Friday, September 30, 2016

Butcher #1 (1990)

Butcher #1 (May, 1990)
Writer/Co-Creator - Mike Baron
Artist/Co-Creator - Shea Anton
Letterer - Steve Haynie
Colorist - Julia Lacquement
Development Associate - Katie Mann
Editor - Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.50

Here's a series I'd totally forgotten about.  I usually associate The Butcher with a Brave and the Bold miniseries he shared with Green Arrow... it completely slipped my mind that he actually had his own solo miniseries.

It's written by the character's creator, Mike Baron... who I kinda had fun with when I recently reviewed Sonic Disruptors... or one of the most unsubtle satires I've ever read.  Let's see how this one goes...


We are on board a train zig-zagging through the Canadian Rockies.  There is a large Native American man selling cigarettes and candy to the passengers... he's wearing a name-tag which reads Jonathan Butcher.  Suddenly a sharp-dressed pair enter the car, and bump our man out of the way.  They find an attractive young mother, and after confirming she's a Canadian, invite her to dinner in their personal train car.  One of the two reveals that the work for a Mr. Loftus.

Butcher's ears perk up after hearing that name, and after twosome depart he questions the woman's wisdom in accepting a private dinner-date with a perfect stranger.  She's pretty oblivious to the potential danger of such a thing... not thinking that anything could possibly go wrong on a Canadian train.  Is this a known thing?  Are Canadian trains famous for their safety?  I dunno...

Butcher heads to... okay, this is a bit confusing... either his own room... or Loftus' private room.  Not really clear as to which.  Either way, once inside he disrobes and enters into a trance.  He focuses in on a story his sister Sue Ellen had told him about a... sharp-dressed pair who tried to forcefully buy his family's gas station and convenience store.  When his father refused... they blew up the shop.

Butcher reflects on how his research following the occurrence.  After a month of checking into dummy company after dummy company, he landed at one name... Loftus.  He decides it's time to exact a bit of revenge, and dons his formal "dinnerware".  I gotta say, this get-up doesn't look nearly as cool as I think they thought it would.

We advance to dinnertime, where our Mrs. Karen McLeach is dining with creepy Mr. Loftus.  The young Audrey McLeach is tired from all the frivolity... and Loftus offers to let them have one of his (many) extra rooms... just how big is this car anyway?  Here we meet Loftus' bodyguard... a giant Korean man with a wildly unfortunate haircut called Kam.  Loftus explains that he wants to open a casino in Vancouver... where gambling is illegal.  But, oh ho... nothing's illegal for the Loftus's's's.  It's around now that our gal finally starts getting the heebie-jeebies about her dinner-date.  She makes sure to inform him that her husband is a Mountie... which doesn't impress him all that much.  She tries to politely leave... and that doesn't go all that well either.

Kam grabs her, and Loftus begins... threatening her, saying that he can make her do anything he wants, as touches her face.  She nails him with an open hand slap.  She's got some long-ass fingernails that make it look like Loftus was just in a scuffle with Wolverine.  This scene is pretty uncomfortable...

Luckily, the Butcher is nearby.  He is sitting atop the train car in full meditation.  He thinks back to a time he'd spent with his grandfather.  They spent four days fasting atop a butte.  On the final day, Butcher was left alone.  He watches as a lamb wandered into the path of a snake... the snake wrapped itself around the poor lamb.  Butcher felt the need to intervene, however could not move.  Suddenly a hawk swooped down and tore the snake to ribbons with its talons.  Butcher awakens, and finds that he is holding the remains of a snake and has blood dripping from his mouth.  Ew.  The grandfather informs him that there was no hawk... Jonathan himself was the hawk.  It is his fate to rend snakes.

It is now time for our man to spring into action.  There is a bearded man guarding the doorway to the private Loftus car... and so, Butcher uses his way with words to sweet talk his way inside.  No, he doesn't do that at all... he snaps the poor fool's neck.

Inside there is yet another guard.  This one's packin' heat... Butcher is able to kayo him, but not before taking some hot lead to his side.

The gunshot gets the attention of our flattopped bemulleted pal Kam. The two engage in fisticuffs until, during a grapple, Butcher plunges a knife into Kam's gut.  This only seems to tick the giant off.

Kam removes the knife and starts wielding it himself.  Butcher is quickly able to disarm the monstrous Korean... and then plunges the knife into Kam's chest.  Butcher... livin' up to his name!

