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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #44

90s_revisited

starman_0044Star Shadows part three: Dark of the Moon!

Writer: Len Strazewski
Penciller: John Calimee
Inker: Roy Richardson
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: March 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

We open with Lobo in our face (metaphorically-speaking) ready to throw a punch. The issue is basically one big fight scene, with Lobo vs. Eclipso, Eclipso vs. Starman, Lobo vs. Starman, Starman and Eclipso vs. Lobo…a bunch of posturing, tough-guy cracks, etc. Eventually Eclipso convinces Starman to help him…but after they manage to "fake" Eclipso/Bruce’s "death" and Lobo takes off to collect his bounty, Eclipso betrays Starman, uses some of his energy, and heads to Earth. As Starman realizes the danger to Kitty back on Earth–expecting Bruce and Will, not the evil Eclipso–he, too, heads back to Earth.

Well, we’re back to Calimee/Richardson on the art, as with #42, and this issue is decidedly less "cartoony" than the previous. And I’ll give credit to the page layouts–in general–for actually having multiple panels, clear gutters overall, etc. This is not a bad issue to look at visually. But it’s basically one big fight scene.

The story is ok-ish…we do glean a BIT of information, such as Eclipso specifically wanting Starman as a battery, to use the hero’s sun-energy and his own black diamond. Eclipso recognizes the hands of the Lords of Chaos in stuff, so it’s not some unknown quantity thing.

Even though it’s been years since I’ve read anything Eclipso-related, specifically anything from The Darkness Within, I feel like there’s something "off" to the character’s presentation here. Expecting this to be a set-up/prologue to that event certainly impacts my lens through which I’m seeing this Star Shadows story.

There’s not much, really, for me to say beyond that. Lobo (because ’90s and Lobo has to be everywhere); tail-end of an ongoing series, yadda yadda yadda. Despite Lobo being on the cover, this doesn’t really have much to offer the reader as a standalone issue…especially 30 years later; but as with previous issues, if you find the entire arc together and at bargain pricing, it might be worth the purchase/read.

I’m much more eager to get to the start of The Darkness Within, again assuming that this story leads into that. So far I’m not seeing any connection other than "Eclipso," so maybe that’ll be something the next/final issue of this story gets to?

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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #43

90s_revisited

starman_0043Star Shadows part two: Blue Moon

Writer: Len Strazewski
Artist: Vince Giarrano
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: February 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

Well, then…this is a definite change from the modern way of "Delay Delay Delay" to "preserve artistic integrity" for an "inevitable" "graphic novel"–this issue’s artist is a Vince Giarrano, the previous issue’s team of John Calimee, Andrew Smith, Roy Richardson, and Alan Kupperberg. That said, I honestly didn’t immediately notice, I just took the issue’s contents at face value, figuring "oddness" was my lack of in-depth familiarity and fondness for the title and character(s).

This issue opens on a several-page flashback starring Lobo, giving us some random–possibly "typical"–but tame–Lobo "stuff". The character in a bar, being very uncouth, rough, and fairly caricatureish overall…with some then-timely pop-culturally references before being sent on his way to fight Eclipso for a bounty. We also see that the seemingly arbitrary character putting him on the path to Eclipso is actually an avatar of the Lords of Chaos. Lobo literally crosses paths with Starman and Dr. Bruce Gordon. Starman and Lobo fight for a bit, while we see a certain evil emerging with Dr. Gordon that–sixteen pages into our issue–pretty much catches us up to where the previous left off! Eclipso lets on that he definitely had a hand in Starman’s origin before stepping in with Will’s (losing) battle with Lobo. A blast of darkness pauses the battle, reveals Eclipso’s presence, and gives us another cliffhanger as Lobo goofily recognizes his target.

I had to have noticed SOMEthing was up with the art but it didn’t stand out to me until going back through the issue for this post–it got very generic and cartoony at points. It’s far superior than anything I myself could produce, but it’s a far cry from stand-out, impressive distinct work that I’d remember significantly down the road. It gets the job done, for what story there is.

