Sunday, November 30, 2008

Could've been so much more...

August 1984

It's been a couple of weeks, but I'm really trying not to waste time, so I've been slack in doing the review thing.

Once I decided to do one of these, I grabbed a handful of unsorted comics and looked for one to review. I've done three Legion comics already, and doing another one would be right after a glowing review of one, and just seem redundant. There were a few comics that were more recent, and I felt like revisiting my childhood. Ah-ha! Power Pack fits the bill nicely.


There's a battle in space, just outside the Earth's atmosphere, and it's sevral ships attacking a lone white starship. It's observed by Katie, the youngest of the four Power children, whose father is desuigning a new energy source for the government. Their parents let them spend the night in their sleeping bags on the back deck of their beach house. Katie sees the attacked spaceship in the surf on the beach. She wakes up her siblings and they investigate. The oldest child, Alex waits by the ship with Katie while younger brother Jack goes with his older sister Julie to wake their father.

As they near the house, one of the ships that attacked the downed ship landsby their house. Alex and Katie are greated by the ship's pilot, an alien nick-named Whitey, who then rescues Julie and Jack, but is too late to keep the attacking aliens, lizard-like beings named Snarks from abducting their parents. Whitey is injured in the rescue andas the Snarks leave with the Power kids' parents, he teleports himself and the children to his ship, Friday.

Whitey is dying from his wounds, and uses the last of his energy to transfer his powers to the children. When they are caught in the Snarks' trator beam, they discover their new powers. Jack controls his own gravity, Julie flies fast, leaving a colored trail in her wake, Katie disentigrates objects and then shoots off energy balls, and Jack can expand into a cloud. They use these powers to escape the Snarks and giving themselves codenames vow to rescue their parents before the Snarks can get the secrets of their father's Energy Converter.


The kids have a natural feel to them. I once heard Louise Simonson complain that she'd gotten fan mail wanting her to have Katie talk like a toddler, using "me" instead of "I" and crap like that. Each kid has ahis own personality, and the powers don't match those personalities. Let's face it, does the person with fire-based powers always have to have a short temper? Does the person with shrinking power have to be shy? Louise did really well with this issue and the next two, but given that this was a first issue it was written very well and led brilliantly into the next while having a natural ending of its own.

This was June Brigman's first comics work and its absolutely great. The kids look like kids of their stated ages, and not a uniform age.  The scennes, despite being set at night, aren't too dark, although the flip side of that is that the scenes involving light aren't bright enough to convey that. For this, I primarilly blame colorist Glynis Wein, who colored it like an issue of X-Men or Avengers instead of the next generation comic it was.

Bringing Brigman, a first-time artist with no background in super-heroes, on as penciller is the giveaway that this comic is the beginning of a new era of comics. That's not because of the technology used in creating the comic, for it's produced for the most opart, in the same old manner. The characters aren't seen in their costumes at all in the issue, and the origins are based in the straight science fiction realm. While the kids mention super-heroes, it's not definite that they exist in the Marvel Universe, or if they know these characters from comic books. This book could've gone in a different direction entirely, away from New York and Super-Heroes and ventured into uncharted waters for a mainstream comic. It probably would've died a speedy death in the mainstream market of the mid 1980s, but it would have definitely been influential in the development of the comics medium.


Like I said, this could've gone differently. The issue has never been collected, but if you find this at a comic shop or convention, look for the next two issues as well. They make for a great closed storyline. Love and Rockets was being published by Fantagraphics at this time. Comico was getting started, and would eventually publish some of the first work by Matt Wagner and Bill Willingham. First Comics was going on and publishing some the greatest independent comics of the time, including Nexus, American Flagg and Sable. If Power Pack had been published anywhere else, it may have been a very influential comic book.

Also, I apologize for no scans of panels from the comic. This review has been sitting in edit mode for a while, so to keep from delaying it further, I decided to post it without scans. (sans scans?)

FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of 10)

The limitations of the technology of the period, lumped together with a lackluster coloring job lowers the rating for this book. The premise is great, the writing is fantastic, and the art is extremely good, and shows Brigman as a top notch cartoonist.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Adam Hughes, Mermaids, and Girls in Bathing Suits

October 1993

I'm stuck on the current phase of my project so I decided to talk about a good comic book.

Legionnaires #7 is a done in one story that takes place right after a six-issue storyline that was very heavy. At this point in time, when you needed a lighter story with a fill-in artist, DC went to Adam Hughes, most famous at the time for his work on Justice League America. This was before Adam Hughes worked with Wildstorm FX on Gen13 and learned Photoshop which revolutionized his artwork.

As an aside, my copy is signed by Adma Hughes, probably at a time prior to his adoption of Photoshop as a primary tool, taking his talent to a different level entirely. If you check out Adam Hughes' origins for Wonder Woman and Power Girl in 52, you know how even his panel to panel work has been transformed by his evolution.


Inferno, Triad, Matter-Eater Lad, Brainiac 5, Andromeda, Apparition, Ultra Boy, and Shrinking Violet are taking a vacation to the Atlantis dome of New Earth. They check into an inn run by an Atlean family complete with a cute mermaid daughter with a crush on Inferno. Operating under the assumption that everything is being comped, Inferno and Matter-Eater Lad indulge in play, and Matter-Eater Lad tries to put the moves on Shrinking Violet, who's interested in just being friends.The Legionnaires get caught in the crossfire of Atlanteans and alien Devil-Fish, and discover that the Devil Fish secretly settled on Earth, and thought the Atlanteans were responsible for the deaths caused when the domed cities of New Earth fled the destruction of Earth.

