Friday, October 30, 2009

Young Justice justice?

So the current book up for review is Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #6, which features a two-part story guest-starring Young Justice. While reading through the issue and working on my review, it was hard not to see just how much the characters from Young Justice have been changed over the last ten years.

And I'm not just talking about their appearance, although their costumes did have had some drastic changes.

For the most part, it's hard to find fault about their aesthetic changes. Poor Superboy, such a slave to the fashion of the time. Do you think that if he had been created during the 80's he'd have been wearing a Thriller jacket and parachute pants instead?

No, the big change has been on an emotional level with what DC has actually put these characters through in the last ten years. And remember, these are supposed to be kids. Granted their young teens, but they are still kids.

Which leads me to my theory about why DC refuses to collect the Young Justice series in trade paperback.

If they did, they'd have such wildly different versions of the characters on the shelf next to each other that they'd have to tacitly acknowledge exactly what they put those nice young kids through.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Up next...Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.

It's that time again where we fire up the Randomizer for another random jaunt through the longboxes.

Normally, I like to do a bit of bantering before we get to the actual pick, but it's going to be a quick one today. I used up all of my creative inspiration turning a pumpkin into an R2-D2-o-lantern. Although I see now that I should have used C-3PO as my inspiration, as C-3PO-lantern has a much better ring to it.

So what is the next book up for review? Take it away Randomizer...

...and that book is Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #6 from January 2000, published by DC Comics!

It's easy to see from the selection of books reviewed so far that I'm a bit of an Avengers and Superman fan. But there are also a couple of other strong interests that have that have yet to be highlighted by the Randomizer.

Today ends one of those mystery interests, as we encounter our first Geoff Johns book. I think I have literally read every single one of his books, with one glaring exception.

Back at the close of the last century, one of my favorite books was Starman. When Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. was being solicited, Starman was in it's prime, and there was no better book around. This title wasn't a direct spin-off, but it did have enough of a connection, as well as the zero issue being co-written by James Robinson, that I decided to give it a chance.

I'm glad I did, as I have been a fan ever since and I got to enjoy Johns' work from day one.

So what is the big hole in my Geoff Johns collection? It's the Flash. I read some issues here and there over the years, but the character never really did anything for me. It wasn't until Geoff's last year on the title that I finally broke down and picked up one of his issues. It instantly became a must read title for me, and I have since done the requisite flagellation to atone for my sins and have gotten caught up with the trades.

This review should be fun, as I have never reread this series. It'll be interesting to read this now that Geoff Johns has firmly established himself as a modern master, to see if his famous Midas touch was there from the very beginning.

See you in a day or two for the review.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inside the sausage factory

We've reached another milestone here at Random Longbox headquarters, as this is our 100th post! Woo hoo!

In reality, it's just an arbritrary number and I'm probably the only one who cares, but if the comic books that we all love so dear can celebrate with oversized issues and foil covers...why can't I?

In honor of this momentous occasion, let's take a look behind the scenes at what makes the Random Longbox tick.

  • As far as stats go, we're just a hair shy of 1000 unique visitors since we opened the doors back in June!

  • We've had visitors from over 50 countries and every continent but Antarctica, which I don't think Google Analytics is set up to register anyway (prove me wrong, multi-national research station scientists, prove me wrong!).

  • When you look at the states, only four remain unrepresented: Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Mississippi. C'mon red states, get on the ball! I think I've done a pretty good job keeping my pro-Obama, socialist rhetoric to a minimum around here.
I've also had a lot of fun watching what search terms end up brining people to this blog. Some of my favorites so far include...
  • comic high heel stileto
  • lopsided human skull
  • marc silvestri high heels
  • random superman cement
  • rude1 liners about parents
  • she kicked him in the groin
I think if we can learn one thing from this, it is that I obviously need more posts about Marc Silvestri kicking people in the groin while wearing high heel shoes...and if said recipient of the nut shot has a mis-shapen skull, then we're all winners!

What's the most read review on this blog, you ask? It's none other than Doctor Strange #26! A big shout out is in order for the Neilalien blog for steering a monster amount of traffic to that review with their link.

But for every winner there must be a loser, so the least read review? It was Ghost #1. It's all right Ghost, I still love you...and your review.

Keep on the lookout for a new masthead for the blog too. I've been meaning to make some tweaks to the site to individualize it more, but haven't found the time just yet.

Although now that I've gone and told you about it, I better get moving.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Vision And The Scarlet Witch #5

TITLE: The Vision and the Scarlet Witch #5


COVER DATE: February 1986


22 pages


Regular readers of this blog are well aware that The Avengers was the first comic book that I started collecting, and in pretty quick order The Vision would become my favorite Avenger. It was only natural, that this series would then be a no brainer for me.

