Monday, January 22, 2018

ACTION COMICS #584 & SUPERMAN #2

“SQUATTER!”
Storyteller: John Byrne | Embellisher: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Andrew Helfer

The Plot: Superman goes on a rampage, drawing the attention of Cyborg from the Teen Titans. Superman defeats Cyborg easily, but Wonder Girl and Changeling soon arrive to back him up, followed shortly thereafter by Jericho. Jericho seizes control of Superman’s mind as a man with crutches arrives to reveal that he is the real Superman.

Superman explains that he was tricked by a man named David Gundersen, who switched their bodies with a machine he had built. The same machine swaps them back to normal, and Superman lectures Gundersen on his behavior.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The story takes place in a location referred to in dialogue as “…the largest city in the nation,” “renowned in song and fable,” etc., etc. The city is never referred to by name. Knowing the Titans reside in New York makes me assume this is it, though I’m unsure why Byrne is playing coy.

Cyborg notes that he’s met Superman a couple of times, supporting SUPERMAN #1’s idea that the Man of Steel has had run-ins with heroes other than Batman since his debut.

Wonder Girl somehow exists. (I’ll have more to say about this when we cover LEGENDS in a couple weeks.)

Lex Luthor wonders how Clark Kent seems to get all the exclusive Superman stories, and decides there must be a connection between the two.

Friday, January 19, 2018

GUNSMITH CATS PART 2

“JAMMING” | “MUZZLE & EDGE” | “MAGNUM PRIMER” | “SIGHT IN”
“HARD TOUCH” | “WOOD BULLET” | “MEDICAL SHOT” | “BEAN”
Presented by Kenichi Sonoda
Translation: Dana Lewis & Toren Smith | Lettering and Retouch: Studio Cutie

The next eight chapters of GUNSMITH CATS see Kenichi Sonoda inexplicably repeat himself on more than one front, in pretty quick order. First, Rally and May have an argument and falling-out over what Rally perceives as May’s creepy infatuation with the missing Ken. They reconcile and then, just a couple chapters later, they get into another huge argument over Rally’s methodology on a case. I understand creating some friction between your two leads, but putting them at each other’s throats so much in succession makes them read as if they merely tolerate one another, when they’re supposed to be the best of friends.

And beyond that, we also have their house/shop broken into twice in these chapters, following from a break-in in the prior batch of installments as well. In fact, within the span of the series’ first ten or so chapters, Rally’s place is robbed (or nearly robbed) three times in total. Going back to this well that often comes across somewhat lazy on Sonoda’s part.

Anyway… what happens in these stories? We get a brief encounter between Rally and Misty, a cat burglar who our heroine sends up the river, but who will return as a supporting cast member in the not-too-distant future. From there, Gray returns to the picture with plans to seize control of the local gangs. When his men inadvertently kidnap May and Becky, May learns that Gray has found Ken in California and intends to kill him.

Monday, January 15, 2018

SUPERMAN #1

“HEART OF STONE”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Guest Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Editor: Andrew Helfer

The Plot: Superman has tracked his missing rocket ship to an isolated lab occupied by only a corpse and a great deal of data on the Man of Steel. He removes the lab from Earth, storing it at the Lagrange Point in space for later study, then returns to Metropolis to change into Clark Kent for a jog with Lois Lane. But their run is interrupted by the villainous Metallo, robbing a bank to get Superman’s attention. Metallo introduces Superman to Kryptonite, but before he can finish off his enemy, he’s grabbed from above by a large black shape, leaving a confused Superman behind.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Superman notes that he’s been searching for the rocket since he discovered it missing three months earlier, meaning that much time has passed since THE MAN OF STEEL concluded.

Our hero also says that his search for the rocket has been interrupted by “various and sundry super-villains,” though none are named explicitly. While this doesn’t outright contradict anything in THE MAN OF STEEL, it does make the reader feel as if they missed something, since up to now the only super-powered creature we’ve seen our hero up against was Bizarro.

