It's ATLAS DAY and today's opening cover, like so many of our Atlas covers in past columns, comes to us via Greg Gatlin's amazing ATLAS TALES site [www.atlastales.com]. It's the Joe Maneely-drawn cover of QUICK-TRIGGER WESTERN #18 [July, 1957].
I picked this cover/issue because, when I spotted it on Greg's site, I remembered owning the issue in the early 1970s...before I moved to New York to work for Marvel. No, my mom didn't throw out my comics, but I did sell many of them after my return to Cleveland and during my years as a comics shop owner.
I was doing pretty well for myself in 1970 or thereabouts. I had a decent-paying job and, being single, I could afford to buy a lot of old comic books, especially at 1970s prices. One of the few local back-issue dealers had a good selection of Atlas books and, as virtually his only customer for them, I was able to buy them at a buck or two each.
Here's what was in QUICK-TRIGGER WESTERN #18:
"Git the Sagamore Kid!" (5 pages, drawn by Joe Sinnott);
The writers of these tales have not been identified at this time, which, sadly, is often the case with Atlas comics.
I remember owning the issue, but I don't recall the details of its stories. I do remember being excited at seeing stories drawn by Sinnott, Morrow, and the Andru/Esposito team. Sinnott was one of my favorites from his TREASURE CHEST work, that title being the Catholic comic I bought at Sts. Philip and James Elementary School in my youth. Morrow was an artist whose work I knew primarily from covers of sci-fi paperbacks and illustrations in sci-fi magazines. Andru and Esposito, of course, had drawn METAL MEN, those cool dinosaurs-versus-soldiers stories in STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES, and guilty pleasure WONDER WOMAN. You might say I was drawn to Atlas comics by the caliber of the artists who worked on them.
ATLAS COMICS are part of our regular cover rotation. You can expect to see an issue spotlighted every other week.
Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis introduce their new super-hero team in PLANETARY BRIGADE #1 [Boom! Studios; $2.99]. While I don't want to give you the impression for a moment that this debut isn't entertaining, it does feel like a joke we've heard before. Cover artist Matt Haley even alerts the potential reader to this by using a familiar image from the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire JUSTICE LEAGUE run of the late 1980s.
"The Power and the Portal" somewhat recalls Harlan Ellison's "Five Dooms to Save Tomorrow" story, adapted by Roy Thomas for an issue of THE AVENGERS back in the day. The "portal" in this story is a decent, ordinary guy who is unwillingly allowing various nasty creatures into our world. This story continues in the next issue; I'm hoping Giffen and DeMatteis will have a different ending than the one in the Ellison tale.
Among the Brigade members, the Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman takeoffs don't do much for me. The Tigra clone is the usual "cat equals slut" crap.
On the plus side of the roll call, the Third Eye (team mystic) intrigues me. She wanted to be the mortal avatar of Earth Goddess, but was rejected as unsuitable. I also liked the Mauve Visitor, an acerbic alien whose sarcastic quips were amusing.
The story itself did a fairly good job of introducing all the heroes and telling a decent story. Less successful was the attempt to mimic the ALL STAR COMICS adventures of the Justice Society by having each chapter drawn by a different artist.
PLANETARY BRIGADE #1 earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys. It's worth a look.
LIGHTNING ROUND REVIEWS
2000 AD kicked off its new year with "Progs" #1469 and #1470 [Rebellion; $4.10 each], but it has not been an auspicious start. Judge Dredd is on the trail of a serial killer in a story by John Wagner and artist Patrick Goddard; it's good, but not outstanding. The current Strontium Dog story by Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra falls into the same range as Johnny Alpha and his mates track a boneless criminal on a world that considers them criminals. Sadly, none of the other strips. - Caballistics, Inc.; Slaine; The Ten-Seconders - are very good. I'm thinking 2000 AD needs some new blood and new direction. There are "darlings" here that cry out to be killed as swiftly as possible.
2000 AD #1469 and #1470 get two Tonys each.
BETTY AND VERONICA DIGEST #162 [Archie Comics; $2.39] presents 100 pages of comics and features. Noteworthy this time around is one of the issue's two new stories. "So You Wanna Meet a Star?" by writer/penciller Dan Parent with inks by Jim Amash features two of the newer cast members: teen designer Ginger and singer Brigitte. Ginger is of Hispanic descent while Brigitte carries a little more weight than most Archie girls. I like them both, but I would also like to see them move past their present "icon" development to show more personality and perhaps a minor flaw or two. That's the kind of development that has worked well for all the Archie mainstays; I'd like to see Brigitte and Ginger join those ranks.
