Report what comic books you have read today--and tell us a little something about it while you're here!

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Jeff, issue 14 is the last issue by Johns and Eaglesham. Issue 15 (which is supposed to come out this month) is the last issue of the series with a guest writer and artist, which seems very 2020 to me. This was announced back in June, so I don't know if anything has changed since then.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

SHAZAM! #14: I bought this one last week (I think), another series I had considered dropping. Flipping through it I noticed a big ol' :END" on the last page and figured it was the last issue. can any one confirm?

From what I understand, the team doing issue 15 is the same team (or maybe it's just the same writer) that did the previous fill-in that was a Batman team-up. I didn't read it, but I heard good things -- basically, it hewed closer to the traditional Captain Marvel than the current series did (while not explicitly contradicting it). 

I just read Plunge, by Joe Hill and Stuart Immonen, back to back. Why I didn't just wait for the collection is anyone's guess. But man, it was an exciting, tense horror story, with a classic feel -- all beautifully illustrated by Immonen. When the collection comes out, I highly recommend it. 

Thanks for the info re: SHAZAM! #14/15, guys. I'll flip through it when it ships. Maybe I'll think of it as a "complete your collection special" (or not).

THE RISE OF ULTRAMAN #1: There are three features in this issue, all written by the same writing team, Kyle Higgins and Mat Groom. That displays a certain consistency of vision, but the price is $6 rather than $5 (which I still have a hard time justifying for a comic book). the main story has three-page intro set in 1966, then the main story is set in 2020. The story uses the original series (plural) as a springboard, but it does not reflect the continuity of any of them. For example, it is not Shin Hayata (the original Ultraman of the TV show) who was accidentally killed by the arrival of Ultraman in 1966, it is Dan Moroboshi (Ultra Seven from the TV show). 

In 2020, the main characters are Shin Hayata and Kiki Fuji, but not the ones you know from TV. Not only are they 50 years younger, but Fuji was accepted into the USP and Hayata was rejected. The narration hints at a rich backstory,but much of it has been "redacted". Circumstances throw Fuji, Hayata and Commander Ichinotani together as they make first contact with Ultraman, but the story is over just as it was getting good.

The second feature is set in 1954, in grey and white tones, and sets up a link between TV's Ultra Q and Ultraman. The art  is reminiscent of Chris Samnee's and, honestly, I read this story first. the third feature is a series of humorous one-pagers featuring Pigmon. (I'm assuming anyone reading this knows who that is.) There is a double-page spread of things to come that looks interesting. I wouldn't mind to see the price drop $1. (I nominate "Pigmon" to be cut.) Other than that, I can't recommend it yet, but I find this new series to be intriguing.

ASH & THORN #5: This series got off to a strong start, then petered out: good concept but weak execution. I don't get the recipes. I can't recommend it.

HAWKMAN #27: As I mentioned yesterday, I don't read this title, and in coming to a close after two more issues. Having said that, I really enjoyed it. Here's a bit of dialogue from the first page: "One moment we're dead and in the afterlife. Now we're... then." Okay, that;s all I need to know. The art is great. Does it fit in continuity? There is no "continuity" anymore. Embrace it! Just look at the ads in this issue (or any DC comic book this month). "Dark Nights." Death Metal." "Multiverse's End." "Black Label." " DCeased." Yuck. not for me. The DCU has become a dark and dystopian place. (This issue is not that way.) Sad to say, but if DC were to stop publishing periodicals in 2021 I would not miss the it. It would be euthanasia. 

Strong words there, jefe! But maybe DC should be listening to fans like you -- and me. I'm sick of of Dead Earth stories and Psycho Batman stories and Everything's Awful stories. I don't read comics to revisit the miseries of real life!

Anyway, I read some stuff:

THE PHANTOM: THE COMPLETE NEWSPAPER DAILIES: 1962-1964: According to the front-end material, this is the first full volume of dailies drawn by Sy Barry. It may not be the first full Barry volume I've read; I don't know how far along the concurrent Sunday collections are, and there may have already been one there. But I noticed a few things here that I never noticed before -- whether because I was alerted to a change, or because they're so obvious they jumped out at me.