The Legionnaires leave, much to the disappointment of the hotel owner, and among them all, Shrinking Violet realizes that they were supposed to pay. Inferno returns and learns that the hotel owner was ashamed to embarrass the Legionnaires by correcting them. Despite their pleading, the other Legionnaires refuse to pony up more credits to Inferno and Matter-Eater Lad who ran up the highest bills while on vacation. Meanwhile Violet does admit that Matter-Eater Lad is cute.  


Tom & Mary Bierbaum were known for scripting some of the darkest stories in Legion history. It's nice to see it contrasted with this story. It's light and fun, and it would have been great to see this tone continued for years and years. However, DC Editorial felt the need to reboot the Legion so that it could attract new readers. This is now being tried for the third time. Enough about current DC Editorial policy, this is one very well written story. It's simple, cute, and concise. There's nothing here that doesn't need to be there.

The artwork by Adam Hughes is excellent and could only be better if it were done by the Adam Hughes of today. The Adam Hughes of fifteen years ago was an exceptional artist. The Adam Hughes of today is a phenominal artist. The best example of this in this story is when the hotel owner says good bye and violet looks back, realizing their mistake. The empty space on the page shows more skill than any line put on the page. Sometimes being a good artists is all about what you don't draw.


Again, this issue has never been collected. I'm sick of saying that about really good stories when crap like that issue of Spider-Woman gets collection treatment so people can be reminded of how crappy comics can be. Look for this issue. You might pay a little more because it's an Adam Hughes comic, but you shouldn't pay too much.

FINAL RATING: 9 (out of 10)

The highest rating I've given so far for a comic. It'd get an extra half point if it were a life-changing story or the inker and colorist blended better with Adam Hughes. I'm really looking forward to All-Star Wonder Woman.

Okay back to trying to figure out this page.

The Ratings So Far

Because things are now starting to archive, here's a rundown of the rankings for the comics reviewed, from highest to lowest, and in the event of ties, most recently reviewed.

  • 8.5 Legion of Super-Heroes #92, Twilight #1, New Mutants #18
  • 8.0 Legion of Super-Heroes #305
  • 7.5 Minimum Wage #2
  • 7.0 Legion of Super-Heroes #26, Starstream #3
  • 6.0 Namor the Sub-Mariner #8
  • 3.5 Spider-Woman #5
I'm really surprised that I haven't done a 9 rating yet, and I've given thought as to what a 10 would be. I'm really trying to steer away from anything published within the last couple of years, because sometimes some distance does take away the initial emotional impact of the experience, and makes for a more academic review. There are some series that I don't have copies of individual issues of, such as Watchmen, and so, I can't review those. I am limiting myself to those comics that I actually own, so I do have a restriction on myself.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It'll go on your permanent record!

May 1997

I'm killing a little time waiting on the wife, so here's another review to take up some time on a blustery November day.

Legion Of Super-Heroes #92 was a nice little pause middle of a period where my interest in the Legion was beginning to wane. The creators of the time split the team up into two, stranding one in the 20th century where they participated in the "final Night" crossover and got to interact with just about every hero in the DC Universe. That team got the Legion of Super-Heroes title, while the others left back home in the 30th century carried on in Legionnaires.

During this period, Curt Swan who pencilled a good many of the Silver Age Legion stories died and this issue was a tribute to him. The striking cover harkens back to the "alien space monster" theme popular in sci-fi during the late 1950s, where the story is set. That seem like as good a place as any to launch into the story recap, so get ready for some fifties themed monster fun.


Mr. Swan, an art teacher in a sterotypical high school, is teaching a group of teens that look suspiciously like our familiar Legionnaires. The names are plays on their alter egos: Rick Crane (Cosmic Boy), Irma Arden (Saturn Girl), Earl Docks (Brainiac 5), Ella Rand (Spark), Joe Knotts (Ultra Boy), Laura, Lorna, and Lauren Dugan (Triplicate Girl), and Sandy Anderson (Inferno, but we never learned her real name). The teens are also members of the school design club who are preparing for a visit by President Eisenhower. On the way home, Joe Knotts true to his young hood nature, hits on the cheerleader Sandy, whose rescued by teen lovebirds Irma and Rick. Joe instead follows the Dugan triplets. Ella thwarts some mushiness between Irma and Rick as Joe observes the Digans merge in their bedroom using X-Ray Vision, revealing to us that there's something odd about both, uh all four(?) of them.

G-Men are monitoring the work on the stage by the Design club when missing Legion member Gates materializes above them. When Gates refers to Rick as "boss," since he is the only one that remembers them as the Legion with Cosmic Boy as the team leader, the G-Men detain the lot of them. Joe is recruited by one of the G-Men that secretly observed Joe break the steering wheel of his car. Joe uses his Ultra Boy powers to spot Gates hiding under the podium, and thinking that he's an alien out to kill the president captures him.

When confronted with the G-Men's intentions to vivisect Gates, Earl leaps to his defense and a blow from the G-Men reveals Earl to be wearing make-up to conceal green skin, which restores the memories of the Legionnaires. They subdue the G-Men and escape, wondering who stranded them in 1958 without their memories and they fly off to the astonishment of the crowd, including Mr. Swan who reminds the crowd, and us, that nothing is impossible.


This is a great tribute to Swan with a complete story within one issue of a comic, with justa little nod to the running storyline near the end. The hole being how the Legionnaires return to the 20th century at the end. Eventually, the Time Trapper was revealled to be the one behind theis little detour, but that wasn't made clear here. Tom Peyer and Tom McCraw crafted an excellent story, and the feel of a cliche 1950s story is there. It's very refreshiong and breaking the story up into chapters retains the feel of the 1950s. The art is what breaks that feeling, with computer color gradients and modernvisual storytelling techniques.

I'm not totally dismissing the artwork. Lee Moder was a really good artist for the Legion, and was sucessful in believable anatomy, perspective and reference that was dynamic, yet not overly exaggerated. His shots are cinematic, and his characters are unique, and similar where they need to be, such as with Triplicate Girl, which proves to be a challenge for any artist, as they have to draw the same character multiple times within the same shot. I imagine that Jamie Madrox is a similar challenge for artists. I would have liked to have seen the artwork with a 1958 feel and color separations to resemble to four color printing of the time, evolving as the characters remember their identities. 


Like most Legion stories of the modern age, this issue has never been collected. Given that this was the tail period of the great glut of the 1990s, there should be plenty of copies out there and be easy to find. Don't pay too much for it, as you should be able to find a decent copy in bargain boxes, provided that you look hard enough.

Curt Swan was one of the artists that lured me into comics, and the week he died he was scheduled to be at a convention near me. I wanted so much to meet him and tell him how much he meant to my development as a fan. he would draw fantastic things with the same care that he drew mundane ones. His characters existed in their world and he never cheated on his work. The comics industry is richer that he was a big part of it, and poorer that he's no longer around to pass on his perspective and knowledge to a younger generation.

FINAL RATING: 8.5 (out of 10)

Again, this could have been done much better if the artwork had reflected the period. This is a good comic for a casual Legion fan, even one that abandoned the Legion after the first reboot of Legion history.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Never Be Your Own Editor

August 1979

Last week seemed to work so good by digging through a box full of books that I was trying to get rid of, that I decided to try it again. I've got a few books that I want to throw around and see if I get a review out of them or not. 

Looking back at the few reviews I've done so far, I really haven't had one that was a bad comic. I set out to have one this time and I looked for something that would be that fodder. Enter, a 1970s Spider-Woman comic.

Before we go on, notice that I finally got around to doing the header graphic which lets you know that SPOILERS ABOUND! 


Spider-Woman wakes up bound and gagged in a dusty, decrepit, abonded house. Freeing herself, she recalls that she was captured by a masked vigilante calling himself the Hangman, who has a warped sense of chauvanism that leeds him the hold women captive in order to "protect" them. Almost immediately she's assailed by hallucinations and flying furniture, briefly knocking her into unconsciousness. She wakes up trapped in a giant spider web to be attacked by more hallucinations.

Meanwhile, Spider-Woman's ally the magician Magnus is getting familiar with his landlady, who seems like a lonely old widow.

Back at the old, abandoned house, Spider-Woman is confronted by hallucinations of her father and Magnus before blacking out again. When she wakes, she's attacked by empty suits of armor and then nearly drowns when the chamber she's fighting in is flooded. Upon escaping, she discovers Magnus unconscious and held captive before being confronted by the materializing form of the villain behind her ordeal, Morgan Le Fay.


Okay, what the hell was that? How did Magnus get from his afternoon tea with the old widow to being held captive in the same house as Spider-Woman? How does Morgan Le Fay, who has never appeared before now, and we can only assume is supposed to be the same character from Arthurian legend, despite the mispelling of her name, know about Spider-Woman and her origin? What about that Hangman guy that put her into the house? This story is just one big confusing mess. Marv Wolfman would go on to write some really good comic stories, but on this is one he really dropped the ball. Would it surprise you to learn he was his own editor on this? Lesson number five for good writing, folks, have a good editor!

Artwise, Carmine Infantino has a style that's just plain goofy. Check out his run on Star Wars that was published around this time, as well as his run on Flash in the early 1980s if you don't believe me. Infantino's work was always best when when he had an inker and a colorist that worked for him. On Star Wars, he had Bob Wiacek and Gene Day, as well as George Roussos on colors, and that worked. Here, he has Wolfman's wife coloring for him, not a good match, and the worst match I've ever seen as an inker for Infantino, Tony Dezuniga. Infantino artwork can be very intriguing to follow. There are a few panels, especially towards the beginning of the comic, that have that potential, but the poor match of the inker completely loses that.


With Spider-Woman's reintroduction in the Avengers comics of recent years, and her pivotal role in Secret Invasion, there's a level of real interest in her older stories. This comic has been collected in Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1. I'd recommend picking up the Essential volumes, since they're cheap. It's also been collected in the early 1980s as part of a pocket digest collection, which could possibly be found at a flea market, antique mall, or a comic shop that has some really cool stuff instead of overstock from the glut of the 1990s. 

FINAL RATING: 3.5 (out of a possible 10)

With better art collaborators, this would be higher. The story is hard to follow, and really just leaves me with a headache.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I need more zip-a-tone!

