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The Before: Re-Consolidating the X-Collection June 2022

Dropping the ball on covering Eclipso: The Darkness Within, but c’est la vie…writing for myself, so not too big a deal, no?

The Memorial Day holiday through me off a bit; as well as general "real-life" stuff, as well as some minor "physical labor" displacing some "writing time" and "mood" and such.

Figured as a filler non-content post, I’d post a couple "before" pics, focusing on my pre-HoX/PoX collection of X-Men.

xmen_from_2yearsago_june3_2022b

These 15 shortboxes house my pre-July 2019 X-Men collection, as of my May 2020 sorting/consolidation.

A little over two years ago, I lugged these all downstairs and put them on a rack. Other than grabbing several issues last August or so for the Chris Claremont signing, they’ve remained basically untouched…

…to now be hauled back up the stairs once again.

Because even though I’ve barely touched the boxes’ contents themselves…I’ve been pointedly whittling down my "missing X" list for the past two years. And the time has finally come to re-consolidate stuff…and see where I now actually stand in terms of what’s missing.

And perhaps THIS time actually get data input into an inventory app to begin actual record that way of my collection!

xmen_from_2yearsago_june3_2022a

I doubt I’ll have as many photos as two years ago that I took during the project, but time will tell.

I’m guestimating that overall I’ve likely got at least 2-3 shortboxes’ worth of issues to work into these, and some definite shuffling to do organizationally to better "prepare" for filling out runs and such.

Hauling these boxes up also marks the beginning of some longer-range plans and expectations, as well as a bit of a weird feeling in the gut as I begin a "takeover" of "The Cave" in a way I’d never actually wanted the "opportunity" for.

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The ’90s Revisited – Action Comics Annual #4

90s_revisited

action_comics_annual_004Living Daylights

Written by: Dan Vado
Pencilled by: Chris Wozniak
Inked by: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, Steve Mitchell
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Edited by: Dan Thorslan
Edited by: MIke Carlin
Cover Art by: Joe Quesada
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

[Note: Apparently I covered this issue once before, back in October 2013. This 2022 post is my current take on the issue.]

Professor Bennet’s daughter Mona is still under Eclipso’s control. Superman and the Justice League plead with him for help but he’s got nothing to offer. Superman decides that the only option left is that he turns himself over to Eclipso in exchange for the citizens of Crater Bay. He leaves without knowing the League’s plans, as that would just tip Eclipso off. While the League prepares for a battle with an eclipsed Superman, the man of steel goes through with his plan and gets himself eclipsed. With the help of Lex Luthor II and Professor Hamilton they get a new solar trap ready…but it’s got to be installed and is on a timer, so Booster/Fire/Ice attempt to keep Eclipso-Superman busy until the "cavalry" arrives. Said cavalry is Captain Marvel, with the power of SHAZAM…Earth’s Mightiest Mortal, The Big Red Cheese, yadda yadda yadda. A number of pages are eaten up with the fighting between Captain Marvel and Eclipsed Superman…amidst their battle, the League attempts to deal with the many eclipsed citizens…and the town winds up burning. Jerry–who we met in Superman Annual #4–meanwhile comes across the solar device and manages to change its timer to go off much sooner. Ultimately, the Crater Bay townsfolk are freed from Eclipso…but the town has been practically destroyed, and Eclipso gets away with Superman’s body.

As much as I wrote summarizing this issue, it’s a very loose summary…you’ll get a lot more out of reading the actual issue.

For me, this is very much a "key issue" that I remember from being a kid and first reading it in the summer of 1992. I’m pretty sure this was my first exposure to Captain Marvel in any "modern" sense…and was definitely one of my earliest exposures to the 1992 incarnation of the Justice League.

The cover is very memorable to me, with an enraged, eclipsed Superman in a chokehold from Captain Marvel and the tagline "The EVIL of ECLIPSO vs. the Power of SHAZAM!" It’s certainly one of my earlier exposures to Joe Quesada’s art.

I recall covering at least one issue of the Lightning Strikes Twice story that ran in Action Comics #826/Adventures of Superman #639/Superman #216 for comiXtreme/csPulp back in 2005 (ahead of the lead-up to Infinite Crisis) and feeling like it retread a bunch of stuff…and citing this particular issue as why it felt like such a retread. (Interesting to me to note that at the time, Lightning Strikes Twice was 13 years removed from Eclipso: The Darkness Within…but LST is now 17 years removed from the present!)

On this read-through I found the story to be fairly basic and simple…though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Superman gives himself up to Eclipso, the League calls in Captain Marvel, and fighting ensues. Despite expectations that the heroes would "win" and get Superman back, they don’t…and we’re left to get more of the story (and resolution) elsewhere.

The art didn’t impress me all that much, though it’s not bad. Superman seems too large at points, but overall characters I should recognize, I do…and no one looks so "off" as to be any great problem or disappointment to me. Passive acceptance of the art rather than any active response on my part.

While the issue isn’t terribly "deep," it’s definitely a "favorite" for me, if only as a bit of nostalgia. Summer 1992 and this Eclipso event were parts of my main "deep dive" into comics, that has more or less lasted for 30+ years now. I can concretely "place" this exact issue as something I definitely read that summer, I have memories of shared time with a friend, discovering comic shops, and other things that have stuck with me long-term.

