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#462

Adventure Comics #320

‘The Revenge of the Knave from Krypton’
By Jerry Siegel, John Forte and George Papp (plus a posse of inkers)

This is a strange story. It feels more like a Superboy story that guest-starred the Legion rather than an actual Legion story. Then I see that Jerry Siegel is the writer (alarm bells are already going off) and it had multiple pencillers and inkers working on it, and I wonder if it was a last-minute rush job to fill an issue because the regular team of Hamilton and Forte had missed a deadline? The change of art from Forte’s stiff figures to Papp’s looser, cartoony style, and back, is obvious, but as Papp’s pages form a complete flashback sequence it doesn’t work too badly.

The story opens with a fairly pointless sequence of Clark Kent in Smallville, and things don’t really get into gear until we’re in the 30th century. Then it’s standard Legion business, with a new applicant try-out and then a demonstration of some random bits of future technology. The applicant—with the unlikely name of Radiation Roy—fails to control his power and is rejected, probably never to be seen again.

Then the actual antagonist of the story appears, Dev-Em. Superboy knows him, and we go into a long (George Papp) flashback showing us what a scoundrel he is. Dev-Em was a Kryptonian youth who escaped Krypton (did anybody actually die when Krypton exploded?) and made his way to Earth, where he impersonated Superboy (as most villains do, eventually) in order to sully his good name.

And now Dev-Em is in the future, and seems to be a reformed character, as working as an espionage agent for the good guys. But what would be a neat little ‘spy’ story is muddled by a lot of unnecessary messing about, with Superboy impersonating Dev-Em, and Proty II impersonating gold kryptonite (don’t ask), and none of it really hangs together very well. There is a nice story in there somewhere, but it’s a bit hard to find. I mean, what’s the point of this:

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Geez, you can see Commander Kolar never had any management sensitivity training. Great way to undermine your own employee, Commander.
Despite his boss being an idiot, it’s nice to see how Dev-Em reacts to a Legion membership offer:

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Look at the expressions on Mon-El and Superboy’s faces! John Forte is a genius.

But I’m looking forward to Edmond Hamilton returning as writer next month.


#463

At night I read things through Marvel Unlimited and have grown a bit tired of the Star Wars books, and was looking for something relatively clean to stick with, so have started the BND era Spidey (partly on account of that Spidey podcast that started recently).

I picked up a handful of issues during that first year and recall liking them and hearing good things for a while, so will see how I go.

So far, so good - McNiven’s a solid penciller, even though I think his pencil art is diminished by inks (his original pencils have more of a Quesada look to them). There’s a cute moment with Peter applying for jobs - a promising scientist role is quashed when the interviewer realises that despite being a great student, Peter’s seemingly achieved nothing in the science world since then.


#464

Right, I’m through the Morrison portion of my Batman reread (actually I still have Batman Inc to do) and to be honest I’m glad it’s over. It’s okay but nothing to write home about. Anyway, what I’m really here to mention is that I completely forgot that the bridge between Bruce Wayne the Return and Batman Inc was the 9 part Bruce Wayne: The Road Home in which Bruce appeared in a stealth suit that had cloaking capabilities, shot lasers from his eyes and had the codename, ‘Insider’. Wow, it’s really bad.


#465

Adventure Comics #321

‘The Code of the Super-Heroes’

By Edmond Hamilton and John Forte

According to the (Curt Swan) cover, Lightning Lad is imprisoned for betraying the Legion’s greatest secret!

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At least they have the decency to provide him with the essentials (food, water and books), though not enough space to lie down in his tiny cell.

Well, naturally this cover makes me want to open the comic and find out what’s going on!

To summarise the plot: Commissioner Wilson of the Science Police is concerned that the Legion will betray a terrible secret that only they know, so he transports them to a remote planet to test their moral fibre by subjecting them to psychological torture to see if they will crack. Sun Boy, Shrinking Violet, Superboy, Saturn Girl and Mon-El all pass their tests, mainly by cleverly outwitting them. Which seems to defeat the purpose, as if a villain were to use methods they can’t outwit, we still don’t know if they would crack or not! I mean, what if a real villain had got two of Mon-El’s friends, instead of tricking him with android duplicates (which his powers saw through)?

