Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And the winner is...

So I'm a little late in getting back to you to reveal the winner of the inaugural edition of the new game show that's sweeping the internet..."What did TomO see on the road today?"

I would apologize for leaving you all in suspense, but after the hoards of response I received, I don't really think that's an issue.

So what did I see on the road the other day?

That's right, it's the secret location of the Batcave!

It kind of threw me at first, because I always assumed I was looking for a cave entrance cleverly hidden behind a retractable road barrier. Silly me, it was hidden in plain sight.

That Batman is shrewder than I originally gave him credit for.

So who was our big winner?

No one actually submitted the correct answer, but I'm going to use the powers vested in me by the bylaws of the Random Longbox constitution to proclaim that Riley, as the sole contestant, is the big winner today.

Congratulations Riley!

Although try not to get too big a head over this, as it was kinda like home room where all you had to do was show up to pass.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Up next...The Avengers vs. The X-Men!

It's time for another random book to review, but before we do that let's inaugurate a new feature here at Random Longbox.

One of the side effects of my day job is that I do a fair amount of traveling. While on the road, I have on occasion caught a few sights that are tangentially related to the world of comic books.

So without further ado, let's play "What did TomO see on the road today?"

The rules are easy...I'll give you three choices, two I made up and one that I actually saw. Using your keen powers of deduction, guess which one is the real one. Post your answer in the comments section and check back tomorrow to see if you were right. If everything worked out correctly, you'll be basking in the adulation of fellow comic fans in no time.

All set? Then let's get started.

Which one of these street signs did I actually see?

1) Jim Lee Blvd.

2) Inhumans X-Ing

3) Batman St.

Too easy? Too hard? I guess we'll find out tomorrow. In the meantime, let's get the Randomizer fired up for the next pick...

...and that pick is The X-Men vs. The Avengers #2 from May 1987, published by Marvel Comics!

Wow, that's a really ugly cover. I never really cared for the red and purple color combination for Magneto, but throw in some yellow and it's downright ghastly.

But hey! It's got mohawk Storm on the cover, so all is right with the world.

See you in a day or two for the review, and tomorrow for the answer to our debut installment of "What did TomO see on the road today?"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Excalibur #83

TITLE: Excalibur #83


COVER DATE: November 1994


22 pages


Let's see...1994...1994...what happened in 1994?

Ah yes, fifteen years ago I started dating the wonderful woman who would become my wife. Needless to say, comic books took a back seat for a while. Not that I had to hide anything, as my wife is a bigger sci-fi geek than I am. In fact, I vividly remember driving in the car and meticulously explaining the history of Cable to her. Why she didn't run from the car screaming is something I'm eternally grateful for.

So there's your Random Longbox dating tip for today...chicks love the minutae of the Summers' time travel spanning family tree

No, with love in the air there's other thoughts that run through a young man's brain that don't leave too much room for the funny books. This book falls firmly into that time period, so I never ended up reading it until years later.

This book is also noticeable for being Warren Ellis' first issue of his twenty issue run on Excalibur. I remember liking his take on the team when I did start reading regularly again, but for some reason it took me a long time to go back and pick up the issues I'd missed.

As near as I can tell, this issue is also Terry Dodson's first work at Marvel. Although Ellis and Dodson only worked together on Excalibur for just this issue, they would go on to do the Storm and Pryde and Wisdom mini-series together.

Bend Sinister
  • Writer: Warren Ellis
  • Artists: Terry Dodson and W.C.Carani
  • Letterer: Jon Babcock
  • Colorist: Joe Rosas
  • Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
  • Group Editor: Bob Harras
  • Chief Editor: Tom DeFalco

  • Based on an original idea by Scott Lobdell
  • Cover and frontspiece by Bill Sienkiewicz
The first page is a small intro to get us up to speed on the Soul Sword that was once owned by Illyana Rasputin. I confess to knowing nothing more than the bare bones when it comes to Illyana and her sword, so this page was useful above and beyond the nice Sienkiewiz artwork.

Basically, the sword used to be bonded on a metaphysical level to Illyana. Now that she is gone it is bonded to Shadowcat, who has tended to ignore it.

It's mail day on Muir Island, the base of operations for Excalibur. Bishop has come from Xaviers with supplies and equipment to help Moira McTaggert with her experiments for finding a cure for the Legacy Virus.

Ughh...please tell me this story is not a Legacy Virus story. People rag on Claremont for his dangling, years-in-the-developing plot lines, but they got nothing on the Legacy Virus.

Kitty, meanwhile, is lost in thought when she is surprised by Nightcrawler teleporting in behind her. It seems she has gotten the lion's share of the packages that Bishop has delivered. She's elated to see that Jubilee has sent her boxes of new clothes. Bishop? Not so much.

In Cairo, we catch up with Nightcrawler's ex-girlfriend, Amanda Sefton. At least I think its "ex" at this point, but I could be mistaken. She's on a layover from her stewardess job and is hitting the local bazaar.

She is surprised by a beggar who is panhandling in english. She's even more surprised to discover that the beggar is her mother. It would seem her mother has taken a vow of poverty while trying to reach mystic empowerment using the Winding Way.

This is far from coincidence, as she has sought out her daughter for help. There is a magician called Gravemoss who is on the Winding Way as well, and is seeking out a weapon that will help him cheat the system. That weapon is the Soul Sword. While on the path, she can not interfere and beseeches her daughter's aid to help protect the current bearer of the Soul Sword...Kitty Pryde.

Back at Muir Island, Gravemoss' quest for the sword has already started with his mere presence infecting the natural balance of the island. Meggan, as the most attuned to nature, feels his presence first and has to be taken to the labs to calm her down after series of convulsions.

