Archive for the ‘Reviews & Recaps’ Category
There are several things both notable and fascinating about this issue of the Swamp Thing. First and foremost, this story is unbelievably fucked up. Modern comics deliver sick, twisted, graphic gore and horror but seldom dig into emotional turmoil this deep.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
Part 1: Abby’s Past Tragedies
Abby Cable is already a tormented soul. She and her husband Matt lost two of their closest friends (Alec and Linda Holland) in an explosion and were then forced to hide from the killers for some time. After this trauma Matt and Abby’s marriage begins to fall apart as they try to piece together the death of Alec and discover this being the Swamp Thing.
One night while Abby is out in the swamps with Swamp Thing, Matt is severely injured in a car wreck leaving him brain-dead and his body possessed by the soul of Abby’s uncle Arcane. Calmly engorged in the corpse of the Husband, Arcane begins the torment of his own niece by dazzling and bedding her. His torments increase and eventually leave her dead in hell. Only the bravery of Swamp Thing (with help from Deadman, Phantom Stranger, and Etrigan) pulls Abby back from eternal torment.
With Matt Cable a “vegetable” from his car accident, Abby begins a romance with the swamp monster. Alan Moore’s bit of parallelism here was not lost on me: Abby trades her metaphorical vegetable-husband for an actual vegetable.
Their lives would be happy but for John Constantine who continually lures Swamp Thing off on new adventures saving the world, universes, and eventually the spiritual realm itself.
At this point in the series, photos of Abby and Swamp Thing are published in the local newspaper and Abby is charged with crimes against nature, a charge normally reserved for beastiality. Fearing imprisonment, Abby flees to Gotham City where the Swamp Thing wages a war on the city to recover her from Gotham’s justice system.
At last reunited, Abby’s dreams are shattered forever when the agency that created the Swamp Thing finds a way to kill its monster and does so. Swamp Thing is dead. Abby’s last vegetable has been burned to the ground.
After so much tragedy in one character, Stephen Bissette takes a last oportunity to twist the knife.
Part 2: Issue #59: “Reunion”.
The story begins in hell, where a large demon is tormenting Arcane for his sins on earth. We notice that one of Arcane’s eyes has been squished and the socket is filled with maggots. He complains that he cannot feel his eye. This is the perspective from which our story is told. Though Arcane is the main character and provides the perspective of this narrative, the story is actually about Abby Cable as she pieces her life back together. Arcane is forced to watch three stories unfolding simultaneously.
- He sees Abby as she tries to live her life. She’s in a convalescent home working with the aged who’s families have abandoned them. She struggles to cope with this. An orderly is stealing from the residents once they die and it’s a bit of a scandal that Abby uncovers. This narrative expands on Abby’s character and furthers the main arc of our story by showing how she lives her life in the absence of the Swamp Thing.
- We see some unknown creature, and read its inner thoughts as it struggles to find someone. We see parallelism between this creature and Arcane as it also complains about its eye. This narrative is rife with intrigue but is opaque, confusing until the end of the issue.
- We see the past when Abigail’s father – a single parent – lives with his only daughter in some small European village still peppered with land mines left over from WWII. Here we learn that Abby’s father stepped on one of these landmines while she was a little girl, dying in front of her eyes. This is how Abby was orphaned and came to live in the United States at a young age. Throughout most of this story Abby’s father is reading Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” to his daughter.
These three stories are interwoven and evolve before Arcane’s eye (and the readers’). The final death scene of Abby’s father is followed with the unknown creature in narrative 2 finding Abby at the convalescent home. It sees her, is ashamed, and runs into the swamps. Abby, recognizing something in the creature, chases it and the two are reunited. Here we learn that Arcane rebuilt the corpse of his dead brother (Abby’s father) after Abby had left for America. All these years the reanimated corpse has struggled to find its lost daughter, and now some decades later he is literally falling apart, ashamed of his own wretchedness, and ashamed for his lost life, his life as an Arcane.
Abigail Cable, emotionally devastated after losing Swamp Thing, is reunited with her long dead father to discover that he has been turned into a “Frankenstein” and is now disintigrating before her very eyes. After some time spent in a tearful embrace the monster flees his daughter. She chases him further into the swamp, but she can only find the scattered limbs of the man she once called father. This is the second time that Abigail has watched her father die.
Abby is found the next morning next to a torso. Limbs are scattered about her.
She says, “I can’t find his head.”