As he explores the lab, Superman also reflects on his alien heritage and notes that aliens are nothing new on Earth, citing Hawkman and Green Lantern’s power ring both as being of extraterrestrial origin. Again, while not going against THE MAN OF STEEL, this doesn’t fit the feel of that prior series’ narrative, which really seemed to imply that Batman was the only other hero Superman had met up to this point.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

THE UNBOXING - JANUARY 2018

As promised (and previewed) late last year, The Unboxing has been revamped a bit for 2018. It'll mostly be the same -- coverage of items I pre-ordered months earlier as they're released -- but with the added bonus of digital purchases as well as items which were acquired through means other than pre-order.

So let's start 2018 with a couple of Christmas gifts! From my dear wife and published by Fantagraphics as part of their Complete Carl Barks Disney Library, we have DONALD DUCK: THE SECRET OF HONDORICA and UNCLE SCROOGE: THE LOST CROWN OF GENGHIS KHAN. Fantagraphics began publishing the Barks library back in 2011 at a pace of two books per year, with the intention of reprinting every Duck story Barks produced across his two-plus decades writing and drawing Disney comics. There are seventeen volumes out now (out of a projected thirty or so), covering what is widely considered Barks' best period -- the late 1940s through the late 1950s. As a child, I read many of these stories via the Gladstone Comics reprints of the eighties, and I love the idea that I'll eventually have all of them on the bookcase. My intention is to start reading them to my son as bedtime stories in another year or two.


From my dad, I received two collections of 1960s-vintage James Bond newspaper strips from Titan Books: SPECTRE: THE CLASSIC COMIC STRIP COLLECTION and OCTOPUSSY: THE CLASSIC COMIC STRIP COLLECTION. These are companion volumes to the previously released DR. NO: THE CLASSIC COMIC STRIP COLLECTION and GOLDFINGER: THE CLASSIC COMIC STRIP COLLECTION, and between the four books, newspaper adaptations of every one of Ian Fleming's original Bond novels are collected. (And if you think this might be a clue as to an upcoming newspaper strip review project, you could be on to something!)


In the digital realm, I took advantage of some Comixology/Amazon year-end sales to grab a handful of titles at bargain prices, including: THE BLACK BEETLE IN: KARA BÖCEK from Dark Horse, Walter Simonson's classic creator-owned STAR SLAMMERS from IDW, X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION: MUTANT GENESIS and John Byrne's X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS vol. 1 and vol. 2 from Marvel, and BATMAN: YEAR ONE and BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES vol. 2 from DC.


Thus ends the Christmas haul. Next month is back to a slower pace with, I think, one or possibly two books, so check it out around a month from now!

Friday, January 12, 2018

GUNSMITH CATS PART 1

“FEEDING TROUBLE” | “REVOLVER FREAK” | “BONNIE AND CLYDE”
“HOT FEEDING” | “BURST” | “CZ75” | “HANG FIRE” | “MISFIRE”
Presented by Kenichi Sonoda
Translation: Dana Lewis & Toren Smith | Lettering and Retouch: Studio Cutie

Before we get into the story content of these early GUNSMITH CATS chapters, let’s have a quick dramatis personae:

Rally Vincent*: The main protagonist of the series; Rally runs a gunsmith shop in Chicago and works a more lucrative profession as a bounty hunter on the side.
”Minnie” May Hopkins: Rally’s diminutive partner, and the demolitions expert of the outfit.
Detective Roy Coleman: The girls’ contact on the Chicago P.D.
Becky Farrah: Nicknamed “the Nose”, she provides tech support and information to Rally on her various cases.

Other characters will obviously pop up as the series progresses, but at the outset, these are the main players.