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But never mind, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Only Lightning Lad fails his test, and blabs the secret of the Concentrator, the most fearsome weapon ever invented. Thus the imprisonment.

But there’s a twist, of course, and it’s one that’s easy to see coming. ‘Commissioner Wilson’ isn’t the real thing, he’s a villain! And the tests aren’t tests, they are real attempts to get the Legion to spill their secrets! Oh no, Lightning Lad has revealed … well, no he hasn’t of course.

For a Legionnaire who’s often overlooked and never makes anybody’s top 10 lists, Lightning Lad is actually a pretty sharp cookie, and far too brave to crack under pressure like this (he’s the lad who selflessly sacrificed himself to save Saturn Girl, remember?) So he didn’t tell them the real Concentrator secret, he gave away a fake secret, thus causing the villain to reveal himself.

A nice (if predictable) story, but as usual in Edmond Hamilton’s, it’s the throw-away details which really make this a great issue. First, the villain is the mysterious threat known as the Time Trapper. He’s been lurking in the background for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve seen him. Up till now, we only know about him through the Legion’s attempts to crack his ‘Iron Curtain of Time’, which we see again this issue:

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This has been cropping up on-and-off for months, as a kind of on-going plot running sort of underneath the main plot … hmm … there should be a word for something like that … maybe we could call it a subordinate plot? Yes, that sounds good. I wonder if it will catch on?

Other things I like include Saturn Girl blocking her thoughts by concentrating on past Legion missions, leading to five panels giving us five Legion stories that have never actually been told. It’s the ultimate in non-decompressed comics!

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But when the villain is finally revealed and Superboy and Mon-El is in hot pursuit, he pulls out a trick that’s my favourite part of the whole comic:

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He’s throwing stars around! This is pure pulp-era Edmond Hamilton, the man who in stories like The Comet Doom and Crashing Suns, built a career out of smashing astronomical bodies together!

Also note the awesome power levels of Superboy and Mon-El: they can’t handle all those stars, there’s too much chance of one getting through. Sure, they can handle most of them, no sweat!

And when the Legion finally decide they must use the Concentrator to stop the threat, I’m sure it’s another idea borrowed from one of his early SF stories though I don’t recall which one (maybe The Universe Wreckers?)

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These three panels show why I love Edmond Hamilton so much.

But after all that praise, I need to balance it by pointing out the ridiculous sub-plot involving Bouncing Boy, who, for no reason I can discern, Hamilton strips of powers and throws out of the Legion, all in the space of four panels and without anyone acting at all upset about it. Huh?

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Then, in the very last panel of the story, you have to suspect Hamilton did it purely to allow the most gratuitously non-PC gag I think the comic has ever featured:

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I mean … what the heck?


#466

Over the weekend I read the Carnage and Carnage U.S.A. mini-series by Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain. I don’t think I’ve read anything Carnage related beforehand, but wanted to check these out on the strength of the creative team. I’m glad I did. They were lots of fun; albeigt completely disposable. And, it was brilliant to see Agent Venom again :+1:t3:


#467

In the course of rereading old trades, I came to Exiles Ultimate Collection v5 (unfortunately the only one of those I have). I love Exiles and this has some of the best stuff from the series inside (the back half of World Tour). It also has what is, still to this day, the most shoddily made comic I’ve ever read in the form of Exiles Annual #1.

The whole thing looks like it was done in a mad rush, which is bizarre because it doesn’t really matter when annuals come out (even if it had ended up a bit behind on the ongoing’s continuity - in fact it’s placed here at the end, but was published about midway through) but also because the series had been running about six years or so without an annual, so I’m not sure why there was a sudden desperate need for one.

