The Box: COPS #7, Magus Robot Fighter #25 & Showcase ’94 #6

I gotta say, I was surprised by this issue of C.O.P.S. (#7 from 1988, written by Doug Moench, drawn by Pat Broderick). If you’re familiar with the comic, cartoon or toy line, you’ll know that it’s about a group of specialty policemen and women brought together to help defend the crime ridden Empire City. My personal memories of the cartoon were filled with awesome cops like Longarm going on amazing adventures, but when I saw a few episodes on DVD back in my days at Wizard, I discovered it was actually pretty cheesy.

This comic is actually a pretty good amalgam of the cool aspects I remember and the cheesy aspects I more recently experienced. As you can see, the bad guy in this issue is actually a cop who flipped his lid and now eschews the law in favor of his own brand of justice…that he metes out via giant robotic elephant with a vacuum trunk. So, it’s probably not hard to see the dual natures at work in this book, which feels like it could have really been fun and cool if not aimed at kids.

The issue even goes into some detail about the cop’s origins and how they actually tie into those of the team itself (I read the first issue at some point in the last year or so) making it all pretty cohesive. C.O.P.S. is one of those properties that I would love to see make a comeback now that cartoons and animation can be a little more serious and realistic than they used to be. Just imagine a C.O.P.S. series done by the Young Justice team. It would be fantastic.

Every time I pull out a Valiant comic from The Box I hope that it will be as enjoyable as the good Turok or X-O Manowar issues I’ve read and not as incomprehensible as Archer & Armstrong or, well, that other issue of X-O. I’d put Magnus Robot Fighter #25 (1993) by John Ostrander and James Brock closer to the good ones and further from the bad, but it was a bit much to take in. I don’t blame this one on the creative team, actually. It’s a seemingly revelatory issue with lots of reveals for entrenched readers that also gives a ton of information to a new one like me but I was left with one all important question I’ve always had about Magnus: why does he fight robots?

I find out that there are certain robots he does fight and others he doesn’t and he even seems to be friends with robots, but the simple question doesn’t really get answered. I feel like it’s the kind of thing that today would be covered in one of those small, one-sentence origin boxes lots of comics use these days like, “Rocketed to Earth as a baby, Superman uses his enhanced strength and other powers to fight for truth, justice and the American way.” I mean, you’re halfway to explaining what Magnus is all about just from the extended title of the comic, I just need a little bit more information. In fact, not knowing what the deal was kept popping me out of the story a bit.

One more quick thing I want to talk about is the art in this book by Brock. It’s actually really rad. His characters are strong and bold and he’s got some extra line work in there that reminds me of Andy Clarke and guys like that. It’s also got some of that interesting Valiant coloring, but it’s a bit bolder than some of the other more pastel offerings I’ve seen so far.

This copy of Showcase ’94 #6 was one I actually picked up at a con along the line at some point. I am a gigantic fan of the mid-90s Showcase series’ for being repositories for great short stories oftentimes starring characters who might not warrant their own series or mini. This one has three one a team-up with Huntress and Robin, another with The Atom and a third with New Blood Sparx. The Robin/Huntress story was written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by the rad Phil Jimenez and is actually the third part in a three part story. I think I’ve read the other two or at least one of them. It’s about a killer priest who wears a gold mask and shoots people. This issue has the dramatic reveal but since I don’t really remember the other two issues, it’s not too thrilling. What is thrilling, however, is seeing Jimenez do Robin and Huntress from the era that I was really getting into the Batman books.

The Sparx story by Karl Keel and Scott Lee and, honestly, I remember next to nothing about it. Sparx is part of a family of superheroes and wants to learn about someone in her family and then Captain Boomerang attacks and things go sour so she leaves. That’s about all I got.

Lastly, you’ve got The Atom by Len Kaminski and Fred Reyes in a story where Ray Palmer has to use his abilities to stop a bomb from blowing up a city. I like this one because it’s one of those stories where the writer really gets into the character’s powers and figures out how they could really work. Kaminski does that in a pretty concise and clear way that I dug. So, I dug this issue and will actually be keeping it in my collection.