With that out of the way, on with the show. The first few chapters of GUNSMITH CATS are mostly stand-alone installments with one two-parter thrown in. There’s a loose story arc which sees Rally targeted by a brother-and-sister career criminal duo named Bonnie and Clyde, along with a few one-off bounty hunting cases. We learn in very quick order (like, the second chapter) that Minnie May (who’s only seventeen years old at this point) is a former prostitute when she reenlists in her old profession for an undercover mission.

Monday, January 8, 2018

THE MAN OF STEEL #1 – 6

”FROM OUT OF THE GREEN DAWN” | “THE STORY OF THE CENTURY!”
“ONE NIGHT IN GOTHAM CITY”
“ENEMY MINE…” | “THE MIRROR, CRACK’D” | “THE HAUNTING”
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Dick Giordano
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Editor: Andrew Helfer

The Plot: As the planet Krypton self-destructs, a scientist named Jor-El sends his embryonic son, Kal-El, to Earth in a rocket. Eighteen years later, Kal-El is Clark Kent, all-star quarterback for Smallville High School’s football team endowed with secret superhuman abilities. When his parents, Jonathan and Martha, reveal to Clark that they found him in the rocket, crashed in their corn field, Clark decides to use his powers for the good of mankind. He spends seven years secretly stopping natural disasters and saving people when he can, but when an experimental space plane nearly crashes in the city of Metropolis, Clark is forced into action in public. Soon after, at the suggestion of his parents, he adopts the costumed identity of Superman in order to act in the public eye.

Subsequently, Superman meets Lois Lane while Clark gets a job at the Daily Planet newspaper. Eight months later, he responds to reports of a dangerous vigilante in Gotham City and has his first encounter with the Batman as the pair teams up to take down an eccentric villainess named Magpie. Batman and Superman part not as friends, but with a grudging respect for one another.

Ten months pass and Superman meets Lex Luthor when he thwarts a hijacking of the billionaire’s yacht during a massive party. But when Luthor is implicated in the terror attack, the mayor of Metropolis deputizes Superman and Luthor is arrested. Two years pass and, following numerous unsuccessful attempts on Superman’s life, Luthor creates a bizarre clone of him which proves the Man of Steel’s toughest challenge yet — but in the end, Superman prevails.

Later, while visiting his parents in Smallville, Clark receives a holographic visit from Jor-El, who reveals to Clark that he is not, as he had long believed, a human launched into space as an infant, but an alien being. By way of this revelation, Jor-El instills in Clark's brain the full history and culture of Krypton.

Friday, January 5, 2018

GUNSMITH CATS

Since starting this blog, I've more-or-less kicked off each year with something manga related. It was GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN three years in a row, followed by BIG O last year, and now it's time for GUNSMITH CATS.


This series has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a very long time, since I discovered it in college. SyFy (or as it was known back then, The Sci-Fi Channel) ran an anime marathon for some holiday or another; I think New Year's, and I watched some of their offerings. Not much of it captured my imagination, but I did find myself intrigued by a three-part mini-series called GUNSMITH CATS, which chronicled the adventures of a pair of teenage girls acting as bounty hunters in Chicago. I did a bit of research and learned that the show was spawned by an ongoing manga of the same name by Kenichi Sonoda, and that said manga was currently being published by Dark Horse. I blew some Christmas money on all the trade paperbacks then available and then began to follow the monthly comics collecting subsequent storylines, the rest is history.

I think I've probably read the series all the way through three or four times since 2000-ish, and it's always enjoyable -- though as noted above, it's a guilty pleasure. The series is exploitative and pretty shameless in its depictions of sex, nudity, and violence. But it's also just a lot of high-speed, action-packed, fun, too.

At some point in the mid-2000s, Dark Horse reissued the full series in four very thick paperbacks called the GUNSMITH CATS REVISED EDITION, and I picked those up at the time to replace my mix of older trades and comic book "floppies". Thus, the REVISED EDITION books are what I'll be using for the upcoming review series. I plan to cover half a book per week for eight weeks, which will take us up to the first week of March. I hope you'll stick around for all of it!