With Kam... well, not dead... but out of commission for a moment, Butcher uses his glass-cutter to make his way into the car's bathroom.  Kam manages to crawl his way into Loftus' room, and informs him that there's an uninvited guest using their toilet.  Loftus then unloads his gun into the bathroom door... yeesh.

Loftus backhands Karen and tells her to check the body.  She refuses and... well, Loftus decides to check it out on his own.  Maybe this dude can be reasonable.  I did mention he looked as though he had a tussle with Wolverine a bit earlier... here I would have to imagine he got some of Logan's healing factor as his facial wreckage has all vanished.  As he approaches what he believes to be the dead body of the Butcher... our man... and this is pretty gross... kicks him square in the kneecap.  This is rendered really very well on panel, and is a pretty stomach-turning sight.

Butcher mounts Loftus and demands he spill the beans on the people who hired the Loftus's's to murder his family.  After a bit of coercion, he finally comes clean.  It was the Namdorph Corporation in San Francisco... specifically one Edward Gryzinski, who apparently works on the 35th floor.  Now armed with the information, Butcher slams Loftus in the chest... not sure if that was a killing blow, but soon that will be a moot point anyway!

Suddenly, a loud "chuck" rings out, and it becomes clear that the car has been disconnected from the train.  Outside we see Kam... yeesh, again with this guy... physically separating the trains with his own body.  Damn.

Butcher tells Karen to grab her daughter, as things are about to get bumpy.  They have no choice but to jump, for if they don't... they gon' die in a fiery crash.  Karen is justifiably reluctant... but Butcher... and the thought of plummeting off a cliff prove to be pretty decent motivators.

Once the trio collect themselves, Butcher informs them that Loftus' men will soon be there to make them all dead... and so, they must flee.  He promises them he will deliver them safely, and despite her reservations, Karen appears to be thankful.


Okay... well, I liked this a whole lot more than Sonic Disruptors.  It's got similar subtlety issues, but overall it's not bad at all.  In fact, the story actually somewhat engaged me... and I can see myself tracking down the other four issues of this arc.

The character of the Butcher is a lot more interesting than I thought he would be.  I like that, while he's a violent bloodthirsty type, he's also something of a tactician.  I was afraid we were going to go one of two ways... either a complete savage, or a tranquil peacenik (which would be ironic given the fella's name, right?).  Thankfully, he falls somewhere in between.

The villain during this issue is a bit one-note... but, that's all he really needed to be.  We get the impression that he's just a spoke in the wheel, and the real bad guy is going to be our man's ultimate target.

The violence is ratcheted up pretty high here (that broken knee... yikes!).  I actually had to recheck the cover date... I'd have sworn, from the contents, that this would have been circa 1993... post-Image launch, and all that... but, no!  This came out in very early 1990... which really made me take pause.

Overall, yeah... this was pretty good.  You may need to be in a very 1990's mindset to fully appreciate this... but luckily, that's like second-gear for me.  The art is a touch on the blockier side, but fits the story quite well.  It reminded me a bit of Larry Stroman's work on X-Factor.  I'd say this won't rock your socks, but it's definitely worth a flip through.


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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Flash #333 (1984)

Flash #333 (May, 1984)
"Down With the Flash!"
Writer/Editor - Cary Bates
Penciller - Carmine Infantino
Inker - Frank McLaughlin
Letterer - Ben Oda
Colorist - Carl Gafford
Cover Price: $0.75

A few months back I reviewed the first part of the Trial of the Flash... it's funny, I always considered that story to be one that was universally reviled.  Perhaps that's a bit naive, as it seems that every story has its fans, regardless of what the "popular" or "loudest" opinion may be.  I have taken to reflipping through the SHOWCASE Presents volume devoted to it, though I'll concede I haven't revisited it in depth.

Learning that this issue is somewhat divisive... I went ahead and suggested this storyline to the Divisive Issues podcast to cover.  It's a fun show that covers some of the more controversial comic book stories of our time, and is definitely worth checking out if you have a free moment.  Don't know that they'll find time to cover the behemoth that is the Trial of the Flash... I mean, you can choke a whale with the collected edition!

Figure it's as good a time as any to pop back in on our scarlet speedster as he prepares to take the stand... in about a year.  Okay, that was pithy, I apologize.


We open with three shadowy masked individuals standing outside the Flash Museum.  They blow up the door and charge inside... their destination, a statue of the Flash.  We see the curator, Captain Kangaroo on the phone with the police, as the explosion got his attention.  It's funny, the vandals cut the alarms, but still used loud heavy explosives to break through what appears to be a glass door.

