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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #45

90s_revisited

starman_0045Star Shadows part four: Starlight, StarBRIGHT!

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

And here we are…final chapter of this 4-part Starman adventure!

The issue opens with the proclamation of the story title, as we look over Kitty Faulkner’s shoulder to see Bruce Gordon’s jet arriving. She sees Bruce but wonders where Will is? As she greets the disembarking Gordon, she’s horrified to find that it’s Eclipso…and even as Rampage, she’s no match for the villain. Will freefalls into the bay and crawls out to a phone booth to call the JLE, but gets a voice service instead. Meanwhile, Eclipso commandeers lab equipment to put a plan in motion: STORE excess energy he drains from Will to use at his convenience. While he torments Kitty for providing him the means to this end, Starman bursts in and the two fight. Will gets the worst of it until Power Girl shows up and joins the fight. Kitty also eventually joins in, having been freed…but unable to transform back into Rampage, she uses a tech gun to blast Eclipso. The heroes immobilize the villain and Starman pops a burst of solar energy, reverting the villain to Bruce Gordon. Day saved, they mill about…as Kitty realizes there’s no way she can compete with Power Girl for Will’s affection. Clueless of her anguish, Will has to chase after her to find out why she’s reacting as she does and the two talk things out…and we end with them clear on how they feel for each other, and Will making a crack about their age difference.

It’s definitely "interesting" seeing Mignola’s work on the cover…though at this point in 2022 and eager to get from this story to the "main event" and such, more than a bit is lost on me. The cover seems rather generic and Eclipso far too bulky, taking on Starman physically. There’s a loose/lack-of-detail Power Girl off to the side almost as an afterthought; and the sun in the background–presumably setting–hardly seems appropriate even symbolically for Eclipso to have such a physical advantage "already" (if the sun is SETTING and NOT rising). It also seems much too bright for the cover callout of "ECLIPSED!". Maybe it’s just MY interpretation/assumptions with this cover but at a glance I might almost think the villain to be sun-based in power rather than the darkness/eclipse.

Story-wise things aren’t all that deep on the whole…it seems like a lot of padded-out fighting and boasts/quips/threats. And Kitty’s jealousy/reaction/over assumption about Power Girl and Will seems sudden and rather shoehorned-in; arbitrary drawma for the sake of drama. (Not that jealousy and such feelings are rational…they’re totally understandable) If this were a masterpiece of superhero fiction I’d presumably be a lot more familiar with it, so "history" seems to support that. Despite this, it comes off as a fairly typical ’90s comic, and a series itself setting…as this turns out to be THE final issue of the series. 45 issues, not QUITE 50…but hey, it sure lasted longer than many modern series that seem to be lucky to crack double-digits at all!

The art team seems a bit more consistent–matching with the previous chapter and the first chapter. Which is a far cry from modern comics where there seems to be more insistence on "integrity of the art team" than on-time shipping of a book. Having an apparently "fill-in" team on an issue may’ve kept the series "on time," which used to be important but not so much in 2022.

With Strazewski’s name on this fueling my nostalgia–the WANT to like the story–I feel almost guilty that I didn’t really "enjoy" this issue. This entire arc has been "in the way" of getting to the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event itself, though, and not a story I remember from the ’90s–I don’t think I was even aware of this series itself until a few years ago, and this story in particular until shortly after. And this has been my first time reading it, so you could say that THIS story was "eclipsed by" the event story.

Nothing about the issue in itself particularly indicates that this is a final issue. No such callout on the cover, and no particular note on the final page of the story. It’s only in wording from the editor at the end of the letters page that one would realize this isn’t JUST the conclusion of a 4-part story but the conclusion of the series itself.

While I had thought this was a prologue/lead-in to The Darkness Within, it definitely does not seem to be the case. More like this story just happened to come about not long before a big event featuring the same villain. A quirk of timing more than any plan or "synergy" or whatever.

It remains to be seen if ANY of this story carries over into the event…but unless something specifically from this story plays a key role in that, I feel it’s pretty safe to say one would not need this story to get into The Darkness Within story.

