Saturday, December 31, 2016

Batgirl Year One #1 (2003)

Batgirl Year One #1 (February, 2002)
"Chapter One: Masquerade"
Story - Scott Beatty & Chuck Dixon
Pencils - Marcos Martin
Inks - Alvaro Lopez
Colors - Javier Rodriguez
Separations - Heroic Age
Letters - Willie Schubert
Assistant Editor - Nachie Castro
Editor - Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.95

I don't have much of an opening bit here... just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year... as I am putting the finishing touches on this with about three hours left of 2016.  I think I had a pretty productive year, in many different regards... and here's hoping for an even better 2017!  I wish the very best to everybody!


We open in the... well, not present... but closest to the present as we're going to get with a face-off between Batgirl and Killer Moth's gang at a sort of costume gala.  She is in narration mode discussing an oracle known as Cassandra who was mocked for her forecasts... and held responsible when they came to pass.  This drops us into a flashback wherein Barbara is trying to convince her father to allow her to become a Police Detective.  He finds the idea somewhat laughable... and forbids it.  Babs heads up to her room in a huff, and kicks over a stack of books.

Back in the "present" Batgirl is still kickin' butt... which leads into our next flashback.  Barbara Gordon working in the research department of the Gotham City Public Library.  A goony fella walks in and makes a bit of small-talk... leading Babs to inform him that if he wants to ask her out, he's going to need to just come out with it.  Of particular note... while here, she refers to her job as "paralyzing tedium".  I'm guessing that was no accident.

We continue along to Barbara at her martial arts class where she is dealing with a very condescending sensei... the "Dragoncat".  He's really a jackass... and brings Barbara to the brink of tears as she admits that she is afraid to spar with him... all of this in front of the rest of the class.  Dude's really a knob.  He turns his back to mock her s'more... and she uses this as her opening to take him down and cinch in one helluva hammerlock.

Next we join Barbara on her interview with the FBI... where it is suggested that her best asset to the Bureau would be in researching.  She insists she would be of more use in the field... a thought that her interviewer scoffs at, claiming she doesn't even meet the height requirement... which is exactly what her father told her as well.

Back at the gala, the battle still rages.  Batgirl, still narrating, talks about masks... okay, perhaps not the most original topic for introspective superhero chatter... but whattaya gonna do, right?  Anyhoo... she mentions that she only chose her Bat-themed costume to get under her father's skin... and claims that Batman is not the one she drew inspiration from... it was actually, Black Canary!

As luck would have it (in our flashback), the Justice Society of America has just reunited.  Barbara sneaks into her father's office at the Police Department and procures his "for his eyes only" JSA security override list.  She runs it through the laminator... and sneaks out, however, not before sharing some playful (flirtatious?) banter with a young officer.

That night, Barbara chats with one of her techie pals... while he is downloading pornography... yeesh.  They are discussing Barbara's plan for the evening, which...

... comes into play a bit later on.  Barbara and Jim Gordon are watching the nightly news, where they are running a story about the Justice Society of America doing battle with Solomon Grundy.  Upon hearing this, Barbara claims to have a "late night" martial arts class, and jams out of the house.

After a four-minute run, a masked Barbara arrives at the JSA brownstone.  She uses the security override code in order to get in... and to shut down the motion detectors... and disable the laser matrices.  She makes a point of leaving the security cameras on... she wants the Society to see her.  She heads into the meeting room, and leaves a sealed envelope on the table.

She returns home shortly thereafter, and triggers a three-minute power outage to the JSA's block to reset all the locks and passcodes.  To further go "tabula rasa" she orders a new PC and ditches the old one.

We close out the issue with a crouched figure... who is holding Barbara's letter to Black Canary... only, I don't think this character has the right animal theme... Meow... At the same time, in the "present"... Barbara gets socked by Killer Moth!


Really good opening chapter here.  Been awhile since I've read this... and I'm glad to report it still goes down (mostly) smooth.