What does it do wrong? Well for a start, the Exiles’ base - the Crystal Palace - is completely misdrawn and coloured. Its defining characteristics, as the name suggests, is that it’s all made of crystal and it glows bright pink. Here, it’s drawn as a fairly standard room with a computer and coloured blue, making it indistinguishable from another one that appears later. The art is provided by Tom Raney. Mainly. Raney’s not worked on the main book and seems unfamiliar with the characters. His take on Morph is more grotesque than amusing. At first it’s rushed but passable. About halfway in, the proportions get messed up (Raney sometimes has problems with his characters looking like bobbleheads and it manifests big time here). By the last six pages, he’s replaced by three fill-in artists (and there are at least five inkers credited on the story) all of whom are close enough in style to Raney for it to feel like it’s just Raney’s work getting progressively worse. There’s a page near the end that wouldn’t be out of place in the early volumes of Scott Pilgrim.

The colourists don’t help matters. There are panels where Raney has drawn monitors and written notes on them for other images to be reproduced in the blank spaces, only for the colourist to not do that at all and just block colour over them without even erasing the pencilled notes.

Weirdest of all is that one of the characters (Magnus, from the annual’s team of imposter Exiles) disappears without explanation for about half the story. Was he not mentioned in the back half of the script? Did Raney just forget he was part of the team? Did he die of embarrassment off-panel? Who knows! Most shocking of all is that there are three editors credited on this mess. I just don’t get why it exists nor why they didn’t get Exiles’ regular fill-in artist, Jim Calafiore, to do it.

The whole product is a really shocking piece of work and only makes the case for why Jemas and Quesada had scrapped annuals completely when they took over.


#468

A lot of Marvel annuals had been piss poor for a long time. There were some really good ones in the 80s but from the 90s onwards they seemed to increasingly be filler material.

Done well they are actually a great opportunity, like the X-Men ones from Arthur Adams who has never been able to keep to a regular schedule, so a one-off is ideal. Then a few years down the line they were written by assistant editors and drawn by a slew of b-list artists seemingly over a weekend.

I’ve ignored them ever since but got drawn back in by the recent Batman annual from DC which was excellent and worthy of the format.


#469

Here’s something I’d never seen before. A Superman strip by Siegel and Shuster, commissioned by “Look” magazine (whatever that was) in 1940. Note unusual colouring on the costume – not sure if that was a stylistic choice or a printing error!


#470

Hmmmm…


#471

That’s pretty cool, David. Thanks for sharing.


#472

I’m not sure if this goes here, as I’m reading from a trade (well, actually an omnibus) then a real comic, but I’m reading the Silver Age Doom Patrol. Why I’m doing so needs some explaining. I’ve been interested in reading the New Teen Titans for a while, as a Comic Reviewer on Youtube I respect (though sometimes I disagree with him- he has a hate for the Chief- MM, not the DP character- based solely on one Romance comic that shall not be named, which even he admits wasn’t the Chief’s fault- Marvel Editorial assigned him a book that wasn’t his element) is a big fan of the TT. When I started going regularly into Manhattan, I got an NYPL card, and the Mid-Manhattan branch (the one I go to, probably the largest Circulating branch, temporarily housed in the famous Lion-Statue building, which normally is a research Library) has all the NTT trades. I took them out, but someone has volume 6 out, which is what I’m up to. But the NTT, early in its run contains a sequel to the Silver Age Doom Patrol, so when I saw they had the omnibus, I took it out.
It’s not your typical DC Silver Age book- it’s more like an Early Silver Age Marvel book then anything-of course not hitting the heights of the latter half of the Lee-Kirby FF run, or Lee-Buscema Silver Surfer, but reads like the first half of Lee-Kirby FF run with a bit of DC injected.
Funny note: It contains a scene of people pillaging the very same Library I took it out from.


#473

There’s also a character called Mento. I think he owns the Freshmaker :wink:


#474

Incredible Hulk Annual #11

I picked this up a little while ago but only just got around to reading it.