Back in hell, an impressed demon remarks to Arcane that he is still causing pain on earth after so many years, and that he may be turned into a demon once his sins are paid off.
Hot damn. This issue was fucked up and demostrated the stength of Bissette’s story-craft as he seamlessly wove together four narratives into one issue. Told from the perspective of a dead man being tormented in hell, we are shown new depths of Abby’s past and present while still managing to progress the main story that has been evolving over the past few issues (Swamp Thing’s death and eventual return to earth). The parallels are numerous. We see Abby’s childhood fascination with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” which provides insight into her adult romance with the Swamp Thing. We see her father actually become a Frankenstein monster in a sick play on the old notion that women marry men like their father. And Bissette ties Arcane to his brother by demonstrating that they are both ashamed of the family name (one for his sins, the other for his own wretchednes), both are monsters, and both have deteriorating eyes that cause them pain.
This issue is tremendous and is followed by another gem in issue #60, “Loving the Alien” which proved to be another gorgeous issue in the Saga of the Swamp Thing. Though the issues compiled in book 6 of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing are considered by many to be weak and inferior to his previous work, and are a bit overshadowed by the other story he wrote that year (Watchmen), I would argue that these issues rank easily among the best stand-alone issues of the whole series. Their depth, craft, and creativity are simply unparalleled.
(PS, sorry for two Swamp Thing posts in a row. It’s what I’ve been reading.)
Who even writes for this blog anymore? Certainly not us! Anyway, I just read a magnificent issue of Swamp Thing from the year 1996!
Clinton was in office and Dole wanted to oust him. Newt Gingrich had signed some weird “Contract with America” and the world of American politics was as nutty as ever. Apparently disgusted with himself, the comics industry, and left-wing socialist nut-jobs Mark Millar enlisted the incredible talents of Curt Swan to create this fascinating bit of satire.
If you’re familiar with Alan Moore or Rick Veitch’s work on Saga of the Swamp Thing then you know Chester Williams as an eco-friendly former hippie that loves tubers and teams up with the Swamp Thing to battle evil.
But that was before he saw the Contract!
Professor Chester Williams is at his apartment throwing a party with another professor and some of their students. The kids are dancing, drinking, getting high, and engaging in other immoral activities. After a living the hippie dream this party serves as a wake up call to Mr. Williams and he’s had enough! Chastising a young lady for strip-dancing at the party Chester proceeds to kill the music and call the cops on his students.
Disgusted with the loose living of these young liberals, Chester decides to join the NYPD and clean up America. After killing a few bank robbers (illegal immigrants no less!), saving a woman from being robbed [Ed. note: a "dyke," who he then kisses so hard she goes straight and marries him], and plenty of good old fashioned liberal bashing, Chester receives word that the Swamp Thing is giving the world’s leaders an ultimatum: stop polluting or else! As an old friend of this Elemental, Officer Williams decides to pay a visit to Houma, LA to try and talk some sense into the old Swamp Hippie.
After a stern lesson on economics, the importance of international trade, and a plea for Swamp Thing to “grow up”, Chester convinces Swamp Thing that the earth doesn’t need a paradise and things are best left as they are. Chester then returns to New York where he defeats incumbent Bill Clinton and becomes President of the United States of America!
Conservative ideals win again!
[Ed. note: Despite Mark Millar's bizarre introduction to the issue claiming it is the first "clean issue in a sick run of an evil book put together by diseased individuals," editor Stuart Moore later promises it was "an Elseworlds story" and "a bad trip or something." Thank God.]
Today’s post gives me the opportunity to introduce a new category for Bronze Age comics I’ve called: “Love for the Bronzer”.
You may not realize this, but Dr. Strange and the Man-Thing have have something in common: murderous Christians hate them.
I suppose in Strange’s case it makes a bit of sense. Since the Julio Claudian dynasty, paganism and Christianity have butted heads. Add a little Constantinian conversion, a bit of Julianian conservatism, and you’ve got a recipe that has left polytheism and monotheism standing on opposite sides of the Deity Dance Floor glaring one at the other for the last 2000 years. So when Marvel debuted their protagonist of polytheistic persuasion in Strange Tales #110, it was only a matter of time before Christianity took a stab at him, and in 1974 that’s exactly what it did. Enter the Silver Dagger, a knife-dipped-in-holy-water wielding ex-Cardinal who left the Church after being denied the Papacy. What was Dagger’s next move? Why, he became a sorcerer and took to killing off all practitioners of the mystic arts, of course!
And so it was that in Doctor Strange#1 this occult antagonist set his sights on Stephen Strange and the Sorcerer Supreme’s bombshell apprentice Clea. After three issues of fabulous story and gorgeous art the murderous mage was finally banished to unreality forever. Hooray!
What is a bit more – well – strange, is that exact same year the Man-Thing faced a similar foe. Man-Thing #s 3 & 4 featured the less poetically named Foolkiller as he attempted to rid the earth of fools and sinners with his Yahweh-bequeathed Purification gun. Foolkiller was a lost soul who got picked up in that hippie Christian Jesus Movement and found peace at last. Unfortunately, that peace was shattered when he walked in on his pastor getting drunk with some floozy. After being told to take life less seriously the Foolkiller went berserk, strangled the preacher, preserved his corpse in a shrine, received a laser gun from God (for some reason God armed this guy), loaded his gun and his shrine in a van and took off across America killing all the “fools” along the way. On one of his death quests, Foolkiller’s plot is foiled by the unwitting Man-Thing and from that point on Foolkiller has a score to settle.
Unfortunately for both Foolkiller and the Man-Thing, this swamp monster can’t exactly be killed. Foolkiller goes about his business of trying to get the local radio station to stop playing “blasphemous” music and is ultimately killed during a fight with Man-Thing when the Dead Preacher Shrine falls over and a large shard of glass pierces Foolkiller’s heart.
I don’t know if there is any connection between these two stories. The Jesus Movement was all over the US, and Protestants and Catholics were really going at it in Ireland around this time, but that’s all I can think might have inspired these two stories such a short time from each other. In any case I still effing love the Bronze Age of Comics and I’ve learned just how dangerous a knife dipped in holy water or a God-sent laser blaster can be, so it’s a win/win for me. It’s been a long time since anybody did a “Reviews & Booze” write up, so I’m gonna go ahead and recommend some red wine for this one.
IDW has always had a bad habit of taking their dirty franchise-licensing thumbs and jamming it into my pie of childhood nostalgia (terrible metaphor, but go with it). Every time I hear that there’s going to be a new comic based on something from my youth, I get super-excited until I see that it’s coming out on IDW. I don’t know if it’s because most of it seems a bit rushed (why does everybody in Jurassic Park look like a PS1 character?) or if it’s fear of the realization that, inevitably, they will shove zombies into it, but I seem to be constantly let down. This is why I had a sort of “aw, goddammit” moment when I learned that IDW had secured the rights to publish a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic (in partnership with current owners, Nickelodeon Studios/Viacom International). Even the promise of Kevin Eastman’s involvement wasn’t a guarantee (I think I’m one of the five people who read his TMNT: Bodycount).
First off, contrary to what every initial article about the series stated, this is not a continuation of the Mirage Comics stories (probably because, towards the end, Peter Laird had the turtles in their early-30s), but a reboot of the franchise. As with the first story arch of every other comic/TV show/movie incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this deals with the origin of the heroes. Unlike every other incarnation, however, this one seems a little different. April O’Neill is back in a lab assistant position (and a yellow jumpsuit!) working for Baxter Stockman (not a cyborg!), doing some sort of psychotropic drug testing on four turtles and a rat under the watchful eyes of the mysterious General Krang. The issue cuts back and forth between this story and the main one, involving Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello fighting Old Hob, a mutant alley cat, and his gang while Raphael broods elsewhere.
Kevin Eastman (o.g. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Tom Waltz (Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward) do a wonderful job of making this feel like the old first volume issues. The dialogue is spot-on, straight down to the constant barrage of crappy one-liners which seamlessly segue in to more dramatic scenes. This series also blends the mythos of both the original Mirage run and the Archie Comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, utilizing characters from and multiple references to each. The newcomer artist Dan Duncan does a great job of calling back to the style of the Eastman/Laird days (unlike the anime-look that most Ninja Turtles publications seem to use nowadays).
For the first time since 8-year-old me was let down by the abomination known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, I am genuinely psyched to follow my favorite childhood heroes again and, if you are a child of the 80′s, you should jump on this book immediately.
As a little kid, most of my favorite movies were either super-saccharine 90′s Disney flicks or the grisliest horror the 1980′s had to offer. Therefore, it is with great honor that I was able to secure a preview for BOOM! Studios’ Hellraiser #1, written by one of the masters of horror (and the series’ creator), Clive Barker.