I remember thinking that Eclipso: The Darkness Within had a much more linear, serialized story, largely based on this issue’s opening feeling like it came directly out of a previous issue released immediately prior. This does feel like a much more "crucial" chapter of the event than say, The Demon Annual #1 or The Flash Annual #5. With this issue, though, I am at about the halfway point of the event, though it’s breezed through 3 of 4 Superman titles of the time. I look forward to getting to the final Superman Annual and the bookend issue of the event that finished things out…but I’m definitely also curious as to how the rest of the Annuals will read. This feels like a late issue, but with half the event yet to go, we’ll see how I take ’em!

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The ’90s Revisited – Flash Annual #5

90s_revisited

flash_annual_005Run-In!

Story: Mark Waid & Craig Boldman
Pencils: Travis Charest
Inks: Dan Davis with Scott Hanna and John Lowe
Letters: Tim Harkins
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Charest & Davis
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with some context narration from Wally West–the Flash. As he’s out jogging he notices a building that wasn’t there before. On investigation, he finds the Trickster, and winds up ambushed by the Weather Wizard. The rogues escape…and Wally recuperates had his friend Chunk’s place. Chunk, apparently, has a black whole inside himself AND knows Wally is The Flash. Wally helps Chunk with a new device, which pretty much blows up in their faces–a warp effect arced with Chunk’s singularity, but they’re able to get it shut down. Elsewhere…Trickster, Weather Wizard, and Captain Boomerang find themselves summoned by Golden Glider…who ‘borrowed’ Captain Cold’s device to do so. She introduces them to Chillblaine…and ropes them into a plan for a heist…to steal a black diamond! Later, we see each party arrive "early," having designs on getting the treasure without the others’ involvement. Glider kisses the guys, poisoning them…and offers an antidote to whoever brings her the diamond. Flash gets involved–taking the diamond from the rogues, and having the offer extended to him as well. Flash finds himself in some sort of metal boot contraption attached to the globe-thing containing the black diamond. While Flash faces the rogues, it turns out that Glider already got the genuine diamond, and the one being fought for is a fake. Flash gets the boot device off, and he and the rogues soon learn that it’s some sort of explosive. Flash gets rid of it before anyone’s actually blown up. As Glider and Chillblaine rejoin the battle, she begins displaying Eclipso’s likeness and abilities. In the fight…Flash winds up possessed by Eclipso. The rogues slink away.

I’ll be all over the place on this one, I think. First thing, the issue ends with Flash possessed, AND a note of "End!". There’s no "To Be Continued in…" nor any blurb for where to go from here for this event. After the first few chapters directed the reader onward…this is the second annual to not do that, after The Demon. THAT one seemed tangential enough to be self-contained with no such direct continuation or follow-up…but it’s not quite the same for The Flash!

This came out in 1992…still RELATIVELY early in Wally’s career as The Flash. I’d forgotten about the whole "eating thing" for him keeping up his energy because of his speed-metabolism. And his lack of confidence and trying to measure up to Barry…stuff like that.

I liked that this felt mostly self-contained…being (re) introduced to Wally/The Flash; meeting some rogues, learning about them, seeing their interaction with Wally and each other…I actually mostly forgot that I was reading an "Eclipso issue"–other than "a black diamond" being referenced for a heist, there was nothing about Eclipso here. No Bruce Gordon showing up, no "eclipsed Starman" or other shapeshifter; no Eclipso himself monologuing his plans to obtain Flash, etc.

For the first 46 or so pages.

Glider’s got the black diamond, though, and winds up possessed by Eclipso briefly…but long enough to provoke Wally and eventually get HIM. Over 2/3 of an issue and it’s relatively routine-ish seeming stuff for Flash, in a Flash comic…and then some obligatory Eclipso action and an ending.

Except having the hero possessed at the end doesn’t seem like a proper ENDING…though it does seem an interesting "cliffhanger." So I’m a bit baffled at there not being any notes of where to pick up…even if it’d be to the very end with the 2nd bookend issue of the event.

Visually this felt like a strong issue.  I’m not sure if this is the "regular" art team for the Flash title at the time…but the work is quite good here and certainly fits the snippets I remember for early-Wally-Flash, and I’d be more than willing to read further work with this entire creative team.

Other than my repetitive noting of there not being any "To Be Continued" note, this is a solid, fun issue that gives a good taste of Flash stuff, includes some Eclipso for "theme," and actually has me thinking about–and curiosity up about–the main Flash series at the time. That’s a blind spot for me in DC, though…maybe I’ll get to it someday.

There doesn’t seem to REALLY be enough Eclipso here to fully justify it as a part of an event…though it DOES explain how the villain got Flash, assuming that fact comes into play later in the overall event. Instead of just being "told" later that Eclipso got him, this gives the details. Outside of that, this was a fun (of sorts) read, and definitely worth the time TO read, and I’d say quite worth a bargain-bin purchase.

Not the greatest Flash, certainly not the worst…but one of the better Annuals I can think of offhand for sampling the series while serving another event and inspiring interest in the ongoing series!

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Free Comic Book Day 2022

I don’t even remember when Free Comic Book Day started…though I’m thinking offhand it was 2002, making this year’s ‘event’ the 20-year-anniversary, and the 21st FCBD. Buuut I could be off by a year or two; though I vaguely recall my senior year of college (spring 2003) being at least the SECOND FCBD, so…yeah. I could google it I’m sure, but this is an off-the-cuff rambling/stream-of-consciousness post.