The Lords of Chaos in this issue "should" mean more to me I’m sure, but mostly just ring a distant bell in my mind. I believe something involving a retcon on the nature of Eclipso, but I’m reading along for the experience and there are plenty of sites/blurbs out there to fill in gaps if one wants to go hunting for info. My "retcon sense" is definitely tingling, certainly helped along by the "meta" nature of my read-through for this story–knowing this is THE final arc for the series, possibly the last starring presence of Will Peyton, and kinda leading into the summer 1992 Eclipso: The Darkness Within "event" in DC’s annuals. Having previously only read the issue that crossed over with the Superman: Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, I don’t have any great knowledge of this title, its tone, and all that sorta context. This has the feel of a hastily-ending series with a "new" villain shoehorned in as "the Big Bad All Along" or such.

Even saying that, though, it’s definitely an "older" and "’90s" comic…for better and worse. Two chapters in of four and I’m beginning to "regret" my idea to start with these issues rather than diving into Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1. I feel like part of me WANTS to like and enjoy this more than I am…but that’s certainly on rose-colored-glasses/memories of enjoying Strazewski’s stuff in the past and the nostalgia the name brings to mind for me.

This is definitely another single issue that I’m not gonna recommend AS an arbitrarily contextless single-issue purchase or quest. If you’re following this classic Starman series, or going after this Eclipso story for pre-The Darkness Within context, etc, it’s worth getting to have the arc; but I feel like I at least could definitely do just fine without it.

We’ll see what the next couple chapters hold!

starman_0043_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Starman #42

90s_revisited

starman_0042Star Shadows part one: Sun Spots!

Writer: Len Strazewski
Pencillers: John Calimee, Andrew Smith
Inkers: Roy Richardson, Alan Kupperberg
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: January 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

The cover of this issue proclaims "Eclipso casts a shadow of DOOM over STARMAN!" and we see some weird guy lurking as the background casting a shadow over the title logo, while Starman looks on in apparent surprise while someone in a labcoat looks on, also in apparent surprise…and there’s some linework suggesting a machine of some sort. I see Mignola‘s "signature," presumably Mike Mignola–better known for Hellboy and such. Which explains the stylized nature of Eclipso on the cover. I’ve long associated Mignola with Hellboy and forget that he did work for DC!

We open on a full page piece showing a weird face partway between transformation, and someone asking Starman what’s going on…as she pieces together that this guy really IS the hero and that’s why he’s been flaking on her. His powers surge and he has to direct it to not incinerate her. He quickly heads to STAR Labs for Kitty’s help…but after crashing into Kitty’s lab, collapses. When he comes to, hours later, he’s being examined by both her and some other guy…apparently a Bruce Gordon. We get some expositional conversation, a couple of footnotes to recent back issues, and a bit of context of Kitty (she’s also Rampage), Will (a montage of sorts of his origin/career), and then Bruce and his darker half brought out by a black diamond–Eclipso. And apparently it was actually Eclipso that caused Will to get his powers! After deciding they need to get Will into outer space to better get a read on what’s going on WITH his powers, Will gets a moment with Kitty where he reveals his true face and name and they confess their love for each other. Getting into space with Bruce’s spacecraft, they’re hit by something…as they reel from it, we see that it’s Lobo! Meanwhile, Eclipso apparently re-emerges from Bruce.

Just about all I know about Starman is that his "superhero name" is Starman, star of this book; he’s got SOME sort of legacy tie that came into play in the post-Zero Hour James Robinson series; he’s got solar powers, supporting cast member Kitty is Kitty Faulkner/Rampage who had also been in some early post-Man of Steel-era Superman; and whatever I gleaned from Starman #28 that tied in to the Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story in the Superman books in 1990-ish.

But hey, that’s enough for ME, for jumping in "cold" to a #42!

While Mignola‘s work on the cover is fairly recognizable–once I realized it was his work–I’m not terribly keen on it. My initial impression looking at the cover was some generic artist’s work, some lower-tier art for a lower-tier comic that when you look at modern DC stuff you wouldn’t even realize ever even EXISTED–both the title, and the character. The art throughout the issue’s not bad, but doesn’t blow me away…I’m really not consciously familiar with the artists. Len Strazewski I recognize from Ultraverse comics–namely as a co-creator of Prime!

