Trade Pile: Tricked, Goldie Vance, Rai & Daytripper

I’m liking this Trade Pile format I got some mileage out of last week with not one, but two posts. In an effort to post more here on the blog and also get my thoughts down on the stacks of trade paperbacks and graphic novels I’m reading, I’m going to keep it going. Plus, I like that header image. So, if you want to find out what I thought about Alex Robinson’s Tricked, Goldie Vance Volume 1, the third volume of Rai and the amazing Daytripper, read on! Continue reading Trade Pile: Tricked, Goldie Vance, Rai & Daytripper

My New Favorite Things: Charley Varrick, Twin Peaks Season 1 & Archer & Armstrong

I’ve been flying solo with the little dude for about a full week at this point while my folks are out of town. I haven’t had as much time to dive into awesome stuff as usual, but over the past few weeks, I have been diving into some goodness I want to talk about! Continue reading My New Favorite Things: Charley Varrick, Twin Peaks Season 1 & Archer & Armstrong

Valiant Trade Post: Rai & Eternal Warrior

The last time I got my hands on a stack of Valiant trades, I initially sat down with the first two volumes of Matt Kindt’s Rai, even though I wrote about a few other books first. I had a great time with Welcome To New Japan (#1-4) and Battle For New Japan (#5-8), but wanted to get my hands on Eternal Warrior Volume 1 before moving on to Eternal Warrior Volume 2: Eternal Emperor because one of the handy graphs in the back of the trade said it was important for the story going forward. Was it? Well, we’ll get into that after the jump! Continue reading Valiant Trade Post: Rai & Eternal Warrior

Valiant Trade Post: Archer & Armstrong

After reading and really enjoying the first volumes of both Ivar, Timewalker and Eternal Warrior from Valiant, I was reminded that the first book from the company’s current iteration that I really fell for was Fred Van Lente’s Archer & Armstrong. This book stars the third immortal Anni-Padda brother Aman — now going by Armstrong, and Obadiah Archer, the teenage religious zealot sent out into the world to kill “He Who Is Not To Be Named” otherwise known as Armstrong.

For me, there’s a lot to love about this series. First and foremost, it’s about two new friends who not only have each others’ backs, but also bounce wonderfully off of each other in the longstanding Odd Couple tradition. Archer’s an uptight religious kid with zero worldly experience and a lot of amazing abilities while Armstrong has quite literally seen and done it all, but still strives to defend the truth and beauty of humanity whenever possible (ie, whenever he’s sober). Continue reading Valiant Trade Post: Archer & Armstrong

Valiant Trade Post: Ivar, Timewalker & Eternal Warrior

Even though I got into comics just as the Image Revolution helped usher in the Boom and Bust of the 90s, I didn’t know about much outside of DC. That was my jam and, while I’d see other books at the shop and eventually read about them in Wizard, I stayed in my line. Occasionally, I’d get a multipack or something with a random book, like Archer & Armstrong #16, but they usually just got flipped through, then slid into a bag-and-board and tossed in my “Other” box.

Of course, that version of the company eventually collapsed and, as it happened, lead to a number of former Valiant employees getting work at Wizard where I would eventually work with them. Now, Valiant’s back, Wizard’s gone and some of my former co-workers have gone back to working for the V. Comics is a small group.

ANYWAY, that’s all a long-winded way of saying that, though I haven’t written about them here, I’ve read my fair share of these trades. I’ll be honest, books like Harbinger, Bloodshot, Shadowman and X-O proved a bit too dark for me, but I’ve still found a lot to like from the company, including two related titled, Ivar, Timewalker and Eternal Warrior!

Continue reading Valiant Trade Post: Ivar, Timewalker & Eternal Warrior

The Box: Detective Comics #662, Suicide Squad #35 & Magnus Robot Fighter #21

In a somewhat shocking revelation, I actually liked all three of the random comics I grabbed out of The Box for this week’s post. It helped that two of them were comics I purchased at a convention in the last few years, but hadn’t gotten around to reading, but it’s still nice to know that randomness can be a good thing.

First up, I checked out 1993’s Detective Comics #662 written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Graham Nolan. This issues happens to be the eight installment in the Knightfall storyline that would eventually see Batman with his back shattered. I’ve said before on this blog that Superman’s death is what got me hooked on comics, but once I was in, the breaking of Batman helped keep me there and broadened my reading habits. I don’t exactly remember where I came in on this story, but it was after this issue because I didn’t already have it. It got me thinking of how shocking the end of this story must have been to people reading the event as it happened. Sure, Batman had been in some tough spots before, but he always made it out okay, that would happen again this time, right?

Nope. Anyway, this particular issue finds an exhausted Batman fighting Firefly at the zoo while Robin stops one of Riddler’s plots. This particular issue doesn’t do a great job of explaining what all is happening though, that Bane released all these criminals and has set them loose on Gotham with Batman trying to bring them all back in. You get the gist here and there and at the end, but if this was a Valiant or Crossgen crossover I wasn’t familiar with, I’d have been lost. Reading this issue made me want to get those new Knightfall paperbacks that came out recently as I realized I’ve never read the whole story from beginning to end as I just jumped in whenever I started reading.

Up next I pulled out another DC Comics, this one Suicide Squad #35 from 1989 by the creative team of John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell. This was interesting time as I’d just finished reading the first arc of the series in trade paperback form a few weeks prior. As I mentioned in that post, I’d read a number of the issues when my pal Ben lent them to me, but can’t really remember how far I got. I’m not sure if I got up to this issue, but the adventure did seem a little familiar, so maybe I did.

Anyway, this one finds the Squad — a group of criminals who go on crazy missions to help alleviate their prison sentences — stranded on Darkseid’s planet Apokolips fighting the Female Furies and doing a much better job than they probably should have been able to do if you ask me.

The issue feels like the middle of a three parter as it’s pretty much one huge fight scene, but there’s still enough explained that I didn’t feel lost. Lashina had been abandoned on Earth in an earlier issue and basically joined the Squad, but still wanted her revenge for being left behind. The issue ended on a cliffhanger that made me wish even more that this whole series was collected in trade. I guess I’ll just have to keep collecting issues like this one and read them all together down the line.

Lastly, I pulled out another issue of Magnus Robot Fighter, this one 1993’s #21 by John Ostrander and John Bock. Huh, just realized that I pulled out two Ostrander comics back to back. After reading Magnus #25 last week, I wasn’t super excited about reading this comic, but I went through with it and it was alright. Much like last time, I still don’t really know why Magnus fights robots, but the issues does have a dream sequence that recaps a lot of Magnus’ recent adventures (and contains lots of robot fighting).

There’s some presumably big reveals to people who had been reading the series for 2o issues before this one. For them, they might have been like “Holy crap!!!!” but I was like “Oh, okay.” That’s just how these things work. You’re not going to surprise a newbie with a revelation in the 21st issue, but you can do your best to set it up for them so they at least understand what’s being revealed and why it’s important. Ostrander did that here and that’s all I can really ask for.

Oh, also, Bock’s art is still awesome in this issue.

The Box: Protectors #5, X-O Manowar #15 & Brute Force #1

Man, what a batch of comics this week. I grew up in the age of die-cut, glow-in-the-dark, chromium and pretty much any other kind of crazy cover you can come up with. I gotta admit, there were definitely some cool ones, but Malibu’s Protectors #5 (1993) written by R.A. Jones  with Thomas Derenick artwork, was actually kind of legendary. As you can see in the picture here, it’s actually got a hole punched through it. The blood is also shiny and embossed, so that’s a lot going on.  I also thought that the hole was somehow incorporated into the story or artwork itself but that’s not the case at all, they only seem interested in mostly (not completely) avoiding characters’ heads and word balloons.

So, how’s the book? Eh. A superhero group called the Protects is going up against an armored Dr. Doom clone called Mr. Monday (?) who leads the Steel Army. A kid who took over the Night Mask identity from his dad winds up facing off against Mr. Monday and, well, you can see the cover, it’s actually a gigantic spoiler that undercuts the entire story (assuming you can really catch on to or know what’s going on).

The story doesn’t really try to bring new readers in, but it also doesn’t necessarily try to keep you out of it. It’s just hard to care, really. The names of these characters doesn’t help. You’ve got Man of War (not bad), the aforementioned Night Mask and Mr. Monday, Mighty Man, Air Man, Amazing Man, Eternal Man and Ferret. Woof. The art’s good though, Derenick’s doing a pretty serviceable Neal Adams-style riff, but he’s dealing with some pretty goofy costumes to match the names.

After my previous experience with a subpar issue of X-O Manowar, I almost threw this one right in the recycling bin, but then I noticed that Turok was in this issue. I actually liked the issue of Turok I read (the first) so I gave X-O #15 (1993) by Bob Layton and Bart Sears a read and it actually worked out that this lead right into that issue.

The issue finds X-O and Turok returning to the city after the big cosmic event I don’t seem to be privy to and don’t care enough to look up. Once there, they discover that the smart dinosaurs that Turok famously hunts are running loose in the sewers so a-hunting they go.

Unlike the other X-O issues I read, which was written by a different writer, this one doesn’t leave me confused and wondering what’s going on. X-O is from the past and has a cool suit of armor. Turok is from another dimension where smart dinos existed. They hut the dinos. I’m good. Layton doesn’t get too bogged down and offers a good solid look at both characters in a way that makes me interested in both of them.

