Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Flash #268 (1978)


Flash #268 (December, 1978)
"Riddle of the Runaway Comic"
Story - Cary Bates
Penciller - Irv Novick
Inker - Frank McLaughlin
Letterer - Mike Stevens
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.40

There's a cover that just jumps out atcha, right?  The Flash carrying a copy of Flash Comics #26... while being attacked by Golden Agers Alan Scott and Wildcat!  Can't go wrong with that... or can we?  Let's find out together.

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We open in the bedroom of Barry Allen's 12-year old neighbor Barney Sands, who at this time is rifling through his bedroom looking for... something.  Okay, okay... the title of the issue kinda gives it away... he's looking for a comic book.  At that same time, across town, the Flash is also looking for... something.  A bit less obvious, he's trying to find a runaway bear named Griselda.


When he finds Griselda, it's not much of a fight... just the bear catching Barry unawares, and the Flash retaliating by zipping around it several times, forming a sort of sinkhole in the ground to hold her until the zoo can come pick her up.  Job well done, Barry heads home, zooming right past young Barney in the process.


As it would happen, young Master Sands was just headed over to chat up his friend (and fellow comics enthusiast) Barry Allen.  He laments the fact that he lost a rare collector's issue... yup, that was comics parlance even in the 1970's!  This comic is from the Golden Age and in Good Condition, to boot!  Barry's sympathetic, and asks if Barney wants to help him sort his new issues... that sorta feels like rubbing it in, doesn't it?  Anyhoo, Barney agrees... and just so happens to find his missing issue!  It's Flash Comics #26 (1942)... and, not only that... he can tell that it's his copy!


Barry confirms that the mag isn't his... even being the "Flash fanatic" that he is... Flash Comics #26 has always eluded him.  He makes sure to say he has "rarer" issues though... dude, you're competing with a twelve-year old.  Anyhoo... Barney heads home, and at Barry's request, leaves the comic with him.  Later on, right before Barry's eyes the comic... vanishes!


Noticing an "ultra-faint radiation trail" drifting in the wake of the vanished comic, Barry "Flashes" up, and follows it... right to the First Annual Central City Comicon!  Inside, we overhear some movers and shakers discussing a potential comic-trade (if ya can imagine it... some All-Star Comics for More Fun).  This kinda thing makes my stomach hurt... I get trading doubles and whatnot... but oi, this gives me agita.


The potential trade hits sort of a roadblock... ya see, More Fun Comics #52 is the issue in question... and that just happens to be the first appearance of the Spectre!  The would-be barterer then notices a copy of Flash Comics #26 on the table... and offers that same threesome of All-Star Comics for it.  Oddly enough, the other fella knows he's never owned that issue... but, has always wanted it!  Must've really wanted to know how the Johnny's Messenger Service serial played out!  Their chat is interrupted by Barry Allen... who offers, not a trade, but cold hard cash for the mag.


The wheeling and dealing is short-lived, however, as a pair of cosplayers (dressed like the Golden Age Green Lantern and Wildcat... the theme of the convention is "Heroes of the Golden Age" by the way) arrive and make nuisances of themselves.  They demand the kid hand over Flash Comics #26... then force "Flash fanatic" Barry Allen to come along with them.


In the hallway outside the ballroom, Barry manages to slip away... and into an elevator, where a couple of kids are comparing their comic hauls from the show.  Thinking fast, Barry shifts into his Flash costume... which only gets him mocked for "missing the memo" on the Golden Age theme.


Flash zips out and chases down the cab carrying the Golden Age Geeks.  He vibrates inside and slams the bothuvem out the side windows... and snags them both before they hit the pavement.  Inside the ride, the cabbie notices they left behind Flash Comics #26... and decides to leaf through it.  His read is unfortunately interrupted when he notices there's a gun jammed in his face.  Man, I hope he was at least able to read the The Whip Plays Santa six-pager!


We shift elsewhere where we finally get the skinny on what's so special about Flash Comics #26 (it's probably not Les Sparks: Radio Amateur in The Dynamited Dam)... in fact, this particular copy has been treated with Formula XCV-4... which has something to do with telepathic transportation... so basically, you think of something that's been treated by the stuff... and it'll appear before you.  The reason it's on a random Golden Age issue of the Flash is because the fella who concocted it used his son as a test subject... and needed something he could focus on to test the transportability.


