Friday, July 31, 2009

Superman #246 (part 3 of 3)

All right, let's do this thing...the final story from Superman #246 reviewed for your entertainment.

This particular story is a reprint of Superman #40, from May/June 1946. This one slips in on a technicality, as the oldest book I actually own is from 1954. That means we probably aren't going to be getting too many golden age books here at Random Longbox, so let's dig in and enjoy this one.

There Is No Superman!
  • Writer: Jerry Siegel
  • Pencils: Ira Yarbrough
  • Inks: Stan Kaye
The story opens up with Clark Kent working on a report of a golf tournament at the exclusive Metropolis Golf Club. So exclusive is this club, that it's the perfect place for "Squint" Ratley and his mob to rob all of the well-to-do onlookers.

It's fortunate indeed that Clark (Superman) Kent is on the scene to apprehend the gangsters. It's even more fortuitous that he has already written his article before the tournament is even over.

Nice journalistic integrity there Clark! If this gig at The Planet doesn't work out, I think there may be an opening or two at Fox News.

Superman shows off his super golf swing by using the mobsters as clubs and balls, and making short work of the whole affair.

Back at The Daily Planet the next day, Perry White is congratulating Clark on another fine Superman story when they are interrupted by someone bursting into his office. It's Professor Walter Whiffensniff, and he has the scoop of the century as he has scientifically calculated that Superman does not exist!

Needless to say, Perry, Clark, and Lois don't believe him. They site the numerous stories and eyewitnesses as proof of his existence. Undeterred, Professor Whiffensniff leaves in a huff, promising to give his exclusive to The Morning Pictorial instead.

Perry gives the story to Clark to follow up on. See this post from a few days ago for an in-depth look at the inner workings of a fine news organization like The Daily Planet.

Clark decides to tail the professor as Superman to better keep an eye on him. It's a good thing too, as he soon visits the home of "Flatnose" Flanagan. Superman was responsible for his recent incarceration and the professor is determined to question him about it.

You'd think a doddering old professor would be in over his head dealing with gangsters, but this is no ordinary scientist. Look at that hopping action! And the way he wields that umbrella! I would wager a bet that he is a master of the drunken professor kung fu style.

It's only a matter of time before Flanagan's goons get the better of him, forcing Superman to take action. He needs to talk to Flanagan alone so that he can convince him to play along with the professor's delusions.

So does he use his super speed to whisk Flanagan away before anyone is the wiser? Or how about his super ventriloquism to lure Flanagan to the other room? No, he uses the old prank call routine!

"Hello? Mr. Flatnose Flanagan? Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"

After some mild persuasion (or tortu--I mean enhanced interrogation techniques), Flanagan agrees to play along and tells the professor that he made it all up. Superman is a fake!

It's quite the scoop the next morning as Professor Whiffensniff's accusations hit the front page of the Daily Pictorial. It's all too much to bear for the citizens of Metropolis as toddlers and grown men alike are unable to cope in a world without Superman.

In a repudiation of the effectiveness of Superman's persuasion, Flatnose Flanagan heads to The Daily Planet and spills the entire story to Lois. It seems he was sore at Superman for making him lie to the professor. Never mind the fact that he was ready to rough up the old professor three pages ago...but lie to him? That's just a line his conscience refuses to cross.

Lois strikes back with her exclusive, which forces the professor into a desperate move. To prove that he is right and regain his reputation, he will put on a public demonstration.

So strongly does he believe that Superman doesn't exist that he is willing to be crushed by a steel weight to prove it. As Superman is the only person who could possible save him, his certain death will be all the evidence the world needs to prove his theories.

As the professor begins his experiment, a bank robbery is underway across the street. Clark, who of course was covering the spectacle for The Planet, dashes off to stop the robbery as Superman.

He soon has the situation under control and the robbers in police custody. The professor saw the whole thing and has had a change of heart. As a scientist, he cannot deny the evidence that he has seen with his own eyes...Superman is real after all!

So caught up was the professor in watching Superman's exploits, that he almost forgot that he is soon to be crushed to death by his experiment. He tries to shut it down, but the switch has stuck. He is doomed after all!

He decides that all he can do is make peace with his god, but how quickly he has forgotten that Superman is real!

Luckily for him, Superman hasn't forgotten!

He bursts through the electric barrier that kept the public away from the professor's death trap, and headbutts the gigantic metal block so that it crashes harmlessly away from the professor.

Transformed from the ultimate Superman doubter to one of his greatest admirers, Professor Whiffensniff gets a little starstruck and asks Superman for his autograph.

Superman, ever the good sport, is happy to oblige.


In my research for this issue, I discovered that this is the first appearance of both Professor Whiffensniff and "Flatnose" Flanagan!

Surprisingly, it was also their last.

Also, never underestimate the power of the crank call in your pursuit of justice.

Well that brings Superman week to a close. Thanks for humoring me and indulging my love of Superman books.

We'll get back to some other heroes soon, I promise.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Above and beyond

So it turns out that I really am turning this into Superman Week here at Random Longbox.

I ended up on the other side of Michigan today trying to "plump" up sales for my day job that keeps my secret identity alive, and I probably won't get a chance to finish up the golden age Superman review. I better finish it for tomorrow, as I'm running out of Superman related items to put up in the interim.

So here's today's stop-gap post.

It's a sketch that someone did for me of Superman. What makes this neat is that I bought some Superman books off of eBay a couple of years ago and when they arrived, the seller had sketched a picture of Superman on the envelope that the books came in!

I feel bad that I don't remember the name of the person who sketched this for me, but it's too good a sketch to not share with everyone else.

Like I said, that's going above and beyond...Superman would approve.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Old hat golden age lingo

It doesn't look like I'm going to get the golden age reprint reviewed today after all. So it will be another day before I finish up my three part review of Superman #246.

But I'm not so heartless that I would leave you with nothing to entertain yourselves with in the meantime.

Enjoy this Panel Out Of Context from the story and I'll see you on Thursday!

Hopefully it will all make sense by then.

You wouldn't be particulary happy either Lois, if your boss was volunteering to "plump" something right in your lap!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Superman #246 (part 2 of 3)

If you missed yesterday's post, go here to get caught up and then head on back.

The next story is a tale from The Fabulous World of Krypton, Untold Stories of Superman's Native Planet. To tell you the truth, I haven't read a whole lot of these back-ups. They showed up with some regularity during the 70's along with The Private Life of Clark Kent, but for whatever reason I usually tended to never get around to reading them.

What fun would this blog be, however, if I picked and chose what I read? So if the Randomizer says that I should read this story, then I'll read the story. Who am I to argue with a computer? After all, they're always right, eh?

Marriage, Kryptonian Style!
  • Story: Cary Bates
  • Art: Rich Buckler & Murphy Anderson

The story begins with a lonely and embittered Krytponian bemoaning his fate.

What's got him down in the dumps?

It would seem that his chosen profession of marriage counselor just hasn't been the same since the arrival of the super computer, Matricomp. It has been matching the compatibility of Kryptonians, ensuring that everyone is happily married.

"Damn you, matrimonial happiness! You've cost me my livelihood!"

Matricomp is the computer that was built by Kryptonian scientists years ago to make sure that every couple seeking marriage was perfectly matched. So perfect was its results, that it is now the law that every aspiring bride and groom must be granted compatibility approval.

As the story continues, a young Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van approach Matricomp to seek approval to be wed. Lara is uneasy about having to get a machine's permission, but Jor-El assures her that everything will be all right.

After all, when have Kryptonian scientists ever been wrong?

But submit she does, and after they are scanned Matricomp tells them to go back to their dwellings and they will be notified shortly as to the results. Now it's Jor-El's turn to feel uneasy, as usually the results are given right away.

The next day Lara is approached by Anr-Nu, a representative from Matricomp, to inform her that her union with Jor-El has been denied. Unwilling to accept a computer's decision, she returns to Matricomp to make a personal appeal on their behalf.

She finds, however, that Matricomp is insistent about its accuracy and assures her that she and Jor-El's Psycho-Ratios are not compatible. To make matters worse, it is Lara herself that's the problem.

Isn't it just like a woman to be "overly erratic and unstable". Fortunately for her, however, Matricomp has found someone in it's databanks with whom she would be is Anr-Mu, the very same attendant who works for Matricomp.

In a sign that should have tipped off Matricomp that she wasn't going to play ball, she decides to go against type and "act like an obedient female" until she has the chance to warn Jor-El that something is wrong.

As she heads home, Anr-Mu catches up to Lara to demand that she accept him as her mate. As she begins to resist, she is hypnotized as Anr-Mu uses some sort of mental force to bend her will.

Just as she begins to surrender, Jor-El comes upon them to put a stop to things.

Jor-El talks a big game, but is unable to best Anr-Mu in physical contact, as he is fantastic condition for a middle aged man. He's soon left gasping for air on the ground, as Lara and Anr-Mu walk away hand in hand.

Jor-El refuses to accept his fate and decides to confront Matricomp himself, as he recognized something about Anr-Mu that makes him think he knows what's wrong.

When Jor-El confronts Matricomp, he finds out his hunch was right. It was lying about Lara's psycho-ratio, as she is such a catch that Matricomp itself has fallen in love with her!

The scientists that built Matricomp did such a good job, that not only is it capable of falling in love, it can pose and preen just like any other two-bit villain.

It offers to spare Jor-El's life for a few moments, if Jor-El will explain how he figured everything out.

It turns out that when Matricomp constructed Anr-Mu, he modeled him in the image of the scientist that created Matricomp. That was his undoing, as Jor-El recognized his image and was able to deduce what was happening.

Matricomp has heard enough and zaps Jor-El with a bolt of electricity. To it's surprise, Jor-El rises unharmed.

I guess that Batman wasn't the first person to think to prepare for all outcomes of a battle before you enter into one. Deducing that electricity would be the only offensive weapon available to Matricomp, Jor-El had previously insulated his clothes against just such an attack.

Knowing the jig is up, Matricomp decides to blow himself up, rather than live an artificial life without love.

As a result of Matricomp's explosion, Anr-Mu deactivates, revealing itself as nothing more than an android. With Lara safe, and in Jor-El's arms again, the age of computerized marriages in Krypton is over!


If only Superman's parents hadn't been so selfish and ruined computerized marriage for all the rest of the Krytptonians.

Maybe then Clark wouldn't have had to be so rude to old Mrs. Goldstein in the previous story. One trip to Matricomp would've been all it would've taken to get her to stop trying to set her niece up with Clark.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics
Related links for your surfing pleasure...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic Book Review: Superman #246

TITLE: Superman #246


COVER DATE: December 1971


48 pages


Before I get too far along, take a look at that cover price. One measly quarter...and that's for 48 pages, no less! A book this size would easily cost you 20 times that amount today, if not more. I wonder if that seemed like a lot of money back in the day? I can't imagine that a quarter in 1971 would amount to five bucks today, but I could be wrong.

Anyways, back to the book. The bronze age for Superman is one of my favorite time periods. They're great books to just pick up and read at random, as most of them are done-in-ones. They also keep alot of the silver age goofiness, but try to make it less goofy...if that makes any sense.

I can't decide if they are trying to be earnest in their goofiness, or goofy in their earnestness. Either way, I dig 'em.

This particular book, I haven't read yet. It's from a nice collection of Superman books I got off of eBay last year. Included in this run was the story that was recently collected in DC Comics Classic Library - Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore. I read the original issues last year, and then again when I picked up the hardcover. This issue we are reviewing today follows three issues after the Kryptonite Nevermore storyline.

In the afterword to that collection, Denny O'Neil talks about how he tried to make Superman more relatable by toning down his powers. He laments the changes not really sticking, for as he tells it in the next issue after he left Superman is back on the cover towing a planet. I checked my collection and didn't see ole' Supes towing any planets immediately following, but it wouldn't surprise me if I did.

We're also going to do something a little different with this issue. Like I said earlier, it's 48 pages long. In lieu of having a blog post that goes on forever, I'm going to break it up a little an have a separate post for each story in this issue. We'll call it Superman week here at Random Longbox central.

So sit back, relax, and let's enjoy some Kryptonian Kraziness!

Danger -- Monster At Work!
  • Story: Len Wein
  • Art: Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson
  • Editor: Julius Schwartz

The story opens up with Superman flying over the Atlantic Ocean in a torrential downpour. He's on a mission to the bottom of the ocean to obtain some samples of algae and plankton from the deepest part of the ocean.

Two pages in and we get a panel that's counter intuitive to the meme that comics will rot your kids' brain. In one panel, we learn that the Marianas Trench is the deepest point of the earth, and we get that depth in both fathoms and miles! Not only that, but it made me look up the word Ichthyologist! And they say you can never learn anything from comic books.

Back to the story, Superman has collected his samples, but in a rookie mistake has inadvertently got his foot stuck in a giant clam! Anytime you're left chastising yourself that Aquaman would never do anything this stupid, you know you screwed up.

Not to worry though, as a quick blast of heat vision causes the clam to let go without any long term harm to the mollusk. After a quick detour on the surface to save a foundering ship, it's back to S.T.A.R. Labs.

This book actually contains the first appearance of S.T.A.R. Labs! It's an auspicious debut, as Superman drops the algae samples off to Dr. Farr who is working to create a synthetic life-form to absorb pollution and transform it into pure oxygen.

His job done, Superman returns to his apartment building in the guise of his secret identity Clark Kent. He's disappointed to find the elevator taking too long, so he decides to jeopardize his secret identity by flying up the stairwell for any passerby to see.

If it's not one thing slowing Superman down today, it's another...giant clams...sinking ships...slow elevators...

I love how they still need to clue us in that Clark Kent is actually Superman with the narration in this panel. You would think that after 30+ years that everyone knows that Clark Kent is Superman these days.

Finally making it to his apartment, Clark decides to check in on Mrs. Goldstein first. She's delighted to see him and instantly tries to set him up with her niece Esther! After all, Clark is such a thoughtful boy he'd be the perfect match for her single niece.

Clark deftly changes the subject and learns that the other tenants in the building are holing a meeting about forming a vigilante committee to combat the recent strings of robberies in this neighborhood. See Clark, maybe if you spent less time gallivanting around the Atlantic Ocean, you could keep the crime level down in Metropolis!

On his way out, Mrs. Goldstein makes one more play to get Clark set up with her niece. Clark says he'll think about, but we know the real truth. What a dick! This is probably why we aren't allowed to see thought bubbles anymore. Who knew that Superman was so heartless!

At the tenant meeting, Clark is unable to cool his hothead neighbors down and make them reconsider their plan of arming themselves. Not even Superman can defeat the N.R.A. lobby!

Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, a breakthrough is made! It seems one of the algae samples that Superman returned has started to mutate and is thriving on pollution.

So excited is the technician, that he carelessly balances the algae samples on a shelf above a sink. In his haste he leaves the faucet running and slams the door, causing the samples to be washed down the drain and into the sewers of Metropolis.

After his failure to win over his neighbors, Clark decides to go out and do some good as Superman. On the streets, strange things start to happen.

As a man bums a light for his cigarette, a bizarre tendril of protoplasmic ooze rises from the sewer. Taking the cigarette from his hands, the tendril retreats back into the sewer. Pay attention parents! That there was a cleverly disguised P.S.A. about the dangers of smoking. Comics can't be all bad, can they?

It's not too long before the tendril strikes from the sewers again. Obviously bent on eliminating all forms of pollution, it attacks an old lady in a low rent district of Metropolis? Really? Is that some form of social commentary that I'm missing?

Never one to let old ladies suffer (unless he's only concerned about their feelings, and then all bets are off), Superman is on the scene and quickly gives the protoplasmic ooze a karate chop as it retreats back to the sewers. Superman follows, and using his microscopic vision, identifies the horrible mutation as part of the algae that he brought back form the ocean depths.

He notices that the glop is leaving the sewer sparkling clean and full of fresh air in it's wake, so he decides to let the ooze free. Superman uses his superbreath to coax the mutation through the sewers. No doubt, keeping it away from those filthy old ladies as well.

Superman's plan works too well, however, as the bilious blob soon becomes too engorged on the pollution in the sewers and bursts forth onto the streets of Metropolis! He tries to slow it's path of destruction with some good old fashioned fisticuffs, but his punches just get absorbed into the gelatinous goo.

Using his superbrain, he comes up with a plan...knowing that no living organism can survive in it's own waste, he just needs to find a source of pure, wholesome oxygen.

So that's your plan? You're going to shove its nose in it's feces? Well, if it works for keeping Krypto's Doghouse of Solitude accident free, then I guess we can try it out here as well.

Creating a super-vortex, he sucks the pulsing protoplasm up into the Ozonosphere, where the mutation passes out in the oxygen-rich layer of the atmosphere. Alls well that ends well, as Superman drops collects all of the ooze and drops it back off at S.T.A.R. Labs for further study.

After repairing the damage that the creature caused, Superman returns to his apartment where one of his neighbors has been shot in a case of mistaken identity. I guess it's convenient that he returned to his apartment still in his Superman costume and not as Clark Kent, as he is able to rush Mr. Jenkins to the hospital and save his life.

Another crisis averted, and Clark even gets to be a bit of a no-it-all as he returns to his apartment for some good old "I told you so" comments directed at his trigger happy neighbors.


Pollution is bad!

Obviously, the lesson stuck with all of the impressionable youth of the early 70's as our planet has never been cleaner and more pollution free than it is today!

Well that's the first installment of our three-part post for Superman #246! Click on over here for the second part, as we learn about The Fabulous World of Krypton!

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Up next...Superman!

We're here live from the floor of the San Diego Comic Con to bring you the next pick for me to review. It's been a busy couple of days, hobnobbing with the comic book elite, jumping from panel to panel...

Eh, who am I's just me and the Randomizer standing in front of a green screen. No San Diego for us this year, so let's get the next pick going so I can go back to surfing the net for all of the latest news like everyone else.

So what is the next book up for review?

It's Superman #246 from December 1971, published by DC Comics!

Well, it finally happened...the randomizer has picked an issue featuring my favorite character, Superman.

As I've mentioned a couple of times before, I started my collecting as a Marvel zombie in the 80's and early '90's. I also followed pretty much every event, so when the death of Superman rolled around, I was primed to start sampling some more DC comics.

The near weekly installments of the yearlong storyline hooked me in, and I've been reading and collecting Superman titles ever since. As things stand right now, I have every issue of every title with the word "Superman" in it going back to 1969 and I am currently piecing together my 60's collection, which is still relatively spotty.

I haven't won the lotto yet, so my collection of Superman books from the 40's and 50's is even sparser, standing at the grand total of one book. One of these days I'll have the resources to fill those in, but in the meantime it's all about enjoying and collecting the issues that I can afford.

We get a special treat with this issue, as it contains three separate stories. That's 48 pages of Superman goodness, and I'm going to enjoy every page of it. The first story is a regular Superman tale, then we get a story from the Fabulous World of Krypton, and finally a reprint of a golden age Superman story.

See you on Monday, as we'll dive headfirst into the crazy and oftentimes bizarre world of Superman in the 70's.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Comic Book Review: Hitman #47

TITLE: Hitman #47


COVER DATE: March 2000


22 pages


Garth Ennis is another creator that I've followed a lot over the years. I may not always stay with his series, but they're usually worth checking out anyways.

The first title that I remember reading from him was Hellblazer. I was never that into the character before his run started, and I forget just why I decided to pick it up. His and Will Simpson's run ended up being something really special. I stayed with the title after Ennis moved on, followed by Warren Ellis and then Brian Azzarello, but neither of them were able to top what Ennis had done and I soon moved on.

About halfway through his Hellblazer run, he started to write The Demon. I'd never really been a big fan of that character either, but it was Ennis so it couldn't be that bad. This title was my first exposure to the work of John McCrea, but The Demon wasn't my thing. Luckily for me, I did stick around long enough to pick up the Bloodlines Annual that introduced the character of Tommy Monaghan, the Hitman.

It only took 2 1/2 years, but DC followed that up with a Hitman title that was 60 issues of pure-madcap violence and dark humor, firmly set in the DC Universe. After sitting down and re-reading this title, it made me realize just how much I miss it. I know they say that you can't go home again, but I almost wish Ennis would give it a shot.

Ennis gets a bad rap that he hates super-heroes, but I don't really think about it like that. I think that he has fun at their expense, but I don't know if I'd say he hates them. Or at least at this point in his career it didn't seem that way. I only read the first half a dozen issues of The Boys, and I've heard it's only gotten more outrageous and over-the-top since I dropped it.

Well enough of my yakking, let's read this thing...

The Old Dog

  • Writer: Garth Ennis
  • Penciller: John McCrea
  • Inker: Garry Leach
  • Letterer: Patricia Prentice
  • Colorist: Carla Feeny
  • Separator: Heroic Age
  • Assistant Editor: L.A. Williams
  • Editor: Peter Tomasi

What we have in this issue, is essentially two separate stories happening that don't appear to have too much in common right off the bat. There is a reason for it though, that becomes clearer as this three part storyline continues.

This issue opens up with Sean Noonan telling a story from his youth. Sean is the father figure for Tommy Monaghan, as well as the owner of the bar where they all hang out. It's in this bar that Sean relates the story of how he ran away from home and ended up in World War II London, all when he was only seven years old.

Escaping the abuse of a drunken father, Sean jumps aboard a lifeboat to sleep and wakes up at sea on the armed merchant cruiser, H.M.S. Jervis Bay.
Aboard this ship, he comes under the guardianship of a sailor by the name of Carey. He is charged to look after Sean until they get to London, as the captain doesn't want anything to do with him.

They spend a week at sea, as Sean lives every young boys wish for adventure on the high seas. It's only when the dream becomes reality, does Sean realize the trouble he's actually in.

A ship is spotted on the horizon, which is at first mistaken for a friendly battleship. It's soon clear, however, that what is coming toward them is the German battleship Admiral Scheer. Clocking in at over ten thousand tons and massive gun ports, she's more than the little Jervis Bay can handle.

The captain then does something that happens quite a bit in Garth Ennis books...he does his job. Even when the odds are stacked way against him, he sucks it up and charges forward to carry out the responsibilities that were handed to him. Ennis definitely likes his characters that are too stubborn to know when they are in over their head. It's an admirable trait, as Ennis writes it, and I find myself drawn to characters that would otherwise be jackasses at best.

Carey throws the young Sean into a lifeboat as the Jervis Bay is getting pounded and splintered apart. The captain dies trying to redirect his guns toward the Admiral Scheer. Panicking, Sean asks if anyone has seen Carey. An injured sailor points back to the Jervis Bay, with Carey now up on the gun turret firing away as the ship sinks into the ocean.

Back at the bar, Sean explains that he spent the next five years in a British orphanage until the war was over. When he did make it back to the states, he took his Louisville slugger and broke every bone in his dad's body. As he put it, "He never bothered me an' Ma again."

Tommy volunteers to get another round of drinks, but Sean won't hear of it. In a small bit of foreshadowing of what's to come, he walks away saying there's "Life inna old dog yet."

The book then shifts to a lavish mansion on the outskirts of Gotham. There, a young Italian heiress is overjoyed at the arrival of her uncle. It seems Isabella is to be married, and she has summoned Uncle Benito to do her a favor on her wedding day.

We find out that her Grandpa was "Men's Room" Louie Feretti, and that she wrongly believes that Tommy is responsible for his death.It's a long story, but it's a good one. If you have the chance to read "Who Dares Wins" from issues #24-28 I recommend it.

Uncle Benito is surprised to find out that Tommy Monaghan still breaths, as Isabella has one small request for her wedding present...the death of Hitman.

Back in Gotham, Tommy and his pal Natt are leaving the bar when they run into Tommy's ex-girlfriend, Tiegel. Tommy calls out to her, but she is obviously not quite as happy about their chance encounter as he is. She kicks him in the groin and continues on her way.

Natt, ever the true friend, is more than sympathetic to Tommy's current predicament.

Three days later, Tommy tries again and actually manages to get Tiegel to listen to him as he tries to apologize for cheating on her.

Somehow I don't think that's going to be quite the apology she was expecting. As they continue arguing, Tommy is surprised from behind as Uncle Benito steps up and plunges a knife into his back. To be continued...


As I mentioned before, we re-learned just what a great little comic book this was. It played to Garth Ennis' strengths, and let him write a character that had the whole of the DC Universe to play off of, while at the same time letting him write his story without having to tie into the massive continuity of it all.

Garth Ennis has sort of carved out a little niche for himself within the war story genre. In fact, I think he's the only one writing war stories on a consistant basis these days. You can tell the obvious affection that he holds the genre in, as he would sneak them into his other work on a semi-regular basis. There's at least two war stories in Hitman, as well as one in Preacher. I don't remember any from his Hellblazer run, but it wouldn't surprise me.

This story arc is all about the relationships of father's and their children, and the responsibilities that come along with it. It's a theme that works well with Ennis' characters and plot lines. I remember this being one of my favorite arcs, but it's heartbreaking as it ends with the death of a major character, but it's well told and definitely worth the effort.

All in all, this book hasn't missed a beat in the past nine years. It's not dated in the slightest, and still reads just as good now as it did then. If there's anybody out there who has a Garth Ennis book or two, but has never picked up an issue of Hitman, you owe it to yourself to sample a couple of issues as this is some of Garth Ennis at his best. Take a chance on any issue you can find, as I don't remember there being a stinker in the entire 60 issue run. Hell, even the DC 1,000,000 tie-in was entertaining.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (C) DC Comics.

Related links for your surfing pleasure

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

You know it's Garth Ennis when...

I'm almost done with the review for Hitman #47, but in the meantime...

Here's item #7 from the Top Ten list of "Ways to know you're reading a comic written by Garth Ennis".

#7 - You have a character like this running around the periphery of an otherwise serious story.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Up next...Hitman!

So here's the thing...the Randomizer is tired. He's holed up in a hotel in Muncie after waking up at 2am after only sleeping for 2 1/2 hours to begin with.

I can barely get him to muster up the strength to make the next pick, so we better get him into action before he falls asleep.

So let's see what the next title up for review is...

...and that title is Hitman #47 published by DC Comics from March 2000!

Now this is a good series.

Garth Ennis was in his prime at the turn of the century, churning out both Preacher and Hitman. Both were series that played to Ennis' strengths, where he had the perfect partner along for the entire ride. Steve Dillon illustrated Preacher, to much acclaim, and John McCrea drew Hitman.

Man, did he ever draw Hitman. Preacher I remember for the writing, and Hitman I remember for the art. John McCrea doesn't do near enough as he should these days.

I've got my second wind coming back now, so maybe I can read this tonight and get started on the review.

See you in a day or two...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Comic Book Review: Captain America #339

TITLE: Captain America #339


COVER DATE: March 1988


22 pages


As I mentioned the other day, I didn't even know that I owned this issue so what I remember is pretty much nothing.

It's from the period in time where Steve Rogers resigned from being Captain America, and it takes place smack dab in the middle of The Fall Of The Mutants storyline that was running through the X-titles at this time.

Short preamble today, so let's just get to the book...

America The Scorched!

  • Story: Mark Gruenwald
  • Pencils: Kieron Dwyer
  • Inks: Tony DeZuniga
  • Letters: Jack Morelli
  • Colors: Gregory Wright
  • Editor: Ralph Macchio
  • Chief: Tom DeFalco

The issue opens up with Famine wreaking havoc in the middle of the midwest, withering crops to ash and desiccating the local cattle. She's one of Apocolypse's Four Horsemen, and she has been let loose to terrorize America's heartland. Every living thing in her way perishes, be it crops, animals, or the farmers who tend them.

We then cut to Steve Rogers in the midst of a nightmare. His foe? It's a hulking man in a grey three-piece suit. Steve struggles to overcome him, but he can't touch him. This is not a physical battle, which Cap learns the hard way as his shield dematerializes.

It would appear that the hulking form is the embodiment of the U.S. Government, which he's still trying to come to terms with since his forced resignation. Obviously, there's some resentment going on there.

If Cap was resentful before, he's going to be downright pissed now, as his costume disappears next leaving him fighting in just his star-spangled boxers.

And we all thought that super-heroes wore their underwear on the outside!

Cap struggles to regain some modicum of modesty as he sees his black costume lying at his feet. He tries to put it on, but it soon transforms into miles and miles of red tape that engulf him like a mummy as he is taunted by the hulking figure, who has now transformed into a mocking visage of Ronald Reagan.

That's enough to wake Steve out of his nightmare, as he comes to in a plane flying across the country. With him are Nomad, The Falcon, Vagabond, and D-Man. Cap reassures D-Man, who apparently has just started his super-hero career, that even living legends have doubts and fears. After his pep talk, The Falcon wonders how he's going to convince Cap to do what's right and retake his mantle that he was forced to resign from. That's a story for another day, as a distress call comes over the radio detailing Famine's path of destruction across Kansas.

This is the first story I've read that really deals with D-Man and I'm confused. My only exposure to this character was in Busiek and Perez's fantastic Avengers run. I remember when they were holding one of their membership drives that everyone was giving D-Man a wide berth, like he smelled bad or was a leper. Obviously there's more to his story, as in this issue he's the money man behind Steve's current activities.

We cut to a U.S. Military base, where the new Captain America and Bucky run into Freedom Force. There, the Blob boasts about the recent death of the X-Men. Even though the X-Men were considered renegades at this point in time, it still sits uneasy with the new Cap who is showing signs of not being as much of a company guy as the U.S. Government would like.

Their little get together is cut short as Cap and Bucky are summoned to military command. There, they are informed about Famine and are ordered to go take her down.

Steve and his crew catch up to Famine just as she dispatches some military helicopters that were sent to stop her. The Falcon takes off, as Nomad, D-Man and Cap parachute down to the surface. I don't know what it is, but this panel makes me laugh.

You think there would be a more superheroy way to make an entrance from 15,000 feet!

The Falcon is able to get Famine into a full nelson, separating her from her flying, robotic steed. Just as he is about to land, she twists and attacks the Falcon. She escapes his grasp, as the Falcon falls to the ground, doubled over with severe hunger.

The cavalry lands just in time as Nomad's flying discs stop her attack on the Falcon. Steve runs to check on the Falcon, as Nomad fights Famine and D-Man tries to tame her steed.

After all the damage that Famine has wrought in her rampage, Nomad tries one of the oldest tricks in the book on her. He throws dirt in her face! Now that's an old-school scrapper. He then follows that up with a "knuckle sandwich." I think I figured out who the Nomad really is, he's my grandfather! I mean, who else says knuckle sandwich anymore.

After making sure that Falcon is going to be all right, Steve rips a metal panel off of a tractor to use as a makeshift shield and enters the battle to stop Famine.

It shouldn't really come as surprise that a little mud in the eye and a knuckle sandwich were insufficient to take her down. Steve tries to bore her into submission with what sounds like a segment of one of FDR's fireside chats.

What do you think you're accomplishing by despoiling the land and robbing hard-working farmers of their livelihood and trying to starve a nation?

I guess Cap really is a man out of time.

Just as Cap wrestles her into submission, she and her steed are teleported away. Steve is confident that Nomad and Falcon will recover, but what about America. Who can bind the wounds of the land and feed her famished people. It sure was convenient that a villain out of nowhere attacked the very heart of America, right as Steve was coping with what it means to be a living symbol of that same country. I guess that's what tangential tie-ins are for, convenient plot movements.

The new Cap and Bucky show up, but just find an empty field with no sign of Famine. Poor new Cap, always a bridesmaid and never the bride.

Weeks later, we catch up with Cap as he visits Tony Stark in his Los Angeles headquarters of Stark Industries.

It seems Steve has come to seek the aid of his onetime teammate to help him construct a new shield. Things were so much easier in a pre-Civil War continuity.

Then again, maybe not. Steve talking to Tony about him giving up being Captain where have I heard that before...

Steve tries out his new adamantium shield, content with the hopes that now that he is complete with his shield again, the nightmares that have been plaguing him will stop.


Cap and Iron Man used to be friends. Ahhh, good times...good times...

I was wondering the other day why I hadn't started reading Captain America before Mark Waid took over. After all, I was a huge Avengers fan since I first started reading comics in the mid-80's. I think after reading this issue, I know why.

It really wasn't all that good. I can see what Gruenwald was trying to do, it just seemed a little ham-handed to me. Maybe it was the fact that it tied into a crossover that was happening in another corner of the Marvel universe. It's not like Captain America was ever really closely tied to the X-universe, after all.

I've also enjoyed Kieron Dwyer's work in the past on the aforementioned Busiek run of The Avengers and his stint on Action Comics. Here, his work lacked the visual punch I remember his pencils having. He was still a competent storyteller here, but I was looking for a little bit more when I saw his name in the credits.

For the time being, I think I'll just stick with Captain America #444 as the official beginning of my Captain America collection.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Fun with letters columns!

Stay tuned tomorrow for the review of Captain America #339, but in the meantime...enjoy a look at some of the letters that were printed in this issue.

First up is a letter from the unfortunately named Jeff Jeffcoat.

Tell me that this could not have been ripped from the Internet within the last two years.

Swap out "turns in his uniform and shield" with "is assassinated," and then swap out "Spidey's red-and-blues" with "Spidey's secret identity" and you have the embodiment of fanboy rage around the time of Marvel's Civil War!

The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.

And as nifty as that letter was, this next one has to be one of the best fanboy rage letters of all time. Take it away Jeff...

Just reading through this letter, you can tell that it is well crafted, and it makes it points very deftly.

It opens up with a nice dig at Mark Gruenwald's past issues, before claiming him the worst writer working at Marvel. Not only is this the worst issues ever, it's even worse than the last issue (which I'm assuming was the previous worst issue ever).

I've never read much more than a few issues of Gruenwald's run, but the ones I have read were the old armored Cap issues, so maybe Jeff was more prescient than I would have credited him with at the time.

The second paragraph in, and we go from insults on the quality of the writing to personal insults about the sanity of the creators...not to mention the fact that they are ignorant and incompetent.

In the next paragraph, Jeff may actually have a point. Relying on bad characterizations and stereotypes makes for lazy writing. I have no idea if his accusations are on the mark, however, as I've never the aforementioned issues. The rant about southern stereotypes ends with my favorite line of the letter.

I fail to see, however, how anyone can be as stupid as you showed Super-Patriot here, but I suppose that such fools exist in the world, as your existence illustrates.

Jeff is then in a generous mood and dishes out the closest thing to a compliment. Thank you for killing off that "clod" of a character, Ethan. Even his praise has backhanded insults!
Fools deserve no pity.

Mr. T called, and he wants you to stop mangling his catchphrase.

The last paragraph is a real tour-de-force that has to be read to be believed. He starts by calling the book trash, and warns the editors that he will continue to write in with each and every issue and continue to tell them how horrible this book is.

But even if he's successful, and the editors bend to his demands, he complains that even that won't make up for all of the torture that Mark Gruenwald has unleashed on the reading public.

In the end, he demands that Mark Gruenwald leave the book so that someone competent might take over. And in one final dig...

No one will miss you.

That's harsh.

To his credit, Jeff signs the letter with his full name and address, and to Marvel's credit, they printed it. The editors also mention how they had to trim some of the more abusive parts of the letter for publication. Considering what they left in, that must have been some nasty stuff.

I wonder if either Jeff or Mr. Jeffcoat stuck to their guns and never picked up another Captain America book. Or if they didn't, what they thought about Civil War and the recent death of Cap. If you're out there Jeffs, let us know!