I’m not sure my $2-3/issue was truly "worth it" for this story, but for "context" and knowing this was there, I’m glad to at least have read it so that whatever part it plays is a "known quantity" for me.

We’ll see how Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 holds up to my now-heightened expectation and such!

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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?

starman_0044_blogtrailer

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!

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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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Zero Hour Revisited – Darkstars #24

90srevisited_zerohour

darkstars_0024A Time for Every Purpose

Writer: Michael Jan Friedman
Penciller: Mike Collins
Inker: Ken Branch
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Steve Mattsson
Asst. Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Darkstars is another series I’ve never before read an issue, and have now for the first time due to the tie-in to Zero Hour. As such, it is also another one where I read the issue "in a vacuum" with zero context of preceding issues and have only this one issue to follow along with…though kinda utilizing a broad, generalized "working knowledge" of the DC Universe in general to keep from being completely, absolutely "lost."

This issue is a relatively quick read despite feeling long-is for my lack of detailed familiarity with things. I had recalled THAT Donna Troy was once part of the Darkstars, but having read so little (overall) with her, this stuff is still primarily a blind spot for me.

The issue runs with Donna–apparently now new to the group–talking of a singular someone named Darkstar, and she and the others in her ship end up fighting an entity named Entropy–apparently the living embodiment of the abstract concept (much like Kismet in the Superman books or several of Marvel‘s "cosmic beings"). They also have dealings with a former Green Lantern of Earth–John Stewart (I suppose this must be after GL: Mosaic). We also get to see an Abin Sur from the past, apparently also pulled through time pursuing an energy signature from stuff going on.

There’s a lot of interesting potential to me here that makes me think I’d probably enjoy reading this series if I had all the issues and could "binge read" at some point. (Truthfully, I suspect that of many ’90s books and regardless of the final verdict I have the intent of doing just that for a number of them…eventually!)

As with a number of other tie-ins, this really has very little to do with Zero Hour itself as far as the main story…it just has events that are loosely "enabled" without further explanation by being a tie-in. Shifting things up a bit, though, this ends on blank pages as other "final week" issues did, with the arrival of "Zero Hour" itself…and yet ALSO ties directly to the first week as we see the Darkstars here get Superman’s messages as led by Metron and guided by Green Lantern.

I’m not blown away by the art…but it’s solid stuff and definitely fits. I’m not at all put off by it. Story-wise, I recognize Friedman’s name as a writer…which actually impresses me a bit with this title.

While things seem to move forward a bit in this issue in terms of what would seem the general plot…it’s not that exciting to me in the moment, and proves to be YET ANOTHER "skippable" issue in terms of Zero Hour itself.

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #112

wonder_woman_0112Game Over

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

There was little doubt in my mind of Wonder Woman’s survival…more just a matter of “how” the story would end.

We have a much smaller time gap between issues this time, as we open in the midst of the battle with “Doomsday,” which we do know is not the REAL creature, but more a sort of “clone” being fed power from the machine that allowed its creation. Given the enormity of the situation, and the significance of Doomsday (apparently) showing up, it’s no surprise that we get a guest-bit with Superman…a family moment as he places a tree he got for his parents, right before Jonathan pulls up to share a radio report of the creature’s presence. Superman heads off intending to join the battle, despite his parents urging him not to. While Wonder Woman and Champion join forces against the creature, and even Cassie gets into the mix, stuff at Lazarus’ place comes to a head as the authorities arrive to take him into custody over the situation. His “son” the computer spawns yet another creature that kills on the spot, and finally a last-ditch idea is tried…that resolves the situation, allowing the creature’s defeat (before Superman even gets there), and an almost too-neat wrapup to this 4-issue chunk of the series.

As with the last three chapters, this was solid overall, particularly on the art. I liked that the story “expanded” a bit, and brought Superman into play–it only makes sense that he’d be made aware of Doomsday seemingly showing up again, and would NOT make sense to not even give any time to his reaction, or that of anyone who knows him. This is also placed as being during that time when Superman and Lois were broken up…which gives me a better “consciousness” as to the timing of this issue and why I was so totally unaware of Doomsday’s appearances in the previous issue and this one: this came out while I was “out of” comics, between the end of The Trial of Superman and prior to the Superman Wedding and then the Electric Costume saga.