The writing here isn’t bad…there’s definitely a lot of context/exposition that seems vastly out of place at this point in 2022–THIRTY YEARS after this comic was originally "new"! But for its time, it works; and it gives someone like me stuff to follow along with and to appreciate. I may not be "up" on all the subtleties of the issue, but it gets across key stuff as I learn more about Starman’s background than I could have recited prior to reading the issue; gives us some development with Will and Kitty, introduces us to this Bruce Gordon guy, and a bit about his history with/as Eclipso, while setting us up for later chapters by the end of the issue.

I can honestly say that I was surprised at Lobo’s showing up…he’s not on the cover, not mentioned, and I went into this issue figuring we’d simply have Starman ultimately encountering references to Eclipso if not the villain himself.

My introduction to Eclipso came through the summer/fall of 1992 with several of the DC Annuals that year; but those came after this issue/story…which is part of why I’m reading it now: I assume it’s THE reintroduction of Eclipso to the DC Universe, and that this story presumably sets up the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event/crossover. So I’m curious for the context and such, and look forward to getting into further chapters.

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The Weekly Haul – Week of June 21, 2017

Well, this turned into a far larger week price-wise than I’d had any intention of…of course, a lot of that goes to some deals, and a couple more of DC‘s $4.99 DC/ILooney Tunes books! And a back-issue.

weeklyhaul_06212017a

Of course, the weekly Superman book–in this case, this week it’s the actual Superman title itself…pretty much concluding the Black Dawn story in an "oversized" "anniversary" #25 issue. Then we have Lobo/Road Runner and Wonder Woman/Tasmanian Devil which, so help me, intrigue me. Super Sons has another issue–I need to make sure I’m caught up to the previous issue. I think I am, but I’m not 100%.

Then just for the novelty of it AND so I won’t have to HUNT for the first issue later, SwordQuest as I’m just curious how the story really will go after the #0 issue…though I don’t like the $3.99 price point. I’ve been getting God Country, and probably should have just waited for the collected volume, as I don’t think I’ve actually read #3 to present.

And finally, because of that darned cover, and figuring if nothing else it’ll go with the last #1 Darth Vader I bought, I figured I’d give the thing a try, now out of the "first week sales figures" range and all that, and it was there, and still cover price. I did NOT, however, buy #2 that came out this week.

weeklyhaul_06212017b

As expensive as three $5 issues and several $4 issues were…I’d had no expectation of finding any great deals on more collected volumes. But for less than the price of 2 Marvel issues, got the oversized hardcover of Wolverine: Sabretooth, collecting two stories. While I’m not the biggest fan of the stuff, it’s still Wolverine, the actual, genuine, regular, true, original character.

Then for roughly the same as seven Marvel single-issues, got the three volumes of Excalibur Visionairies: Warren Ellis. I don’t know if I knew these existed, but all three available together and for this pricing…I couldn’t pass ’em up. And hey…they’re all ’90s or early-2000s X-stuff…especially the Excalibur volumes.

These even put Half-Price Books to shame…and really put convention pricing to shame.

All in all, a big week and plenty of reading to do, and I’m still a hugely long way off from ever catching up. Such is the life of a comic person, I guess…

Injustice: Gods Among Us Annual #1 [Review]

injusticegodsamongusannual001The Hunt for Harley

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Xermanico, Jonas Trindade, Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez Rodriguez
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Juan Jose
Assistant Editor: Aniz Ansari
Senior Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Normally I’m not a huge fan of Lobo, though the character occasionally gets my interest. I had enough curiosity in September that I wound up snagging the Lobo Villains Month issue, and since I’m already following Injustice, there was no reason for me to avoid this issue arbitrarily.

The main thrust of this issue is that Lobo shows up to see if it’s worth trying to collect a bounty on Superman. When pointed out that Superman could just throw him into the sun, and there wouldn’t BE even a single drop of blood for Lobo to regenerate from, the big bad biker from space decides that nope, the bounty is not worth it. However, Superman makes his travel worth his time, and sics the bounty hunter on a thorn in his own side: Harley Quinn. So Lobo goes after her, to darkly comedic results, with a hint of Green Arrow and Black Canary thrown in.

This is by no means a written masterpiece…but I have to say that I enjoyed this issue and its story more than I have most comics lately! The story itself fits quite well within the established setting of the Injustice series and its parameters. I liked the longer singular story, compared to feeling more like I’m getting a couple of shorter stories and a random backup in some of the non-Annual issues.

