BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
Power Pack #28-33 (Marvel) by Louise Simonson, Terry Shoemaker, Jon Bogdanove, Val Mayerik, Hilary Barta, Dan Green, Glynis Oliver, Christie Scheele, John Wellington, Petra Scotese, Joe Rosen, Ken Lopez
Kids want to be adults. And there is a tendency among adults to respond to this desire hand-wavingly, because kids aren’t given the credit they deserve. At the same time, there are absolutely aspects of life that children are not ready for and should not have to deal with. The massive, unsolvable problems of the world, the unfairness and bottomless cruelty, can’t even be handled by many grown-ups. I’m not one to advocate over-protection or needles sheltering, but it’d be nice if people’s childhoods could be unsullied by such despicable things. Of course, that’s not always going to be the case, which is at the center of Louise Simonson’s Power Pack. Dealing with extremely adult problems in believably childlike ways, the kids of the titular team prove themselves to be more mature than the adults of their world may think, but not yet as grown as they’d like to believe. Continue Reading »
1987 And All That: Star Brand #4-10 (Marvel) by Jim Shooter (#4-7), Roy Thomas (#7), Cary Bates (#8-9), George Caragonne (#10), John Romita, Jr. (#4-7), Arvell Jones (#8), Keith Giffen (#9), Mark Bagley (#10), Al Williamson (#4-6), Rick Bryant (#6), Al Milgrom (#6), Art Nichols (#7), Danny Bulanadi (#8), Bob Wiacek (#9), Pablo Marcos (#10), Christie Scheele (#4), Janet Jackson (#5-7), Petra Scotese (#8), Andy Yanchus (#9-10), Joe Rosen (#4-5, 7-8), Rick Parker (#6, 10), Ken Lopez (#9), Jack Morelli (#10), Michael Higgins (#4-9), Howard Mackie (#10)
There is no single, unifying narrative or theme that bonds all of these issues together, and often when that happens, I will review only one arc of the title rather than the entire year’s worth of material. In the case of Star Brand, though, the most interesting element of this particular run of issues is just how different they are from each other, and in particular the stark change that occurs when Jim Shooter and John Romita, Jr. leave the book. Continue Reading »
Though not a great story by any stretch, there were two dominant themes in this pair of Daredevil issues that I always like to see explored, even if they’re not handled especially well. The first is the notion of superheroes being as bad for the world (or worse) as the villains they fight. This was not a new idea in 1987, and it’s been discussed many times since, but for any consistent fan of superhero stories (not just in comics but across all media) it’s a point that bears repeated examination, because there is no wholly satisfying answer. Are the protagonists of these narratives really deserving of the title of “hero,” or are they merely super-people fighting against other super-people in a self-fulfilling and never-ending cycle of violence begetting violence? The truth likely falls somewhere in between, and attempting to uncover it is a worthwhile activity. Continue Reading »
X-Factor #12-23 (Marvel) by Louise Simonson, Marc Silvestri (#12), Walter Simonson (#13-15, 17-19, 21, 23), David Mazzucchelli (#16), June Brigman (#20), Sal Buscema (#22), Bob Wiacek (#12, 14-15, 17-19, 21-23), Dan Green (#13), Joe Rubinstein (#16), Randy Emberlin (#20), Petra Scotese, Joe Rosen, Bob Harras
I tend to enjoy any comicbook that looks at the inescapable personal torments, damaged relationships, and psychological strains of the superhero lifestyle. Secret identities, an endless and self-feeding cycle of violence, taking on the impossible responsibility of keeping the rest of the world safe—it’s bound to take its toll on anyone, and it’s nice when a narrative acknowledges that. X-Factor #12-23 digs deep into these superhero problems and their consequences, then piles on several other whole sets of problems, too. There is, of course, the classic conundrum of humans fearing/hating mutants no matter what they do, which is amped up more than usual in this particular series because of its foundational concept of X-Factor pretending to be mutant hunters. Though less explicitly discussed, there’s also an argument embedded in these issues that the whole idea of gathering mutants together and training them to use their powers and fight evil mutants might be flawed, that Xavier did both harm and good with the original X-Men and now, as X-Factor, those same characters are repeating his mistakes with a new generation. Then again, there’s no better alternative offered here, because if not protected, nurtured, and taught control, the young mutants of the world could potentially do massive damage without even meaning to. So X-Factor presents a pretty dreary interpretation of the mutant-heavy reality of the 1980’s Marvel Universe, one where there may not be any truly good choices for mutantkind to make, especially because, in that world, superpowers almost always lead to superheroics (or supervillainy), which in turn lead to their own significant stresses, injuries, etc. Continue Reading »
Fallen Angels #1-8 (Marvel) by Jo Duffy, Kerry Gammill (#1-2, 4, 7), Marie Severin (#3), Joe Staton (#5-6, 8), Tom Palmer (#1-3, 7), Val Mayerik (#4-6), Tony DeZuniga (#8), Petra Scotese, Jim Novak (#1-2), Bill Oakley (#3, 5-8), L.P. Gregory (#4), and Ann Nocenti
As a story about a group of misfit superpowered kids, it’s appropriate that Fallen Angels would be something of a misfit superhero series, too. It’s not at all a bad comic, but it doesn’t look, feel, or move like your typical cape-and-cowl adventure. Its cast is cobbled together from characters old and new, popular (at the time, at least) and obscure, and the characters are constantly butting heads with one another. This internal conflict leaves little room for external enemies, so there aren’t really any villains for the stars to face until the last couple issues. There also aren’t a lot of codenames or costumes used; even Sunspot, the protagonist and narrator, is referred to by his real name, Roberto “Bobby” da Costa, more often than not. It’s a non-traditional team with mixed morals and motives, not fighting for good or evil but merely sticking together for the sake of survival and some semblance of friendship/family. Fallen Angels is a coming-of-age story for the entire titular team, and it is more interested in studying human behavior than the high-powered violence of the average superhero tale. In this story, being a teenager comes first, and having powers comes second, an interesting and unusual prioritization that makes for an entertaining if not astonishing read. Continue Reading »
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Todd McFarlane, and the issue is The Incredible Hulk #330, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1987. Enjoy!
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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Todd McFarlane, and the story is “Slash” in Coyote #11 and the issue is Infinity Inc. #16, the first of which was published by Marvel (under Epic Comics) and is cover dated March 1985 and the second of which was published by DC and is cover dated July 1985. The scans of “Slash” are from the trade paperback Coyote volume 4, which was published by Image in 2006. Enjoy!
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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Steve Ditko, and the story is “The Djinn” in Coyote #7, which was published by Marvel (under Epic Comics) and is cover dated July 1984. These scans are from Coyote volume 3, which was published by Image and came out in 2006. Enjoy!
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Hello all, and welcome to the first ever CSBG installment of “1987 And All That,” a project which began just over a year ago at The Chemical Box, where I review randomly selected comicbooks published in 1987. Why 1987? Because that’s the year I was born, and it seemed as good a reason as any to choose what to read. Which brings me to the topic at hand…
Comet Man #1-6 (Marvel) By Bill Mumy, Miguel Ferrer, Kelley Jones, Gerry Talaoc, Daina Graziunus, Petra Scotese, and Bill Oakley
Fans of superhero comics will find a lot of familiar bits and pieces within the pages of Comet Man, yet as a whole it’s a rather atypical story. It’s bleak without being dark, done in the style of more classic superhero origin stories but with the opposite attitude and end result. This is not the tale of a great new hero rising up and bringing hope, protection, and justice to the world. It is the story of several hubristic men ruining their own lives and those of everyone around them through an increasingly disastrous series of accidents, lies, and evil schemes. The villain comes out better than the hero, but nobody truly gets what they want by a long shot, and everyone is worse off at the end than they were in the beginning. Several people die needless deaths, an innocent child is abused to the point of catatonia, a family is disassembled, and humanity’s violence infects the mind of a peaceful alien observer. It’s not an uplifting series, but it’s a smart, interesting look at the dangers of great power when no responsibility is taken whatsoever.
The main character is Dr. Stephen Beckley, a.k.a. the titular Comet Man, an astronomer and astrophysicist who gets his superpowers through a mash-up of the Fantastic Four and Green Lantern origin stories (if the alien Hal Jordan met weren’t dying, I guess), with a sort of accelerated-timeline Captain Atom thrown in for good measure. While on a mission to track and study Halley’s Comet, Beckley’s vessel is caught in the comet’s tail, causing a massive explosion that kills Beckley and disintegrates his body. Lucky for him, Halley’s Comet is secretly an alien spaceship in disguise, and its pilot, Max, is able to pull Beckley’s molecules out of the inferno and reassemble him. Part of that process is unavoidably enhancing Beckley’s biology via the advanced technology Max has to use, since it’s calibrated to the physical standards of Max’s people and not human beings. So Beckley comes out intact but also overwhelmed by his new capabilities, which are many and varied and hard to control. Max suggests that Beckley return with him to his homeworld of Fortisque, where Beckley can learn all about his new self and adapt gradually in a safe environment. In the first of many blunderous missteps, Beckley assumes he can handle it on his own, and turns Max down in favor of returning to Earth without any understanding of what he can do or how he does it. Even getting back is a happy accident, as he discovers he can teleport by inadvertently transporting himself from deep space into his own office. He never really does get a handle on all of his powers, and seems to stumble into new ones all the time, so it’s not totally clear what all Comet Man can do.
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Marshall Rogers, and the issue is Detective Comics #475, which was published by DC and is cover dated February 1978. This scan is from The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, my beat-up edition of which came out in 1988. Enjoy!
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“Someone got hurt, someone got high, some of them left the rest behind”
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Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Dazzler #35, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated January 1985. Enjoy!
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