The other person reacting to his presence, is Kitty. Looking through the clothes that Jubilee has sent, she goes for something decidedly out of character for her.

What better way to depict a demonic influence creeping into your psyche than all black and bare midriffs!

Not feeling quite rebellious enough, Kitty takes her new attitude into Moira's private quarters. She ransacks her room and stops to light up when she finds a long forgotten about carton of cigarettes.

Moira discovers what Kitty is up to and demands that Kitty come to the lab immediately for tests, as something is not right. Realizing that she hasn't quite gotten under Moria's calm demeanor just yet, Kitty starts to needle her about her husband and son, both deceased.

Oooohhh...I smell a girl fight coming on!

In the most badass move of the book, Kitty takes Moira's threats to shut up in stride by putting her cigarette out on her arm. That's's on!

Being a scientist and not a superhero, Moria ends up getting the raw end of the scuffle. Kitty pauses as her newly exposed bare midriff begins to crackle with supernatural energy. Out from her navel, emerges the hilt of the Soul Sword. Without hesitation, Kitty reaches down and pulls it out.

Things just got a little worse for Moira. Kitty as well, I suppose, as I'm sure this was not how she planned on spending her day when she woke up.

Meanwhile, one level below the current fracas, Nightcrawler decides to teleport up to see what all the commotion is about.

In mid-teleport, he is beset upon by the current instigator of the problems on Muir Island...Gravemoss! Kurt is no match for a Necromancer of his level, and soon finds himself getting possessed by Gravemoss himself.


As I noted earlier, this book is some of Warren Ellis' and Terry Dodson's earliest works. So how did it hold up? Surprisingly well, I think.

For Ellis, you can definitely tell it's him through the dialogue, and in the way the characters interact. The vocabulary has a certain crispness and acerbic tone to it that he has since perfected and trademarked. The pacing and plotting is relatively standard, with little to none of Ellis' pet themes popping up. I would imagine that some of Ellis' detractors would consider that a net positive.

Terry Dodson also does an admirable job, and you can definitely see a major talent in the making. It's not quite as distinctive as his current work has become, but there's no mistaking he knows how to draw the ladies.

It's too bad that Dodson didn't do any other work in this title, as his style is a nice progression for Alan Davis' work in these pages. It doesn't ape his style, but you can definitely see some influence creeping through.

Lastly, I did notice that the story seemed to move a little slowly. It's nowhere near decompressed levels yet, but you can begin to see the storytelling style migrate in that direction.

All in all, this was another fine pick from the Randomizer. Excalibur has always been one of my favorites, so it's good to see that at least one of the issues still holds up today.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Up next...Excalibur!

Before we get to the next random book to review, I just wanted to say thanks to a couple of blogs that were kind enough to link to one of my reviews and throw some traffic my way.

A big thank you to Pat over at Silver Age Comics, as he linked to me not once, but twice! If you like checking in with comics from the silver age, you probably are already familiar with his excellent blog. But if by chance you've been reading comics in a cave and are unfamiliar with his site, be sure to stop by and say hi.

Thanks also to neilalien! Aside from having one of the best website names ever, he's also got a heck of a Dr. Strange fansite.

So welcome aboard to all the new people who've been checking out my blog. Feel free to poke around a bit and make yourself at home. I love hearing what other people have to say about the books that the Randomizer picks, so don't be shy.

Speaking of the Randomizer, let's fire it up and see what the next pick is...

...and that book is Excalibur #83 from November 1994, published by Marvel Comics.

I don't know what it is about this title, but it's fans seem to be rather enthusiastic about it. I always get a chuckle when I hear Ron at iFanboy wax fondly about this title, as I tend to do the same thing when it comes up in general conversation.

Which reminds me of an interesting anecdote, now that we're talking Excalibur.

It's funny how different the world of comic books was pre-internet (hell, everything was different pre-interent, but since this is a comic book blog I'll try to keep focused). When I started reading The Uncanny X-Men back around the 180's, my three favorite characters were Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Rachel Summers.

Don't ask me how, but I literally had no clue that the three of them were together in a different title after they left the main series. It's one of those memories I'll never forget, when the owner of my comic shop at the time showed me a copy of Excalibur.

"You mean to tell me that my three favorite characters are in a book together? And it's written by Chris Claremont?"

My mind was blown. I can't imagine anything like that happening in this day and age. There's so much information out there, that I can't fathom not knowing about every title months ahead of its release. Like I said, it was a different time.

See you in a day or two for the review, but in the meantime, just try to take your eyes off that Sienkiewicz cover! There's something about it that I find oddly captivating.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Batman #550

TITLE: Batman #550


COVER DATE: January 1998


38 pages


Let's have some fun with numbers and statistics. This is the 14th comic book that I've reviewed that was released during the 1990's. Of those 14 books that were released during the heady days of variant, glow-in-the-dark, die-cut, hologram, metal foil, and alternate covers, this is the first one that includes any of those shenanigans. That translates to a little over 7%.

I think we can count ourselves lucky, as I'm pretty sure that well over 7% of the books released in the 90's had something funky either on the cover or stapled to the inside.

We get off relatively pain free this time around, as this issue just has some "collectable" trading cards attached to the inside. As extras go, these are interesting enough. They give a little more insight into this new character Chase, as well as how the D.E.O., her employer, sees some other prominent superheroes.

Chasing Clay
  • Writer: Doug Moench
  • Penciller: Kelley Jones & J.H. Williams III
  • Inker: John Beatty & Mick Gray
  • Colorist: Gregory Wright
  • Separator: Android Images
  • Letterer: Todd Klein
  • Associate Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
  • Editor: Dennis O'Neil
The story opens up in a science lab with Clayface V strapped to a table. The artwork here is by Kelley Jones, so of course the lab we are in looks likes Frankenstein's Castle. Cassius, or Clayface V, is currently in the care of the Department of Extranormal Affairs who are looking to find out what makes him tick.

