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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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