There’s nothing “new” really to say on the art–the creative credits have been the same across all 4 issues unless I’ve misread something somewhere, and what I’ve said before holds true to this issue as well. Perhaps the fact that we get Byrne drawing the mid-’90s Superman with the longer hair is another plus (adding to what I’d said earlier about seeing Byrne tackle Doomsday).

Story-wise, my only primary complaint is the seemingly over-the-top language spouted by Ma and Pa Kent in the Superman bit–that just seemed so shoe-horned in/exaggerated that it didn’t ring true at all to my reading…despite the fact that Byrne was the one that did the early work on the Kents being alive into Clark’s adulthood and seeing him be Superman.

The end of this issue–and ostensibly the “story arc”–seemed a bit quick and almost too-tidy as a wrapup, with some exposition trying to suggest this could never happen again, Lazarus rather quickly coming around about the truth of it not actually being his son truly in the computer, etc. Echoing comments I made with one of the other chapters, this is very much from the era when it was relatively RARE for a collected volume to be put out, with only the biggest, most sold-out stories getting a volume. This was still single issues as the primary focus…such that I don’t even know what to call this four part story. With issue names like “Level 1,” “Level 2,” “Level 3,” and “Game Over,” I suppose it COULD be called Game Over (and probably would with a modern-day collection put out), but there’s no overall title, of which the names would (with a contemporary 2016 comic) would be “sub titles” within the arc’s title.

For an 80-cent overall cost to me for Wonder Woman #s 109-112, this was absolutely a real treat to read, and leaves me confident in the fun nature of Byrne‘s run on the title, and very much interested in carving out some more time (eventually) to read this series at length…along with the likes of the Wally West Flash series.

If you find these issues–this one, or the previous several–they’re definitely well worth bargain-bin pricing (up to $1ish each), as the four issues at even $1 would be the cost of a single current issue…and this story is more than worth the price of a single current comic. As this is not actually part of some large, singular overall story, one could even conceivably dive in here, with the majority of what you need to know being that Wonder Woman’s engaged in battle with fake-Doomsday, and how things go and get wrapped up. The stuff with Lazarus and his wife/companion even give what would seem to be enough context and exposition to let one “get” the basics of what is–and has been–going on to get to this issue.

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #111

wonder_woman_0111Level 3

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is the third issue of a story, and we pick up shortly after where we left off in the previous issue. Doomsday is on a rampage in Gateway City, despite the fact that–to the best of anyone’s knowledge–the creature was hurled into space some time back, never to return to Earth. As the creature tears up real estate, Wonder Woman is brought into the mix–interrupted from the advisory assistance she’s receiving in identifying the substance the fake-Flash and fake-Sinestro were made out of. Even realizing this is the creature that KILLED Superman, Wonder Woman doesn’t hesitate to engage it in battle. While taking her lumps, Champion joins in–though he takes a Supergirl-like hit that takes him out immediately. Seeking to aid her mentor, Cassie retrieves the Sandals of Hermes as well as an unknown artifact and goes to Wonder Woman’s aid. When she’s hit–and nearly killed–it distracts Wonder Woman enough that the beast gets the upper hand, and it looks like this might be game over for our heroine.

Three issues into the story and I’m enjoying stuff…and actually had to “force” myself to NOT dive straight into the next issue. I’m enjoying this story, the art’s good, and I just want to get more of everything. See more of Wonder Woman in action, see more of Cassie and get details of her background, as well as see more of the rest of the supporting cast–Cassie’s mom, Mike, Champion, Wonder Woman as Diana NOT in action…three issues in and this is simply flat-out an enjoyable book!

I had no idea just from the cover what the context of Doomsday’s presence was, but now having read the preceding issues and this one, the creature is a construct created by a computerized process controlled by the “consciousness” of someone’s son. The “clones” are created and programmed, and then let loose on the world, though Kris–who apparently died, but his consciousness was “saved”–can see through the constructs’ eyes. Even though it’s a “fake,” this Doomsday is quite powerful, and not “just” some run-of-the-mill villain, showing up and totally diluting the character. Flash-forward twenty years to present day, and the character is just another of Superman’s rogues–like Darkseid or Mongul. But in 1996, this was before The Doomsday Wars, so Doomsday itself was still an extremely rare villain to actually (or seemingly-actually) show up.