Once at the Flash statue, the trio starts gleefully smacking it with their blunt instruments.  Captain Kangaroo Dexter Myles makes an appearance wielding a firearm, but gets pelted in the noggin by a piece of the Flash statue before he can do anything useful.  The vandals, which includes an old man... who mocks the curator for being... an old man, decide to leave... but not before tossing a firebomb into the Flash Photo Gallery with hopes that the entire building will go down in flames.  Luckily the Police show up and drag Myles out.

We shift scenes to attorney Cecile Horton and her client the Flash as they lounge in Horton's family mountain hideaway.  They discuss a recent event in which Flash's first attorney Peter Farley was the victim of the ol' exploding office gag.  Somebody out there does not want the Flash to have decent representation.  Barry grabs Cecile and runs her to Farley's side... and this may be the only scene where we see Ms. Horton crack a smile... either that or the art is just wonky.

At the hospital, Farley is recovering.  Horton goes cold-fish again and pretty much tells Barry to beat it.  She tells him she'll be in front of City Hall later that evening, and he is welcome to meet her there.  A doctor enters the scene to inform the Flash about the going's on at the Museum... this is news to our scarlet speedster, so he jams out with the quickness.

Once there, the Flash checks in with Myles before running inside to try to minimize the amount of smoke damage to the exhibits.  He does so by creating a whirlwind.  Once the smoke is expelled he returns inside to survey the damage... luckily just in time to catch a poor firefighter who falls through the weakened roof.

We shift scenes back to our three vandals.  They are standing in an empty room aside from an empty table.  They hear a voice over a loud-speaker that commands they remove their "micro-sonic devices" which look sorta like hearing aids, and leave them on the table.  It then commands them to return to their normal, law-abiding lives and forget about everything they had done on this night.  They all leave separately... and we see the legs of a pixie-booted individual... I'm guessing we're in for some Pied Piper shenanigans.

We now join an in-progress police chase.  A car speeds over a rickety wooden bridge, however, due to an errant oil slick, skids right into the drink.  The car lands upside down in the muddy lake, and it looks as though those inside are doomed.  Ah, but this is Central City... home to the Fastest Man Alive!  The Flash arrives on the scene and saves the day.  Afterwards, an officer thanks him and expresses surprise that the Flash is still "in action"... ya know, because he's a cold-blooded killer and all.

The next day... well, I think it's the next day, the sky is... er, yellow... the scuzzy looking pair Mace and Spike roll up on the Woodside Psychiatric Clinic.  Mace has brought Spike here for some head-shrinking due to violent outbursts against his mother... who has been dead for six years.  Our poor young cretin thinks all women he sees are his mother, who by all accounts he has some unresolved anger toward.

It just so happens that this clinic is where Barry Allen's one-time fiance, Fiona Webb is working through some issues... not the least of which, her would-be husband standing her up at the altar... and seemingly disappearing off the face of the Earth.  Oh, yeah... and the Reverse-Flash tried to kill her during her wedding too... only being saved by the Flash breaking the yellow speedster's neck.  She claims that she no longer feels anything for Barry Allen, and the Doc thinks she's making real progress... but sadly not with her lazy eye.

Outside in the waiting room, Mace and Spike walk in and... oi, pull a gun on a nurse... demanding to be seen by "the nearest shrink in the joint"... I mean, I don't think you needed the gun here, ugly.  I bet the nice therapist wouldn't have any problem talking to you.  Anyhoo, they burst into the Doc's office.  Spike hops onto the couch and begins telling his sob-story.  The Doc, being held at gunpoint, carefully listens.  The lad talks about his mother, and begins glaring at Fiona.  He stands up, ready to attack.

Luckily, the Flash is in the house.  Dude's got some great timing, no?  He makes Spike do the spins by pulling his belt off.  He kicks the Kinison-looking Mace after catching a handful of bullets that had been squeezed off in his direction.

After the bruhaha, the Flash takes a moment to chat with Fiona.  She doesn't know that he and Barry are one and the same, so she holds no ill-will toward the costumed crusader.  She considers him her savior, having killed the Reverse-Flash to save her.  She says she'd be happy to testify on his behalf should his case go to trial.