I also enjoyed the visuals of the issue. Nothing glared out at me as weird or “off,” nothing took me out of the story as I turned the pages despite multiple artists; and I really like this version of Lobo.

While there’s a fair bit of context to be had, having read the series so far that makes this issue work, if you’re loosely familiar with Lobo and Harley (say, from the game itself or other media) and you know the premise of the game (superman’s taken over, the heroes are split and alliances are not what they used to be), you can probably enjoy this as a rather expensive (but at least thicker than a standard issue) once-shot story with nice art.

The overall saga of Injustice is not exactly advanced–this is a fairly “timeless” story within the setting and nothing stands out as “key,” though there are references grounding this in the continuity.

But this is still a good issue that I ultimately didn’t mind paying the $4.99 cover price quite as much as I would many others. If you come across this for a decent price (whatever you deem “decent”) it’s definitely worthwhile.

DC Villains Month, Week Two (Part 1)

ZOD (Action Comics #23.2)

foreverevilzod001Zod’s story is definitely a new one for me; a new take on the character that definitely humanizes him a lot more than previous versions. Adding a fairly defining (if clichéd) episode to his youth goes quite a way in fleshing out the character…and even leaves a lot of room for some future stories, should anyone wish to revisit that period of the character’s life. We get a little bit of insight into his motivation as well as just how far the character will go…both to survive, himself as well as to push his people to survive (a bit of a hint at the influence of the Man of Steel film version of the character, perhaps?).. All in all, the story seemed rather short, and though I have no particular intention of following things into any of the ongoing Superman books at present, taking this as a totally new version of the character, I might check out a Zod-focused story arc in collected edition format sometime down the line..

MONGUL (Green Lantern #23.2)

foreverevilmongul001My first exposure to Mongul was at the dawn of my comics-reading life, in the infamous Alan Moore tale For the Man Who Has Everything. I think my next exposure to the character was in Reign of the Supermen, and then another version of the character in 1999 when the alien Imperiex was introduced…and most recently his involvement after the Sinestro Corps War in the Green Lantern books. While I still most associate the character with Superman, it’s kinda cool to see that he’s really become a Green Lantern villain, where he certainly fits! As to this issue…it felt too short for the events it contains. Other than Mongul himself, the other characters are pretty much inconsequential and of no real significance.  Though what Mongul does in this issue comes off as throw-away, had it involved Earth or Oa this’d be a half-year Event crossover. Still…it’s a “cosmic” story by Jim Starlin, which was a pleasant surprise to me!

LOBO (Justice league #23.2)

foreverevillobo001The cover is quite deceiving to the story within…yet, I’m quite glad the cover has “my” Lobo rather than this new “Goth” Lobo. However, while getting to see this new take on Lobo, I’m actually sorta interested in where things are going to go for the character, and even somewhat see where some of the online controversy over the new design falls. At the very least, this gives a different perspective on the character, and an intriguing new interpretation of past Lobo stories.  I’ll be interested–thanks to this issue–in learning what fate befalls Lobo moving forward…though I don’t think I actually care enough to seek the issues out for the story itself.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from this issue and its story…I definitely got a mix of familiar and new. Lobo has never been my favorite character, though I have to admit to a certain grudging interest in the character due to some of his appearances in Superman comics back in the late-’80s/early-’90s.

52 Week #36 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: How to Win a War in Space

The space heroes confront Lady Styx, Montoya’s spurred to action, and Supernova’s in a spot of trouble…

52week36Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Jamal Igle
Inks: Keith Champagne
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot going on in this issue. We pick up with Lobo delivering the space-heroes to Lady Styx, and betrayal mounts. As the heroes face the threat posed by Styx, one of them falls, delivering on the expected death. On earth, Montoya comes to a decision on what to do about her friend, rather than sit around waiting for him to die without his dignity in the Gotham hospital. Finally, as promised on the cover’s ticker, we get to see Rip Hunter’s ‘secret location’ as well as glean a bit more information on Supernova.

I remember with earlier reviews of this series, talking about the slow build and hoping there’d be payoff later on; that establishment of a foundation was a necessary evil (well, they may not have been my exact words then, but they are now.) We get a fair amount of payoff in this issue, as well as some forward movement (if not outright teasing) of what’s to come in the near future.

I for one have quit looking for individual voices in scenes, content to know that the writers are all contributing in one form or another, maintaining a consistency from issue-to-issue. On that note of consistency, we get to see a logical progression of Lobo’s character, maintaining both what has been established of him in this series over the last 4 months or so as well as much earlier in the character’s existence, with a nice nod to a couple specials, even. There even seems to be some room to question some translation–I for one derived a bit of twisted amusement contemplating the authenticity versus some other motivation.

Montoya’s scene seems to straddle a nice line between the real and the fiction that is comic books–her frustration/desperation and sadness at what seems to be a foregone conclusion is blended with the supernatural that is commonplace in the comic book world, allowing a glimmer of hope that may not be realistic in terms of our real world…but it seems to fit very well into the universe we know of through this series.

Supernova and Rip Hunter are shown briefly–and for the moment weigh as the weakest part of the series for me at present. While I expect some cool payoff later on, right now I find that I’m just not that interested in Supernova as a character–I don’t feel anything’s really known about him, and other than "teases" as to identity (and I for one have not picked up on clues that apparently have been dropped here and there, nor "gotten" any that I’ve spotted) there seems to be very little TO the character as yet. It certainly doesn’t help when so few pages have been afforded the character thus far.

The art stays fairly subtle–it’s there, but doesn’t overstep its bounds; it serves the story without offending the eye. My one gripe visually would be the panel when Lady Styx first strikes Lobo–I can figure it out based on context, but without context it’s hard to clearly make out exactly what is happening there. Still, the complaint’s one panel of many, and may just be my own eyes.

Overall, this is another very good issue of the series, and reminds me that I do indeed enjoy the story and format, and look forward to next week’s issue.

The Origin of Power Girl
Writer: Mark Waid
Art & Color: Adam Hughes
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain

Another standard-ish origin. Pretty much a simplified version of the telling of what I’d already figured out from pre/during Infinite Crisis stories. Still not a big fan of these, though that DOES seem to be tempered in part on whether or not I’m (personally) familiar with the character. Visually, may be a treat for certain folks, but doesn’t appeal to me. Still, it’s two pages…hardly enough to "break" an issue…and it certainly beats the pages being used for ads.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

52 Week #20 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Week #20: God is Fragged

Supernova in the Batcave, Steel grows into his new powers, and the heroes in space come under attack…

52week20Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Ruy Jose
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Lettering: Travis Lanham
Assistant Editors: Harvey Richards & Jeanine Schaefer
Edited by: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue gives us some fairly continuous action, opened with a moment of quiet as Supernova infiltrates the Batcave. Steel begins to grow into his new powers/strength, saving a number of lives from a burning building. The rest of the issue pretty much focuses on the hereos-in-space: Starfire, Adam Strange, and Animal Man…and of course, their new best buddy, Lobo. These folks come under attack by a bunch of (other) aliens, and wind up bringing more trouble down on their own heads due to the means by which they end the battle.

All in all, not a bad issue at all. I found it to be a good read–though I feel like we’ve not gotten to see nearly enough of the "new" Steel, so it almost feels like he was just tossed in to remind us he exists (though more likely, he’s there for us to see that he’s growing into his new powers, and learning to make use of ’em and in general, keep on truckin’ as a hero).

The battle in space works–I’m not totally into it, but hey, action-in-space and all that. Seeing what happened to Lobo was rather gruesome, though actually made sense, having read his origin a few issues ago–I wasn’t lost or dumbfounded at his state after the battle.
The art continues to work well, serving the story quite well. I really don’t have any complaints with this.

On the whole–this issue and the series in general–I continue to be satisfied with the product as a whole. It’s one of the better ‘values’ in comics these days, per individual issue, and just has a grand FEEL as a true serial (as opposed to other books that don’t often make the every-30ish-days frequency). I think this series challenges my recent expectations of comics–even with certain stories meandering in and out, I feel that I "get" more out of it than the same number of issues of most anything else.

All that said–chances are, if you’re not on-board yet, you probably aren’t gonna change your mind based on a few remarks from me. And if you’re STILL on-board…you’re probably similarly-minded on the series.

I’m enjoying it–it’s worthwhile and keeps me going to the comic shops each week. Nothing blows me away, but this is simply a solid, reliable series that builds on itself week after week.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Green Lantern #55 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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