Tuesday, 31 March 2020
All Star Comics #74 (DC)
Paul Levitz (w) Joe Staton & Joe Giella (a)
This despite all the blurb on the cover was actually the last issue of All Star Comics as the "DC Explosion" suddenly became the DC Implosion. At the time this was a comic on my regular reading list in fact I only had and still only have one other edition that of the first revived issue #58. I wasn't then and am not now particularly a fan of the Justice society even though I did like the All Star Squadron that was yet to come when this was published.
I suppose the news that the Justice Society of America is to be revived triggered my interest in this issue given I was buying a pile for the lock-down. It's a pretty average story set on Earth 2 which was destroyed in Crisis but got better then was destroyed by Darkseid if I recall correctly. Multi-dimensional continuity can be be confusing at times in the DC Universe. Part of the fun I suppose.
The "Master Summoner" gets the JSA to undertake a mission to save the earth which was a wee bit misleading as he happens to be the villain of the story and is the one planning our destruction. Of course the JSA prevail. they always do.
One for completists and fans of the JSA. For me a story easily forgotten sadly.
Monday, 30 March 2020
Silver Surfer #123 (Marvel)
George Perez & J.M. De Mattis (w) Ron Garney & Bob Wiacek (a)
Every so often I pick up some comics from the nineties a period I skipped for a whole variety of reasons. A lot happened. The industry boomed then collapsed and has taken a long time to recover. I have more than a few of the breakaway Image titles amongst others but generally have never really caught up on Marvel.
Here we catch up with the Silver Surfer as he returns to earth and as usual finds himself under attack. The military is trigger happy following the Onslaught attack of which I have heard but never read. The world thinks their heroes are dead. This was the period of Heroes Reborn which I have dipped into via the Fantastic Four and frankly find..confusing.
However the attack hounds are called off as the result of an intervention by a group that appears to be the X-Men, it's led by Cyclops anyway. The Surfer looks to the blind artist Alicia Masters for help. He, Norrin Radd cannot remember his own personality. The Surfer is cold, that spark of ,shall we call it "humanity" has gone.
His visit does not help so when I move on to the next available issue (#126 see below) the Surfer goes to Doctor Strange for help. Here he finds the good Doctor failing to master a spell. Even the Sorcerer Supreme has his limits it would seem!
Here he talks to his "old friend" but the bluntness of the soulless Surfer amusingly states:
I recall your word is inviolate. That although you are a human of some arrogance..you are worthy of the Silver Surfers trust.
Not knowing whether to be insulted or flattered the pair journey into the Surfers mind. here they find a weak and beaten Norrin Radd who seemingly dies when they confront an image of Galactus the Doctor realises another mid is at work here and they must depart.
A mystery to be resolved in future issues which I am going to have to pick up after the lock-down. There'll be a big wish list at the end of this!
Sunday, 29 March 2020
Rom #64 (Marvel)
Bill Mantlo (w) Steve Ditko & P.Craig Russell (a)
The penultimate issue of a 14 part story-line, Worldmerge sees the Earth under attack from the Wraiths who are bringing their world into our solar system. Rom is on the front-line trying to save humanity and is being hindered by Agent Gyrich who at this period of Marvel history was persecuting the super-hero community.
As they prepare for battle Rom tries to save lives back on a devastated world beginning with an airliner before wandering into a church where people pray, except it's a trap. These are wraiths in human form. They attempt to destroy Rom and of course fail.
With distinctive art from the combo of Ditko & Russel this is a joy to read. It will be worthwhile tracking down all the other 13 other issues when the Covid 19 lock-down is over.
Rom of course was a toy given life in the Marvel Universe though has simply been forgotten in modern times as the franchise is now held by IDW. I haven't read any of the new run and was hoping IDW might be able to reprint collections of Rom but it looks like that will never happen.
I did buy Rom at the beginning but with so many comics and other activities at the time (the height of my clubbing/partying years) there were too many distractions and this title fell by the wayside.
The Marvel version of Rom lasted 75 issues between 1979 and 1986 and is a much over-looked title I consider worth collecting.