And what I noticed is a whole lot of Barry art that was really, really familiar.

Mostly, there are hands or other elements that are pure Mike Sekowsky. In fact, there are entire panels that I would have guessed were done by Sekowsky, if I didn't already know better, before I turn a page and he's gone.

And overall, there's a whole lot of rendering that looks a whole lot like Joe Giella. Then there bits and bobs that say "Dick Dillin" or some other representative of the DC house style of the late '50s-early '60s.

All of this material is from 1962 to 1964, which is concurrent with that very style -- in DC's sci-fi and suspense books, especially, but also Sekowsky on Justice League of America. Giella's biggest spotlight was right around the corner in the "New Look" Batman, starting in '64.

So there is some question of chicken and egg. I suspect that DC artists were lifting from Barry, and not the other way around, if for no other reason than the disparate status of the two fields. I doubt a big-time comic strip artists like Barry even read comic books, much less swiped from them. Meanwhile, comic book artists had been swiping from comic strip artists since original material began in comic books in the mid-1930s. 

But I don't really know, and the timing isn't really helpful. Opinions, Legionnaires?

HOUSE OF MYSTERY: THE BRONZE AGE OMNIBUS VOLUME 2: It took me a while to plow through this book, as too much at one sitting begins to feel a little repetitive.

But I do not complain. I didn't collect DC's mystery books until they were on their last legs, so most of this is brand new Bronze Age material to me, by people whose names we all know, like Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Berni Wrightson (mostly frontispieces/covers), Alex Nino, Jim Aparo and other legends. It was so much fun, I was able to stomach the occasional Jack Sparling piece.

THE GOLDEN AGE SUB-MARINER: THE POST-WAR YEARS: This is another book I had to read piecemeal for the same reason as above, which actually worked out fine -- I was switching between House of Mystery and Sub-Mariner and PS ArtBooks releases and the few monthlies I buy. And I never felt like I was working at it, which I sometimes do.

Anyway, it was interesting to see Bill Everett's artwork improve over time, and also his story choices evolve. During the war Subby was all-American, of course, which carried over into the late '40s for the most part. But in the '50s Everett restored Subby's conflicted loyalties, to the point that the only surface-dweller he had any use for was Betty Dean. (This was mentioned several times.) And Byrrah was introduced in 1954 and became a big part of Subby's revival run (which was longer than that of Cap and Torch, as Subby was being shopped for a TV show). When Roy Thomas (I think) introduced Byrrah in the 1960s Subby revival, I felt like the story expected me to know who he was. Now  I do.

Another interesting aspect of the '50s run was the romantic triangle of Betty Dean, Subby and Namora. I say that with little in the text to support it; Everett rarely addressed the fact that from about 1954 on Subby had a girl on either side to which he had been linked romantically. But when he did it was contradictory. Namora tells Betty in 1954 or '55 that there's nothing serious between her and Namor. But in a different story, she's jealous of Betty. In yet another story, Betty is jealous of Namor and Namora's closeness -- only to find out that they were sneaking off to create a surprise birthday for her. (With just the three of them attending. It was a very tight group.)

I can only surmise that Everett himself had no clear idea where he wanted to go with it. In fact, the last time it was addressed, Namor himself says, "Let's all just stay good friends and see what happens." I guess that's what Everett intended to do.

Dorma also got (re-) introduced, but as a much younger character than Namor -- and yet another cousin, like Byrrah and Namora. She seemed to be cast in the pesky kid sister role rather than in a romantic one, even though she was obviously post-adolescent. (Cough.)  I didn't see any inclinations from Everett that she was meant to be a love interest, but obviously Roy Thomas thought so, since he made Dorma the love interest in Subby's Tales to Astonish run, continuing into the solo book in 1968. (Again, I think it was Thomas, but I'm going by memory.)

Interestingly, the internet says Dorma was introduced in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939, but I don't remember her there, and she didn't play much role, if any, throughout the 1940s. I think of her as introduced in the '50s run with Byrrah, even if she did have some cameos in 1940s stories.

Namora, meanwhile, was a late 1940s creation. She's sort of the poster girl for that era, as Timely was introducing female characters across the board in an attempt to juice up superhero sales. Namora, Venus, Sun Girl, Blonde Phantom -- there were a lot gals getting top billing in those days. I also noticed from the covers that the Human Torch stories were getting a bit silly. I always associated that trend with Superman, attempting to compete with the whimsical Captain Marvel. But maybe it was a trend across the board.

Lastly, I want to mention that Everett's arttook a jump forward in quality in the 1950s stories. Sub-Mariner's head was no longer comically triangular, and in fact he a more realistic portrayal overall. He was drawn as -- dare I say it -- handsome. The foreword said Everett's 1950s Sub-Mariner material is considered his best on the character, and you'll get no argument from me.

THE PHANTOM: Cap, the most recent "Sundays" edition (v7, 1960-1963) is by Lee Falk, Wilson McCoy, Bill Lignate and Sy Barry.

GA SUBBY: I remember you had a hard time getting through "The Pre-War" years without a break, too. As much as I was looking forward to the first volume, I heald off reading it until the second was released so that I could breeze through both volumes at once. My admitation for Bill Everett knows no bounds, but even I had to set aside the first volume after a while. My stated goal of reading volume one was to rectify the continuity between Everett's original GA Subby and Roy Thomas' Invaders but, to be perfectly honest, I had a hard time rectifying the continuity between Namor's appearances in Marvel Mystery Comics and his own solo title. I'm not saying it cabn't be done, but man! That MMC continuity was tight!

LSH - FIVE YEARS LATER OMNIBUS: The last time I attempted a comprehensive LSH re-read I petered out after the fourth archive. (I left off with Adventure Comics #340.) My plan had been to get to the point the clone batch was created, then decide whether or not to keep going or to skip ahead (to LSH #25). But that's been several years ago, now, and I'm thinking the omnibus (LSH #1-39, Annuals #1-3, plus) might just be the thing to get me motivated again.

MMW HULK v14: My first issue of Incredible Hulk was #167 which, fortuitously, just so happened to be a great jumping on point. Plot threads were continued from earlier issues, but #167 was the point at which everything came together. I read for 39 issues, then dropped comic books... for good. "For good" lasted 15 issues. I picked up #221 of the spinner rack, "just to see what's happening," and never looked back. This volume collects #223-233, Annual #7 & Captain America #230 (a crossover). 

Like #167, #223 just so happened to be another great jumping on point. Roger Stern had been scripting over Len Wein plots for several issues, then he had one issue solo and #222 was a fill-in. Also like #167, #223 pulled together plot threads from previous issues and is where things really took off. As I was admiring the cover of #223 (also the cover of the MMW), it struck me for the first time that it's an homage to that of issue #1. ThenI opened the book to read Roger Sterns' introduction, and he confirmed that was the intent. The majority of the volume is by roger Stern and Sal Buscema.

#233 begins with the Hulk "burning off" his gamma energy resulting in Banner being cured (at least temporarily). Spad McCraken (from #160) is reintroduced into the supporting cast. Other supporting cast members include April Sommers (Bruce's landlady), Kropotkin the Great (another roomer) and Jim Wilson. Also, the identity of the amnesiac stranger who staggered into Gamma Base in #209 is revealed to have been Sam Sterns... the Leader.

#224-225 deals with the Leader and leaves dangling a plot thread which would remain unaddressed until earlier this year. In #226-227, doc Samson psycho-analyzes the Hulk and an overdose of gamma epinephine causes Banner to remain the Hulk for at least a week. Annual #7 is sandwiched between #227 and #228, but frankly reads better as a follow-up to the late, lamented Champions series. #228-229 continues the psychoanalysis theme with the introduction of the new female Moonstone. #230 is a fill-n from inventory (with a new page added to advance the sub-plots).

#231 introduces Hulk's new sidekick, Fred slaon, before crossing over into Captain America #230 for the first part of the "Corporation" subplot which had been running through multiple titles. #232 reveals that Jim Wilson is the nephew of Sam Wilson, the Falcon. (According to Stern's introduction, this was an idea of former writer/editor Len Wein, who never got around to using it.) To me (at the time) it came out of left field (there was no scene in which Jim "discovers" it); now I guess he simply recognized his uncle, despite his being in costume.

#233 confused the hell out of me when I first read it in 1979. Fred takes Hulk to a commune and introduces him to Trash Starr, who reveals "...we're old friends! Aren't we, Hulk?" to which the Hulk replies, "Yes, Hulk knows you! You are... Trish Starr!" This revelation is followed immediately by the blurb: "Do you remember Trish Starr? Do you know her as well as you think?" By 1979 I had either completed my collection of Incredible Hulk or I was damn close, and I had no idea who this "Trish Starr" might be. Unfortunately that's the last issue in this volume, so if you don't know you'll have to wait until MMW Hulk v15.

But that's not all! The Mighty Marvel Comics Calendar of 1979 (featuring the Hulk) is reproduced in its entirety, and there are some other goodies as well. The stories in this volume hang together really well (except #230 and, perhaps, Annual #7), but I recommend it as a good jumping on point for anyone interested in this era of the Hulk.

I took a day off from reading Green Lantern to read my other favorite green character, starting with...

MMW HULK v13: I backed up a volume to get a lead-in to v14, which I bought yesterday. then I moved on to...

MAESTRO #1-2: I re-read #1before moving on to #2. This is some good stuff. Someone should notify Mike Parnell via Facebook that it's now safe to get back in the water. 

IMMORTAL SHE-HULK #1: I bought this one on a whim. It ties in closely to Immortal Hulk and is, in fact, also written by Al Ewing. A lot has changed since I last read a She-Hulk comic, but that's to be expected. Apparently, this follows recent developments in Empyre. I can recommend this to anyone who likes Immortal Hulk. Speaking of which...

IMMORTAL HULK #0: This is a reprint of Hulk #312 (by Bill Mantlo) and Hulk #0 (by Peter David) with a new framing sequence by Al Ewing, tying them together and advancing the plot. This is what I love about comics. Mantlo writes a story David likes, and years later he builds upon it. Ewing likes David's, and years later builds upon them both. Again, I can recommend this to anyone enjoying the current series, especially those who haven't read the reprinted stories.

IMMORTAL HULK #37: Now that the spoiler I was being so coy about a couple of months back has been revealed, he Ewing comes with yet another. 

And I read one non-Hulk comic today...

FANTASTIC FOUR: ANTITHESIS #2: Like the first issue, I hear a whole lot of Neal Adams' influence in Mark Waid's script. Also like the first issue, #2 is absolutely bonkers. Adams' art is in top form, except he draws the Thing like a chimpanzee with a severe underbite.

I found this to be technically OK, but overall a depressing, unpleasant read.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

IMMORTAL SHE-HULK #1: I bought this one on a whim. It ties in closely to Immortal Hulk and is, in fact, also written by Al Ewing. A lot has changed since I last read a She-Hulk comic, but that's to be expected. Apparently, this follows recent developments in Empyre. I can recommend this to anyone who likes Immortal Hulk. Speaking of which...

A while back in the discussion AVENGERS. "And There Came ANOTHER Day..." it came up that Trish Starr was the niece of Ant-Man baddie Egghead. She figured prominently in several Defenders and Avengers stories.


"I found this to be technically OK, but overall a depressing, unpleasant read."

As which comics aren't these days? Some, but not many. That's why I read backissues.

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: X-MEN: I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did. Cyclops' origin has been told and re-told so many times it's difficult to imagine anything new being done with it. This version is true "retroactive continuity." It is written by Jay Edidin and drawn by Tom Reilly in a style reminiscent of Chris Samnee's. I've not heard of either of these creators before, but I'll be keeping an eye out for more of their work in the future.

SHAZAM! #15: The cover of this issue is of Captain Marvel (sorry, I will never get used to calling him "Shazam") sitting atop the head of a giant robot he has just defeated, striking the post of Rodin's Thinker, and posing the question, "What now?" Good question. Not only does it reflect the state of DC's publishing plans for 2021, but also that this is the last issue of the series. I'd recommend it, but what would be the point?

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