As I’m typing this, I’m more or less planning to let this BE my "post for the week," as I don’t have any great expectations of getting the next Eclipso: The Darkness Within issue read AND written up in time; so this first "haul" post since losing Dad will take its place, and I’ll get back to "real" content next week, hopefully!

On to Free Comic Book Day 2022!

Met up with an old friend after too many years–made for some good catching up, shared time, and of course–comics!

fcbd2022_uncannyxmen

Plenty of other folks have posted stuff on the branded "FCBD" comics, so I’ll skip those.

Took advantage of a couple sales to knock out MOST OF the rest of Uncanny X-Men that I’ve been working on for yeeeeeears. Thanks to this, I’m now–as of this typing and according to my records–only missing #532 from having #s 139-544!

fcbd2022_pizzahutxmen

Happened across these two mini-comics and couldn’t pass them up. I’m sure I had them as a kid, and MIGHT still have them SOMEWHERE (if so, likely in a box of ephemera I haven’t really dipped into since my last move in 2016) but if my originals are indeed lost to time, I knew darned well I’d kick myself for passing them up!

As best I can tell/recall, these would have been pack-ins with the VHS tapes from Pizza Hut in 1993 (1 had the 2-part Night of the Sentinels and 2 had Enter: Magneto and Deadly Reunions–the first four episodes of the X-Men animated series.

On the whole, definitely more than I’d planned to spend for the weekend, but I do feel like it’s helping whittle away at my missing-X stuff, and it’ll be nice to "complete" a phase of Uncanny X-Men. Get that last issue and I’ll pretty much be casually looking for LOW-grade/reader-copy "raw" (non-‘slabbed’) copies of the title, working backward with the Dark Phoenix Saga and then just see how far back I eventually go. It’ll complete my most recent intent of filling in to have #141-the end (544), but having snagged several of the Dark Phoenix issues already, I’m inclined to just keep going back on occasion. As I’m looking for low-grade copies and everyone seems to deal with graded and/or high-grade slabbed stuff, we’ll see what happens!

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The ’90s Revisited – The Demon Annual #1

90s_revisited

demon_annual_001Ex-Nihilo…Death!

Script: Alan Grant
Pencils: Joe Phillips & David Johnson
Inks: John Dell
Colors: Robbie Busch
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Dan Raspler
Cover Art: Joe Phillips
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $3.00
Published by: DC Comics

Jason Blood and his pal Harry (some sort of human pillow?) arrive in San Francisco. Not long after, they’re attacked by some large creature and Jason is forced to call forth Etrigan to fight it. Meanwhile, some kid and his cat are on the scene stirring up some trouble of their own. Etrigan’s adversary is eventually recalled–apparently this was just a test for Etrigan by some old guy. The old guy is Nihilo, and he’s confronted by Jason and the kid–apparently his nephew–also known as Klarion (the witch boy). Nihilo regales his "guests" with his story, which comes down to his having been cursed with immortality by the cruelty of Eclipso. And with Eclipso apparently being back, Nihilo seeks death before Eclipso’s attention returns to exacerbate his suffering.

Klarion, however, attempts to invoke Eclipso to kill the Demon Etrigan. He winds up "eclipsed," along with Teekl (his cat), and we get another lengthy fight scene. Along the way, Eclipsed Klarion seems to burn out Nihilo’s eyes as punishment, and ultimately, Eclipso seems to have the Demon beat…but Harry intervenes, creating an illusion of sunrise, which spurs Eclipso to move Klarion and Teekl underground, abandoning the fight in favor of preserving his control over their magical bodies. Etrigan lives, and rides off with Harry and a large "The End" closing out the story.

I went into this issue "blind." Other than some very loose basics, I’m almost wholly unfamiliar with The Demon and Etrigan outside of an episode or two of Justice League Unlimited, his appearance in 1999’s Judgement Day, possibly Final Night, and a few issues of Demon Knights (being The New 52, though, could be vastly different!). Ditto with Klarion. I didn’t even know who the kid was til the name was put out there, and then I only know whatever I read (and have presently forgotten) from the Grant Morrison mini whenever that 7 Soldiers stuff was out. I vaguely knew of Etrigan being a "rhyming" demon and definitely appreciated some of the rhymes in the issue (outside of the story itself, a writer being able to make mostly-sensible rhymes work is fairly impressive to me for whatever reason).

I’m not all that clear on the actual relationship between Jason Blood and Etrigan outside of there being at least a bit of an adversarial thing. Is Etrigan related to Merlin? Or is that someone else? There’s not much "background" here as far as Blood and the Demon. Despite that, this was a fairly self-contained issue…which gives it more credit with me for being a $3 issue–a 20% increase on the prior chapters of Eclipso: The Darkness Within being $2.50. This is also the first non-squarebound issue of the event. This is one I’m highly confident I did NOT ever read before, though it was an interesting enough read as a first-time thing in 2022. Even though I didn’t know the characters, I feel like I got to know or recognize the "essential" bits.

Visually, this had a certain "darker" style to it that put me in mind of early issues of Batman: Shadow of the Bat (though PART of that may be Alan Grant’s name with this issue). Something to the visuals also put me in mind of older Hellblazer issues and perhaps Vertigo stuff as well.