This series actually has a couple of firsts for me, as it was the first mini-series that I remember buying off the rack. It's also the first mini-series that I remember abandoning before it was finished. Whether it was the twelve-issue commitment that scared me off, or the lackluster story, or a combination of the two is something I can't quite remember. The Vision (and the Scarlet Witch by extension) would remain one of my favorite characters for a long while, so I would imagine it was the story.

If I remember correctly, this series chronicled the Vision and Wanda as they left the Avengers with the news that Wanda was pregnant. How an android and a mutant witch could conceive a baby is something that this series would explore. And honestly, what better way to capture the imagination of a teenage boy than with the trials and tribulations of a couple pregnant with their first child!

Am I being too hard on this series? Or are we in for a real treat now that I'm a more world weary and mature reader? Let's find out...

The others call it...All Hallow's Eve!
  • Story: Steve Englehart
  • Pencils:Richard Howell
  • Inks: Jack Abel & Mike Esposito
  • Colors: Adam Philips
  • Letters: Rick Parker
  • Editor: Jim Salicrup
  • Editor in Chief: Jim Shooter
It's Halloween in the Marvel Universe, and the Vision is all dressed up in a tux and hitting the town. After relocating to the suburbs, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch have made friends with their new neighbors, who just happen to be heroes in hiding with the power of molecular control. Instead of using their powers to fight the good fight, they became magicians using their powers to create realistic illusions. It is the premier of their Halloween show, and that has brought Vision back to the city.

This being Halloween night though, means that Wanda is back at the house getting ready to flex her magick ability to take advantage of the nature of the night to communicate with her recently deceased mentor, Agatha Harkness. Before that however, she had just enough time call her brother Quicksilver to let him know that he is going to be an Uncle.

Really Quicksilver? You're going to give your sister a hard time about her robot husband, when you live on the moon with your wife who is a member of a race of humans that were genetically evolved by an alien race!

Quicksilver actually turns out to be really happy for his sister, and promises to be back on earth for Thanksgiving. It's really amazing how much these two characters have been changed (not necessarily for the better in my opinion) over the last five years. Heck, you can even throw in the Vision here as well. If you've never read a comic before the 21st century rolled around, you'd be asking yourself who the hell are these people? And why are they so damn happy?

Back to Wanda's seance, and things aren't going quite like she planned. She manages to contact Agatha only briefly before she dissipates to be replaced by her undead grandson Thornn! Ooopsie...

Back at the magic show, Agatha Harkness is able to materialize briefly to warn the Vision that Wanda is in trouble and it all leads back to the Druid Tome. Vision informs us that they had tussled with Samhain and his Druid Tome years ago, and if Samhain is back then they are in real trouble. His tie to the physical world was the Tome, which they had destroyed last time. If he's back then they won't be able to use the Tome to send him back to the dead realms.

Meanwhile, Wanda finds out that she's in more trouble than she thought as Thornn has brought a whole cadre of undead supervillains with him. It turns out that the baby that Wanda is carrying is holding a spark of magickal life within it that the demons want to use to help them rematerialize into the living world.

That seems to make some logical sense. Vision, on the other hand, has the more fantastical unbelievable part of the adventure to come. To defeat Samhain, he must rebuild the Druid Tome. But wasn't it burned? It was, but luckily (and conveniently) the powers of the Vision's new magician friends will allow them to rebuild the book with just a single speck of ash.

But how to find a piece of ash from years ago? Easy...track down the child who was turned into a ghost from the previous adventure with the Tome and hope that the sheet that she wore for her Halloween costume that night is still intact, and that it has never been washed so that they can collect a piece of ash that must have been deposited on it when the Vision transported them through the smoke of the burning book.

You got all that? I hope so, as I'd be hard pressed to find a better way to recap that.

Seeing as how this is a special Halloween issue, the Scarlet Witch is visited by all sorts of dead relatives clawing their way back from the dead to torment her and try to reclaim her baby's life for their own.

She eventually comes face to face with Samhain, who...surprise, surprise...wants the slice of magickal life contained in Wanda's child for himself. These demons and creatures of the undead are a rather single-minded lot, are they not?

Naturally, Vision finding a two year old speck of ash proves far easier than finding a storyline that doesn't rely on wild coincidences and happenstance. That's not important now, as we have a book that needs burning!

Summoning all the power contained in his solar jewel, Vision reduces the Tome to atoms, forcing Samhain into a form of pure energy. Normally you'd think that would be bad, but Agatha Harkness is back to let us know that everything is going according to plan.