February 1990

I've got a few minutes this afternoon, so how about another review? You down with that?

Right after High School, I was big into John Byrne. It was a good time to be into John Byrne, too. He had produced Omac for the DC, West Coast Avengers, She-Hulk, Next Men and of course, Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Of course he didn't do them in that order, but those are the comics that he worked on in the late 1980s and early 1990s that just seemed to be Byrne flexing his artistic muscles. I got rid of a lot of my mainstream comics a long time ago, but just cruising bargain bozes has gotten me replacement copies of a few that I really remember fondly.

This particular comics was stashed away in an office paper box, since it's not really among my prized possessions, comic-wise. I have to admit that nostalgia is the main reason that I own this, so a lot of this review will hinge on that perspective.

As always, Spoilers abound from here. That means I'll tell you exactly what happened.


In 1961, German agents, including a scientist stash away a project before the Russians seal them into the city of East Berlin. While escaping the scientist is shot, and the two agents violently get him past the US checkpoint in an effort to get him help.

Namor wakes up in a puddle of sludge on top of a skyscraper, after flying a viral agent into the heart of a Sewage based creature inadvertantly created by scientists that was threatening New York. In attempting to fly down, he finds that his ankle wings have vanished and only his strength and skill save him. Namorita escapes from a pod she'd been placed in inside the creature, and she proceeds to rescue other captives as Namor walks up. One of the scientists to survive tells that the creature was an attempt to escape funding cuts, and Namor and the authorities were misled by the creator, now killed by her creation. Phoebe Marrs then runs up and begs Namor to help her brother, who struck a horrible deal with the corporate raider known as Headhunter. he rides off with her, and seems to be falling prey to her charms.

Meanwhile, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are shocked to see the return of Banny Rand, aka Iron Fist, who they believe to be dead. Namorita is being brought uiup to speed by Namor's allies, Caleb and Carrie Alexander, as Carrie confesses her love for Namor, which does not appear to be returned, as Namor looks to be enthralled by Phoebe Marrs.

Namor and Marrs arrive at Headhunter's offices and we learn that her agreements with businessmen come at a high price as she reveals her collection of their mounted heads on her wall!


The story flows by a series of coincidences, someone walks up, someone runs up, and everything happens in the course of an afternoon. There's not really a reason for this, as time could have passed before Marrs approached Namor, with no ill effect to the story. Namor's personality is very stoic and pompous, which is the biggest trouble in centering a book on him. Byrne did seem to make it work, but Namor's though balloons should reveal more of the trouble in dealing with his loss of flight.

The largest attribute to the art that's noticeable is the zip-a-tone. Byrne used this on Omac and after leaving Namor, on She-Hulk. He uses it for shading and the colorist Glynis Oliver adds subtle colors to accentuate them so it doesn't get terribly distracting. It's an added effect that Byrne didn't need, but took the time to add, which gives some sense at how much pride he took in his work on this book. No one can fault Byrne's anatomy or basic artistic skill. If I find fault with anything in this comic, it's in the writing.

Byrne took, in this issue, a character seen at the time as one of the more powerfuul characters in the Marvel Pantheon and gave him more limitations. At the same tiem, there seemed to be no pondering of the circumstances that brought. The dialogue seems to render the characters two-dimensional in the context of this issue. Byrne was better at writing long-term, and in an era of sub-plots, he was able to excel at that. In smaller stories, he seemed hindered.


Like many comics that I've reviewed, this issue has never been collected. Also like most of the comics that I've reviewed, it should be cheap, provided that you can find it. Don't pay more that two bucks for an issue, and if you do, pick one up, try to pick up a run of several issues. Byrne makes Namorita interesting.

FINAL RATING: 6 (out of 10)

The story weakness really hurts this comic. If it was on par with the art, then we'd be looking at at least an 8. John Byrne comics of this era probably need to be read in a series rather than individually.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

These Ain't Your Granddaddy's Star-Rovers!


Another weekend, and the wife is sleeping in, so here's another review of a comic from the old collection at casa de Stanford. Hmmm, that really doesn't work work with an English name. Oh, well, until we come up with another name for the homestead, let's just get started with the review.

Twilight #1 was a prestige format book, the first in a series of three books by author Howard Chaykin, famous for the 80s independent comic American Flagg, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, who'd done a lot of work for DC over the course of the 1980s, even having the mass-marketed Superman image for the late 1980s.

My friend Joel first exposed me to this book and for the better part of eight years, I sought to complete my own collection of all three books. Being square-bound, they usually sit on my bookshelf, which probably isn't good for their longevity, but who cares, they're just comics. 

As always, Spoilers abound from here. Don't say that I didn't warn you. A word of warning, the set-up is so huge for the story, that my Summary may have some factual errors.


It's the future, an elderly Homer Glint, while chasing after his seeing-eye cat, comes across momentos of his past. The story begins during a hostage crisis in the jungle, where bio-engineered animal men are holed up with the journalistic adventurer team known as the Star-Rovers while military hero John Starker prepares a commando team to storm in and rescue the hostages. Tempers flare in the hut, when Rick Purvis goes nuts after learning that teammate Karel Sorenson has had a sexual relationship with one of the ape men, and he proceeds to behead their leader, which makes him a hero across known space, even as far as the fleet of ships commanded by the Nazi-esque Tommy Tomorrow, on a search for immortality, long promised. Purvis's perceived heroism gets the Star Rovers an assignment off world that looks promising in the legend of a "new messiah."

Private detective Star Hawkins rescues his brother John Starker from drunken self-imposed exile in a Mexican robot brothel, because he's needed to rescue a robot companion, Ilda, whose been captured in a mad quest for immortality involving Starker's old military partner, Tommy Tomorrow. Ilda's being held by Tomorrow's ex-wife Brenda, believed killed in the final battle with an alien race called Mesthusaloids years before. In meeting with Tomorrow, Brenda reveals the secret to immortality is in the flesh of the Mesuthaloids.

The Star Rovers meet with the Mesuthaloids on a distant planet, only to be attacked by Tommy Tomorrow, whose careless sniper fire ignites the Star Rovers' wooden ship (yes, they bought a wooden space ship) which causes a huge explosion that kills Purvis, blinds Homer, and merges Karel with many of the Mesuthaloids making her the new messiah, a living Goddess that gives immortality to the enitre human race.


This story is really good, even if you don't know the original characters that the cast is based on. Supposedly, Space Ranger shows up, but I'll be damned if I know where. The book is written very well, and the world of the future, circa 2070 we can guess by the inclusion of John Starker, Manhunter 2070, is very real and this should be considered a very good sci-fi story. The language is very harsh at times and the predilictions of Starker for robots meets the definition of "adult situations." Like I said in the spoiler warning, the first issue is a little hard to follow givwen that the cast is broad, and getting them to meet near the conclusion does take some doing that could have done with a little more exposition. There are no vast leaps in technology that ask for such suspension of disbelief that would make the story unreadable, unlike in the stories that this is based upon.

The artwork is by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, who I cannot remember a time when he has not delivered excellent storytelling and expert anatomy. My favorite parts of this story are his renderings of robots, especially Ilda. The original Ilda had a football-shaped head, but this Ilda is very desirable, and heck, who can fault John Starker for wanting to visit the robot brothels in old Mexico?


This issue, this series has never been collected. That's a shame, as it's really good. Finding it in back issue bins is really hard as you'll inevitably come up one issue short. You shouldn't pay much over cover price for them, and may even luck out in the bargain bins.

FINAL RATING: 8.5 (out of 10)

The issue is a little harder to follow and really requires devotion to read and study. Chaykin is a writer for intelligent readers. It can be a little inaccessible for a casual comics reader. Garcia-Lopez is a very detailed artist here, and at times his layouts seem to break the rules that are taught to aspiring comic artists, but that's where he excells and proves his mastery. A great comic artist knows when and how to break the rules. Overall, the series is really good and merits a 9, but this issue, while pivotal and necessary, is a little weaker than the whole.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How to beat the crap out of Supergirl without beating up Supergirl.

February 1992

It's the weekend, so I decided to do another review for those of you taking the time to read these things.

Legion Of Super-Heroes #26 was the middle of a period where I was really into the Legion. A lot of people speak bad about the Giffen/Bierbaum period, but I really enjoyed it, as well as the friends I had at the time. At this point, Giffen was working on a ton of stuff at DC, so the art chores had been taken over by Jason Pearson, a newcomer at the time, who'd done some work at Innovation. Later, Pearson would go on to create Body Bags and work on a few other comics as well.

As always, Spoilers abound from here. That means I'll tell you exactly what happened.


The Dominator controlled Android B.I.O.N. has attacked Laurel Gand, who's been covertly monitoring the situation on Dominator controlled Earth as Celeste Rockfish, another Legionnaire. Their battle is distructive and seemingly futile for Laurel, , and when it starrts to endanger civillians, she takes it outside the city.

The Dominators maintain the illusion of an independant Earth government, but the Earth President is beginning to break down. B.I.O.N. reveals to Laurel that he possesses all the powers of the Legionnaires combined, which is taking its toll on Laurel, who manages to distract B.I.O.N. long enough to run away.

The Underground Resistance, led by the Subs, are taking Dominator chambers, while their organizer, Universo, is holding the SW6 Legion, a teenage version that recently escaped the chambers in reserve.

Laurel makes her way back to Legion headquarters on the asteroid of Talus, with B.I.O.N. unknowingly in pursuit. Since B.I.O.N. has left Earth, things look bad for the Dominator occupation, and it looks like their only option is to blow up the chambers rather than lose them to the Resistance.


It's been said that if you love your characters, you'll put them through hell. During the Terra Mosaic storyline, Giffen and the Bierbaums really put the Legion through the wringer, so they must've had a lot of love for them. A battle as destructive and large in scale as Laurel Gand, the equivalent of Supergirl with an android three times as powerful, was very well handled, even with the nine panel grid that was the hallmark of this period in Legion history. The story is enthralling, but a little hard to follow unless you have read some of the issues that preceeded this one. There are little jokes hidden within the story, and the diagram of the Legion headquarters is the humor highlight as we learn the details of its past as a brothel.

Pearson has panels, like the ones I've shown here, that are so well done, that they scream out for you to ignore the panels that don't work as well. Of all the artists that drew this Laurel Gand, I love his rendition of her second best. Stuart Immonen is first. 