Readers are directed to this issue from Justice League America Annual #6…but other than that, there’s really nothing here that seems to truly tie in to the event. Having read previous chapters, I have a bit more context for Eclipso…but I don’t think it’s really needed in reading this…we get filled in contextually with what we "need" to know. If there was no "meta" context of having read prior chapters, this would seem a standalone story to me, and not a bad one at that. There’s also no direction to the "next" chapter of Eclipso: The Darkness Within…and with Eclipso seemingly "defeated" for the purposes of this issue–"driven off," at least–we get a conclusion of sorts that doesn’t push us into another chapter.

As I do not recall reading any other issues of the title from the ’90s–except perhaps the Bloodlines Annual–this was a decent introduction of it to me; the extra length to the issue giving more room for things to play out beyond what "just" a normal single issue would have. It doesn’t obligate me to check recent issues, nor to dive into subsequent issues. Even within the event itself, this seems more like a one-shot/special that happens to feature the characters. As "a" #1, this is additionally worthwhile if fished out of a cheapo-bin. #1, extra-sized, dark, contained…and yet ties into the overall event by virtue of referencing a black diamond and having Eclipso.

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The ’90s Revisited – Justice League America Annual #6

90s_revisited

justice_league_america_annual_006Maximum Eclipse

Dark Design: Dan Jurgens
Writer: Dan Mishkin
Penciler: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Jose Marza, Jr.
Letterer: Clem Robins
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with an introduction to Eclipso and his plotting (aka "monologuing") before cutting to a bickering Justice League (in 2022, seems this one’s the "Bwa-Ha-Ha!" JL). Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, Maxima, Bloodwynd…and loosely, apparently, Superman. The group (along with Bruce Gordon) awaits Superman’s arrival on his request, and is joined by Metamorpho. Superman attempts to recruit Wonder Woman, but she turns him down for reasons. Elsewhere, Eclipso takes control of a jewelry store security guard that leads to Wonder Woman deciding she cannot forego helping the League.

The League bickers some more, while Ice and Maxima each have reactions to Wonder Woman’s presence regarding Superman. Maxima and Metamorpho wind up storming off, leaving the rest of the group to deal with things. Maxima is quickly met by the Eclipsed Starman, who hands her a Black Diamond. The angry Leaguer is immediately possessed by Eclipso, and used to go on a super-powered rampage. This splits the League, with Blue Beetle left at HQ to work on a solar device with Gordon and the cooled-off/returned Metamorpho, while the rest set out to deal with the super-powered threat. There’s a prolonged confrontation with the Eclipsed Maxima, while Eclipso seems to show up "in person" at HQ to attempt to kill Beetle. Lots of fighting, Eclipso (via Maxima’s psychic abilities) gets temporary hold of Wonder Woman, while Beetle trashes HQ evading and fighting Eclipso. In the end, Wonder Woman is freed of Eclipso, but the villain maintains control of Maxima…and the League returns ‘home’ to find Blue Beetle missing.

In 2022, I feel like these annuals keep taking me off-guard in their length and density. Any one of these annuals has the "feel" of at least a couple–if not SEVERAL–modern comics’ issues. Broken record that I am, that seems fitting, as each title in the even had a single (annual) issue participating, where present-day these WOULD all be at least 2-3 issue miniseries!

This issue felt at once jam-packed and yet surfacey to me. While very AWARE OF this incarnation of JLA, I’m not nearly as familiar with it as I perhaps ought to be; and this is an issue I definitely had never read before. On the whole, I enjoyed reading through this and getting an action-packed adventure…it’s certainly plenty in one issue to "justify itself" to me.

The writing doesn’t blow me away, but definitely comes off as rather familiar (if not cliché) in the presentation of the characters. This almost feels trope-y to me, with the characters a slight step above caricatures or such. I recall Ice having a crush on Superman, and the Guy/Ice dynamic, but don’t think I’d recalled stuff being so blatant or melodramatic. At the same time, that’s also something to be said for "thought bubbles" still being a part of comics 30 years ago where they’re rarely present these days.

I liked the art overall in this issue, and was rather surprised when I actually took in the credits to write this post–Dave Cockrum. THE Dave Cockrum? I tend to think of him and the X-Men…not so much anything for DC. That’s another thing for being in 2022 and reading these, though: I’m looking back at comics from THIRTY. YEARS. AGO. Of course creators like Cockrum were still around THEN!

The opening scene of Eclipso reads like the start of any particular story to me, which works well here. It’s primarily introduction and context to set the issue up, but has expected vague references to place this as part of a continuing thing. Though we don’t get some definitive conclusion/ending, overall this seems to stand on its own. Having read other "Eclipso Annuals" recently, I have a fuller context here…but this reads more like picking up the start of a story amidst an ongoing series than picking up a middle chapter of some event series.

I can’t speak much to this issue’s place within the main title, but taken alone I’d say if you’re a fan of (or curious about) this era of JLA, this is another issue that’s likely at least worth grabbing from a bargain bin and reading.

I’m "curious" where the story goes from here in terms of the ‘event’ and have some vague recollections from reading other issues back in the ’90s, at least regarding Maxima.

The issue itself ends with a "To Be Continued" directing one to The Demon Annual #1, which was apparently on-sale the same week as this very issue…a change from the apparent "weekly" gaps between Annuals thus far.

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The ’90s Revisited – Superman Annual #4

90s_revisited

superman_annual004Enduring the Night!