Now that Samhain is pure energy, she can control him and redirect him as never before. Taking advantage of the nearby hordes of undead super-villains and demons, she redirects his energy that he had hoped to put into the baby's essence and deposits them bit by bit into the assembled undead horde.

Her job now done and the baby safe, Agatha disappears to once again rest in peace. Wanda and the Vision are reunited in the living worlds, and all is right with the world.


I think we learned why I never did stick with this mini-series originally. It wasn't bad per se, it was just decidedly average. How this story warranted a 12-part mini-series seems a bit of a mystery. I suppose the standards for mini-series was a bit more lax back in the day. In fact, on the back cover of this issue in an in-house ad for Secret Wars II. At least Marvel had the good sense to limit that series to nine issues, but I think I would still take all twelve of Vision and Scarlet Witch's series to one featuring the Beyonder.

Anyways, Steve Englehart and Richard Howell do a serviceable job with this particular issue. It's Halloween, so of course all of the usual tropes and trappings of the holiday are in full display...ghosts, zombies, witches, magick spells, underworld dimensions...heck, even Dracula makes a cameo!

At the end of the day, however, it's a throwaway story about some characters who are nigh unrecognizable in today's continuity. It's a shame, as these characters deserve better.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
  • Jason over at Marvel Comics of the 1980's clues us in to the crossover with West Coast Avengers that kicked this series off. We apparently just missed this title being good.
  • We've come across books dealing with Wanda and the Vision here and here earlier.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Up next...The Vision and the Scarlet Witch

So Halloween is just about a week away, and I'm not usually one of those people who tend to lose their shit when the month of October rolls around in anticipation. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the holiday well enough, but usually no more involved than seeing the occasional, miniaturized Spider-Man or Batman in an ill-fitting costume on my front porch.

One thing that will definitely get you more involved with the festivities is to have a three year old boy. Especially one who is crazy into Star Wars and superheroes. I thought he had decided on being a Clonetrooper this year, but while we were out running errands for Mrs. Random Longbox we had the opportunity to do a Halloween dry run with the only costume left at the nearest drug store we could find...Batman!

Aaahhh, to be a kid again, where all it took was a cape and mask to make your day.

Who am I kidding...give me a cape and a mask and I'll fight the Joker right along with him. Although why do I always have to be Robin? Those pixie boots don't give me near enough arch support.

Anyways, let's fire up the Randomizer to see what the next book for us to review is...

...and that book is The Vision And The Scarlet Witch #5 from February 1986, published by Marvel Comics!

I swear, sometimes I think the Randomizer has gone and developed some sort of artificial intelligence on me while I wasn't looking. Why is that, you ask? The title of this issue is the other's call it...All Hallow's Eve!

That's right, all this talk of Halloween clearly influenced the Randomizer to pick a book that would help us celebrate in style.

See you in a day or two to find out if we've been handed a trick or a treat!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Action Comics #510

TITLE: Action Comics #510


COVER DATE: August 1980


17 pages


This book came out a good five years before I started reading comics full time, so to say that I don't remember much is a bit of an understatement. Even when I started reading and collecting, I wasn't a Superman fan until the Death of Superman mega story in 1992. It wasn't until about eight years later, after I found myself still reading all of his monthly titles, that I made the decision to focus most of my back-issue collecting in amassing as many Superman books as I could.

The easiest runs to complete were the 80's stuff, and this book was in that initial run of holes plugged up. I actually haven't gotten around to reading many of the books from this time period, as I first turned my attention to the Byrne era and then to the bronze age books, which I've found are the Superman books I enjoy the most.

So long story short...I haven't read this particular issue yet and I don't really have a good idea of what to expect. Although I suppose that the fact that I have no initial impression of this era of Superman books tells me all I really need to know about what's in store for us.

Luthor's Last Stand!
  • Writer: Cary Bates
  • Penciller: Curt Swan
  • Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
  • Letterer: Ben Oda
  • Colorist: Gene D'Angelo
  • Editor: Julius Schwartz
    It's Monday morning rush hour in the heart of Metropolis' financial district. Where normally there should be a bustle of activity, there is only silence.

    Luckily for us, Lana Lang is on the scene reporting the bizarre occurrence and filling us in on the details in the process.

    It would seem that Lex Luthor had telephoned the mayor to announce that he is going to destroy the financial district of Metropolis, thus beginning the great stock market "crash of '80". Since this is Metropolis, however, Superman is on the scene restlessly scanning for any signs of trouble in the deserted city.

    The silence is soon shattered as an egg-shaped device bursts from beneath the street, giving off deadly vibration waves that are causing the buildings in the area to collapse. Who knew that Luthor was into puns, as the "crash" was to be taken literally and was designed with the sole purpose to distract Superman so Lex could take him out with his "ultimate" weapon.