BETTY AND VERONICA DIGEST #162 is an entertaining, excellent value. It earns three out of five Tonys.
There are several outstanding stories in BETTY AND VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST #139 [$3.59], including the two brand-new tales that lead and close the issue. "A Motto to Live By" has those Riverdale kids trying out various mottos in a witty story by Kathleen Webb, penciller Pat Kennedy, and inker Ken Selig. In "Teachers' Pests" by Mike Pellowski, Jeff Schulz, and Jon D'Agostino, the students speculate on what kind of teachers they would be.
Among the reprints, "Typically Different" cleverly contrasts Betty and Ronnie. "A Kiss Is Just a Kiss" finds a hapless Jughead as the unlikely target of young ladies eager to prove who rules the school in lip-locking. "Ordinary People" has Ronnie attempting to throw off the yoke of her superior status. Josie and the Pussycats explore "The Meaning of Life" through art. Finally, in a tale that truly warms the heart, Little Veronica strives to show her parents there are things she can do "All By Myself." It's a fine gathering of stories and earns this digest four Tonys.
DEFENDERS #5 [Marvel; $2.99] was fun, but, as with PLANETARY BRIGADE, co-writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis overused their running gags. We get it already: the heroes hate each other, the Silver Surfer is a dunce, Umar is mega-horny, Dormammu has issues. We get it. But the "world in peril" part of this five-issue series is appropriately scary, the Kevin Maguire art is sweet, and we can chalk up the character bits we don't like to Dormammu messing about with reality. Overall, DEFENDERS #1-5 earn a perfectly respectable three Tonys.
DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS #336 [Gemstone; $2.95] starts off with a wonderful seasonal cover by Daan Jippes and colorist Sue Kolberg. From 1946, Carl Barks' "Biceps Blues" has Don trying to prove his masculinity to Daisy, an effort helped by his mischievous nephews. Mickey Mouse stars in "Plain Brown Wrapper" by writer Susan Marenco and artist Noel Van Horn; it's an exceptionally clever tale wherein our hero's curiosity seems likely to screw up his date with Minnie.
Less entertaining is "Again and Again," a Donald story that takes its inspiration from the film GROUNDHOG'S DAY. An amusing two-page gag involving cell phones and the old cans-and-string bit concludes this issue.
DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS #336 earns three Tonys.
MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS #285 [Gemstone; $2.95] reprints the "Return of the Phantom Blot" serial from WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #284-287 [May-August, 1964]. Drawn by Paul Murry, it's not to be missed. Oh, sure, you'll see the ending coming at least two chapters away and you might question Mickey's playing a bit fast-and-loose with the law and the truth, but it's a swell adventure in spite of all that. This issue gets four Tonys.
JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE #240 [Rebellion; $11.99] is a magazine in free-fall. Even the Judge Dredd story is weak this time out and, with a solitary exception, the other new strips aren't any better. That one bright spot is the introduction of "Darren Dread," a dead man and would-be escape artist who spent over a half-century in an irradiated titanium coffin. Dead or not, he's determined to be a star. This amusing debut is written by Rob Williams and drawn by John Higgins.
The magazine's "Charley's War" reprints are still good, though the current flashback storyline is running a bit long. The first part of a text article on Brian Bolland is informative, but avoid the terminally boring history of JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE. This latest chapter is the second or third in a run of "why the magazine sucked back in the day"; I'd rather see the editors devote their energies to keep it from sucking now.
JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE #240 gets one Tony.
The two-issue ZOMBIE TALES: DEATH VALLEY [Boom!; $6.99 each] pits Los Angeles teenagers against a plague of zombies. The first issue didn't do much for me, but the second issue had quite a few good action and character scenes. I would have enjoyed this story more if I hadn't seen most of this stuff before.
This isn't a bad comic. Though familiar, Andrew Cosby's story is well-constructed and Johanna Stokes' writing is good. I liked the Rhoald Marcellus art and the Arif Priyanto coloring. But I'm just not getting the whole "zombie attraction" thing when I see so much repetition in the zombie comics currently being published. It makes me consider writing my own zombie comic to see if I can come up with something different.
In considering how to score ZOMBIE TALES: DEATH VALLEY, I had to recognize that $14 for around 90 pages of comics is a bit pricey for less-than-outstanding work. On the basis, the best score I can give the series is two out of five Tonys.
I'm going to be getting back into INFINITE CRISIS COUNSELING all next week, but, after that, you can expect more LIGHTNING ROUND REVIEWS. I might even take requests.
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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