Writer: Dan Vado
Penciller: Scott Benefiel
Inker: Trevor Scott
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Assitant Editor: Dan Thorsland
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

We open on Superman patrolling Metropolis, watchful for Eclipso-activity. He happens across an apparent mugging–some guy desperate to get off the planet before he’s possessed by an alien from the moon again. A police officer doesn’t take kindly to Superman’s intervention, nor the Man of Steel’s questioning of what part of the guy’s story he didn’t understand. Unfortunately, with a Black Diamond present, an Eclipso is unleashed. Fortunately, Bruce Gordon had just shown up, so is able to be part of the action…managing to save Superman by solar-blasting this particular manifestation.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane arrives in Crater Bay to investigate corruption (which just so happens to be where the "mugger" from earlier is from). She’s not exactly put at ease by her contact there, nor the hotel manager. And for good reason as it turns out the manager is a shape-shifted, Eclipsed Starman…and her contact is being blackmailed as part of Eclipso’s attempt to "get" Superman. Eclipso has also used this town to spread his Black Diamonds over the years. As Gordon and Mona near the town, an Eclipso creature ambushes them, and their solar trap is broken. Superman’s arrival saves the lives of the scientists, though not their car. As he flies them the rest of the way to Crater Bay, we cut to Lois, talking to her contact and being spurred to anger. It’s Superman arriving that tips her over the edge, and she’s possessed by Eclipso, thanks to the Black Diamond given to her by the hotel manager. Superman engages but is soon overwhelmed…not just by Eclipsed Lois but other Eclipsed individuals and manifestations. Mona sees the hero’s plight and as desperate times call for desperate measures, she grabs her Black Diamond and allows herself to be possessed, directing her rage at Eclipso and stalling things a bit. Ultimately, Superman is able to keep Eclipso busy til the sun rises, which releases the villain’s possession of Lois. Unfortunately, Mona is not so fortunate. As Superman, Lois, and Bruce debrief, Superman declares that he’s got to go back to save the rest of the town.

I’m definitely a bit mixed on this issue. I feel like I "understood" it better this time through than whatever previous time(s) I’d read it; though I definitely had a sense before that the Eclipso situation had been a bit more drawn out and dire by this point, where so far it seems and feels more like isolated incidents than a concerted event. While I don’t totally "buy" Lois losing her cool so easily, at the same time it works for this story…and hey, it gives us extended time WITH Lois, seeing her go about investigating and such rather than JUST being TOLD she does what she does. As she and Superman were engaged by this point and she knows he’s Clark, I don’t really see her getting angry at Superman as she’d surely "understand" his intent and not take his tone/words as patronizing or such.

There’s definitely a lotta brawling in this issue and some visuals and a Stephen King reference, but it’s not very deep. It does feel like the issue tries to take on a bit of "tone"–or play on "tropes"–of horror films/stories, I guess.

The visuals aren’t bad, but aren’t particularly memorable; the art gets things across but doesn’t really stand out. Which, really, means it does a good job as we get a story, that is a comic book, but the art isn’t trying to carry the entirety of the thing.

I do wonder a bit about Eclipso possessing Lois and her having all this strength to tear up trees, street signs, etc.–we’ve had the manifested "Eclipsos" show plenty of physicality, but it’s seemed til here that Eclipso’s possessing someone was just that–possession–and not bestowing of supernatural strength and such. If Lois gets all this power just by Eclipso possessing her, why does he need Superman’s body if he himself grants all this power?

I appreciated the general Lois story this time more than in the ’90s…but it’s still not exactly my favorite of these Annuals. That said, this is another that’s decently worth the one-off read if you can snag it from a bargain bin. Not entirely self-contained, but a pretty meaty chunk of story that can be decently appreciated as a "middle chapter" of a story in a way that standard-sized single-issues do not work on modern "decompression."

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The ’90s Revisited – Detective Comics Annual #5

90s_revisited

detectivecomics_annual005Acts of Madness!

Writers: Alan Grant & John Wagner
Penciller: Tom Mandrake
Inkers: Tom Mandrake, Jan Duursema, Rick Magyar
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Asst. Ed.: Scott Peterson
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Cover: Sam Keith
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

The issue opens on The Ventriloquist’s Club and some sorta Scarface invitation-only event. We see various invitees of the Gotham Underworld milling about and mixing; and Scarface announces that he’s going straight, and insults some folks in the crowd. Meanwhile, Batman’s out ‘n about as usual for an evening, and ponders the event…that he obviously was NOT invited to. There’s a brief scene between Jim Gordon talking to his daughter on the phone, as we see that things are still raw–especially for him–regarding what the Joker did to Barbara. Back where Batman’s captured the thieves, he finds a black diamond and slips it into his utility belt to examine later before handing over. At the Ventriloquist’s club, we see that part of the event was to get all sorts of criminals in one place and listen in on "bugged" tables to find a heist to hijack. They decide on one involving some cash The Joker should be able to point ’em toward. In the Batcave, Batman examines the diamond, while Jim Gordon continues to struggle with his hate for the Joker. Ventriloquist/Scarface and goons break Joker out of Arkham; while Batman finds there’s something evil in the diamond; but is alerted to the Bat-Signal, where once with Gordon he learns that 1. The Joker’s out again and 2. meets another Gordon–Bruce Gordon…who fills Batman in on the black diamonds and Eclipso.

