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Comic Book Reviews

November 5, 2013

I lost a lot of comic book reviews when Michael Booth–whose trolling led to the demise of the Tik-Tok Talk discussion list– got my Facebook account disabled.

When I had these on Facebook, they would be linked to comicbookdb.com, which usually has a cover scan, as well, doing right next to the start of the review. I started doing only one line capsule reviews, but then I got really into it. These are most of the ones I’ve written from late November 2009 to February 1, 2010, when I e-mailed them to a friend interested in comics. Everything after that is lost, unless my Facebook account was truly disabled rather than deleted, which means they’re somewhere on a server owned by Mark Zuckerberg, with some sort of string making everything I ever did on my Facebook account suppressed. Most of these are only pasted in, with all the typos (because you can’t edit on Facebook) unless I noticed them while I was pasting. I may edit these for that reason at some point in the future as part of my writing portfolio.

Among the lost reviews include one for Detective Comics #487 and one for Swamp Thing Annual #4. The latter was read by Steve Bissette, who wrote the issue, and he asked for permission to post it on his website, but that was only a few days before my account was disabled, and he didn’t get around to doing it before then.

Vigilante vol. 1 #41

Adrian Chase’s identity has become publicly known and every criminal wants his head. Chase is such a right-wing nutjob that I was much more interested in the two pages of Val Vostok’s hearing (which is what I bought it for, anyway). The Peacemaker, who doesn’t seem to me significantly more deranged than Chase, becomes convinced that Harry Stein is an Arab terrorist posing as a Jew.

Vigilante vol. 1 #42

While the cover comes from a brief scene near the beginning, more than half of the issue is devoted to Val Vostok and Harry Stein as their are hunted by the Peacemaker. Vostok also explains her origin and why she hasn’t been using her super powers. Chase takes a train to Washington, D.C. to save Stein and Vostok from Smith, and kills a hangman hitman named Springer on the way.

The editor says that he doesn’t believe that Peacemaker is really hearing voices in his helmet, which Vostok states is something Smith made up, but it’s hard to know in a story set in the DC Universe. Has the helmet been examined by Dr. Fate, for example?

Hellblazer #4

This is an amazing issue. Constantine is obviously not a one-woman man, but when you’re with a woman on a first date and you find out that your niece is missing, and your date accompanies you, helps effectively, and you save your niece, she’s a keeper.

I also like where he sprays a punk in the face for graffiti that says “British Boys Kill Pakis.”

Hellblazer #5

En route to a visit with Swamp Thing, Constantine checks up on a small town that bought into the same fundie pyramid scheme (in which chain mailings are sent with prayers instead of money) that his brother-in-law has bought into. Their desire to bring back their boys from Vietnam brings only pain, and it’s not even magic, so Constantine can’t intervene, just observe like certain Phantom Stranger stories. I don’t know if at this point Constantine has even met the Phantom Stranger, though, since he has tons of backstory that I haven’t read that wasn’t published when this came out. Along with two others, they would later become known as “The Trenchcoat Brigade.”

Swamp Thing vol. 2 #70

Sometimes Ridgeway’s two-page spreads in Hellblazer are difficult to interpret, but this issue is composed almost entirely of tryptichs–the center featuring Swamp Thing (mostly making love to Abby) and the top and bottom featuring John Constantine as he pulls favors and turns tricks to get the information he desires. … Abby’s smile upon Alec’s arrival, though, looks a little too like she was attacked by the Joker after reading about Arkham Asylum on the same page.

The image of Abby’s smile so close to a reference to Arkham Asylum looks a bit too much like she was attacked by the Joker, even though it’s supposed to be positive. the best scene is when he goes to a seminar with a medium channelling Bathsheba to get a guy in touch with his lust, dismisses it as a “New Age kindergarten” and makes her channel the druid, Blackbriar Thorne.

In this issue, Huntoon says that Superman is currently in the hospital, as hard to beleive as it may seem. This is four years before the Death of Superman story. I browsed the Superman comics from the time and didn’t see any indication of which issue this refers to. My best guess is that it happened during Millennium.

Swamp Thing vol. 2 #71

I wonder if stealing a bunch of cushions and going to the bathroom, like Constantine does, is good for surviving a plane crash. The planes I’ve been on seem too full to even try. Swamp Thing screws up his replacement yet again by transporting all the souls straight to Heaven, but I guess he thought Gary missed his pa…rents too much. So much for wanting to retire.

House of Secrets vol. 2 #12

Continuing the origin stories of the Juris, this story is a look at race issues in the South in 1965 and Ruby’s brutal murder. The story is presented in black and white with red highlights. In the back, Rain contemplates reporting the loss of Traci to the cops until her friend reiterates all the reasons that’s a bad idea.

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #1

I finally started reading this series after reading all of her appearance prior to becoming supporting cast for the Spectre. It’s not only men who draw impossible costumes for women. Her shoes look like the most painful things ever invented–like the hind legs of a horse. This is for “mature readers” in a different …sense–even the raciest and most violent material in this issue could pass the Comics Code by the early 1990s.

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #2

Possibly the earliest chronological appearance of Etrigan the Demon, a character Jack Kirby created in the 1970s. I’d like to know what was so horrifying about what Nimue spread on her face. [This hardly even consistutes a review–that’s what a lot of the earlier ones are like.]

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #3

400 years later, Nimue resorts to harlotry to book passage to China, serving as a seer for Kublai Khan. Phantom Stranger addresses her as “Madam of Xanadu,” but claims not to have ever met her, in spite of their encounters in the previous issues. The Phantom Stranger has never had his origin explained. Even the Secret Origins issue had four possibilities by four creative teams.

Secret Origins vol. 3 #10

Four possible orgins, three based on extrabiblical Christian myth–Isaac the Wandering Jew for Barr and Aparo, an angel who wasn’t sure which side to take when Satan fell from Heaven for Moore and Orlando, and a man chosen by God to spare when his city is detroyed who chooses suicide, which the angel cannot allow. The Mishkin/Colón version shows The Phantom Stranger passing his essence to a guy who looks suspiciously like Clark Kent who is then thrust back in time to the big bang and infused with energy from it. All in all, a surprisingly religious issue. None of the four origins is said to be the “correct” one, and Matt Wagner seems to refer to all four in _Madame Xanadu_.

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #4

Seer (Nimue) and Marco Polo rescue the Fourth Consort, but can’t prevent her from being raped. After Kublai Khan exiles her, Nimue rethinks her lie about the Phantom Stranger and gets exiled herself for helping him to escape. She thinks she has fallen in love with him until he abandons her in the Gobi Desert. This is one of several fascinating pivots in Madame Xanadu’s previously untold history.

At NY ComicCon 2008, someone asked Karen Berger about Matt Wagner’s comment that the series was published as Vertigo for commercial reasons because nothing was rough enough to keep it from being a mainstream DC title. (Vertigo series have historically have had roughly equal appeal to men and women, whereas mainstream DC has mainly a male appeal). The rape isn’t presented anywhere nearly as explicitly is it might in a typical Vertigo title, but it’s still more explicit than Marvel got with the Norman Osborn-Gwen Stacy sex scene, which seemed a little too frank for a book that presumably kids will be reading.