This issue has never been collected. That's not unusual for the Legion, since only recently has there been interest in its past, and likely, we will not see this storyline collected, since it has fallen out of favor within the comics community. You should be able to find it very affordably in back issue bins, maybe even as cheap as fractions of a dollar. While you're at it pick up other issues of the Terra Mosaic storyline which ran, pretty much uninterrupted for about 40 issues or so.

For insight into this period, I recommend picking up the Legion Companion from Two Morrows publishing. I'd put it in the Amazon sidebar, but it's only available from outside sellers, who feel that it's worth $50.00, so just go to Two Morrows' web site to get it.

FINAL RATING: 7 (out of 10)

Pearson's artwork at this stage is not terribly detailed and the panels that he excels at are undermined by the ones that just weren't pulled off. If this were Pearson of 1997, then we'd be talking about a better book. It's so dependent on the other issues in the storyline it really shows the flaws of the monthly format that mainstream ciomics are locked into. 

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dani and the Demon Bear

August 1984

Because my Sims Game crashed after a Saturday at work I retreated to my comics for some solace. While digging through a box of comics I tried to sell at the flea market once, I looked over at the spinner rack and saw this little gem staring at me, literally.

New Mutants #18 was the beginning of a new artist on the Mutant books, Bill Sienkiewicz, who had made a mark on Moon Knight and a few other books. This was a real turn, as Marvel's style was far from artsy, and the comics industry was still recovering from the heavy influence of Neal Adams. Sienkiewicz had developed a style that was based on Illustration and it showed in page layouts that, looking back, set the stage for the modern age manner of irregular panel shapes, overlapping images, and borderless panels. 

I remember as a twelve-thirteen year-old young artist being blown away by this new style to my comics, and was instantly drawn to it. For Christmas of 1984, I actually copied a panel from this comic and used mixed media to make a Christmas present.

As always, Spoilers abound from here, so don't complain that you weren't warned.


We open on New Mutant team leader Dani Moonstar having aterrible nightmare of the Demon Bear that killed her parents. We then see the X-Mansion under attack by the military as a young, red-haired girl uses her powers to shield herself as she makes her way to Professor X trying to reason with the troops telepathically only to be killed. It's revealed that these are the memories of a young woman from the future, the girl from the before, just older, and looking much more ragged.

The New Mutants, except Dani and Illyana Rasputin training in the Danger Room, and proving successful, even with some difficulty. Illyana answers the front door to find the red-haired young woman who runs off in tears since she remembers seeing Illyana die.

In space an alien named Warlock is on the run from his brtual father. This Interlude leads into Dani training in the Danger Room against holographic bears. to the confusion of Illyana. That night Dani sets out in the snow to confront her Demon Bear, as she knows it's close. She uses her mutant power on the bear to find its deepest fear is her, and finds the strength to apparently slay it with surpising ease. Until she realizes that's she made a terrible error.

Rahne wakes screaming from the rapport that she shares with Dani and leads the New Mutants to the woods where they find Dani unconscious and lying in a pool of blood.


If you didn't catch my meaning from the intro, this is a beautifully drawn comic. Glynis Wein must've had a helluva time doing the coloring on this issue. Sienkiewicz made very good use of black areas and each character is unique in their depiction. Illyana is cute as a button. Cannonball is lanky and awkward, a quality no other artist since has been able to capture like Sienkiewicz did. Previously in this series, Dani was sexualized, which is disturbing, given that the character is still in her teens. Sienkiewicz managed to make her attractive and exotic without being sexual about it. The only drawback is the technology of the time, as I sit and think of what this comic would've looked like if it had been printed with today's technology and paper quality. Heck, even thinking about what kind of work he's doing now, if today's Sienkiewicz had drawn this book.

The script is Chris Claremont at his peak, as he foreshadowed a subplot in a way that was intriguing and made time travel seem not quite so hokey as the previous times he used it. Dani's motivations, while a little cliche, are written well enough to be believable.


This issue has been collected twice first in 1990 and earlier this year in the third part of Marvel's collecting of this series. They are very affordable, and I recommend buying them from Amazon (subtle plug to click on the widget to the right). You may have luck in finding it in back issue bins, and it should be affordable. I wouldn't pay more than three bucks for a near-mint copy.

If you feel inspried to look for more Sienkiewicz, then look for Elektra: Assassin, Stray Toasters and even some art books collecting Sienkiewicz's work.

FINAL RATING: 8.5 (out of 10)

Why not higher? It's mutants, and the stretching of suspension of disbelief is too much, from mutants, mysticism, aliens and time travel just being a bit much to ask. If the story kept on the main story of Dani and her Bear, then we'd be in good shape.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Starstream #3


No Spoilers this week, as this is an anthology published by Whitman in 1976.  I seem to recall that my original copies were purchased at a discount store (think K-Mart-ish) when I was five or six in a pack of 3. That means to get all four issues of this series, I must've ended up with multiples of something. The premise of the anthology is that there are comic adaptations of science fiction short stories, with an occassional original thrown in. The caliber of artists is quite good for the most part, with only few exceptions. At another time, I may cover the other issues, but I havea reason for getting to this one first.

Again, no spoilers, since for the summary, I'm just going to copy from the contents page.


Born of the Sun (by Jack Williamson, art by Don Heck) One by one, the planetswere disintegrating while a religious fanatic was destroying man's only chance for survival!

A Day in the Life of Dr. Moon (by Harry Dawes, art by Frank Bolle) A fatal disease threatens to wipe out Lunar City unless the carrier can be found and destroyed!