So there have been five different Clayfaces, eh? Who knew. I'm a casual Batman reader, mostly following different creators on the title, so I guess I just never payed that much attention to the different characters underneath the clay.

Luckily for me, we get the straight dope on the different Clayfaces from one of the D.E.O. scientists, Dr. Peter Malley.

The first Clayface was Basil Karlo, a powerless movie actor turned criminal using his theatrical makeup kit for nefarious purposes. Then there was Matt Hagen, who was exposed to a mysterious substance while diving for treasure on a sunken Spanish Galleon. The third Clayface was Preston Payne, an Acromegaliac who injected himself with some of Matt Hagen's blood. Sondra Fuller was Clayface IV, an extranormal being able to change her shape at will. Cassius was next in the line of succession, and he is the child of Clayface III and Clayface IV.

So with all of that history to deal with, who would've thought that we needed a Clayface VI? But get a new one we do, as the tissue sample that Dr. Malley harvested earlier escapes and bonds with his flesh. At least they stopped with the numbering and just went with calling this one Clay-Thing.

My curiosity got the better of me and I checked over on wikipedia, and there has since been another new Clayface...Clayface VII! I can't fault DC for continually trying with this character, as he is one of Batman's classic rogues. You would think, however, that after 6 failed previous versions you would have a hard time finding a criminal mastermind who thinks it's a good idea to be the seventh. although I probably just answered my own question, and I would imagine that we'll be seeing Clayface VIII before too much longer.

Back to the story, and Clay-Thing has escaped from the D.E.O. lab and is on his way to Arkham Asylum to reunite with Clayface III.

I can tell right now that J.H. Williams III and his odd panel shapes are going to tax my feeble photoshop abilities. Damn you J.H.!!

It doesn't take long for the D.E.O. to figure out what happened and where Clay-Thing is headed. As it happens, the closest agent they have in the field is Cameron Chase. She's not stationed in Gotham, but is there visiting her sister before starting full-time in New York. At this point in the story, the art is split between J.H. Williams III and Kelley Jones. J.H. handles most of the Chase pages, while Jones takes the Batman and Clayface pages.

Soon after hitting the Gotham City city limits, Clay-Thing demonstrates his villain cred by melting a GCPD officer.

Batman and Sgt. Bullock both arrive on the crime scene at the same time. But with Bullock being Bullock, he's more interested in some more donuts than in the fact that Batman is there also, collecting samples of the leftover goo for himself.

Back in the Batcave, Batman manages to put the pieces together and figures that Clay-Thing is here, drawn to the previous Clayfaces. He soon catches up with Chase, who is staking out the cave where Cassius had previously lived.

Normally, when two heroes meet for the first time, superhero convention claims they must fight! Since Chase doesn't have any powers (spoiler alert: she really does, but doesn't know it), they engage in verbal fisticuffs. Like all superhero battles, they soon realize they are working towards the same goal and are off to Arkham Asylum in hopes of catching up with Clay-Thing there.

Their hunch is correct, as Clay-Thing is being drawn to Clayface III. Batman catches up with Clay-Thing just as he manages to break into the asylum. He's soon distracted by Amygdala, who takes advantage of Clay-Thing's hole in the wall and starts a fight with Batman.

That leaves Chase to stop Clay-Thing by herself. She gives it the old college try, but just barely manages to escape being turned into goo herself before she realizes how his power actually works.

She doesn't get very far before Clay-Thing gets the drop on her again. Aware that she is moments away from turning to pile of mud, her subconscious kicks in and turns Clay-Thing's powers against himself.

With the threat over, the D.E.O. steps up to take possession of Clay-Thing. In an interesting twist, both Batman and Chase come to the conclusion that Clay-Thing was brought low by an unknown power possessed by each other. Chase thinks there's more to Batman and that he possesses some sort of extranormal power that caused the Clay-Thing to melt himself.

Batman, on the other hand, figures there's more to Cameron Chase. Perhaps more than he, or possibly even she, is aware of. They don't call him the world's greatest detective for nothing, as his hunch is dead on. A fact that we'll learn more about in her own short-lived series.


Two things struck me about this issue, rereading it 11+ years later.

First, Cameron Chase was a character that probably debuted a couple of years too early. I can easily see her having an easier time trying to carry a series in a post Bendis world. Her wit and attitude offer a more "realistic" look at superheroes, which was definitely more in vogue after the turn of the century (is it too early to be using the phrase "turn of the century" in reference to the 21st century).

This was also my first exposure to J.H. Williams III and you can definitely see his style in it's infancy here. It's definitely less experimental than the stuff he's doing in Detective Comics currently, but he's already playing with different layouts and storytelling techniques.

The second thing that struck me about this issue was how much I disliked Kelley Jones' pencils. Maybe disliked is too strong a term, but they were definitely distracting. That surprised me as I generally enjoy his work. His work on Sandman remains one of my favorite storyarcs of all time.

In this book, however, his style just didn't work for me. When he had the chance to draw Batman in the shadows, or Clay-Thing melting and molding away, his work shines. Unfortunately, there was some storytelling that needed to be done out of the shadows and his work suffered for it. Especially when compared to J.H. Williams stuff, his pencils looked especially stiff.

As an introduction to Cameron Chase, this issue was so-so. It set the stage with a little of her history and a peek at her latent super powers. That was good, but the whole scene with the verbal tete-a-tete with Batman was a little awkward and obvious, as Doug Moench really hits us over the head with Chase's dislike of super heroes.