While preparing for this review, I took the liberty of re-watching Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and that totally insane video where Pinhead plays poker with Lemmy Kilmister. Then I tried watching Hellraiser: Bloodline. After being bored out of my skull after only a few minutes, I realized that without the guidance of Barker, this franchise seriously disinterested me.
Thank God he’s back in charge of the Cenobites. Barker’s twist on the happenings of the amoral servants of Hell remains as creepy and as imaginative as ever. Pinhead still goes on being extremely articulate and frighteningly intelligent, all the while manipulating those into helping him achieve his goals. Everything about the character will seem familiar to fans of the original film, which is welcome when compared to some of the downright goofy things he said in the later films (“Welcome to the worst nightmare of all… REALITY!”). The issue still explores the line between pain and pleasure prevalent in the films, with the first issue featuring both the most violent and sensual panels I’ve seen in a comic produced by BOOM! Both of these mental states are skillfully drawn by Leonardo Manco (Hellblazer, Hellstorm, every other comic that ever had the word “hell” in the title), which ultimately leads to one emotional and frightening comic.
My only real complaint (which might be my own fault) is that I’m a little confused as to where in continuity the story actually takes place. Pinhead appears to be flanked by the Female and the Chatterer, both of whom were killed in Hellbound: Hellraiser II and never seen again, yet a reference is made to Kirsty Cotton’s marriage in Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker. Perhaps somebody who has seen more of the later sequels can clear this up. Either way, enjoy the (totally for mature audiences) preview to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser #1.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
BOOM! Studios has given me permission to present to you a downloadable PDF for “At the Tolling of a Bell,” an original, self-contained eight-page Hellraiser story by Clive Barker and Leonardo Manco not slated for public release until the trade paperback collection in, like, forever from now! Basically, we’re giving you some free comic book goodness from an industry legend! Enjoy!
One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to buy a comic every Wednesday that I know nothing about. Considering how much I enjoyed last week’s Who Is Jake Ellis?, this has actually been a pretty good plan. On this week’s Wednesday pilgrimage, I came across Infinite Vacation by Nick Spencer, a guy whose previous efforts (Forgetless, Morning Glories) have been pretty great and is slated to have some pretty big superhero titles coming up (taking over Supergirl, Iron Man 2.0). So what the hell is this Infinite Vacation thing?
The concept of a multiverse in comics is nothing new, but what about capitalizing on it? A company has created a smart phone application which taps into a parallel dimension and allows a person to buy their way in to another version of themselves (or, if they don’t wanna do that, hang out with them). With every decision made by the user, no matter how mundane, they can go in and see exactly what would have happened if they’d done something else. And Mark has kinda become addicted to the whole thing. Averaging about 10 changes per day, Mark is clearly not happy with himself (himselves? Is that a word?). To make matters worse, his parallel selves start to die at an alarming rate (and before you ask, yes, they point out that if there’s an infinite number or yous, you’re always dying somewhere). Also, he’s suddenly fallen head over heels for a Deadener, a person who finds it morally repugnant to jump into another universe’s you.
Nick Spencer’s writing here is damn good, and only a tad bit confusing (but what story involving hopping universes isn’t?). For a book starring an infinite number of the same dude, it’s a cinch to figure out which Mark you’re rooting for. Plus, he does a great job of making sure that any skeptical questions are answered immediately by Mark’s narration, giving the reader no room to go, “Wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense.” While not being particularly fast-paced, he whole issue had me engaged (with the exception of a four-page live-action parody which only lost me because it was missing Cameron Ward’s fantastic art).
Speaking of Ward, where the hell has this guy been? With a style this similar to Alex Maleev’s, you’d think this guy would be everywhere. All I can find is that he lives in London and took part in the Totoro Forest Project. His art in Infinite Vacation is fucking beautiful to look at, though. There are a pair of two-page spreads throughout the book that I spent way too long staring at (and I normally hate two-page spreads). Here’s hoping we see more from Ward, and soon. [Edit: Upon doing, like, a minute's more research, I discovered he had another Image series called Olympus. I'm a dumbass.]
Anyways, this book is definitely worth picking up. Hell, I’d even go so far as saying it’s the best single issue out this week. I eagerly await picking up the rest of this five-issue miniseries.
Hello, Readers! Jonny here.