I’m also a big fan of the Sears art. He did Justice League comics for a while, went on to do a ton of stuff for Wizard when I was a reader and seemed to have a lot of fun doing these Valiant book (he also did that first issue of Turok I dug). In this book the characters are big and mus thcly and stlyized, but it works when you consider who you’re reading about. Good stuff. I’ll keep this one around for a bit.

Lastly I came upon Marvel’s Brute Force #1 (1990) written by Simon Furman with art by Jose Delbo, a comic with an interesting history. Most people think it was a toy tie-in because Marvel was doing a lot of that in those days (and I’ll be coming across some in future installments of The Box), but the truth — as written over on Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed — is that Marvel came up with the characters in the hopes that one of the toy companies they were buddy buddy with at the time would bite. It didn’t work and the series wound up existing solely as four issues of a comic book.

So how is it? Not great. There’s a lot goin on here and most of it’s pretty ridiculous. The main bad guy sends clowns to steal a cybernetic bear, but said clowns are in the image of the fast food franchise he owns and runs. Not very smart. Anyway, the plot revolves around an environmentalist scientist who creates these cybernetic animals for some reason and then sends the remaining ones to bring back the bear. They each have a personlaity, set of skills and wacky way of viewing the world. It’s actually kind of fun. If this were a cartoon from the 80s I’d probably have a good time with it, but I think the act of reading makes me want the thing I’m exposing myself to to be better. Inetersting.

Anyway, the book is kind of like a nicer, far less violent and sad version of Grant Morrison’s Vertigo miniseries We3. I wonder if Morrison was a fan.

The Box: Hawkeye High Hard Shaft #1, X-O Manowar #18 & Meridian #22

Like the last batch of random comics out of The Box, this one was 2/3rds great. I started off with the hilariously named and sure-to-get-some-interesting-Google-search-results Hawkeye: The High, Hard Shaft #1 (2003) by Fabian Nicieza and Stefano Raffaele, which I hadn’t heard about, but really enjoyed. There’s a type of superhero comic book story that I really like where we see some of our favorite heroes doing their thing out of costume and in the normal world. Ed Brubaker did some fun things along these lines in Daredevil and Nicieza does the same in this issue.

The comic finds Hawkeye traveling around on his bike and running into trouble with some locals. Well, he kind of inserts himself into trouble because he’s a rougeish hero, but you get the idea. Anyway, the comic has a kind of super-powered Road House feel to it as the guy who runs the town also has a few superpowered dudes on the payroll. The issue ends with Clint stocking up with gear at a sporting goods store seemingly ready to take care of things. Seeing as how I love Road House and those movies where the hero walks into a town run by a jerk and helps save the day.

The art didn’t really do it for me as it’s a little undefined and muddy. I get that they’re going for a noir-type feel, but I contend that that is a much more difficult thing to pull off in comics than artists or editors do. It’s not bad art, mind you, though there were a few times I wasn’t sure who I was reading about (the downside of reading out-of-costume superhero comics, I guess). At the end of the day, I really did enjoy this comic. I did a little looking around just now and it doens’t seem like these issues have been collected, so I guess I’ll have to look around for issues if I want to see how it ends (I bet he wins, but it turns out to be just a bit hollow).

Unfortunately, Valiant’s X-O Manowar #18 (1993) by Jorge Gonzalez and Jim Calafiore was the book in this lot that didn’t really do it for me. The long and the short of it is that I had zero idea what was going on in this book and it doesn’t help that it’s the third part in a multipart story. I’m sure it’s important if you’re already a fan of the series, but if you’re a new person like I was, you’ll be mostly lost which is the problem I’ve had with every Valiant comic I’ve come across in The Box so far except last week’s Turok, but that was a first issue.

I do want to talk about the art a bit. I’m a big, big fan of Jim Calafiore’s artwork. He first came to my attention on Peter David’s Aquaman and had a really big effect on me as a comic reader. He was one of the first guys whose style I really noticed and liked. He has a kind of blocky angularity that still looks sleek that really appeals to me. However, in this book, that doesn’t really come through. I’m not sure if he just hadn’t developed his signature look by this point or if he was instructed to stick within the house style of Valiant at the time (which seems to be very basic, “realistic” depictions of people colored in a way that makes everything look a bit light). There were a few panels and faces here and there that I saw him peeking through, but otherwise, it wasn’t the Caliafiore I know and love. By the way, he’s a super nice guy in real life too.

The last comic I read for this week’s installment might have turned out to be the most surprising one in the batch. Crossgen’s Meridian #22 by Barbara Kesel and Andy Smith really surprised me by showing me a world that I really wanted to get invested in. The idea behind this book is that a world has flying pirates and that one girl–who has the Crossgen sigil–leads a group of good guys against marauders and other bad guys. I know there’s more to it than that, but that’s what I remember without going back and reading the entire thing. It actually reminded me a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender where I was equally as interested in the characters as I was in the world.