All in all, I enjoyed myself following the exploits of Cameron Chase again. If you don't see regular posts over the next week, you can blame it on her as I'm probably rereading her series again.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Up next...Batman!

Tomorrow is comic book day, so as we hold our breath in anticipation let's take a look at comic book days of years past.

So what were we reading ten years ago this month?

Why, Congo Bill of course.

Or not, as I had no idea that this book existed. And here I thought that James Robinson was being all crazy original, bringing back Congo Bill. Who knew that it had been done ten years ago.

It's Vertigo, so I'm sure he doesn't end up in The Justice League, but I may have to check this out anyway for some of that Danijel Zezelj art. That guy really impressed me with his work on Loveless and Desolation Jones, and I can actually see him being a good fit for this title.

Need something a little more mainstream and superheroey? Let's go back twenty years and see what we find.

Oh...maybe we would've been better off staying in the present.

It's the first appearance of the post-crisis incarnation of Brainiac...reimagined as a possessed sideshow magician.

Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of super-heroes everywhere like good old Milton Fine.

All in all, it's yet another reason to give thanks and sacrifice a longbox or two on the altar of Geoff Johns.

So what book from the past is the Randomizer going to pick for us to review? Let's find out...

...and that book is Batman #550 from January 1998, published by DC Comics!

So I've been waiting, and wishing, and hoping that some day the Randomizer would pick an issue of Chase for me to review. That series was way ahead of it's time, and was cancelled way too soon.

That's nice and all, but what does it have to do with Batman #550?

Why it's the very first appearance of Cameron Chase! I had totally forgot that she was introduced in the pages of Batman before her series started. The Randomizer has ended up giving me more than I actually knew I ever wanted.

Come back in a day or two for the review, and we'll see if Chase really was a concept ahead of it's time. At the very least, we'll have some pretty pictures from both Kelley Jones and J.H. Williams III to look at.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Captain America (Vol. 3) #19

TITLE: Captain America (Vol. 3) #19


COVER DATE: July 1999


22 pages


Mark Waid and Captain America were like chocolate and peanut butter back in the latter half of the 90's. I still remember picking up issue #444 and being blown away. In fact, the only memory I have of Waid's Captain America run that is more vivid than that was hearing that he was off the book a year later to make way for the Heroes Reborn stunt. That's a discussion for another day, however, for Waid's run ended up affecting my collecting habits in three ways.

To start with, it was the first time that I actively became a Captain America solo title reader. The best Avengers books always had Cap in them, but for some reason that never prompted me to pick up his solo book. That all changed with this issue, and lasted up until the post 9-11 relaunch.

Secondly, it made me a Ron Garney fan for life. Yeah, I had enjoyed his work on the Midnight Sons side of the Marvel Universe previously, but this work was on a whole different level. It's just too bad that he's pencilling books I really don't care about these days, as I miss his stuff. Seriously, I'd kill to get him and Jason Aaron on anything other than another Wolverine book.

Thirdly, it cemented Mark Waid firmly into the category of trying anything new that he does. That's held true for the last ten years until just recently with him joining the post-Brand New Day Spider-Man universe. I hear good things, but I'm just not that big of a Spidey fan to invest in a whole new continuity.

Back to this issue then, four years later, and Mark Waid is back on the title after it's relaunched (again) after the Heroes Reborn story ran it's course. This issue has Andy Kubert on pencils, who stepped on board after Ron Garney left. I'd totally forgot that Andy Kubert had a nice run on this title, so I'm looking forward to seeing some of his pencils again.

The Kubert's work on DC recently has been so spotty that it seems like it's been ages since I've enjoyed their pencils. Hell, there was a time when you could pick up a Marvel book, and nine times out of ten it would be drawn by a Kubert!

Wow, that's a long pre-amble. I hope I didn't bore you too much with my stroll down Memory Lane. Let's stop pumping up Mark Waid's ego and check out the actual book itself, of which I remember surprisingly little of the plot.

Triumph Of The Will
  • Writer: Mark Waid
  • Penciler: Andy Kubert
  • Inker:Jesse Delperdang
  • Colorist: Greg Wright
  • Letterer: Todd Klein
  • Editors: Matt Idelson and Bobbie Chase
  • Editor in Chief: Bob Harras
Sharon Carter awakens to the reality that the Red Skull is now in possession of the Cosmic Cube. The Earth is doomed, as soon he will become unbeatable.

Thankfully, she also sees Captain America rise to stop him. He rushes forward, morphing his electroshield into a sword, raising it to strike the Red Skull.

Did I mention that this book is from the 90's? No? Then I guess the electroshield gave that away. Seriously though, Mark Waid made it work. In the hands of any other creator, it probably wouldn't have. It's just another case in point that there are indeed good books from this decade.

Sharon's not the only one watching these events unfold, as the Watcher stands in the shadows. He has urged Captain America to take down the Red Skull once and for all, and now that he's about to strike he lets out a smile.

The smile is short lived, as at the last moment Cap morphs the sword into a bo-staff. His strike glances off of the Red Skull's armor, allowing the Skull to fight back and sending Cap flying backwards.

He lands at the feet of the Watcher and Cap manages to surprise him for a second time by seeing through his disguise. That's right, it's not really the Watcher, but Korvac!

Korvac has been playing Captain America, tricking him into killing the Red Skull and siphoning off his cosmic cube infused power for himself. In a series of flashbacks into an alternate future we find out that Cap continues to hound Korvac, only to have Korvac continually reset the timeline whenever Cap gets close to defeating him.

Even books from 1999 can't escape the curse of 90's costume design asthetics! That's a nice Cap though.

During these constant battles, Cap tricks Korvac into going back in time to before the Skull attained the power cosmic in an attempt to get the power for himself. That's where we pick up the story in the present, with Korvac revealed and the Red Skull nigh omnipotent.

