Friday, May 25, 2018

KELLY GREEN: THE MILLION DOLLAR HIT

Life still sucks royally for poor Kelly Green. This time around, she's called upon to deliver a payoff from an oil company to a former executive who has embezzled five million dollars from them with the promise to reveal to the world how he did it, thus allowing further such thefts in the future. The premise alone is... weird. The embezzler, Gus Arakian, is an old friend of Kelly's pal Spats, and Spats explains that, yeah -- the guy got away with $5 million, but it was earned more or less legitimately, and will thus not be as respected in the underworld compared with money stolen in a more direct manner. Thus our enterprising villain attempts to ransom an additional million, which is somehow more criminally respectable.

Now I don't know how these things work. I'm not a criminal. But it seems to me that stealing is stealing. You still have millions of dollars that don't belong to you, after all! But I guess the idea that this guy put in years as a loyal employee just to embezzle a few million bucks makes him look like a chump to his fellow crooks -- though the fact that he only wants one additional million after all that makes him look like a chump to me (and to Kelly as well)!

But regardless, that's our premise. And unlike the last story, which was set entirely in New York state, this one sees Kelly traveling once more as in her debut appearance. This time she heads to Oklahoma to meet with the Tyree family, Arakian's former employers. Instructions from Arakian tell her to go from there to Alaska, but she makes a stopover with her friend Jimmy DeLocke in Seattle, where she trades the ransom -- a million dollars in bearer bonds -- to a shady businessman for several valuable coins worth the same amount. Jimmy provides her with forged bonds to act as a decoy ransom, while Kelly wears the coins on her wrist as a bracelet.

Monday, May 21, 2018

ACTION COMICS #591 & ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #431

“PAST IMPERFECT”
Story, Pencils, & Figure Inks: John Byrne | Background Inks: Keith Williams
Lettering: John Costanza | Coloring: Tom Ziuko | Editing: Michael Carlin & Andrew Helfer

The Plot: Superboy freezes Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes with his stasis ray, then takes the Legion members to deliver them a mysterious master elsewhere in the timestream. Superman breaks free of the ray’s effect and pursues, but is thrown off and lands in Superboy’s Smallville. Pete Ross find him and brings him to the Kents’ home, but Superboy soon returns and a fight ensues.

Krypto joins the fight and heads for Superboy’s lab to grab some gold Kryptonite, but the rock robs him of his powers before he can use it. Pa Kent gets an idea from Krypto’s sacrifice and confronts Superman with all the forms of Kryptonite, but none work on him. However this pause in the action allows Superman and Superboy to make peace.

Superboy and the Legion depart for the future to battle Superboy’s master, the Time-Trapper, but they insist Superman return to his own time rather than risk his life by coming with them. Superman reluctantly agrees and is returned to modern-day Metropolis.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Superman notes multiple times that Superboy is more powerful than he is, but the Man of Steel’s experience allows him to go toe-to-toe with the Boy of Steel.

The Time-Trapper explains how it is that Superboy and his version of Smallville exist in the post-CRISIS universe:

Friday, May 18, 2018

KELLY GREEN: ONE, TWO, THREE... DIE!

By Leonard Starr & Stan Drake

Well, Kelly Green sure lives a sucky life. She became a widow in her first story. Now, in the second outing from Leonard Starr and Stan Drake, things get worse.

It all starts when a socialite is murdered at her father's mansion upstate. The girl's sister happens to be Kelly's landlady, a beautiful artist named Samantha Brockhurst. Kelly and Samantha bond over the tragedy, and Kelly soon gets drawn into a trail of murder as, one by one, members of Samantha's family are picked off by a mystery man with a grudge. Samantha's father believes to be a disgruntled former employee, but while the characters in the story have little reason to believe otherwise, the clues presented to the reader leave little doubt that this is meant to be a red herring. Meanwhile, Kelly is warned multiple times to keep away from Samantha and the Brokhursts, but she is undeterred. Eventually the killer is revealed and Kelly knocks him out until the police arrive to take him away.

So like I said, it's a sucky life for Kelly Green. This time around, in a sort of "cold open" to the story, she acts as go-between to deliver ransom money for a kidnapped dog, but winds up recovering an imposter pooch instead, who she names Lady. Then, about halfway through the story, as one of the warnings to keep away from Samantha, the dog is killed and left at Kelly's door. Later, Samantha herself, who Kelly has befriended and who seems to be the one member of the Brockhurst family declared "off-limits" to the killer by the narrative, is murdered in her apartment. Kelly wins in the end, but not until after authors Leonard Starr and Stan Drake have heaped these further tragedies upon her.

Monday, May 14, 2018

ACTION COMICS #590 & SUPERMAN #8

“BETTER LIVING DYING THROUGH CHEMISTRY”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Embellisher: Dick Giordano
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Tom Ziuko | Editors: Michael Carlin & Andrew Helfer

The Plot: The creature called Chemo is reborn at a chemical plant in Metropolis, and assaults the Metal Men at their headquarters. Superman becomes involved, and together the Metal Men and the Man of Steel defeat their foe.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Incredibly, this issue features the first appearance of Lois Lane in post-CRISIS ACTION COMICS — and also the first appearance of Clark Kent in anything more than a brief flashback!

Reference is made to the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, as it’s noted that Chemo somehow existed in multiple universes pre-CRISIS, and this version of the creature is apparently an amalgamation of those various incarnations.

Superman knows the Metal Men and has also encountered Chemo before.

Metal Man Tin explodes near the end of the issue, and the group’s creator, Doctor Will Magnus, refuses to rebuild him. A note on the final page says to watch for upcoming Metal Men announcements, so presumably this was all resolved in a mini-series or relaunched ongoing or something.

My Thoughts: Well, it’s another stand-alone team-up issue, as I’ve come to expect at this point. I know literally nothing about the Metal Men — I’m pretty sure this is the very first comic I’ve ever read featuring them — but they seem kind of cool, though possibly a bit overly “Silver Age-y” by the standards of the eighties. (Not that I’m complaining; I like Silver Age-y and I like what I’ve seen of the Metal Men — they just feel a little out of place next to Byrne’s other stories from this era.)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

THE UNBOXING - MAY 2018

Marvel comes at us with two books this month; a trade paperback and hardcover. The trade is CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION: THE BLOODSTONE HUNT, plugging a long-lived hole in Marvel's reprints of Mark Gruenwald's CAPTAIN AMERICA. Slotted between the previously released THE CAPTAIN collection and the STREETS OF POISON EPIC COLLECTION, and combined with the SOCIETY OF SERPENTS EPIC COLLECTION and JUSTICE IS SERVED EPIC COLLECTION, this book now completes a full run of CAPTAIN AMERICA issues 302 through 386, plus assorted annual and other goodies! Essentially this is the first half of Gruenwald's ten-year run on the bookshelf, and while the second half has seen some spotty collection over the years, it seems only a matter of time before it, too, receives the comprehensive Epic Collection treatment.


And from the X-Office of the nineties, we have the X-MEN: LEGIONQUEST hardcover. This book contains several of the same issues as could be found in the X-MEN: AGE OF APOCALYPSE PRELUDE book from some years back, though that was a volume I never picked up due to very poor reviews of the paper quality -- which turns out to have been the right choice in retrospect, as this book offers a significant upgrade in size and quality.


And now a new edition of the Junior Unboxing! It came to my attention recently that Marvel published a second edition of the AVENGERS STORYBOOK COLLECTION, just released last month, containing all-new tales aimed at younger readers. I snagged it and, while I was at it, picked up 5-MINTUE SPIDER-MAN STORIES (2017 edition) and the SPIDER-MAN STORYBOOK COLLECTION (2016 edition), both of which also offer (mostly) new contents as well. I spoke a few months back about the Marvel Storybook Universe I'm compiling and suggested I might write a post about it -- and that's still my plan, but the addition of these three books has me revising the universe, so the post has been delayed. I suspect it'll probably arrive this summer for the one or two people who might any interest.

I think that's it for May, so we'll reconvene in a month to see what shows up next!

Friday, May 11, 2018

KELLY GREEN: THE GO-BETWEEN

By Leonard Starr & Stan Drake

NYPD officer Dan Green is killed in a raid. Not long after, a beautiful and wealthy young woman is murdered in the seedy part of town. Soon, Green's widow, Kelly, becomes involved in a blackmail scheme linking both deaths.

As Kelly mopes about, her late husband's partner, Angelo, struggles to cheer her up, while three ex-cons who Dan had sent up the river in the past vow to protect her. When the cons bring her an offer to become a "go-between" -- an impartial third party exchanging money for incriminating evidence in a blackmail case -- Kelly agrees, stating that she now hates the cops and hates criminals, so she might as well live between both their worlds.

The ensuing story sees Kelly work briefly as a go-go dancer to gather some information about her client, travel to Florida to make the exchange (and discover another dead body), then return to New York for a finale which reveals who got her husband killed and how he's related to the blackmail scheme.

As usual, I'm trying to be a little vague in my description of the story -- this material is thirty years old, but was only relatively recently re-released in a new collection -- and it is a mystery, after all. I'm much less cavalier about revealing random plot points than I am about spoiling mystery stories, especially if they're relatively obscure like this one.

Monday, May 7, 2018

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #430

“HOMEWARD BOUND!”
Setting by: Marv Wolfman | Design by: Jerry Ordway
Engraving: Albert de Guzman | Hues: Tom Ziuko | Editing by: Mike Carlin & Andy Helfer

The Plot: Superman battles the Fearsome Five in Metropolis, but they defeat him and escape. As he worries over his parents’ upcoming anniversary party and the two sides of his dual life, the Five argue over whether or not they should have finished him off. A week later on the night of his parents’ party, Clark Kent receives a call warning him that the Fearsome Five are aboard a luxury liner called the Augustus Mandrell. Superman arrives and fights them again, and again they escape.

Clark misses his parents’ party and shows up after all the guests have left. Pa Kent gives him a pep talk about letting his two lives coexist in harmony, and the next day, having received another phone call about the Fearsome Five’s whereabouts, Superman barges into their hideout. This time, not distracted by the conflict between he costumed life and his secret identity, he defeats the group.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The Fearsome Five count two new members among their number: the mysterious Charger and Deuce. We see during the story that they’re more bloodthirsty than the rest of the group and that they joined as a couple. It’s also revealed in the story’s conclusion that Deuce was the one who called Clark Kent, apparently knowing he was actually Superman, to tell him where to find the Fearsome Five. Presumably we’ll learn at some point that these two are members of the Circle.