I will say I could've had a bit less of the condescending men in here... it really makes it seem like every dude in Gotham is a Grade-A jackass.  I mean, Barbara's clearly highly intelligent, and would be an asset to just about any organization she chooses to be a part of.  I just don't see it as "good business" for anyone to try to dissuade her... at least not to the degree that we see here.

I don't think Jim Gordon would go so far as to forbid her from trying to get into the police force... maybe when the story originally happened over a half-century ago, but with the sliding timescale... we gotta figure that this confrontation would have occurred in... what, the early-to-mid 1990's?  I dunno, maybe I just had the Commish pegged wrong.

On the other end of the spectrum we've got a pair of fellas who are quite taken with Barbara... and a third who downloads naked ladies while he talks to Babs on the phone.  Not the best look for dudes here, right?  Guess it doesn't much matter... this is Barbara's story, not theirs.  I suppose we're getting Barbara's perception of the events as they occurred.

Overall though... this was a lot of fun.  Tying Black Canary into the origin is a great idea... it seemed to be her "thing" in the "From Crisis to Crisis" era of DC... I mean, at this point she was also a founding member of the Justice League of America, replacing Wonder Woman!

The art here was very pretty.  My Marcos Martin experience comes mostly from his work on Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil... it's always a treat, and it's great to see him take on these DC characters.  I enjoy the stylized pencils and coloring here... gives it a real vintage-animated look, which I feel serves the story quite well.

Definitely worth checking out.  It's a quick and somewhat light read, probably written with a trade collection in mind, not that that's anything out of the ordinary for a mini-series... but it's quite a lot of fun.  For the convenience of those interested, it is available digitally as well.


Interesting Ads:

Friday, December 30, 2016

Young Heroes in Love #1 (1997)

Young Heroes in Love #1 (June, 1997)
"Your Lips!  Your Eyes!  Your Nuclear Breath Vision!"
Writer - Dan Raspler
Penciller - Dev Madan
Inker - Keith Champagne
Letterer - Bill Oakley
Colorist - Scott Baumann
Associate Editor - Ruben Diaz
Editor - Frank Pittarese
Cover Price: $1.75

Gonna be checking out a semi-obscure one, from a time in DC known for launching semi-obscure books... some of which we've covered here.  The late 1990's were a very strange time in DC where they appeared to be trying new things... integrating creator-owned characters and concepts into the mainstream (shared) DC Universe... which is the case here.  As you can see by the indicia below... the Young Heroes in Love are copyright Raspler and Madan.  They do tie in to the main DCU... featuring appearances from Superman... and even a #1,000,000 issue to tie-in with DC One Million!

This sadly wasn't long for the world... much like those other semi-obscure launches of the day.  I'm thinking about things we've discussed here like Chase and Major Bummer... though there are more... things like Chronos, and Creeper... all decently fun while they lasted.

Anyhoo... without further ado, let's get into the sex, lies... and superheroics of Young Heroes in Love!


We open with a trio of new-to-us heroes hanging out atop a roof.  The "big" one is codenamed Thunderhead, and he is admiring his new superheroing togs while chatting with teammate Off-Ramp.  Monstergirl is also with them, but is mostly ignoring their inane banter.  The subject changes and they begin to discuss their new team-leader, who is apparantly a "total pro".  During this, Thunderhead breaks the golden rule of the superhero set, and refers to Off-Ramp by his real name!  Well, that just won't do at all!  Monstergirl gives of T-Head a pop-quiz on secret identities before we...

... Shift scenes to another member of the team... Junior.  He is changing from his civvies into his superhero costume, when the "camera" pans out to reveal that he is only a few inches tall... and his mom is driving him to his "superhero meeting", how adorable.

Next up we meet the leader of this group, Hard Drive who is telling a girl called Bonfire why she cannot be part of the team.  He questions her commitment and her experience... and she uses her, um... pyrokinesis to fire a shot in his direction.  He easily dodges it, however, this outburst (no pun intended) tells him she's ready to join up!  Junior arrives on the scene, makes some "little" puns, and the trio take to the sky to meet up with their teammates.

On the roof, the six young heroes do the meet and greet thing... along with checking out each others hot bodies... and we learn a bit more about their powersets.  Thunderhead has super-strength (and/or the ability to turn his brain into solid rock, har har), Monstergirl can morph into a... monster, and Off-Ramp... well, we'll find out in a bit.  Junior is their super-spy, because he can sneak into places undetected, natch.

It looks as though Thunderhead and Bonfire hit it off almost immediately.  There's definite attraction/tension between them... which they do not get the opportunity to explore, because Hard Drive informs the gang that they will be heading out to collect their seventh and at this point, final member.  At this point, Off-Ramp begins "navigating"... which is basically standing there smoking a cigarette.  During the waiting game, the girls start to chat.  Bonfire immediately asks about Thunderhead's story... while, Monstergirl wants to know all about Hard Drive.

We get a bit of backstory on Thunderhead... he never really dreamed about being a superhero... his passion was for music.  Sadly, his hands and fingers grew far too large to aptly manipulate a guitar...

Off-Ramp decides he's figured out their "route" and the team assembles around him.  They head into the alley, and we are introduced to Roadshow, Off-Ramp's ride... and best friend.

Inside the car, Off-Ramp announces their destination... Chicoutimi, Canada... which he claims is about a dozen miles outside the arctic circle... but if he's talking about Chicoutimi, Saguenay, Canada... it's closer to 1,255 miles outside the arctic circle.  Anyhoo, that doesn't much matter here... either way, it's gonna be a long drive.  Or is it?  Here we learn that Off-Ramp is the "king of the shortcut" and can open portals... or off-ramps, allowing them to drive via time travel!

The gang enters the portal, and no sooner arrive that their snow-covered destination... where they (and we) meet their seventh member... Frostbite, who kinda looks like somebody stuck Namor in the freezer and left him there for a few weeks.

We get another round of introductions here, and learn that Frostbite is unaffected by the cold... which, ya know... with a name like Frostbite, shouldn't come as much of a surprise.  Perhaps most interesting bit here is there appears to be an instant spark between he and Bonfire.  The pair both go silent, and just gaze into each other's eyes.

They all pile into Roadshow, and on the drive home Off-Ramp tells the story of how he and Hard Drive met.  They were both in the same car race up in Glouster, when there was a fiery wreck among the drivers.  Through use of both of their power sets, they were able to save every last racer there.

By this point, the team arrives at their new warehouse headquarters.  As they get comfortable, Monstergirl approaches Bonfire to ask about the obvious connection she had with Frostbite... and warns that his cold and her heat could be quite the steamy combination.  Meanwhile, Thunderhead and Junior are discussing T's chances with the fiery redhead.  Moments pass, and Frostbite corners Bonfire... and wants nothing more than to discuss their feelings toward one another.  Luckily, or unluckily... Hard Drive pops his head in and requests an audience with Bonfire.

He takes her aside and informs her that Thunderhead appears to be interested in her.  He then... suggests that she maybe consider romantically pairing with Thunderhead.  She is a bit repulsed... not about Thunderhead, but the blatant abuse of power her team leader is displaying.  He continues, telling her while Frostbite is physically compatible... he feels that Thunderhead is a more "appropriate" mate for her.  She flatly refuses... however, we're about to learn there's a lot more to Hard Drive than we'd thought.  He uses his power of suggestion to change her mind...

Later the team assembles for their first official meeting.  It is here they receive the name "The Young Heroes".  After Hard Drive's stirring speech, Thunderhead kinda fumbles a bit... to which Off-Ramp prods him to "just ask her".  This leads to Thunderhead asking Bonfire if she might want to "go on patrol" with him.  She eagerly accepts...