The baddies have been hunting this issue down for some time now, hopeful that they could recreate the XCV-4 via the residue on the mag.  This would obviously be advantageous to a gaggle of thieves, right?  So this fella's going to put it up in auction to the underworld!  To find the thing, he even went so far as to take out ads in the fanzines... willing to pay inflated prices for any and all copies of Flash Comics #26 out there in the world.


Just as the bids are about to begin... the comic book vanishes... again!  Moments later, the Flash zooms in... holding the comic!  Guess he cracked the code... anyhoo, the baddies unload their guns at him... which never really works when you're dealing with the Flash.


He makes quick work of the baddies... like seriously, he takes them out in a single panel.  Our story concludes with Barry Allen returning home with not one, but two copies of Flash Comics #26!  One for his buddy Barney, and one for his own library... courtesy of the scores of non-XCV-4 treated copies the bad guys had collected over the past little while.  All's well that ends well!


--

What a weird issue!  It's sometimes hard to believe that our fandom vernacular has been around for such a long time.  Hearing Barry and Barney discuss collector's items and issue grades was pretty wild!  I think that's a phenomenon we (at least folks of my generation) attribute to 1990's speculation... so, seeing that it was already a thing in the mid-late 70's is pretty surreal!

If you're anything like me, you take pause anytime you see a comic book show up in a television show... like on a coffee table, or like the characters walk past a newsstand or something... and you pick out ones you have/want.  Also, if you're like me... you've never watched that Big Bang show, so comics popping up on shows is still something of a novelty.  That's how I felt seeing the comics enthusiasts in this issue sifting through their favorites.  Of course, these were Golden Age books of which I have few... er, none... but still, so much fun to see!

Now, before we get into the "story"... because, there really isn't much there... let's take a look at Flash Comics #26 from 1942.







Pretty standard Golden Age fare... big fat issue, lotsa content!  Really unsure why this issue in particular was chosen to be so important... perhaps it was of particular significance to Cary Bates... or maybe its cover made it easier to identify at a glance.  Whatever the reason, it sure is a fun idea.

For the story itself... it's Bronze-Age Flash... which, can be kinda corny.  I mean, I had a lot of fun reading this, and would recommend seeking it out... but there really isn't a whole lot of "meat" here.  The cover is a bit bait-and-switchy, but that's hardly unique to this book.

I always like Barry Allen being something of a gatekeeper to the Golden Age of DC Comics... his whole shtick was taking the name of his favorite comic book character, and making it his own... plus, it was in his book that the multiverse started to take shape.  It stands to reason that the kind of story we just read would only work with Barry.

Overall... like I said, a ton of fun... however, if you're looking for a standard superhero tale, it might not rock your socks.  I snagged this from a 75-cent bin, and certainly feel like I got my money's worth... I probably wouldn't have paid a premium though.  It doesn't look like it's been collected, nor has it been made available digitally... so, single-issue (not floppy) is the way to go.  If you see it for a few bucks and are (like Barry and Barney) a Flash fanatic, I'd say give it a go!

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Outsiders (vol.3) #2 (2003)


Outsiders (vol.3) #2 (September, 2003)
"Role Call, Part Two: Lawyers, Guns, and Monkeys"
Writer - Geoff Johns
Penciller - Tom Raney
Inker - Scott Hanna
Letterer - John Workman
Colorist - Gina Going
Associate Editor - Lysa Hawkins
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

Didn't dislike the first issue of Outsiders... and I could've sworn that, at one point, I did!  Maybe I'm softening... or maybe it was a bit later on in the series that I started disliking it!  Let's find out...

--


We open at J.F.K. Airport where we get a lesson on the specs of Air Force One... ya see, the President of the United States is in town.  Looks like even with all the amenities it boasts, the First-Flyer is no match for an angry gorilla!


We shift scenes to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where President Lex Luthor is about to deliver a speech he's not terribly happy about.  Not so much because he's evil or anything... he just feels his Hollywood speech writers might perhaps be a tad overblown in their writing style.  Turns out it's a moot point, however, as the Secret Service calls in a "Red Evac"... probably has something to do with Air Force One going boom.