Picking Up The 52: Huntress, Batwing, Hawk & Dove & Deathstroke #1s

I recently came into a stack of DC’s New 52 #1 issues. I didn’t think I’d be reading any of these books until word of the best ones popped and the trades came out, but here we are. I figured it would be fun to read them in the order they came to me in and just dove in. Here’s my thoughts.

Huntress #1 (of 6)
Written by Paul Levitz, drawn by Marcus To

This was an interesting book to start off with. On my first read through it was enjoyable enough. You’ve got Huntress in pretty much the same outfit she had in the previous universe and basically the same MO, traveling abroad and stumbling upon a human trafficking ring. She uses her vigilante crime fighting skills to crush skulls and put a stop to the problems, though she doesn’t quite get to the big boss man yet. But, then, on the second flip through I realized that there wasn’t really much in the way of new-ness in this comic. Pretty much every scene in this book has shown up in movies or other comics and winds up not being all that interesting upon further inspection. I do, however, think that Marcus To has some pretty solid chops. He draws ladies as well as action pretty well. He even does some good face work when he’s given the chance to do so. I hate starting these things off negatively, but it does seem like this would be an okay entryway for someone who’s used to action/vigilante movies but not into comics. You could probably give this comic to the Dirty Harry/Death Wish fan in your life and they’d probably get into it and maybe come back for more.

Batwing #1
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Ben Oliver

Batwing was actually one of my favorite books from this stack. It introduces us to the African Batman, more specifically, the man who Batman visited and tasked with instilling fear in the hearts of men. I should note that this is the only one of the New 52 books I read that Batman actually appears in, so I’m not sure what the deal is moving over from the Grant Morrison stuff pre-New 52, but I’ve heard it’s actually pretty similar. I’m not all the way caught up on that stuff either, but I know the point of Batman, Inc. was to set different Batmen up around the world where they’re needed. And, boy, does this area need a Bat. I’m no expert, but Winick seems to have a good handle on the stakes in this part of the world and places our new armored hero in them to worrying degrees. There’s even one point where he notes that Batmen won’t scare such hardened people. It’s a really interesting point that I hadn’t thought of, which is something I dig when reading comics. Also, Ben Oliver has a big bold style that looks like it’s almost painted (maybe it is?) that I liked though he could have done more with the backgrounds, which is becoming my biggest pet peeve in comics lately. The issue ended with a cliffhanger that made me want to move on to the next issue. I will definitely have my eyes peeled for the Batwing trade when it comes out.

Hawk & Dove #1
Written by Sterling Gates, drawn by Rob Liefeld

Another comic book pet peeve I’ve got is when a book opens with tons of text, especially if it’s a news broadcast which is how Hawk & Dove kicks off. I know it means I’m lazy, but that’s how I roll. Other than that, this is an alright book. The concept of Hawk and Dove is one that I just don’t dig. One person likes to fight and the other doesn’t, but they’re both superheroes? It just doens’t grab me because it feels very limited. This book also seems very connected to the old DCU considering this is the same pairing that came back to life in Brightest Day and that Dove is with Deadman which I’m guessing is also a carryover. Heck, the last page reveal shows that a guy who looks like Kestrel is going to be a bad guy. Only a very specific audience–the people who would have bought a Hawk & Dove book anyway–would really care about this last page reveal. But, maybe it gets better or maybe those H&D fans dig this book.

Deathstrike #1
Written by Kyle Higgins, drawn by Joe Bennett

Thankfully, Deathstroke is a concept I can definitely get behind and have been taken with since I first encountered him way back when. He’s a one-eyed assassin who uses all of his brain to figure out how to kill you before you can even throw a punch. That, I like. This issue finds him working with a team of younger support people to steal something from an in-flight airplane and kill a guy. The job goes a little wonky and he winds up throwing down with some monsters and getting the chance to swing that gigantic sword of his. At the end, he shows exactly what he’s about and winds up breaking ties with the people he had been working for. Like Batwing, there’s enough here to get me to come back for the trade. I also dig Bennett’s art. I know I’ve read his comics before, but this looks different than I remember. He’s got a little Jim Calafiore going on. He’s a bit stylized which really fits this cross-genre book that stars a man in armor. I dig it.