Sunday, May 31, 2020

Avengers #33

   There are basically two kinds of heroes at Marvel: the big guns and the "street level" heroes.

   The big guns are just as much at home on a cosmic mission as they are fighting the Wrecker in Times Square. Examples: Thor, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and the X-Men.

   Street level heroes work best in an Earth-bound setting - Times Square is fine, but outer space doesn't really work (with exceptions). Examples: Daredevil, Spider-Man, Jessica Jones and Moon Knight.

   So this issue throws that out the window by making Moon Knight a surprisingly powerful and unstoppable force, taking on the biggest names in the Avengers and, well, not getting his head thumped in at every turn.

   Don't get me wrong, I like Moon Knight - but that guy who sorta dresses like him in this issue isn't that character at all. He's some new creation that's intended to drum up interest in the character (I suppose).

   It's not working for me.

Grade: C+


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

New Comics Day

    Here's what I picked up today during my social distancing visit to my local comics shop:
- AVENGERS #33 - Battling Moon Knight!

- GREEN LANTERN SEASON 2 #3 - Searching for aliens and a missing ex-girlfriend!

- HAWKMAN #23 - Fighting for his life!

- TERRIFICS #27 - Oh, wait - I was going to buy this, but then I heard that DC was going to release the final issues as digital only. PASS. (Actually, my shop had ordered a copy for me, so I bought it.)

  And  I received these comics for review:

- SHERLOCK SCANDAL IN BELGRAVIA #5 - Adapting the TV series.

- SERA & ROYAL STARS #7 - Seeking forbidden help!


    And that's it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Walt Disney Comics & Stories #184 (1956)

   I frankly have no idea which comic book I read first.

  With two older brothers and lots of cousins, comic books were always around, but I have no clear memories of them. I have vague memories of comics with Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, the Road Runner and - of course - Donald Duck.

   It's possible (though unlikely) that this issue was one of those early "reads" - I really have no idea. (It was printed a few years before I actually starting reading.)

   I mean, comic books were everywhere when I was a kid. All my friends had some lying around, you could find them at the home of my Aunts and Uncles, my Grandparents, that summer camp we'd visit - they were almost impossible to get away from. 

   (Those were the days!)

   But now, at my (ahem) advanced age, it's difficult to remember those early titles. One of the problems is that the covers of all of those titles I listed usually had nothing to do with the interiors - so no help there.

   The Dell books also used a strange numbering system - for example, this issue has #184 on the cover - but the indicia says it's Vol. 16, No.  4. It confused me as a kid, and I'm not doing much better today.

     Despite being one of the older books in my collection, my copy is much more abused than the nice cover posted above (which I found online) - here's mine, which I picked up cheap at a convention somewhere.

   It was well worth whatever pittance I paid for it, even with only half a cover. The lead story is by the "Good Duck Artist," Carl Barks (or at least I'm pretty sure it's him). It's a classic "Donald tries to outwit his nephews" tale that's loaded with priceless gags. 

   There's also a Li'l Bad Wolf short, a Mickey and Goofy adventure and a story with Pluto, along with some one-page gags. All for a dime - what a deal!

   These were the stories that made for great comics, and launched more than a few of us onto a long life of reading and enjoying all kinds of comics!

   (But I'd still like to peek into the past and see which comic was first in line.)

Grade: A


Monday, May 25, 2020

Killswitch #4

    As the comics production machine slowly starts ramping up, a small number of books hit the comics shops this week, including the latest issue of Killswitch.

   This science fiction series is set on a futuristic city located on a comet, where the people known as Augurs are treated as less than human because of their ability to see the future.

   Major Marcella Regula is fighting to free some of those Augers - but with a well-armed security team closing in, what chance does she have?

   This issue wraps up the initial story, and (happily) plays fair with the science part of the story. 

   It's a strong script by Jeffrrey and Susan Bridges, with strong art and clear storytelling by Walter Geovani.

   It's always good to find thoughtful and well thought-out science fiction, and this series has both - it's well worth tracking down.

Grade: B+


Thursday, May 21, 2020

New Comics Again!

    Holy Moley, I was so out of the practice of picking up new comics on Wednesday that I neglected to post about my weekly purchases yesterday!

    Or I should say, "purchase." I only picked up a single comic yesterday, as the companies start to slowly gear back up again. 

   Here's what I picked up:

- Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #10 (of 12) - Tracking down a would-be murderer!

   And I received these comics for review:

DOCTOR WHO 13TH SEASON TWO #4 - The 10th and the 13th Doctor face the Weeping Angels!

KILLSWITCH #4 - Making a bid for freedom - on a comet!

LIVEWIRE TP VOL. 3 CHAMPION - What is the cost of freedom?

ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #69  - That naughty Necronomicon!

   And that's it!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Detective Comics #476 (1978)

    Here we arrive, sadly, at the final issue in the initial Steve Englehart / Marshall Rogers / Terry Austin run on Batman and Detective Comics.

    Happily, they'd eventually return, many years later, for a sequel - but more on that another day.

   There's not much to say about this issue without giving too much away, but suffice to say that it's a very satisfying ending to the storylines created for this title - and man, is the art a treasure.

   I should also extend a thanks to Englehart for answering a mystery he started at the end of his first run at Marvel. In Captain America, Englehart's final story featured the Red Skull, who mysteriously managed to kill a victim in a room with others standing by - but the others were not injured. The solution to this mystery was never addressed by the writers who followed on that title.

   Happily, he has the Joker manage to same trick - and explains how he did it! Mystery solved, one universe over! 

    (I should admit that this actually happened in the previous issue of Detective, but I forgot to mention it before.)


   In a just world, this team would have gone on to work on Batman stories for years and years. But Englehart had a novel to write (the excellent modern fantasy / adventure The Point Man - well worth tracking down). Rogers would draw more Batman stories - but he should have done so many more, and sadly, now he's gone.

   But the team left behind these wonderful gems, these perfect Batman adventures that will shine as long as readers continue to look for the best in the genre.

Grade: A+


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Detective Comics #475 (1978)

    (This review has been edited from its original posting on May 16, 2012.)

   Writer Steve Englehart started his run on the Detective Comics with an excellent two-issue tale drawn by Walt Simonson, and then he launched into an amazing six-issue series with the talented Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin.

   In the span of those issues, Englehart managed to redefine Batman as a sane man, a great detective and hero who must deal with a crazy world; he gave Bruce Wayne his first believable love interest in the sexy Silver St. Cloud; and repurposed several Batman villains into serious threats, including The Penguin, Hugo Strange and Deadshot; and recast The Joker into a truly scary and unpredictable force of nature. 

   This is the Joker we've been seeing ever since. Dennis O'Neil had returned the Joker to his original status as a madman (as opposed to the almost lovable clown from the TV show), but Englehart took the character to the next step - a character arc that culminated in the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises and the brilliant portrayal by Heath Ledger.

   This issue is the next-to-the-last in the Englehart / Rogers / Austin run, and the Joker shows up with a truly insane scheme - one that involves fish with the Joker's face.

   When a bureaucrat stands in his way, the Joker vows to take his life at midnight - even though the man will be held in a locked room, with the police and Batman on hand to protect him.

   It's a dark delight of a story, with a Joker both completely unpredictable - and quite deadly.

   Not only is it an outstanding story, but the art is amazing. Rogers makes Gotham come alive, his characters are precise and lively, his women beautiful, his villains chilling, and his Batman dramatic and invincible (love that huge cape).

   The only strike against it is the poor printing, which smudged some of the darker scenes. But in a way, it just adds to the mood. 

   It's a fantastic comic, and the Joker nudges this one to the top of the list. And Batman has never been better!

   One more issue to go!

Grade: A+


Monday, May 11, 2020

Detective Comics #474 (1977)

  Villains tend to turn up again and again because they strike a chord with the readers - while many others make an appearance or two and disappear from view.

   With this issue of Detective Comics, writer Steve Englehart manages to take a one-hit wonder and turn him into a major contender.

    The character is Deadshot, a villain who appeared in Batman #59 in 1950 - and not again until this issue in 1977!

   It doesn't hurt that artists Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin provide a terrific costume, including wrist-mounted guns and a mirrored mask with a sighting lens.

   This issue revived the character, who would go on to star in the Suicide Squad (series and movie) and in mini-series of his own.

   This issue is something of a breather before the final confrontation with the Joker (next issue), but it's a fast-paced and eventful issue - it starts with some heartwarming moments between Batman and Robin, and ends with a startling revelation!

   The art continues to amaze (the cityscape on page 8 is a stunner) and there are lots of Easter Eggs for longtime fans (lunch at Fox Gardens, and a convention center with a giant typewriter).

   This comic proves that, in the right hands, almost any character can become a star. All you need is a high-powered creative team!

   Up next: the main event!

Grade: A


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Detective Comics #473 (1977)

    (We're continuing our reviews of writer Steve Englehart's run on Detective Comics in 1977.)

   Of all the stories in this eight issue run on the series, this has to be the most "normal" of Englehart's Batman stories - and it's one of my favorites.

   It features the return of the original Robin (now a teen wonder who's moved away to college). 

   He's there to help Bruce Wayne recover from recent trauma, and sticks around for an adventure featuring one of Batman's most famous foes: The Penguin.

   It's surprising how much I like this issue because I was not - to this point - a fan of either the sidekick or the villain. But this issue changed my mind.

   Here we have a Penguin who's crafty, laying down a mystery for Batman to solve, and a threat that may be unstoppable.

   We also get to see (in this issue and the last one) why Robin was such a valuable part of the team.

   It's a straightforward struggle between the two sides, and it's fun to see Batman operate when he has someone to talk to. 

    The art by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin is phenomenal, with stunning environments and striking character designs - the team just keeps getting better with each issue.

   By now it's obvious that the creative team is having a great time, playing in the rich toy chest loaded with Batman lore.

   The next issue would have them dig deep again, and take a throwaway character - and turn him into an icon.

Grade: A


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Detective Comics #472 (1977)

   I had forgotten how amazing this series was!

   This issue follows up the previous cliffhanger, with Batman in the clutches of one of his oldest enemies.

   And that's where he stays throughout the issue of Detective Comics - so Bruce Wayne does not appear as Batman in this issue.

   Instead we get a very tense game of cat and mouse as his enemy (who I don't want to name for fear of spoiling the tale) sets out to dismantle his world and his loved ones. 

   With the stunning art of Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, we're lured into this wonderful, dark, dangerous film noir world - an amazing (and immensely satisfying) action sequence with a surprise guest star - and plot twists aplenty!

   And I had to smile at the great editor's note. As was the tradition at the time (one that has sadly gone out of favor), the beginning of the story incorporates a quick verbal recap of the previous three issues, all loaded with events and new characters. As the recap ends, editor Julius Schwartz writes, "As you may have gathered, a lot has happened in the past three 'Englehart' issues!"

   So true!

Grade: A+



Sunday, May 3, 2020

Detective Comics #471 (1977)

   There's an old concept about politics  - that there are only two kinds of campaigns: "It's time to move in a new direction," or "We're going back to the good old days!"

   That same idea usually holds true for comic books, too.

   Writer Steve Englehart's run on Detective Comics in 1977 shows that it's actually possible to have the best of both worlds!

    After setting up a number of new characters and situations in the two issues before, this issue kicks into high gear as Batman starts feeling political pressure from a corrupt politician who's out to shut down the Dark Knight.

   But Bruce Wayne is also suffering from injuries at the hands of Dr. Phosphorous, so he has to seek out medical help - which brings him against an enemy who dates back to Batman's earliest (Golden Age) adventures!

   Adding to the intensity is the amazing artwork by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin - my all-time favorite art team on Batman. Each panel drips with drama and mood, but all with a sharp, modern (yet classic) feel to it. The characters feel "real," and the same is true for Gotham City.

   So it was the best of both worlds - something new and something classic - and oh, that final panel!

   And the story was just getting started!

Grade: A+