Elsewhere, Joker’s led Ventriloquist & Co. to one of his old HQs where he shows off HIS "wonderful toys." Back at the police station, Jim’s checked for more black diamonds, but after learning that Joker’s location has been discovered, insists on leading…but instead accidentally unleashes "an Eclipso," a manifestation that is fueled by Jim’s dark thoughts and feelings and makes its way to try to kill the Joker. Batman trails the creature and eventually engages it in battle; showing that he prefers no hand whatsoever in anyone’s death…even The Joker’s. (Jim) Gordon is horrified when he comes to and realizes what he’s unleashed and that it’s led to police injuries. He races to the scene, where Batman’s fight continues and smashes his car into the creature, allowing Batman the coup de grace. Though it looks like the Joker’s about to be back in custody, he uses some chemicals to create a smoke cloud and gets away. We close the issue with a note that this is "to be continued" in Robin Annual #1…but that "next week" Eclipso: The Darkness Within continues in Superman Annual #4.

I’m not a fan of Scarface/The Ventriloquist. Easily one of my least-favorite Gat-villains. Er…BAT…villains. That said, it’s been ages since reading a story with ’em, so there’s that going for it; and as an extended-length story without being stuck in a mini-series or such. I think I’m also put off by the cover having nothing about ’em and just featuring Eclipso and Joker, and yet, this is definitely much more a SF/V story than Joker story (he just happens to BE there). But that’s probably part of the selling factor…Joker sells (sold?) while SF/V doesn’t (didn’t?).

Though the issue kinda dragged on…at the same time, it seemed to FIT as a Batman story. It wasn’t some drawn-out 6-issue decompressed thing or mini-series…but it lasted much longer than "just" a typical "single issue" would have. It gave us a chance to see the parts moving around the board so to speak; spend time with multiple parties, and all that. To my 2022 eyes, it felt like the Babs/Jim Gordon stuff was “shoehorned in” arbitrarily…but it was still SOMEWHAT “fresh” at the time.

I don’t remember exactly what year it was that Killing Joke came out–I’m thinking ’88?–so this is a mere 4 years removed from that…still a pretty fresh story at the time. (Compared to my reading THIS 30 years after publication with Killing Joke now 34 years removed…and it’s been almost 11 that Babs has been back up and about with New 52-to-present). So in 1992, maybe written earlier than published, it makes sense that it’d be a topic still mine-able for the characters.

The art is also pretty good…though this is definitely a case where I prefer the interior to the cover. Sam Keith’s style is very distinctive and recognizable (at least to me), but definitely a bit "weirder" than I usually picture it here, and though it has a moon ("eclipse") and the Joker. The interior art feels very "classic" to me for late-’80s/early-’90s stuff; there’s some distinctive style stuff that screams "’90s Batman!" to me. Mandrake’s art seems very fitting, and reminds me a bit of Norm Breyfogle’s work somehow.

All in all, this issue seems rather generic and forgettable as a Batman story. But it still feels like a Batman story, that happens to have some Eclipso elements to it that it wouldn’t have if not part of this event. It packs a lotta story between its covers, and feels far more "meaty" than modern Annuals; not to mention my ongoing enjoyment of the fact that this is part of a large event that did not eat up the main titles and yet was contained TO the titles by their annuals.

Taken alone, it’s a decent read as a one-off; there’s a bit to "know" about Eclipso, but the reader can pretty much figure stuff out from Bruce Gordon’s words; and though this "continues" into the Robin Annual, it’s like a lotta formulaic Bat-stuff; where the villain gets away and Batman’s gotta continue on.

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The ’90s Revisited – Green Lantern Annual #1

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greenlantern_annual001Diamond Rings

Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciller: Andy Smith
Inks: John Beatty
Letters: Bob Lappan
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

This issue sits weirdly with me right from the cover! Just the cover image alone is rather disturbing. We have the text "…In Blackest Day!" and a large silhouette of a rather sinister/creepy Eclipso…while Hal Jordan delivers one heckuva brutal punch to Star Sapphire, with visible blood flying off her face! There’s also a stylized "G" saying "No More Mister Nice Guy!" One would think from the G that it refers to Guy Gardner…but he is nowhere to be found on the cover! And especially as neither Hal nor Star Sapphire appear to actually BE "eclipsed," it just looks like a total abusive situation that seems flat-out disgusting to me before so much as opening the issue.

We open on a brief scene of Kilowog, John Stewart, and several other Lanterns training/bantering, before they take in some sort of warning that something is hunting Green Lanterns. Turning the page, we get a generic shot of Eclipso on his throne stating "I want Green Lantern." Continuing on we see the dark god is rather Orange Lantern-y 15-16 years before we had Orange Lanterns…he wants all GL has, period. We then see the eclipsed Starman in Times Square pass a black diamond around to cause some Eclipso-y mischief. Ultimately a black diamond makes its way to Guy Gardner who is still incredibly ticked-off at Hal and the GLs. Scene cuts to a scream coming from a house, and then Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) slamming a door open to find a sweating, terrified Carol Ferris, just awoken from a nightmare. We spend a number of pages of Carol conveying the nightmare to Jordan, in the process picking up that there’s a pretty traumatic history involving Star Sapphire as a personality/entity controlling her, maybe still IN her. As Carol goes back to sleep, Jordan muses on his always being "giving" and not getting back, with women in his life…Carol or Arisia. As he looks out a window, we find an eclipsed Guy Gardner stalking the hero. We switch to see Bruce Gordon and his crew on the hunt for this latest black diamond, and then back to Gardner, who does not meet Eclipso’s expectations. No ring, no powers…the villain wants those, not whatever Gardner is now. So he flicks the diamond to be found when Jordan emerges from the dwelling…but he’s so preoccupied he misses it.