In my many readings and explorings of the Information Super Highway (that’s the Internet to you “Web2.0” Kiddies) I discovered a Golden Age gem from January 1941 called “The Red Comet” that was published in Fiction House’s Planet Comics.
Planet Comics started in January of 1940 as a monthly magazine collecting, as did most comics of the time, several stories by many authors and artists. Though detectives and superheroes were all the rage in ‘41, Planet Comics catered to a slightly different niche with space odysseys. Known for stories with strong female characters and Good Girl Art, it seems Planet Comics was destined to become the sort of thing collectors drool over and popular culture forgets.
Anyone who follows my infrequent posts knows I have a soft spot for the Golden Age, but for all my love I cannot deny this stuff is crude. Imagine my surprise when I found “The Red Comet” by Arthur King (which may or may not be a pseudonym for Cy Thatcher, Rudy Pallais, and Alex Blum). All of the basic pitfalls of the Golden Age are here and yet there was something more. A lot more.
Within the pages of Planet Comics #10 I found a story that was probably intended to be heroic fantasy, yet ended up written and drawn as one of the most gorgeously Philip K. Dick-style dystopian stories I’ve read in a comic. I can only assume this wonderful transformation was due to the author’s own classist world-view and the three color limit placed on an artist with a remarkable eye for action. If you can, I strongly recommend finding your own copy of Planet Comics #10. If not, I will recap below.
Our story begins as the Red Comet himself bears witness to a landmark in science: the reanimation of a corpse. As a panel of probably-important-people and the Red Comet watch, the body of Tony Scaro is reanimated and “birthed” from the cold womb of a machine. The naked Tony awakes in a strange room. Confused, he asks for clothing.
Now, if I were the Red Comet or a scientist in Future Earth, this would be the part where I rush up to Tony Scaro and say something like, “Welcome to the future! It’s totally awesome here and you’re invited to join us in our perfect society! Enjoy this complementary Future Robe!” Instead this is where the comic starts to get effed up. Rather than addressing Tony directly and welcoming him to his new life in the future, the Red Comet towers above him in demigod-like form and announces Tony is a “low type” from the 20th century.
The scientists – still refraining from actually talking to Tony who has been dead for possibly hundreds of years and has no idea what the hell is happening – decide he will be permitted to “wander where he pleases” but will remain under close observation. For God only knows how long, Tony wanders Future Earth alone, all but naked, and under constant surveillance by unseen forces. Not surprisingly, this wears on Tony and he begins to long for his previous life and friends.
Coinciding with a break in surveillance, Tony commandeers a space ship and heads to Jupiter because, well, why the hell not? Apparently a good space-pilot, Tony lands on Jupiter and is brought before its dictator: a man most ominously named Kil. We can only assume that Tony is the first Earth person in ages to land on Jupiter, because Kil decides to inform Tony of his plans to go to war with Saturn. He then requests that Tony kill statesmen on Earth because that will get Earth to ally with Jupiter against Saturn for some reason. Tony jumps at the idea, and at this point I can’t say I blame him.
Back on Earth (and I’m guessing a few weeks later), the population starts to freak out as many prominent statesmen are murdered. Finally, the Red Comet shows up to announce that he’s discovered more info on Tony Scaro’s past and it turns out Tony was a notorious murderer in his day.
So far in the story I was totally on Team Tony in his rampage against the elitist Future Earth society that would so callously bring a man back to life and then send him naked into the wild after deeming him of inferior social status. Upon learning Tony’s brutal past I started to find him less sympathetic. Then I remembered: THEY DIDN’T KNOW HIS MURDEROUS PAST WHEN THEY FIRST CAST HIM OUT.
Damn, the future is full of dicks.
Receiving a tip from one of Kil’s inside men (wait, if he had insiders in the Earth government already why did he inform the random, naked mystery man from space of his plot? Anyway…) Tony steals another ship and makes for Jupiter with the Red Comet in hot pursuit. This time Kil is less enthusiastic and starts shooting at Tony, fearing that he’ll lead Earth’s forces to Saturn.
Crash landing on one of Saturn’s moons, a fierce battle ensues between Tony and the Red Comet.
Here is where my sympathy for Tony and my hatred for the Red Comet was nearly at full pitch. After winning the battle, Red Comet heads for Jupiter to find out why they were so quick to shoot at Tony. Please remember that Red Comet knows absolutely nothing of Kil’s plan. That becomes especially important when – without talking to anyone on the planet first – he grows to a giant size and single-handedly destroys Jupiter’s fleet that is sent to meet the invading Earth super-being.