    Everything was going perfectly, until something happened that Lex's mega-computer didn't account for in it's calculations. It would appear that there was someone alive in the rubble who hadn't evacuated with the rest of the city. While rescuing her, Superman has left himself wide open to be struck down by Luthor's weapon.

    While lining his shot up, Lex catches a glimpse of the recently rescued damsel in the scope of his weapon and has a change of heart. He just can't bring himself to pull the trigger! Could our little Lexy be falling in love? Could he finally be turning over a new leaf, empowered by the love of a beautiful woman?

    Lex decides to let Superman and the woman go without firing his weapon. So he can rush to the nearest florist to buy flowers for the woman that has so entranced him?

    Maybe not...

    I'm sure dressing up like Gabe Kaplan and impersonating a meter-man while surreptitiously taking photographs of the object of your infatuation is a much better idea.

    I think Lex needs to get out more and stop reading those Forum letters for his inspiration in the ways of dating.

    Realizing that he hasn't quite achieved the level of creepiness that he was looking for, Lex has his robot assistants kidnap the woman. She is brought to Lex's lair, where she is strapped to a medical gurney and wheeled into his Bio-Lab.

    We'll have to wait to see if Luthor's courting ritual has worked or not, as he has another nefarious plot that needs tending to.

    In an abandoned airstrip outside Metropolis, Luthor has summoned all of the leading crime-bosses of Metropolis to a meeting.

    How this assembled band of criminal masterminds has never managed to bring down Superman is beyond me. I mean look at 'em, they practically reek of evil...or is that Old Spice...I can never tell.

    Under the pretense of auctioning off his ultimate weapon, he has instead used it on the assembled crime-bosses to wipe them out in one fell swoop. He did not, however, account for Superman impersonating one of the mobsters to be there and thwart his plans.

    Superman makes short work of the assembled crime-bosses and discovers that Luthor was in fact a robot, and not the real deal. That's not the only surprise that Luthor has in store for Superman though, as it turns out that the ultimate weapon would only have teleported the crime-bosses to the Metropolis Police Station instead of disintegrating them.

    Luthor has turned over a new leaf! Love has conquered evil after all!

    But what was it about that woman that captured the evil geniuses heart? And does she feel the same way?

    Back at his secret lair, Lex pours his emotions out to his sweetheart (or say po-ta-to, I say po-tah-to).

    After first glimpsing her in the sights of his ultimate weapon, Luthor was smitten. Over the next week while he wrestled with his emotions (or spied on her and kidnapped her...again, you say po-ta-to, I say po-tah-to), Lex discovered that she was suffering from a terminal disease. Using his scientific prowess and his "radical electro-spinal technique", he has cured her.

    But will that be enough? Does she finally see how much of a new man that he has become?

    Love truly does conquer all...

    Although don't be too sure, as the story is continued next issue. I'm sure Lex will find someway to screw this up.


    The big takeaway from this issue is that Luthor has obviously chosen the wrong career path. Where he has consistantly failed at world domination, there is one area that this issue shows us that he has a real talent for...the art of love.

    Who knew that Lex could use his scientific genius to boil down exactly what it is that a woman needs, after merely glancing at her.

    Although it would probably be prudent to read the next issue before we all run out purchase our own Mr. Kotter wig and mustache. I've read a few Superman books between this one and current day, and I can't say that I ever remember seeing his one true love again.

    All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Up next...Action Comics!

    It's that time of the week again, as it's Comic Book Day Wednesday!

    I was going to go to the store a little later on, but my work computer just crashed so I think that must be fate telling me that I need to get me some new books. Before I leave, however, lets get the next random pick taken care of.

    But before I even do that, let's take a look at days of Comic Book Wednesday past. We'll fire up the Randomizer to pick a year from 1938 to 2009, to see what came out with a cover date of December of that year.

    The winner is...1966! And now we'll randomly pick a letter, and that letter is "J".

    Thumbing through the list, it looks like Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen was up to issue #98 that month.

    And you know what? I'm going to stop right there. I don't think we're going to find another comic as entertaining as that cover right there. Superman as witch doctor, performing the marriage rites for Jimmy Olsen and his betrothed, Miss King Kong!

    I think if we've learned one thing, it's that 1966 had much better comics than we have now.

    So back to business, and the picking of the next random book to review...

    ...and that book is Action Comics #510 from August 1980, published by DC Comics!

    Good old Action Comics, you're always there for me when I need you. Every month for the last 71 years you've been performing your civic duty, and giving us the entertainment we so richly deserve. Even in a world where I read multiple comic books a day, I can usually find a back issue from your longbox that I haven't read yet.

