I know it’s October and I should be finishing up the Wally Wood EC book I started or the volumes of Creepy and Eerie Archives I got from the library, but I just couldn’t resist reading this pair of books from the library. So let’s jump right in! Continue reading World’s Finest Trade Post: Lois, Clark & Robo-Batman
I realize that reviewing one comic out of a series might seem kind of silly, but I like to take a look at these things that are meant to be larger stories and see how one of the pieces holds up when taken somewhat out of context. Is there enough material there to grab me as a brand new reader? Does the writer lay down enough in one issue to fill me in on what’s going on, either through outright telling or clues left for inference? Plus, I just like to talk about comics.
Predator Versus Magnus Robot Fighter was a two issue mini series back in late 1992 that brought Dark Horse and Valiant together to tell a story. I’m not sure if this was the first of many or one in a series of DH/Valiant crossovers, but I think it’s kind of interesting that, today, Dark Horse holds the rights to both licenses and could reprint or recreate this comic today.
My vote would be for recreating because overall, this issue plotted by Jim Shooter, dialogued by John Ostrander and drawn by Lee Weeks falls short of really filling in a new reader as to what these two franchises are all about. I’m a pretty huge fan of the Predator franchise, but know nearly nothing about Magnus. The details I get in this book don’t really do much to tell me about the character or his motivations, though I know his red tunic disperses energy (but why he doesn’t have matching pants goes unanswered), he’s dating the president’s daughter and he likes to kick robot ass, though only certain robots. As far as the Predators go, you see one get taken out pretty easily in the beginning (though not really), learn they like to hunt and that they’re dangerous. I guess that’s pretty much all we really know about Predators anyway, now that I think about it. So, what does the issue spend it’s time with? Well, some stuff that isn’t super interesting, to be completely honest. Magnus runs into a group of people hunting robots for sport, much like Predators do, on a future version of Earth. They’ve got an X-O helmet as a trophy which I can only assume is related to another Valiant comic I never read called X-O Manowar. The helmet belonged to the Predator who now finds himself on Earth trying to get his trophy which is currently in Magnus’ girlfriend’s house. There’s a bit of a fight at the end, but most of this issue seems wasted on characters I don’t know doing things that aren’t all that interesting. If I were to write this comic, I’d focus more on the Predator trying to navigate Earth. He wouldn’t just crash land in the middle of a bunch of people but do his best to come in covertly. As we see in the beginning of this issue, robots have no trouble picking up on a Pred even when they’re using their cloaking technology. I’d use that to put the Predator more on the defensive. But hey, what do I know? If anyone at Dark Horse is reading this, though, I’m available for consultation or an outright pitch if you’re looking to bring two of your big properties together.
The real question, of course, after reading one issue is whether I’d read the second? The answer is “sure.” I wouldn’t go out of my way to find the issue or pay more than some pocket change for it, but I’d be curious to see how it ended. I’d be even more interested if I got a solid answer as to whether there’s a full-on fight between the two characters as promised by the title. If not, what’s the point?
I haven’t talked about it much on the blog here, but I’m a huge fan of Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America. I think it’s one of those runs that people will (and some already do) look back on with the same awe as Frank Miller’s Daredevil or Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s X-Men (but, unlike those runs, I actually like reading this one). Outside of Brubaker’s Cap and his appearances in the Avengers, I don’t have a lot of experience with the Sentinel of Liberty so I’m always look for new trades read. And, after just reading those first five issues of the 90s Ghost Rider, I’m now also looking for Ghost Rider books. So, when I saw a book on Sequential Swap called Ghost Rider/Captain America FEAR, I was sold. Well, as it turned out, it’s not really a trade, it’s a 48-page prestige format book with a fold-out cover (I wish Swap was a little more discerning in what they consider trades, but I also should have done a little research). When I opened the package, I thought it was actually a bonus comic thrown in for good measure along with Walking Dead Vol. 10 until I went back and realized I swapped for it. No big deal, just a cautionary tale to do your research.
Anyway, I had a good time reading this book. The story, written by Howard Mackie and drawn by Lee Weeks, teams Ghost Rider and Captain America up against an enhanced Scarecrow. The one and only interaction I’ve had with Marvel’s Scarecrow is an appearance in DC Vs. Marvel when he appeared with the real Scarecrow, so I don’t know what he was like before, but after a series of surgeries he now has enhanced strength and he makes anyone within 20 feet of him feel scared. It’s a hormone thing. Oh, he also talks about his mommy a lot.
The story is pretty much a Ghost Rider one with Cap thrown in to make Ghost Rider feel like a hero and track down Scarecrow who’s obsessed with him. You’ve probably seen the moment before when a young/new hero talks to Cap, Cap says he’s doing a good job and they feel honored or vindicated. Well, Danny Ketch here has been Ghost Rider for roughly 25 issues (according to an editor’s note, I miss those things) and he’s feeling like everyone hates and is afraid of his alter ego (it’s probably the flaming skull), but Cap doesn’t judge him harshly. Cap says he’s doing a good job by only going after bad guys and that being a hero isn’t easy. Then they pretty easily go after Scarecrow and fight him and win.
I will admit, I’m still not clear on all of Ghost Riders abilities or how they work. I get that his bike can fly/jump/ride up walls, he’s strong and pretty much every part of his jacket can be used as a weapon, but what I don’t get is the Penance Stare. There’s a moment where he tries to give Scarecrow the Stare but he can’t because Scarecrow’s brain is so screwed up. Shouldn’t Hell trump craziness? I dunno, maybe it’s explained somewhere.
It might sound like this is just a stretched-out single issue, but Mackie handles the 48 pages really well without much drag. It’s like one of those rare annuals that is actually enjoyable and well-paced (I know you’ve got one or two in mind). And even though this is a Ghost Rider story mainly, it reminds me of how much fun Marvel’s NYC must have been in the 90s. Both Captain America and Ghost Rider were hanging out, fighting bad guys and occasionally crossing paths. I would hope that the Ghost Rider issues after this helped Danny get a little bit more comfortable in his vengeance-seeking skin and that the weird Scarecrow ending came back somewhere. I probably won’t be keeping this book in my collection but hope that when every comic book ever finally gets collected, this is included in it’s correct chronological order with the rest of the Ghost Rider books. Those I would keep.
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: