Monday, August 21, 2017

DAREDEVIL #191

"ROULETTE”
Writer/Penciler : Frank Miller | Inker : Terry Austin
Colorist: Lynn Varley | Letterer: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil

The Plot: Daredevil visits Bullseye in the hospital and plays a round of Russian Roulette with him while his inner monolgooue reflects on a boy who recently shot a schoolmate after seeing DD beat up his father, and on his own father as well.

In the end, DD reveals that there are no bullets in the gun.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: For the most part there are none. This is the final issue of Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL run and is a stand-alone installment. However we do learn that Matt’s dad once hit him after he got into a fight with some classmates.

However, way back when I covered issue 169, Miller's second issue as writer, I noted that he had provided a nice monologue from Daredevil on why, no matter how bad things got, he could never actually kill Bullseye. This issue gives us a very nice bookend to that speech as we see that, sure enough, even at his darkest, Daredevil will hew to his beliefs and Bullseye will live.

My Thoughts: So Matt’s dad once hit him while in a drunken stupor. Because heaven forbid our hero’s idolization of his father be completely earnest. There just has to be some kind of darkness under the surface, doesn’t there? Miller tries to sell this as the moment Matt decided he would become a lawyer, when he recognized that his father had lost control and that laws exist to punish people for doing such things — but why? Isn’t it just possible that a guy could become an attorney and a superhero simply because he was instilled with good values by a father he looked up to? Isn’t that enough?

Apparently not.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

FOUR YEARS

It's that time again: four years and four days ago I made my very first post here, and it's time to acknowledge that anniversary with a quick summary of where things stand at the moment.

My schedule isn't quite what it normally is at this time of year, unfortunately. Way back in December, when I took the month off to spend time with our new baby, I managed to read Frank Miller's entire DAREDEVIL run and compose posts for all of it! It was the biggest cushion for Monday posts that I've ever managed to give myself. Tomorrow the final post goes up, and I've barely even started work on what comes next. This baby has sapped a lot of my quiet evening reading time, and it took me about six months just to read three FLASH GORDON collections! But I'm not too concerned; I think I'll be back on track soon enough. At the very least, I still have Fridays lined up for a while. We just finished Flash's adventures on Friday, and after dallying for the next two weeks on smaller "one-shot" posts, we'll head into this fall's TRANSFORMERS stuff, which is coming along nicely.

And that's a nice segue into a "behind the scenes" sidebar, providing a look at how and where I find time for all these posts. I have two prime reading times during my day: my lunch break at work and in the evening after the baby is asleep. I don't usually bring books to work with me, so that's when I read a lot of the digital stuff I post about. I'll whip out the iPad, read an issue or two, then compose a quick post all in the span of my lunch hour. Then the post gets refined whenever I can find time, usually at night or in the morning.

The evenings are when I read the actual physical books: the Omnibuses, comic strip collections, etc. I try to find an hour, during which I'll read an issue (or a segment of the book or whatever), then type up a post. The only catch there is, as noted, our baby is not very good at sleeping yet, so for several months, my evening hour was often interrupted or never happened at all. Only recently have we finally hit on a routine that seems to work, and things are shaping up so I may soon be able to get comfortably ahead of schedule again.

Lastly, the stats: The X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS chart still has the most all-time hits by a mile; I don't think that's ever likely to change. Behind it with about a third as many hits is still my review of the INFINITY GAUNTLET OMNIBUS. That'll probably only increase as next year's INFINITY WAR movie gets closer. And more or less tied for third place are some newcomers to these standings: the CAPTAIN BRITAIN reviews and the IRON MAN by Michelinie & Layton reviews.

And those who dare to come here via Google use variations on the blog's name as the most popular search term, followed still by searches for information on the INFINITY GAUNTLET OMNIBUS, and, unexpectedly, searches for NEW TEEN TITANS reviews.

So to sum up: Mondays are kind of by the seat of my pants right now, but Fridays are looking good. And of course Sundays will continue to see The Unboxing once a month. I have much less time for the other sorts of posts I used to squeeze in on weekends, but I'm sure some will pop up now and then.

Friday, August 18, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 10

“TRIUMPH IN TROPICA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

And now we reach the finale of Alex Raymond’s ten-year run on FLASH GORDON. When last we left our heroes, Flash and Dale had made their way into Tropica’s capitol with the assistance of an elderly woman named Tartara and her perennially shell-shocked son, Timor.

Timor quickly turns coward and tries to hand Flash and Dale over to King Brazor’s secret police, but our heroes escape with the assistance of a criminal named Trico. Trico introduces Flash to the Underground, a resistance group working against Brazor. Flash quickly assumes command of the Underground. Meanwhile, Brazor plots Desira’s execution. Flash and Trico work to rescue her, even as news from the front lines comes in: the army of Gundar, which had lain siege to the capitol, has been wiped out.


Amid all this, a female member of the Underground, Gypsa — a beautiful dancer — has made clear her lust for Flash. But, in a surprising twist, there’s no zany misunderstanding on anyone’s part. Flash shuts Gypsa down, Dale retains control of her emotions, and Gypsa — after a brief flash of anger — takes it all in stride, continuing to assist Flash in his mission. It’s all quite refreshing.

Monday, August 14, 2017

DAREDEVIL #190

"RESURRECTION”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil, Black Widow, and Stone fight the Hand at a cemetery, but are unable to stop the ninjas from stealing Elektra’s corpse. Meanwhile, the Kingpin fends off an assassin sent by one of his underlings, Injun Joe. Daredevil visits the Kingpin for help in finding the Hand, and Kingpin asks DD to take out Injun Joe instead. Daredevil does so and is rewarded with the Hand’s location.

Daredevil, Black Widow, and Stone confront the Hand in an abandoned church as they attempt to resurrect Elektra. DD senses a heartbeat and attempts to use mystical arts to resurrect her, as he saw Stone do to Black Widow, but he fails. The Kingpin’s men burst into the burning church and finish off the Hand. Daredevil and Black Widow go outside, leaving Stone to finish Elektra. But before he can do the deed, he senses DD managed to purify her with his attempt to bring her back to life.

Daredevil and Black Widow enter the church once more to find Stone and Elektra’s body gone, with only Stone’s gi left behind. Later, Elektra scales a cliff in the snow, reborn thanks to Daredevil and Stone.

Friday, August 11, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 9

“JUNGLES OF MONGO” | “FIERY DESERT OF MONGO” | “BATTLE FOR TROPICA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

“Jungles of Mongo” is a relatively short arc compared with Flash’s other recent adventures. It picks up, naturally, directly where “Queen Desira” left off, with Flash, Dale, Zarkov, and Desira having escaped Prince Brazor’s castle into the jungle of Desira’s kingdom. They fight off wild animals and make their way through a bizarre underground cavern where gravity is flipped in reverse, before finding an outpost of Desira’s army. There, they’re nearly turned over to Brazor, who has convinced Desira’s subjects that she died and that anyone claiming to be her is an imposter, but manage an escape into the “Fiery Desert of Mongo”.

This story arc opens with Flash and company fighting against nature in Mongo’s harshest locale yet. The desert presents a dragon, a lava river, and even a “waterfall” of fire as obstacles for the group. Eventually, low on water and supplies, their mounts dead from heat and exhaustion, things look bad for our heroes — until they’re found by a bandit king named Gundar.


This leads into yet another pastiche for Raymond to explore. It’s not quite as overt as some of the previous ones, but the castle inhabited by Gundar and his men carries a sort of “Arabian Knights” vibe. Gundar proves to be an honorable villain as, even while openly planning to turn Flash and Desira over to Brazor, he has the prisoners looked after by his personal physician, fed, and quartered in some very nice guest rooms.

Monday, August 7, 2017

DAREDEVIL #189

"SIEGE”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Stone uses his ninja abilities to restore Black Widow’s health. The Hand attack Matt’s brownstone, outmatching the combined forces of Daredevil, Black Widow, Stick, Stone, Claw, and Shaft. Claw is killed during the fight, then Stick and Shaft sacrifice their lives to drain the Hand’s life forces, defeating them.

Stone meditates to determine the Hand’s next move, while Daredevil and Black Widow split up to search for the ninjas. Eventually they return to Matt’s home empty-handed, and Stone reveals that he believes the Hand will attempt to resurrect Elektra to replace the late Kirigi as their ultimate warrior.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: It's revealed that, rather than being his peers as the previous issue made it seem, Claw, Stone, and Shaft are Stick’s protégés.

Heather shows up at Matt's apartment, drunk and submissive. Later, Black Widow visits Foggy (clarifying that apparently the superheroine/superspy publicly dated Matt Murdock while she was Daredevil’s partner) and a Foggy tells her what Matt did to force Heather into marrying him. The pair decide that breaking up Matt and Heather would be best for both, so the Widow forges notes from one to the other facilitating this.

Friday, August 4, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 8

“RETURN TO EARTH” | “QUEEN DESIRA”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

At the end of “The Fall of Ming”, Zarkov picked up signals from Earth and learned that the planet was in the throes of a new World War (though it’s not the World War II that was raging when Alex Raymond crafted these stories; rather it’s a fictionalized war against something called the Red Sword). Seeing his homeworld in danger, Flash had Zarkov and the scientists of Mongo build a ship to take him home, and he, Dale, and Zarkov boarded the craft with advanced Mongo weaponry to aid in the good fight.


“Return to Earth” opens as our heroes splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, where they’re picked up by an American ship and brought back to Washington. Though the government has doubts about their stories of Mongo, our heroes are turned over to an old colleague of Doctor Zarkov, named Grubich, for care.

For the first time, a fairly large plot hole emerges in the otherwise mostly cohesive FLASH GORDON narrative. Though there have been minor hiccups here and there, nothing has been as overt as this: when the strip debuted in 1934, Earth was in a panic because the planet Mongo was hurtling toward it. Zarkov was a world-renowned scientist who developed a rocket he believed could move the incoming planet off course. As we know, Zarkov was successful -- but the rocket crash-landed on Mongo instead, marooning Zarkov, Flash, and Dale there for quite some time.

Now, as we return to Earth, it seems the world has forgotten Mongo ever existed. Besides that, the government appears to have no idea who Zarkov is despite his earlier fame. Plus, as we’ll soon learn in the subsequent story arc, Mongo is apparently nowhere near Earth, and it’s quite a long journey to get back there!

Monday, July 31, 2017

DAREDEVIL #188

"THE WIDOW’S BITE”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Black Widow fights her way out of S.H.I.E.L.D. medical custody and goes in search of Daredevil, but doesn't find him at either his brownstone or Heather’s apartment. Meanwhile, Stick speaks with Matt, who is in a sensory deprivation tank hidden in his basement, while Kirigi is given an assignment to kill Stick.

Widow is also unable to locate Matt at his office and continues her search. As Matt and Stick continue their conversation, Black Widow enters the Kingpin’s office but he, too, is unaware of where Daredevil could be. As the Widow fights Kingpin’s goons, he notices that she appears to be dissolving somehow.

Meanwhile, Kirigi enters Matt’s basement but he is defeated by Stick and his associates, Shaft, Claw, and Stone. As Matt emerges from the sensory deprivation tank, Black Widow arrives and collapses.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Black Widow visits with her friend and father figure, Ivan, before setting out on her quest. She notes that “…he's been through a lot lately,” but there's no footnote explaining the comment.

(However, stay tuned to this very site and we'll find out what she means in another month or so!)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

THE UNBOXING - JULY 2017

The Spider-Man party continues this month with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT from Marvel. This book includes a notable chunk of Spidey stuff from the eighties, from the unmasking of the Hobgoblin to the SPIDER-MAN VS. WOLVERINE one-shot to wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson to the eponymous storyline featuring Kraven the Hunter. I have mixed feelings about this era. Partly it's due to a lot of substandard artwork, but more than that, the stories often feel too dark for Spider-Man -- especially SPIDER-MAN/WOLVERINE and "Kraven's Last Hunt". But still, if I collect every installment of no other Epic Collection line, I will collect all of Spider-Man because -- it's Spider-Man!

In addition, this month Marvel also brings the DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU OMNIBUS volume 2, a black-and-white volume completing Marvel's collection of the magazine series that starred, among others, Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, and the Sons of the Tiger. As I mentioned when volume 1 was released, I've had a weird love of the Sons for many years without having read any of their actual adventures, and I'm pleased to finally rectify that. (That is to say, I'm rectifying my not having read the issues, not my love of the characters! That will endure even if I don't enjoy the stories.)


Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Amazon has a "ghost" listing up for the 2018 release of the MASTER OF KUNG FU EPIC COLLECTION volume 1. I had previously speculated, based on statements from Marvel collected edition editors, that the Omnibuses might be the only way to get this material. I'm glad to see that's not the case; in addition to the fancy hardcovers, MASTER OF KUNG FU will also be available in a nice paperback format as well.

Friday, July 28, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 7

“POWER MEN OF MONGO” | “FALL OF MING”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

Following a year’s worth of strips set in Mongo’s frozen northlands, Alex Raymond returns Flash and Doctor Zarkov to more familiar surroundings as they join up with the surviving members of Flash’s Freemen (a group which hadn’t been seen in well over a year at this point!) and head into Mingo City with plans to rescue Dale.


Interestingly, Frigia was left in sort of a state of flux by these developments. A love triangle had popped up between Flash, Dale, and Queen Fria, but Dale was soon kidnapped and Flash set out immediately to rescue her. Typically when Raymond has moved Flash from one locale to another, he’s wrapped up loose ends before doing so. Running things this way, leaving us uncertain as to whatever happened with Fria following Flash’s departure, is an unusual way to go, but is also probably more realistic than Flash tying everything up with a bow everywhere he stops.

At any rate, Flash has moved on from Frigia’s politics and so will we. Following a botched attempt to rescue Dale, Flash and Zarkov meet up with the “Power Men” who operate Mingo’s electrical systems and who promptly join up with Flash in his rebellion. Operating out of the Power Men’s underground electrical works, Flash and Zarkov succeed at their second attempt to save Dale from Ming, and we even get to see Zarkov join in the action as he rescues Flash and Dale, unconscious, from Ming’s forces at one point.

Monday, July 24, 2017

DAREDEVIL #187

"OVERKILL”
Writer/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: While Daredevil deals with his increasingly erratic hypersenses, the Black Widow fights a contingent of Hand ninjas in the New York City Morgue, but they escape with a corpse. Meanwhile, Daredevil begins a search for Stick in order to get help managing his senses. But the Hand find Stick first and attack him, though he manages to fight them off.

Daredevil is assaulted by a group of thugs looking to take advantage of his weakened state, but a cab driver rescues him and chauffeurs him to Josie’s. There, he learns Stick failed to show up for a pool game. Finally, DD staggers home to find Stick and three shadowy men conferring inside his brownstone.

Elsewhere, the Hand ninjas return to their lair with the corpse they recovered, and perform a ceremony to bring it back to life. The process is a success and Kirigi lives once more.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: After two issues featuring a new corner box (which seems to show Daredevil stumbling like he just tripped over the ottoman), this issue returns to the old one. The stumbly corner box will be back next month.

Friday, July 21, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 6

“THE TYRANT OF MONGO” | “ICE KINGDOM OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

“The Tyrant of Mongo” is less a single story arc than a bundle of smaller plots joined together by the overarching theme of Ming as Flash’s main antagonist. Though Ming has obviously always been involved in the ongoing saga, and even encountered Flash face-to-face multiple times, and although he has waged war against Flash’s kingdom, of Kira, deposing our hero and sending him into hiding, this may be the first time Ming brings his full hatred to bear on our hero in a nonstop series of conflicts.

Having been expelled from their underground catacombs by Ming’s floodwaters, Flash, Dale, Zarkov, Sonja, and a few of the freemen wander ashore on an island which houses the tombs of Mongo’s nobility. They befriend the cryptkeeper and soon begin waging a guerilla war against Mingo City from their new secret base. Flash leads a raid to sink several of Ming’s “rocket submarines” while they’re sitting in port, but hijacks one such craft for himself after winning its crew over to the cause of the freemen.


Subsequently, Ming makes a trip to the island to inter his uncle (who Ming himself has had executed for plotting against him). The Freemen attack, leading to one of the most iconic scenes in all of FLASH GORDON lore (so iconic that even I, who knew essentially nothing about Flash coming into this series, was aware of it): Flash faces Ming in a saber duel. Ming is ultimately captured and his forces driven off, and Raymond and Moore continue to deepen their characterization of Mongo and its people, as we meet an honorable commander in Ming’s army, Lin-Chu, who parlays with Flash and even considers him a worthy foe.

Monday, July 17, 2017

DAREDEVIL #186

"STILTS”
Scripter/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil shows up at Glenn Industries during a board meeting to inform Heather and the board that evidence is en route to the assistant district attorney which will shut the company down. But after he and Heather have both departed, the board’s chairman, Mr. Spindle, reveals that he's hired Stilt Man to deal with the ADA. However Stilt Man loses one of his gloves while counting Spindle’s payment, and goes to Melvin Potter’s costume shop for a new one, where he's noticed by Turk, who tails him home.

Meanwhile, Matt Murdock prepares evidence of Glenn Industries’ wrongdoings, then, as Daredevil, drops it off with ADA Maxine Lavender. Elsewhere, Turk knocks out Stilt Man and take his battlesuit, then offers his services to the Kingpin. When Kingpin turns him away, Turk decides to fulfill Stilt Man’s mission and kidnap the ADA.

While dropping off further evidence with the police, Daredevil finds Stilt Man’s alter ego, Wilbur Day, reporting the theft of his armor. Soon, when Turk kidnaps Lavender, DD shows up to save her and easily defeat the new Stilt Man.

In the aftermath of Matt's legal assault on Glenn Industries, he tells Heather that they will need to prepare her defense. Believing this has all been a ploy to leave her with no choice but to marry him, Heather accepts Matt’s proposal.

Friday, July 14, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 5

“OUTLAWS OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

When last we left Flash Gordon and friends, the villainous Grombo had escaped from Barin’s forest kingdom despite our heroes’ best efforts. As the “Outlaws of Mongo” story arc opens, Grombo is found in the neighboring desert land by some of Ming’s people — and Alex Raymond continues to play with various pastiches by presented Ming’s desert warriors as, essentially, Foreign Legionnaires.


Grombo brings word that Flash, missing in action since Ming conquered his cave kingdom, is still alive and living in Barin’s castle. When Ming gets wind of this, he demands Barin turn Flash and Dale over to him, but Barin refuses. Flash, realizing Ming won’t rest until he’s captured, leaves Barin’s kingdom under cover of night, and when Ming calls Barin again, the prince declares that he honestly does not know where Flash is.

But Flash’s mistake was in leaving Dale behind. Ming quickly changes gears and demands her instead, planning to use her as bait to capture Flash. When Barin refuses this request as well, Ming declares war on the treetop kingdom. Flash, in the desert, sees Ming’s forces marching on Barin and does his best to stop them, but in the end he’s captured. Ming calls off his invasion of Barin’s realm as Flash is brought before him and sentenced to death.

Monday, July 10, 2017

DAREDEVIL #185

"GUTS”
Scripter/Storyteller: Frank Miller | Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Heather comes to Foggy for help in getting to the bottom of her company’s apparent illicit dealings. They go together to Glenn Industries but are informed that Heather’s signature is already on all the paperwork, so if anything untoward is going on, she’s complicit. Foggy sends Heather home so he can pursue further action, unaware he's being followed by Daredevil.

Eventually Foggy’s path leads him to the Kingpin, who has purchased explosives from Glenn Industries to use in a waterfront heist. While Foggy verbally spars with the Kingpin, Daredevil thwarts the Kingpin’s operation and then warns the crime boss not to mess with “Guts” Nelson.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: “Guts” was apparently Foggy’s fraternity nickname, which he has adopted as a street name for the duration of this tale.

During his adventures, Foggy crosses paths with Eric Slaughter and Turk, with the latter accompanying him for the remainder of the story until Foggy ditches him by putting him on a plane to Chicago. The Kingpin’s right-hand man, Flint, also pops up.

Friday, July 7, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 4

“FOREST KINGDOM OF MONGO” | “TUSK-MEN OF MONGO” | “BEAST MEN OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

One of the things I like about these FLASH GORDON strips — and I’m certain something Alex Raymond probably enjoyed as well — is that the setting of Mongo allows Raymond to send our heroes off into all manner of different locales and environments. We’ve seen Ming’s city, a tribute to the splendor of ancient Rome, while Ming and his people clearly draw inspiration from “the mysterious Orient”. There was the futuristic city of Hawkmen as well, not to mention the caverns of Flash’s short-lived kingdom of Kira. Now we move into King Barin’s forest kingdom, which actually comes across more like a jungle and allows Raymond to cast Flash as a Tarzan stand-in for several weeks.

I suppose some could call this a cheat — Raymond has decided his strip will feature the best of all worlds and so, rather than doing something in the vein of PRINCE VALIANT and being stuck forever in the middle ages, he can venture into that genre for a while, then within a couple weeks dip his toe into science fiction instead. Personally, I just think it’s a canny move on Raymond’s part: by setting his story on a world where all these genres exist side-by-side in a huge mash-up, he’s ensured that he’ll never get bored with his premise since his premise can be literally whatever he wants it to be from story arc to story arc!

So: following their escape from Ming in the previous arc, Flash, Dale, and Zarkov are shot down by the warlord’s air force while en route to Barin’s kingdom. They brave the wilds, but Zarkov is set upon by a group of rabid squirlons and descends into madness even as Ming’s forces firebomb the area where our heroes’ ship crashed. The end result is that Zarkov staggers away, rambling, under the impression that Flash and Dale are dead. Eventually he runs across a group of Barin’s men, out searching for the group, and tells them exactly that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

DAREDEVIL #184

"GOOD GUYS WEAR RED!”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil stops the Punisher from assassinating Hogman, then, the next day while defending Hogman in court as Matt Murdock, he runs a bluff which leads to a phone call from Coach Donahue of the local high school. The coach requests a meeting in the school gym, but when Matt shows up, Donahue is high on angel dust and attacks him. Matt subdues Donahue and considers that, although he is Hogman’s dealer to the school’s students, he doesn't seem like a user.

Meanwhile, Hogman kills a witness who saw him shoot his partner, Flapper. The next day, Hogman is acquitted of Flapper’s murder and he subsequently gloats over his guilt to Matt. Soon, Daredevil confronts Hogman and learns he has a pacemaker which kept his heartbeat even when he initially proclaimed his innocence, thus fooling DD's hypersenses.

That night, young Billy calls Hogman and requests a meeting. The boy prepares to shoot Hogman, but the Punisher intervenes. He takes out Hogman’s bodyguard and wings Hogman, but Daredevil arrives and stops him from killing the drug lord. DD shoots the Punisher with Billy’s gun and convinces Billy to let Hogman live. Soon, Hogman is indicted for the other murders on his hands, but Billy remains unconvinced justice will prevail.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The Glenn Industries board of directors continues to manipulate Heather — or so they believe. But she investigates some of their activities and learns her company is in business with a manufacturer of plastic explosives for some unknown reason.

Friday, June 30, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 3

“AT WAR WITH MING” | “UNDERSEA KINGDOM OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

Following from the prior story arc, which saw Flash finally installed as King of the cavern land of Kira, Flash receives a note from Ming in which the emperor says he doesn’t believe Flash won over Queen Azura, and the despot will not recognize Flash as ruler of Kira until he executes her. Flash, being a careful, level-headed ruler, immediately declares war on Ming for this outrage.

…Look, I know this is an action/adventure serial, and as such, there should be some form of action and/or adventure every week, but Flash seems way out of line here. And we’ve seen this impetuous, impulsive side of oour hero before, but it’s usually in the heat of the moment as he’s forced to come up with a game plan on the fly or something. But here he’s won his freedom from Ming, he’s tamed his kingdom, and he’s more or less dropped off the merciless warlord’s radar. You’d think he might want to lay low for a while and build up his strength before racing into a foolhardy war against the emperor of the world!

But such prudence is not the way of Flash Gordon, so a war begins. Ming marshals the various kingdoms of Mongo loyal to his banner, while Flash receives aid from King Vultan and the Hawkmen, plus Prince Barin (now wearing a spiffy Robin Hood getup since becoming ruler of Mongo’s tree kingsom) and his forces. Unfortunately none of these are enough to save Flash from the treachery of Aura, who — though she has apparently settled into her role as Barin’s bride — still harbors loyalty to her father. Aura gives away Flash’s battle plans to Ming, who wipes out his army and takes him captive.

Monday, June 26, 2017

DAREDEVIL #183

"CHILD’S PLAY”
Writers: Roger McKenzie & Frank Miller | Artists: Frank Miller & Klaus Janson
Colors: Klaus Janson | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Matt Murdock gives a talk at a local high school, a girl named Mary O’Koran goes into a drug-induced panic and leaps out the classroom’s second story window. Matt changes to Daredevil and rushes the girl to the hospital, but she dies. Her brother, Billy, swears vengeance on the drug pushers, “Hogman” and “Flapper”.

That night, Daredevil locates Flapper but during a skirmish with the Punisher, is unable to save him from being gunned down by someone on a nearby rooftop. DD ascends and finds Billy holding a gun, but the boy swears he shot high and missed. The next day, Matt volunteers to handle Billy’s defense.

While searching for evidence of Billy’s innocence, Daredevil runs afoul of the Punisher again. He then confronts Hogman, who he believes killed Flapper for skimming profits. Two weeks later, Matt gets Billy exonerated, but when Hogman protests that he didn't fire the gun either, his heartbeat remains even. Matt next declares he will defend Hogman.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: A doctor at the hospital fills Daredevil in on angel dust, the drug found in Mary’s system.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

THE UNBOXING - JUNE 2017

Two books, both from Marvel, and both starring Spider-Man, comprise this month's Unboxing. You'd think the guy has a movie coming out in a couple weeks or something!

First is a trade paperback collecting SPIDER-MAN BY TODD DEZAGO AND MIKE WIERINGO. Some sources have labeled this as "volume 1" while others have not. It collects SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #7 - 24, which is the bulk of the two creators' work on the web-slinger. A second installment would be very significantly shorter, as their run concluded with SENSANTIONAL #31. It'll be interesting to see how Marvel collects those remaining issues.

(Though it should be noted that SENSATIONAL #25 - 28 were collected in the SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER-HUNT and SPIDER-MAN: IDENTITY CRISIS trade paperbacks from a few years back, along with issues of the other ongoing Spider-titles of the time.)

(And it should be doubly noted that the Wieringo-free SENSATIONAL 32 and 33 can be found in the SPIDER-MAN: THE GATHERING OF FIVE trade, while the earlier Dan Jurgens-created SENSATIONAL #1 - 6 are avaialable in the various trades and Omnibuses containing the "Clone Saga" -- meaning that the SENSATIONAL entire series is currently collected aside from issues 29 - 31!)

Friday, June 23, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 2

“TOURNAMENTS OF MONGO”
“THE CAVERNS OF MONGO” | “WITCH QUEEN OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

In the climax of the previous story arc, Doctor Zarkov’s scientific acumen saved the city of Hawk Men from plummeting to the surface of Mongo, thus winning Flash and company the eternal gratitude and friendship of King Vultan, ruler of the Hawk Men. As the “Tournaments of Mongo” arc opens, Ming arrives in the floating city to take back his bride, Dale — but Vultan declares Dale under his protection and proposes a contest to determine the freedom of both her and Flash. Ming agrees and begins the “Tournament of Death”.

Though it’s not exactly spelled out in narration, it seems that the tournament is intended for those people of Mongo with nothing to lose in life: convicts, the poor, etc. The rules are simple: any number of contestants enter, and following a series of challenges, there can be only one living victor. The champion may then select a woman of his choice as his bride, and will be awarded one of Mongo’s kingdoms to rule.

In addition to Flash, the rebel Prince Barin also enters the tournament, disguised with a mask. We learn over the course of the challenges that Barin is in love with Ming’s daughter, Princess Aura, and that he is the rightful ruler of Mongo, a position Ming somehow usurped from him. In the end, it’s down to Flash and Barin, and when the prince is unmasked, the people of Mongo cheer for both of them to win the tournament. Backed into a corner by this overwhelmingly popular support, Ming allows both men to live. Flash chooses Dale as his bride, while Barin picks Aura. Ming awards the men their kingdoms, two of the planet’s most untamed: Barin will rule the Forests while Flash will have the Caverns.

Monday, June 19, 2017

DAREDEVIL #182

"SHE’S ALIVE”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Matt awakes in the middle of the night, convinced Elektra is still alive, and goes out in search of her. Meanwhile, in prison, the Punisher kills three of his fellow inmates and is soon approached by a government agent who will arrange to break him out so he can intercept a drug shipment entering the country via Long Island.

After learning that the Kingpin has a big underworld summit upcoming, Matt spends the day at Nelson & Murdock obsessing over the coroner’s report on Elektra. That night, the Punisher escapes from Ryker’s Island Penitentiary while Daredevil questions the Kingpin about Elektra. After the hero leaves, Kingpin assures the other mob bosses that DD will be busy chasing Elektra's ghost and will not interfere with their drug shipment.

Late at night, after learning Matt attempted to get Elektra's remains exhumed, Foggy goes searching for his partner. Meanwhile, the Punisher thwarts the drug-running operation and KOs his government benefactor before the man can re-arrest him. At the cemetary, Matt digs up Elektra's coffin and is horrified to realize that it actually is her body that was buried and that she is truly dead. Foggy arrives to take him home.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Glenn Industries’ board of directors, who we haven't seen since way back in issue 165, is still plotting to steal the company from Heather. I guess they work very deliberately.

Friday, June 16, 2017

FLASH GORDON PART 1

“ON THE PLANET MONGO” | “MONSTERS OF MONGO”
by Alex Raymond & Don Moore

These initial FLASH GORDON strips, comprising nearly the entire year of 1934 — January 7th through November 18th — introduce us in very quick order to our hero and his situation. And I mean very quick order. The first strip presents us with the news that a newly discovered planet is hurtling toward Earth, and the world’s preeminent scientific mind, Doctor Hans Zarkov, is working to knock it off course. We then meet renowned Yale polo star Flash Gordon and his girlfriend, Dale Arden, aboard an airplane which is struck by a meteor presaging the larger planet’s impact. They bail out, conveniently landing near Zarkov’s lab, and the addled scientist forces them aboard his rocket at gunpoint, then takes off on a collision course with the mystery planet.


I'll repeat: that's all one strip — thirteen panels! Fortunately, subsequent installments are a bit more reasonably paced, and really, it's easy to realize why the story needs to begin in such a seemingly rushed fashion. This isn't a twenty-some page comic book or a novel or a half-hour TV show or a two hour movie. It's half a page in the local newspaper, and it's the very first installment of a new feature. Once the strip is established, it can afford to be more leisurely with its storytelling, but in order to get that far, it needs to hook new readers immediately, and so we wind up with the above.

So — Zarkov’s plan is a success and the other planet, Mongo, is diverted from its crash-course with Earth. But Zarkov himself perishes when his rocket crashes, and Flash and Dale find themselves marooned on Mongo. What follows is a long and winding serial which sees the pair captured, separated, recaptured, escaped, and more, in a series of non-stop, genuinely exciting cliffhangers which introduce them to the varied species which call Mongo home.

Monday, June 12, 2017

DAREDEVIL #181

"LAST HAND”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: In prison, Bullseye fantasizes about revenge on Daredevil. Upon learning that Elektra has replaced him as the Kingpin’s assassin, Bullseye accepts an offer for a TV interview and uses the event to stage a daring escape. He learns from Eric Slaughter that Elektra has been assigned the task of killing Foggy Nelson, so Bullseye tails Nelson the next day until Elektra makes her move. When she ultimately lets Foggy go, Bullseye attacks and kills her.

As he spies on Nelson & Murdock identifying Elektra's body in the morgue, Bullseye suspects Matt Murdock is actually his arch-enemy. He goes to Matt’s brownstone and attacks, but Daredevil appears to fight him off. Ultimately DD wins, and this time, rather than saving Bullseye’s life, he lets the assassin drop several stories, crippling him.

Later, as Bullseye lays in traction, unable to move or speak, he fantasizes about revenge on Daredevil.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Bullseye is incarcerated under the name Benjamin Pondexter, which dates back to the Roger McKenzie days, though here he identifies it as one of many aliases he's used and refuses to disclose his true name.

Bullseye recalls Daredevil saving his life in issue 172, though there is no footnote. Also, even though his tumor was removed in issue 169, he still suffers agonizing headaches as a side effect. He feigns one of these headaches to facilitate his escape.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

THE SUMMER OF FLASH GORDON

Though he worked in comic strips for years before launching FLASH GORDON and had another successful strip, RIP KIRBY, for a decade after FLASH ended until his untimely death in 1956, I think it's generally agreed that FLASH GORDON was Alex Raymond's magnum opus. The character's adventures have been translated into other languages and adapted into movie serials, comic books, novels, big screen motion pictures, animated cartoons, and television series. FLASH inspired STAR WARS, for Pete's sake! And virtually all the adaptations draw their inspiration from Raymond's decade on the strip over any of the other material presented in its sixty years of existence.


As I discussed last weekend, lately I've been big into newspaper action/adventure comic strips, and I decided to write about one this year. SHATTUCK this past Friday was a warm-up for this: ten weeks looking at Alex Raymond's full original run on FLASH GORDON. I'll be using Titan Books' hardcovers for this project, and each post will cover between one and three story arcs. (The original strips weren't identified by story arc titles so far as I know, but in the intervening decades, the various plotlines have been divided up into arcs which seem to be universally agreed upon by one and all.)


Beginning this Friday, we'll travel to the myterious planet Mongo with renowned Yale polo star Flash Gordon, his girlfriend Dale Arden, and their trusty ally, Doctor Hans Zarkov. I hope you'll be along for the ride, too.

Available on Amazon: Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3

Friday, June 9, 2017

SHATTUCK

About three years ago, I wrote about Wally Wood's CANNON comic strip, which was published by the Overseas Weekly some decades back. Wood also furnished two other strips to the Weekly back then: the very well-known SALLY FORTH, and the much more obscure SHATTUCK. Last year, Fantagraphics Books, who published the CANNON collection in 2014, issued a hardcover for SHATTUCK as well. I had enjoyed CANNON and SHATTUCK's price was right, so I went ahead and picked it up.


SHATTUCK is a western strip, and while the division of labor isn't perfectly spelled out, it seems that it was masterminded by Wood and produced by his studio: written by Nicola Cuti and drawn at various points by Howard Chaykin, Dave Cockrum, Syd Shores, and Jack Abel, with contributions from Wood himself as well.

The book's afterword notes that the story behind the strip's creation, and the people who worked on it, is probably of more interest and importance than the actual strip itself, and that may well be true. SHATTUCK isn't awful by any means; but it's not exactly groundbreaking, either. It tells the story of Merle Shattuck, an outlaw who kills the sheriff of a town called Sundown and then goes on the run.

Monday, June 5, 2017

DAREDEVIL #180

"THE DAMNED”
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil beats up Turk, Grotto, and an associate of theirs. Meanwhile, Ben Urich develops the photos he took of the Kingpin’s meeting with Randolph Cherryh and realizes that the vagrant woman he saw may be Kingpin’s wife, Vanessa. He informs Daredevil and together they descend beneath the city in search of her. Eventually DD goes on alone, ordering Ben home, but Ben is immediately kidnapped by a group of vagrants.

At the same time, election results come rolling in Cherryh wins the mayorship of New York in a landslide. Underground, Daredevil is brought before the vagrants’ King, who has taken Vanessa as his queen. The King attempts to feed DD and Ben to his alligator, but the man without fear frees himself and defeats the beast, then the King as well.

Later, Daredevil brings Vanessa’s wedding ring to the Kingpin and offers a trade: Vanessa for Cherryh. Kingpin agrees and Cherryh withdraws from the mayoral race, admitting the Daily Bugle’s allegations against him were true. Kingpin wants someone to pay for this, and orders Elektra to kill Foggy Nelson.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Two weeks have passed since last issue, during which Daredevil has had his ankle in a cast thanks to Elektra’s bear trap, while Ben has recovered from her sai attack. In that time, Ben has taken Elektra's advice and spiked his story on Cherryh’s mob ties, forcing Jonah Jameson to publicly retract the Daily Bugle’s prior articles to that effect.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

CUCKOO FOR COMIC STRIPS

For some reason, lately I've been almost infatuated with newspaper action/adventure strips of yore. If you'll pardon several paragraphs of self-indulgence, I'm going to try to figure out exactly how I got to this point.

I think I can pinpoint the kernel of when it started, at least. At some point about five or six years ago, I was, "researching" sword-wielding barbarian gals in the mold of Red Sonja (as you do), and I came across a character named Axa, the heroine of a post-apocalyptic wasteland who starred in a strip for Britain's Sun newspaper back in the early eighties. The strip, created and illustrated by Enric Romero with scripts from Donne Avenell, had been released in the United States many years earlier, but those collections were long out of print. However I found some scans online and read nearly the entire Axa canon in short order. I really liked Romero's mostly realistic artwork in the black-and-white format, and I found the daily newspaper strip format pretty interesting. It didn't hurt that the strip was "mature" (i.e. juvenile) in nature, with the title character constantly losing her top in battle.

Somewhere around that same time, circa 2009/2010, Marvel released two volumes collecting the original Spider-Man newspaper strip run by Stan Lee and John Romita. However these books were panned by critics for their presentation of the material, so I skipped them -- but they stuck in my mind as something I might be interested in checking out someday. (And, as noted a while back, I have in fact gotten into these strips by way of IDW's more recent Library of American Comics reprints of the same material.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

HALF PAST DANGER

"BITE THE BULLET" | "IN LIKE FLYNN"
"SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES" | "CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER!"
"OURS IS BUT TO DO AND DIE" | "KILLING WITH KINDNESS"
Created, Written, and Drawn by Stephen Mooney
Colors by: Stephen Mooney (#1) & Jordie Bellaire (#2 - 6)
Edits by Chris Ryall & Chris Schraff

HALF PAST DANGER opens in 1943 as a group of U.S. Army soldiers patrols a tropical island which they quickly find to be occupied by A) Nazis and B) dinosaurs. The entire unit is wiped out save for its commander, Sergeant Tommy "Irish" Flynn, who manages an escape. The story picks up some time later as Flynn is recruited by British agent Elizabeth Huntington-Moss to join her team in returning to the island to investigate further. The group is rounded out by Captain John Noble of the U.S. Army and Ishikawa Minamoto, a Japanese defector who happens to also be a ninja.

Our heroes reach the island, meet a German scientist named Greta, and come into conflict with the Nazis, who are loading the dinosaurs into a train, and ultimately onto a boat, in order to return them to Germany. But when the group heads aboard the Nazi ship, we learn that one of our heroes is a traitor, and that the dinosaurs are merely a red herring for the Nazis' true goal -- the capture of Captain Noble.

Ultimately the Nazis are defeated and our heroes rescued by the United States, and we're promised that "Half Past Danger Will Return".

Well, I doubt I'll be along for that ride. As noted a couple weeks, back, this was really just an impulse buy for me when I checked out an IDW sale on Comixology. The collected edition's cover promised "dames, dinosaurs, and danger" and while all three are prevalent in the story, there just wasn't enough of any of it to keep my attention. I like the concept in theory -- a dinosaur-infested island discovered by Nazis during World War II is a fantastic idea, and fits with Hitler's interest in the unusual -- and Stephen Mooney's story is fine. HALF PAST DANGER reads, as I'm sure he intended, like a summer popcorn movie with bold action, diabolical villains, and a decent character arc for the protagonist, Flynn.

Monday, May 29, 2017

DAREDEVIL #179

"SPIKED!"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art & Colors: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Ben Urich meets with an informant in a movie theater, but the informant is killed by Elektra, who warns Urich to back off of the Kingpin. Ben returns to the Daily Bugle and calls Matt Murdock. Soon Daredevil arrives and upon learning of Elektra’s involvement, he heads out to find her.

The next day, Ben meets with mayoral candidate Randolph Cherryh at the gym, and Cherryh’s men rough Ben up. Daredevil arrives and escorts him to safety, then listens in as Cherryh phones the Kingpin and sets up a meeting for the next day in Little Italy -- but DD is unable to attend due to a court date. Against the scarlet swashbuckler’s wishes, Ben spies on the meet, taking photos.

That night, Ben meets with another informant who directs him to a nearby building to find Cherryh’s mistress. But Daredevil shows up and, believing this a trap, goes in instead. As Ben watches, DD emerges from the building battling Elektra. She gets the better of him with the help of a bear trap* and knocks a brick wall down on him. Then, hearing Ben’s telltale cough nearby, she hurls a sai at him, stabbing him in the back.

* Yes, you read that right.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Cherryh observes that Ben is only around forty years old here. He's always seemed older to me; usually somewhere in his fifties.

Friday, May 26, 2017

PARKER: THE SCORE & PARKER: SLAYGROUND

Last week I spent most of my time talking a bit about the Parker character, but I paid little mind to Darwyn Cooke's artwork. This time I plan to correct that. But first, we'll have a quick rundown of the plots of both THE SCORE and SLAYGROUND.

THE SCORE is a tale of Parker and a dozen associates taking on a job to rob an entire small mining town in the middle of the night. And, much as I stated previously that I liked the prior Parker stories for their showcasing our anti-hero doing everything right and accomplishing his goals without a hitch, I also really like the fact that THE SCORE throws a major wrench into the operation in a twist I don't really want to reveal here, sending Parker and company into a panicked retreat before their operation can be successfully completed. Where the previous stories showed us a cool, capable Parker executing his plans flawlessly, this one gives us a Parker who must improvise in order to save his skin.

Both approaches suit the character very well, and it should be noted that even when everything is going wrong, the plan crumbing around him, Parker takes it all in stride and remains as calm as ever. I guess I should amend what I said last week (and elaborated upon this past Sunday): I like seeing ultra-competent characters do everything right, but I also like when said ultra-competents are forced to wing it and do so in as unruffled a fashion as possible. I think really, what I don't like are panicky characters who dig themselves into deeper holes when they find themselves in a tight spot. To quote one John "Hannibal" Smith, I suppose you might just say that I love it when a plan comes together.

Monday, May 22, 2017

DAREDEVIL #178

"PAPER CHASE"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor: Jim Shooter

The Plot: At her apartment, Elektra is attacked by agents of the Kingpin and, after defeating them, she finds a card offering her employment in his organization. The next day, a young man named Sheldon, who claims to have incriminating checks connecting mayoral candidate Randolph Cherryh to the Kingpin, visits Nelson & Murdock. When Kingpin’s men arrive to try and grab him, Matt Murdock changes to Daredevil and holds them off while Sheldon escapes.

Fearing Matt could be the victim of further harassment, Foggy hires Power Man and Iron Fist, Heroes For Hire, to protect him. They fight off the Kingpin’s goons that night, much to the irritation of Matt, who had intended to get a confession from the men on tape. The next evening, Matt ditches the heroes for hire, which sends them off to harass Cherryh. Daredevil overhears the candidate speaking to Sheldon on the phone, and an agreement is made to exchange the checks for cash during a parade the next day.

At the parade, Power Man and Iron Fist search for Matt but come into conflict with Daredevil. Meanwhile, Turk and Grotto, attempting to get back in with the Kingpin, try to kill Sheldon. Eventually Sheldon is caught by the heroes, but realizes he lost the checks among the tornado of ticker tape swirling above when he tried to elude Turk.

That night, Elektra arrives at the Kingpin’s office to discuss her potential employment.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

FICTIONAL PRIVILEGE AND COMPETENCE

Spider-Man is my all-time favorite superhero; possibly my all-time favorite fictional character. He's a guy driven by guilt to always do the right thing, no matter the personal cost. Peter Parker, in most of his iterations, is a kid or a young adult; a student, a freelance photographer; a guy with barely two nickels to rub together, ever trying to make ends meet. And I wouldn't want him any other way.

But at the same time, that's usually not a character I want to read about (or watch on TV, in the movies, etc.). I love characters like Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, and so on. They have millions -- or, nowadays, billions -- of dollars and they live in palatial estates. Moon Knight, in many of his incarnations, falls into this realm as well. I'd even add the Avengers and X-Men to this category, too. They're not all obscenely wealthy, but they're comfortable and they live in big mansions. The Avengers even have a loyal butler!


There was an era for Daredevil where Nelson & Murdock were considered the best attorneys in New York and operated out of one of the upper floors of a huge skyscraper. This has always been my favorite period for the character. Angel is one of my favorite X-Men because he's the richest among them. Oliver Queen is far more interesting to me when he's wealthy than when he lives in a tenement. I like Danny Rand better as the head of a company than as a hero for hire (and thanks to the recent NetFlix series, I suspect the former will be his default setting going forward).

Friday, May 19, 2017

PARKER: THE HUNTER & PARKER: THE OUTFIT

As I confessed the other day, I had never read a single thing by Darwyn Cooke prior to this year. Somehow the guy just sort of slipped under my radar for pretty much his entire career. I'd seen his artwork now and then, and I was aware of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER, but mostly he just looked like sort of a Bruce Timm clone to me.

Nonetheless, people seemed to love the guy's work. When he died unexpectedly last spring, I made a note that I would definitely check out something he'd done, with NEW FRONTIER at the top of the list. But instead, by way of the big Comixology IDW sale back in October, I wound up reading his PARKER graphic novels first.

Parker was created by the late Donald E. Westlake under the pen name of Richard Stark, as a sort of "anti-hero" in a series of pulp novels published over the course of forty years. In 2009, Cooke began a series of four adaptations of a handful of Perker's earliest stories. The first, THE HUNTER, follows career criminal Parker on a long, bloody trail toward revenge on a man who left him for dead and the return of some stolen monies he believes are rightfully his. Parker comes into conflict with "the Outfit", a nationwide crime syndicate, and by the story's end he's recovered his cash but made a very dangerous enemy of the Outfit.

Monday, May 15, 2017

DAREDEVIL #177

"WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Supervisor : Jim Shooter

The Plot: Over the course of a week, Matt Murdock is retrained in the use of his radar sense by Stick. Meanwhile, Ben Urich writes an exposé on mayoral candidate Randolph Cherryh’s connections to the mob, leading to Cherryh suing the Bugle, and publisher J. Jonah Jameson enlisting Nelson & Murdock to defend the paper. Eventually, Matt’s radar returns while the Kingpin makes plans to deal with Ben.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This is about the closest Miller’s DAREDEVIL gets to a “quiet issue”. The main plot is Matt battling his inner demons with Stick’s aid, but elsewhere, sub-plots abound.

As mentioned above, Jonah Jameson hires Nelson & Murdock — or, more specifically, Nelson, as Matt is out of the picture for the moment — to defend the Daily Bugle. Playing hardball (and reminding Jameson and readers once more that Nelson & Murdock are the best attorneys in the country), Foggy requires an up-front retainer in the amount necessary to rent and furnish a new office for the currently homeless firm.

With Matt occupied, Heather re-enters the New York night life with her friend Rico, last seen back when Roger McKenzie was still writing the series. She flirts with a number of men at a little soiree, but when Rico disparages Matt, Heather storms out of the party without him.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

THE UNBOXING - MAY 2017

Same tune, different singer. Or something. Last month I had one lone book, a CAPTAIN AMERICA EPIC COLLECTION from Marvel. May brings a repeat of that theme, with another single offering in the form of another Epic Collection -- only this time the character is Spider-Man, and the book is THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: THE GOBLIN'S LAST STAND.


This volume ushers the web-slinger into the 1970s with Stan Lee's final few issues as series writer and the beginning of Gerry Conway's multi-year stint as his successor, accompanied by the likes of John Romita and Gil Kane on art -- and it includes, as the title indicates, the milestone deaths of the original Green Goblin and of Peter Parker's longtime girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.

But that's not all! Due out later this month is the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS volume 3 (and I'll speak a bit more about it in June's Unboxing). That book will include AMAZING #68 - 104, while this Epic Collection covers issues 105 - 123. That's more than fifty consecutive issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN reprinted by Marvel in a single month! What a time to be alive! It's almost as if they want to get a bunch of new collections out there in various formats to tie in with a big movie this summer...!

That's it for May, but next month will more than make up for the past couple smaller Unboxings with the afore-mentioned AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS 3 and one or two other neat surprises. See you then!

Friday, May 12, 2017

THE ROCKETEER

"THE ROCKETEER" | "CLIFF'S NEW YORK ADVENTURE"
By Dave Stevens | Lettering by Carrie Spiegle | Coloring by Laura Martin

I've been aware of THE ROCKETEER for -- gosh, decades, I guess, since the movie came out in 1991. I suppose I would've been twelve at the time, and although I recall thinking the film looked interesting, it didn't interest me enough to see it. To this day I still haven't, though I gather it has a pretty strong following. Someday I'll check it out. But, at any rate: at some point between '91 and today, probably when I was in my teens, I learned that the character was originally a comic book, and that said comic was created by Dave Stevens.* I've wanted to read Stevens' original Rocketeer stories for years, and now I've finally taken the plunge.

I was surprised to learn, as I did a little research prior to writing this post, that (per Wikipedia) "The Rocketeer's first adventure appeared in 1982 as a backup feature in issues #2 and #3 of Mike Grell's Starslayer series from Pacific Comics. Two more installments appeared in Pacific's showcase comic Pacific Presents #1 and 2. The fourth chapter ended in a cliffhanger that was later concluded in a special Rocketeer issue released by Eclipse Comics." I had always sort of assumed this was an ongoing comic or a mini-series or something. Little did I realize it was a backup serial that jumped around between multiple comics over the course of years! And that's only the initial storyline, "The Rocketeer". The second tale, "Cliff's New York Adventure", was only three chapters long but took six years and a third publisher to run to completion.

So what was the deal? Was the story not popular enough to find an audience? This seems unlikely since there was a major motion picture adapted from Stevens' work and nowadays, IDW holds the ROCKETEER rights and routinely publishes various limited series starring the character. Was it plagued by bad luck? (i.e., were the series that carried it as a backup feature routinely canceled? I do know that both Pacific and Eclipse eventually folded, but I think that happened in the nineties.) Was Dave Stevens simply a slow or lazy artist, or perhaps uninterested in the character he'd created? I really have no idea -- but the fact is that Stevens created the Rocketeer in 1982 and drew his final Rocketeer story in 1996, and the end result is approximately 120 pages of material (that's roughly eight-and-a-half pages per year, averaged out).

Monday, May 8, 2017

DAREDEVIL #176

"HUNTERS"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Kirigi awakens and seeks shelter to rest and recover. Three days later, still without his radar sense, Daredevil leaves Heather behind at his apartment to go search for his one-time mentor, Stick. Heather decides to seek out Stick as well, unaware she's being watched by Elektra, who then takes off after Daredevil while she herself is shadowed in turn by Kirigi.

At Josie's, Daredevil questions Turk for Stick’s whereabouts. When one of Turk’s associates gets the drop on DD, Turk realizes he's not well and departs with Grotto to acquire a weapon capable of taking the hero out. Meanwhile, Heather links up with a hood named Snuff, who promises to lead her to Stick. Elsewhere, Turk and Grotto break into the Cord Conglomerate’s headquarters in search of a battlesuit.

Elektra listens in as two informants direct Daredevil to Wall-Eyed Pike, the last man to see Stick. She then kills the men as they attempt to shoot DD in the back when he leaves. Soon Elektra, Turk, Daredevil, and Heather and Snuff visit Pike one at a time in turn, and he directs all of them to a pool hall called Duke’s.

There, Heather arrives first followed by Daredevil. DD takes out several roustabouts in a brief skirmish, then easily knocks out Turk when he arrives in the Mauler armor. Then, as DD asks Stick for help, outside Elektra is assualted by Kirigi. She manages to kill him and then finds herself pining over Matt Murdock.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

SPRINGTIME GRAB BAG (IDW RETRO EDITION)

Last Fall, Comixology had a 50% off sale for their full IDW catalog. I'm not often big on digital comics outside of Marvel Unlimited, but I took advantage of this sale to check out a few things I've wanted to read for some time, as well as one series on which I did a spur-of-the-moment splurge. Somehow all of these items wound up being stories set in the past, hence the "retro" aspect of this review series.

Now, for the next four weeks beginning this Friday, I'll take a look at all those items in order of publication, beginning with the ROCKETEER comics of the eighties by Dave Stevens. The Rocketeer is a character I've had interest in for years, based as he is on the adventure serials of the thirties, but for whatever reason I've never actually checked him out. (I've never even seen the movie, despite its being released when I was twelve years old, pretty much the perfect age to get excited about it.)

Following the Rocketeer, we'll spend two weeks looking at Darwyn Cooke's four PARKER graphic novels, based on the character created by Donald E. Westlake and set in the sixties, when the novels were originally published. Much like the Rocketeer situation, I've never actually read anything by Cooke (though JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER has been on my radar for several years now). Hopefully his adaptations of another writer's work will give me a decent idea of what he was all about.

Lastly is the splurge item -- HALF PAST DANGER, a mini-series by Stephen Mooney. I'd never heard of Mooney, but in stumbling across this series while perusing the IDW catalog, I decided I liked the artwork and I liked that, as with THE ROCKETEER, the series is influenced by adventure serials and is also set in the thirties.

So for the next few weeks we'll be heading back several decades to explore eras of Nazis, hard-boiled gangsters, and high adventure. And, once this is all done, it's entirely probable I'll stick with the retro theme for a few more months as part of this year's "Summer of..." project, so stay tuned.

Friday, May 5, 2017

AQUAMAN #61, 62, & 63

”THE ARMAGEDDON CONSPIRACY”
Story: David Michelinie (with thanks to Richard “Comic Media News” Burton)
Art: Don Newton and Bob McLeod | Letterer: Milt Snappin
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Paul Levitz

The story arc dating back to issue 58 concludes in AQUAMAN 61, as our hero teams up with Batman and Green Lantern to stop the Kobra’s plot to destroy Lisbon, Portugal. Kobra (who was the Fisherman's mysterious master, "King-1") has apparently faced Batman before, and the Caped Crusader speaks often of how deadly he is, even going on a couple of wildly out-of-character rants berating Aquaman for prioritizing the lives of hostages over capturing the villain. But there are no footnotes in the story to indicate where these two crossed paths before, nor do we get any sort of flashback or exposition explaining exactly why Batman feels so strongly about Kobra.