From here we get a bit of a quick and dirty on Gorilla Grodd, you know the deal... accelerated evolution... super-genius... murderous gorilla.  It's confirmed that he and his army are currently invading New York.  No duh.  Anyhoo... answering the call, the definitely-not-the-Titans leap into action.  Boy howdy, is Grace annoying...


A Blackhawk helicopter lands allowing a confused and annoyed President Luthor to board.  He is informed that Air Force One went boom... but he's so happy to be leaving New York that he doesn't seem terribly bothered.  Meanwhile, Indigo and Metamorpho cause some gorillas to projectile vomit.


Elsewhere, Grace and Thunder have paired off... and elsewhere even still, Dick and Roy take the fight to the baddies.  Roy gets some pretty bad "tough guy" banter with a gorilla who has him by the throat... then reveals that his team has been outfitted with psychic dampeners to block Grodd's hypnotic suggestions.  Handy, that.  Grodd decides if he can't use his telepathy, he'll just fall back on scientific know-how.  With the push of a button he raises a dome over New York City... it's gettin' Convergence-y up in here!


Okay, not really... this dome is actually an energy field, so everything electronic/mechanical will cease functioning... including President Luthor's chopper!  Lucky for him, Jade just happened to be flying by... and she begrudgingly saves the Commander in Chief.  Not much of a surprise here... seeing as though she was on the cover of the previous issue.


As Jade sasses Luthor (imagine somebody talking to the President like that?  Never happen!) his airborne security detail enters the energy field... and, ya know... starts to plummet out of the sky... at dazzling speed.  On the ground, Grace comes up with a plan... she has Thunder grab hold of her, and increase her density to the point where they embed into the ground.  This will allow them to catch the jet before it does any real damage to New York City.


And whattayaknow... it works!


We conclude the chapter at one of the President's safe-houses.  Upon arrival, Lex hears several gunshots go off... and notices that his entire Secret Service detail has been murdered.  Who could'a done such a thing?  Well, lookit that... it's the Joker.  I remember a time when a Joker reveal was something of a novelty... now, I can't recall the last week where he didn't appear on at least one cover of DC's new releases!


--

Another "not bad" issue here.  Just like with Outsiders (vol.3) #1, this is fundamentally sound, hits all the right beats, and is expertly drawn... buuuut, the dialogue still kinda irks me.

Seems like Winick really wants to establish "his" characters.  Here we have Grace acting (and speaking) like a complete bad-ass.  It's... fine, but... I mean, asking Metamorpho if he "wants to bitch"... c'mon already.  This is Grace's first time out... hell, the Outsiders aren't even an official team yet, and she's talking down to established and experienced heroes as though she's been doing this her whole life.  Don't like that... not that I want her to be wide-eyed and cautious... but, perhaps a little calibration could have been used in her introduction to superheroics.  This bit of dialogue is also a bit "try-hard" to me.  Winick's a young man, but some of this chatter comes across as post-2000 Chris Claremont shoe-horning "You go girl"'s and "strike a pose"'s into his writing.  Kinda corny.

I'm hesitant to roll out the "Mary Sure" term, because I doubt Grace (or anybody here) is an "author insert".  There are just certain characters here that have "all the answers, all the time".  Winick's Josie Mack back-ups running in Detective Comics around this time rubbed me the same way.  And like I said yesterday... it's not bad... just, personally something I don't enjoy.

Roy doesn't get all that much play here... which, again... is fine.  Hell, the less I have to look at that Doritos crumb on his chin, the better!  The one scene he does get is... ehhh... tough-guy talk, outsmarting the bad guy... pretty standard stuff.  Not sure who's running the show here, either... last issue, it seemed as though Roy was taking the charge... here, however, he appears to have deferred leadership to Dick.  Guess we can write that off as "growing pains" in the team formation.

Jade shows up here, fashionably late... but we're still in the opening arc, and we are writing for the trade... so, whattaya gonna do, right?  Her exchange with Luthor was a bit precious... but again, whattaya gonna do?  These days it requires far less effort to complain @ the President of the United States... so I suppose this was a bit novel for the time.

