Sunday, April 30, 2017

Action Comics #461 (1976)

Action Comics #461 (July, 1976)
"Kill Me or Leave Me!"
"The Toughest Newsboy in Town!"
Writers - Cary Bates & Bob Rozakis
Penciller - Curt Swan
Inker - Tex Blaisdell
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.30

Wouldja look at that cover... a Clark Kent Fan Club?  Who does he think he is... Jimmy Olsen?

While we're looking at the cover... what's that Number 30 in the top right hand corner?  Are... oh no, are the DC Bicentennial Books numbered?!?  Don't they know how that messes with my completionist nature?  Dammit, DC!


Our story opens with Daily Planet nudnick Steve Lombard working out in the gym when he is approached by... well, some strange-looking fellow.  This green-and-gold clad baddie proclaims that he knows for a fact that Lombard is, in fact... Superman!  Little does he know that at the very same time, the real steel deal is saving a Senator from a crew of geeks wearing asbestos suits.

Superman wraps up saving the rescue and heads back to the Galaxy Building.  He comes across the baddie (who, according to a helpful note, he'd met last issue) and Lombard playing cat 'n mouse in the Galaxy staff gym.  A battle rages and Steve, seeing the opportunity for to get a big scoop grabs a handheld camcorder.  We learn that the bad dude goes by the palindromic Karb-Brak... and he's really having his way with Superman.

Karb offers that he and Superman share many powers... however, he can also make things go boom!  He 'splodes the gym.  In the blast, Superman grabs Lombard and makes like a tree.  Moments later, an ordinary gentleman nonchalantly moseys out of the Galaxy Building.  This is Andrew Meda (get it?), and he and Karb-Brak are one in the same.  He was sent from the Andromeda galaxy due to his having an allergy to the super-powered folks on his home planet.  Upon arrival on Earth, he ran into the similarly-powered Superman, causing his allergy to flare up... and costing him his "Earth-guise".  He knows that the Earth isn't big enough for both he and Superman.

We follow Mr. Meda home where he heads over to his Psi-Machine which had narrowed Superman's true identity down to either Steve Lombard or Clark Kent.  With Lombard ruled out, Karb knows it's gotta be Clark Kent.  And so, he "implants ideas" into the minds of those close to Clark... then turns sets his machine onto the rest of Metropolis!

The next morning, Clark Kent heads out for his morning trek to the office... and runs into throngs of adoring fans?!  Upon arrival, he meets up with Lombard and Lois... who are also unable to resist Clark's unspoken charms.

Normally if he's in a tight spot, Clark "supes" up and flies away... however, with his newly found celebrity status, he can't seem to pull himself away long enough to change.  And so, he just runs out of the building... and is chased by his fan club... into the park, where he runs into Karb-Brak... who knows his secret!

They enter into battle, complete with cheering audience.  Karb hammers Clark into the ground like he was a cartoon character.  Clark recoups and yanks a water main out of the ground, spraying the baddie away... but also, revealing his secret identity to the public!

Krab-Brak flees.  With the cat already out of the bag, Clark decides just to fly after him... to the apartment of Andrew Meda and his wacky Psi-Machine.  Superman uses the machine to do the ol' Professor X mindwipe on the citizens who saw mild-mannered Clark Kent's super-feats.

The story wraps with a weakened Karb-Brak spilling the beans on his history... and giving Superman an ultimatum.  Either leave the Earth... or kill him!  [To be continued...]

Our back-up story features the Amazing Exploits of Perry White.  Wow.  It begins with the White family finishing up their Easter dinner.  He asks the other adults to leave him and the kids so he can share some a story from his youth.  I'll bet you never knew that Perry White was at one time, the Toughest Newsboy in Town!  I sure didn't.

Anyhoo... back in the day, young Perry was shillin' papers on the corner.  One patron gave him a shiny quarter... not bad, for a paper that goes for 2-cents.  Perry theorizes that this customer was, in fact the missing Toy Company heir, Victor Larsen in disguise.  Sure, why not?

Perry gives chase, taking all manner of transport... hoppin' on the back of a pickup truck, skitching behind a car, riding another kid's handlebars... whatever gets the job done, right?  He winds up at Larsen's office... where inside, Victor is holding a scientist named Norton hostage.  He wants the plans he believes he designed for a "super-weapon".

Perry continues his story, informing his grandkids that Norton had evidently designed an atomic bomb!  Back in flashback, Perry enters the offices just as Larsen draws his gun.  They fight back and forth for a bit, Perry monkey-flips Larsen... then socks him good.