Instead, coming out later herself, Carol finds it…and the diamond along with her anger and whatever involving the Sapphire lends itself to Eclipso eclipsing another super-powered individual in the now-twice-possessed Carol/Star Sapphire! As with gaining Rampage’s body in Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1, Eclipso has a fight on his hands DESPITE eclipsing Carol…he wants Jordan alive, Star Sapphire wants him dead! And Eclipso, while possessing the body is compelled to initially act on the anger that gave him control in the first place. Eclipso/Sapphire unleash some destruction to draw Hal out, and then they fight a bit. "Starman" shows up to "help," but of course "betrays" Jordan, leading to his defeat and Sapphire’s victory…as Bruce Gordon & Crew show up and use a solar generator on Sapphire. This distracts, but doesn’t release her…and then the GL Corps show up, just to be interrupted–seemingly welcomely–by Hal leaping into action. It soon stands clear that he’s been Eclipsed, too, and by the two bodies–Jordan and Ferris–have played out their "revenge fantasies," Eclipso has full control! The GL Corps members attempt to take them on, but to no avail. As the powers of the GL ring and the sapphire cause an explosion, the GLs are knocked out. When they come to, there’s no sign of Jordon or the Sapphire…so they fly off in search and to notify others. We then see that Eclipso got the better of them as the two fly out from under the rubble and the villain prepares to "store" the bodies for later.

I’m not particularly familiar with this era of GL/GLCorps stuff. I’m loosely aware OF some stuff, but while I’ve read both Emerald Dawn minis and possibly the first arc of this iteration of the GL series, I mostly didn’t come to the "modern" GL stuff until a good year or so after this annual, with the Reign of the Supermen tie-in issue (#46 I believe) and then Emerald Twilight in #s 48-50. Other than the fact OF Carol having been or been possessed BY (the?) Star Sapphire(s?), I don’t think I’d really actually READ anything with that as a present-day status quo/issue prior to Johns’ run in the late "aughts" leading up to and during the Blackest Night event.

Here in this issue, I feel like the Hal/Carol thing comes off as rather contentious and bitter, though I could be reading too much into it. Add to that that we see Hal’s frustrations with stuff with Arisia (who I surely knew nothing about at the time these Annuals were being published) and the whole thing feels a BIT forced. Relevant to the story–Hal’s anger–but like we’re being TOLD a lot more than we’re being SHOWN.

The art’s not bad, though it doesn’t blow me away. It’s good stuff for ’90s GL, and doesn’t feel "off" the way the art in the Man of Steel Annual did; and with Jones on the writing this seems to fit into or play with "continuity" pretty well, rather than just being some "in-name-only" thing mashed against an ongoing series.

Perhaps it’s that this is a 30-year-old story now, and thus I have 30 years of "experience" with comics since then, but with 2022 hindsight this comes off a fairly contrived and forgettable, and though once upon a time I was flabbergasted that Hal Jordan could be seen as stale or boring and need to be moved off the board for the likes of Kyle Rayner, this particular issue’s "vibe" with me is that yeah, I wouldn’t be "sold" on GL stuff from this and I’m a bit hard-pressed to dig much deeper into GL or the series’ mythology on just what I got from this issue.

There’s also the fact that I’ve "sat on" this issue for nearly two weeks…having read it, which was well enough in and of itself…but I just didn’t have any particular desire to synopsize or write ABOUT the issue. As a blogger like this, undertaking this "personal reading project" OF reading all these Eclipso Annuals and writing about each issue as I go along, that’s a bit disheartening and has almost stalled me out 3 "real" chapters in! I do look forward to things picking up, but all the more of the sense that SOME annuals are going to prove far more important than others, possibly with a "core" throughline in a few and some being more "red sky crossover" type than particularly important to the main narrative. At somewhere over double-size but slightly less than triple-size, each annual here represents enough content for at least two issues’ tie-in, perhaps 3-4 with 2022-era "decompression." We get this single issue of the event touching the GL corner of the DCU directly, where present-day this would certainly be at least a 3-issue tie-in mini-series instead of "just" an Annual.

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The ’90s Revisited – Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1

90s_revisited

supermanthemanofsteel_annual0001The Gathering Darkness

Pencils by: Chris Wozniak
Dialogue by: Robert Loren Fleming
Inks by: Brad Vancata
Letters by: Albert De Guzman
Colors by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assists by: Dan Thorsland
Edits by: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

