Sunday, January 31, 2010

Odds and sods and Ennis, oh my!

While I'm getting back into the swing of things, let's take a quick tour through some comic miscellany from the last week.

  • As much as people bitch about gratuitous guest stars and useless Wolverine appearances to boost sales (although I guess Deadpool is the new century's Wolverine), I think I'm now a convert.

    I have a Wolverine review and traffic on my sight jumps 33%. Now if only the Randomizer would pick one of the kick-ass Joe Kelly/Ed McGuinness issues of Deadpool, I'd be all set. I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be this issue.

  • The Mass Effect 2 ads are really stunning and quite well done, but I'm ready to read a comic book without having to be startled every other time I turn the page.

  • Could the Beast be back in the Avengers?

    This better not be Marvel fucking with me...or I'm coming up swinging!

    It's about damn time we get the Beast back where he belongs.

  • Only one more post to go and I can get that creepy looking cover by John Bolton off of the main page of this blog.
So that's about all, as far as miscellaneous comic book thoughts go. We still have some business at hand, however, and that's picking the next completely random book to review. Take it away Randomizer...

...and that book is Hitman/Lobo: That Stupid Bastich! #1 from September 2000, published by DC Comics!

Aw, hell yeah! It's time for some more Hitman goodness. I could live without reading another Lobo story, but I'll definitely make an exception if Garth Ennis and Hitman are involved!

Throw in Doug Mahnke on pencils, and this is beginning to sound like a "wouldn't it be cool if these guys worked on this book" premise. But no, this is a real book that really happened.

To say that I'm looking forward to it is a bit of an understatement, so stay tuned over the next day or two for the review.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Firestar vs. Mystique!

So it's been a couple of days since I should have finished up the last story in the Marvel Comics Presents #84 comic that we started reviewing last week.

It's only a Firestar eight-pager, so I probably could've skipped it without too much fuss. But every character is somebody's favorite, and I'd hate to disappoint all of my Firestar fans out there. Besides, it features the Blob and Mystique, and who can say no to some classic X-Villains?

At the time I bought this, I was only picking it up for the BWS Weapon X storyline, so I'm sure I never bothered with this Firestar story originally. I could be mistaken, but then I don't remember a darn thing if I did. With that said, let's just get reading...

Life During Wartime Chapter Three Triangle
  • Writers: Marcus McLaurin & Marie Javins
  • Penciller: Dwayne Turner
  • Inker: Jose Marzan
  • Letterer: Rick Parker
  • Colorist: Marcus McLaurin
  • Assistant Editor: Mark Powers
  • Editor: Terry Kavanagh
  • Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
This issue is chapter three of a larger storyline, but McLaurin and Javins give us a nice recap to bring us to speed. Angelica Jones (a.k.a. Firestar) is involved with a mysterious group called the Arms of Salvation. While her father lies in intensive care after being injured by Freedom Force, they are offering a donor lung for him as long as Firestar does something for them...capturing Mystique, the leader of Freedom Force!

To test her willingness to help them, they have prepared a simulation with soldiers who mimic the powers of the various members of Freedom Force. As she uses her powers to take down the armored members of the Arms of Salvation, the two masterminds behind the operation talk as the melee rages on. Through their conversation, we see that they are just using Firestar and her naivete for their own nefarious purposes.

Emerging victorious, but conflicted, Firestar agrees to track down Mystique if they help her save her father.

Back at the hospital where Angelica's father lies injured, Mystique and Freedom Force have arrived to stake the place out and await Firestar's eventual return. While Freedom Force gets set for an ambush, Mystique shape changes into the form of Angelica and enters her fathers hospital room.

She's not there long, however, when the real Firestar shows up. Still unsure about working with these mercenaries, she decides to spend some time with her father. What she finds is the image of herself already there!

Knowing it can only be Mystique, she bursts through the hospital window and throws Mystique to the ground outside.

Little does Firestar realize that she has walked right into a trap, for waiting for her to show up are the Blob and Pyro. Together with Mystique, that have Firestar right where they want her.


Honestly, there's not enough here to really learn much of anything. Firestar has always seemed to be the innocent mutant caught up in events and situations out of her control and that she is unprepared for. This story is really no different. Substitute the Arms of Salvation for the White Queen, and you're good to go.

She's also always had a very close tie to her family, and with her father the focal point of this story, that much is still true.

One thing I did like about this story was Mystique. I always thought she was at her best working for the government with Freedom Force. It was kinda like Marvel's version of The Suicide Squad, and I thought she was the perfect leader. She would later move over to X-Factor and do a similar thing, but having her work for the government allowed her to be played more cynically and ruthless than as an aspiring "hero".

Still, it's not a horrible little eight-pager. It's competently written, and reasonably drawn. I never got bored over the course of this chapter, and that's actually quite a compliment when dealing with anthology titles like this one.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

Monday, January 25, 2010

...and the winner is?

It's time to check in real quick and find out the answer to the 2nd edition of everyone's favorite internet gameshow What Did I See While I Was Out Driving Around Last Week?