The story ends with Perry getting a job at the Daily Planet due to his "aggressiveness".  Unfortunately the then-editor in chief refuses to print his story about Norton's atomic bomb.


Well... with as neat as the cover was, this was a bit of a let down.  Really wasn't expecting this to be the second part of three, though that's not really the issue's fault.  The story we do get here though... ehh, wasn't great.  I can't help but wonder what crazy story would have been under a cover like this had it been released ten years earlier.

I've often seen folks complain that Bronze-Age Superman stories place too heavy a focused on Superman protecting his secret identity.  In my (admittedly limited) Bronze-Age experience, I think this complaint is valid.  It seems as though every issue is an exercise in secret identity related shenanigans... usually with (at least) one other person (good or evil) being tipped off.  Again, I've got limited experience with the era, but this describes much of what I have read.

Not much more to say about this issue, though I will admit that I am interested in seeing how this story ends.  I suppose if we're judging by that metric, this issue was a success.  Disappointing sure, but successful in making me want to come back for the next issue.

The back-up story... I actually didn't mind.  It was silly, but a good kind of silly.  I like the idea of Perry White being a rough 'n tumble neighborhood kid who would just as soon sock a guy in the nose if he thought he were bad news.  I'm actually a bit surprised that Perry didn't get his own ongoing during the Silver Age.  Seems like all of Superman's pals had their own books!

Overall... a couple of silly stories that I'd tell ya not to break your back (or bank) looking for.  If you come across this issue on the cheap, you could do far worse.


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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Detective Comics #567 (1986)

Detective Comics #567 (October, 1986)
"The Night of Thanks, but No Thanks!"
"The Face of Barricade!"
Writers - Harlan Ellison & Joey Cavalieri
Pencillers - Gene Colan & Stan Woch
Inkers - Bob Smith & Dave Hunt
Letterers - John Costanza & Todd Klein
Colorists - Adrienne Roy & Shelley Eiber
Editor - Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.75

Hmm... if a cover openly proclaims that the story within is "off-beat", well... you know I'm all in!

Crack the bugger open and see Gene Colan art... well, hell... this is gon' be good.


It's an ordinary Gotham night... just minutes past midnight.  Batman is on his nightly patrol and sees an armed individual rushing into a small neighborhood market.  Our man springs into action, however... finds that the shop owner seems to have the matter in hand.  Upon seeing the Batman, the owner asks if he'd contact the police for him.

Forty-Two minutes later, Batman comes across a mugging in an alley.  He rushes to aid the elderly gal getting her pocketbook swiped, however... finds the tough old bird seems to have the matter in hand.  She asks our man to make himself useful... and to go call the police.  And so, Batman makes his second crestfallen walk to the call box.

Thirty-One minutes pass, and Batman spies a potential jumper standing on the ledge of a high-rise building.  Knowing that time is of the essence, he swoops down to make the save.  Catching Batman out of the corner of his eye, the jumper, well... jumps!  Luckily, an officer is able to catch him before he plummets to his death.  Upon noticing Batman, the officer gives him the ol' thumbs up.

Twenty-Six minutes later, Batman gleefully sees a drug deal going down.  This is pretty funny... after this uneventful eve, he's actually giddy to see some heads he might be able to crack.  He swoops down... only to gum up the works on a GCPD undercover sting.  Whoops.

Seventeen minutes later, we find Batman sitting on a park bench... before he's able to drift to sleep (and probably be arrested for vagrancy) he sees a young lady being tailed by three young fellas.  He creeps up behind them to get a better idea what's going on, only to find that... it was just a boy chasing his girl to apologize for something he'd said earlier.  Batman is visibly disappointed that he didn't get to break some bones.

Eighteen minutes pass, and Batman happens upon a man trying to enter a parked car via pry-bar.  Batman puffs out his chest, and starts reading the fella the riot act... only to learn that the poor goof accidentally locked his keys in his car.  That is to say, he was breaking into his own vehicle.  Wonk wonk.

At 3:19 AM, Batman sees someone climbing a ladder next to a jewelry store.  I'm getting this picture of Batman was walking around Gotham all night.  Not in the Batmobile... just walking around... and it's pretty surreal.  Anyhoo, this gimmick is kinda growing tired... the person on the ladder is a repair-person working on the shop's transformer.  She's pleased to see Batman though... because she needs someone to hold her flashlight.

Twenty-Two minutes later, Batman finds himself standing before a large oafish man... clearly a "Nightstalking Strangler", according to Batman.  The "Strangler" is chomping away on a candy bar... and as he passes Batman on the sidewalk, he chucks the wrapper on the ground.  A-ha!  Batman's finally earning his pay... he shouts at the oaf to pick up his litter!  And he does!