Speaking of the trial, we now rejoin Cecile Horton outside City Hall.  She is approached by N.D. Rednik, who I'm assuming would be the prosecuting attorney for the Flash's trial... and potential Farley fire-bomber.  The Flash rushes in to carry Horton somewhere they may talk... and we come to learn that Ms. Cecile absolutely hates the Flash... and will always hate the Flash.  Ruh roh...


I'm really torn in how I feel about most things Flash-related from this era.  This issue comes... nine issues after the apparent murder of Reverse-Flash... and seven issues before the trial begins... and the gavel only hits on the final page of that issue!  I still can't help but have a soft-spot for this, even if it just drags on so relentlessly.

Gonna try to judge this one evenly... 

On one hand, the story isn't bad... but there is almost a tangible dragging-on involved.  Not going to blame any of that on Bates, as I'm guessing this was all editorially laid out to ensure the story roll on and Barry does what he does come Crisis on Infinite Earths... but still, it feels as though the story is on a leash, and just isn't being allowed to proceed.

On the other hand... if I waited an entire month back in 1984 to read this, I'd have to figure I'd be disappointed month after month with nothing much actually happening.  Reading this story in one fell gulp is one thing, but at twenty-odd pages every four-weeks?  No thanks.

Looking at the cover, it appears as though the "grateful" people of Central City have had a change in heart in regards to the Flash... likely due to the manslaughter charge hanging over his head.  Inside, however, we learn that's not the case at all.  Instead it's three mind-controlled people who trash the Flash Museum.  There isn't any animosity involved at all... excepting our green pixie-booted friend who's giving the orders.

I did dig that we got to check in on the poor jilted Ms. Webb while she convalesces at the clinic.  I know throughout the trial she kinda wavers insofar as her sanity is concerned, but I really like that we get a glimpse as to the psychoanalysis she's been receiving here.  Can't speak for the quality of it... but, I'm sure it's great comic book head-shrinkery.

We learn that Cecile Horton hates the Flash.  It's been awhile since I read this arc in toto, so I can't off the top of my head remember what her beef is... however, I'm guessing it's predicated in a silly misunderstanding.

Now, saving the hardest thing to talk about for last... the art.  Man, Carmine Infantino did some great stuff... however... unfortunately, this issue is pretty uneven... we go from a really nice looking page to... Oy, those are some ugly faces, several times here.  I always hate bagging on art, but I gotta say there were some rather unpleasant pages and people in this book.

Overall, I dunno.  Really can't suggest anybody go out of their way to check this one out... though by the same token, can't suggest anyone actively avoid it either.  The story is stretched, the art is uneven... but it's still the Flash, and I still consider it somewhat important.  I know I'm riding the fence and talking out of both sides of my face pretty hard here... but I think that's where I'm gonna have to leave this one.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth #29 (1975)

Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth #29 (May, 1975)
"Mighty One!"
Writer, Artist & Editor - Jack Kirby
Inker & Letterer - D. Bruce Berry
Idea Suggester - Steve Sherman
Cover Price: $0.25

I had absolutely no idea I owned this issue.  I love little surprises like this... Was flipping through one of my DC bins for Kamandi stuffs, as Reggie and I are taking the Cosmic Treadmill all the way out to the Great Disaster this week for our segment on the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast (that's Episode 91 for fellow time-travelers).  Came across this iconic cover, and knew I wanted to discuss it here on the humble blog.  My copy, sadly, looks as though it was used as a coffee filter (or worse)... but we can make this work!


We open looking over Kamandi and Ben Boxer's shoulders... in the distance we see what appears to be... not a bird, nor a plane... but a man flying!  Before we move on we check in on the Tablet of Revelation which tells the story of the new Arctic-Atlantic continent.  Lucky for us it does so using "Comic Strip Terms".  We learn that this new continent was formed in the wake of the Great Disaster.  The world split and fire spewed from its core.  A man they refer to as "Mighty One" sprang into action and capped the flames with tons upon tons of rock.  It is also said that the Mighty One died for his efforts.  Oh, by the way... the Mighty One wears a cape and an "S" on his chest.

Suddenly the twosome are taken by surprise by a troop of Ape Men.  The elder Ape takes one look at Ben... in his wacky "don't cause a nuclear meltdown" costume and believes that the Mighty One has finally returned!  He's all "Huh?", but Kamandi urges him not to be so quick to say anything.  Great advice, kid!  Moments later Ben gets clobbered by an Ape Man named Zuma.

The two tussle for a bit, despite the pleas for them to stop.  Kamandi doesn't want his buddy too banged up, and the Ape Men believe Ben to be the reincarnated Superman Mighty One.  Once the fracas dissipates, Kamandi asks the elder for some details on thi Mighty One... like, for instance... did he wear an "S" symbol on his costume...  The elder is both surprised and pleased to hear such a question, and escorts the two humans to the three-stage "demonstration course".  The first part of the course is... get this, a slingshot.  It sends prospective Super-Ape-Men into the air to see if they can fly.  Wow!  So that's what our fellas saw during the open...

They watch a demonstration, which ends about as well as you'd imagine.  Zuma is still being an ass, and challenges Ben to go for a ride.  Kamandi, not being able to keep his mouth shut insists that Ben can fly without the aid of a catapult!  In order to demonstrate this, he has Ben push his Cyclo-Heart patch and go full fission.  So, to demonstrate his flight acumen... he changes his body to look like it's made of steel.  Wha?  Okey dokey... if it's good enough for the Ape Men... it's good enough for me.  One task down, two to go.

The next task is a demonstration of strength.  Inside a stone arena stands... or sits, I guess... a gigantic boulder which they call the, heh, Daily Planet.  Whosoever can move this rock, yadda yadda yadda.  Zuma's up first... and the poor goof can't get the job done.

When it's Ben's turn, it appears as though he can't move the boulder either.  So he changes up his plan and uses his dense steel foot to crumble the ground beneath him a bit to put the boulder off-balance... which in turn makes it move.  Ben's not too shy about cheating, as he announces it straight away.  This dude is pretty funny.

At this point, the Ape Men have seen enough to believe Ben Boxer is the reincarnated Mighty One.  Zuma, however, is still being a jerk.  He insists upon subjecting him to the final task... being faster than a speeding bullet!

Kamandi thinks this is a great idea, and I'm spit-balling here, but seems to really believe that somehow the Mighty One will come back because of this... it's weird, he says he's "worth all risk".  Suddenly the gatling gun starts blasting away... Ben pushes Kamandi out of the way just in the nick of time.  When the smoke clears Ben lay there unharmed by bullets... which makes the Ape Men think he'd avoided them... rather than them bouncing off his steel skin.

The elder Ape Man is completely convinced now, and Ben unfissions to his flesh and blood form.  They are led to the vault of the super-suit.  It should come as no surprise that Zuma is still a massive tool... and as such, he rushes in pushing our human pals to the side so that he may take the suit himself.  This is where we get our first look at the Mighty One's familiar duds.

Zuma and Kamandi wrestle over Superman's costume... while the others just stand around, I guess.  Kamandi hurls a stone at Zuma causing him to drop the suit.  As he recovers he tugs steps on Superman's cape... which ya just don't do... I think there's a song about it or something.  Well Kamandi won't stand for that so he yanks the cape causing Zuma to fall... into a lava pit.  Sheez man, that's hardcore!

After straight-up murdering an Ape Man, Kamandi goes running into Ben's waiting arms to sob.  Ben takes the costume and hands it back to the elder Ape Man for safekeeping, as he knows one day the true Superman will return.


Well, this one came out of nowhere... what a fun read!

I just love it when series' tie into one another... having Kamandi as part of the DC Comics canon is really cool.  I'm not sure if this was the first indication of this world being the actual DC Universe post-apocalypse... but, I couldn't imagine anything being more striking than actually finding Superman's costume.

I really dug the trials the Ape-men had to undertake in order to prove they were in fact, Superman reincarnated.  Such a silly concept, but it totally works.  "Leaping Tall Buildings" "Faster than a Speeding Bullet"... how cool is all that?  The reference to the Daily Planet for the test of strength was a nice touch as well.

This issue tells us much about the Ape-People.  First, they believe in reincarnation.  I'm not sure how or why an ape-person would come up with that... but it's a cool piece to the Kamandi puzzle.

It was pretty humorous how Kamandi kept getting Ben deeper and deeper into this asinine competition.  I'm not sure what his motivation for doing so is... just bragging about his buddy's powers?  Trying to make the Ape-Man Zuma look foolish?  Dunno... maybe Kamandi's just a little jerk.  Hell, he gets Ben out of testing his flight prowess, so I guess he's not all bad.

Definitely had more fun with this than I thought I would.  For whatever reason the entire Kamandi concept never really gripped me, but this was really quite good.  If you're on the fence about the character, give'm a look... I'm glad I did!


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