TALES TO ASTONISH #59 [September, 1964] was the prelude to an important event in Marvel Comics history. I'd been reading Marvel titles - fanatically - for about a year-and-a-half at this point, long enough to have gotten comfortable with them and to know what to expect from them.
TTA always had Giant-Man and the Wasp as its lead and a short Wasp story in the secondary spot. The Wasp feature had started out with her narrating the sci-fi/fantasy stories which had appeared in the back of the title since Hank Pym became its star, but evolved into super-hero tales. Then this issue came out.
The Jack Kirby cover (inked by Sol Brodsky) stood out on the newsstands with its dynamic positioning of the battling heroes and that solid white background. "Enter: The Hulk" served to introduce readers to the character who would be sharing the title beginning with the very next issue. Written by Stan Lee with artwork by Dick Ayers (pencils) and Paul Reinman (inks), it was a fun - if minor - super-hero brawl. The same creative team also supplied the "Let's Learn About Hank and Jan" feature which followed the lead.
I remember being excited about the Hulk getting his own strip again. One month later, I got even more excited when I witnessed Iron Man duking it out with Captain America on the cover of TALES OF SUSPENSE #58. "Oh, boy," I thought to myself, "that means Cap's gonna get his own strip, too!"
2000 AD's "winter thrill-wave" leaked to a finish with issues #1383-1386 [Rebellion; $3.75 each] of the British comics weekly, though Judge Dredd rode it well. In the five-chapter "Gulag," he led a team on a covert mission into East-Meg territory in search of unreported POWs held by the Sovs. Kudos to writer Gordon Rennie and artist Charlie Adlard for a dark and exciting story.
Sadly, the rest of the weekly's material wiped out. Extended storylines for Durham Red, Sinister Dexter, Rogue Trooper, and Bec & Kawl came to a close without ever truly engaging me.
The "Spring Attack" launches with issue #1387. Let's hope it has more going for it than its predecessor.
Arthur Adams' cover for ACTION COMICS #816 [DC Comics; $2.50] is pretty sweet, but the second part of "Superman Vs. Gog" is just another tedious 22-page punch-'em-up. Writer Chuck Austen doesn't bring anything new to the game while penciller Ivan Reis continues to channel Neal Adams in obvious fashion. But I did enjoy the free "Wacky Packages" stickers advertising a new series of the beloved Topps stickers of my childhood.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #628 [DC Comics; $2.50] is short on action and long on character moments as that mysterious menace in the shadows prepares to launch his next attack on Superman. Writer Greg Rucka does a great job showing us why Clark Kent is such a ace reporter, but can't make me believe Kent was so ceremoniously demoted to the police beat or make a convincing case for why young reporter Jerry Frank, all evidence to the contrary, doesn't seem to think Kent still has what it takes. I'd still rank Rucka ahead of the game, thanks to good scenes with Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Lieutenant Leocadio.
I'm also enjoying the art of penciller Matthew Clark, inker Nelson, and colorists Tanya and Richard Horie. Jim Lee may get all the press over in SUPERMAN, but I like the look and storytelling of ADVENTURES much better.
ARCHIE & FRIENDS
Riverdale is getting a mite too Ashcroft-y for its own good. ARCHIE recently ran a story about Principal Weatherbee installing surveillance equipment all over the high school, equipment he only removed when he realized it was watching *him* as well. In ARCHIE & FRIENDS #82 [Archie Comics; $2.19], the school's newest student turns out to be "Lance Colby, L.A.U.G.H. Agent."
Early in Bill Golliher's story, we learn L.A.U.G.H. stands for "Legion Against Unfair Government Hinderances." My hope that this was an organization fighting government intrusion on our liberties was dashed by the misspelling of "hindrances." Colby and his folks had to be dyed-in-the-wool Bush supporters who were only against the Bush Administration being hindered in carrying out its agenda by that little thing I like to call the Constitution of the United States of America.
By the end of the story, Colby uses a mind-ray to cover up his battle against enemy agent "General Payne." If that isn't standard Bush policy, I don't know what is. It might even explain why Bush and his mob still enjoy support despite the growing revelations of their deceptions and incompetence. Riverdale needs a quick influx of liberals and quick.
Some kidding aside, this story is a pretty lame knock off of the "Agent Cody Banks" movies. The issue's other two stories are weak as well. On the other hand, the Stan Goldberg/Jon D'Agostino art is up to their usual high standards despite the weakness of the scripts. I also enjoyed the Rex Lindsey-drawn pin-up pages which appear between the stories.
My rule of thumb for Archie comics is to look for those with stories by (in order of preference) Craig Boldman, George Gladir, and Kathleen Webb. Especially if the stories are drawn by Goldberg or Lindsey.
I wanted to like ATOMIC MOUSE #3 [Shanda Fantasy Arts; $4.99] so much more than I did. The cover is a cute homage to the cover of FLASH #123 - "Flash of Two Worlds" - that had me hoping for the best. So did the first story in the issue, a reprinting of Al Fago's wild Atomic Mouse origin from the 1950s. Even the murkiness that came with printing the color story in black-and-white didn't deter from the wacky goodness of the tale.
However, the issue's original material, a long and convoluted tale teaming the Shanda version of Atomic Mouse with the Charlton version, paled next to the reprint. It wasn't as weirdly funny and its black-and-white art, even the chapter pencilled by Joe Staton, looked crowded and flat.
The SFA version of Atomic Mouse is humanoid. The original is a more traditional "funny" animal. I prefer the latter.
I'm loving the heck out AVENGERS/THUNDERBOLTS [Marvel Comics; $2.99 per issue] by writers Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza. You've got suspicious Avengers spying on and undermining the Thunderbolts. You've got Thunderbolts seeking redemption, but perhaps straying a bit beyond what's ethical in trying to save the world from itself. You have to question some of what both teams are doing, as well as whether or not all the Thunderbolts are actually seeking redemption and not power. It's a twisted maze of actions and emotions which has been keeping me guessing from the start.
I read AVENGERS/THUNDERBOLTS #3 and #4 over the weekend. The highest compliment I can pay Busiek and Nicieza is that they showed me a dark side of Captain America without twisting his established character. That's first-rate writing.
Add exceptional artwork by penciller Tom Grummett, inker Gary Erskine, and colorist Brian Reber to the mix and you get a classy, exciting, and, most importantly, intriguing super-hero comic book. It's the kind of story that keeps from writing off the super-hero genre as so many short-sighted critics have done.
It's ain't the genre. It's what you do with it.
Besides trying to catch up on reviews before the end of June, I'm also trying to work through the e-mails I've received over the past several weeks. Here's one from KRISTIN:
I enjoy reading your column. It's diverse and fair; you give reasons to justify your opinion. I spotted you Google-ing EERIE QUEERIE!, but I stayed to see the rest of the entertaining reviews, and also check out the rest of the websites you're on. Thank you. I found something I might not have found otherwise and I've been enjoying it. That is all.
Thanks the kind words, Kristin.
This edition of TOT marks a decision on my part, namely that I'm not going to grade/rate comics and other items. I'll still be doing that for my COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE reviews - at least until I can convince my editors that such grading/rating is an artificial and outmoded way of reviewing things - but the online columns will be rating free from here on in.
If readers can't tell whether or not they might like a comic from my reviews, without a letter grade or a collection of floating Tony heads, then I'm not doing my job very well.
Thanks for visiting with me today. I'll be back on Thursday with more news, reviews, and views.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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