    That's definitely the case with this issue, as it falls into a time period I haven't exhaustively read yet. It's got Lex Luthor on the cover, so that's good. Superman's being a dick on the cover, so that should be fun too. Let's crack it open and see if it lives up to the hype.

    See you in a day or two for the review.

    UPDATE: Superman's witch doctor powers must be more potent than I originally thought, as that Jimmy Olsen cover has been creeping around the back corners of my consciousness, begging for more attention. Luckily, Pat over at Silver Age Comics had put his two cents in about that same issue on his site. Hopefully, by commiserating with fellow bloggers, I'll be able to exorcise it from my brain. So consider this a P.S.A. if you were similarly afflicted.

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Conan The Barbarian #256

    TITLE: Conan The Barbarian #256

    PUBLISHER: Marvel

    COVER DATE: May 1992

    COVER PRICE: $1.25

    22 pages


    About this particular issue? Not much. In fact, my recollection of this title is spotty at best, as I generally tended to prefer Savage Sword of Conan instead. I remember liking them well enough, but preferring the black and white "mature" take on Conan over the Comics Code Authority version.

    But there is a run of about 15 Conan The Barbarian books in my collection, with this issue being the last one. What made me stop collecting this title in the middle of a nine part storyline, I can only hazard a guess. I do, however, remember what made me start collecting them...a McFarlane cover!

    That's right, issue #241 had a spiffy Todd McFarlane cover with a crouching, savage Conan staring the reader in the eyes. I'm generally not a huge McFarlane fan, as I like his stuff well enough in small doses, but this cover is really good and still holds up today.

    The issue after that one had a cover by Jim Lee, and one after that by Whilce Portacio, and by that time I was reading it regularly. That only lasted for a year and a half before I dropped it, so as not to dilute my regular Conan reading with Savage Sword.

    So was this series really that watered down? Was there more frivolity than freebooting? The plundering a tad too plucky? The decapitations decapitated? Nary a bare breast to be found? Let's dig in and find out.

    Blood And Bones
    The Second Coming of Shuma-Gorath Part V
    • Writer: Roy Thomas
    • Penciler: Mike Docherty
    • Inker: Dell Barras
    • Letterer: Rick Parker
    • Colorist: Nel Yomtov
    • Editor: Mike Rockwitz
    • Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco
    Luckily for us, we get a short little recap of the previous issue to bring us up to speed. Conan has contracted the Purple Plague, and while seeking refuge in a Temple of Mitra, the city is attacked by armored skeletons from the crypts of lost Lanjau.

    The temple turns out to not be much of a refuge for a weakened Conan, as the undead warriors make short work of the temple priests. In fact, here's exhibit A for the difference between CtB and SSoC (that's Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan as they will be referenced to from here on out).

    What good is a decapitation if you don't get to see the airborne head a second after it's separated from it's body? We do get to see the body bleeding out through the neck in the next panel, but the CCA (Comics Code Authority) apparently wouldn't let them draw the head right next to it.

    It's here in the temple where the skeletal warriors find a weakened, purple-hued Conan. As is often the case, luck is on Conan's side as the undead are called away by a mysterious sorcerer just as they had Conan at their mercy. It seems they're needed at the center of town, leaving Conan in the shambles of the temple.

    Now this being a Conan story, you know that there is a damsel in distress to be found somewhere. Filling the role for this issue is Gwenalda, who has travelled with Conan since they left Atilleos.

    And here's exhibit B for Conan v. the CCA...the dutifully clothed maiden. I wasn't expecting a topless wench, but not even a bare midriff? And that is far too much cloth covering the loin.

    She does manage to rouse Conan (fully clothed, no less!) and get him on his feet so that they can try to find someplace safe to hide out until Conan can recuperate. Stumbling through the city, they make their way to a tavern where they run into an old "friend" of Conan's named Hobb.

    While figuring out their next move, they are visited by the floating, boastful head of Kulan Gath. Now here is something that the CCA Conan gets right; the evil visage of a mad sorcerer bent on tormenting Conan. It seems there's never a shortage of crazy wizards who have it out for Conan, and this one is no exception.

    Conan will have nothing to do with this wizard's help, and sends his reply back to him in a wad of spittle as the astral projection dissipates. So much for getting any help from the realm of magic for their current predicament.

    All is not lost, however, as Conan spies a jade serpent statue hanging from the rafters in the tavern. It would appear that this is the same statue that Conan plundered from the crypts of Lanjau long ago, the first time that he found cause to run from the skeletal warriors. That gives him an idea, but first he must eat.

    Unfortunately, the only food left in the tavern is raw meat. Lucky for him, however, the blood in the raw meat is just the thing that causes the purple plague to go into remission.

    Regaining his strength a little, Conan grabs the jade serpent statue and heads to the center of town to confront the skeletal soldiers. His hunch pays off, as the skeletons turn on the mysterious sorcerers who had attempted to commandeer them, in favor of regaining their lost statue.

    Conan runs through the town, taunting the skeletons, as they slice down every sorcerer or plague stricken victim in their path. He winds up back at the tavern, just in time to use his unwitting allies to help free Hobb and Gwenalda from a zombiefied pack of plague infested townfolk.

    Seizing a horse outside the tavern (there's always one around in the age of Hyperborea, it seems), Conan makes a mad dash out of town with the serpent statue. The undead warriors do their part, and mindlessly follow in their singular quest to retrieve their stolen idol.

    Conan is no dummy, as he leads them to a giant crevasse. Jumping to the other side, Conan holds the statue over the gaping crack in the earth. As the undead warriors advance, Conan drops the statue into the abyss with all of the warriors jumping in after it.

    After waiting to hear the sounds of the skeletons hitting bottom that never comes (it's a big hole, obviously), Conan lets himself finally relax. Moments later, he is met by Hobb and Gwenalda, who have loaded up a wagon with meat from the tavern. The journey to Cimmeria continues...


    We learned that my memory isn't that bad. This was a rather waterdowned version of Conan. It wasn't bad by any means, but do you really want to see Samuel L. Jackson fight "mother-loving" snakes on his "mother-loving" plane when you've seen the R-rated version? Probably not.

    It's like the Super Hero Squad version of Conan, where you can get the young ones indoctrinated with the toned down version of the character first. Then, you can hit 'em with the real version and their hooked. All in all not a bad strategy, although I'm a rather poor case study, as my first experience with Conan was right into the deep end of the pool with SSoC.

    All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Conan Properties, Inc. and/or Marvel Comics.

    Related links for your surfing pleasure...

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Odds and sods

    • George Tuska dead at 93. The Random Longbox encountered him only once so far, and it was an issue that meant a lot to me. Thanks George.

    • Joe Rosen has also passed away, sadly none of his lettering art has made it's way through our website...yet.

    • Posting has been light lately, my apologies. I made the decision to get caught up on a bunch of reading after the RL headquarters was quarantined with the croup. Expect regular posting to resume shortly.

    • While rereading the Conan issue, I found the Stan's Soapbox column to be kind of entertaining. In it, he's crowing about how James Cameron has just signed on to do the new Spider-Man movie, as well as spearhead the X-Men cartoon franchise. I know that Stan tended to get carried away on his soapbox, but he even teases that when Cameron finishes all of that, he's going to do the live action X-Men film as well. Ahhhh, we were such naive film-loving, comic book fans in the early 90's.

    • During my aforementioned reading marathon, I read the first six issues of The Unwritten, and damn if that wasn't the best kickoff to a series that I've read in a long time. Carey, Gross, and Vertigo have another solid title on their hands. Let's just hope it keeps an audience.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Up next...Conan The Barbarian!

    It's new comic book day and I had initially intended to thumb through my new acquisitions with a little light-hearted banter for your entertainment, but there was some interesting comic book news that I wanted to sound off on instead.

    DC finally got around to announcing what the deal was with the one month skip of the Blackest Night story in January. Don't get me wrong, I can deal with a missed month here and there, especially if it means that we get a full eight issues with Ivan Reis on art. But I do think that it's kind of smart thinking for the publishers to be anticipating these delays and working them into the story. DC really outdid themselves with this one, as it fits perfectly into the overarching story and themes of Blackest Night.

    For those of you who haven't heard yet (or come here first for their comic news...and in that case, you really need to get out on the internet more), DC is bringing back 8 cancelled titles for one more issue in January. The books will pick up with the original numbering and will be set in current continuity. The full list of titles can be found here, but I thought it might be fun to think of some other titles that they could've brought back.

    • Hitman #61: Who do I need to kill to make this one happen?
    • Aztek The Ultimate Man #11: Grant Morrison's still on staff, seems like it should've been a no-brainer.
    • Challengers of the Unknown #88: For character's who have cheated death and are living on borrowed time, this seems like a natural fit.
    • Chase #10: Or would that be #1,000,001?
    • Green Arrow #76: If only to come back and rip the heart out of Green Arrow and Black Canary. Someone has gotta put that title out of it's misery. Speaking of mercy killings, maybe we can have the last Geoff Johns' penned title of Teen Titans come back as well!
    • All Star Batman & Robin #11: This title's dead, right?
    I'm sure there are a million others, so let me know what titles you'd like to see come back for one more month. Meanwhile, lets get the Randomizer up and running to give us the next book to review.

    ...and that book is Conan The Barbarian #256 from May 1992, published by Marvel Comics!

    So the last pick put to rest the Marvel/DC dominance, and this issue puts the twelve issue run of superhero books out of it's misery.

    The sword and sorcery genre is always one that I've had some affinity for. If you need proof, I can show you my original set of dice that I received with my Basic D & D boxed set that I bought when I was in seventh grade. These were the old school dice, where you had to color in the grooves that made up the numbers with a crayon.

    Conan has had a bit of resurgence in the comic book world lately, with the Dark Horse relaunch, so it should be interesting to see how the old Marvel stuff holds up. It's written by Roy Thomas, who has a bit of history with the character, so chances are it's going to be good. See you in a day or two for the review.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Ghost #1

    TITLE: Ghost #1

    PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics

    COVER DATE: April 1995

    COVER PRICE: $2.50

    22 pages


    I talked briefly the other day about the Dark Horse's plunge into superhero comics with their Comics' Greatest World line, but there were only two titles that I ended up collecting out of that imprint.

    The first one was X, but I didn't last more than a year with that one. I just looked at my database to double check and noticed that the first issues were drawn by Doug Mahnke! He's been a favorite of mine since he and Mark Schultz had one of my favorite modern Superman runs with their work on Superman: Man of Steel. I had absolutely no idea that I had some work by him from before then. I know that he had done other work for Dark Horse with The Mask, but this is a good find that I may have to go and dig out of the longboxes.

    The other title that I collected from this imprint was Ghost. This one I remember enjoying quite a bit, although if that was because of just the art alone...that I can't remember. The art initially was done by Adam Hughes, and you know that any book drawn by him featuring a female lead antagonist is going to look good, at the very least. It's been a long time since I've read some of his earlier stuff, so I'm curious to see how it holds up.

    While I had my database open, I checked out my listings for Ghost and found out that Ivan Reis pencilled some issues of this series too! I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but Ivan Reis has been another one of my favorite artists since his work on another Superman book from a few years ago, Action Comics. I can't say it was one of my favorite Superman runs (sorry Chuck Austen), but it sure looked pretty. Damn, I almost wish The Randomizer had picked one of his issues instead.

    Arcadia Nocturne 1
    • Writer: Eric Luke
    • Penciller: Adam Hughes
    • Inker: Mark Farmer
    • Letterer: Steve Haynie
    • Color Separators: Digital Chameleon
    • Book Designer: Teena Gores
    • Associate Editor: M. Hord
    • Editor: Michael Eury
    The book begins with a gorgeous opening shot of a beautiful dame in a classic car. I said "dame" because the mood of the page instantly makes me feel like I'm watching a classic film noir movie from the 40's or 50's. The art deco framing and fonts adds to the atmosphere and really pulls you in.

    Yup, Adam Hughes has always been that good.

    In fact, that's something else that I remember liking about this book that I didn't realize until I saw this page again, and that was the feel of the city that it takes place in. Arcadia was a city that seemed ripped out of a Raymond Chandler book, but with all of the rough edges smoothed over. It was still dirty and gritty, but by giving it a slight art deco feel, it really made it seem like anything could happen.

    The lady in the car is none other than Elisa Cameron, a.k.a. Ghost. In trying to track down her sister, she has come upon a real slimeball of a predator who was also looking for her.

    It seems her sister has spiraled into the world of prostitution and pornography and this guy is her first decent lead in trying to track her down. It turns out that this guy is too creepy to be of much use, so she uses the old "jam the stick shift while turning intangible" trick, crashing the car and killing him in the process.

    After a depressing visit with her parents, who are both in rehab, Ghost tries to cheer herself up by visiting the local cemetery. She eavesdrops in on the conversation of a fellow visitor and gets the idea that she's going to have to go to the last place she saw her sister, and that's the rubble of her former apartment building. Apparently we missed quite the tale in the previous Ghost special.

    It's a lead that pays off, as she finds some rather compromising pictures that her sister did for a rather shady modeling agency, tucked into the back of a burned out filing cabinet.

    Adam Hughes does a really good job with the full splash page of the discovery, but in trying to keep this blog beneath an R rating, I'm going to refrain from showing 90% of it. As a consolation prize, whatever the panel I am reprinting lacks in raciness, it more than makes up for with quite an emotional punch.

    After a brief visit with Mr. Curlie, she finds the location of the movie set where her sister is shooting her first starring role.

    I guess the politest way of describing it, is that it's an "underground art film of normal/paranormal grappling." I guess you gotta start somewhere, eh?

    So I wonder what the storytellers are trying to say by casting Steven Spielberg as a small-time, pornographic movie director?

    Ghost has seen enough, and after her sister emerges from a back room in a slinky little black number, she begins to shut down the production. This being a book about a vengeful ghost with a pair of automatics, she manages to do it in style.

    The paranormal "talent" give her a few good wallops, but she soon has them down for the count only to find that the director now has a gun pointed at her sister's head. Ghost, however, has one more trick up her sleeve.

    She also has the power to access another dimension, giving her the ability to reappear in the real world in a different spot in the blink of an eye.

    The fact that the dimension that she has to traverse through is populated by faceless, black shadowy demons just makes the journey that much more harrowing. Summoning every last ounce of her determination, she makes the journey and re-emerges into the real world directly in front of the director and his hostage.

    Before he can react she touches his hand, turning it intangible and causing his gun to drop to the floor. With her sister now saved, she ties up the director and leaves him at the mercy of the demons that emerge from that same dimension as she makes her exit.


    So far, in the last four and a half months, we've read and reviewed 33 different books. This one, without a doubt, has been the most beautifully rendered. Adam Hughes is a true master of his craft. The fact that his work looks as good 15 years ago as it does today, just makes me more depressed that we don't see any interior work from him anymore. Yeah, we got All Star Wonder Woman supposedly coming sometime this decade, but 2009 is almost over and there hasn't been even a hint of a solicitation.

    This book is so gorgeously pencilled that I had to restrain myself from posting more panels than I did. I probably should have just reprinted the whole thing in lieu of my (relatively snark-free) review. It probably would've been more entertaining for you, but definitely more unethical for me.

    Adam Hughes is one of those artists that you take whatever output he manages to give you. If you've never seen any of his work on Ghost, it's definitely worth doing some back-issue hunting for.

    The story by Eric Luke is entertaining enough, but it does have the misfortune of trying to grab whatever attention is left over from Adam Hughes. This particular story reminds me a little of The Big Sleep, with Ghost playing the role of both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

    I think we can chalk this one up in the win column, and here's hoping we haven't seen the last of Ghost on this blog. As always, that will be for the almighty Randomizer to decide...

    All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Dark Horse Comics

    Related links for your surfing pleasure...

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Up next...Ghost!

    Did you ever have one of those days where you wake up and realize you're months behind on your comic book reading? I vividly remember a time when I would have to make a conscious effort to not read everything on Wednesday night, that way I had some things to read over the weekend.

    As I'm typing this post, I'm looking at a relatively daunting bookshelf filled with both single issues, hardcovers, and trade paperbacks that I can feel taunting me with a sense of dread that would make the tell-tale heart proud.

    Full runs of issues are screaming at me to be read, like the last twenty issues of Proof, Joe Kelly's I Kill Giants, Mice Templar, the Reign in Hell mini-series that I picked up off of eBay two months ago, the latest Agents of Atlas series, the Dark Horse run of Rex Mundi...

    Those are only the ones that I know that are up there from memory. I'm almost scared to thumb through 'em for fear that I'll find something even older lying untouched.

    The hardcovers I have a better track record of keeping up with, but there are still a lot to contend with. Y: The Last Man, Swamp Thing, Gotham Central, the last two collections of Queen And Country...

    So what did I decide to do yesterday? It probably shouldn't have been go to the bookstore to get a new hardcover, but that's what I did anyway. It's hard to say no to a 40% coupon at Borders, and Starman Omnibus Vol. 1 was the lucky winner.

    Needless to say, let' get the next pick underway so we can get back to reading.

    ...and the next random book up for review is Ghost #1 from April 1995, published by Dark Horse Comics!

    The long dominance of Marvel and DC comics has come to an end after 12 straight issues, and the kingslayer is probably Dark Horse's most well known super-hero book. If you are a comic book fan, Ghost is probably the most well known, but if you're a movie fan it's probably Barb Wire.

    I know what you're saying...Dark Horse and Superheroes? Someone has their chocolate in my peanut butter!

    Dark Horse may be known for their licensed books and the Hellboy franchise, but there was a time in the mid-90's when they gave the old super hero genre a shot. I remember a modest amount of excitement and enthusiasm at the beginning, but that it petered out in relatively short order.

    We get lucky with this issue of Ghost, as the art is by Adam Hughes. If I remember correctly, this title did have consistently good pencillers, even though they did have a higher turnover rate than Spinal Tap drummers.

    R.I.P..."Stumpy" Pepys, Stumpy Joe, Pete "the James" Bond, Mick Shrimpton, Joe "Mama" Besser, Ric Shrimpton, Scott "Skippy" Scuffleton, Chris "Poppa" Cadeau, et are all remembered.

    See you in a day or two for the review.