August 31, 2017

Post-Crisis Pull List - March 12th, 1987

March 12th, 1987
DC Comics published 9 comics. I read 5 of them

Batman (1940) 408 - "Did Robin Die Tonight?" (Max Allan Collins, Chris Warner, Mike DeCarlo) digital copy

The cover depicts what this issue is most remembered for: Jason Todd stealing the Batmobile's tires. Setting aside the plausibility of that (if anyone has tires you can't lift, it's Batman), it takes a while to get to that scene. The first ten pages depict a battle with the Joker during which Dick Grayson gets shot. The public thinks Robin has been killed and Batman is vilified for child endangerment, egged on by editorials by Vikki Vale. Meanwhile, Batman goes solo, forcing Dick to hang up the Robin costume. (Collins does this to serve the narrative of Batman's regrets about having a sidekick, but I don't like the way that it takes some of the decision out of Dick's hands. Sure, he decides to become Nightwing still, but the implication is that he'd have gone on being Robin if Bruce was okay with that.) One of the first things he does sans sidekick is to check out Ma Gunn's School for Boys in Crime Alley (which was once Park Row, site of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne) and during his visit is when Jason goes to work on the wheels (it looks like a Lamborghini so maybe it's not the Batmobile and therefore easier to rip off?). Not only that but he hits Batman in the abs with his tire iron and runs home to smoke a cigarette. Not content with getting back his tires, Batman drops Jason -- who is living without parents -- off at Ma Gunn's. Unfortunately, it turns out that her school isn't what it pretends to be. Oh and Batman actually laughs! Nice to see that once in awhile. 3/5   

Blue Beetle (1986) 13 - "Prometheus Unbound" (Len Wein, Paris Cullins, Dell Barras / Pablo Marcos) 

Coloss-- I mean Prometheus and the rest of the Hybrid battle Blue Beetle and the New Teen Titans. I get the feeling that DC or co-creator Marv Wolfman or.. somebody wanted the Hybrid to catch on. They even have matching 'H' symbols on their uniforms. Pretty cute. They're not, though. Cute, that is. Eduardo Barreto's designs definitely get across the whole forced-against-their-will-to-become-a-monster thing, but that doesn't mean I want to look at them a lot. At least the Doom Patrol, who were also unfortunate individuals, looked cool. As drawn by Paris Cullins, with his softer style, they're not as harsh looking, but, like last issue, I was more intrigued by the B-plot and look forward to that becoming the focus in the next issue. 3/5   

Legion of Super-Heroes (1984) 35 - "Forgotten Friends" (Paul Levitz, Greg LaRocque, Mike DeCarlo / Arne Starr)

"The Universo Project" concludes with part four, though preceding issues set up a lot of elements that played into this story. Nowadays they would have at least been labeled "Prelude to..." So, this issue wraps up events that have been going on for longer than four months. As such, it feels a bit abrupt. I don't think the story should have been longer -- taking the lead-in issues in account -- but maybe restructured a bit to give more time to the climax. Saturn Girl pretty much defeats Universo single-handed after taking out both Mon-El and Ultra Boy (not at their full strength, but still...). I like her, so I'm not opposed to her getting the spotlight (and rejoining the Legion!), but the nature of her victory doesn't do anything to help this conclusion feel as monumental as the circumstances that led up to it. 3/5   

Superman (1986) 6 - "The Last Five Hundred" (John Byrne, Karl Kesel)

The last issue ended with Superman knocked unconscious. We open this installment with an intriguing scene: Clark Kent wakes on a cot to find Lois Lane holding his Superman costume! While his secret is still safe, it turns out, he has to deal with the possession of Lois and other members of the expedition by an ancient race called the H'v'ler'n (thanks for that, Bryne). Their consciousnesses were inside the big mummy that turned out to be a big robot that knocked Superman out. They call it, appropriately, The Host, and it still holds a number of H'v'ler'ns. To defeat it, Superman offers himself as a potential body and the competition over such a prime specimen results in The Host being destroyed. Apart from the apostrophe-laden names, a very entertaining two-issue tale. 4/5  

Young All-Stars (1987) 1 - "The Coming of the Young All-Stars" (Roy & Dann Thomas, Vince Argondezzi / Michael Bair / Brian Murray, Malcolm Jones III)

Given that All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. took place on Earth-Two, Crisis caused a lot of changes to the characters that Roy & Dann Thomas were writing. Roy addresses this in the letters column, talking about plans for a second volume of Squadron that began with editor-in-chief Dick Giordano in late 1985. Rather than just feature the same heroes minus "its biggest guns," it was decided that "all that Crisis-displaced energy had to be somehow replaced." Thomas leaves the specifics of how they decided on their new characters and perhaps that's just as well, since issue 1 does not see the formation of these young All-Stars into a team. Instead we are introduced to them, some brand new, some familiar to readers of All-Star Squadron and/or Golden Age comic books. While the writing and research does feel of a kindred spirit to Squadron, unfortunately the art does not have the same strong definition that previous series enjoyed. Three pencillers contributed to this debut, yet Thomas promises that Brian Murray will handle all of issue 2, so we'll see how that looks next month. 3/5

Also published by DC: Electric Warrior 14, Secret Origins 15, Sgt. Rock 416, Star Trek 39.

My thanks to the site Mike's Amazing World of Comics without which this project would not be possible.

August 28, 2017

Post-Crisis Pull List - March 5th, 1987

March 5th, 1987
DC published 8 comics. I read 6 of them

Flash (1987) 1 - (No Title) (Mike Baron, Jackson Guice, Larry Mahlstedt)

Well, if you were a listener of From Kid to Flash, you may share my feeling that there was a long road leading to this issue. When I read this the first time, I hadn't read nearly every prior appearance of Wally and I was approaching it as the first issue of the character that I knew as the Flash, not as Kid Flash. Now, I come to it having seen his evolution from sidekick, more conscious of the fact that DC has put another man in the costume once worn by Barry Allen. It actually seems a little weird to refer to Wally as The Flash.    

There are a number of elements included to make this new Flash feel different than Barry. There's the reduction of Wally's speed; there's the fact that we won't see any of The Rogues for a while (and when we first do it won't be under conventional circumstances); there's the reality of health insurance. Barry was a Justice League member for most of his career and a police scientist for all of it; Wally doesn't have a job. So when he's called away from his 20th birthday party to take a heart to a donor on the other side of the country (there's some reason a plane isn't an option... I forget), he wants coverage in exchange. The requesting hospital is taken aback; they're used to superheroes working for free, but I'm with Wally: why shouldn't they help him out? 

Due to Wally being slower, Baron can actually make a story out of the journey across the country. It doesn't just happen in the blink of an eye. And when he makes it to Seattle, he's exhausted and has to spend some time recovering. Part of that process involves enough fast food to feed a little league team; that's another new element to get used to: Wally eating a lot to maintain his energy levels. On the way there, Flash encounters Vandal Savage, setting up a conflict for further issues, but for this first installment the focus is on featuring how Wally is different from Barry. There's a few bits that are a little heavy handed -- people keep calling him Kid Flash when he's wearing the new costume, people who probably wouldn't know someone else is under the red threads -- but overall, a strong debut. And, oh yeah, he wins the lottery... guess they're off the hook for the health insurance. 4/5 
Fury of Firestorm (1982) 60 - "Secret Identities" (John Ostrander, Joe Brozowski, Dennis Janke)  

Even though this project attempts to recreate some semblance of experiencing these comics as they came out, I can't do much about the fact that I'm aware in some cases of what is to come. In the case of Firestorm, I know that Ostrander ends up making some significant alterations to the character. Those haven't happened yet, but editor Denny O'Neil has begun teasing "extraordinary changes" in the letters column. (As an aside, I find it kind of sad that none of this kind of information gets communicated via the actual issues anymore thanks to the Internet.) For now, Ostrander seems to be working to disrupt the status quo. Long-time irritant for Ronnie, Cliff Carmichael attempts suicide by leaping off of a building. Ronnie had agreed that he'd initiate transformation only if a life was at risk. In the urgency of the situation, though, he does so right in front of his girlfriend Doreen Day. While heroic to save an enemy, in doing so, he reveals he did not trust Doreen with his secret. Cliff is placed in psychiatric care and won't be seen again for over thirty issues and Ronnie and Doreen's relationship may never be the same. 3/5 

Justice League (1987) 2 - "Make War No More" (Keith Giffen / J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, Al Gordon)

While Superman had recently decimated the military of Qurac, what's one fictional Middle East country, when you can have two? The leader of Bialya, Colonel Rumaan Harjavti is a more colorful character than Qurac's Marlo, as is befitting of this title. When three super-powered people from another world start destroying his nuclear weapons -- they saw their own planet destroyed by such and now intend to rid Earth of them -- he attempts to deceive them into serving his agenda. These aliens -- Blue Jay, Silver Sorceress, and Wandjina... well, let's just say Earth's heroes are better dressed. They're very odd; not very charismatic. Is there a joke I'm not getting? Even though we haven't hit full-on "bwa-ha-ha" Justice League yet, the dialogue is full of wit and the team interactions are fun to behold. 4/5   
Outsiders (1985) 20 - " Ill Wind.." (Mike W. Barr, Jim Aparo) & "Gross Encounters" (Mike W. Barr, Kurt Schaffenberger)