Click over here for the original post, but here were our choices.
  • Spider-Man swinging on a web waving the American flag
  • Captain America standing tall amidst the rubble of 9-11
  • Superman standing tall with a bald eagle perched on his arm
Well the masses spoke and I had a massive 300% increase in the number of players, so congratulations to everyone who voted as you're all winners in my book.

Alas, the rules and bylaws of the Random Longbox Prize Commission clearly state that there can be only one winner. So what was the correct answer? Let's find out...

That's right, it's Spidey representing the old red, white and blue!

As if that wasn't enough fun, now it's time to announce the winner. We actually had two correct guesses, so way to go two-thirds of our respondents!

Unfortunately, no one was secure enough in their response to leave a forwarding address, so the grand prize of Incredible Hulk #340 goes back in the prize hopper for next time.

Normally at this time, we'd be picking a new random book to review, but there was actually one more story in Marvel Comics Presents #84 that we have to get to first. It's a quick little tale featuring Firestar, Freedom Force, and Mystique. Hopefully I'll be able to take care of that later on today, so stay tuned.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Marvel Comics Presents #84

TITLE: Marvel Comics Presents #84


COVER DATE: September 1991


32 pages


More than anything, I remember the anticipation around the twelve part Weapon X serial more than the actual story itself. Up until this point, there was virtually nothing revealed about the history of Wolverine. For better or worse, the fleshing out of Logan's back story started here. So yeah, this storyline was highly anticipated.

The next clearest memory I have of this title is that it wasn't what anybody was expecting. It was a challenging read that didn't always move in a linearly, cohesive direction. I guess you could say this was decompression before decompression was cool.

It also looked spectacular, and Barry Windsor-Smith deserves a lot of credit for giving the whole storyline a dreamlike (or nightmarish) quality that I can still perfectly re-imagine even 17 years later. Even now, thumbing through the issue, I'm half-tempted to pull the first eleven parts and read the whole story in one sitting. Maybe one of these days, but right now we have a review to get to.

The title page gives us a one sentence review of the previous eleven parts, so let's get brought up to speed.

Logan has destroyed most of Project X, including the Professor...or has he?

So without further ado, let's dive right in to last chapter of...

Weapon X: Chapter Twelve
  • Story/Art: Barry Windsor-Smith
  • Letterer: Jim Novak and Barry Windsor-Smith
  • Assistant Editor: Mark Powers
  • Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
  • Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Like the recap said, Logan is standing amidst the rubble of Project X, holding the bloodied corpse of the professor, who was the leader of the project.

We soon find out, however, that this is anything but real as Logan drops the professor's body and it falls into a ring of fire, and then darkness. Out of the darkness we see Logan as he begins to regain his consciousness.

Is this real?

Who knows at this point, as Logan is being bombarded by random voices from the past as he tries to gain his bearings.

He soon realizes that he needs to get out this facility, as it's probably military...or worse.

Making his way through the maze of hallways, he comes upon a lab that has been smashed up. A familiar looking body lies sprawled out across a control panel.

Memories start to return to Logan. Memories of this man and of this place...and of death.

As the stench of dying assaults his senses, he wonders who could of done all of this killing. He looks at his hands, covered in blood, and questions if it was him who knifed that body.

As he looks at his blood covered hands, the voices come faster and more intense. Now they are asking and pleading to be killed quickly. As the voices get louder, Logan's claws begin to extend from the backs of his hands.

As his claws fully extend, Logan wonders if he is dead? Or just a walking dead man? The voice of the professor haunts his consciousness, continually calling him an animal. The image of the professor, and his continued taunting, are too much for Logan in his weakened and confused state to bear.

Now in a berserker rage, he begins to run, but it is soon apparent that he is lost in another dream. The faster he runs, the harder he is chased by...something. Whether it's the animal inside him that he is running from, or the memory of the the process of the adamantium bonding to his skeleton is never made quite clear.

We now cut to reality, as the professor and another scientist, named Hines, are watching the progress of Logan via remote cameras. All of this has been another experiment on Logan, and it's not over yet. Niles seems to think that Logan is accepting the procedure and regaining control. The professor is not so sure.

The cameras catch up with Logan as he slices through the outer fences of the Project X compound. There, another test awaits him as the scientists have places a Siberian tiger in his path.

A true battle of beasts ensues, with the professor and Hines watching closely to see how he reacts. It wasn't so long ago, they ponder, that Logan beheaded a bear in mere moments with barely a thought. Will he be that savage again? Or has the project changed him even further?

They don't have to wait long for their answer, as Logan soon gets the upper hand and disembowels the tiger. He shows a greater capacity for thought and tactics, but his ferocity is still unparalleled.

All of this pleases Hines to no end, as he considers Logan a wonderful success. The professor is still hesitant, as in previous tests Logan had shown the capacity for mercy. It is for that reason that the professor is unsure. Logan may have more control over his inner beast, but they still don't have Logan under their complete control.

While Niles and the professor debate the finer points of the state of Logan's psyche, the wranglers are dispatched to bring Logan back inside the project for more tests. It's all too late, as Logan makes short work of the wranglers and heads back into the compound.

There, the scientists are in a scramble as alarms start to go off. They desperately try to find Wolverine on the closed circuit cameras, but Logan is too fast. They try to shut him down remotely through an implanted transponder, but it's not responding. Voices come in over the radio declaring a breach in D-Block.

Where is D-Block, you're wondering?

I'm guessing the scientists are in for a world of hurt.

The story draws to a close as Wolverine bursts through the steel door as other project members try to raise Niles and the professor on the radio. It's no use, as they don't reply and the radio shorts out.

That's the official end of the story, but we are treated to an epilogue as Logan makes his way through the snowy drifts of Canada, no doubt on his date with destiny in Incredible Hulk #181.

Over the next six pages, a conversation between Niles and his assistant is replayed. They both found themselves questioning the morality of the project, and the sanity of the professor in particular.

Niles seems to brush off and hide his concern behind scientific inquiry. His assistant doesn't have that luxury, and feels sorry for Logan. Niles tells her to cheer up, as it'll all be over soon.


Damn if the visuals of this story still look as magnificent and eerily powerful as they did originally. Barry Windsor-Smith is a storyteller that has stood the test of time, and this book is a prime example of his talent. As the journey of Logan progresses from dream, to berserker rage, and finally to reality, BWS has us completely captivated by the artwork.

The one surprise I found with this issue, was that it was no where near as impenetrable as I remembered it being. There were a few places where I had to go back and reread some pages to figure out exactly what was going on, and a second read proved essential to my final understanding. Overall though, it was quite entertaining. Maybe all of those Brian Michael Bendis books with 8000 word balloons per page have trained me to become a better comic book reader.

Remembering back to when I read this originally, I think I was somewhat disappointed at the lack of more specifics about Logan's past. This was essentially a snapshot of the Weapon X project, and even then it was more a morality story about the nature of man vs. beast that worked on several different levels than it ever was a story about answers and specifics about Logan.

As more and more questions have been answered about Wolverine's origin over the last decade, I'm beginning to think that maybe that played it exactly right with this story. Sometimes, less is more.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
  • Barry Windsor-Smith's official website
  • ...and here's the section focusing on Weapon X
  • Click here for the Firestar eight-pager that closes out this issue

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Up next...Marvel Comics Presents!

So all of the recent travelling that I did for work did have one benefit for you, readers of Random Longbox.

No, it's not an all expense paid trip to Comic-Con 2010.

What is it you ask?

Why, it's another installment of What did I see on the road the other day?

That's right, we had so much fun playing this game last time that I just had to bring it back for another go, right?

I'll take your silence as consent, so let's get down to it. And to make it easier to guess, I've turned the question into a vote away. You can always leave a comment with your guess as well, if you want to be contacted by the prize department here at Random Longbox headquarters in the case that you guessed correctly.

What did I see airbrushed on the side of a semi-truck last week?

UPDATE: Click over here for the correct answer.

Now that we've started the game show festivities, let's see what the next completely random book to review is. Take it away Randomizer...

...and that book is Marvel Comics Presents #84 from September 1991, published by Marvel Comics!

So it would appear that the 6 week long embargo on Marvel titles has come to an end. I can only assume that my threat to stop reading Marvel Comics until they cancelled the current direction of the Avengers titles has paid off. Your welcome.

The casual readers among you are probably rolling their eys, as we get yet another anthology title.

As for you Marvel-philes out there, you know this as the last issue of the Barry Windsor-Smith Weapon X origin storyline.

The casual readers among you are now probably thinking that this is the first time we've really come across Wolverine here at the Random Longbox, so why not have an origin-ish issue.

As for you Marvel-philes out there, you know that this story is challenging at best to understand.

I would imagine that most of this stuff presented here is still canon, but I'm so far out of the current Marvel continuity loop that I really have no clue. I do know that this story confused the hell out of an impatient, eighteen year old younger version of myself.

It sure did look pretty, though. Come back in a day or two for the review, and we'll see if I got any smarter in the intervening years or if the story just got hopelessly more convoluted.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Asylum #2

So I'm back. It's amazing how much a week away from your family, immersed in the company of "work" people, can throw off your mojo. Now that it's back, let's not waste anymore time looking backwards.

In fact, I'm so focused on getting the review for Asylum #2 done that I haven't cracked open a single new comic yet. And on a week with a new James Robinson penned Starman issue, that's no mean feat.

That's how much I love you guys! On with the show...

TITLE: Asylum #2

PUBLISHER: Millennium



27 pages


This is the one and only issue of this title that I have. I know next to nothing about it, other than it appears to be some sort of horror anthology. The reason it ended up in my collection is because it features a short story by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham.

I think it's safe to say that I have every comic written by Neil Gaiman (that I know about) in my collection. To say that his Sandman opened my eyes to the strength of the comic book as a literary medium is an understatement, but that is more likely the topic for another day (say, when the Randomizer finally gets around to picking an issue of Sandman).

In an effort to keep this short (remember, I got an unread James Robinson Starman waiting for me), let's just get right to it.

Feeders & Eaters
  • Writer: Neil Gaiman
  • Artist: Mark Buckingham
  • Letterer: Vickie Williams
So there's two things that hit me right away with this story. The first is that Mark Buckingham is using a combination of watercolor painting and pencils that I don't ever recall seeing him use before. It's an interesting mix, and definitely adds to the creepy feel.