This issue itself lets me in on some of the main character’s powers and explains some of her relationships. It’s a great taste of what’s going on. It also has a few ties to the larger Crossgen Universe which I obviously didn’t understand but it wasn’t overly distracting.

I liked the book so much, actually, that I ordered a few used copies of the first two trades from Amazon. I haven’t gotten into them just yet, but I look forward to when I’m done with a few other things I’m reading at the moment. That purchase makes Meridian officially the best reading experience of The Box as far as turning me on to something interesting that I otherwise wouldn’t have read. Thanks again to my pal Jesse for sending it to me!

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.

The Box: Mortal Kombat Battlewave #4, Web Of Spider-Man #81 & Deathwatch 2000 Earth 4 #2

As I explained last week, my pal Jesse bought me a longbox packed with comics, many of which had five or six copies. I put what I had in alphabetical order, put them in my sliding-top coffee table and I’ll reach in, pull out comics at random and give them a read. Sometimes I discover a gem, sometimes, not so much.

First up, I read Mortal Kombat: BattleWave #4 from Malibu, which seems to have been purchased by Marvel at this point (1995). This comic was written by Charles Marshall and drawn by Patrick Rolo and it was surprisingly one of the best of the box so far. I figured I would be completely lost because I only ever rented Mortal Kombat games in the past. But, I actually found myself pretty interested in what’s going on.

I don’t know why the different people are fighting on their particular sides, but you’ve got Johnny Cage and Jax fighting Smoke and Jade on a crashing airplane. This is a tricky thing to write and some of the artwork is a little out of control, but I think it was handled really well. There’s other stuff I didn’t necesarrily get and a back-up story about a cat-man fighting Goro, but I was actually pretty intrigued by the world that Marshall was working with here. Iconic characters doing cool things in such a way that a new reader can understand is not a terrible thing.

Also, I dug Rolo’s art. I don’t I’m familiar with his work, but it’s got an almost cartoony, exaggerated nature that never looks too cartoony or exaggerated. In other words, I wouldn’t be upset if I found more MK comics by these guys in The Box. Bonus piece of info: Marvel editor Mark Paniccia edited this comic!

I had less fun reading Marvel’s Web Of Spider-Man #81 written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Steve Butler. The story follows two brothers, one who decides to be a good person and goes to school while the other decides to become the oh-so-90s villain Bloodshed. It’s not a bad story, but it’s one I’ve read before. Actually, it’s one I’ve read from Busiek before in the pages of Astro City: Dark Ages Books 1 and 2 which set several miniseries’ worth of comics around this idea. So, seeing it done all in a compressed format with different characters just feels a little repetitive.

Mind you, this is not a slam against this comic. I’ve come to realize that there are certain kinds of stories you can read done plenty of different ways and others that you don’t. I feel like I read this idea done really well by the writer already and just didn’t feel the need to go through it again.

I will note that Butler, an artist I’m not very familiar with, did a great jon in the issue. His Spidey looks iconic, his characters bold (when they’re supposed to be) and he gets to work with several great facial expressions that he nails.

I do admit, there is a part of me that misses villains like Bloodshed. His motivations are the same as villains today, but that look is insane. He’s basically got enhanced strength and…spikes as well as a pink ponytail for some reason. In reality, if you saw this guy, you’d be torn between quivering in terror and snickering.

Lastly, I read Deathwatch 2000 Earth 4 #2 from Continuity Comics. I think that’s the title at least, I honestly can’t tell. I remember having a few Continuity books from various grab bags as a kid and never knowing what the hell was going on. That continues to be the case with this issue written by Neal Adams and Paul Stone with art by Aron Weisenfeld. Honestly, I can not tell you what happened. There’s one group of super people all with silly names like Urth and Fyre fighting another group and then a third shows up at some point.

There are some explanations along the way but they just wind up confusing more. I’m not the biggest fan of those basic information recap pages, like the ones that Marvel did in the mid-2000s, but it would have been immensely helpful in these comics, even more so considering these are brand new comics from a presumably brand new comic company. I didn’t do any research (yet) on Continuity or what was going on because I like to go in fresh, but I probably should have. The art doesn’t help matters any either. This was in the middle of the 90s heyday where nothing comes in a grid and all the panel lines look like they’ve been singed. It’s like mental color overload with stuff you’re not given enough information to care about. I think it’s also environmental, which makes it feel like a more “extreme” version Captain Planet, which I do not want to read.

Oh, I forgot to mention, this book was polybagged AND came with a trading card. Anyone want to trade for Firebat?