Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: Web of Spider-Man #129

Web of Spider-Man #129, "Time Bomb Pt. 2: By My Hand, Mary Jane Must Die!"
Written by Tom DeFalco (plot) and Todd DeZago (script), Penciled by Steven Butler, Inked/finished by Randy Emberlin

Web of Spider-Man 129 Cover

In the podcast I appear in, I had some negative things to say about "Spider-Man: The Clone Saga," a bizarre late 2000s miniseries written by Howard Mackie and DeFalco in an attempt to tell a condensed, "true to the original concept" clone saga story. In short, it's a bizarre mish-mash that chickens out about absolutely everything and is full of incredibly awkward dialogue and revives evil Harry Osborn for no reason. I'm not going to tell you the clone saga is great (it wasn't, by and large), but it did have genuine pathos when, say, Doctor Octopus saves Spider-Man's life and willingly surrenders, expecting to face Spidey next time only to be murdered by Kaine. Or Aunt May's legitimately great death issue that got rid of a character that hadn't been particularly useful in about 15 years in a touching, heartfelt way (later crapped on by John Byrne at his dirt-worst). But I'm not here to review those issues! I'm returning to Web of Spider-Man!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Robin #19

Robin 19, “War Gods in the Hood,” Cover Date August 1995
Written by Chuck Dixon, Pencils by Mike Wieringo, Inks by Stan Woch

Robin 19 Cover Julie Caesar Ulysses General

Tim Drake, aka Robin #3, is the Robin I grew up with as a kid in the 90’s. After the disaster that was the Jason Todd death, Tim Drake was created to be a smart, dedicated hero in his own right that wouldn’t be resented by fans for “stealing” Dick Grayson’s job the way Todd was. Early writers of the character, primarily Chuck Dixon, really focused on the “detective” aspect of the character. It’s easy to blame Batman’s sidekick getting his own series as some sort of early 90’s cash-grab, but the early Robin books tend to be consistently very good. All written by Chuck Dixon, who handled the mini-series and first 100 issues of the solo series, the books also benefitted from solid art from veterans like Tom Lyle and Tom Grummett. In the book’s second year, Mike Wieringo took over as the book’s regular penciler, and here we are!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rant: Give Artists Credit

Comics Beat posted an interesting article a few days ago about the importance of the artist in selling a comic. Incredibly, only 5% of retailers credited the artist as the most important thing in terms of selling a comic. I understand there's market forces at work there; comic book retailers have taken on the near-insane task of selling comic books, so their ideas are necessarily skewed by the need to "feed their family" and other similar considerations.

As someone who is entering the "comic book podcast" arena only a handful of years after most, I've already noticed that the two episodes that have gotten the most downloads thus far are the two with work by Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, two "names," that, not coincidentally, are not comic book artists. Not to pick on my co-hosts, but I cringe when introducing an episode by saying "Alan Moore's The Killing Joke," or similar pronouncements (although to be fair, in that episode we did explain that the story is really Brian Bolland's project more than Moore's).

The thing is, this mind-set is both backwards and toxic. Art is the most important thing in comic books. Period. It is the defining point of separation between comics and its bookstore neighbors in the sci-fi section.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: X-Force #46

X-Force #46, “Behind Closed Doors,” Cover Date September, 1995
Written by Jeph Loeb, Penciled by Adam Pollina, Inked by Mark Pennington

X-Force 46 Cover Sunfire Mimic

Most people on the outside looking in at X-Force see it as proof of 90’s excess: it was Rob Liefeld’s pet project, the book that set all sorts of speculator records before being overshadowed by Jim Lee’s X-Men #1. Despite not having its own media presence, there was a line of action figures featuring endless variations of Cable, the team’s gun-toting mystery-man. While it’s true that the book as drawn and plotted by Rob Liefeld was the sort of big, bombastic action you’d expect from a book called “X-Force,” what a lot of people may not remember is that Liefeld’s tenure on the title was exceptionally brief.

X-Force had begun life as the New Mutants, the mid-80’s teen group created when Jim Shooter noticed that there were basically no more teens on the X-Men title (except Kitty), and while the team’s roster had changed in the wake of Cable taking over as leader, these were still characters that had existed in some form for several years. As I mentioned in my New Warriors review, I am a sucker for “teens growing up” stories, and X-Force is no exception. Personally, I found the leader-less “wandering around” phase far more interesting than the military strike team. So let’s get into it!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: New Warriors #22

New Warriors #22, "The Stolen Children, Nothing But the Truth Part 1" Cover Date April 1992
Written by Fabian Nicieza, Penciled by Mark Bagley, Inked by Larry Mahlstedt

New Warriors 22 Cover

I should preface this review by mentioning that I can't really be objective in my appreciation of the New Warriors. As I mentioned in a previous post, they were the first comic I read that I didn't learn about from TV, and I found the characters, who ranged from high school kids to college students to be pretty much the coolest. I know now that they're more or less Marvel's answer to the Teen Titans, but I love watching characters grow up, and that was the best part of the original series. It was also cool that I felt like I could follow all of the character's appearances, since they rarely popped up in other books. Of course, after years of growth, culminating in Justice and Firestar being added to the Avengers at the height of its resurgence in popularity, somebody at Marvel hit the reset button because the rest of the world wasn't aging, and things have been a bit dire for the team for the past 15 years or so as writers either play up nostalgia or take things in bizarre new directions. But taken on its own, Fabe and Bagley, two nearly unknowns at the time, managed to show everyone how good they could be and told a great, underrated story. Their run is available in hardcover if that's your thing, containing two years of the ongoing series, plus annuals and crossovers. Unfortunately, the book is not available on Marvel Unlimited.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

July Posting Plans

Greetings, humans! I've mentioned before that my output slowed down considerably in the wake of a job that requires a bunch of writing, but I haven't forsaken this blog! In addition to podcasting at Your Stupid Minds, I've also been podcasting about comics for Some of My Friends Read Comics, a spin-off to my friend Vince's general pop culture podcast.

But rest assured, I'm still reading 90's comics, and I'm excited to talk about them in the near future! To that end, this next month I will be posting about some superhero teams that I remember fondly: the New Warriors and X-Force, post-Cable. I also plan to review an issue of Robin's solo series and a DC team book I know nothing about (which could be basically anything other than JLA or the classic Titans team).

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Marvel Trading Cards Nostalgia

Last week Shea Serrano over at Grantland wrote a really nice piece about the original Skybox NBA trading card set, and reading it woke up dormant memories of what inspired me to get into reading comic books in the first place.

Captain America Marvel Card Series 1 1990
Because I was a dumb kid, I spent way too much time wondering
if someone really counted every Cap battle as a win, loss, or draw.
I was six years old and living in Hawaii when my grandparents came to visit. My grandfather hadn’t been to the island since the Korean War, but I guess that didn’t stop him from finding a local flea market. In between looking at audio equipment and wondering whether Yamaha speakers were knock-offs and whether he could fit them into his luggage (my grandfather was borderline-obsessed with Sony audio equipment, particularly if he could buy it for cheap), he found something that he figured might be a fun gift for his grandson; a collection of pro wrestling cards (from the 1990 Classic WWF series) and Marvel cards (from the 1990 Series 1 set).

Marvel Series 1 Cards 1990 ad

I can barely guess why my grandfather thought this was a good gift for me; I had been a fan of wrestling, but my parents wouldn’t let me watch it during this time period (I only became a fan again via the N64 games years later), and I had never read a comic book. I think I had a few action figures, and I was just starting to care about baseball and other kinds of trading cards.

I can’t say why I connected with these cards, maybe it was that I liked the combination of art and text, especially the bombastic style aimed at kids slightly older than me, but both sets really blew me away. I probably read the back of every card five times, and would often spend rainy afternoons sorting them based on who would win in a fight, who was my favorite, or by multiplication tables (I might have been a weird kid, but remember, the internet did not exist). I spent a lot of time imagining what might be happening in these fictional worlds; who was Hulk Hogan wrestling next? What was Deathlok doing? Could Deathlok defeat Hulk Hogan?

Marvel Card Series 3 1992 Captain Britain
The card-set I have permanently burned into my brain: the computer effect backgrounds
connected so that the cards looked extra nice when set in order in your card binder.

Even after I moved back to the mainland, it was cards, not comics, that I liked. I had friends who lived next door, and somehow I convinced them to waste their money the same way I did, and  the three of us managed to build a somewhat impressive collection of Skybox’s 1991-92 NBA set (the sequel to those featured in the Grantland set, featuring white backgrounds and colorful crazy computer effects) and Marvel’s series 3 trading cards. Only after collecting these cards, along with watching X-Men every week and buying some ToyBiz action figures, did I feel like I should start reading comics, first some give-away Pizza Hut issues, and then various stuff I’d buy at the bookstore with my parents. My first comic subscription, a few months later and for my birthday, was the New Warriors, a series I was only interested in because I’d collected their trading cards: I had never seen an actual physical issue, since it wasn’t sold in bookstores, but I knew the premise and the characters from trading cards. Before movies or video games or even cartoon shows, it was trading cards that got me interested in fictional worlds. There’s a good chance that I wouldn’t be writing this in a blog about 90’s comics if my grandfather bought me a knock-off disc-man.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Image: Avengers #66

Ultron is excited about his film debut! (from Avengers #66, Barry Winsor-Smith art.)

Ultron Avengers 67 Ultron-6

Monday, April 13, 2015

Image: Daredevil #239

Is everyone enjoying the new Daredevil show? This guy has some complaints:

Daredevil skateboarding 239 netflix

Via Daredevil #239, Written by Ann Nocenti, Penciled by Louis Williams. (Don't worry everyone, DD does some stunts to impress all the sk8 bois)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: Web of Spider-Man #80

Web of Spider-Man #80, "This Blood is My Blood," Cover Date September 1991
Written by Terry Kavanagh, Penciled and Inked by Alex Saviuk

In the summer of 1991, we were a year into Todd McFarlane's "adjective-less" Spider-Man, and a month away from X-Men #1 by Claremont and Lee. It was about as high as the 90's wave crested. Meanwhile, in the fourth most important (monthly) Spider-Man book published that month...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: Gladiator/Supreme #1

Gladiator/Supreme #1, “False Gods,” Original Cover Date: March, 1997
Written by Keith Giffen, Penciled by Ed Benes, Inked by Wellington Dias, Rene Michelletti

Gladiator Supreme Cover

Why does a comic like this exist? The Image Exodus took place in 1991, six years before this comic, with Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and others burning bridges out the door as they left high-profile jobs to create their own versions of popular characters. Six years later, in the wake of the speculator bubble collapse, Marvel was declaring bankruptcy and made deals with Jim Lee and Liefeld’s studios to play with high-profile but poorly selling titles like Fantastic Four and Iron Man. It also led to truly bizarre crossovers like this, a crossover of ersatz Superman “Supreme,” a Rob Liefeld creation best known for being completely re-invented by Alan Moore, and Gladiator, an ersatz Superman created by Claremont and Dave Cockrum as part of the Imperial Guard, an ersatz Legion of Super Heroes. While Gladiator was presently starring in a mini-series featuring the Guard, he was a minor X-Men character, while Supreme was not exactly a huge hit, which is why Liefeld essentially gave the character away to Moore, who rebuilt him from the ground up as something between Silver-Age Superman and Promethea. So it’s the team-up we’ve all been demanding! Battle of the 3rd rate Superman knockoffs!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: Warlock & the Infinity Watch #7

Warlock & the Infinity Watch #7, "The Island!" Cover Date August, 1992
Written by Jim Starlin, Penciled by Tom Raney, Inked by Terry Austin

Warlock Infinity Watch 7

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: Fantastic Force #15

Fantastic Force #15, Cover Date January 1996
Written by Tom Brevoort & Mike Kanterovich, Penciled by Dante Bastianoni, Inked by Steve Montano

Fantastic Force 15 Cover Vibraxas

Some time ago, I reviewed Fantastic Force #1, and found it to be almost as mediocre as you’d expect a Fantastic Four spin-off circa 1994. Well, because it was the 90’s, the book has lasted all the way to issue #15, a mark that would be the equivalent of 2-3 trade paperbacks in today’s market, aka more than twice as long as a series like this would/should last. Let’s check in on all our favorites: Psi-Lord, Devlor, Vibraxas, and the rest, and see what exciting new adventures they’re up to this month!