This pleases Hard Drive to no end... and he gleefully proclaims that this is the start of something BIG!

We wrap up the issue with some pillow talk between Hard Drive and... Monstergirl, as they celebrate the fact that they "really did it".  And I assume by "it" they mean putting together the team... and, um... having sex.


What a strange and fun read this was.  It's been a few years since I last read this... and I'm quite pleasantly surprised at how well it's held up.

I mean, the thing does kinda scream "late 90's"... from character design to concept.  Looking at characters like my man Off-Ramp, he just looks like a sorta slacker type... kinda like I did during those years.  Hanging out in alleys and roofs is like something I would have done too!

The writing here is a lot of fun... and Raspler has very natural and organic voices for these Young Heroes.  They've got their eccentricities... which is to be expected, and the dialogue was great.  The art... whoo... perfect fit for a book like this.  This to me falls somewhere between DC Animated Series style, and Darwyn Cooke.  I'm thinking specifically about the last page (posted above) when mentioning Cooke... the scene with Hard Drive and Monstergirl in bed looks (at least to me) very Cooke.

Now... let's discuss that last word of the title... Love.  This is clearly going to be a big push for this series... the thing that makes it stand out... and, gotta say... so far, so good.  It makes sense to me that these Young Heroes might just... ya know... check each other out when they first meet.  It's human nature to feel attraction... and I think it was handled here quite well.  These attractions all feel rather benign and innocent at the offset.  The only "dirty" thing thus far is Hard Drive getting into Bonfire's head and messing about.

I appreciated the tentativeness displayed by Thunderhead.  The fact that he needed encouragement from both Junior and Off-Ramp to make his move was really neat, and brought me right back to high school.  Bonfire and Monstergirl chatting about the boys was also nice to see.  I mean, so far, there really is no reason given for this team to assemble other than "we have powers, let's team up".  Without a specified mission, what harm is there in fraternizing a bit?

I would be quick to recommend this... however, it may be somewhat difficult to come across.  There have been no collected editions... and I'm not sure we'll ever get one due to DC properties appearing... and the creators holding the rights to the Young Heroes.  It's not up anywhere digitally either... and again, I wouldn't hold my breath.  If you want to check these out, you're only bet is via single (don't call 'em floppies!) issue format.  By the way, big thanks to Joe, Laurel and Zawisza for the fun twitter-chat on the "floppy" situation!

Anyhoo... so, yeah... single-issue only... are they worth tracking down?  Yeah.  If you can find this at a decent price, it is definitely worth your time.  Might not rock your socks... but it is fun, different, and very well crafted.  Worth hitting dem bins for!


Interesting Ads:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

DC Comics Presents #85 (1985)

DC Comics Presents #85 (September, 1985)
"The Jungle Line"
Writer - Alan Moore
Penciller - Rick Veitch
Inker - Al Williamson
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Tatjana Wood
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.75

Today we're gonna discuss one of them "ya gotta read this" books.  In familiarizing myself with the DC Universe, and the works of Alan Moore, I'd always hear about "that one issue" of DC Comics Presents that I just "gotta read".  I heard it was available in the DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore TPB, but as I've made pretty clear, my preferred approach to reading is in the single-issue (don't dare call'em floppies!) format.

In hunting through back-issue bins over the years... when I remembered I wanted to check this one out, I was unsuccessful.  This seemed to be the one issue of DC Comics Presents that just refused to show up in the bins... at least in my neck of the woods.  As luck would have it, I managed to come across the issue in the quarter bin of a Half-Price Books this past week... on my birthday, in fact!  Almost like it was meant to be!  It was bagged, boarded... and had the 25-Cent sticker placed over the price tag from a long defunct local comic book store... which read $18.  Craziness!

Anyhoo... it's been a long time coming... let's take a look at Superman and Swamp Thing!