The second is that the main character is obviously drawn in the likeness of Neil himself. He's not the handsomest of fellows, so it definitely adds to the creepy feel.

I'm kidding, of course, as Neil and me go way back. I'm sure he remembers me from signing every one of my Sandman hardcovers over the years.

The story opens up with Neil in a strange city late at night. Having missed the last train out of town, he wanders into the first open business he finds, which happens to be a greasy spoon. Inside, he finds that one of the customers there knows him. Startled, Neil turns to see that it's an old acquaintance who has definitely seen better days.

The old friend, Eddie, then begins to tell his tale of exactly what happened to him. He came to this city a couple of years ago and was renting a room in a big house with one other boarder, Miss Corvier. She was an odd old lady, but nice enough, as she used to leave him presents of vegetables and plants outside his door from time to time.

It wasn't until after he hadn't seen her, or any of her little gifts, for a while that he began to become concerned about her well being. He enters her room and finds her curled up in bed, weak and fatigued. She's hungry, and makes a request for food. It has to be meat, however, and raw meat at that. It seemed odd, but she has always done right by him in the past so off he went to the butcher.

Everything was fine for a while then, until the house cat went missing. Eddie was never a big fan of cats, so he really didn't care until he heard the cat late one night. It sounded distressed, like it was stuck in the rafters or on the rooftop, so off he then went to rescue the cat.

On the way up, he soon finds that the sound is actually coming from the old ladies room. Finding the door ajar, he nudges it open to see the cat lying on the floor, half digested but still alive.

Startled, Eddie does the decent thing and puts the cat out of it's misery. His misery, however, is just starting as the old lady comes up behind him and starts to chastise him for killing her fresh meat. She's an old lady after all, and never wanted to be a burden on anybody, but how is she supposed to eat now?

Eddie's story is interrupted by a tapping on the diner window from outside. Eddie turns and excuses himself and says that he has to go now. Through the window, Neil can see him meet up with the old lady who was tapping on the window. As they turn to walk away, Neil gets a glimpse of Eddie's hand as it falls to his side. It's not much of a hand at all, with all of the skin and muscle eaten away, leaving only a bloody skeleton of a hand.

I guess we've found out how the old lady is getting her fix of raw meat now.

As the odd couple continue to walk away into the distance, Neil looks down and sees bits of flesh or dried blood on the tabletop where they were sitting. What happens next confuses me to no end, as Neil picks up one of the fleshy bits and eats it, then leaves the diner to finish his journey home.


Never invite Neil Gaiman to your house for dinner, as you never know what he's going to eat. I mean, seriously...dried fleshy bits? I was enjoying the story up until the last three panels, now I don't really know what to think, or even what the story was really about.

It started out as a standard Creepshow or Twilight Show type story, but took a turn to the surreal at the very end.

If you're a fan of Neil Gaiman it's still worth checking out. It's written in his unmistakable narrative style that does a wonderful job of taking the mundane and infusing it with bizarre elements of fantasy and other worldliness. The artwork from Mark Buckingham is also very good, and it's a real departure from the stuff I'm used to seeing from him.

There were also a couple of other stories in this book, including the Edgar Allen Poe poem that we looked at here. I'll touch upon each of them individually, but in the interest of time I'll make this real short.

Mass Grave is a story by Eric Dinehart and Justin Norman about a soldier in El Salvador whose conscience starts to get the better of him after taking place in one to many executions of rebel soldiers. He confides in a childhood friend, who happens to be a nun, in the hopes that she can help him relieve himself of the guilt. Later that night he's called upon for one more execution, this one to set an example for someone. That person is the nun who he talked to earlier. By confiding in her, he has damned her and himself. Now caught in a fever dream, the young soldier sees the bodies of his victims all around him. One reaches out to touch his forehead, and as their flesh touch we see the scene for what it really is. The gun of his superior officer is at his temple. He pronounces him a "traitor" and shoots him point blank. The soldier finally got his absolution, but paid the ultimate price.

The Knife of Jack The Ripper is the next tale. Marv Channing and Vincente Alcazar bring us a tale of the actual knife that Jack the Ripper used in his crimes. In modern day Scotland, a journalist has become fascinated with the legend. In his research he has fallen in love with the the great-granddaughter of the only woman to have escaped from Jack the Ripper alive. The journalist finds himself drawn to the knife, and eventually steals it. Possessed by the spirit of the Ripper, he orchestrates a masquerade ball with a Jack the Ripper theme so that he can complete the task that the Ripper left unfinished. Driven mad by what he has done, he turns himself in to Scotland Yard.

Finally, there's a nice little three page story about the dangers of QVC. Faye Perozich and Schaal tell a morality tale of greed and materialism in a story called The Shopping Club. Here, the devil is cast a smooth talking, shopping channel host. He talks directly to the heart of an old woman sitting alone in her apartment. Through the t.v. he offers her trinket after trinket. The woman has no money however, so the devil takes her memories from her in exchange. One by one they disappear along with her free will and her dignity. The devil wins again.