The lead story is an enjoyable enough Bill Mantlo romp about various heroes trying to stop a plan by the Leader to poison New York’s water to turn everyone into green gamma-creatures… for some reason.

Honestly, it doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny. But it provides an excuse for almost every major Marvel character to make a guest-appearance (Spidey, Strange, the Avengers and more turn up to help, making it feel almost like a big event story in a single comic - but of course that’s just how things used to work), and offers the chance for some nice Rick Buckler/Joe Sinnott art.

But the real reason I bought this issue was for the backup story, which has art by Frank Miller. In fact (as an editorial note explains), it was actually Miller’s first work for Marvel, but sat unpublished as an inventory story for a few years before being unearthed to fill out this annual (which came out in 1982).

Written by Mary Jo Duffy and featuring a fight between Doc Samson and the reliably titter-inducingly-named Unus the Untouchable, it’s a short and very slight story, but one that gives Miller a chance to show off his action chops.

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It’s interest to see him already experimenting with techniques he’d use more extensively in later works, like this zip-a-tone background that brings to mind visuals from his Daredevil work.

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Like a lot of his early work, there are lots of moments that are recognisably Miller - even if it hasn’t quite been refined into his later style yet - and shows how solid his figures and his storytelling were even at this early stage.

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I think this Miller guy might do alright.


#475

Fanboy #5

I picked up this old 1999 issue not because I’m a particular fan of Mark Evanier or Sergio Aragones, but because of the amazing list of guest-artists contributing to this Batman-themed story.

The plot itself revolves around the apparent theft from a comic store of a rare copy of Batman #1, leading fanboy Finster to imagine himself investigating the crime alongside Batman, journeying through many different artistic eras of the dark knight in his imagination.

And rather than being pastiches or parodies of old artists, the artists themselves show up to do it! So you have Dick Sprang and Jim Mooney showing up alongside the likes of Neal Adams…

… while Frank Miller happily takes the piss out of DKR for a couple of pages. In fact, his work here almost reads like a halfway house between his DKR and DK2 styles.

I particularly like the way he incorporates elements of Aragones’ more caricatured style into this page:

And then Bruce Timm shows up to riff on TAS for a while.

It’s all fun stuff, and even if the story itself is fairly flimsy it’s enjoyable to see all these creators stepping up to make fun of themselves a little. Not essential but worth a look.


#476

Violator vs Badrock #1-4

It would be easy to write this miniseries off as unmitigated shite. But it is, in fact, mitigated shite.

It’s mitigated by an enjoyably cartoonish approach to the story and some witty lines by Alan Moore, some of which call back to his previous Violator miniseries (there’s a reliable laugh every time a demon called the Vacillator shows up) and some of which poke fun at the whole setup here. It’s also slightly mitigated by some mostly-ok art by Brian Denham, whose art fits well into the Spawn mode of malformed slavering demonic creatures (but which fares a little less well with the human characters).

The plot of the series, such as it is, involves Badrock helping to capture Violator with the intention of some scientific institute using his demonic power to cross dimensions (or something), only for everything to go wrong when an angel shows up to try and kill Violator, leading the whole institute to be transported to hell and Badrock to fight off legions of hell-beasts until the good guys can find a way home.

It’s thin stuff that exists only to create opportunities for visceral fight scenes on a regular basis, which becomes quite numbing after a while. And by the last issue, it feels like everyone has given up making an effort altogether: the art has become increasingly loose, the colourists aren’t paying attention (clothes and objects completely change colour from panel to panel), and Moore has the characters themselves commenting on how repetitive and predictable they find the whole endeavour.

Unfortunately, there’s a very limited charm to creators showing how crap they think their own comic is, and after kind of enjoying the first couple of issues in a slumming-it B-movie kind of way, it grew genuinely tiresome by the end. It turns out that mitigated shite is still shite. You can practically hear Moore cashing the paycheque while you’re reading it. Watchmen this ain’t.

Finally, the one other thought that occurred to me while reading is how ridiculously sexualised and deformed all the female characters tend to look in this book. It’s easy to forget just how bad things got in this era of comics, but between the story itself and the countless ads for other Image comics starring other big-titted and tiny-waisted heroines and villains, it becomes quite disturbing.


#477

Best. Review. Ever.


#478

I’m pretty sure this is canon:


#479

If the giant T-Rex showed up during the Superman is a Dick era, it’s quite possibly canon.


#480

Judgment Day #1-3

You know… this was actually alright.

Kicking off Alan Moore’s run of work at Rob Liefeld’s Awesome Comics in the late '90s (coming out at the same time as Moore’s ongoing Supreme run was brought over to that imprint), this miniseries packs an awful lot into its short story.

On its surface, this is a super-powered murder-mystery that delves back into the past to uncover how the history of an entire superhero universe led up to a single act of violence, the fallout from which would change the world irrevocably (hmmm, does that sound a little bit familiar to you, Alan?)

They even have Dave Gibbons doing covers.

But at the same time, the book also manages to establish a full and rich history for the Awesome universe - albeit one that’s mainly comprised of shorthand analogues to existing Marvel and DC characters - as well as tentatively setting up the future of the Awesome line, and functioning as a very ‘meta’ exploration and explanation of how the superhero trends of the 1930s all the way through to the '80s led to the ‘gritty’ Image-style superheroes that took hold of the popular consciousness in the '90s.

That it accomplishes all of this in a single story is impressive enough, but even moreso that it manages to pack that story into just three issues.

(Of course, this being the '90s, the issues aren’t simply numbered #1, #2 and #3. Instead we get Judgment Day: α, Judgment Day: Ω, and Judgment Day: 3. Yes, they obviously couldn’t be arsed by the time they got to that last one. Or maybe it’s just that the final issue’s subtitle, ‘Final Judgment’, doesn’t fit in the indicia strip.)

Admittedly, the story is far from perfect. Art-wise, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, with the Liefeld-drawn present-day sections giving way to flashbacks by other guest artists (including some big names like Gil Kane, Keith Giffen and Terry Dodson, among others) as well as present-day fill-ins towards the end of the story.

And the whole thing feels like it’s been thrown together with a general lack of care, with production errors like glaring colouring mistakes - or captions that are accidentally repeated, printed twice in the same panel - standing out and distracting from the story.

If you’re a Liefeld fan though, there’s some decent enough art here - even if a predominance of fairly static courtroom scenes doesn’t really play to his strengths. Although there are occasional moments thrown in that seem to exist mainly to give him an option to draw the kind of thing he does best, like power stances and gritted teeth.

While the story itself leaves quite a few loose ends - including the fate of the central macguffin; a book that contains the entire story of the universe and which can be rewritten to the owner’s advantage - it’s still a fairly well-constructed yarn that does a good job of introducing readers to the Awesome Universe and setting up some characters and concepts that will feature in it.

(And beyond it, actually. It’s interesting to see some precedents for ideas that Moore used more famously later on, like the snakes on Mercury’s staff that will be very familiar to fans of Promethea.)

Oh, and I like these interlocking Gibbons covers for the three issues.

After the main Judgment Day story concluded there was a Moore-written ‘Aftermath’ one-shot that set up a few different characters and titles via a series of linked vignettes. And Moore’s short-lived Youngblood run followed, as well as an aborted Glory book that would later be given another outing by Avatar. I’ll maybe cover those bits and pieces in another post.


#481

I liked this too. I think Moore’s take on the Youngblood was ahem awesome, and what little we saw of Glory likewise. I think this could have blossomed into a really cool, self-contained, superhero universe. I was bitterly disappointed that it got truncated so soon afterwards.

Although, I think it’s pretty clear Moore re-purposed a number of these ideas for the ABC line a few years later.