The Midnight Comic Club Episode 10 – A Sinister Six Pack

Welcome to the tenth meeting of The Midnight Comic Club! After the extensive look at Frankenstein over the past three episodes (and a week off due to illness), we’re back with a new segment called The Sinister Sixpack wherein I grab a half dozen horror comics I’ve never read before and see how that goes.

Most of today’s entries happen to not be available in digital formats. However, if you’re interested in checking them out, I’ve provided the MyComicShop links here: Tomb Of Darkness #18, Night Force #1, Marvel Chillers #2, Secret Origins #15, Unexpected #166 and Vault Of Evil #7.

As I mentioned in the episode, the original Night Force series has been collected into a very handsome volume that I’m hoping to check out in the near future. For a less expensive taste, you could also try out the DC Comics Presents Night Force 100-Page Spectacular digitally which collects the first four installments. Finally, the Secret Origins issue featuring Deadman and Spectre can also be purchased on Comixology!

If you’re curious to read my series of Jack Kirby-related monster posts, you can check out the Unleash The Beasts archives on Marvel.com here.

I had it in my notes, but totally forgot to say that Modred would have made a delightful Amicus or Hammer horror feature in the 70s!

Trade Post: Superman Vs. Shazam, Fables Volume 2 & Legion Lost

superman vs shazam Superman Vs. Shazam (DC)
Written by Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Paul Kupperberg, Julius Schwartz, Gil Kane & Joey Cavalieri; drawn by Rich Buckler & Gil Kane
Collects All-New Collector’s Edition #C-58, DC Comics Presents #33, 34, 49 & DC Comics Presents Annual #3

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m always a little leery going into these Silver Age, pre-Crisis DC collections. These are the kinds of comics I mostly snickered at as a kid. I came up in the 90s when comics were dangerous and intense, what do I need with silly stories that were probably written for children a few decades ago? I’ve since learned that that’s a pretty poor way to approach art, but, let’s be honest, comics from this era can be very hit-or-miss, especially when you consider the fact that they’re leaning pretty heavily on the hero-fighting-hero gimmick.

So, with all that in mind, I went into Superman Vs. Shazam cautiously. I love Superman, but this isn’t my Supes, so this was more of a curious read. And, honestly, it didn’t do a lot for me. The first story is a whopping 72 pages featuring a villain using other villains (Black Adam and Sand Superman from the incredibly good Kryptonite No More) to pit Superman and Captain Marvel against each other in an effort to destroy both worlds (Earths 1 and S). All of that spreads out over dozens of pages and certainly drags at times. The most interesting part of this book for me is that, while the two guys are smashing the crap out of each other across two Earths, their female counterparts — Supergirl and Mary Marvel — figure out what’s really going on. The guys wind up officially saving the day and we end with double smooches, but I still thought that was a cool way to go.

The other issues have a lot of the same, following the villain-tricking-heroes-into-fighting formula that doesn’t do a lot for me anymore. If I was a kid or new to comics, though, and this was the first time I saw these things, it’d probably be pretty mind blowing. However, I don’t think this would be a great book to hand to someone blind. Since these stories are set in a pre-Crisis world, there’s a lot going on that might be confusing. All the Earth-1/Earth-S stuff gets fairly well explained, but then you’ve got the DCP #49 in which Billy Batson and Captain Marvel appear side by side. I think it’s because we’re seeing Earth-1 Billy Batson, maybe, but wasn’t sure and by that point I’d lost a lot of interest. This book would have greatly benefited with an introduction of some sort to give less-informed readers like myself a little context for the adventures. It’s another unfortunate example of comics not always being accessible to the non-fan market.

fables vol 2 animal farmFables Vol. 2: Animal Farm (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Bill Willingham, drawn by Mark Buckingham
Collects Fables #6-10

As I said when I reviwed the first volume of Bill Willingham’s Fables, the book didn’t strike much of a chord with me for two reasons: one, I called the mystery reveal too early and lost a lot of intrest in the proceedings and, two, I couldn’t help but compare it to Once Upon A Time. Since one of those complaints is more my fault than anything, I decided to continue on and give the second volume a shot. The fact that I got the first three volumes in a Swap also came into play, of course.

This second volume finds Snow White taking her not-dead sister Rose Read up to The Farm, a place where non-human Fables (talking animals, giants, dragons, etc.) live away from the prying eyes of the world located in upstate New York. But, once the sisters get there it becomes pretty clear that something fishy’s going on. A faction has done away with the one human left in charge while also moving forward with plans to take their homeland back from The Adversary.

From there you get a story that finds Goldilocks playing revolutionary with the non-human Fables, Snow on the run from Shere Khan, Rose siding with ‘Locks, weapons that animals can fire and a few more fantastical character appearances. While I enjoyed this volume a lot more than the first, it still didn’t grab me. Once again, I figured the thing out with Rose pretty early on, so that was a lot less of a mystery. But, since that’s not the main thrust of the book, it doesn’t take as much away. Meanwhile, I thought it was an interesting bit of worldbuilding when we learn at the end of the arc that a Fable’s strength is directly related to how many people in the real world know about them. I’ve seen this done with gods in fiction before, but not storybook characters. It’s an interesting tie that I’m sure comes into play later on down the line. While I’m not fully sold on this book that a lot of people seem to love, I’m interested enough to hold onto these collections for now and see what’s up in the third.

legion lostLegion Lost (DC)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Olivier Coipel & Pascal Alixe
Collects Legion Lost #1-12

Back in 2000 and 2001 when Legion Lost was coming out, I remember there being a lot of buzz surrounding the book. When I say that, I mean that Wizard was covering the book pretty heavily and seemed to really dig it. That idea never really left my head, so when the hardcover collection came out, I was pretty excited to finally give it a read. I even got my hands on the 100-Page Spectacular that sort-of leads into this story and enjoyed that experience quite a bit.