The Red Skull presses the advantage, forcing Korvac to flee to his ship in earth orbit with Cap and Sharon in tow. Korvac is ready to flee the solar system, but Cap calls his bluff and convinces him that he is Korvac's only hope against the Red Skull.

With the power of the cosmic cube now fully assimilated, the Red Skull takes the earth as his own. From the mountains to the oceans, it is all his...but there is still one thing that distracts him, and that is Captain America.

Now that he has become like a god, he can sense the deception that Captain America is planning on board Korvac's ship in orbit. One quick teleport later and he is on board the ship, spreading Korvac thin across six dimensions with the power of the cube.

He has come to finish off Captain America personally, for even though the Skull has won...Captain America has not lost completely and totally...yet.

Before he assimilates the knowledge contained in Korvac's ship, the Skull will take one more stab at ruining Captain America. He possesses the soul of Sharon Carter and forces her to fight Cap. For him to get to the Skull, he will have to kill the woman he loves.

Cap tries to go easy on Sharon, fighting mostly on the defensive, trying to break the hold that the Skull has on her. He finally does it by admitting that he loves her. She breaks the Skull's hold momentarily, and Cap takes the advantage with a haymaker punch that knocks her out cold.

It's all too late, however, as the Skull is now moments away from entering the data stream of Korvac's ship and assimilating all the knowledge contained therein. As he steps in, he's rudely awakened as Cap's true plan comes into light. It wasn't the data stream they were standing in front of after all, it was the anti-matter engine core.

Realizing the gig is up, the Red Skull decides to that if he is to die, he will take Captain America with him. Using the last of his power before he is disintegrated, he starts a chain reaction that begins to destroy the ship. In a desperate gambit, Cap jumps headfirst into the anti-matter core and grabs the cosmic cube that is left floating where the Red Skull was just moments ago.

Using the power of the cube, Cap wills himself and Sharon to safety on the earth. They arrive just in time to see Korvac's ship exploding in the sky. As he ponders if the Red Skull had the same idea and saved himself, Cap turns to Sharon only to see her disappear before his eyes.

The Red Skull has been defeated, but at what cost?


I really miss reading a good Mark Waid book. When he clicks with a character and a fellow creator, he makes some damn good comics. Captain America was one of those books. He really took Cap out of the craziness of the 90's and brought him into the world of modern storytelling. It's just a shame that his run got cut off early to make way for Leifeld and company. They tried to recapture the magic, but never quite got the old magic back.

Even though, this was still a pretty entertaining issue. Of course, it's hard to go wrong when you have Cap, the Red Skull, and the cosmic cube all in the mix together. The fact that Andy Kubert is on board to handle the pencils makes the loss of Ron Garney easier to take. They have complimentary styles that makes the transition seamless, but he has has a dynamism that is all his own.

In fact, I had such a good time reading this issue that I'm tempted to go back and reread Waid's entire run. That is something that definitely needs to be collected in a nice omnibus trade. I doubt it will ever happen as long as Brubaker keeps kicking ass on his version of Captain America, but until then I still have my single issues.

All characters should have such dilemmas...should I read the awesome, current version by Ed Brubaker or the seminal work done by Mark Waid. Decisions, decisions...

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Up next...Captain America!

It's been a quite week in world of comic books, post buyouts and reorganizations. I'll see what I can do to spice things up in a bit with the next random book to review, but lets take a look at the week that was until then.

No Superman surprise there.

An animated DC Crisis movie...cautiously optimistic.

Phillip Tan follows up Frank Quitely on Batman and Robin, and it's still a four-star book.

Like I said, it was a quiet week. In fact, the most exciting announcement wasn't even an announcement. DC revealed the new line-up for Robinson and Bagley's Justice League title with about as little fanfare as possible. No press release, no interview, just a lonely little in-house ad. Granted, it was in Blackest Night, so it did have that going for it.

It was actually kind of nice to be surprised when I turned the page with no prior knowledge gained from the internet. When was the last time that happened?

As for the actual line-up, I'm in a wait-and-see mode. It's Robinson, who I generally like, but so far I'm a little underwhelmed. One thing that does disappoint me is that with everybody else that Robinson has brought over from his other books, there's no Jimmy Olsen!

Call me crazy, but Robinson's Jimmy Olsen Specials have been the highlight of his return back to DC, so I would actually like to see him come aboard as sort of a modern day Snapper Carr.

Just without all that snapping and mod lingo. I'm not that crazy.

Enough rambling, let's fire up the old Randomizer and see what the next title up for review is...

...and that book is Captain America (Vol. 3) #19 from July 1999, published by Marvel Comics!

Hey look!

It's Sharon Carter possessed by the Red Skull, with Captain America lying dead (or dying) before her!

What's the old saying? "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Or what about the idea that there are only seven different basic plots in literature?

I'm sure it's just all coincidence, and besides, you know you can't trust a comic book cover! So make sure you come on back in a day or two for the review and we'll see what Sharon Carter is really up to.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Doctor Strange #26

TITLE: Doctor Strange #26


COVER DATE: December 1977


17 pages


I started reading Doctor Strange regularly with his third series, Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, in the late 80's. Mild curiosity brought me in, and the fabulous work of Jackson Guice hooked me. His work made such an impression on me at the time, that I'm still looking for a Doctor Strange book that lives up to my memories of that period.

I've since completed my collection of Doctor Strange books from his second series up to the wonderful Brian K. Vaughn and Marco Martin mini-series. With the possible exception of the latter, I've never found another period in his history that has captured my attention in the same way.

I am still reading however, and the first 40 or so issues of his second series are a run that I haven't had a chance to sit down and read in any sort of regular fashion since I have completed that run. I guess I can take solace in the fact that there's still hope.