Our night with the Batman ends at Wayne Manor at 4:16 AM.  Alfred delivers Bruce his morning tea, and asks how his night went.  A downtrodden Bruce rests his chin in his hand, and proclaims it to have been the most miserable night of his life... and considering the "bad nights" Bruce has experienced, that sure is saying something!

Our back-up story features Green Arrow, and opens with him fallen at the feet of the skull-faced Barricade!  What a terrible name for a supervillain... it's like "Get up, Ollie... and face the terror of... Obstruction!"  Anyhoo, 'Cade expresses to Ollie that they have already met, and proceeds to explain that he was originally the Monk known as Lars.  Lars found the Book of Ages... which, when opened, melted his face off!  Must have had a collection of Millennium in there!  We learn that for as long as Barricade holds the book, the effect would not be permanent.

Off to the side lurks a young woman called Onyx.  She holds the Wisdom Key that Barricade needs to reverse the spell of the Book.  'Cade sees her... and turns his attention away from Ollie.  All the while, Ollie is firing arrows at the skull-faced gent... hopeful that he will knock the Book of Ages away from his person.  He is unsuccessful to this point.

While Onyx and Barricade struggle, Black Canary peeks in from a hole in the ceiling.  Onyx tosses the Wisdom Key to her... however, before she can make off with it, Barricade punches the wall... causing her to plummet to the ground below.  The baddie prepares to pounce... and it's at this moment that Ollie fires off the lucky shot that knocks the Book of Ages from 'Cade's person to the ground.

The story wraps with Onyx meeting a fella in the park.  He gives her a key, and she walks away.  Not sure what the significance of this scene was without context, but... that's that.


This feels like a story that I shouldn't like, but I'm not gonna lie... as I read this, I must have had the goofiest grin on my face.  It feels out of character for Batman, sure... but, damned if it wasn't a lot of fun.  I suppose it should also be noted that this issue is the final one with Len Wein as editor... it would fall under Denny O'Neil's purview with the next issue.  I guess if you're going to release a Batman story with iffy and a bit off-center characterization, this would be the most appropriate time to do so.  This is probably the final issue of 'Tec that could be considered pre-Crisis... so why not have some fun with it?

I did a bit of research on this issue, mostly to find out what the "After Fifteen Years" meant in Harlan's note to Julius Schwartz.  Found out from the Sequential Ellison website that he had promised Julie he'd write a Batman script... and I suppose it took him a decade and a half to "make good".

In spite of how much fun this silly story was, I will admit that the gimmick wore thin around the third "near miss".  I think by that point, the cat was out of the bag... and we kinda knew the score.  It was still funny to see, but the law of diminishing returns was certainly in play.  I have very little experience with Mr. Ellison, though I know his name usually carries great weight in science fiction and just writing in general.  While I appreciated the tone and theme of the issue, I gotta say... wasn't terribly keen on the dialogue.  It felt a bit exaggerated, especially the final panel where he describes that night as the "most miserable of his life".  I mean, that's patently ridiculous, but considering the "gag"... ehh, I dunno... still didn't like that.  Gotta also mention that Gene Colan's art here is excellent.  Really great stuff here.

This is another issue where the back-up suffers due to the strength of the lead-off story.  Despite my misgivings above, I still really dug "Thanks, but No Thanks." it's ending, however, just sorta happens.  Felt like I was just barely passed the staples, and the story I was diggin' on so much (and getting lost in) just ends... I wasn't ready for that.  To then go to an inoffensive, but completely unspectacular Green Arrow story... gave me a real deflated feeling.

I can't say I've ever really been a fan of back-ups.  If I had my way, the main story would fill the entire book... but I understand why DC might want to give some page-time to their "second stringers", so I can't hold it against them.

Overall... strong, if silly, leading story that I would recommend to all Bat-fans.  This really puts the character, who is far too often portrayed as the "Bat-God" in a new light.  Seeing his frustration, candor, and self depreciating (at times) sense of humor, really worked for me.  It felt like a quite appropriate bridge between the pre and post-Crisis Batman.  The back-up... was a story.  Without context, I cannot really say that it was good or bad.  I'll say that it bored me, but... again, without context, even the best stories might do the same.  As an overall package, definitely recommended.  It is available digitally.


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Friday, April 28, 2017

Genesis #4 (1997)

Genesis #4 (October, 1997)
"Last God Standing"
Writer - John Byrne
Penciller - Ron Wagner
Inker - Joe Rubenstein
Letterer - Clem Robins
Colorist - Noelle Giddings
Assistant Editor - Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor - Paul Kupperberg
Cover Price: $1.95

Hey, we made it!  That makes two of the worst regarded DC Crossover events discussed/reviewed/whatever I do here'd in a single month!

I thought for sure I'd be ending this preamble with "Millennium, you're off the hook."  But, after (re)visiting both... I'm not entirely sure...


In the wake of the Source's destruction, Earth becomes a haven of madness and chaos.  Cities are in flame, bombs are exploding, acts of violence and depravity occur worldwide.  At what remains of the Wall, the heroes have all but given up hope.  Of note, it's the normally optimistic Captain Marvel who is the first to to state that they "lost".  Shockwaves follow, knocking the heroes around.  Superman holds Takion's lifeless body, the Spectre is forcefully ejected from the Wall... so it's looking pretty grim.  The Old God Arzaz, however, still contends they have more time to act.

He speaks of being in the actual heart of the Source, and we enter into a flashback so he can explain.  The crew, along with the Wizard Shazam and armed with Mother Boxes worked their way deep into the Source Wall... where they confront, well... it's not entirely clear.  It's a giant talking mass of shadow, I suppose.  Either way, the heroes Mother Boxes go on the fritz due to the God-Wave compression... and everything goes black.  Next they know, they're outta the Wall, and Takion is dead.

It is assumed that Darkseid was that being in the heart of the Source, however, Arzaz claims he can still feel Darkseid's presence on the "outside"... so that had to have been something/someone else.  Speaking of Mr. Seid, he is standing at yet another (or perhaps that same) console, surrounded by followers and the Dark Old God.  He's displeased at Desaad's report that things ain't going all that hot, and takes out his frustration on poor ol' Kalibak.  He always seems to get the worst of Darkseid's tantrums.  The Old God ensures claims to have survived the first four destructions, and is prepared to enter the Fifth World alongside the big D.

Back with the heroes, Metron appears to inform them that there is yet another contender in this power play... the God of War himself, Ares!  He claims that it will be he, not Darkseid who will rule the Fifth World... should it come to that.

This, as you might imagine, greatly displeases Darkseid.  Elsewhere, Arzaz calls to the Dark Old God... as one is the Yin to the other's Yang... together they might be able to stop Ares.  Somehow, moments later Darkseid is confronting the heroes, while the giant Ares stands frozen before them.  Okay.

Turns out the Old Gods are momentarily holding Ares at bay.  Rather than duke it out, Arzaz suggest they reach out with their hearts and use the power of prayer.  They peer down at the heroes, who have joined hands in prayer... from there all thinking minds in the universe are linked.

The prayers continue and intensify until... the merged New Genesis/Apokolips planet... splits!

Somehow this fixes the Source Wall situation?  I guess?  Okay... um, anyhoo... we head to an epilogue which illustrates that Takion is again among the living, hope and faith have been restored, and the heroes' powers have returned.

We close out the event with Metron visiting the new-look Source Wall.  It holds four new prisoners... Ares, Arzaz, that other Old God, and... Darkseid.




I really don't wanna be "that guy", but... what just happened?  Seriously, this has got to be one of the most difficult to follow stories I have ever read.  I usually self-depreciatingly attribute things to my being "too dense" to comprehend what I've just read... but today we're going to forgo that... this was just a mess!

I think it was yesterday that I suggested this might read better had it been given an over-sized first issue (or God forbid, an additional issue)... in completing this story, I totally stand by that suggestion.  This ending felt rushed... pulled out of nowhere... and just comes across as unpolished and unfinished.

It's as though Byrne got to about the halfway point of the story he wanted to tell this issue, and realized he'd already written 18 out of his 22 allotted pages.  So, the heroes pray... New Genesis and Apokolips split... and somehow that repairs the Source Wall.  Feels like we're missing a chapter, doesn't it?  Then... then, Takion flies back in like "Hey guys, I'm not dead... pretty cool, right?"  I took last issue to task for cramming too many happenings into a single chapter without giving the characters a single moment to process the situation and reflect on its consequences.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the event ends the same way.  It's "everything's okay... now go home" and that's it.  Again, as loathe as I'm to say this needed more pages (because I sure as heck wouldn't want to read them), it really did... either that, or just some better pacing.

Overall... I think this event goes down as something of an earnest failure.  There is a kernel of a clever concept here... not one I dig or agree with, but one I can admit is mildly clever.  That being said, the overall story is just so convoluted, and really... at the end of the day, it isn't nearly interesting enough to make parsing the ridiculously dense information worth a reader's while.  I'd say give this one a pass.


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