I started reading Lost right after that, which would have put my first attempt at a little over a year ago. What stopped me? Well, this is definitely a big collection, an entire year’s worth of stories. Plus, Abnett and Lanning, writers I very much enjoy, put a lot of content into each issue. While the “Legion of the Damned” story featured in the Spectacular was mostly dialog and action, this one actually gives each character the first-person thought-box treatment in every issue which results in a lot of expressed thoughts. I’m not saying that’s bad because these guys have an excellent grasp on who these characters are, what makes them tick and how that differs from their outward actions, but it can make for a slower reading experience than I was expecting.

This time, I knew that going in and was more prepared for the experience which finds a team of Legionnaires — Live Wire, Saturn Girl, Monstress, Ultra Boy, Kid Quantum, Chameleon, Brainiac 5, Monstress, Umbra and a few others — lost in space. Now, the two issues that ended Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires (the ones that take place between the 100 Pages Spectacular issues and this book) are not included so you have no idea what this rift thing they were fighting was (or if it was even shown on-page). But, they seem to be at an end of the cosmos that even Brainiac 5 can’t find on a map and are trying to find their way home.

Along the way they make a few friends but even more enemies only discover what’s really going on at the very end of the story when it turns out that one of their own has caused all this heartache. That’s an important part of the tale, of course, but what really struck me was how well Abnett and Lanning captured the growing feeling of helplessness as the story continues. Certain characters have decided to put on shows for what they assume is the benefit of their teammates which wind up backfiring. Meanwhile, others who started off positive eventually start losing their cool as the twelve issues progress. Mistakes are made and we see what those actions do to that person as well as their teammates.

We also get to learn a lot about these characters which is great. I’ve said it before, but the Legion and X-Men are the two most confusing franchises in comics as far as I’m concerned, but I didn’t feel that going into this book. Sure, I could have used some of those boxes reminding me of what each character’s powers are (like Geoff Johns and company did when they reintroduced the team in Action Comics), but other than that I was right on board and that’s mostly because DnA included a new character who offers folks like me a window into this wild world.

If you’re curious about Legion Lost, I’d say give it a shot, but go in knowing a few things. One, it’s a fairly wordy book. Those are good, well thought out words, but there’s still a lot of them. Two, you won’t need to know anything about the Legion going in, what you need to know is on the page eventually. Three, you get to see some awesome Olivier Coipel and Pascal Alixe art that captures the dark mood of the story.

Conan The Boring

Netflix is a funny thing. I have no idea why I put Conan The Destroyer (1984) on my queue, though it’s probably because I had never seen it before. Even more mysterious is why it was at the very top of said queue. Anyway, I got it in the mail right before we left for Disney World (I’ll probably do a post with some pics later in the week) and actually thought it was the first one (Conan The Barbarian). But, hey, it’s an 80s action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (even though I copied his name from IMDb, it’s creepy how good I’m getting at spelling his name) with swords, so how bad can it be right? Well, pretty bad.

Unfortunately, Destroyer is just a boring movie. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by ridiculously fast paced action sequences like those in Crank or Dark Knight, but I was astonished at how slow Arnold attacked some of his foes. It was like the squared off against each other, circled a time or two and then leisurely swung swords. Sure there are some cool decapitations, but overall the action just felt kind of stale.

Another problem I had with the story is that they give away the double cross in the beginning of the movie. You see, this witch lady tricks Conan into helping a young girl get her hands on a gem that will allow her to get a horn that will bring a god to life. She tells Conan that he can bring his dead lady (I’m assuming she’s from the first movie, which I haven’t seen in a long, long time) back to be his queen. Conan agrees to help the girl find the gem and then, right after that, the witch tells the girl’s bodyguard (played by crazy-tall sex machine Wilt Chamberlain) that, once the girl has the horn, he can kill Conan. That’s about 15 minutes into the movie. Didn’t they have spoiler warnings back in 1984? I think simply cutting that scene and revealing the double cross later would have been a lot more dramatic.

One more problem I saw was the huge cast. In addition to the girl and Wilt, Conan’s hanging out with the annoying thief who also acts as comic relief (though he’s nowhere near as annoying as Chris Tucker in Fifth Element), freed bandit Grace Jones and a magician dude who mostly seems to just put his hands together in odd configurations and chant (he voiced Uncle Iroh in the incredible awesome Avatar cartoon). I got excited after the team was assembled because I figured they would start tearing shit up, instead, most of them just stand around pointlessly. Why couldn’t you have combined the non-character of the magician with the comedy relief? It’s called economy of story folks (I may have just made that up, but it makes sense in my head).

Overall, I can’t say that Destroyer is a bad movie because, even though it’s slow and boring, it delivers what you’d expect: super-buff Arnold killing all kinds of people/stuff/glass monsters (don’t even get me started on how a monster made of reflections shouldn’t turn to glass when it dies), Grace Jones and Wilt Chamberlain doing their own thing (you know, being scary and being tall respectively). Seriously, seeing Wilt standing next to his charge is hilarious at certain times as she only comes up to his waste. All that being said, I also can’t say it’s a good movie. So, if you’re already a Conan fan, like Jim Gibbons , this might be right up your alley. Or it could be kinda boring.

Oh, one last thing I wanted to point out for my comic book fan readers. You may have noticed that I included the Comic Movie label for this post. That’s because Conan comic writers (who also happen to be big time comic writers all around) Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway got credited for the story, but apparently disliked the finished script so much that they turned their script into a graphic novel called Conan: The Horn of Azoth through Marvel and just changed some names. Cool huh? Maybe I’ll check that out, I bet it’s rad.