Microcosmic God (by Theodore Sturgeon, art by Adolfo Buylla) Kidder's "people" were a race of super beings created to solve Man's problems - but could they solve the ultimate problem?

Last Voyage of the Albatross (by A.E. VanVogt, art by A. M. Williams) Contact with aliens leaves a trail of mysterious clues in this sea adventure from one of science fiction's most respected old-timers.

The Crystal Singer (by Anne McCaffrey, art by Frank Bolle) A crystal singer could mine a fortune and live almost forever - unless a mach storm robbed her of her sanity!


The gem in this issue is Microcosmic God, a personal favorite of mine in its original prose. It's such a good story, that this adaptation is too short to do it justice. Buylla's art has a very fresh style, even over 30 years later. I would love to see this story adapted with the same quality of artwork in a full-length comic format. Some inventions are dated, but I could see this adapted to present-day very easily, especially given that the core scientific concept at work is evolution.

The first story is not the best of Don Heck's art, and with more and more scientific knowledge, the story comes across as more and more fantasy than science-fiction. The antogonist is rendered in a borderline racist style more at home in the 1940s rather than the 1970s.

The second story finds its place in an anthology, and artwork by Frank Bolle doesn't hurt it, but in light of modern research on low gravity and it's effect on human physiology, the story becomes somewhat simplified.

The fourth story is adequate, and the only thing hurting the artowrk are the flat colors. A little more rendering on this exquisitely naturalistic artwork would be fantastic. It's a sad victim of the tlimitations of the time.

The final story is a very satisfying ending to the anthology. Frank Bolle's artwork is great here, and reminds me very much of the Supergirl stories that first drew him to my attention. His women in general are beautiful, and the lead character is no exception. The gem to the story is its simplicity, and maybe that's why Bolle's artwork works so well for it. He details exactly what is needed for the scene and nothing more. Technology is believable, but not so much that it distracts from the story.


To my knowledge, this comic has not been reprinted anywhere, but it would not surprise me to find out that and individual story or two has been reprinted, especially somewhere in the boom of the 1990s. As far as finding it, good luck, you can find issues for sale online, but beware of the condition, I've never seen a well-preserved copy. It seems that Whitman used very bad newsprint for this series. A Near-Mint copy lists at for $12.00, but I'd be surprised if you couldn't trip over a copy for a little bit of nothing. If you come across it in a bargain box at a convention, snatch it up.

UPDATE: I got an e-mail from Garrison to let me know that Starstream had been collected , more or less, under the title Questar. You can get it on Amazon. Garrison also let me know that he got all 4 issues for 99 cents each on eBay so he could scan them. Apparently, they are easilly attainable for a decent price.

FINAL RATING: 7 (out of 10)

It's an anthology and not everything is a gem. The good stuff is really good, but the bad stuff is just distracting.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Minimum Wage #2


This is a "Mature Readers" title, so any of you that are younger shouldn't be able to buy this. Sometimes, you'll find this titled listed as "adult," but this particular issue is labeled as "Mature Readers." In the case of this issue, that means profanity, nudity and adult situations. I keep my copies of Minimum Wage on a spinner rack I traded a drawing for about ten years ago.  As always, at least until I can get around to making a banner that says it, spoilers abound.


     Rob is moving out of his apartment into a new place that he'll share with his girlfriend, Sylvia. His roommate Jack isn't helping, possibly out of some passive-agressive resentment of Rob's leaving. Rob's annoying friend Matt shows up to pick through Rob's collection of comics and videos and be generally loud and annoying.
     At the new apartment, Sylvia arrives with one of her brothers, Urbano and his wife, who are helping her move her things. They discover that the super's wife, Edna inhabits the apartment that smells like cat urine and she is quite possibly more annoying than Matt. The move gets done somehow, and Rob and Sylvia head off on vacation to the beach with Urbano, his wife and their teenage son Josh.
     Rob suspects that Josh is spying on him and Sylvia getting it on in their room, and his suspicions are only strengthened by Josh's over eager attention of Sylvia and her thong bikini at the beach the next day, including a hilarious moment where Sylvia forgets that her bikini top is undone while she's sunbathing.

     Rob and Sylvia get some quality time and Rob confirms his suspicions before they return to the city and the apartment full of boxes that they have waiting for them.


     This is one the comics that pulled me to the alternative comics genre. The characterization is dead on and each of the characters that Fingerman highlights is the type of character that everyone knows. Fingerman's use of profanity and adult situations can be argued based on your views of the comics medium, but this story is meant to be enjoyed by adult readers and those readers that it's intended for can very much identify with the situations Fingerman puts his characters in. The beach scene can hardly be depicted without nudity and the thought of being spied on cannot be accurately conveyed without the motives behind that spying or the actions being spied on. Fingerman's art can hardly be described as naturalistic, but all characters are definitive, easily recognizable, and capable of conveying emotion and "acting" capably, which is all anyone can really ask of a comic that depicts "real life."


     This comic has been collected in Minimum Wage Book Two, still available from Fantagraphics. Fingerman retooled it a little for his graphic novel, Beg The Question, also still available from Fantagraphics. As far as finding the individual issue goes, it may be a bit of a challenge, given its relatively low print run. If you do find it in a back issue bin, I would caution against paying more than three bucks for it, since Fingerman's comic output hasn't been too prevalent lately, but does show promise, judging by his blog, which you can see a link for over on the side with the other blogs that I watch.

FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of a possible 10)

     This would be higher except that I compare it to the reworking he did for Beg the Question. I'd definitely recommend buying that in addition to tracking down the individual issue.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes #305

Hey! Let's try something new! I'm going into my collection and pulling an older comic book out and giving it a good review. I've set up a blogger account to give them a little place of their own, but if you want to read everything that I write, you can go here. Also, there will be spoilers, as I will give a synopsis of the issue. That being said, here we go:

November 1983

     The initial thought to start off this new blog feature was going to be the first issue of Legion of Super-Heroes that got me hooked on the Legion, but I saw this issue sitting behind it, and I have fond memories of how it affected my twelve year-old brain. So I pull this out, pop the tape on the bag. My copy has seen some abuse and has, at some point, been bent diagonally (Hint: I need a new near-mint copy) so I don't mind reading while eating half of a leftover burger. Keep in mind that when I first read this, I had no idea who these people were for the most part. I'd only read the previous issue that had been centered on the Legion Academy and the main characters from this story showed up in one page of that story.


     A spaceship arrives in orbit around the planet Imsk, which a convenient caption tells us that its inhabitants have the ability to shrink and it's threatened repeatedly to secede from the United Planets. Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy and Element Lad summon Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet (who is from Insk) to the bridge and reveal that their mission was a ruse as they ambush the pair and spray Violet with a chemical that cancels the shape-changing power of Durlans. It shouldn't affect Violet since she isn't a Durlan, but she tearfully admits that she is a Durlan, and therefore not Shrinking Violet.
     Back at Legion HQ on Earth, Wildfire is sparring, rather roughly and effectively with three other male Legionnaires, while Phantom Girl and Shady (Shadow Lass) trade catty comments about Wildfire's failed relationship with Dawnstar and team Leader Dream Girl's relationship with Star Boy, right to his face.
     We return to Imsk where Brainiac 5 is using a "psych-probe" on the sedated fake Violet reveals that she is a Durlan actress named Yera who was hired to impersonate Violet by three Imskians who claimed that Violet waswith them while she was sick. She took the job to prove that she's a real actress with talents beyond shapeshifting. Element Lad tries to apologize to Colossal Boy afterwards, saying that they felt it was necessary to keep in the dark as to not tip off Yera. Colossal Boy understands, but still pops Element Lad in the nose for making him "the last to know."
     Elsewhere, on a planet that looks medieval, a man with long flowing red hair brushes by an old man into a village which he promptly destroys with a flash of fire and heat, just as a warning of who he represents.
     On Imsk, Shrinking Violet is visiting the populace as a returning hero, and is secretly approached by an Imskian woman named Marlu who chastises Yera for coming to Imsk, and takes her to meet the others through a series of tubes that the Legionnaires and Science Police can't follow. Marlu takes Yera to Liberation Headquarters, which looks to be better organized than anyone suspected.They capture Yera and take her to the three men that hired her whio reveal that the real Shrinking Violet has been kidnapped and tortured to steal Legion and UP secrets from her brain.
     Cut to Starhaven, near the galactic core, Dawnstar takes part in a private ceremony to start her search for a soul-mate and flies off, crying over having to lose Wildfire's love.
     Back on Imsk what we thought was Yera turns out to be Chameleon Boy who breaks free of the restraints and leads the Legion to the Liberation Headquarters, where they make short work of the separatists, thanks to Colossal Boy's rage and Brainiac neutralizing the leaders, size changing powers to capture them. The Science Police mop up and take the rescued and medically critical Shrinking Violet who'll have months of recovery.
     In an epilogue, Colossal Boy confronts a recovering Yera and realizes that he fell in love with Yera, not Violet and decides to honor and continue their marriage.


     The inking is really great on this, with Kurt Schaffenberger providing a different inking style that really accentuates the mood of the various scenes, especially the artificial feel of the Legion cruiser, and the moodiness of the bowels of the Liberation Headquarters. His use of Duoshading was really well-done, although at the time, when comparing against other mainstream comics of the time, probably looked a little distracting at the time.
     The story is excellent, with Paul Levitz really able to highlight Colossal Boy emotionally in a way that I can't recall any subsequent writer being able to pull off. He appears as a real person here, although the ending is a bit convenient, as he very easily accepts Yera for who she is. His writing of Shadow Lass and Phantom Girl really made me despise them as being the equivalent of the popular girls in school who are real bitchy because they can be. The fact that these two relatively weak powered heroes are dating the most powerful guys on the team just adds to that characterization.
     Keith Giffen's art style had yet to evolve into the style that came from his emulation of Jose Munoz, and his artwork is very reminiscent of Wally Wood here, but with more attention to detail, as this was the era at DC of George Perez, which permeated a lot of art at that time. It works really well here. I might even put this as the naturalistic high point of his Legion run.

     This issue has yet to be collected in any trade paperback. Fortunately, at this point, Legion was a very well-selling title for DC and it should be easy to find at a large convention or a shop with an extensive back-issue collection that isn't flooded with 90s glut comics. It should be available for very litle cash. has this listed for $3.00, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find it in dollar bins or cheaper.

FINAL RATING: 8 (out of a possible 10)