Indeed, this entire story feels a bit off, as if something is missing. It almost seems like a crossover with JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, as we're told that a number of developments in the heroes’ hunt for Kobra occurred off-panel and are touched upon only extremely briefly here.

But this is David Michelinie’s final issue of AQUAMAN, so perhaps he knew he was on the way out and felt a need to wrap up his Kobra story before someone else came in to take it over. When he arrived, back in ADVENTURE COMICS #443, it was in the station of mere scripter, and he alternated that duty with a couple other writers. But eventually he returned on a permanent basis with ADVENTURE 450, becoming the longest-running writer in this stretch of issues. But his run has come to an end and writing chores are turned over to the writer of the Mera serial from the past few installments to close out the DEATH OF A PRINCE storyline.

Monday, May 1, 2017

DAREDEVIL #175

"GANTLET"
Story/Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Christie Scheele & Bob Sharen | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Daredevil pays a visit to Elektra as she meditates. She promises she does not love him and throws him out her window. Later, after checking on Heather and finding she's gone off to a party where he believes she can't be targeted by the Hand, Daredevil goes to protect Foggy from the ninja assassins as he makes his way to the courthouse for Melvin Potter’s trial. DD finds a card on one of the defeated ninjas, but Elektra arrives and grabs it from him, then heads for the address printed upon it.

As Foggy stalls, awaiting Matt’s arrival in the courtroom, Elektra arrives at a novelty shop and begins battling the Hand, with Daredevil soon arriving to aid her. As Foggy realizes Matt won't make it to the trial, Elektra encounters a hulking ninja named Kirigi, who proves impossible to kill. Foggy requests a mistrial while Elektra’s duel with Kirigi brings them to his master. Elektra runs the giant ninja through, sending him tumbling down the stairs, then turns her attention to the man who sent him. Daredevil arrives to confront her, but passes out.

Later, Matt shows up at the courthouse to find Foggy’s movement for a mistrial was successful, and Melvin is off the hook. Foggy reaffirms the future of Nelson & Murdock for the television cameras present. Elsewhere, the Kingpin gloats over his victory against the Hand, now driven out of New York thanks to his pitting Daredevil against them.

Friday, April 28, 2017

AQUAMAN #57, 58, 59, & 60

”A LIFE FOR A LIFE”
Writer: David Michelinie | Artist: Jim Aparo | Colorist: Liz Berube

His son dead, Aquaman has gone out in search of the boy’s killer, Black Manta — in a rather cavalier fashion. I'm not sure David Michelinie’s script quite fits the gravity of this situation. Aquaman’s child has been murdered in cold blood, but he's going about his business here like any other mission, even tossing out a wisecrack or two along the way. It seems to me that, based on what happened, Aquaman should be functioning like a latter-day Batman at this point, speaking little, dishing out brutal beatings to anyone who gets in his way, and so forth. But instead, for the most part, it's just business as usual. I guess it's possible Michelinie is trying to show us a hero in denial, but if that's what he's going for, he doesn't explain it at all.

Quickly before I move along, I should mention something I didn't note last time. The prior story in ADVENTURE COMICS 452 featured Black Manta dramatically removing his helmet to reveal to Aquaman that he is, in fact, a — black guy! And that, folks, from his own mouth, is the reason he decided to call himself Black Manta. Not because he wears a black costume or, I dunno, has a black heart, but because he himself is black.

Yikes! Weren't we a little more enlightened about stuff like this by 1977?

Monday, April 24, 2017

DAREDEVIL #174

"THE ASSASSINATION OF MATT MURDOCK"
Story & Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein & Klaus Janson | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Elektra is on the trail of a bounty in Paris when her prey is killed by a ninja assassin from the Hand organization. Elektra follows the ninja back to his lair, where she learns the Hand’s next targets are Matt Murdock and his current client. Elektra hops a plane to New York.

The next night, after a court date for Melvin Potter, Daredevil returns home where, as Murdock, he's attacked by the Hand. Matt fights them off with some aid from an unseen Elektra. The next day, Matt arrives at the law offices of Murdock and Nelson to find Foggy present. As they talk, the Hand move in on the building but Elektra fights them off — however one ninja launches an explosive which hits the building and injures Matt.

Matt comes to in the hospital to find his radar sense gone. But before he can dwell on this, he learns that Melvin is being transferred and takes off to protect him. Meanwhile, Elektra busts Melvin out of a paddy wagon and provides him with his Gladiator paraphernalia. They're attacked by the Hand and are on the defensive when Daredevil shows up to help. The Hand retreat, leaving DD and Melvin alone. As Melvin describes the woman who aided him, Daredevil realizes who she is.

Meanwhile, the defeated Hand operatives are executed for their failure by a towering ninja, who is then presented with a photo of his next target: Elektra.

Friday, April 21, 2017

ADVENTURE COMICS #449, 450, 451, & 452

”THE MENACE OF THE MARINE MARAUDER”
Reuniting the twin titans of Aquaman’s past:
Writer: Steve Skeates | Artist: Jim Aparo
Aided and abetted by: Colorist: Liz Berube

It occurs to me that in two posts covering several issues so far, I haven't once said anything about Jim Aparo’s artwork! I know I've seen “Aparo’s Aquaman run” referenced here and there on the internet over the years, and I must assume those references are to this run of issues specifically. And since most of those references have held the work up as excellent, I must concur with them. This is really good stuff!

Mind you, I have no real baseline to go off of; I've never read any other Aquaman comics. But Aparo has a great handle on the character (I love the wavy locks he gives him; all the better to float about in the seawater as he swims), and his grasp of the supporting cast and environments is just as good. His Mera in particular is very fun to look at, with her massive mane of flowing red hair.

It's interesting to me that Aparo is working on Aquaman here just after his brief run with the Spectre, and he has adapted his style accordingly. Where the Spectre stories featured glorious use of heavy, overwhelming blacks, Aquaman is much more open for traditional superhero coloring. It's quite a remarkable adjustment in the span of only a couple months.

Oh, and Aquaman fights some guy named the Marine Marauder in this issue.

Monday, April 17, 2017

DAREDEVIL #173

"LADY KILLER"
Story & Breakdown Art : Frank Miller | Finished Art : Klaus Janson
Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On his way to meet with his new client, Melvin Potter, Matt Murdock is accosted by a group of hoods who he efficiently dispatches. But during the skirmish, a pair of nearby reporters are attacked by a hulk of a man who is soon misidentified as Melvin.

The next day, Matt and secretary Becky meet Melvin in jail and Becky immediately faints. Later, she confides in Matt that she was assaulted on her college campus years ago, an incident which cost her the use of her legs, and that she saw the assailant’s face: it was Melvin. Upon learning that Becky never contacted the police, Matt throws a fit and leaves.

The next day in court, Matt is granted a delay in jury selection in Melvin's existing case until the defendant can be cleared of the new assault charge. Matt changes to Daredevil and searches the city for the truth, but comes up empty-handed. Later, Melvin escapes police custody and heads to the Dibney Museum for his Gladiator paraphernalia, but Matt shows up and convinces him to turn himself back in.

That night, Melvin’s social worker, Betsy Beatty, is assaulted by the Melvin lookalike. He’s scared off by neighbors, but Betsy’s experience allows her to tell Daredevil the sorts of places he should be looking for the guy. He finds him in a leather club and after a barroom brawl, defeats him.

The Melvin lookalike is indeed Melvin’s doppelganger, and Melvin is exonerated in the assault case. Matt convinces Becky to testify against the lookalike to put him behind bars.