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #5

Now in the court of Marie Antoinette, “Madame de Xanadu” attempts to follow the Phantom Stranger’s non-interventionist policies, which costs her her friendship with Marie Antoinette and gets her thrown in a prison cell with no food and no shoes when the Stranger appears and disappears to her right in front of the imprisoned ex-queen.

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #6

Trying to track down this issue severely delayed my reading of this series–the appearance of Death made it sell out everywhere. I found both covers on sale at Comic Book Jones, the best comic shop on Staten Island that wasn’t finished until I moved out of the area (so I get there only when I see my doctor). Amy Reeder-Hadley gives Madame Xanadu a youthful cuteness even in old age–something that she lacked in the old Doorway to Nightmare, in which she was beautiful, but certainly did not have such a girlish face. Xanadu’s interpetation of her own cards amuses the light-hearted Death so much that she gives her a kiss that grants her immunity from death due to natural causes.

Madame Xanadu has to steal materials from her favorite apothecary to make herself young again, but she uses a harmless binding spell to stop him preventing her.The Phantom Stranger reveals that the French Revolution and Napoleon’s reign are all necessary for the discovery of the Doctor Fate helmet, which really sets Xanadu off. And some fans think Vertigo has nothing to do with the DC Universe…

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #7

Madame Xanadu is now a practicing psychic in the Whitehall district of London, where she does as much as she can to protect the prostitutes. Phantom Stranger’s “apathy” is all the more apalling to her as Jack the Ripper begins to strike, to the point that she suspects him. He does however, create the anti-Semitic gra…ffiti found near Eddowes’s remains, not because he is an anti-Semite, but because he hears it on the street and thinks it is necessary to bring attention to growing anti-Semitism in London.

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #8

This issue’s cover made me think Madame Xanadu was pregnant. She isn’t (I guess it’s just her bustle), but a pregnancy is very important to this issue. The father, whom we don’t see, is a character with whom longtime readers of supernatural DC comics will be familiar, as he was created by Jack Kirby. The dream seque…nce this issue is amazing, and Xanady’s red bows remind me of John R. Neill’s poppies in Ozma’s hair. Once the murder of Mary Kelly is complete, Phantom Stranger lets someone who may be the real ripper fall into a sewer full of rats. Even so, because he allowed her friend Mary to die, the issue ends with her creating an effigy of him.

DC Comics Presents #55

I bought this cornpone issue because this site mentioned that Quex-Ul (star of Gerber’s The Phantom Zone) was in it. It’s entirely a recap of his original appearance in Superman #157. The story is so plot-driven that Superman goes back in time to see a moment when he was a kid and almost got exposed to gold kryptonit…e, which he didn’t know at the time. This seems to have no realisitc motivation and probably would have been better if it had been a simple flashback. This issue could be seen as “quaint” or “childish,” tkae your pick. It’s about on the level with that earlier Superman issue.

The Last Days of the Justice Society of America Special #1

This is an incredible issue. Vertigo fans will want it because it ties in with Swamp Thing #50, and it explains the Twilight Sphere that Odin offers to Dream in Sandman #26. The issue does, however, also really soak itself in the “comic book death” concept. And in _Crisis_, didn’t Huntress and Robin of Earth-2’s bodies disappear as soon as they were killed? I’m not sure what’s in the casket here, then.

The Brave and the Bold vol. 3 #29

Interesting issue. Someone needs to tell the backstory of how Cindy (whose last name has never been revealed) went from being a doctor at a free clinic to a prostitute to a toy store owner. The first and third are Straczynski’s additions, the second, Rachel Pollack’s, though the third makes sense considering Pollack’s ending.

Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #11

The first story has amazing art, but the writing is mediocre–but isn’t Jeff Rovin someone who writes anything with a paycheck attached? The second story has great writing, but the art could have been more evocative, if Charity didn’t have to tell the conclusion in the final panel, it might have been even better. It …was late, so I haven’t read the third story yet.

The Defenders #86

The real reason I’ve been slow to go back to Defnders is because I was six issues away from the next hole in my collection. That’s been brought down to four between reading this and purchasing #92. I was not terribly impressed with this issue. It reminded me of one of the most generic of mystery book morality tales only triple the length and with superheroes cleaning up the damage.

The House of Secrets vol. 1 #99

The first story is a self-reflexive masterpiece. The Redondo artwork is very powerful. The second, very simplistic, story is mercifully short (4 pages)–it has one tired theme to it. The third story seemed cute but unoriginal until I realized I couldn’t think of any similar stories that don’t post-date it, such as Koji Suzuki’s “Floating Water,” which was published 26 years later. Abel says “Twitter” in this issue…

Swamp Thing vol. 2 #72

This ingenious issue felt like a spin-off of Hellblazer #3. Through the shape of the word balloons, Veitch guides the reader through spiraling panels in the story of Arthur Hollandaise, the next choice for host to the Sprout. Constantine throws his remains into the incinerator because he’s such a corporatist whore.

Swamp Thing vol. 2 #73

Thanks to Chester’s mistake, I now know I’ve been mispronouncing Constantine in refererence to John–it’s apparently pronunced like in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Chester is the next choice to become the Swamp Thing. He’s cool with it until Abby explains that it won’t be him, it would just use his soul as a template. In th…e previous issue, the current Swamp Thing laments that the mind he got from Alec Holland was severely damaged by the fire, which is why he was virtually mute for so long (most of the Wein/Michelinie/Conway series). The cover barely hints that what is going on in Swamp Thing is a struggle to control a dinosaurian member of the Parliament of Trees, which I find reminiscent of the alligator-based Man-Thing of What If #26 (1981).

Shade, the Changing Man vol. 1 #1

I’ve heard that the Vertigo Rac Shade is a different character, but I’ve heard that one before and this site doesn’t seem to think so. It’s a weird concept, hard to get a grasp on what Shade’s power actually does and the movement between the various worlds. This was obviously way ahead of its time, as it was canceled… after eight issues. The story intended for #9 appeared in Canceled Comics Cavalcade and eventually appeared in Detective #487 with the text rewritten.

Shade, the Changing Man vol. 1 #2

While the first issue was plagued by too much exposition being delivered as dialogue (it didn’t have too much exposition, just that method), this one, while having great Steve Ditko weirdness in the artwork, is quite retrograde in its dialogue, making this issue a little disappointingly old-fashioned. Shade says he do…esn’t know the full power of the M-vest other than a force field and causing susceptible people to see his body change. It doesn’t seem terribly plausible that these could be mere perceptions when he’s extending his body to punch and kick his attackers from an impossible distance.

The Demon vol. 1 #1

Except for the bit about Mary Kelly, everything about Etrigan that I’ve read so far in Matt Wagner’s_Madame Xanadu_ is recap from this issue. Matt Wagner wrote volume 2 of this series (a four issue limited series) back in the eighties, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. He didn’t mess with the genius of Jack Kirby.