The Windfall that's hanging with The Outsiders turns out to be a clone... but the cover spoils that for you, sorta. Batman didn't see that coming, but he did suspect Windfall was a traitor, so his plan to stop the Masters of Disaster works out anyway. I don't get much satisfaction from a Batman that's always three steps ahead of any villain. It sort of takes the drama out of the situation when you can count on Batman's foresight. Though, to be fair, the Masters aren't exactly the sort to offer him a challenge, I suppose. Regardless, I found the backup story more interesting. Metamorpho and Geo-Force help out a man determined to see a UFO when they notice he's been taken advantage of by some ne'er-do-wells. 3/5 

Vigilante (1983) 42 - "Matters of Life and Death" (Paul Kupperberg, Tod Smith, Rick Burchett)

In Washington, the Peacemaker attacks Harry Stein and Valentina Vostok (A.K.A. Negative Woman) on the steps of the Capitol Building. Seeing this on the news, Adrian Chase gets on a train in New York, followed by an assassin. The rest of the issue alternates between Chase fighting for his life on the train and Stein and Vostok battling for theirs in the nation's capital. Peacemaker thinks (or has been told by the voices in his helmet) that Stein is actually a terrorist in disguise named Achmed. While an issue somewhat dedicated to moving characters around, still a very engaging installment. 4/5

Wonder Woman (1986) 5 - "The Ares Assault" (George Perez / Len Wein, George Perez, Bruce Patterson) 

The penultimate chapter of the opening story of Wonder Woman finds Diana and friends confronting Deimos and Phobos, a battle in which she shows that she is not against using lethal force, at least against the sons of Ares. They're just a means to an end, however. Retrieving the other half of a talisman from them, the group is transported to a nuclear missile base where Ares puppet General Tolliver is preparing to provoke war. When Ares himself arrives, Diana prepares for her toughest battle yet. Nothing much to say that I haven't already. The artwork is beautiful and the story still stands up as evidenced by the fact that it helped to inspire Wonder Woman (2017). 5/5 

Also published by DC: Angel Love Special 1, Tales of the Teen Titans 78.  

My thanks to the site Mike's Amazing World of Comics without which this project would not be possible. 

August 23, 2017

From Kid to Flash 050 - Looking Back

From Kid to Flash is an unofficial fan podcast about the DC Comics character Wally West.

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Twitter: @mythmakingetc

August 17, 2017

Post-Crisis Pull List - February 26th, 1987

February 26th, 1987
DC Comics published 11 comics. I read 7 of them.  

Issue of the Week:
Question (1986) 4 - "The Sacrifice" (Denny O'Neil, Denys Cowan, Rick Magyar)

The inaugural story concludes with this issue. "Reverend" Hatch turns out to have adopted his title without any real credentials, having been kicked out of seminary and having lied his way into serving as a chaplain in the Vietnam War. That was probably the worse place for someone like him and we see in this issue that he's rather unhinged. There he became convinced that he could serve God by committing evil. I'll save you the "logic" that got him to that point-of-view. As such, he's all set to make Jackie Connelly (daughter of Myra, Vic's co-worker and wife of the mayor) the Isaac to his Abraham. Of course, he doesn't get away with that, but he leaves his knife lying around and when the Question decides he'll let Hatch live, Myra has other ideas. O'Neil and Cowan continue to shine in the small moments; The Question doesn't impress so much by showing you stories you've never seen before, but by highlighting different elements along the way and exhibiting the strengths of the comic format through their mastery of it. 5/5

The Rest: 
Action Comics (1938) 588 - "All Wars Must End Part Two" (John Bryne, Dick Giordano)

Pardon my maintaining alphabetical order, but this actually follows the issue of Hawkman written about below. Feel free to skip around. Interesting to see one of the Superman titles crossing over with Hawkman. It leads me to wonder if this was an attempt to boost sales for the winged warrior since the title was cancelled with issue 17. Anyway, the end of the Shadow War continues as Superman gets more involved, responding to the signal put out by the Hawks. I actually found this more satisfying than most of the team-ups thus far in this post-Crisis version of Action, though I wonder if readers at the time were put off if they weren't reading Hawkman. Looks like we'll have one more issue of each title before this war wraps up (for good?). 4/5

Captain Atom (1987) 3 - "Blast from the Past" (Cary Bates, Pat Broderick, Robert Smith)

As one of the Charlton characters acquired by DC, Captain Atom has a history, one going back to 1960, making him older than, say, most of the Marvel super-heroes. While this Captain Atom does not have that background, Bates acknowledges it as part of a false past Atom presents to a TV news show. As on the cover, we see the costumes he had while at Charlton. In the context of this title, though, we're witness to him participating in the military cover-up of the truth about his background. And we know Nathanial Adam is already chaffing under that arrangement. He insists on being able to see his children, but when he finally does approach his daughter, she doesn't recognize him and thinks he's hitting on her. Despairing at ever getting his life back, he takes dangerous risks on his next mission. 4/5

Detective Comics (1937) 574 - "...My Beginning... and My Probable End" (Mike Barr, Alan Davis, Paul Neary)

This issue goes for around ten dollars: I'll settle for digital. 

We've got a pretty iconic cover here; at least I've seen it numerous times before actually reading it this week. Imagine if DC actually did kill a Robin! Jason, of course, survives, but spends most of the issue on the operating table at the Wayne Foundation Clinic. There, we find out at that the post-Crisis Batman also benefited from the care of Leslie Thompkins, a character created by Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano in the '70s. In showing an indebtedness to earlier Batman stories, this is in keeping with other issues of Barr and Davis's run, but otherwise, it feels a little different as it is concerned more with fleshing out the post-Crisis Batman's past than pitting him against a colorful villain. Perhaps they're stretching their muscles for Year Two, which will do both. Well... maybe not the 'colorful' part. 4/5

Hawkman (1986) 10 - "All Wars Must End" (Barbara Kesel / Dan Mishkin, Richard Howell, Carlos Garzon)

Beginning the end of the story continued in Action Comics above (whaaaat? ...only in comics...), the long-running Shadow War promises to be wrapping up... eventually. Maybe adding in Superman does spice things up; I did enjoy Action a bit more than this issue. That said, early issues of this title didn't seem to be missing anything. Maybe it's the genesis of this installment that is to blame: it has the curious credit of a plot by Barbara Kesel, with the scripting done by Mishkin. Coupled with the cross-over, that smells of editorial stepping into what was once Tony Isabella's domain. I don't know the circumstances of his departure, but it seems odd he didn't see through the conclusion of this plot he was writing since the four issue mini-series preceding this title. Regardless, I might be making it sound as if this is a bad issue and it's not. It just feels like it's missing a little spark. 3/5
Spectre (1987) 2 - "First Stirrings" (Doug Moench, Gene Colan, Steve Mitchell) 

Jim Corrigan and the Spectre are once again linked, but can spend only a limited amount of time apart. As such, elements of Corrigan's first case as a P.I. at first seem disparate, events encountered separately by the detective and the spirit of vengeance sometimes inhabiting him. It soon becomes clear, however, that the murders of a stamp collector and of Corrigan's first client are connected, both victims of the Cult of the Blood Red Moon who have shifted attention from vampires to the Spectre (this being the cult once led by Mary Queen of Blood under new leadership). I like the way that Moench is connecting this title to DC's past horror and mystery titles, especially having Madame Xanadu as a supporting character. 4/5 

Suicide Squad (1987) 1 - "Trial by Blood" (John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell, Karl Kesel) 

Last week, I covered the first issue I read digitally for this project: Secret Origins 14. I try to read single issues for this project as much as possible, but there are prices I am not willing to pay. Back before there was nary a whisper about a movie, this issue could be picked up for a dollar or less. I even had a copy that I got out a cheap bin! If only I knew what happened to it... Suffice to say, I read this digitally. I'm not paying $30-50 bucks for it. 

At least, if I did, I'd be getting a good issue. The Squad we saw in Legends grows by the addition of new members Plastique and Mindboggler. To the surprise of Rick Flag, Karin Grace will also be serving as medic. With Grace, Ostrander deepens the connection to the original Squad, a nice reward for those who read those stories, or at least the Secret Origins issue. "Trial by Blood" is definitely well connected to the DC Universe, which several references to other titles and the appearance of characters last seen elsewhere such as the aforementioned Plastique and Parasite. The president of Qurac (they're certainly getting a lot of attention lately) exhibits his super-powered group The Jihad by having them attack a fake airport... fake save for the hundreds of very real people inhabiting the space whom are killed. The rest of the issue concerns the briefing of the Squad on The Jihad, ending with Flag's discovery of Grace's involvement. 4/5

Also published by DC: Mask 4, Swamp Thing 60, Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes 347, and Teen Titans Spotlight 10. 

My thanks to the site Mike's Amazing World of Comics without which this project would not be possible.