Friday, 27 March 2020
Amazing Adventures #4 (Marvel)
Inhumans - Stan Lee (w) Jack Kirby (a)
Black Widow - Mimi Gold (w) Gene Colan (a)
One Marvels "double feature comics this lasted only a few issues before becoming home to Killraven and War of the Worlds. Anything by Lee & Kirby is usually worth a read and this fight between one of Iron Man's villains and the Inhumans over a sphere of great power in ancient ruins was classic Marvel action. The Mandarin of course does get beaten and Black Bolt buries the nefarious one's rings under a mountain.
Meanwhile Black Widow's more down to earth story about corruption, crime and radicals had less of an appeal only getting a thumbs up because of Gene Colan's excellent art.
These were as far as I can recall the first solo adventures of Black Widow so prices on these are bound to increase with a movie in the pipeline I'm happy with a low grade copy for a low price myself so if you want some of these the grab 'em now fanboy!
Thursday, 26 March 2020
Giant Size Werwolf By Night #2
Doug Moench (w) Don Perlin (a)
From the Bronze Age of comics comes this short-lived "Giant Size" comic from Marvel featuring not just their version of a Werewolf but guest starring The Frankenstein Monster. With the relaxation of the censorious Comic Code Authority Marvel was able to publish horror comics and produced more than a few memorable series.
Along with The Werewolf, Dracula, and The Mummy were introduced into the Marvel Universe along with new creations such as Son of Satan and Satanna, the Devil's Daughter. Although the boom eventually petered out Marvel did produce a lot of good horror comics including some excellent if short lived balack & white magazines to compete with Warren, publishers of Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella.
In this double sized story the Frankenstein creature thinks he's found a way to become more human as his paths cross with not just Jack Russell but a Millionaire Satanist Danton Vayla leader of the Brotherhood of Baal. Of course all the coincidences involving the involvement of Jack's sister and the random wanderings of a monster could only happen in a comic book, but this is a tale not just worth telling but reading.
Despite his desires and longings old Franky does right by Jack in the end saving his life from the sacrifice that would bring Satan to earth and a mansion ends up burning with the cult in ruins and it's leader dead.
The day is saved but two souls, the monster and the werewolf continue to suffer in a world without answers.
Tuesday, 24 March 2020
Back after a long absence is one of Britain s most violent and controversial comics. One that even had a "banned" issue after a faux public outrage from the Mary Whitehouse types that plagued our enjoyment back in those dark days of censorship. These were the people who tried to stop Monty Python's film Life of Brian and told us Tom & Jerry was too violent. Whitehouse even protested about naked manikins in shop windows. No wonder the sex obsessed bitch had a porn mag named after her!
Rebellion, publishers of 2000AD now have the rights to this and virtually the bulk of our non-DC Thomson comics and are now in the process of not just issuing reprints but also giving us new materiel in the form of "Specials". There's seven due over he next year.
This all new edition of Action comes in two editions including one with a facsimile of the banned issue. I chose this as it seemed fun to have a good look at what so outraged the moralists of my youth. Frankly n retrospect and having watched comics grow up with their readers this isn't all that shocking to modern eyes.
In fact the main problem I had was reading some of the text as it's a half size reproduction for cost reasons I suppose but Rebellion ought to remember lots of it's customers are ageing old gits like me!
As for the special itself there are five features four of which are based on the originals, Kids Rule OK which is set after a virus wipes out most adults making it a timely adventure given the current lock-down! Readers can also thrill to Dredger, Hellman and Hook-Jaw, the latter from the age of jaws...
There's one new story or at last I assume it is as I am unfamiliar with the comic and that is Hell Machine which is violent and plain weird.
Of course this is highly recommended.
Rating: 4.5 Stars! Support British Comics!
Due to shut shops please order direct by mail from: https://shop.2000ad.com/
Monday, 23 March 2020
Starship Down #1 (Dark Horse)
Justin Giampoli (w) Andrea Mutti (a)
Every so often I dip into the world of ancient aliens that gets broadcast on one of the Freeview Channels. Nothing but speculation. I have never heard so many "Ifs" and Maybe's" in any programme. By adding the word "If" to any find a whole story can be made up. Yes there's a lot of unexplained mysteries around the world and I can quite believe tht some of human history has been lost.
However when it comes to aliens I remain a total sceptic. I don't even believe in UFO's in that what people see or think they see is highly unlikely to be alien. I mean why would an advanced civilisation want to prod someone up the anus with some kind of pole or take a bite out of a cow when there are clubs for the former and Butchers for the latter.
That life exists elsewhere in the universe is highly probable given the almost infinite size of the universe. We just haven't proved it yet. So when stories like Starship Down come along it's a great way to speculate through story telling.
This time they find more than they bargain for during a dig. It's no spoiler to tell you they found a spaceship. buried there. This story is to be about the implications for our socities of such a discovery as the arrogance of the Vatican representative illustrates.
One day we will discover that mankind is not alone in this universe. This is just a story while we wait for the real thing.
Rating 3 Stars Average.
Sunday, 22 March 2020
Spider-Woman #1 (Marvel)
Karla Pacheo (w) Pere Perez (a)
Other than the Fantastic Four it's been a while since I've dipped into much of the current Marvel Universe. Back in the late seventies/early eighties I was a fan of Spider-Woman and enjoyed her original 50 issue series which is well worth picking up.
Spider-Woman also has a wee bit of a confused back story so Hydra, the High Evolutionary and her father all figured at some stage. Not quite as impossible to follow as Hawkman which changes all the time. Bendis didn't help much either with his"Ultimate" style story either.
The last time I read any Spider-Woman comics was a mini-series in the period not long before the Secret Invasion event which ended my faith in Marvel continuity. It turned out that Jessica Drew, the Spider-Woman had been a prisoner of the Skrulls for some years including this and other appearances. So what the %!*? had I been reading?
Other than Conan and the FF I still don't take much of an interest in Marvel but did decide to pick this up on a whim and I'm glad I did even if I didn't know she had a child or much else that was referred to in the story.
The first issue is an extra length introductory story (with a price tag to match) and is presented in two parts the second giving the background as to why Jessica is where she is when the proverbial hits the fan and explains amongst other things the new costume.
It all takes place on a billionaires yacht at a children's party., but it's not the clown you have to look out for. Some amusing dialogue, great action and sets up a mystery that will unfold as the seines continues.
Rating: 5 Stars. Recommended.
Saturday, 21 March 2020
The Resistance #1 (AWA/Upshot)
J. Michael Stracznsky (w) Mike Deodato Jr (a)
No one knew why it happened.
But everyone had theories..
Hailing from the creator of Babylon 5 and published by a new company on the comics scene, The Resistance couldn't have appeared at a more disturbing time. There's a virus. Nobody is safe. Millions have died right across the planet. The Chinese tried to nuke it out of existence when it reached their shores.
That didn't work.
Mankind was doomed. Self isolation? Enforced isolation and no going out for food either. The Russian President says people can live without food for a week. They just need to try and stop the illness when...
Daddy I don't feel well.
Can it be stopped? Is mankind doomed?
Fascism in America? No not Trump. This may be for real.
But there is..... resistance?
A splendid opening to what promises to be not just a series but the beginning of a whole new super-hero universe. Fighting back everywhere. The USA, Saudi Arabia, North Korea. A whole world of pain.
The journey begins.
Rating 5 Stars+ Highly Recommended
Friday, 20 March 2020
Phoenix #3 (Atlas)
Gabe Levy (w) S. Amendelo (a)
One the short lived series from the very short lived comic book company Atlas. Founded by Martin Goodman promising better rates of pay and conditions these comics disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared. My personal favourite was Planet of the Vampires which managed to wipe out all but one of it's cast in the first issue or so.
This particular comic passed me by at the time but picked up on a whim was a a bit of fun as comics moved into the bronze age. There are just four issues in this series which changed it's title on the fourth and final issue to Phoenix the Protector.
This story, The day of The Devil is straightforward enough. Reading the paper phoenix decides to fly from th eUSA to the Himalayas (in minutes) to see what's going on the Yeti. Quite normal for a super-hero I suppose. Here a finds a village decimated with all it's inhabitants sans one kidnapped by the beasts.
An old man (miraculously cured by Phoenix glowing at him - don't ask, no idea either) sets off to free the villagers with the old chap in toe. Here our hero confronts The Devil who turns out to be a rogue member of the alien race he saved earth from in the previous issue.
And of course he does it again, being seen as deity by the superstitious villagers despite him telling them not to. This feature takes up just half the comic with another Atlas hero The Dark Avenger being the back up story which despite some good art by Pat Broderick was corny as hell involving gangsters, a meteorite and twin brothers.
There was an attempt at reviving this character a few years back which didn't last long though I was impressed with their Wulf series. Currently the franchise is owned by Dynamite who to date seem to have only prepared Devilina (from Atlas's black & white magazine range) for use in their forthcoming Sacred Six series solicited this month.
Wednesday, 18 March 2020
The Atom #32 (DC)
Gardner Fox (w) Gil Kane & Sid Greene (a)
One of my favourite DC heroes in my childhood was The Atom, the diminutive crime fighter who I always thought was somewhat underused and certainly didn't last long in his series a mere 38 bi-monthly issues until his "merger" with another favourite, Hawkman for a further 8 editions until #45.
Nevertheless these comics are highly entertaining and I have a few of which this is my latest purchase. This tale The Up and Down Dooms of the Atom sees a laboratory accident caused by his long term girlfriend (and later villianess) Jean Loring get hit by a beam leading Ray Palmer to save his own life by shrinking down a microscopic size where his white Dwarf powered suit can keep him alive.
As is always the case The Atom finds himself not just on a microscopic world in another universe the inhabitants also happen to be oppressed and using his size changing device becomes their world's largest hero.
One of those nice little Silver Age adventures where no one gets killed but the invaders defeated without any real bloodshed. So unlike today's dark stories. No wonder Superboy Prime went mad. He's back in Shazam soon.
An enjoyable read for what it is and of course Ray finds his way back to our reality miraculously cured as was the way back in the day!
Sunday, 15 March 2020
For most of my life (there have been gaps) I have been a avid comics reader and collector. Back in the sixties there were always plenty of British weeklies in WHSmiths and the smaller newsagents carried supplies of the full colour monthly American ones. Until the nineties when British comics virtually disappeared and the US ones were broken by the speculators market this was almost the sole source.
That said whilst at Polytechnic back in the late seventies I did go to my first comic shop "Dark They Were and Golden Eyed)"in Soho. Wonderful place but newsagents still remained my main source. Later came the Forbidden Planet. When I returned to comic collecting (by accident more than design) I found comic shops were now the sole source of comics except for 2000AD, The Beano, Dandy and Commando the last of the "pocket" book titles.
Nowadays even The Dandy has gone and comic shops seem to me to have been struggling a bit when it comes to new comics. There were always piles of these things lying around unsold in some of the larger stores. I chose to use a subscription service through the now closed Avalon Comics and these days at 30th Century Comics in Putney (see side bar).
Avalon went out of business because the landlord doubled the rent. They went on line but I wasn't into mail order when I worked because it was such a pain to find the time to collect stuff from the Post Office. Besides I like visiting stores and was more than happy to go to 30th Century Comics where their range of back issues both British and American is amazing.
However when it comes to new comics (the circulations of which are tiny compared to sixties, seventies and up to some time in the nineties when the market collapsed) my local shop stopped ordering new titles for casual sale as these were a lot of effort for very little return. Their market was and remains back issues. I have to say that I can't remember picking up a new comic from the racks as everything I wanted I pre-ordered via Previews and still do, though less as as a pensioner!
Recently a post appeared on one of the comic forums stating Orbital Comics in Central London was going to do the same. I haven't been there for over two years and when I did turn up last week after the Free Tibet protest it was closed for building work so I couldn't check this out!
Meanwhile Super-Hero movies, Marvel's in particular have made the genre mainstream again. Yet I see or saw no evidence of any real growth in the market. In fact Titan stopped publishing it's range of UK DC reprints and even Panini has dropped the very long running Mighty World of Marvel.
Comic sales charts (estimates aside) don't show that much growth. A few titles have sold through well but I suspect the number of fans is fairly static and it depends more on how many they buy rather than attracting hordes of new readers.
However in yesterday's edition of The Times (no link £ Paywall) whilst lamenting the decline of the bookshop (something else I still prefer to use) reports:
Data on openings and closures has revealed that a net increase in comic shops (from 2013) has been mirrored by significant decreases in the number of booksellers on high streets. Industry figures suggested the "Marvel effect" had renewed interest with new and older generations sapping up tales of Iron Man, Black Panther ad Captain America.
It's the back issues from the Golden and Silver Age that people are buying Mattia Savoldelli from London's orbital Comics said. The Marvel Films had increased the price of back issues. When Black Panther came out there was a crazy increase in the value of the first (Fantastic Four) it appeared in.
Another speculator craze? One hopes not it drives real fans out of the market place, These things are expensive enough. This appears to only effect the back issue market this time as Mattia continues:
Margins are small....it is a gamble buying new titles which cannot be returned to the suppliers. It can be way too expensive to have some sitting on the shelves for years.
The increase in sales remains sadly for back issues and not the new stuff which would be sad for the future as those of us who were around in the Silver Age won't be around forever. New comics are expensive not easily obtained unless you live near a comic shop and for the young seem to have been by-passed for other media even though they go to the movies.
It would be sad to see a world where the joy of comics is no longer part of childhood. They were a great way to learn to read and could be combined with more educational material such as Look & Learn which had the best British comic strip ever, The Trigan Empire.
Treat your kids to a comic today!
Friday, 13 March 2020
Fantastic Four #116 (Marvel)
Archie Goodwin (w) John Buscema (a)
From the bronze age of Marvel hails this post Kirby & Lee adventure of Reed, Sue Johnny & Ben otherwise known as the Fantastic Four. A story with cosmic overtones and consequences. The story opens after Reed Richards has been possessed and kidnapped by the Overmind, a relic from the beginning of the Universe.
The Overmind is the collective remains of the Eternals, a race who ruled over galaxies util they faltered at one, a world larger than a galaxy itself. The Watcher has done what he can but as usual remains lurking in the background not quite interfering.
This issue of Fantastic Four is double sized so there's plenty of action to keep the reader gripped. in Alien, Ally and Armageddon. Undeterred The Thing and the Torch are off to find reed and fight on whilst Sue ends up reaching out to Doctor Doom for help after the initial attempts to free Reed fail.
Doom of course can't help but gloat but despite his demeanour realises that it's his world at stake to and leads a further attack against the Overmind. Using a device plagiarised from Reeds research Doom does manage to turn the Overmind's power against it's user. The team enjoin the fight but ultimately are beaten.
When all seems lost The Stranger appears much to the surprise of the Overmind and in seconds the villain is banished to a dead universe in a mote of dust. It seems that The Stranger is the collective remains of Gigantus the world the Eternals could not defeat and caused their downfall. Duty done The Stranger departs.
The team feel used but The Watcher appears and tells them that it was only their courageous fight that had alerted The Stranger to the danger. Had they not resisted the Overmind may have become too powerful when finally detected for even The Stranger to defeat.
Classic adventure just the way we liked it back in our schooldays. Well mine anyway though I never had this comic!
Wednesday, 11 March 2020
Batman #276 (DC)
David V. Reed (w) Ernie Chua (a)
Batman has always attracted weirdos. Everyone from the Joker & Riddler to Harley Quinn it just seems natural that the villains he faces are always fruitcakes. This issue contains one more with whom I was not familiar and it seemed from the cover to have more of a supernatural nature than usual so I thought I'd give it a go.
An apparition of The Spook appears before the Batman on Kingsboro Bridge and the mystery begins as The Spook disappears and Bruce finds himself attacked from above and ends up in the river. The Spook floats down to a very belligerent Batman who attacks and the Spook bursts into flame. Batman has been tricked but why?
It seems The Spook wanted to record Batman's brain waves and use them against him in a campaign that would break the Bat . Each time they meet a subliminal command is broadcast to Bruce who always appears wherever the Batman goes.
Time after time Batman is pushed nearly going beyond his pledge not to kill. Yet this is the plan. The Spook wants to die and his nefarious scheme as Batman pretends to die with a little medical help and records Spooks plans.
Along side all this Commissioner Gordon is fretting about budget cuts and is pinning his hopes on a seemingly unreliable Bruce Wayne who has been somewhat distracted during this adventure!
Needless to say the Spook is caught and Bruce saves the day by reaching a deal to stop Gotham;s finest being cut.
Traditional Batman adventure without the Boy Wonder who is at University and to be found elsewhere in the DC Comics range.