course, a big fan of the side stories told in every issue drawn by guys like Kyle Baker and Bernie Wrightson. I think these stories are what really put me over the edge into the love column. Hopefully I can get caught up or at the very least, stay caught up on the trades. Oh, plus, Luca Rossi does a pretty great job in my opinion of capturing everything from regular folks to huge monsters and all kinds of fantastical elements in between. Plus, I can’t think of anyone who has turned a house into such a character as him. Well done and hope this book has a long a fruitful life.

EASTMAN & LAIRD’S TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES COLLECTED SERIES VOLUME 1 (Tundra) written by Ryan Brown & Dean Clarrain, drawn by Ken Mitchroney and Jim Lawson
You guys, this was a weird one. I think this is a pre-Archie mini series (three issues, if I’m reading everything right) and boy is it crazy. Not only do you get a non-canon origin of the Turtles and Splinter as told by Splinter to April in the very beginning, but you also get highly complicated origins for Man Ray, Leatherhead and a surprise appearance from one of my favorite secondary characters (at least in toy form) Ace Duck. Voodoo curses, alternate dimensions, Krang in his robot suit, the Turtles in luchador-like costumes and a floating cow head who can traverse time and space. That’s what you get in this volume. I’m not really sure how to explain it any other way than weird. If anyone knows how all this stuff fits in with the rest of the animated TMNT comics, please let me know. Here’s a page scan to give you a taste of the weirdness: