Monday, August 31, 2009

Superman...starring in Action Comics Weekly #614

We now come to part four of our review of Action Comics Weekly #614, so if you missed any of the three previous parts click here, here, or here.

As I mentioned previously, when ACW started up, Superman was essentially sidelined to showcase other heroes. He still appeared in every issue, however, in the form of a two-page serial that ran from week to week. It was written by Roger Stern and drawn by Curt Swan, so it does have a great pedigree. Does it hold up? Let's find out...

Death Comes Calling...
  • Writer: Roger Stern
  • Penciller: Curt Swan
  • Inker: Murphy Anderson
  • Letterer: Bill Oakley
  • Colorist: Tom Ziuko
  • Editor: Mike Carlin
The story opens up with Superman flying to California. It would seem that there is a cult out there that worships Superman as a god.

I know what you're saying...crazy cults on the west coast...big whoop!

The only problem is that by worshiping Superman, the cultists are gaining bizarre powers. One of those cultists, Bob Galt, appealed to Superman for help. While in Metropolis, another cultist tried to kill Bob before he could warn Superman. He failed, however, and blew himself up before Superman could question him.

That's not the end of the story though, as someone who matches the would be assassins description has been admitted to a hospital in California with multiple burns.

Superman arrives at the hospital to question the assassin, but it stopped by Nurse Ratched.

Join us next week as Superman battles the health insurance companies in "Public Option...Public Death"

She soon cracks under Superman's super-charisma and tells him the room number. Using his x-ray vision, he sees that the cultists have sent yet another member to finish the job. They are nothing if not maticulous.

Ignoring Nurse Ratched's strict orders for no visitors, Superman barges into the room to stop the never ending chain of assassins.

Will he stop him in time?

Will the cult send yet another member to kill the member who failed to kill the member that originally failed to kill the first member?

You'll have to pick up the next issue to fine out, but the safe money bet is on the latter!


This Superman serial was the only story that I previously read from this run of Action Comics Weekly. Being the Superman fan that I am, I read those first and dutifully ignored the rest under the stress of keeping up with current continuity comics.

Overall, this serial was a little on the silly side. It would turn out that the cultists base was in a location that was flooded by weird radiation, thus giving them powers. An evil corporation was also involved, trying to capitalize on the radiation. Superman and Clark Kent end up getting to the bottom of things and stopping the corporation only to find the true mastermind behind it all.

And who is that nefarious genius? It was Darkseid!?

That would've been cool and all, but it took 'em thirty-some issues to get to this point, and within the next two issues Darkseid up and leaves, and the serial ends.

Oh well, it was only a two-page weekly serial. I guess when you're dealing with those, the wackier the better. I just wish that we would've seen some more Curt Swan art with snazzier visuals than a bunch of brainwashed people in civilian clothes and evil CEO's in suits.

Next up...Catwoman!

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nightwing and Speedy...starring in Action Comics Weekly #614

Cruising right along, here's part three of our look at Action Comics Weekly #614.

If you missed either of the first two parts, click along for Green Lantern or The Phantom Stranger. So now that every one's caught up, let's get moving...

First Blood
  • Writer: Marv Wolfman
  • Penciller: Chuck Patton
  • Inker: Tom Poston
  • Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
  • Colorist: Adrienne Roy
  • Editor: Barbara Kesel
Look kids!

Big Ben! Parliament!

That's right everybody, we're in England and it seems that Nightwing and Speedy are playing bodyguard to the ambassador who has received several death threats. He's none to happy about the capes following him, but Nightwing is nothing if not a professional and he will do his job.

And being the professional that he is, he notices a glint coming from the top of Big Ben and instantly recognizes it as a sniper attack. He shoves the ambassador out of the way and hollers out to Speedy, who is already taking aim.

I confess that this is probably the first ever story that I've read with Speedy when he was Speedy (as opposed to Red Arrow or Arsenal), but I had no idea he was that good. I know there is this thing called suspension of disbelief, but we're supposed to believe that the he lands a perfect bullseye into the barrel of the snipers rifle from the ground? That's some serious skill.

The sniper turns out to be Speedy's ex-lover and mother of his child, an assassin by the name of Chesire. That explains the perfect shot, as he was aiming for his his ex! Rushing headlong to capture her, Speedy gets his butt handed to him, only to have Nightwing rush to his defense.

Nightwing proves he's got the skills to take her down, but Cheshire plays dirty and tosses a grenade into a crown of onlookers. Nightwing goes for the safe play and saves the citizens, knowing full well that Cheshire is now gone.

Roy and Dick lick their wounds back at their hotel, as Roy reminisces about how he and Cheshire hooked up. After he kicked his heroin habit, Roy decides the best thing for him to do is work undercover in the C.B.I.'s drug trafficking division. Makes sense to me, eh?

Anyway, it's while on a sting working undercover (as the bassist for Dokken, apparently) that he meets Cheshire, the go-between for a big cocaine score. They have a wild night together where he gets the information he needs and she gets pregnant.

That Roy Harper, would it kill you to hold back every now and again?

Back to present day, and the ambassador is still bristling at the thought of having bodyguards, even after the recent assassination attempt. He retreats to the bathroom to have a shower, where he figures he can finally be alone.

I thought there was an unwritten law that said full page shower scenes had to be sexier than this.

Persistent as ever, Chesire uses the shower head to pump poison gas into the shower, killing the ambassador.

Nightwing is soon on the scene, only to be left with the feeling that his partner is not telling him something with regards to Cheshire. He vows to get to the bottom of things as we turn our attention to Speedy, who is waiting for Cheshire in an alley.

The simmering sexual tension rears it's ugly head once more, as Speedy recognizes that one of them will eventually have to kill the other. Cheshire doesn't miss a beat in claiming that she will kill Speedy, even though he was the only man she ever loved.

That must have been one hell of a night...Speedy is really that good! And he's apparently pretty good with a bow, too.


Speedy's a bit of a player. Nightwing's a bit of a fuddy-duddy. It's the odd couple of superheroes!

This wasn't a bad little story, if not a tad dated and simple. I can see what Marv Wolfman was going for with the tension in the story, but it never came through in the pages. The story seems a little obvious and the artwork a little too bright.

Still, I've read worse 8-page stories, even if I probably won't be raiding the longbox to read the rest of tale. You win lose some...

Up next...Superman!

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
Up next is the Superman strip drawn by Curt Swan! Life is good. See ya soon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Phantom Stranger...starring in Action Comics Weekly #614

Welcome back to part two of our look at Action Comics Weekly #614. Click here if you missed the first part, otherwise strap in for some otherworldly adventure featuring The Phantom Stranger!

Death God
  • Writer: Paul Kupperberg
  • Penciller: Tom Grindberg
  • Inker: Brett Breeding
  • Letterer: B. Sean Pennaha
  • Colorist: Petra Scotese
  • Editor: Mike Carlin
For us, the story picks up in media res, but I assume if you were reading Action Comics at the time it came out you probably read the prior issue with the previous chapter of this story in it. Being the experienced random readers that we are, we shall press on.

The Phantom Stranger is strung up in front of an Mayan ziggurat, being taunted by Ah Puch, the Mayan Death God. The Stranger is a mere husk of a man, obviously having had his cosmic life drained to the point of near death by Ah Puch.

After some mandatory villainous boasting, Ah Puch throws the Phantom Stranger into the well of sacrifice to await his eventual death at Ah Puch's touch.

As the Stranger sinks to the bottom of the well, he thinks back on how this situation came to be. It seems that Daniel Gleason was an author who published a book on the Mayan Empire that contained words not spoken since the civilization fell. The words magic is so strong, that anyone reading them has their life force drained, which in turns strengthens in his realm.

You think that there would have been a rash of deaths in the publishing world around this time with copy editors, proofreaders, and literary critics dropping dead left and right.

As the Stranger reaches the bottom of the well, he finds that his life essence has returned. The shear amount of sacrifices over the centuries that have been carried out in this well have imbued it with an essence that revives the Stranger.

Sadly, this is all according to Ah Puch's plan, as he intends to feed off of the Phantom Stranger for eternity. The skeleton's of Ah Puch's previous victims rise from the bottom of the well and try to bind the Stranger to his new resting place.

They are no match for the Stranger, as he bursts from the waters of the well to the fresh air above. Ah Puch is in pursuit, laughingly mocking him all the way, for in his city he is all powerful.

In fact, he grows stronger as the book with the accursed words still brings victims by the thousands within his grasp.

The Phantom Stranger hits the death god with blazing array of lights, that serve as a distraction for one ray of light that penetrates the back of Ah Puch's skull.

The Phantom Stranger is sure that the soul of Daniel Gleason is still alive in there somewhere, and that the light will help guide it to the surface where he can again gain control of Ah Puch.

Between that and the Stranger giving Ah Puch an extra overload of his energies, he falls to the ground defeated. The man that was Daniel Gleason claws his way out of the decaying shell of the death god.

No good Phantom Stranger story would be complete without a soliloquy delivered by the Stranger himself, giving warnings about powers beyond our control.

That's exactly how this tale ends, as the Phantom Stranger gives a lecture to the author about being respectful of powers we do not understand or believe in, and to always be vigilant to confront evil in whatever form it takes!

He's talking to Gleason, but we really know that it's us as the reader who is getting the lecture. For this has been another cautionary tale, brought to us by The Phantom Stranger!


I've always liked the characters like The Phantom Stranger, Dr. Strange, and Dr. Fate. The cautionary tales of magics, demons, and otherworldly powers always seem to pique my interests.

Unfortunately, the Phantom Stranger has never really captured the comic book zeitgeist like Dr. Strange has. I keep meaning to check out some of his books from the late sixties and early seventies, but I haven't had the impetus to track them down just yet.

Even so, The Stranger is one of those characters that I always enjoy seeing every now and again. It's a double-edged sword, as he is a bit of a cypher these days, so he has the potential to be used as merely a deus ex machina to wrap up a story out of the blue.

Fortunately, that's not what we get here. Paul Kupperberg gives us a nice little tale firmly centered around the Phantom Stranger. He does more than just speak in enigmatic double-talk, choosing to take on the Mayan death god directly. I'm not used to seeing him take such a confrontational and direct role, so this story came as a welcome surprise.

The other surprise was the artwork by Tom Grindberg. He's never been a particular favorite of mine, but his work here was exceptionally moody and very entertaining. I don't know if it was the subject matter, or the inker, or both...but I found myself really taking in each page to appreciate the artwork.

All in all, this was a well written and well drawn 8 page story. It's little gems like this that make reading anthology titles so much fun, as you never know what's going to come up next.

Up next...Nightwing and Speedy!

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

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
Stay tuned for part three of our review, featuring the swinging adventures of Nightwing and Speedy!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Green Lantern...starring in Action Comics Weekly #614

TITLE: Action Comics #614


COVER DATE: August 23, 1988


48 pages


This title was released back in the days when I was pretty much a full-fledged, card carrying Marvel zombie. Needless to say, I didn't have much use for an anthology title filled with a bunch of DC characters I had zero familiarity with.

I have since learned the error of my ways.

I bought this full run of Action Comics Weekly from a mail order company years ago, and while I read all of the Superman two-pagers contained within, I have yet to really read any of the other stories in any sort of a consistent fashion.

We're going in cold on this one again, with no prior knowledge of what happens. A lot has changed in my reading habits over the last 21 years, so at least I have knowledge of who everyone is in this issue. Maybe it's for the best that I never read them originally, as I'll be able to theoretically enjoy them more now.

Bring Me A Man
  • Writer: Peter David
  • Artist: Tod Smith
  • Colorist: Anthony Tollin
  • Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
  • Assistant Editor: Dan Raspler
  • Editor: Dennis O'Neil
The story opens up with a classic image of Abin Sur, lying near death in his crashed spaceship. Hal Jordan appears as a ghost-like wraith, watching the events the lead to his becoming chosen as the next Green Lantern of sector 2814.

Hal Jordan seems to be surprised to find himself in this situation, so I assume the set-up happened last issue. He questions aloud why he is seeing this, and the ring begins to explain to him the motivations that lead to his being chosen as Abin Sur's successor.

According to the ring, Abin Sur was confused and panicked, ignoring standard operating procedure by commanding the ring to bring him a man "totally without fear." Normally, this is the Guardian's job, but the ring followed the commands of a distraught Abin Sur.

In scanning the human race, it discovered a discouraging fact. It found that all humans have fears, with some being more deeply troubled than others.

The ring improvises, and decides to find a man with a "minimum" of fear, and go from there.

Looking at the image of the scanned humans, I can only imagine what would've been if the ring had chosen Geddy Lee, Lee Majors, or Lando Calrissian!

The ring finally narrows the scan down to Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. Since Hal is closer, he's the lucky guy.

Still, the ring is unsatisfied as Hal still has some minor fears. Apparently the fear of flying a "big boy" plane is first among them, as the ring finds Hal piloting what appears to be a kiddie ride at Ferris Air.

The ring's not too concerned, however, as it just reprograms Jordan's brain to make him truly without fear. Hmmm...that seems a bit on the extreme side to me.

We cut to Arisia, Hal's girlfriend at the time, excited to tell Hal her good news that she has found a job on Earth as a model. She's soon interrupted by a suicidal jumper on the ledge of the hotel in which they have been staying recently.

Inside the hotel, Hal has just finished telling his ring to revert him back to his original state before it messed with his brain patterns. The only problem is that Hal is not wearing Abin Sur's ring that performed the original procedure. His current ring says that he'll give it the old college try, but can't guarantee that he'll revert back to his original state.

Zombies? Who'd be silly enough to put zombies in a Green Lantern story?

The ring abides, just as Hal notices the jumper outside his window. Being the hero that he is, he leaps out the window to help. Unfortunately for him, he is now no longer without fear and the fact that he is now several hundred feet above the ground breaks his concentration and he falls, plummeting to the earth.

Proving that there's more to being a hero than just wearing the ring, Hal summons the strength of will to overcome his fear and manages to right himself and slowly works back up to the ledge with the jumper. Exhausted, he sits on the ledge to collect his wits, and to try and figure out just what to do next to save the kid when he can barely manage to save himself.

Hal doesn't have to worry too much, however, as the jumper has figured out Hal's secret plan all on his own. His shaky performance was all an act to show him that everyone gets scared, but the important thing is just to keep on going and to overcome. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Hal let's the jumper believe he was right. Learning his lesson, he decides to give life another try.

Hal is left alone on the ledge, resigning himself that he has to know work up the strength of will to attempt to move and get himself down from the ledge.


Before Geoff Johns re-imagined the concept of the Green Lantern side of the DCU, I had never really had that much invested into the character. I'm therefore at a bit of a loss to know whether the revelation about Hal's lobotomy from the ring was canon at the time, or if that was an aspect of this individual story that was further explained and dealt with in it's entirety in this story.

Irregardless, I don't like it. I don't like the fact that the ring altered the bearer to be without fear. Where's the willpower to overcome fear come from, if the ring just does all the work for you.

Peter David is a talented writer that I generally enjoy, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt without having read the entire story that he knew what he was doing and that there's more to the story.

I guess I'm just spoiled, as my "golden age" with the character of Green Lantern began with Green Lantern Rebirth. It's pretty much the gold standard for how to tell a long form, superhero epic. Everything else pales in comparison, so I guess it's unfair to hold an eight page story in an anthology title to the same standard.

Don't feel too bad for Peter David, however, as my "golden age" for Hulk begins and ends with his run. It honestly hasn't been the same since.

I don't look forward to the day when Geoff Johns finally calls it quits with Green Lantern...a blackest night indeed.

Up next...Phantom Stranger!

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

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
Stay tuned for part 2 of our review, featuring a story with The Phantom Stranger!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Up next...Action Comics Weekly!

I've finally come down off of my Vision-fueled, continuity high and am ready to get back on the wagon of accessible comics.

Will the Randomizer take it easy on me, or will he throw in some Young Avengers/Iron Lad tomfoolery to really push me over the edge?

The suspense is killing me, so let's get on with it already and let the Randomizer pick the next book up for review...

...and the next pick is Action Comics Weekly #614 from August 1988, published by DC Comics!

So as I was double checking the publishing date, I forgot that for the weekly books they listed the actual date that it was released on. It turns out that this book was released on August 23rd, and not only was that just three days ago, but it was also my birthday! It's another one of those happy coincidences that makes doing a random blog like this a lot of fun.

But wait, there's more...for with DC in the midst of their next attempt at a weekly comic with Wednesday Comics, we get to take a look at their first attempt (or at least the first one that I remember).

But wait, there's still more...for with DC in the midst of a run of Action Comics without Superman, we get to take a look at their first attempt with this concept (yeah, he's got an ongoing two-page story in this, but it's hardly the focus of the series).

That's right, we're back in the heady post-Crisis days of the late 80's and John Byrne was wrapping up his relaunch of the Superman titles. Who would want to follow that act up?

With Action Comics, apparently a whole lot of people did, as they went with an anthology format on a weekly basis. Superman gets a token appearance with a two page story in each issue. It's a cool nod to Superman's presence in this title for the past 50 years, and also a nice swan song showcase for Curt Swan.

Green Lantern was the defacto headliner while a succession of B and C stringers followed including the Blackhawks, Secret Six, Deadman, Phantom Stranger, Wild Dog, and Speedy.

It's another 48 pager, so I'll probably break it up over the next couple of days and post one or two stories a day to give each feature a chance to have a little spotlight all to itself.

Speaking of's time again to admire an awesome cover, this one by Mike Mignola. It seems like he's been doing Hellboy for so long, that it's nice to see him do some old-school superheroes, especially some from the cosmic end of the spectrum. I just recently picked up his Cosmic Odyssey series that he did with Jim Starlin, and seeing this cover reminds me that I need to finish reading that.

So make sure you come back tomorrow as we kick off our review with Peter David and Green Lantern!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Avengers West Coast #50

TITLE: Avengers West Coast #50


COVER DATE: November 1989


23 pages


The Vision was the first character that I became attached to, where I started collecting his key books from the back issue bins of the local comic book stores in around metro Detroit in the mid-to-late 80's.

His first appearance in Avengers #57 was the first back issue that I ever bought where I laid down some serious cash for it. I still remember hemming and hawing after asking to look at that issue from behind the glass counter top. I mean, that was $7.00 for one book! One book! That was crazy! The last time I checked, that issue is now up to about $150 dollars in it's present condition. Not too shabby for a first time investor.

So what does that have to do with this issue? Well that's the original Human Torch on the cover of this issue, bursting forth from his grave. And as any Vision or Avengers-phile can tell you, the Vision was built using the body of the original Human Torch android.

When John Byrne had come onto this title eight months earlier, he made the Vision a centerpiece of his run by having him dismantled and dehumanized. As if the history and real origin of the Vision wasn't convoluted enough, Byrne now dares to bring back the original Human Torch, casting doubt once again on the true origin of the Vision.

How does it all make sense? Let's dive in and find out...

Return Of The Hero
  • Writer: John Byrne
  • Artists: John Byrne & Mike Machlan
  • Inker: Mike Machlan
  • Letterer: Bill Oakley
  • Colorist: Bob Sharen
  • Editor: Howard Mackie
  • Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco
The story opens up with a hysterical women being questioned by the Avengers. It seems that she has attempted to break into the west coast compound to appeal for their help. Her name is Ann Raymond, and she is the widow of Toro, the sidekick to the original Human Torch.

I'm already tired of typing "original" in front of Human Torch. Johnny Storm appears nowhere in this issue, so any further mention of Human Torch implies that I am referencing the original Human Torch.

She has heard about the recent issues with Vision, and has come to ask the Avengers for help. After all, if they were wrong about the Vision's true origins, maybe they were wrong about Toro and the Torch's death and her husband might still somehow be alive.

All of this is too much for Wanda to bear, and in some foreshadowing that she's become slightly unstable emotionally, she flies off the handle and accuses Ann of trying to implicate the Vision in the death of her husband. She would soon have good reason for flying off the handle, as Byrne continues his one man quest of messing with the Vision and Scarlet Witch by retconning their kids out of existence.

Ann continues her story about how her husband got mixed up with the Master Thinker and Egghead after attending the funeral of the Human Torch. A funeral, it turns out, that was previously never known to have existed. He was also brainwashed by them into thinking he was the Human Torch, and later died while trying to stop the Master Thinker from escaping.

I was going to recap it in more detail, but honestly it would take me more words than Byrne uses in the book, and believe's a lot of words.

Suffice it to say, Ann thinks her husband may still be alive and Wanda's pissed. Let's move on.

Hank has a hunch that this all somehow leads back to Immortus, and they decide to investigate her story by checking out the grave site of the Human Torch.

While Hank tries to convinced the mayor to let them exhume a body from a funeral that never existed, The Vision and Scarlet Witch take the more direct approach. Using his intangible powers, the Vision confirms that the body of the Human Torch is indeed buried in the graveyard. Wanda uses her hex powers to reignite the Torch, and he comes blazing out his coffin.

Back on the ground, introductions are made and the Vision meets the hero who, up until now, it was always assumed his body was constructed from. Back at the base, Hank Pym explains his theory about what this means for the true origin of the Vision.

After all that, it turns out that the Vision was built from the same molds and parts that the Torch was, but not his actual android body.

Thinking ahead that everything would work out, Jan presents the Human Torch with a new costume and offers him a spot on the roster. It's all too much for the Torch, who gets a little emotional, proving the fact that twenty years later...Even an android can cry!


The big takeaway from this issue is that it's near impossible to do a story dealing with the origin of the Vision without needlessly complicating things.

Seriously...the big reveal this issue is that the Vision was built from spare parts leftover from the creation of the Human Torch. That's all well and good, but to get to that reveal we had to read through close to half of this issue devoted to either flashbacks or characters talking about what happened previously.

Now I'm a fan of the Vision and continuity, so this stuff is like crack cocaine to me. But I pity the person who picked this book up as their first comic book. Literally, the only action in this book is the Torch flying out of his grave and Wonder Man chasing after him. Even with that, most of the action takes place off panel, to allow more pages for people talking.

The artwork by Byrne is what you expect for a storyteller of his talent. This book looks a lot more Next Men than Uncanny X-Men. I personally prefer his more fluid earlier work, but I still enjoy seeing his work to this day. I was even glad to have him back on Action Comics a few years ago. His style may be a little outdated in today's market, but I still dig it.

I owe a big hearty thank you to the Randomizer for picking yet another Avengers issue. I swear I could read these books from the 70's and 80's all day long. One of these days my hope for a readable Avengers book set in current continuity will come to pass. Dare I hope?

Monday, August 24, 2009

What couldn't that shield do?

Someone out there please tell me that the following picture used to promote Marvel's subscription service was taken from an actual comic book story.

I don't want to live in a world where Captain America has never used his shield to go surfing.

I ask again...what couldn't that shield do?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Up next...Avengers West Coast!

So it's a special day here at RL Headquarters, as it's my birthday. Yea for me!

So what does that mean to you, the devoted Random Longbox follower? First off, it means that all birthday presents of gold and silver age Superman books should be sent to the corporate office to my attention.

There's also cake, if you know where the party is.

If you can't make it, you can still enjoy a virtual slice by digging into the next title up for review.

...and the next book up for review is Avengers West Coast #50 from November 1989, published by Marvel Comics!

My love for The Avengers is well know around these parts, and that feeling definitely carries over into the west coast team as well. Especially this era, as I love the John Byrne WCA! It's definitely in the top five, next to the original Perez run and the Roger Stern/John Buscema 80's run and the Kurt Busiek/George Perez run and the fantastic Avengers Forever with Busiek and Carlos Pacheco.

The white Vision! U.S.Agent! The Great Lakes Avengers!

I guess the randomizer wanted me to have a happy birthday as well.

See you in a day or two for the review.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Valor #11...or in space, no one can hear you retcon!

TITLE: Valor #11


COVER DATE: September 1993


23 pages


Looking at the credits reveals that this issue is written by Mark Waid. I guess I never realized that he had written the latter half of this series. This has to be one of the earliest Mark Waid books I have, as I would imagine that this was before he had made a huge name for himself.

I checked my database and this issue was about three years before Kingdom Come, which is arguably the title that cemented his name into the annals of comic book history.

Further snooping in the database shows that I have some Waid books that are even earlier than this one. How could I have forgotten about The Flash...another book that could also arguably be considered the book the cemented his name into the annals of comic book history.

For me, I can see how that would've slipped my mind. I was a latecomer to The Flash, only jumping on board well into Geoff Johns' run. The only Flash book I had before those was Flash #62 from 1992, Mark Waid's first issue.

So anyway, to make a long story short, I didn't realize until I yanked this book back out that Mark Waid had written this title.

I enjoy some good Mark Waid books, so let's take a look at some of his earlier work

Fight The Power
  • Story: Mark Waid
  • Pencils: Jeffrey Moore
  • Inks: Mike Sellers
  • Letterer: Pat Brosseau
  • Colorist: Dave Grafe
  • Assistant Editor: Eddie Berganza
  • Editor: K.C. Carlson
We open up in Legion headquarters in the 30th century. Triad is daydreaming about Valor, conveniently bringing the reader up to speed on exactly who Lar Gand is, and why we should care. That's textbook comic book writing right there.

Through her dialogue with Catspaw, a fellow Legionnaire, we learn that one of Valor's earliest exploits was freeing a group of mutagenically altered hostages from slavery. He was able to help them build colonies across the galaxy, thus seeding the universe for the races that would populate the future and fill out the ranks of the Legion of Superheroes.

Wasn't there a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode similar to this? Obviously without the dreamy teenagers.

It's kinda nifty how they not only made him the inspiration for the Legion of Super-Heroes, but also directly responsible for their existence. But an argument could also be made about explaining too much, after all does everything need that much explanation? Can't the force just be the force? Do we really need midichlorians?

After our brief history lesson from the future, we are returned to the past which is our present.

And it's in the present where Lar Gand is currently having some serious issues with his powers. They seem to be out of control and are going off on their own.

It worked to his advantage yesterday, as his uncontrolled laser vision was essential in stopping The Unimaginable! Along the way they rescued a wayward, beautiful Green Lantern from it's clutches, who now lies comatose on his damaged ship. It's decided that they should head to Oa, in hopes of getting her some help.

As Valor checks in on her, his laser vision starts to go off, threatening her life once again.

I've heard of biological functions going off prematurely in the presence of a beautiful woman, but I think this is just a tad more serious than that.

That's not all that's going wild, however, as his super hearing kicks in with the slightest whispers being transformed into a cacophony of wild noises. It's too much for Valor, who starts to tear the ship apart trying to silence all of the pops, clicks, whirrs, humms, and blips that the ship is making.

Lucky for him, the Green Lantern has awakened from her coma and has managed to calm the rampaging teenager. His moment of peace is short lived, as they are informed from the ship that they are now heading directly toward an asteroid field. Normally, that wouldn't really be an issue, but Valor has damaged the ships controls during his rampage.

This is another one of those science fiction tropes that always makes me laugh...the surprise asteroid field! Seriously, can an asteroid field really surprise someone? It's not like they don't cover a wide swath of space...they can't be that hard to spot in advance. And do you really expect me to believe that after hiding out on Hoth for as long as the rebels did, that Han Solo had no idea that there was an asteroid field that they were heading straight into? I don't think so.

Back to the book, and Lar Gand is in trouble as his super strength is still out of control and every time he tries to touch the ships controls, he just breaks them further. The Green Lantern, who we now find out is named Alia, will pilot the ship for Valor as he flies outside to run interference with the asteroids, leading the ship to safety.

He decides to stay outside the ship for the remainder of the trip to Oa, so that he doesn't accidentally hurt his passenger again.

As they near Oa, Kilowog is training a new batch of recruits who have mistaken Valor off in the distance for a shooting star. Kilowog challenges the recruits to catch the star with their power rings. They soon realize that it's not a shooting star, but Valor is still in a spot of trouble as he's now mistaken for an intruder trying to attack Oa.

Held fast in a green prison, Valor desperately tries to warn the Lanterns that he's not the problem. The real danger is his out of control ship that is now bearing down on them.

Wouldn't you know it, but his ship just happens to be yellow! The whole might of the Green Lantern Corps is centered on this very planet, and a runaway yellow space ship is going to be the death of them.

Ahh, so this is what a Green Lantern story looks like from back in the day with the yellow impurity in full effect. Geoff Johns is seriously a genius for making this whole concept make sense.

I guess it's up to Valor to save everyones butt again, after all, it's his book...what did he expect? With a nifty homage to when Superman would stop a runaway train mere moments before the broken section of track, Valor grabs the nose of the space ship and manages to bring it to a stop inches from the surface of Oa. I'd reprint a panel of the action, but the cover by Jason Pearson pretty much sums it up better than any of the interior panels.

So all is well that ends well, as Alia is nursed back to health and Valor's ship is fixed by none other than Kilowog.

Although seriously, I've heard of artistic license before, but are we really to believe that Kilowog used that monkey wrench to rebuild Valor's ship? Let's just hope that Kilowog wasn't also in charge of nursing Alia back to health, as I'd hate to see the size of his stethoscope!


Mark Waid knows how to tell an entertaining story. This story is by no means Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, but it does do a nice job of bringing the reader up to speed and setting the stage for big six-parter that follows hot on the heels of this issue.

As pure space opera, I can see what I enjoyed in this title. I've always liked my comic book with a slight sci-fi bent, and that's what we get here.

The only thing that really holds this book back is the artwork. I'm unfamiliar with Jeffrey Moore, which doesn't seem too much of a surprise after reading this issue. It wasn't horrible, just awfully uneven.

Take a look back at the pics that I scanned. All the drawings of the aliens are pretty good. It's the drawings of the plain old humans where the work falters. Combine that with some clumsy storytelling, and you have a story that never really gets a chance to build a decent head of steam.

That cover by Jason Pearson sure is nice though.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reason #418 for bringing back the letters pages

I've long argued that the comic book industry is a pale comparison of it's older self with the absence of the letter columns.

Case in point can be found in the pages of Valor.

Where else are you going to show off your skills with the pun, if not in the title of your letters page! The subtlety of language is lost on the internet, iykwim.

Kudos to whoever thought this one up, as it made me chuckle.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Up next...Valor!

So it's been a busy week for the secret identity over here at RL headquarters, but that's no excuse for slacking and depriving you of the entertainment of random retro reviews.

You see, that's the problem with secret identities...they're always getting in the way of super-heroing, or in my case, blogging.

I honestly don't know how Clark Kent does it? Bruce Wayne I can understand, living the life of leisure while independently wealthy obviously allows for plenty of time jumping around rooftops.

Although I should know better than to question Superman's abilities.

There he is spotting a hijack attempt during a live news telecast.

So what does he do? He stops it all during the commercial break!

Apparently I have alot to learn from Superman about dedication to one's ideals and goals!

So let's blow the cobwebs from around the Randomizer and get on with the next pick.

...and the next pick is Valor #11 from September 1993, published by DC Comics!

And talk about blowing the cobwebs off of things, this book is from one of the dustier longboxes. I had forgotten all about this series. I remember enjoying it, but ask me anything that happened and all I'd be able to give you is a good shrug of my shoulders.

I remember the basic setup that post-Crisis, the Legion was left without it's inspiration since Superboy had know ceased to exist. Somewhere along the way it was decided that Valor would be the teenager that was the hero that set the Legion on their way. If I remember correctly, this title would tell the stories of his exploits in the 21st century. I'm sure I'm probably only remembering half of the story, and the half I do remember is more than likely wrong.

This was an odd title for me to buy every issue of, as I had no real previous fondness for the Legion or Superboy. Somehow though, I ended up getting every issue. Something about it must have clicked with me at the time.

Before we start reading to see exactly what that was, let's take a moment to enjoy the cover by Jason Pearson. Here's another artist who doesn't do near enough interior work. What do we get...about one issue every few years? Don't get me wrong, I'll take anything I can get. I just wish he would draw some more.

See you in a day or so for the review.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Transmetropolitan #12

TITLE: Transmetropolitan #12

PUBLISHER: Helix (DC Comics)

COVER DATE: August 1998


22 pages


The filthy assistants! Two-faced smoking cats! The smiling politicians! Castrated dogs bent on revenge! Three-eyed smiley faces!

That's what I remember! It was the mad ideas thrown off of each page quicker than my mere brain could even comprehend them.

Somehow Ellis and Robertson made it all work, and even better, made it all make sense.

Freeze Me With Your Kiss Part III of III
  • Writer: Warren Ellis
  • Penciler: Darick Robertson
  • Inker: Rodney Ramos
  • Color & Seperations: Nathan Eyring
  • Letterer: Clem Robins
  • Assistant Editor: Cliff Chang
  • Editor: Stuart Moore
The book opens up with a group of people in what looks like white haz-mat suits using a hand held torch to cut a hole in the side of a port-o-potty. Out pops the head of our hero...Spider Jerusalem.

It's scenes like this that are the reason why I love this book. It shouldn't work, and in lesser hands it would evolve into nothing more than potty humor. Here, however, messengers Ellis and Robertson elevate it into something more.

Before we find out exactly what they wanted to see Spider for, we cut to a dungeon where an interrogation is in process. Mitchell Royce, Spider's editor at the paper, is questioning a young lady strapped in a chair.

It seems she was one of Spider's "filthy assistants" before they were called filthy assistants. She was with him on assignment as he was investigating an adult entertainment establishment, who Spider thought were manipulating their clientele's libidoes.

It turns out he was right, but never bothered to clue Kali on to the fact that she'd need to protect herself from the libido manipulations like he had done. What followed was an orgy caught on tape and released for the whole world to see. It's been six years, and she's still out to see Spider suffer for what he allowed to happen to her.

Whether this was wrapping up a sub-plot, or introducing one, I can't quite remember. Ideas get tossed around willy-nilly in this book with such speed, it's hard to keep track sometimes.

Back in the port-o-potty Spider is demanding to know why his shit has been interrupted. The people in the haz-mat suits are members of a cult that believes in "zero tactility" and "total solitude". More importantly, however, they state that they have the frozen head of Spider's ex-wife.

After careful consideration of the facts, Spider promptly tells them to get lost and to take his ex-wife with them.

Puzzled by his intransigence, they press on and use their torch to cut open the whole front of the toilet. They wrestle Spider out of the port-o-potty and explain the current situation further. In their culture, touch is not permitted. It seems that Spider has recently broke their taboo in an act of force, and has been found guilty!

Spider is led to the waterfront docks, where he is to be executed for his offenses. Facing a life and death situation, he uses the only weapon he has...his wits.

He plays on their isolation to convince them that he can kill them by just staring at them. In fact, they better start to explain themselves, if only to delay their imminent horrific execution.

His bluff works, and they begin to relate the story of how his ex-wife's frozen head ended up in their possession.

In a binge of drunkenness, Spider's ex-wife crashed her car into their compound. Knowing exactly what she was doing, she ripped off one of the adherents hoods and proceeded to stick her tongue in his mouth. She shouted out her name several times so that they would know exactly who to blame for this offense and left.

She bought off the police who came to investigate, and that night had her head frozen to be reanimated in the future.

Still needing to exact revenge for the innocence that was taken from them, they tracked down her next of kin...Spider Jerusalem. He would pay the price for her breaking their strongest taboo.

It seems it was all an elaborate plot by Spider's ex-wife to have him killed. She knew the cult members would exact revenge on Spider after she was cryogenically frozen. She would then be able to be brought back to life in a world without her husband.

While they contemplate this new bit of information, another ongoing storyline catches up to the current one. All throughout the previous issues, Spider has been hunted by a dog that he castrated earlier on. This dog is not the sharpest tool in the shed however, and in this issue alone gets hit by a taxi...

...gets ambushed by a gang of cats...

...and finally burned by holy water after a run-in with some religious freaks...

After all of that, he has finally sniffed out his quarry. Blinded by rage, cat scratches, and holy water burns, he misjudges exactly where Spider is standing and jumps to his (presumed) death.

Back to Spider's predicament, he decides to take matters into his own hands...literally. He grabs the frozen head of his ex-wife and tosses it over the docks after the dog, to be swallowed by the polluted ocean.

With her now dead, there's no more reason to take revenge on Spider. Honor is served and every one's happy. The cult members thank Spider and leave him in peace.

Spider eventually returns to the office of his editor to file his story. As he barely makes it in the door, however, his is attacked by a decapitated French Secret Service Assassin.

With everything else that Spider has had to deal with today, this is child's play as Spider tosses it through the window. One of the great things about this book, is that you truly had no idea what was going to happen next.

At the end of the day, Spider decides he needs to get a new built like Fort fucking Knox.


This book is still just as entertaining today as it was 10 years ago. Hell, it's heavy political themes that it would delve into with the next issue are probably even more relevant now.

Warren Ellis made his name with this book, and it's a helluva book. The character of Spider Jerusalem is a perfect mouthpiece for Ellis. In fact, subscribing to his Bad Signal email list is like reading an old Transmet book on one of Ellis' good weeks.

The strength of this title earned Warren Ellis an automatic look at every other book he has done. I'm sure I would've been clued into Planetary, The Authority, the Apparat Singles, Desolation Jones, Black Summer, Nextwave, and Global Frequency eventually, but it's nice to have been in on the ground floor.

Darick Robertson was just as much a beneficary of this books success. He was on every issue and managed to perfectly capture the mad genius of Ellis' ideas and themes.

This is definitely a series that deserves a nice hardcover treatment. DC are finally getting around to Preacher, so maybe there's hope for Transmetropolitan yet!

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

Friday, August 14, 2009

Up next...Transmetropolitan!

It's time to get the Randomizer to give us another pick. We'll have to make it quick today, as I'm still slogging my way through this week's new comics. It was a huge week, with big events and a bunch of new titles starting.

Blackest Night #2 was good, but the Aquaman zombie family reunion lacked the gut-punch that was the Elongated Man/Hawkman scene from the first issue.

Adventure Comics #1 had a fantastic Superboy story. I'm so glad we got him back. I can even get over the loss of having a decent Teen Titans book to read if some of the good titans show up here every now and again. The Legion co-feature was relatively disappointing. Not much happened and the art was decidedly middle-of-the-road. I guess I just got spoiled coming off of Gary Frank and George Perez.

The Marvels Project #1 was a strong read. I was a little worried with the humdrum nature of Cap these days, but I shouldn't have been. Brubaker and Epting together again was worth the wait.

I haven't made my way to Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 and Avengers #1 yet, but they are next on my list...just as soon as we see what book the Randomizer has in store for us.

...and that book is Transmetropolitan #12 from August 1998, published by DC Comics.

Last pick we ended the streak of Marvel/DC dominance, and with this pick we end the reign of the almighty superhero. You have to go back close to two months for our review of Dark Horse Presents #58 to find a superhero-less title. An argument could be made that Hitman #47 wasn't really a super-hero comic, but when your first appearance was in a DC annual from the line-wide Bloodlines event from 1993, you've already lost that argument.

This is also another non-DC/Marvel pick as well, but that's not altogether true as Helix was an imprint of DC comics. With the success of Vertigo, DC was looking at getting into other genres where they could develop another imprint that would more or less stand on it's own.

Helix was the result, and it focused on tales that had a decidedly science-fiction or science-fantasy bent. As an experiment, it was ultimately a failure as the line folded after only a year or so. I believe Transmetropolitan was the only title to make it out alive, spending the next 48 issues over at Vertigo.

This was also the series that turned me into a Warren Ellis Ellisaniac? Ellis head? Ellis zombie? I feel that as rabid as his fan base is, there should be some sort of clever nickname for them. I'm surprised there's not, although maybe I just haven't been invited into the club and been given the secret handshake yet.

So consider my upcoming review my thesis, or term paper, or application for the club. Would it help my bona fides if I showed you all eight of my DV8 #1 covers?

No? You sure?

All right then, see you in a day or two for the full review.