This particular issue is the last of Jim Starlin's three issues. I'm generally a fan of his cosmic stuff, so I'm curious to see how he handles the doctor.

The Return Of The Ancient One!
  • Story: Jim Starlin
  • Layout: Jim Starlin
  • Finished Art: Rudy Nebres
  • Letterer: Annette Kawecki
  • Colorists: Janice Cohen & Phil Rache
  • Editor: Archie Goodwin
The story opens up in the Sanctum Sanctorum of Dr. Strange, as he is in deep meditation. Behind him, bound hand and foot in mystic energy, is his antagonist from last issue...Dr. Stranger Yet!

I have to say, right off the bat that I love that name. It's a nifty play on Dr. Strange's name, while successfully treading the line between goofy and interesting. I can only imagine if this villain had been around in the early 90's and enjoyed any semblance of popularity. I'm sure there would have been spin-off series for Dr. Strangest By Far...or Dr. Most Strangest...or Dr. Strangestest!

His visuals seem like a beta tested version of Beta Ray Bill, with a little bit of Larfleeze thrown in for good measure. I have no idea what his motivations are or how effective a protagonist he was, but already I'm intrigued.

Thankfully for us, this is a pre-90's book so everything is spelled out in a succinct couple of pages that brings us up to speed. I'll try to do it all in one sentence for brevity's sake...Dr. Strange was trying to stop the Creators from altering the universe when he inadvertently helped them succeed, causing many changes on the Earth in the form of bestial mutations affecting the population of which Dr. Stranger Yet was born. Wow, that actually makes a lot more sense than I thought it would going in.

Dr. Strange decides to use the Eye of Agamatto to delve into the creature's mind to attempt to find out what to do next to save his world. He comes away with two pieces of information. Firstly, that the Creators are not the main villain behind this scheme to remake the Earth, and secondly...the Ancient One has returned to the mortal plane.

We now pick up with the Ancient One, who has decided to put his great power to a more conventional use...conjuring up hooch! Something tells me that if magic was real, this would be a booming cottage industry.

Dr. Strange manages to track down the Ancient One in the alley in which he has passed out. Awakening him from his slumber, he listens as the Ancient One tells how he came to be found in this state.

Since he was one with the universe, he was adversely affected when the Creators messed with creation. Taking refuge in a mortal shell, he arrived on Earth to seek out Stephen's help. Unable to find him, he takes to the bottle as "alcohol retards the change the creators are inflicting upon mankind, and eases the agony my soul suffers."

Thank god that Dr. Strange is not the Ancient One's sponsor, for he buys that excuse hook, line and sinker.

Their reunion is short lived, however, as they are beset upon by the High Priests of the New Order bestowed upon the Earth by the Creators. It's up to Dr. Strange to take them out, as the Ancient One is still nursing a hangover.

We get all of the old standards from Dr. Strange's spellbook, including the Shield of Seraphim and the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. He manages to put three of the High Priests down for the count before the fourth gets the jump on him.

Luckily for him, the Ancient One's metabolism was working overtime and he has overcome the effects of the alcohol just in time to help out his student. He vanquishes the Astral Eye that was giving Dr. Strange a hard time, collapsing once again from the strain on his mortal body.

In a last act of heroism, he is able to transport himself and Dr. Strange to the being that holds the real power behind the recent machinations of the Creators. Through dimensions unseen and unnamed they travel, finally arriving at the feet of the In-Betweener!


It must have been tough being a Dr. Strange fan in the 70's. This story is relatively short by today's standards, clocking in at a scant 17 pages. Alot of books from this era were of a similar length, but Doctor Strange was bi-monthly! So you had to wait 60 days to get your next fix, which works out to about half a page per day.

I enjoyed this issue, but it did move a tad slowly for a book that came out at a snail's pace. I enjoyed what Jim Starlin was doing, but would have appreciated a bit less expository narration and a little more spellcasting. Apparently I'm not alone either, as the letters page in this issue is filled with raves for the current creative team.

Alas, they're done with this issue. Considering the cliffhanger, ending with the introduction of a character created by Jim Starlin himself, it seems an odd time for him to depart. I wonder what the backstory was on this creative shuffle?

Looking over the creator credits, that seems to be a major problem for this series. In the first 30-some issues, there are at least 7 different writers and 10 pencillers. That makes me thankful for the Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas/Jackson Guice issues that I grew up on, as they managed to do about 20 issues with only one fill-in.

I'm going to keep up my quest for the next great Doctor Strange book, but in the meantime I'll still have my longboxes. Luckily for me, the next holes in my collection to fill are the Roy Thomas stuff from the late 60's and the even earlier Steve Ditko issues. Hope springs eternal.

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

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Comic book readers are wimps...I mean, real cream-puff Caspar Milquetoasts!

So I'm still working my way through the Doctor Strange review, but I did notice something odd while reading through the issue a couple of times.

There are quite a few ads for body building training courses.

First up is an ad for everybody's favorite body builder, Charles Atlas and his DYNAMIC TENSION bodybuilding method.

I'm curious as to how much of the comic book reading population in 1977 had potbellies. I have zero facts to back this up, but conventional wisdom has it as a younger audience than today's readers, not to mention the fact that the obesity epidemic is decades away from hitting America's youth.

If you missed that little ad, have no fear as a full pager comes a little later in the issue.

Take your choice, you can either double or triple your strength in record time! Hell, sign me up for triple if it's just that easy!

Finally, we have a half page ad for STRONG ARMS!

Check out that sales pitch. If "Almost like a miracle" doesn't hook you, I'm sure the prospect of "Motionless Exercise" will. In fact I'm so into the concept of motionless exercise, that I'm going to start right now by not getting up off the couch to mail in my No-Risk Trial Coupon.