Seriously, this guy is a twat.
Back on earth, Red Comet and the scientists decide that Tony Scaro’s violent 20th century ways are incompatible with the awesome Future ways and decide to put him in stasis forever. For this feat of heroism and benevolence the population of Earth praises the Red Comet.
As I said, I’m pretty sure all this horror and dystopia was unintentional. I think we were supposed to be cheering for Red Comet as he fought the murderous Tony Scaro and destroyed the fleets of wicked Kil. But as I read Planet Comics #10 all I felt was horror at the elitist disregard for humanity displayed by the supposedly advanced people of Future Earth. This was probably greatly assisted by the fact that we know and see so little of Red Comet. He only enters the story when somebody’s ass needs kicking which makes him come off as some sort of Gestapo henchmen for Fascists yet to come. This coupled with truly astounding artwork made for a supremely (if inadvertently) enjoyable read. I know I’ve made light of this comic, but again I must emphasize that I was totally enraptured as I read it and I must insist that anyone who enjoys Golden Age stories find a copy of Planet Comics.
Until next time, happy readings!
If you were born in the mid-8os like me, you have fond memories of watching the Disney Afternoon line-up of cartoons. Nothing beat coming home from first grade, plunking down in front of the TV, and binging on Darkwing Duck, DuckTales, TaleSpin, and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers all in a row. BOOM! Studios has already released their surprisingly popular Darkwing Duck book so the next logical step would be to tap into another property that we’re all nostalgic for.
With Darkwing Duck writer Ian Brill taking on scripting duties, BOOM! is taking a crack at the Chip ‘n Dale franchise by not only giving the beloved series its own title but immediately making it an ongoing. Add Marvel Super Hero Squad artist Leonel Castellani, and this book seems like it’d be perfect fare for the kids, not to mention the grown ups who still ong for the feel-good nineties.
Thing is, this book seems to be geared more for people who grew up watching the show rather than those unfamiliar with the characters. While the team tries to recover something called the super-key and fight a bunch of crazed animals who are all surrounded by a weird red aura (none of which is explained at all yet), the book gives us little peeks into the pasts of Gadget, Monterey Jack, and even Zipper which help explain why the characters are the way they are. As a former fan of the show, Brill does an amazing job of keeping the characters just as they were. Chip is still the same unlikeable douchebag he was on the cartoon, Dale is still cracking jokes left and right, and Zipper still wants to be the most heroic housefly that’s ever lived (two week life span be damned).
If you’ve enjoyed Brill’s work on Darkwing Duck or were a fan of the old series, chances are that you’ll get a kick out of this book, out Thursday.
Now I guess we just gotta hold out for BOOM’s inevitable TaleSpin comic (half-joke?).
Much like the old characters from Charlton, Fawcett, Milestone, and MLJ Comics, DC has recently acquired the full rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents team and is folding them into the DCU in their own title. Before I get into a review of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, however, I should probably tell you a bit about their extremely convoluted history.
Created by artist Wally Wood, the team originally appeared in November 1965′s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 published by Tower Comics. For a while the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) Agents consisted of NoMan, Dynamo, Lightning, and Menthor, four heroes who were given powers by an invisibility cloak, a strength-enhancing belt, a speedster suit, and a telepathy helmet respectively. Only problem was that the power-granting items also slowly killed their users. Other heroes came and went (like Sea Devils rip-off sister team, U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agents) before the series ended at issue #20 and Tower Comics folded.
For years, the team remained dormant (aside from a British publisher, L. Miller & Son, Ltd., reprinting the original issues in black and white sometime during the mid-70s) until John Carbonaro bought the rights in 1983 and planned on rebooting the series (with the aid of David Singer) on his own JC Comics. Unfortunately, he and Singer had a serious falling out and Carbonaro only got as far as two issues before JC Comics fell through. That same year, Texas Comics released Justice Machine Annual #1, the only issue they ever produced, which featured a team-up story between the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and their in-house superhero team, the Justice Machine.
In 1984, Singer and Deluxe Comics claimed that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were now in public domain (bullshit!) and began releasing a series under the name Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents with a fantastic line-up of artists including George Pérez, Steve Ditko, Keith Giffen, and Jerry Ordway. Unfortunately for him, Carbonaro still owned the rights and sued the shit out of Singer and Deluxe Comics, ultimately winning the suit and putting them out of business in 1986.