The Demon vol. 1 #2

So far, Etrigan doesn’t seem too much different from the interdimensional beings Marvel calls “demons” even if they have no relationship to any mythology’s hell. this is overall a good issue. There is no indication of much more than a mystical superhero here. The idea that Etrigan’s demonic nature is evil and hellis…h found in later comics (like in Swamp Thing and Madame Xanadu) really isn’t seen here, though it may show up before the end of the series.

Secrets of Haunted House #14

Mark Evanier noted in the introduction to _The Demon_ that Kirby found DC’s mystery titles too focused on death from the perspctive of death. Nicola Cuti’s story is especially true in that case. It’s a particularly sad story considering that no one is a villain. Destiny interacts with other characters in this one, and there is a clever, if predictable, Scott Edelman story at the beginning.

The Demon, vol. 1 #3

More development of Etrigan. He does not speak consistently in rhyme as he would later. There is only one rhyme other than the transformation spell in this issue. The Demon shows the dark side of his nature in attacking Randu Singh when there is no one else to attack, but is more concerned with fighting those who ha…rm others. In this case, a cult called The Reincarnators is forcing people to undergo physical past life regressions that can be manipulated to commit murder.

Shade, the Changing Man vol. 1 #3

I guess they thought it was commercial to show Shade in his M-Vest and nothing else, not even boots, on the cover. You can’t see the M-Vest most of the time because Shade has to conceal it because it is illegal. This was an improvement over the previous issue, but Sude still looks like an unintentionally silly villain in a fairly sober series.

Secret Origins vol. 2 #4

I realize Secret Origins was a reprint book until volume 3 in the 1980s, but the Vigilante story had no business being in here. It’s a run-of-the-mill GA story with a mystery man fighting a gangster with a girlfriend who thinks his secret identity is more impressive than his cilvilian identy–it just happens to have 3… panels of origin that feel like recap. Both art and storytelling are very primitive.

The Kid Eternity story really is an origin story–we don’t even see him use his powers (which got changed before the next story). The story his how he got killed by Nazi gunfire even though he wasn’t due in Heaven until 2017, so they give him powers between life and death to make up for it. Grant Morrison established that Mr. Keeper was really a Lord of Chaos, but I understand his version, which I found quite a powerful story, sold poorly and Anne Nocenti essentially ignored it in her ongoing Vertigo series that I will be reading soon. This story has excellent art and the writing holds up fairly well, too.

The comment on cbdb is probably inaccurate. The letters column says that they reprint the stories as they originally were, and that the powers given to Kid Eternity (but not actually used) in this story differ from what they ended up being. Originally, it was a little like what _Quantum Leap_ would be, only Kid pulled the bodies out of the past instead of going to their past. Ultimately, it had him summoning whoever he chose form the past (or from mythology).

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #9

Wagner and Reeder-Hadley were being really sneaky. Tell people this comic is Vertigo instead of DC Universe for commercial reasons, then when you put recognizable DCU characters on the cover, include a nudity panel. Now in the 1940s, Xanadu’s Phantom Stranger poppet emerges on its own, and she works out a spell to de…stroy him that is actually sowing another famous supernatural DC character. The contrast between Zatara and Corrigan’s courtships is an interesting minor facet of the issue.

Of course, Death was on the cover of issue #6, but you’d be surprised at how many reviews of The Sandman say it’s totally unrelated to the DC Universe, which isn’t true.

Madame Xanadu vol. 2 #10

Given its setting and author, I was expecting Wesley Dodds to pop up in this issue, but that didn’t happen. Madame Xanadu and the Phantom Stranger reconcile, but it seems she sees more than the reader does in making her decision. What she did before could not be undone, and by the end of the issue, she is at least situationally (if not temporally) where she was when _Doorway To Nightmare_ started, at her shop on Chrystie Street, and has also brought forth one of DC’s most powerful characters, the Spectre. I recently bought the first two issues of _The Spectre_ vol. 2, the first time, publication-wise, that they were shown together.

Shade, the Changing Man vol. 1, #4

This is my favorite cover of the series so far, and not just because Shade is actually wearing boots. This issue explains that it’s the forcefield that is doing the physical action that appears to be done by changing the shape of his body. There are two panels in this issue that point to Agam Loron being the true ide…ntity of Sude, who doesn’t really look like a mechanical being any more than Form, but is. Fleisher is definitely not the best dialoguer out there, but Ditko keeps spinning the story around, making it deviously difficult to follow. I’ve had to correct my plot summaries on the cbdb in several cases.

Something about Sude reminds me of Soofi in Howard the Duck #21. She is eventually revealed to be Earth-616’s Anita Bryant, although Marvel avoided making that explicit to avoid a lawsuit.

Shade, the Changing Man vol. 1, #5

This was the first issue of the series that I owned, and, ironically, unlike with Howard the Duck (the first issue I owned was #20), this issue actually shows him wearing only the Miraco-Vest for most of the issue, which, so far, has not been the norm. I’m not sure who I got this from, maybe Elliott Miller–it was def…initely before the Vertigo series was introduced, as I never knew who the character was before I acquired it, and I knew all the Vertigo characters from the Comic Carnival Hotline as they were introduced. I don’t think I had read it before last night–it must have confused me. Ironically, the letters column said that even younger readers are commenting on the series’s clarity, so perhaps I’m just reading them when my mind is in alpha and dying for sleep.

This issue actually came out the same month as the Supreme SOOFI story, so any resemblance is purely coincidental. Ditko deliberately misdirects the reader into thinking that Sude (revealed now as short for “Supreme Decider”) is really Agam Loron. He lets our minds think that he is cutting one sequence together when actually he just made a transition without saying so. The guess actually isn’t that far away, and Sude does turn out to be a woman utilzing a trick made famous by one Oscar Zoroaster P.I.N.H.E.A. Diggs.

This issue really threatens plausibility by allowing Shade to keep the Miraco-Vest while in prison, especially when they’re even making him go barefoot. The reason given is concern about it being to dangerous to remove it by having some sort of bond with Shade’s body, and forceful separation of it might cause an enormous energy blast that would kill anyone for miles. Kross tells him that he might have to be buried or cremated in it. One would think that they would put more than two guards by his cell, or have better ways to bind him–he is on death row after all, and we don’t know the limits of the Metans’ technology.

Kid Eternity vol. 2 (DC), #1

This is really intriguing, but it does indeed seem to ignore Morrison’s take on the character. Unfortunately, in Kid’s selection of Madame Blavatsky, Nocenti says (or at least has a character go uncorrected) that she was discredited as a fraud even though the organization that discredited her retracted that claim in 1986. Kid has turned into more of a hippie and claims immortality, and he’s trying to get certain people to parent a special new being. It also branches off loose ends from _The Sandman_ and _Wonder Woman_. I wasn’t crazy about the art at first, but it grew on me in much the way Mike Dringenberg’s did. Mr. Keeper is back to more or less the way he was in the old story that I commented on the other day, and apparently not a Lord of Chaos (like Shivering Jemmy, for you Sandman fans).

Hellblazer #6

Whoever told me the Negal (Dr. Fate’s foe) and Nergal are the same character was clearly mistaken. They don’t bear any real resemblance to another beyond both being demons. That gay bashing is caused by demons is a conceit that one must accept in supernatural stories, but it’s better than supernatural stories in which demons cause gayness, I suppose. I thought the binding and self-destruction of the football hooligans was hilarious. I’m not sure how a monogamous gay man whose partner died in the Falkland Islands got AIDS unless he wasn’t being honest with us or the public still didn’t know enough about AIDS at this point. Constantine, who is very into women (he gets a fuller sex scene than in prevous issues) and apparently not bi, reiterates a concept that Neil Gaiman included, applied to the arts, in his New Year’s greeting from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund–if you don’t stand up when they come for others, you’re already lost when they come for you.

Hellblazer #7

Delano’s writing is as crisp as ever, but he’s better when continuing the thread in the previous issue than he is with Ritchie Simpson. This is one of those very dated looks at the internet that treat it as someone going into a virtual world. I thought it seemed silly even when we were getting lots of iterations of the idea, but July 1988 seems to make this one of the earliest examples, though of course, the written version of _Johnny Mnemonic_ came even earlier. The idea was even being used as late as the TV series _Nowhere Man_ in the late 1990s. As with many versions, the person ends up trapped inside the computer, in this case, with his body destroyed. Constantine pulls the plug on the guy (literally) and he hasn’t been saved.

Fantastic Four vol. 1 #1

It really does seem a bit clunky these days, and Reed really comes off as a bigot toward the Mole Man. Ben is really a jerk–he got soften quite a bit, probably as his appearance became more pleasant with the bricklike texture and the big brow. Lee’s original synopsis stated that Ben really isn’t a good guy, and though he certainly became one later on–he’s definitely in this only for Sue.

I’ve read that before this series took off, Marvel was one of a number of independet publishers distributed by National Periodical Publications (DC). While Stan Lee’s introduction sets the series in New York, as it would later be, “Central City” is the name given several times in this issue. If this had been sucessful enough to continue but not the incredible success that it was, would the FF have met the Flash?

Something about the Mole Man reminded me of a caricature of a slavic Jew. The art and writing made me hear Shagal from _The Fearless Vampire Killers_ (whcih I watch on NYE) in my head saying his lines, though I never really thought of him as an “ethnic” before.

Fantastic Four vol. 1 #2

Holy intertextuality! Reed Richard defeats the Skrulls with “photographs” from _Strange Tales_ and _Journey Into Mystery_. This is he first appearance of the Skrulls–and of the Daily Bugle (albeit in only one panel)–I have seen some of the panels before, but never the entire issue. While most superheroes don’t kil…l their foes, the Skrulls are an early precedent–transformed into beef cattle. Reed sticking his head through a rivet is a funny image in an issue that is quite comical. I understand this inncuous little issue led to massive amounts of carnage in 2008’s Secret Invasion crossover, just as Ben predicts in the last panel.

This one has more racial stereotyping with Irish cops…

DC Special Series #21 – Super Star Holiday Special

Except for one panel of Colossal Boy celebrating Chaunnukah with his family, this is really a Christmas issue, focused on the Star of Bethlehem, which it says on the first page that the three wise men followed to the stable to find Jesus (this contradicts Matthew 2:11, in which they found him in a house–the other gosp…els never mention them, and Matthew doesn’t say how many there were). The first story features Jonah Hex. I don’t think I’ve read a Jonah Hex story, and he seems like a softie here. It’s the old story of parents killing and eating a pet without the child’s knowledge until after the fact, which even a friend of mine says happened to him. Next is the story that drives up the price, Frank Miller’s first work on Batman. Batman is the tough and non-nonsense detective in spite of the Superfriends-era costume. The art is a bit confusing, since it looks like the department store Santa Claus that the story centers on gets shot, who then comes back with no explanation, presumably because they didn’t hit him.

Next up is the story I boguth it for, Christmas Eve at the House of Mystery, featuring Cain, Abel, the Three Witches, and Destiny. The Three tell a beautifully-drawn story in which a family on a boat is guided to safety by the Star, mistaking it for a lighthouse. Cain, who doesn’t let Abel partiicpate, tells of a miser who squeezes people dry ($20 for a large diamond to someone who needs the money badly enough to sell). Santa Claus trades him a large diamond for all his store to give it back to the people, and after the exchange is made, the diamond becomes coal. I’m not sure how coal got associated with naughtiness. The historic Saint Nicholas gave coal to everyone, and it was well-appreciated, because they needed it to heat their homes. Finally, Destiny’s story shows that the Star’s apparent movement was cause by an astronaut chasing the Star and breaking the speed of light, going back in time. This explanation outrages Cynthia, but all is forgotten when Madame Xanadu and the Phantom Stranger arrive bearing gifts, the latter disappearing almost immediately.

Sgt. Rock is another character I haven’t read much, but this story is the most powerful of the issue. Easy Company encounters a group of pilgrims led by a nun. The seek out a shrine in a town in Italy that has become a ghost town in an attack. Rock is dealt with a difficult situation, trying to tell a kid whose parents got killed to believe in miracles, even though his parents coming back isn’t one. Easy gets attacked from the air and their counterattack destroys the statue that is the shrine. When the pilgrims arrive, guided by the Star, the nun who leads them understands that it’s not the shrine that is so important, but the people gathered to it.

Finally, in the 30th Century, Superboy and the Legion try to find the Star and are guided to a dying world, in which they are able to make things more comfortable for the intelligent, but non-humanoid, life until a rescue party can arrive to save its inhabitants, capping off an issue with quite a bit of darkness with a sunny outlook.

Fantastic Four vol. 1 #3

It’s been noted by others that the first two issues of the series had covers that were designed to appeal to fans of the science fiction/monster comics that Marvel had been succsessfully publishing. It’s easy to understand why the wider availability of these stories in reprint form has led to the recent reuse of so m…any of them. This one doesn’t show a giant monster on the cover, but it features one. Miracle Man is a dashing figure whose powers pf hyponisis are implausibly extraordinary, which is probably why he has been used so few times. This is the first appearance of the helmet the Thing wore for some time in the 1990s when his face got injured. While he explained why he didn’t like wearing the shirt, I can’t imagine why the Thing would want to go around in nothing but underwear after Sue made him a costume in his size. He’s starting to seem more like a good guy than he did in the first two issues, though.

Captain Atom #16

I don’t know too much about Captain Atom, but the fact that the issue is focused on Red Tornado as Air Elemental makes this of as much interest to Swamp Thing fans as the latter’s appearance on the last page. I was intrigued by the sixties nostalgia element, and the character Starshine Stone, who must not have appeare…d again, becuase I had to add her to the database. I’m not sure why Captain Atom wasn’t supposed to look at stuff from the 1960s. I hated Black Canary’s ’80s hair.

Fantastic Four vol. 1 #4

I thought this issue was trying to cram too much story into a single issue for it to work very effectively. The best moment is the famous one in which Johnny burns off Namor’s beard to reveal his identity (and after seeing an old Sub-Mariner comic on the premises). It was simple enough to turn Namor into a villain (i…n the Everett stories, he wanted to join the U.S. Army, but wasn’t allowed, as a noncitizen). This has yet another giant monster in it, a whale that walks, which the Thing kills with a nuclear warhead. It’s hilarious when Reed stretches up to a helicopter and asks if the occupants have seen “a flaming teenager.” Honestly, I don’t get why the girls think Johnny Storm is so handsome. As Kirby draws him, he has the physiognomics of the bully-type in quite a few panels.

The Demon vol. 1 #4

I’m not too crazy about this cover relative to the others, but it holds a great issue. The two on the cover are the Iron Duke and Ugly Meg, and the latter has summoned the Kamara, the hideous white monkey-thing that later appeareed in Alan Moore’s first Swamp Thing story arc. I did think it funny that Harry Matthews’…s biggest fear is dragons. Overall, the Kamara is not as scary to the reader here as it was there. Merlin shows up in the present at the end of the issue, for a decidedly different feel in the second part of the story, next issue.

The Demon vol. 1 #5

An exciting change of scenery as we enter the Iron Duke’s castle, only for him to be betrayed and enslaved by Ugly Meg (unlike Eve, she is proud to call herself “ugly”). Jason Blood learns to turn himself into the Demon, and he fights lots of Kirby giant-monster types. The Iron Duke’s caslte is revealed to hold a Lov…ecraftian monster called Somnambula, a dream monster that shoves its tentacles into Merlin’s head.

Fantasitc Four vol. 1 #5

Doctor Doom has a lot of control in this issue, though not a lot of panel-time. Having the three already standing on his time machine is a clever device (though longtime younger Marvel readers will see it as a bit obvious). This also has the paradoxical conceit that Blackbeard the Pirate is indeed Ben Grimm, which is… rather clever. The book is starting to get into its own, and for some reason, The Thing gave up shoes for reasons not even explained, unlike with the helmet and the shirt. It might have made sense if he lost the shoes when he became Blackbeard, but the fact that he got big enough clothes from a random bundle that included big enough boots (which it did) is a definite credibility stretcher. Sue would later discount her important contribution to this adventure, given the sexist treatment she received.

Captain Atom #17

The letters pages praise this comicbook for, in spite of its Army setting, not forcing “the obligatory comicbook fight scene” as Steve Gerber called it into every issue. In spite of this story’s title, it’s not a big battle, and in that sense, this is a comic for the mature reader, as in “the not puerile reader.”

Swa…mp Thing takes Captain Atom and Red Tornado into the Green so that they can resolved their differences, and helps the latter, whom he considers a brother elemental, temper his anger toward polluting humans, as he had to do himself after the incident in whcih he unleashed his rage on Gotham City. Suspense is created not by who will win the battle, which is handled in words, but in keeping Captain Atom away from the Black Racer (the Death of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World), which in the physical realm, involves enlisting the aid of Brainwave of Infinity, Inc. (why it’s good that they’re all on the same earth now).

Black Racer would later appear in issue #42 as Death of the Endless, looking surprisingly pink, guides Captain Atom to Mount Purgatory and teases him about a Catholic School upbringing. Neil Gaiman decried that issue for having Death say that the Black Racer and Nekron are aspects of Death, as is she, which was not Gaiman’s intent.

With most issues in the 99 cent bin, this might be a good series to continue reading. I wish my copy of this issue weren’t so water-damaged, but I wasn’t so caredul in selecting it from said bin, as there are other copies in that bin as of the last time I went to that store.

Fantastic Four vol. 1 #6

“Central City” became New York a couple of issues ago, and this issue finally identifies the Baxter Building via the artwork–the name appears at the front entrance. The series is gradually getting better, but there are really lost opportunities for suspense, such as when Johnny jumps out the window into space and has… his flame burn out, and it takes all of one panel for Reed to catch him. Sub-Mariner is both villain of new and hero of old in this issue. Again, this issue makes some credibility stretches. How does Reed know that the Thing’s body can handle a space walk? He’s never done it before. I can see how a character who has been around as long as Namor would know that he needs only a helmet in space, but not someone who gained powers as recently as Ben Grimm. Doctor Doom is again a figure of power who stays off-panel much of the time.

2001: A Space Odyssey #4

After establishing a pattern with David Bowman, Woodrow Decker, and Vera Gentry, Kirby (in the Treasury Special adapting Kubrick’s film and the first two issues of the series, which presents the Monoliths as evolving a few select people into Starchildren, which Kirby refers to as “the New Seed”), one wonders if the ser…ies will continue to be repetitive. The fact that this series is uncollected is nice because one can read the letters pages that are almost always omitted from collections, because many of the writers’ criticisms are mine, and the responses are generally to keep reading to understand the design. This is certainly true in this case.

The previous issue was spent entirely in the bronze age with a warrior called Marak and his inventor, Egel, who got all his ideas form the Monolith. Egel is absent in this issue. Marak now has wheels for carting his troops on horse-drawn chariots and seeks to conquer the warrior queen Jalessa, whom we saw briefly last issue. Jalessa has also been in contact with the Monolith. She approaches Marak unarmed and touches his hand, transferring her evolutionary knowledge for him. Marak now conquers *for* Jalessa instead of conquering her, though I’m not so sure chivalry came that early in history.

We finally have another flashforward to Herb Marik, a 2-star general astronaut. It looks like Kirby is showing us the same thing, but instead, Marik fails to go through the aging process and is, in a sense, a “dud,” who lives out his life in a paradise with Jalessa, the woman of his dreams, and will never be New Seed. Now this really feels like the series is going somewhere, and Marvel’s claim that their stories are like chapters of a novel, forced by periodical nature to work as standalone.

The art is amazing, but Kirby’s reinterpretations are his. Vincent LoBrutto’s biography details the great pains that Stanley Kubrick took to make sure that the Monolith was as smooth as humanly possible. Kirby, whose splotches of black became part of his distinctive style by the late ’60s, doesn’t seem to want an all-black Monolith, causing it to look like rough-hewn stone. I never got that Kubrick (though this may be from not reading Clarke) considered David Bowman a direct descendent of Moonwatcher, but One Who Hunts Alone, Vira the She-Demon, and Marak are obviously intended as direct ancestors and possibly people who are reincarnated into their astronaut selves.

2001: A Space Odyssey #5

People with whom I have discussed comicbooks know how dull I think Marvel’s list of their 100 greatest comics is–if it’s all about superhero first appearances and orgins, what is the point of even going further? My list, of course, would be very eclectic and probably have something like Man-Thing vol. 1 #17 at the to…p. This issue blew me away and would also definitely be on there. It does many of the deconstructive things with comicbook archetypes that Alan Moore was later credited with being the first to do with _Watchmen_.

This issue is set neither in ancient times nor in the title year, but its protagonist saw the exhibit about the 2001 Monolith discovery on the moon at the Smithsonian Institution. Harvey Norton lives in New York City in 2040, where it is a giant shopping mall enclosed in a shell to protect the citizens from the dangerous environment outside. While playing in a virtual reality simulator as White Zero, a superhero whose powers are not particularly clearly established–Kirby doesn’t seem to care, nor expects his audience to do so–Norton encounters the Monolith. After reducing the villain to atoms (the Punisher wan’t even treated as a superhero at this point), he rescues “Princess Adora,” who is chubby and probably has quite a few years on him. Norton isn’t happy and takes off his superhero mask–including the face–but feels his encounter with the Monolith was well worth the trouble of Comicsville and happily pays his bill, though he can’t imagine visitng a place as silly as Comicsville again. He tries to go to a beach on Long Island, but its artificial nature is so apparent, that he takes up someone’s suggestion to join the sapce program.

Much of the issue explores what it is like to live in a stagnant society and the desire to reach beyond the apparent limitations of homogeneity. As with some of the best literary SF, the issue uses the future to turn the present on its head, and the issue seemed to me as relevant today as it was in 1977.

2001: a Space Odyssey #6

After the amazing setup in issue #5, could even the King top himself? Unfortunately, no.

For David Bowman, it was Kubrick’s eighteenth century interest that was his last day as a human being. For Woodrow Decker, it was country bumpkindom, and for Vera Gentry, it was a pool party with other girls looking straight out o…f a teen romance comic. For Harvey Norton, he regresses to his superhero fantasy, although not in the White Zero costume.

It’s not really clear what the Monolith did for Harvey. He still watches tapes of superhero battles, it’s just the illusory nature of them that bothers him. At the end of the previous issue, his team discovers a female alien who resembles Kirby’s earlier creation (with Stan Lee), Tana Nile, albeit in very different clothing. In this issue, Harvey makes use of his knowledge of comicbook archetypes in order to intercede in what is apparently an alien civil war in which the point is apparently to save the princess, after which the Monolith does his final work on him.

2001: A Space Odyssey #7

The letters columns complain that once we saw the “New Seed” at the end of each issue, just like in the film, we never see anything after that. I believe I remember reading (way back in that Kubrick class I took in Spring 1998–_Eyes Wide Shut_ didn’t even open until after the class was over, so there was no need to s…kip _Spartacus_) that Clarke’s novel sends the Starchild to attack Earth. Kubrick’s negativity of theme turns off many viewers, and that idea must have been too much for even him. As it was, Zandra Mukes pointed out in that class that _2001_ isn’t the uplifting film that peopel seem to think it is, because it basically says that we have to involve into an entirely new species to improve ourselves and abandon the fight-over-the-waterhole mentality.

This issue begins where most issues have ended–Astronaut Gordon Pruett experiences his native Colorado, but is rapidly aging and goes through the process to become a Starchild. Then the issues follows Pruett is his new form, in which traveling throughout the galaxy takes as much effort as walking around the neighborhood. He sees stars as they are born and as they die, worlds teeming with prehistoric life struggling to survive, and finally, a civilization about to destroy itself with war. Yet, even in this civilization, the Starchild is able to find those who love, and uses that love as a basis of a new world.

This issue is really unlike any other I’ve read (of anything), and reads more like a piece of lyricism than anything within the comicbook archetype, in particular its stark contrast to the previous issue. One would almost think this should be the end of the series, unless there is more to discover. It says the next issue is “The Capture of X-51.”

2001: A Space Odyssey #8

One letter in a earlier issue thought it seemed that the Monolith, which sometimes appeared as it does on the opening page of this issue, seemed too much like it was serving as a narrator for one-shot stories. In this case, it certainly seems to, and where can you go after following the Starchild for an issue? Comics… historians note this issue as a significant one for being the first appearance of X-51 the Machine Man, the last major superhero created by Jack Kirby (although nobody called him X-51 until Marvel release 12 issues under that as the title, assuming anything with an X in the title would sell), but is this a turning point to superheroics imposed upon Kirby by Marvel. I don’t know what was going on behind the scenes of the comicbook, but the letter responses certainly hint early on that the book is going to move out beyond what it established in its first two issues. In fact, the issue deals with a central element that Kirby had yet to include in his reimagining of the Space Odyssey mythos.

Nothing in previous issues draws upon the major story idea in the film in which the HAL-9000’s witness of the Monolith evolves him into a living creature, fearing for his existence as he tries to break free from the humans that have enslaved him. this issue opens with android X-35 going on a rampage demanding to know why it was created. This was the final straw, and Dr. Broadhurst decides that the best recourse is to unleash the detonators that are in every model in the series. This is apparently done in waves to allow the various team and individual scientists time to escape. The last holdout is Dr. Abel Stack. He has had a success with his unit, X-51, whom he has raised has his son, Aaron, and given a human outer shell, apart from the eyes. Abel removes the detonator as he experiments with Aaron’s flight capability. The range is so great that Abel doesn’t even bother throwing it away.

Like Mary Shelley’s articulate Frankenstein monster that we rarely see in adaptations, Aaron contemplates why others find him so different. He is captured by General Kragg (imagine Charlton Heston by way of Jack Kirby), bitter because he lost an eye to the android x experiments. The removal of White Zero’s face by Harvey Norton probably had some foreshadowing intent. I pointed it out before when I reviewed the issue, not just because I read both issues before writing either review, but because it was a striking image, and her, Dr. Broadhurst observes that it is Aaron’s face that has given him humanity, and that the removal of it will cause him to go insane like the other robots, but the issue ends as Aaron is visited by the Monolith.

While this issue introduces a superhero (it tells us that the next issue is “Birth of a Superhero,” and several supporting characters who would later appear in comics set in the mainsream Marvel Universe, it is very much in line with what has previously appeared in the series, and addresses its issue with the same aplomb as the early ones. The issue isn’t so much a new direction as continuing in the direction it was going, dealing with that key element and simply dealing with it well enough that it became the focus of the series such that it was relaunched.

Defenders vol. 1 #87

Other than some major gaffes in the artwork, this issue more than makes up for the previous one. The issues centers on Jack Norriss, a character who has been consistently interesting since Steve Gerber reintroduced him (I have not read his first two appearances, though one is on order), who is attending the title inqu…est that holds that the Defenders are guilty. The tribunal seems to be governmental in nature, but they state that they are not, and the ending reveals its mystical nature. Nevertheless, the issues is disturbing and timely. Unfortunately, this is Jack Noriss’s last appearance in the title, and indeed his last appearance for another 12 years, so I imagine nothing has been resolved about this enigmatic and powerful issue.

About the art problems–many of them cannot be seen if you have the Essential edition, as they fall on the shoulders of colorist Ben Sean (who?). The two that can are a terribly thick spriral from the Wakandan jet car that looks more like a hose, and the perspective of Lifter running up behind the Hulk doesn’t work–it looks like the Hulk has increased in size. Sean’s work is really incompetent. In one panel, he seems to think Patsy is naked (except for her gloves) and holding her torn costume in front of herself for modesty when Kyle walks in, even though two panels earler and two panels later she is wearing a duplicate costume, and there is no lapse in time. A little bit later, Sean colors the Hulk red, which might be OK in certain situations, but here, he is in broad daylight. I don’t believe that it was this issue that inspired the recent red Hulk. Stan Lee, describing the failure of the 1961 coloring process on the grey Hulk mentioned that in once panel the Hulk looked red. Early reprints of the first issue colored the Hulk green and ruled the grey Hulk a mistake until John Byrne canonized it, but even then, when they reprinted it with the grey Hulk, the original printing’s color issues were not retained for historical accuracy, and I suspect were this issue ever reprinted in color, Sean’s gaffes would be omitted.

Master of Kung Fu vol. 1 #64

This is a solid standalone story that explains why Shang-Chi trusts no one but himself, delving into his past as the son of the famous villain Fu Manchu. I’m not too familiar with the character to comment on it in relation to other stories, but it works well as a single issue, courtesy of Scott Edelman.

The art, on the… other hand, didn’t thrill me. In one panel (p. 14), Shang-Chi had six toes! The other problem is the coloring. The yellow mix in Shang-Chi’s skin tone doesn’t look too alien, but Fu Manchu is almost as bad as the Yellow Claw! I realize they’re dealing with a pulp character who dates back to the 1930s, but in the 1970s, it still looks stupidly racist. Shang-Chi’s erstwhile friend, who dies this issue, is clored just like a white person. I also don’t know why Zeck had Shang-Chi walking the streets of New York barefoot. It always looks silly, but the artists don’t dry the dirt. The cover shows him wearing shoes, but it’s showing the flashback in which it makes much more sense that he would not be (and doesn’t, internally).

Swamp Thing vol. 2 #75

It’s easy to see why this issue won an award. The bulk of the issue is philosophical after Abby gives Swamp Thing the suggestion to grow a living computer in order to determine a way to preserve the Sprout, whcih he very nearly eats (eww) as commanded by the Parliament of Trees. There’s really not much to say about t…his issue other than to describe its philosophy, which is a bit misanthropic and comparable to Jonathan Swift. One can only wonder what he would have thought up if Abby hadn’t cut it all away, but that would probably go beyond what Veitch, or any human, would be capable of writing.

Hellblazer #8

I think I get the chronology. Constantine jumoped out of the train last issue, then he gets further beaten by the gay bashers in ST #74 and Swamp Thing walks him to the hospital in his own quieky way. Now, some time has passed, and Constantine is in the hospital while Mary, formerly Zed, is set to be the (almost) vir…gin to give birth to a fundamentalist cult (the Resurrection Crusade)’s idea of the second coming. If ST’s attempt to eat his own last issue wasn’t disturbing enough, we get a flashback to that twisted cult after Nergal reminds us that he likes to eat babies. This reveals that John is, at heart, a good guy, willing to join forces with a demon to keep him from eating babies that have nothing in particular to do with him. Although John has already consummated his relationship with Zed, that he allowed himself to be healed through demon blood, he is now able to taint her and stop their plans for now.

This is also the only time Roger “Piggy” Huntoon, who has been bugging Constantine in the pages of Swamp Thing, appears in the series, albeit only in a dream sequence. He worked at Arkham Asylum.

Hellblazer #9

This issue’s standout is its clever artwork, one referencing a famous _Iron Man_ cover. This features the drunken, unshaven Constantine getting thrown out of a bar on his 35th birthday, visitation for ghosts, including, for the first time shown, his father. The point seems to be to make it seem that he is as low as he can go when Swamp Thing calls on him at the end of the issue.

Secrets of Haunted House #39

The cover was entered (by me) yesterday. Maybe it will show up in this space later, and maybe it won’t. Destiny appears on the cover of the series for the only time, possibly as a tacit farwll to the character, as Abel begins hosting the stories next issue. Note that I wrote all the plot sumamries on the page. The first story is another female-centered horror tale by Ms. Charlie Seeger. It’s interesting that Taaro expects a man whom she has just met to kiss her. I think it says a lot about the character in just one panel.

The Mister E story introduces a new character in David Neu–by next issue’s blurb he is treated as a regular cast member. The first three pages are captioned entirely with passages form Cotton Mather, similar to Roy Thomas’s technique with the Prose Edda in The Last Days of the Justice Society of America Special a few years later. While the origin of Judge Kobold didn’t seem to endorse the treatment of witches that he used. It is presented as perfectly OK for Mister E to use such tactics because he can “see” evil.

The final story is interesting. What appears to be evil in the story is banal and human, while what is magical isn’t the cause of the harm–a good antidote to the Mister E story. “Magpie ‘O” is credited as the artist. This artists’ depiction of a Mexican saint’s day foreshadows “The Kindly Ones” Sandman story arc, though the rest of the artwork seems to be much more standard.

Secrets of Haunted House #40

So in this isse we learn that the House of Secrets’s waking-world equivalent was torn down, which would explain why the one the Secret Six uses looks nothing like either it or the one that is owned by Steven T. Seagle and Terry Kristiansen in their House of Secrets series (they mentioned in a letter column that they we…re contractually forbidden from using Abel, et al., as a creator-owned series, whchc would mean that DC can’t use it, either).

If any Mister E story gives us insight on Neil Gaiman’s portrayal of Mister E as a fundamentalist whackjob, it’s this one. The combined strength of normal humans David and Kelly is used to hang the sweet little puppy Kelly met at the end of last issue’s story out the window. This is, of course, after the sivler bullet used on its monstrous form fails. Mister E did not actually participate in the hanging, but he phoned in what David was supposed to do.

It might be interesting to see a follow-up to the Graatzes, while the text story, being about daydreaming, is in simplistic prose that doesn’t read like a “real” short story, though it could have been a good character study with a better writer. The series must not have been doing well at this point to not print a letters page and use a story like this instead.

The story of the broken crystal was one to which I guessed the ending quite incorrectly. The visual ideas in the story make it particularly exicting. Overall, I was impressed with this issue.

Vigilante vol. 1 #45

This is the best issue of the series I’ve read so far. In it, Harry Stein meets his match in Harvey Bullock, and Adrian Chase meets his match in Blackthorn. Both Stein and Chase have their noses rubbed in their own hypocrisy and neither of them quite gets it. Val Vostock’s appearance is fairly brief, mostly just exp…laining to Chase what they had to tell police about why they turned in Smith (Peacemaker) but not him. Mike Gold ends the letters column complaining that a fanzine had described this as “scatologicial” to get the mature readers rating. I didn’t read the previous issue, but I hope who started that meme understands that a woman’s nipple (Blackthorn and Chase get a sex scene) has nothing to do with scatology.

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #65

This issue is a shining example of how cleverness and brilliance are two different things, as it has the former, but not the latter. _Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen_ is known for being incredibly cornball (ajnd internally, they would rehash stories on the assumption that only the youngest readers read it and moved on with…in a year), and in this era, the artists and writers weren’t credited. Yes, I bought this issue because DCUGuide.com says it’s the first overall appearance of Lucifer in a DC comic. It’s certainly true, and that story seems to be drawn a bit better than the others, but it’s a bunch of corn involving Jimmy meeting Lucifer (whom he initially mistkaes, due to the “Lord L” nickname, that he is Lex Luythor’s ancestor) after eating too much devil’s food cake, and playing on the penchant for L-names in Superman titles. I did like the Hal Foster-style art for the scenes in the past. Much of the rest of the issue is a bit undetailed and cartoony. I wrote the plot summaries on the linked page, so there’s no reason for me to go into them here.

Vigilante vol. 1 #46

I’m not sure why this issue proved so difficult for me to find, aside from going online–the cover girl’s nude scene was last issue. Maybe it’s gay men buying up copies because of Adrian’s shower fight scene, though it shows less than Dr. Manhattan. It’s good to see Adrian in prison where he belongs, but for all the …people in there who want to bust him up, including the guards, since he killed a police officer. Black Thorn, despite her cover appearance, doesn’t have that big a role this issue, though she, as well as Harry and Val (the latter seen only shredding government documents to pretend that they never existed), spend much of the issue working independently to free him. More Harvey Bullock slobbery….

Vigilante vol. 1 #47

With Harvey Bullock around for the past two issues, an appearance by the Batman was inevitable, but couldn’t Kupperberg have given the story a more imaginative title? Bullock is much more repulsive in the comics than in the animated series, unless it’s just Moore and Kupperberg. The fight scene between Batman and Vig…ilante thankfully doesn’t take more than a few pages. I wonder if the guy on page 16 is really Niles Caulder (Chief of the Doom Patrol). At this point, he is officially (but not really) dead, and Kupperberg tricks us in the first few issues of Doom Patrol that this is leading up to. (The series ran for 50 issues, and Doom Patrol and a Peacemaker limited series followed.) Phil Latter, whom I know from the Howard the Duck Yahoo group, has a letter in this issue asking what they’ve done with Peacemaker. I had forgotten Peeacemaker appeared in the Crisis, and I looked through it at B & N. He fell off a building from at least three stories up, and Phil mentions that Who’s Who in the DC Universe says that his insanity is a result of a head injury from that fall. Vostok’s part in the story ends with a farewll to Harry Stein on page 7. She next appears in Kupperberg’s Phantom Stranger miniseries. I had dubbed that Volume 3, by it looks like Phantom Stranger, Vol. 2, #42 was released this month (volume 2 left off at #41–a number of series are being revived, at least for one issue, where they left off (an old practice almost unheard of these days), all of which, even _Weird Western Tales_ (!) tying in with the big Blackest Night crossover that’s been going on for months..

Secrets of Haunted House #42

I sent them the cover last week, but I guess they haven’t processed it. New editor Dave Manak apparently didn’t like Mister E, so he acknowledges having cancelled the script. He apparently likes very short stories–most of the storeies in this issue are 3-4 pages long, which is why there are so many of them. Most o…f them are trivial and not very good. “Trade Alliance” is so compact and confusing that I had to reread it several times just to figure out what was going on, while “I Love You Harry…” is very slight. “…Get Ahead!” is a dull rip-off of Mario Bava’s _Hatchet for the Honeymoon_, while “Mystic Murder” is a rehash of another DC horror story, one that I believe appeared in this same series. I’ve saved the best two for last. One story deals with an obsessed comicbook collector whose deal with the devil (probably a caricature of a specific DC editor) goes awry, apparently suffocating in his house when the devil assumes that he wants a copy of every comic book in the entire universe. “Destination: Limbo” is clever and atmospheric, and its brevity does not hurt it, as it’s almost anecdotal.

Phantom Stranger vol. 3 #1

Aside from James (don’t call him “Jimmy”) Olsen’s pursuit of a mob accountant that leads him to a Russian consulate with all its cold war trappings, this issue, with its middle east tensions and religious fervor, seems right in line with our time. Although this series isn’t particularly expensive, they can take some l…ooking due to the poularity of aritst Mike Mignola. I wasn’t terribly uimpressed by the art–it struck me as very typical ’80s comic book artwork that sent me heading to the backissue bin for 1970s comics. The writing is quite good, but the Stranger is a bit more of a mystery with the severe limitations placed on his powers in Dr. Fate #3, which was published only one month prior and which I have not read.

Lycaon has duped people ready to sacrifice themselves to a god that is a demon who wants to consume them, while Eclipso is shattering the world. Nonetheless, a lot of stuff is going on for which Kupperberg is simply setting the stage, also involving Negative Woman, Dr. Jenet Klyburn, and Dr. Bruce Gordon, who is falling down drunk at the end of the issue in order to forget that Eclipso is the product of his own mind.

Phantom Stranger vol. 3 #2

This is the other issue set at Mount St. Helens that I read last night. They were published six years apart, so the fact that I read them both, not knowing that fact, is an eerie coincidence. One of Lyacoan’s followers nearly getting eaten by a demon in the previous issue is reflected in the Lords of Order’s grab of …the Stranger. These Lords are paltry excuses for gods–petty, insolent, and defeatist. I am not sure when they were first introduced. Who’s Who in the DC Universe says it was in More Fun Comics #55, but this is a retcon–there is no reference to them, let alone an appearance, in any of the Golden Age Doctor Fate stories. I believe they were Roy Thomas’s idea, and thus, at best, they are functioning behind the scenes alone in those stories. (I can’t blame him–I found Gardner Fox’s Doctor Fate stories rather tedious and disappointing, and I’m glad I checked them out of the library rather than spending $75 on them.)

This issue is even more timely than the previous one–it even shows a plane having crashed into a building. Eclipso has been causing seismic activity along every faultine in the world. Suspense is created as Drs. Klyburn and Gordon get below the surface of the volcano along with the Phantom Stranger in there encountering demons. James Olsen is continuing on the trail, but finds an ally. Val Vostok doesn’t appear in this issue.

Phantom Stranger vol. 3 # 3

I wonder if Ronald Reagan read this issue? DC claimed that he read Kupperberg’s _Vigilante_. This one has a “good” Ronald Reagan and an Eclipso imposter firing a machine gun at a depowered Phantom Stranger! I’m still not crazy about Mignola’s jaggedy artwork, and it seems to me that Val Vostok is showing too much sk…in for safety. It was established in DC Comics Presents #52 that she has to be fully bandaged up like Larry Trainor had to, but this seems to have no ill effect on anyone (quite a bit of her face is showing, as well as parts of her arms). The names of the players may be different, but it’s still a pretty relevant issue to today’s times, perhaps even more with Lycaon and his cult. PS finally meets up with a wiley James Olsen in this issue, who has been doing an undercover investigation as an unshaven bum. The bathroom scene is quite clever.

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