None of the other stories, save for maybe the last one, were of quite the same caliber as the Gaiman and Buckingham tale. Anthology titles live and breath on the strength of the whole package. I have no idea how long this title lasted for, but my guess is that it was short-lived.

I'd be curious to hear from anyone out there who remembers this title. Looking at tells me that there was only three issues of this series in total, which included some early work by Steven T. Seagle, John Bolton, and Pia Guerra, among others.

That's one thing these old anthology titles are always good for, and that's getting a peek at some early work from creators trying to break into the comic book business.

Friday, January 15, 2010

P.(oe) Craig Russell

I'm still trapped at a sales conference in The Forest City, so how about a quick post until I can get back to some regular blogging over the weekend?

Tucked into the pages of Asylum #2 is a nice little one page illustration by P. Craig Russell. It's inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe poem "Eldorado," so let's take a look at them both for this month's version of Four Color Literary Corner.


Gaily bedigt,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old --
This knight so bold --
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow --
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be --
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the mountains
Of the moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied, --
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

We now return you to your regularly scheduled word balloons.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Up next...Asylum!

I better check in this week while my schedule allows, or it's going to be really lonely here at the Random Longbox corporate headquarters. My secret identity has taken me out of the state for the week, so my blogging has been limited.

On the plus side, I'm smack dab in the middle of Raging Bullets territory, but so far Sean and Jim have managed to elude me. Although, with their four plus hour long podcasts, I imagine they don't see the light of day too much.

It's Wednesday, so let's check in for another episode of Comic Book Days of Wednesday's Past! The Randomizer is fired up and ready to go, and our first stop is 1959! So what were the kids reading fifty-one years ago this month?

It was Journey Into Mystery #51!

Although the only mystery I see here is why a robot on a rampage needs smaller robots to bring the humans to him. I think that has to take the cake as the laziest rampage on record.

Let's fire up the Randomizer to another year and get out of here before he comes after us. Our next stop is 1982. It's twenty-three years later, so let's see if that lazy rampaging robot has caught up to anyone yet.

Yikes! It's not robots rampaging across the cover of Green Lantern #150, it was...purple lanterns? shooting black death rays?

Hmmmm....Hal Jordan leading a group of different colored where have I heard of that before?

I'm sure I'll think of it sooner or later. In the meantime it's time to figure out what the next random review will be, so take it away Randomizer...

...and that book is Asylum #2 from 1993, published by Millenium Publications!

Aside from the suitably creepy cover by John Bolton, this book stands out in my memory as having a story by Neil Gaiman! I don't remember anything about the actual story at this point, but I do vividly remember buying this off the shelf after spying Gaiman's name on the cover.

More than any other creator, I owe my continued interest in comic books to Neil, as his Sandman run reinvigorated my love for comic books after briefly falling out of the loop.

I'm looking forward to this one, so join me in a day or two for the review!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Night Man #4

TITLE: The Night Man #4


COVER DATE: January 1994


27 pages


I already mentioned on the previous post about how what I remembered most about this issue was the production values of Malibu comics. I sampled quite a few of their titles as they always looked good, but I never ended up sticking around for more than a few issues. The Night Man definitely falls into that pattern as I have a handful of issues from both volume one and volume two, but never more than a two or three in a row.

It's surprising, as they had quite a stable of artists on their titles. The Night Man alone, featured Darrick Robertson, Gene Ha, and Kyle Hotz at one time or another. Norm Breyfogle had a nice run on Prime, and some of their other titles boasted Terry Dodson, Howard Chaykin, George Perez, Aaron Lopresti, and Barry Windsor-Smith. Of course, if all it took was artistic talent to keep a comic line in production, we'd still be enjoying CrossGen books today.

I have no recollection of what the Night Man's powers were, or if he even had any for that matter. At first glance, he looks to be the Batman analogue for the Ultraverse, but that is just going solely by the cover image. And you know what they say about judging a book by it's cover, eh?

Let's say we stop farting around and dive right in to find out.

Who Is The Night Man?
  • Writer: Steve Englehart
  • Penciler: Kyle Hotz
  • Inker: Thomas Florimonte, Jr.
  • Letterer: Dave Lanphear
  • Color Design: Tim Divar
  • Editor: Roland Mann
  • Interior Colorists: Foodhammer!
The cover boasts a banner that says "Jump On Now!", and true to form to help bring everyone up to speed, the first page features a reproduction of the local newspaper. The headline reads "Who Is The Night Man?", and to help answer that question there are several articles that recap the series to date. If you're going to do an info dump on the reader, this is a nice way to do it.

I read all of the fine print, so you don't have to, and what did I learn? I still don't know if he has any powers, but he does carry a gun and isn't afraid to use it. He also runs a pirate radio broadcast station. Pump Up The Volume meets the Punisher?

Apparently, the newspaper couldn't have come out fast enough, as the whole town is abuzz about who this new Ultra is. Chief among them is Johnny Domino, an aspiring jazz saxophonist, and the Night Man himself. As he drives around town, he recounts the recent events that led him here. A piece of shrapnel to the brain has granted him powers, which allow him to sense evil.

He's still brooding when he's approached by a beautiful woman named Rita Diamond. She's been hoping to catch up with Johnny, as her fiance is having a homeless benefit and she wants him to play his music at the ballroom. Looking to get out of his funk, he agrees in hopes that some jazz will lift his spirits.

After his set, Rita introduces him to her fiance. Johnny takes a disliking to him, but when he tries to "hear" evil in him he comes up empty. The whole party is filled with choice characters apparently, as another person comes up to Johnny who he also dislikes. Their conversation is cut short however, as the lights go out in the ballroom, leaving everything in total darkness.

Another side effect of the shrapnel to the brain is that the Night Man can also see in darkness. It's not too long before he sees a mysterious form emerging from a hidden door in the wall. He rushes through the crowd, but there are too many people in the way to reach the hooded figure before he vanishes through a trap door in the floor.

Still under the cover of darkness, Johnny rushes out to his car to grab his Night Man outfit that he has cleverly stashed in a secret panel between the trunk and the backseat. That sounds all well and good, but you can only get to the panel from the underside of the wheel well on the outside of the car. Not the most conspicuous of hiding spots.

Now donned in his full Night Man costume, he returns to the ballroom and opens the trap door with the help of his glove tasers. The trap door leads to an underground tunnel that would put Indiana Jones to the test.

Spiked pits! Converging walls! Giant boulders!

None of the death traps stop our hero, they merely slow him down on his way to the secret laboratory of the hooded figure. Bursting in, he finds the mysterious hooded woman has taken two women captive from the party and has them strapped onto a crude operating table.

Don't look know, but I feel another premature villain ramble/manifesto coming on. It turns out this particular villain has stayed alive for forty-seven hundred years by using the adrenaline from it's victim in an elixir of life.

All of this is revealed to the Night Man, of course, as he is not expected to be leaving this room alive.

A tussle naturally ensues and it's a brutal back and forth as the two leave the laboratory in a shambles as they both try to gain the upper hand. In a final desperate move, the Night Man manages to unmask the villain to reveal it is none other than Rita Diamond!

Her real name is Rhiannon, a priestess born on the rocks of Stonehenge themselves. She manages to get the drop on Night Man as he is distracted by the revelation of just who he is fighting.

And wouldn't you know it, at just the same, the adrenaline draining needles attached to the operating table have just begun to pierce the skin of the comatose young ladies lying underneath. The Night Man leaves Rhiannon to save the young girls, which gives her the opportunity to escape through a hidden door in the wall. As the door is closing she vows that they will meet again!

Later that night, Johnny has returned to his home and is back on the air on his pirate radio broadcast. There he confronts the question that seems to be on everyone's mind...who is the Night Man?

He promises that soon enough, he is going to be forced to answer that question for himself.


I hate to say it, but this book wasn't very good. It pains me to say it, as Steve Englehart holds a special part in my comic book history as we've discovered here earlier.

This issue was billed as a jumping on point, but all we really know at the end of it is that nobody knows who the Night Man is...including the Night Man! We have the barest mentions of his origin, but no clear reason for his motivation. His powers are vaguely hinted at, but never expanded upon. The villain is your standard immortal trying to prolong her life at the expense of others. I imagine that there's some history or connection between her and Night Man, but it's not explained here and their meeting comes across as rather coincidental.

I suppose I've read worse comic books, but I've also definitely read better.

The art by Kyle Hotz was a mixed bag as well, as I generally like his style but it seems like an odd fit on a title meant to be taking place in the shadows of the night. That, coupled with the garish color palette, didn't quite give me the sense of mystery and creepiness that I think the script was aiming for.

So I guess all of that explains why my collection of this title was so spotty. This is also the second issue that we've raided from my ebay longbox. One of these days, when I get some free time, I'll be putting those books up for auction to make space on my shelves. After reading this issue, I don't think there's going to be any last minute reprieves from the governor to put this title back in my collection.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Malibu Comics

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

We interrupt this regularly scheduled review to bring you the origin of Firearm

I'm still working on the review for The Night Man #4, but while we wait let's take a look at the two page bonus material in the back of the issue that includes the origin of another Malibu character, Firearm!

Aside from Prime, Firearm is probably the character I remember most from the Malibu Ultraverse. The funny thing is, however, is that I don't own a single issue of his title.

This was the Malibu title penned by James Robinson, and while I had read and enjoyed The Golden Age earlier that year, it wasn't until his Starman run that I would become a real fan of his work. So it was only years later that I discovered that he had written this series, and by that time I was done with the Malibu line and never got around to getting any back issues.

So it may be 15 years too late,but let's get our crash course in Firearm history courtesy of James Robinson and Howard Chaykin.

Our narrator speaks to us from inside an old bookstore, immediately clarifying the differences between Swan (a.k.a. Firearm) and himself, as there's obviously some history between the two. Where he is educated and cultured, Swan was lacking. They are both English, but hail from different ends of the class spectrum.

Swan was a member of the British Forces, who worked in the S.B.S. like Van Gogh worked paint on a canvas.

That brought him to the attention of the Lodge, or the dirty tricks squad of the British military. It was there, fighting amongst the paranormals and ultrahumans that he earned the nickname Firearm. His many exploits were too much for a couple of ultrahuman double agents within the Lodge. Together, they set him up as a pawn in an operation that was supposed to leave him dead, but instead he was the only survivor.

He then resigns from the military and comes across the Atlantic to set himself up as a private detective in America. It's just his luck that all of the strange encounters that had dogged his career in the military have followed him over.

Our narrator then shows a hint of compassion, as he implores us to wish Swan luck, as he will surely need it.

Reading my mind, the narrator answers my question of just who he actually is. "Don't worry," he says, as we'll find out soon.

So there you have it, a short and sweet introduction to Firearm. I've actually heard quite a bit of good word of mouth on this title. The two page origin was entertaining enough, that if I ever found a collection for a reasonable price I'd more than likely pick it up.

James Robinson has long since earned a free pass so that I at least try everything he writes initially, so I don't see why that rule shouldn't work backwards in time as well. Besides, the title had some artwork from the likes of Cully Hamner and Gary Erskine which is just icing on the cake.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Up next...The Night Man!

With our first fifty reviews behind us, it's time to head full steam into 2010 and get right back into the completely random shenanigans that everyone out there has come to know and love. I may be piling it on a little thick, but the former is at least true because you're here. The latter? Give me time and I will make you love me like I know you should.

Before we pick the next book to review, let's do some quick one sentence reviews of what I read so far for this week.
  • Stumptown #4 Not quite as much of an edge-of-your-seat read as last issue, but I like the characters.

  • Weird Western Tales #71 The pleasant surprise of the week, as I loved that someone tried to dissect a captured black power ring.

  • Siege #1 The first "Avengers" book I've bought since New Avengers #1, and I'm still cautiously optimistic that I'll be able to read the Avengers again one day.

  • Superman: World of New Krypton #11 We finally get an issue that matches the quality of the first half of this series, although it's probably too little too late to save it.

  • JSA All Stars #2 How come everyone is so angry, and is it possible that you can look both emaciated and over-muscled at the same time?

  • Blackest Night Wonder Woman #2 Not sure how well this would read on it's own, but as a compliment to Blackest Night it sure is a lot of fun.

  • Sweet Tooth #5 You knew it had to happen, but that didn't make it an easier to read.
Now on to the task at hand, which is picking the next completely random book to review. Take it away Randomizer...

...and that book is The Night Man #4 from January 1994, published by Malibu Comics!

So the the dominance that DC has held over the random picks for the last couple of weeks has been put to rest. The dragon slayer being none other than Malibu Comics, the upstart company that made a few waves in the 90's before being bought out by Marvel.

Their superhero line didn't last very long, as it came on the tail end of the speculator bubble. Marvel, in turn, only bought them to acquire their digital coloring department and merge them into Marvel proper. Thumbing through the book it's easy to see why, as apart from some overly garish color palettes, the production value doesn't miss a beat from today's standards.

That's a pretty sad statement though, when I can remember more about how the book looked physically, than the actual contents of the book itself. See you in a day or two for the review and we'll find out just how well the actual story holds up.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Deathstroke #50

TITLE: Deathstroke #50


COVER DATE: August 1995


35 pages


I remember really liking Deathstroke: The Terminator quite a bit back in the day. Of course, it was the 90's and you couldn't throw a stick without hitting a gun-toting, vigilante type anti-hero, bridging the gray area of murky morality. Even so, this was one of the better ones. Or at least that's how I remember it. I've never gone back and reread any of those, so maybe I just have my exceptionally rosy-colored glasses on.

With that in mind, this was one of the titles that I've been waiting for to pop up on this site. But if we've learned nothing over the last seven months, it's that the Randomizer is a cruel mistress. I have the first three years of this title, featuring tales by Marv Wolfman and Steven Grant, with some rock-solid art by Steve Erwin.

So which Deathstroke book is the first to pop up? Why it's the one issue I bought a year and a half after I stopped reading to check in on the title. This was also the last issue of this title I ever bought, so I guess that tells you what I thought of it.

This issue's only plotted by Marv Wolfman, so we missed out on the character being written by his co-creator. The art is by Sergio and Octavio Cariello, and I'm only briefly familiar with Sergio's work from his work in the Bat titles some years ago. It's not exactly a stellar line-up for a fiftieth issue, but let's plunge in anyways and see what's up.

  • Plot: Marv Wolfman
  • Script: Dale Hrebik
  • Pencils: Sergio & Octavio Cariello
  • Inks: Will Blyberg, Keith Champagne & Ron McCain
  • Letters: John Costanza
  • Colors: Chris Matthys
  • Assistant Editor: Keri Kowalski
  • Editor: Pat Garrahy
So the first page opens up labeled as Chapter Twenty-Nine. And here I thought that reviewing an issue from a couple of weeks ago that was part twenty-three was going to be rough, this issue goes and raises the ante. That one turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise, however, so let's just plow on through.

Chapter twenty-nine opens up with Deathstroke atop a genetic research facility owned by Steve Dayton and Daytech Enterprises. It would appear that there is a nuclear bomb hidden somewhere in the building. It's Deathstroke's responsibility to find and disarm it, as he is working for Sarge Steel and Checkmate on this particular assignment.

For those of you not steeped in DCU history, Steve Dayton is the same guy who used to run around with the Doom Patrol, named Mento, and is also the adoptive father of Changeling (a.k.a. Beast Boy) of Teen Titan fame. How this version of Steve Dayton ties into the current version of Mento kicking around the latest iteration of the Doom Patrol is a question better left to the real DCU historians. Besides, this blog doesn't pay me enough to attempt to figure it out.

So in this continuity, Mento is still mentally unbalanced and has decided to forgo his mind-control helmet and insert the Mento Chip directly into his hypothalamus, adopting the nom de guerre Crimelord. This will apparently allow him to control the world through the internet. How that makes any sense is anybody's guess, and hopefully it was explained somewhere in chapters one through twenty-eight.

Still, this was not only the time of comic book speculation, but also of dot-com mania where anybody with a catchy name could name their price on the internet. He probably had investors lined up around the corner for the IPO of

This isn't the only nuclear bomb set to go off however, so Sgt. Steel has also recruited the likes of the Outsiders, Steel, Hawkman, and others to span the globe and disarm those as well.

It's all an elaborate plan by Crimelord to distract the other heroes so that he can personally destroy Deathstroke, who he has a particular mad-on for. All of the nuclear bombs are fakes, except for the one that Deathstroke has been sent in to disarm.

Exploring deeper into Dayton's genetic research facility, Deathstroke and is partner in crime Wintergreen find some disturbing experiments being conducted. Among the abominations that soon attack the two silver-haired warriors are duplicates of political figures and world leaders.

It doesn't take long for the two to realize that Steve Dayton is far from an innocent bystander in a potential nuclear blackmail scheme by the Crimelord, but that he actually is the Crimelord!

At the same time, Checkmate is able to come to the same conclusion by tracking the Crimelord's communications to one of Steve Dayton's facilities. The same facility where Deathstroke now finds himself held prisoner as Mento, well on his way to being fully integrated into the internet, has sealed off all the exits and has released the rest of his Hybrates to destroy Deathstroke once and for all.

With Deathstroke trying to escape, Mento goes into his (always premature) villainous monologue about how he has already won and the world will soon be his. The clones of political leaders that they had found earlier were but early failures. As they speak, the real clones are taking advantage of the chaos orchestrated by the nuclear bomb scare to take their place. They will all be his to command from the safety of the internet, and the world will be his to control.

It turns out that Deathstroke wasn't actually trying to escape earlier, but in fact going deeper into the facility as there is still a bomb to be disposed of. Fighting Dayton's abominations at every turn, they eventually make it to the location of the bomb.

Wintergreen used to be in the bomb squad during the war, so he takes a crack at it first. Bombs have changed a lot since the glory days of WWII, and it's not long before they only have mere seconds on the counter with the bomb still active.

Deathstroke, never one to worry about cutting the wrong colored wire, disables the detonator with two seconds left to spare.

While all of that drama has been going on, Checkmate has been successful in gaining entry to the facility and have located the body of Steve Dayton. It's not much of a body, being more of a dry husk laced with circuitry. There's no mental activity from his body, as he has just now become fully integrated with the internet.

It's right about now where you figure he'd have won, but Checkmate had severed all lines of communication leading into and out of the building, leaving Mento trapped and unable to tap into the world wide web.

I wish Mento would have called me up before he started this whole world domination via the internet scheme, as I would've told him how often my connection was interrupted with a dial-up modem and AOL back in the day. He probably should've waited a few years for the wireless technology to come into usage.

All doesn't end so nicely for Deathstroke however, for as he and Sgt. Steel compare notes outside, he is beset upon by a sniper on the rooftops. After separating himself away from Wintergreen to draw away the fire, he confronts the sniper. It's none other than Ravager, the villainous identity originally adopted by his son way back when. A tussle ensues and Deathstroke is successful in unmasking the imposter.

After all this time, he finds out who the latest version of the Ravager really's his half-brother, Wade! Ravager takes advantage of Slade's hesitation at finally knowing the truth and gives him a bullet right to the brain.

Is this the end of our intrepid anti-hero? I guess we'll all have to read the Deathstroke Annual #4 to find out.


If you're going to take over the world using cutting edge technology, make sure that it's been fully beta tested and always...and here's the important part...always make sure your master plan can't be defeated by simply pulling the plug.

It's almost like reading the old silver age books and looking at what wonders they thought computers were capable of. I guess in the mid-90's the internet was still new enough to mysterious and crazy powerful. Hell, these days you can't even get the internet to crack in half, much less use it to rule the world.

The story was all right, once you get past the Tron-level technology. It seemed a little padded out, and I'm sure that's what all of the other heroes chasing down bogus bombs were for. After all, we had thirtyfive pages of story to fill out for about ten pages worth of stuff.

The art was a mixed bag as well, as the second half takes a noticeable downturn in quality. Maybe that's a little harsh, as it's more of a looser style that doesn't quite mesh with the first half.

It was a fun, if not fully enjoyable, trip down memory lane with Slade Wilson. I just wish we had an issue from earlier in the run, but I suppose that's just going to make the next Deathstroke pick more enjoyable.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

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