I feel stronger already.

Normally, the fact that there are so many ads for body building courses in comic book doesn't strike me as all that unusual. But Marvel had to go and rub it in my face that I'm a weakling.

Take a look at this picture of Stan "The Man" Lee that they're using to promote one of their spin off magazines.

My memory can be spotty and unreliable sometimes at times, but somehow I don't think Stan Lee ever looked that virile.

I wonder if any of these addresses are still good. If they can work that kind of magic on Stan, I'll be kicking sand into the faces of weaklings on beaches across America in no time!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Up next...Doctor Strange!

So with all of the recent activity with comic books on the corporate level, we here at Random Longbox headquarters decided we should figure out what it all means to you...the average Random Longbox reader.

You got Disney buying Marvel Comics...Warner Brothers reorganizing DC Comics...whose to know where we stand?

With that in mind, the Randomizer just returned from a three day retreat with the lawyers that we have on staff, determined to get to the bottom of it all to keep you informed.

Our conclusion?

We're just as in the dark as anybody else. We'll still be posting reviews, feeling our way through the hazy, gray fog of the fair use doctrine. Besides, our website is small enough not to be noticed by the Empire, which is advantageous for everbody since our readers are anxious to avoid attracting attention to themselves.

Now I know what you're thinking...aren't I afraid that the Empire is going to find out about this little website and shut me down?

Well I've just made a deal that will keep the Empire out of here forever.

Oops...did I just borrow some dialogue from The Empire Strikes Back? We should probably just get on with it and get the Randomizer to pick the next book for us to review, as it looks like it's going to need to take a trip out to Skywalker Ranch and apologize to Mr. Lucas in person.

...and that book is Doctor Strange #26 from December 1977, published by Marvel Comics.

So if our head wasn't spinning enough trying to understand U.S. Copyright Law, we now have to delve headfirst into a 1970's Doctor Strange comic?

The Randomizer has a cruel sense of humor.

Join me in a day or two for the review as we take a trip with Stephen Strange through the astral plane, across dimensions, all while using as many alliterative, idiosyncratic colloquialisms as possible.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Superman #215 Part 2

Welcome back to our second, and final, part of our review for Superman #215. In case you missed the first installment, click here to reminisce about the strange Kryptonian customs for dealing with grief and loss. At least I'm assuming their Kryptonian customs, otherwise Clark is just not quite right in the head.

For this story, we travel to the other extreme in Superman' life. That's right, it's time for a Superbaby story! This particular story is a reprint of the lead story of Superman #106 from July of 1956. It's our first story from the 50's here at the Random Longbox, so let's dig in and enjoy.

Superman's First Exploit
  • Writer: Edmond Hamilton
  • Penciler: Wayne Boring
  • Inker: Stan Kaye
  • Editor: Whitney Ellsworth
First off, I just have to say that I love the issues pencilled by Wayne Boring! He has such a unique take on how the man of steel looks, that I can't help but to study each panel. I have so many issues drawn by Curt Swan, that his Superman is burned into my brain as the gold standard for how he should look. So when I get an issue by Boring, it's a real treat.

This panel in particular is one I really enjoy. There's something about the confidence in his face and that stature of his posture that's intriguing. It's more relaxed than the earlier Joe Shuster work, but nowhere near as free-wheeling as the later Curt Swan stuff.

All things considered, I think I would have to put Wayne Boring in my top five Superman artists of all time.

As our story opens up, Superman is approached by Dr. Reese Kearns who is inquiring about exactly where and when his rocketship landed that brought him to Earth. Immediately suspicious, Superman uses both his x-ray and telescopic vision to look into the archives at the Daily Planet for a little impromptu research on the good doctor.

What he finds un-nerves him as he finds out that he is a disgraced scientist who worked the people of Metropolis into a panic over a meteor hoax. After finding out this information, Superman refuses to answer any of his questions and flies off.

Dr. Kearns is nothing if not persistent, as he shows up at The Daily Planet the next day and proposes a great contest to Perry White that the paper can run. The readers can send in their earliest recollection of Superman, and the earliest story will win the contest.

It seems the doctor will get his information one way or the other, as the contest is an instant hit. Stories come rolling in, mostly from his arrival in Metropolis. There's one story however, that was sent in from a lady from Smallville who remembers seeing a superbaby playing with lamp posts.

Superman decides to verify her story so that he can end the contest and figure out what Dr. Kearns is really up to. During the press conference to announce the winner, Superman is again pestered by Dr. Kearns. This time, he is challenged to think farther back than that, as he must have had earlier exploits.

Using his super-memory, he remembers all the way back to the day when Krypton itself exploded. He was in his rocketship on the way to Earth when something shiny outside the window caught his eye. Like any baby, he was instantly drawn to it. He used his mighty strength, even as a baby, to push the door of the rocket open so he could play with the meteor.

Once on the meteor however, he realized that what was shiny was not the actual meteor itself, but a strange crystalline alien.

Trying to pet it, the alien snaps at the superbaby and then flies off. Disappointed and now bored on the lifeless rock, he once again uses his superstrength to push off the meteor and propels himself back to this ship, changing the orbit of the meteor in the process.

Little did anyone know at the time, but the meteor that he was on was the same one that Dr. Kearns had calculated would strike Metropolis. By accidentally changing it's orbit, little Kal-El had saved the Earh, but inadvertently destroyed Dr. Kearns reputation when the predicted meteor never materialized.

Realizing that it was all a big misunderstanding, Superman publicly vouches for Dr. Kearns who soon regains his reputation as reputable scientist.