We open with an exhausted, fevered, and five-o'clock shadowed Clark Kent driving south on a desolate highway.  Riding "shotgun" is a strange rock with an even stranger growth on it.  We learn from the narration that he is driving south to die.  The splash page depicts an odd scarlet sky... and lemme tell ya, it ain't due to the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

To explain just what in the world is going on, we're going to have to go back in time a few days... to an exhibition at the Institute for Extra-Terrestrial Studies, where news reporters Clark Kent and Lana Lang are in attendance.  A Dr. Everett is showing off a small meteorite... which is of significance due to the fact that it has a strange pink (living!) fungus on it... which somehow survived its trip through space.  Clark uses his microscopic vision on the mass... and once he is able to focus, he recognizes it from his youth on Krypton.

He is immediately shaken by his revelation, and feigns dizziness to leave the event... or maybe, he's actually feeling dizzy.  Either way, he ain't feeling right.  He digs through his memory banks and concludes that the fungus on the meteorite is Avarel Uthotis... more commonly known as Bloodmorel.  It comes from the Scarlet Jungle on Krypton.  Exposure to the crud causes death in 92% of cases reported in Kryptonians.  Once it gets into the host body's bloodstream... that's usually all she wrote.

The next day, Clark notices that his powers appear to be on the fritz... he somehow gets a paper cut, as his invulnerability failed to protect him... he would be without it for an hour.  Later on, his x-ray vision and super-hearing turned off, resulting in him walking in on a pair of co-workers about to "christen" a storeroom.  By the end of the work day, the x-ray vision returned... but not the hearing.  Rather than risk flying home and falling out of the sky, Clark decides to take the subway.

That night, he begins hallucinating when he is awakened by... well, his Superman costume and his everyday Clark Kent-togs.  They are arguing over whether or not he should accept his fate... having been exposed to the Bloodmorel.  Superman insists he fight it... Kent suggests he just accept it.

The next morning, Clark's super-hearing comes back at a most inopportune time... right as he's walking to work during the busy (and loud) morning commute.  He decides to check in with Dr. Everett at the Institute in order to inquire about borrowing the specimen.  Everett is more than cooperative to Superman's request, and so he takes it home.  He uses his microscopic vision on the fungus in order to deduce whether or not he might concoct an antidote to the infection.  As he scanned... his microscopic vision stopped working.  It is here that Superman resigns himself to his fate... death.

First, however, he must consider where he will go to die.  He thinks about his friends, both costumed and otherwise... and decides that he should head south.  He wishes to avoid being anywhere near the superhero community when he passes.  We hop back to the present, and Clark has... well, fallen asleep behind the wheel of his car... which careens off the highway and flips onto it's roof... before bursting into flames!

Clark stumbles out of the car... holding the meteorite.  He is engulfed in flames.  He sees himself as wandering through the Scarlet Jungle as he shambles through the clearing.  He eventually collapses... right at the feet of our friend Swamp Thing.

We hop back into Superman's head, where he is being haunted by the spirits of the Scarlet Jungle.  In the real world, Swamp Thing notices that this fallen commuter's face is fairly familiar... yet he cannot place it.  He sees the meteorite and decides to examine it.  Once he touches it, it makes "contact"... suddenly, for a brief moment... Swamp Thing sees himself in the Scarlet Jungle as well.  He releases the stone, and is whisked back to reality.

Swamp Thing continues to study Clark's face as he mutters in Kryptonian.  Swampy opens his jacket, which reveals the familiar "S".  At this point Superman wakes up and unleashes a blast of heat vision!


Superman is back "among the living", however, by this point... he is quite mad.  He stirs up a hurricane with his breath... he boils the nearby lakes.  Swamp Thing deducts that should Superman continue this intensity of exertion... he would most definitely die.  And so, he grabs the mossy meteorite and makes a contact-chain between him, it, and Superman.

Suddenly the pair (trio?) are in the Scarlet Jungle.  Superman is panicking... yelling at the spirits that haunted him on his last "visit".  He crushes Swamp Thing's hand in anger... and with madness in his eyes wallops Swampy with an uppercut.  All the while, Swamp Thing is calmly discussing Superman's likely fate.

Finally, Superman begins to remember just what is going on.  Swamp Thing invites him to take his hand... to allow the endless green into his body... to allow him to extinguish the scarlet heat.

Superman falls unconscious... and Swamp Thing breaks contact.  He brushes his hand across Superman's face, and notes that his fever is fading.  The Super-storm has also ended.  Swamp Thing smiles knowing that today will not be Superman's last... and he walks away.

We wrap up with Superman regaining consciousness... with his powers intact... and back to "normal".  He grips the meteorite and flies back Metropolis way, never knowing about his swampy encounter.  Swamp Thing sees him flying overhead and smiles before disappearing into the swampy horizon.


Well... I'll be damned!  This was one hell of an issue!

So often when you hear about those stories you "need" to read, they come off as underwhelming.  That was most definitely not the case here... really such an amazing story.  So weird, this literally could have been the death of Superman... and it would have occurred in a relatively quiet issue of DC Comics Presents.  Little (to no) fanfare, no big blowout fight... no clash with a supervillain... just Superman getting sick.  So well done!

It's interesting to read this issue now... due to the fact that earlier this year we lost the New-52! Superman after he dealt with an illness.  He had to come to grips with his own mortality... and though he went out with a bang... it's still pretty interesting to see in light of this one.  Thinking about a Superman who knows he's about to die... purposely avoiding having a run-in with any members of the superhero community... just kind of sobering, right?

Swamp Thing was used... ya know, pretty well here.  Considering this is an Alan Moore Swampy story, two things are for certain: 1. Swamp Thing will be portrayed perfectly, and 2. This will be a most intimidating review to write.  I love how Swamp Thing is depicted as a sort of wandering soul.  He just happens across a fallen commuter... and stops to see if there's anything he can do.

He is a real altruist here.  Not stepping in for any personal gain... or hell, even any recognition.  He risks his own life for, for all he knew... just "some dude".  Of course, we know Superman isn't just "some" anything... but, Swamp Thing learned that after he'd committed to helping him.  

It's weird the calming... and peaceful presence Swamp Thing is... just prior to his arrival, we had a couple of pages depicting a car flying off the highway and exploding into a ball of flame.  Yet, when Swamp Thing shows up... we're bathed in the calm and peaceful tranquility of the green.  There's a lightness... a relief for the reader when he arrives... there's a measure of safety in the character that it is hard for me to quantify... yet, I know that it's there.

The ending was also pretty great.  I like that Superman doesn't know... nor will be ever, that he was so close to dying and that he has Swamp Thing to thank for his recovery.  Swamp Thing ain't no glory hog... and hell, Superman's recovered from scarier things than this... that's just Tuesday in the life of the Man of Steel, right?

I definitely gotta mention the art.  I really wasn't sure what to expect here... never really pegged Rick Veitch as a Superman artist... but damned if he didn't knock this one out of the park.  His Clark/Superman looks great... even in his haggardness, there is a "regal" and important look about him.  His Swamp Thing has a kindness in his eyes... perhaps adding to that feeling of comfort I get from his presence here.  Just a wonderful package Moore and Veitch put together for us here!

This was the last issue of DC Comics Presents before the Crisis on Infinite Earths tie-ins begin... and if this is the last "proper" issue featuring the Silver/Bronze-Age characters... well, it's a helluva way to go out.  Definitely worth tracking down... and like I said above, it's been collected in (both versions of) DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore... so, if you grab an older version, you'll also get The Killing Joke!  Somehow this gem is yet available on DC Digital... there are some issues of this volume up there, but this ain't among them.  Still... seek this one out!


Letters Page:


Interesting Ads:

Look out for strange pink moss!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...