We open in the offices of the Daily Planet, where someone vaguely Jimmy Olsen-ish suggests Clark (Kent) needs to see something–a monster tearing up the mall. Moments later–as Superman–he’s on his way and engages the creature. Eventually the situation is handled, as Superman meets Dr. Bruce Gordon and his friend Mona…who tell him about Eclipso. This is essentially a shared scene from Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1; but if you didn’t read THAT issue, it sets things up well for this one. If you did…well, it’s a few pages of deja vu. As Superman talks with Gordon and Mona, the (possessed-by-Eclipso) Creeper bursts in to antagonize the group and taunt Superman with a black diamond. While Eclipso fails to "get" Superman, it leaves the hero winded. In Eclipso’s moon citadel, the villain monologues a bit while we see the eclipsed Lar Gand (Valor) as Eclipso’s primary trophy so far. We then shift to a secret jungle mission where Phantom Lady has been captured and an undercover Starman has to reveal himself to the villainous scientist…who is an Eclipso "agent," and Starman is taken. Eclipso has another prize…this one with the ability to "hide" the fact that it’s "Eclipsed," giving the villain a way to spy on other heroes, beginning with "playing it normal" for an awakened Phantom Lady. Elsewhere, the boy that unleashed the "Eclipso" at the mall returns home and winds up unleashing another instance of the creature, resulting in a rematch between it and Superman. This is ultimately dispatched with heat vision from our hero–who gains his powers thanks to the sun, and thus Eclipso is vulnerable to it. Later, the Eclipsed Starman pays a visit to Kitty Faulkner and provokes her to bring out Rampage, leading to another Eclipsed hero. However…Eclipso’s found himself a conundrum as the focus of Rampage’s anger was "himself"–leading to a battle between Starman and Rampage, both as aspects of Eclipso. Superman eventually gets involved and is able to drive Eclipso out of Rampage (who reverts back to Kitty Faulkner)…but Eclipso escapes in Starman. While the rescued scientist is a ‘win,’ there’s no time to really rest. And we’re directed to Eclipso’s next appearance coming in Green Lantern Annual #1 in a week’s (real-world) time.

The writing for this issue is more or less on-par with Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1, lending a good bit of continuity to a second chapter of this ‘event’. Which makes sense as Robert Loren Fleming is a shared creator credit between the issues! The story is solid overall, albeit lacking the ‘depth’ I associate with the "main" Superman titles of the time. This is a separate work using the character, though, which explains its detachment from "proper" ongoing Superman stuff of 1992. While we DO get a footnote reference to the "recent adventure" Starman had involving Eclipso in Starman 42-45, it hardly seems to matter as it doesn’t really impact this story; neither Starman nor Eclipso particularly acknowledge anything from that story (Such as Eclipso himself being behind Starman getting his powers, and the villain long having had designs on utilizing Starman for his own nefarious purposes). The "reference" seems to have been shoehorned in to "justify" or "create" a sense of "continuity" with a then-very-recent story that involved the characters but apparently isn’t useful or relevant to this unfolding tale. There’s also no real indicator of anything particular going on between Starman and Kitty/Rampage…which seems to totally disregard their culmination from the 45-issue Starman series.

If this was a regular-sized issue, I’d have a huge problem with a 5-page re-tread of another issue. In 2022, that’d be 1/4 of an issue! However, this being an annual and more than double-length compared to a regular issue, it helps this one to stand alone…which is definitely a good thing! Other than the Starman/Rampage plot points ignoring/disregarding the characters’ developments in his solo series though, this wasn’t bad. And those continuity bits did not even phase me when I first read this issue in 1992…as I’d had no idea there WAS a Starman series and surely glazed over the footnote with zero knowledge of how recent that series was, etc. I believe I mentioned in my post on Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 that it was my first exposure to The Creeper…but I think it may actually have been THIS issue; as I’m pretty sure I’d read this one prior to that one, first time through.

Visually this is not a bad issue, though it certainly steps a bit away from my preferences from the main Superman titles of the time. Superman himself comes off fairly generic here, almost seeming too large and such. That said, it’s definitely "’90s art" and fits the story pretty well…and while not uniquely memorable in and of itself, was very recognizable to me reading it this time through and recalling snippets of my reading it 30-ish years ago as a kid. There’s one panel in particular of Bruce Gordon as he is horrified to see Superman with a black diamond that reminds me very much, somehow, of Norm Breyfogle‘s art, and stood out to me in that way this time where it certainly never did before.

The cover may be the best visual of the issue, though, and is certainly one of THE "Eclipso images" I think of when I do think of this story…and while not one of my first few comics, it’s definitely a stand-out piece that takes me back to the earliest days of my getting BACK into comics in 1992. A friend had gotten the issue–it was a pretty big deal as it was a Superman comic, and it was a #1! (Back in 1992 it was still a rather novel thing for a comic to have a #1 on its cover, if you can believe it. Seems like there are several new #1s every single week now in 2022, and any given series gets a new #1 itself every couple years, pretty much). The cover is a Quesada piece, and while I see plenty of significance to his name (and Palmiotti!) now… in 1992 I didn’t know them from any other artist…it was just this cool image of Superman in space with an eclipse behind him ,and the stylized coloring of the S shield that wouldn’t otherwise be visible except…well, comics.

Eclipso: The Darkness Within was my first exposure to the villain, and by nature of this story–he’s actually a huge threat–he’s never been "just" a "joke" character/villain to me. Of course, it’s also the nostalgia of this being probably my earliest real "crossover" or "event" in comics–even though it was almost 20 years after the fact that I actually acquired the entirety of the thing.

I’m definitely eager to get into further chapters of the story, not to mention just getting to the whole of it. Re-reading Funeral for a Friend a few weeks ago had a deep, personal aspect to it so fresh off losing Dad…but it’s also reignited my interest in re-reading stuff…or in this hybrid case with Eclipso: The Darkness within, reading the event for the first time all the way through, including re-reading what issues I HAD previously read, this time in actual context of the whole.

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