I think I may have found one of my new favorite golden age Superman stories. That's a pretty strong statement, as the Superbaby stories are not really my cup of tea. In this story, however, it didn't really bother me.

I liked how the story played with time, making you suspicious of the scientist the whole way through, only to have him vindicated when the seemingly unrelated chain of events from Superman's past are brought together.

It's actually kind of an elegantly straightforward story, that has some great twists and turns that are not needlessly complicated like so many of his silver age exploits were.

I can't wait for the Superman Chronicles trade paperbacks to get to this time period so I can start to read some more books from the early fifties. I've been enjoying the early stuff so far, but they haven't really gotten away from the gangsters and evil barons of industry just yet. I have to say that I really liked the little element of the fantastic that was brought in to this story.

All characters and artwork are (c) DC Comics

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Superman #215...Superman's 10 step process to overcoming grief

TITLE: Superman #215


COVER DATE: April 1969


24 pages


This issue came out over a year before I was born, so there's not a whole lot I remember from when it was actually released. It then only took the better part of three decades or so before it found it's way into my collection.

As I mentioned yesterday, this is one of the imaginary stories that used to appear with some regularity in and around the sixties. If I remember correctly, this one is pretty entertaining as we watch Superman deal with his grief over the loss of his wife, Lois Lane.

Now before you start calling for my head on a stake for taking pleasure in Superman's loss, you have to remember that this is a Superman book from the 60's. You know he'll be making some questionable moral and ethical decisions.

Lois Lane...Dead...Yet Alive
  • Writer: Otto Binder
  • Penciler: Curt Swan
  • Inker: Jack Abel
  • Editor: Mort Weisinger
The story opens up as Lois' closest friends and family mourn her recent passing.

So how did it come to be that Superman now stands graveside, a devastated man? Did Brainiac or Luthor finally find the way to break Superman once and for all?

No, it took the brain power and foresight of a master villain like the Dimension Master?! Hmmm...can't say as I ever remember coming across him before now. I guess he's kept a pretty low profile while perfecting his ultimate crime (and by the look of his outfit, working summers part time at the renaissance festival).

His master plan involves shooting Superman with his Blast-Ray, hoping to scatter his atoms to the winds. Unfortunately, the blast ricochets off of Superman's chest and strikes Lois. In a puff of smoke, she was gone.

Now Superman is left to cope without his wife, while also having to raise their daughter, Laney, all by himself. Needless to say, Superman makes some rather odd parenting choices. Without further ado, let's take a look at Superman's fool proof plan for finding love and happiness again in ten easy steps.

#10. It's never too early to make your kid feel like an orphan

This one's a two-fer! After the sudden loss of your mother, what child would not want to then be separated from her father until after the funeral? And as a father and a husband, how could you not want to be even closer to your kids after such a tragedy. Ah well, grief does strange things to people.

#9. Who needs to make sure your Fortress of Solitude is safe for a toddler when you have a robotic babysitter

Once settled in to the Fortress, Superman lets Laney play on his super-exercising bars...right in front of the one door she should never open! Well, it's not like he'd ever do anything foolish like leaving his kryptonite samples right next to where his half-Kryptonian daughter is playing.

#8. The only thing better than a robotic babysitter is a dog

While continuing his secret identity as Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, it's left to Krypto and the occasional robot Superman to babysit little Laney. I don't see anything wrong with that.

#7. Artificial intelligence is better than nothing

What better way to honor the memory of your mother than to create a robot to mimic her looks and mannerisms. Happy one year anniversary of your mother's death, Laney!

#6. Artificial love is better than nothing

So that's why you built the robotic Lois, eh Clark? Even a superman must get cold and lonely at the Fortress from time to time. Unfortunately for him, her battery life fizzles out five panels later.

#5. If you thought robotic Lois was fun, wait until you meet parallel world Lois

So remember that door that Laney wasn't supposed to open? Well she did, and guess what? There was red kryptonite back there after all. The exposure to it sent Laney to another dimension. When Superman follows her there, he finds that the Lois of this world is still alive!

#4. Nothing says emotional stability like impromptu proposals

After saving this world's Lois from a giant octopus (don't ask), Superman proposes at her bedside. I'm sure she'll be all right knowing that she's a replacement Lois for a Superman that's not even from her dimension.

#3. It's always best to wait until after the wedding to introduce your wife to the daughter that you had with the parallel version of herself

Well that's one way to introduce your daughter to her new mommy, and vice versa.

#2. Or you could just keep everyone in the dark and hope for the best

What could possibly go wrong with this plan? It's not like Lois is a whip-smart, investigative reporter who uses her skills to piece together stories that people more often than not don't want told...

Wait a minute, she is? Oh...

Well, it's not like Laney is a precocious six-year old, and they never catch you off guard asking uncomfortable questions...

Yeah, I foresee some problems in the near future.

#1. Live happily ever after knowing you just pulled one over on the people you supposedly love the most

So yeah, happily ever after. Now if he could only find two Lois' who are both alive at the same time! After reading this story, I'm sure Superman's got the skills to be able to pull that one off.


I'm not sure we learned anything, or at least anything useful, in this story.

If you did, I think you may need to re-evaluate how you look at love, parenting, relationships, etc...

At least this issue had a nice Neal Adams cover. In fact, he probably did too nice a job, as it was easily the most emotionally satisfying part of this book. In this case, you definitely can't judge a book by it's cover.

I do have one last rather trivial thought about this issue. It looks like at this point in Superman's history that the writers have started to get lazy coming up with new double "L" names for the females in his world. I mean, honestly...Laney Lane? What if they had had a son instead of a daughter? You just know there's a parallel world out there somewhere with a little Kenty Kent running around.

Click here for the second story from this issue, following the exploits of Superbaby!

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics