Friday, August 29, 2014

That seems like unfortunate ad placement there...

Civics lesson vs. Gladiator lesson, from 1976's Warlord #2, "Arena of Death" Written and illustrated by Mike Grell.

The old public service "Justice for all includes children" page features Neal Adams art, and I can't remember the last time I saw a public service spot in a comic. Man, maybe DC should bring those back. Batman says, "Try not to be a dick!"

Meanwhile, I blog an issue or two of Warlord a year, so I could be done by 2089 at this rate. This issue reads like a a bit of a throwback, since so much happens in 18 pages; but I'm not sure if Grell (or DC) realized the book was going to be a hit, so he may have just been trying to get in what he could. Left tied up to a tree in the previous issue, crucified and left for dead, Travis Morgan manages to avoid getting eaten by saber-tooth tigers, only to be captured by slave traders and sold as a galley slave! There, Morgan meets Machiste, who doesn't believe any of his nonsense stories about a "surface world," that doesn't have eternal sunlight. Causing trouble for their captors, they nearly face being hung when pirates attack! Although Morgan and Machiste put up a good fight and the pirates are defeated, they're still prisoners, but now face being sold as gladiators! They take to their training, but then have to face each other for the pleasure of a wastrel prince. (And I used 'face' entirely too much in that recap, but it's late and I'm tired.)

Machiste advises Morgan to kill him, "or I will surely kill you!" Morgan does manage to get the upper hand, but when the prince gives Machiste the thumb's down, he sees the prince is wearing his watch! Enraged, Morgan goes berserker, tearing into the guards and freeing the gladiators. He had given the watch to Tara, and the prince says he sold Deimos! Thinking quickly, Morgan rallies the gladiators into his army to attack Deimos, with the promise of freedom!...and crossbows, siege towers, catapults, and other "modern" weapons of war. Really, he seems like he's about to teach them to chant "USA! USA! USA!"

Gladiator school is a quick way for Grell to level Morgan up in terms of sword-fighting, but has that ever ended well in fiction? "Let's train these guys into unstoppable killers and make 'em fight! No way that can go south on us!"
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

80-Page Thursdays: Marvel Super-Heroes Spring Special!

This is our third straight week for the return of 80-Page Thursdays, but it's a little slight. Like this issue! From 1991, Marvel Super-Heroes #5 (Spring Special), featuring stories by Sue Flaxman, David Michelinie, Mary Jo Duffy, Dan Mishkin, and Dwight Jon Zimmerman; with art by Jim Valentino, Ron Wilson, Steve Ditko, Vince Mielcarek, Mike Clark, and more.

As was often the case for this series, this issue was burning off old inventory: a Thor story with his half-brother Vidar, an "untold tale" of the Thing dating back to his eighties series, and shorter tales of Speedball, Dr. Strange, and She-Hulk.

Mishkin's Strange story is light, but kind of fun; my favorite of the lot. Not one to run out for, but if you see it cheap.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I have an Uncle Rich, but it was years and years before I realized "Dick" was supposed to be short for "Richard." To this day, I have no idea how that works. "Rick" or "Richie" would make sense, but Dick? I remember Toyfare being surprised that Marvel had a character named "Dick Rider," but we'll let that go.

Xandar, home of the Nova Corps, which somehow appeared in a major movie before Wonder Woman; has been destroyed. Three times, according to Wikipedia. Hey, that page breaks down the Nova Corps rank structure! Clip and save!
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Of course, immediately after ending my Marvel Unlimited sub, there's still a ton of books I'd love to read. Mostly because as I randomly pick up books, it's often difficult to get the next issue right away. In some cases, it would be easy enough to get some of them, but the cost could be prohibitive, or I might need to get an Essential reprint.

To begin, I haven't read much of the Crossroads storyline that ran from about the Incredible Hulk #300 to #313, with an Alpha Flight crossover for good measure. After Nightmare re-awakens the "Monster Hulk" persona, the Bruce Banner side is believed dead, and Dr. Strange casts the rampaging Hulk into the other-dimensional Crossroads, a nexus to different worlds. Strange's spells intended that the Hulk find a home somewhere, a place where he could be happy and safe and not hurt anyone; and there was an escape clause: should the Hulk be unhappy somewhere, he would be brought back to the Crossroads to try again. Almost mindless, the Hulk's mind created Goblin, Guardian, and Glow; manifestations of id, ego, super-ego that guided him. Until this issue, The Incredible Hulk #310, "Banner Redux" Story by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Bret Blevins, inks by Al Williamson. After attempting to stop a cult from sacrificing a girl, the Hulk is brought down and reverts to Bruce Banner for the first time in over a year! Just in time for him to wake up on the sacrificial altar, about to be gutted by the girl he tried to save! (Hey, that seems familiar...)

(Shoot, #311 had Mike Mignola art! As does #312, with a Sienkiewicz cover and Nightcrawler cameo! Putting those on the list...)

This next issue is from a stretch where I seem to have read maybe every third issue, maybe enough to get the gist if not every little detail: from 1976, Fantastic Four #169, "Five Characters in Search of a Madman!" I kind of hate that title. Written and edited by Roy Thomas, art by Rich Buckler, inks by Joe Sinnott. Ben Grimm is human again, and as usual completely mopey about it. Crabbily drinking in a dive bar, Ben gets into a barroom brawl that starts badly when Ben thinks he has to restrain his super-strength, but then gets his groove back. Power Man has taken Ben's place on the team, but then turns on them, controlled by an outside force. Finally, Ben discovers Reed always intended Power Man just be a temp, and his mysterious plan for Ben's replacement...

I'm pretty sure someone quitting the FF was already a trope by this point, but I think the powerless Ben plotline would only go about another half a year. Ben always wants the opposite of what he has.
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Marvel (Sorta) Unlimited:

Last month, around SDCC, Marvel had a sale on it's Marvel Unlimited subscription: $.99 for a month of all the digital comics you can read. For that price, I was willing to give it a shot.

And I'm pretty sure I got my ninety-nine cents worth. I read all of the 2008-2010 Abnett/Lanning Guardians of the Galaxy series; two Moon Knight series, as much of the new Thunderbolts and Uncanny Avengers as was available. Some oddballs like Deadpool Kills Deadpool or the Marvel Knights Deathlok or the Power Pack limiteds. I even read some old Spider-Man and Thor comics I hadn't seen in years.

The downsides? Well, sometimes the selection isn't as deep as you'd expect. Some books that were formerly licensed by Marvel are not available now, no matter how much you may associate them with Marvel; like Micronauts or Conan the Barbarian or ROM. Likewise, I'm not sure how much MAX stuff is available--I had looked for the recent Dominic Fortune series, and that wasn't in there. Nor did I find a lot of 80's Punisher.

The other problem may just be me, but sometimes the load would stall. Or the book wouldn't be found. More than a couple of times, a book would load, but then the word balloons wouldn't! (That is a great way to check out the art, if you like, but not a great way to read!) So sometimes I'd click a book, wait for it to open, try again, reload...I had a pretty low success rate for a while there. Oddly, Marvel offers Bonus Digital Editions with a number of their titles, but I never had that sort of load trouble with them.

Still, for the price, I quite enjoyed the trial. I definitely got my money's worth, and read a number of books I might not have otherwise had the chance to. There were some annoying bugs, but they weren't a complete dealbreaker--I just don't have the time right now to read enough books to make the regular price worthwhile. The next time Marvel offers a subscription deal with an action figure as a sweetener, it's going to be a lot more tempting.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

So Spider-Man has three hands now? Man, Spider-Verse sounds weird.

No, that's not from the upcoming Spider-Verse crossover, or from Lego. It's from eBay and China, a "Hot 1Pc Super Hero Spider Man Motorcycle Mini Figures Building Toys Blocks." Miss any keywords there? No? Still pretty findable if you like.

$3.27 shipped, with a Spider-bike! I don't know if the spare hand was intentional, or a lucky accident. It is odd to see a mini-figure completely in pieces, though: the Lego ones usually have the arms and legs attached, right? Of course, I haven't put him together yet; I'll save him for the Youngest. He's big on Star Wars Lego, but the video games are bringing him around to other characters. He does refer to offbrands as "Lego impostors," so his brand loyalty is pretty strong; but he'll probably build this one for me.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

80-Page Thursdays: DC Special Series #11!

Two weeks in a row! Yay! Today, a book that brings back a character that I didn't think appeared again, a couple plot points I'm not sure were readdressed, and proof that capital punishment isn't a deterrent, in DC Special Series #11, "Beyond the Super-Speed Barrier!" Written by Cary Bates, and art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Irv Novick, Kurt Schaffenberger, Alex Saviuk, and more.

In the heart of deepest Africa (as they said in an old Batman Power Records story!) there lies a hidden city. Gorilla City, home of super-advanced simians, and longtime Flash villain Gorilla Grodd. Fed up with his years of super-crimes both there and in the human world, the city's High Council has voted 6-to-1 to execute Grodd. (Even though his crimes to this point are probably pretty tame compared to anything he's probably done in the last ten years or so.) Only the gorilla's leader Solovar voted to let Grodd live--Solovar's kind of like Commissioner Gordon in these stories: although he's the authority figure, he's usually not given a ton to do.

After Grodd's molecules are dispersed and spread into another dimension, Kid Flash has a harrowing encounter after a date goes badly and his girlfriend takes off on his motorcycle--at super-speed, to the point where she burns up! Luckily, it's an illusion, created by an unseen gorilla intruder...Kid Flash's segment ends with him about to graduate high school, and revealing his secret identity to his parents. (Who were utterly horrible in the 90's Flash comic: his dad was a Manhunter plant, and his mom was merely passive-aggressively guilt-mongering, if I recall.)

The current Flash, Barry Allen, visits Solovar in Gorilla City and gets the scoop on Grodd's execution. He then races back to Central City, to get to work before his assistant, Patty, as seen in Five-Star Super-Hero Spectacular as the imaginary Lady Flash. Then Flash has to face the bad guy from Showcase #4, the Turtle! The Turtle zaps the Flash with his "slow laser," affecting the Flash's super-speed vision. Luckily, a quick couple of laps around the world until the Flash hits the same frequency as the laser fixes his vision. But the slow laser had also been adjusted by the unseen gorilla...

Later, on Earth-2, Jay Garrick has revealed his secret identity to the world! Which makes it easy for the gorilla to track him down, at a press conference attended by the other super-speed hero, Johnny Quick. The gorilla affects Johnny's super-speed formula, making him a super-fast menace. Jay has to accelerate to another dimension to snap Johnny out of it, all part of the gorilla's plan.

That night, Barry and Iris push their beds together; when Flash's costume explodes out of his ring without warning! That...that never happens...

But it happens to Wally at the dinner table, too! All three Flashes are then summoned (Jay all the way from Earth-2) to face the gorilla. Grodd? No, Grodd's assistant. Or the animated corpse of Grodd's unwilling assistant, controlled by Grodd's mental powers: his execution was all part of his master plan, to harvest speed from the Flashes when they hit the right frequency. Grodd's reformed and has super-speed to boot, but the Flashes manage to beat him by merging their atoms for a triple-powered punch.

The issue ends with Wally's graduation (and a bunch of heroes show up) but a troubling conversation with Barry: Wally plans on being Kid Flash only for the next four years while he's in college, then retiring as a superhero. Of course that's not what ends up happening, since I think Wally was sick, possibly on the verge of dying before Crisis on Infinite Earths. I don't know if Jay's reveal would come up again or not, nor do I know if Patty appeared again. And this is so close to introducing the Speed Force--but not quite.
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