In 1987, Gary Brodsky, son of Marvel legend Sol Brodsky, attempted to release a four-issue black-and-white limited series through his own Solson (Sol’s Son, get it?!) Publications. One issue was released before the company went belly-up (probably because most of their books were either right-wing propaganda or anti-feminist screeds). FUN FACT: Following the demise of Solson Publications, Gary decided to make a series of videos teaching guys how to pick up women with titles like “Alpha Up and Rock Her World” and “How to Be a Prick Women Love.” Seriously. Look at his fucking website.
Rumor has it that in the 1990′s Rob Liefeld claimed the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and wanted Dave Cockrum to release a series on Liefeld’s Extreme Studios before it fell through. If that’s true, it’s a bit strange considering that Carbonaro still owned the rights to the superhero team, going so far as releasing a final story in 1995 in Penthouse Comix’s (yup, that Penthouse) OMNI Comics #3.
Finally, some time during the early 2000′s, Carbonaro and DC Comics struck a deal and a DCU T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book was in the works. Well, it would have been, except Carbonaro shot down every idea DC presented to him. See, DC really wanted to shake things up for the team while Carbonaro decided that nobody from the original team should die (despite the fact that the whole point of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was that their powers would ultimately kill them). Aside from a few DC Archive hardcovers and a couple of statues, nothing really came of it.
On February 25, 2009, John Carbonaro died. July 2009, DC Comics announced at SDCC that they were moving forward with a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book. Yesterday, it came out.
So, how is it?
Written by Nick Spencer (Shuddertown, Existence 2.0), T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 tells the story of the United Nations scrambling to replace the recently deceased Lightning and Dynamo following a trap set by S.P.I.D.E.R. (the villains from the original Tower Comics run). Without explaining too much about the original team, it sets up the premise that the original NoMan and the new replacement members must save Raven (another Tower Comics character) from S.P.I.D.E.R. It’s surprisingly engaging, considering that the team hasn’t had a proper canon story since the 80′s outside of Penthouse (man, how I wish I were joking). As odd as it sounds, the book does a good job establishing the team without giving the its members a proper introduction, instead focusing on the staff behind the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (so, I guess whatever “The Higher United Nations” is). Plus, the art by the single-named duo of CAFU (Vixen: Return of the Lion) and BIT (Batman and the Outsiders) is pretty damned good (if you can overlook the fact that everybody looks like they’re wearing crazy amounts of eyeliner).
Here’s hoping that where the Red Circle books kind of petered out, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents can take a seat next to the rest of the DC Comics greats.
Ever since the Superman panel at SDCC 2010, my interest about Jeff Lemire’s Superboy had been piqued. After all, he’s proven with Essex County, The Nobody, and Sweet Tooth that he’s best writing about what happens in small-town America and, well, it doesn’t get more small-town America than Smallville.
Directly following his stint as the headline act of Adventure Comics, Superboy has finally come to terms with the fact that he’s a composite of both Superman and Lex Luthor’s DNA. For right now, all he wants to do is get back to his roots, figure out what it is that makes Superman great, and support the widow Kent. Unfortunately, where there’s a superhero there’s bound to be supervillains popping up from time to time. With a little help from the Phantom Stranger (yesss) and Krypto, it’s up to Superboy to protect this small town from whatever it is the DCU decides to throw at it.
This is only Jeff Lemire’s second foray into the superhero genre (the first being his Atom back-up in Adventure Comics) but, in a familiar setting, it seems to work well for him. His teenagers actually talk like teenagers and, more impressively, his Phantom Stranger speaks just like he did in his 1969 John Broome series. And, as weird as it sounds, his own excitement for this title is at kid-on-Christmas levels (seriously, when Jon and I ran into him on the SDCC floor and asked about it, he immediately turned into the happiest guy in the convention hall).
Pier Gallo’s (Batman Confidential, Dark Reign: Hawkeye) art is gorgeous as well. Not only are the characters able to convey emotions well, but his backgrounds are amazing. While reading the story I actually felt like I was back in the Midwest, looking out over miles and miles of lush nothingness. Plus, as with the above panel, he manages to make lots of small actions take place in each panel without making it look ridiculously busy.
This book is definitely worth checking out, if not for the superb art, then for the what-the-hell worthy twist ending. Needless to say, so adding this title to my pull.