I like the cover (obviously), even though Doomsday is a bit “off” in appearance. This fits with the story, though, and so I can forgive it quite easily. There’s also something rather gratifying about seeing John Byrne handling the character–both from the writing side, and even moreso from the art side, as so much of the Superman mythos at the time of the Doomsday! / The Death of Superman was still closely, tightly tied to the foundation work laid out by Byrne during his tenure on the Superman titles.

This story started with level 1–The Flash, a hero–apparently accidentally causing damage. It continued to level 2 with Sinestro, a villain–causing damage but not outright killing anyone. Then on to level 3 with Doomsday and untold damage and destruction and death. Wonder Woman is facing one of the most powerful things she’s ever faced, and this issue ends trying to convince us of the bad place she’s in…but it’s a comic, it’s #111 where I know the series passed #200, and I don’t recall any other major “Diana-gets-replaced” type stories, so it’s a given she survives. Still, she and her fellow fictional chracters don’t know that as this ends, so it’s on to the next issue to see what comes of this build-up!

And once again, as noted before…EVEN THOUGH this is the third issue of an arc, it still reads like one could pick this up and be no worse off than I was reading the first part of the story. You’re thrust into the action, get a bit of context and new action, and a cliffhanger to lead to the next issue. One story, but each issue could pretty conceivably be someone’s first without them being as totally lost or “coming in mid-story” as one would be picking up the third issue of a present-day arc.

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #110

wonder_woman_0110Level 2

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is only the “second” issue I’ve read in this particular set of issues, but I’m quite enjoying the title. Where the previous issue appeared to guest-star The Flash (only it turned out to be a fake), this issue has an appearance of Sinestro–who at this point in DC‘s continuity was dead, his neck snapped by Hal Jordan just before he went all Parallax and such.

We open on Sinestro/not-Sinestro carving up the city, trying to get Wonder Woman’s attention. Once he has her attention, they battle–or moreso, Wonder Woman battles him, and he just keeps on keeping on…at first seeming like a joke, then an actual-true threat. Eventually, it appears that Wonder Woman’s defeated, and a new guy–Champion–shows up, saving her…though he gets the same result from “Sinestro” as Diana had last issue with “The Flash” as we see that this is just some sort of construct that can self destruct into dust. While Champion (who has himself a back-burner subplot brewing that surely leads to something bigger down the road) and Diana puzzle over the similarities in the Flash attack and now Sinestro, as readers we’re given the inside scoop, as the scene shifts and contextual details are revealed…explaining the fakes’ presence and setting things up for the next couple issues.

As with the previous issue–Wonder Woman #109–I definitely enjoyed this issue. The story and art both worked well in and of themselves, and especially as a cohesive whole. With the same creative and editorial team as the previous issue, this definitely FELT like the next issue. No major changes, no weird oddities…it’s just the continuing story.

Perhaps by comparison to contemporary comics, though, this issue does NOT pick up 100% EXACTLY from the previous issue…it picks up as a “next chapter” without being merely the next chunk of story in a larger graphic novel being ‘serialized’…and I actually like that. I’m all for the singular story of a graphic novel…but for this being a “single issue” I like that–even as a continuing story–it maintains its identity AS the single issue.

The story in this issue fills us in as readers much more than the previous issue…this is where comics worked quite well in the ’90s as both ongoing sagas and having stories that can be collected into a “graphic novel” or such. We (I) had no idea any background on stuff in the previous issue–The Flash simply showed up, turned out to be a fake, and we’re left to wonder what the heck’s going on. THIS issue gives us the context and such on where not only The Flash but also Sinestro came from…and goes beyond that to show us the genesis of the threat for the next issue, serving as setup and cliffhanger, and getting to the last page left me quite ready to get to the next issue. Of course, it wasn’t surprise, as it’s the cover of the next issue that grabbed my attention to begin with.

Even though this is Level 2, a second chapter of a story (though perhaps not quite as solid/singular a story as I’d thought–though it plays into the genesis of these back-from-oblivion characters), one could conceivably pick up this issue and be just as good as starting with the previous issue. You get the characters, some context as you go through, and editorial notes to point you where to go for a bit more expansion of stuff touched on here.

It’s also EXTREMELY REFRESHING that there’s just the one cover, it’s (presumably, since there’s no separate cover credit provided) by the interior artist, so fits both visually AND exaggerates (slightly) a scene that actually appears in the issue, and is not merely some stock or “iconic” image that could be interchanged with any other cover.

First issue, Second issue (in this present read-through, it’s MY second), or just another issue if one is reading a run, this is a strong, solid issue well worth the 20 cents I paid for it!

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #109

wonder_woman_0109Level 1

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is one of those ’90s issues that–while revisiting “the ’90s,” is a new-read for me. I’ve dabbled here and there through the years with this book–getting the odd issue because Superman’s on the cover, or something tied to a comic book course in college, or some cover grabbing my attention or there’s a chapter of a crossover I’m following. I jumped on the book toward the tail-end of Rucka‘s run in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis, and then followed for a few issues shortly after, but never stuck with the book for all that long. So while I can’t recite lists of characters–particularly the supporting characters–I’m at least “loosely familiar” with who Wonder Woman is, that the exact “who” she is has shifted a bit through the years, and I know OF some of the major story beats of her series.

So this issue opens with a flight passing over Gateway City, where the Lexair passengers are surprised at the random sight of a girl flying with winged shoes. As readers, we quickly learn that this is Cassie Sandsmark and those are the Sandals of Hermes, and she’s not exactly well-practiced in their use yet. Wonder Woman flies after, and the situation is soon resolved as Cassie figures out–a bit–what she’s doing, and the two get back safely to the apartment Cassie and her mom live in. They then prepare for an evening–Cassie is under Wonder Woman–Diana’s–care, and Diana has a “date” that’s not a date. Unfortunately, the Flash shows up and causes a lot of destruction to the buildings along the street the restaurant’s on and more than a little trouble for Wonder Woman. This isn’t Wally West, though, and when he bursts into dust, no one has any idea what he was or why he was there…leaving Wonder Woman with a mystery on her hands.

I bought a 50-issue run of this series, and one cover that REALLY stood out to me had some iteration of Doomsday on it, which had me quite curious–it’s not an issue I was ever consciously aware of back in the day, nor was it something I knew of AS a Doomsday appearance. Fortunately (or not, depending on perspective) I noticed the “title” of the issue included a “3,” so I checked the previous issue–that had a “2,” so I went back another issue–this one, #109–to find the “1.” I have no idea what happened immediately preceding this issue, nor do I recall what happens after. I’m nearly entirely certain this is AFTER “the Artemis” stuff when Diana ceded her role as Wonder Woman, so she’s “back in the role” now and things are moving along at a good clip.

Story-wise, we’re dropped right into the action, with no immediate context–just story. Being somewhat aware of stuff, I followed along without any trouble. I did not open the issue expecting to “know everything,” and so I was not disappointed. It’s like watching an early episode of some tv series from SEVERAL seasons earlier. I’d forgotten Byrne‘s run on the title, or that it was this early–what I DID remember made me think he’d started on the book more in the early 2000s, so that shows what I know.

Visually, I really enjoy his art here. It works very well with the story, and both Wonder Woman herself and the Flash look good…though through no fault of the art, Cassie does NOT look like I think of her from Geoff JohnsTeen Titans run…which makes sense, as this is from 1996, predating Young Justice by a couple years, and Young Justice itself ran several years before Teen Titans.

All in all, for an issue I had not planned to read, but ended up reading for momentary/immediate ‘context’ to the issue that actually grabbed my attention, I really enjoyed this, and look forward to progressing a couple more issues to the one I actually originally planned to read. This also bodes well for my enjoyment of the run, and of (eventually) filling in the gaps in my Wonder Woman run from the Perez “reboot” through Infinite Crisis.

The ’90s Revisited: The Flash #142

flash0142Get Me to the Church On Time

Writers: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn
Pencils: Pop Mhan
Inks: Chris Ivy
Letters: Gaspar
Colors: Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor: L.A. Williams
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 1998
Cover Price: $1.99

This is one of those issues whose cover served as an extremely powerful selling point: “The Wedding of The Flash.” OK. I knew Wally and Linda were married…and that it happened SOMETIME before #200, as that was about the time their kids were born, and I was pretty sure they’d been married awhile prior. So spotting this in the quarter bin without any significant “run” to grab, I still figured it would be a good one-off/isolated issue to read.

We open on Wally dealing with Kobra and his crew, and find he’s got a very personal stake in dealing with the current situation: the terrorists are quite inconsiderate, after all, attacking on his wedding day. Linda and Wally put the last-second finishing touches on wedding plans as Linda’s family arrives. While things get into motion for the wedding, Wally can’t quite shake the feeling that something’s wrong or forgotten. The Justice League arrives, and there’s still no villain attack to disrupt things…as Wally and Linda get a moment to confirm they’re going through with the wedding. As the couple prepares to deliver their wedding vows, Wally realizes exactly what he’s forgotten: writing his. Of course, he doesn’t need to write them–he just reflects quickly on their time together, what they’ve been through–and he’s good. As he slips the ring onto Linda’s finger, there’s a flash of light, and he’s alone with no recollection of Linda’s existence nor that they were at the altar to be wed…while a mysterious figure looks on as Linda screams for help.

As said, the issue’s cover grabbed me. This is “THE” wedding issue. Great, ok, cool. Regular-sized, nothing fancy, just a one-issue key moment, something that happens, but while the same length as any other moment in time, is still one of those key moments one can go back to. Right? And being so used to covers “spoiling” otherwise ‘surprise’ villains or guest-stars, giving away what the issue is about (yet, the cover DOES have to “sell” one on buying the issue if they aren’t already planning to, and I’m certainly guilty of disliking generic, unrelated covers)…I figured I knew what this issue was, and was just going through the motions reading/enjoying the story, but I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. But surprise me it did, and now I very definitely want to read more.

The story itself is very good, mixing “regular” super-speed action letting us see the Flash do what he does, and that not EVERY threat has to be spread across exactly six issues of formulaic structure for a graphic novel collection. Some threats can be handled in a few pages to move the story along. Also signifying this being from an age when there were no routine collections of every half-dozen or so issues, the credits page is worked into the story itself somewhat cinematically–or at least, in a “tv” sort of fashion…showing the Kobra attack to be mere prologue to fulfill our expectation of the Flash in action in-costume and allowing the rest of the issue to focus on Wally, Linda, and co. for the wedding itself. Working other key characters in–like Impulse and Nightwing were nice touches, and though I’m more aware of than familiar with Bart, I appreciated the bit with him and seeing dynamics of “the Flash Family” that I’ve often read of but read very little of myself as yet.

The art is good, and really never left me wondering. It’s not my favorite visual style, and is rather “isolated” here as I’ve not read any significant runs on this title in probably almost a decade. I’m sure I’d appreciate it more in context, and assume it’s consistent with surrounding issues. Where varying visual styles play on actual memory for me with the Superman family of titles, I don’t have that for the Flash, which for every issue of the title I read makes me further regret never jumping in back in the ’90s when these were fresh, current, ongoing episodes of the character.

Despite mentioning “isolation” above in regards to finding this issue and how I see the art on it…the issue on the whole is not the quasi-self-contained or isolated unit I was expecting. I thankfully never got the sense that I “should have” read the previous issue to “get” what’s going on here, so it’s easy to jump INTO…but it certainly doesn’t have a hard-stop point to conclude, and successfully leaves me eager to read more, to find out who the mystery-villain is, to see how Wally and Linda get out of this mess…find out if this truly IS “the wedding issue” or if that “moment” occurs down the road in another issue, etc.

For a one-issue quarter-bin find, this issue was more than worthwhile, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would (in retrospect) gladly pay several dollars for it (though for bulk/quantity I’d prefer to get to load up on the series from quarter-bins!).

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