Overall... still not hating this.  Not sure why I remember myself really not digging this back in the (relatively) long ago.  Maybe I'm projecting how I felt about Winick's Green Arrow onto this book... hell, maybe I'll reread his run on Green Arrow and discover that I actually like it... who knows?  Is this worth reading?  As a single-issue, nah... in collected edition, probably.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Outsiders (vol.3) #1 (2003)


Outsiders (vol.3) #1 (August, 2003)
"Role Call, Part One: Opening Offers"
Writer - Judd Winick
Penciller - Tom Raney
Inker - Scott Hanna
Letterer - John Workman
Colorist - Gina Going
Associate Editor - Lysa Hawkins
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

Today we're going to take a look at the opening chapter of that other series that spun out from Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day... the one that, at least at its onset feels a lot like a Titans book should!

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We open on a cruise liner in the Atlantic Ocean.  The captain and his crew notice an smaller craft floating in the surf, and suggest (since they aren't in fishing waters) that it may be suspicious.  Wouldn'tcha know it, no sooner do they say this that the lights go out, and the find themselves being boarded by some hulking figures... and dead, they also find themselves rather dead.


We shift scenes to Brooklyn, New York... it's about three months since the events of Graduation Day (and the subsequent dissolution of the Titans), and Arsenal and Nightwing are discussing the future.  Roy is keen on putting together another team, however Dick ain't feeling it.  He feels as though anytime they put a crew of Titans (Teen or otherwise) together, people wind up dead.  Haha... you just wait, Dick!


Roy tries to reason with him... suggesting that, whenever they put a team of Titans together, rather than forming a team... they're building a family.  He feels things might go a bit better if they acted more like the Justice League... just a team of acquaintances who happen to be the most powerful people on the planet... minus the most powerful people part.  We get a pretty cute scene of Roy suggesting potential members.


Dick's starting to come around to the idea... and starts making a recruitment plan.  Roy halts him in his tracks... he's not trying to get Dick to put together a team, he's recruiting him for the one he's already put together!


And so, we hop into flashback mode.  First stop, New Orleans... thirty-two days ago.  We see an older man being roughed up by some street toughs.  While doing their misdeed, they are approached by Anissa Pierce, the daughter of Black Lightning Jefferson Pierce... current alias: Thunder (if you recall, her sister Lightning would eventually join the post-Infinite Crisis Justice Society of America).


Now, her powers aren't quite as "stormy" as her name might suggest.  She has the ability to control her density... meaning her physical hardness, and weight.  One of the punks learns this the hard (pun!) way when he goes to jack her jaw.


During the skirmish, Arsenal arrives to engage in some recruiting... and, I gotta say it... this "soul patch" Arsenal really kinda skeeves me out.  It looks like he's got a Doritos crumb on his chin... really unpleasant.


Next stop... Metropolis, twenty-three days ago.  We pop in on Chaney's... a night club that attracts a certain type of clientele... that's right, folks... it's a Meta-Human Bar!  When a Nosferatu-looking fool and a lizard man get into a scuffle, we meet the club's bouncer... Grace.


It just so happens that she is next on Roy's intergalactic recruitment list.  Oh, and also... they used to do it.  If you're new to Judd Winick books of this era... there's a lot of "doin' it" going on.


Next stop... S.T.A.R. Labs-Los Angeles, six days ago.  Roy is visiting an old friend who has just returned from the dead.  We saw his return back in Graduation Day... of course, we're talking about Metamorpho.  He doesn't seem to remember a whole helluva lot about his past... and his powers seem a bit "off".  This will eventually come around and make sense.  It doesn't take much for him to agree and join the team... he's just happy to be sprung from S.T.A.R..


We return to the "now", and we're back on board that cruise liner.  The Coast Guard begins an approach... but is blown out of the water pretty quickly.


Back in Brooklyn, Dick and Roy realize they have an annuity but they need cash now... so, they're off to visit C.T. Wentworth.  Wait, wrong guy... heckuva jingle though.  Anyhoo, this Wentworth is actually a long-dead electronics magnate who was quite the paranoid fella during the "duck and cover" era... and so, he built one hell of a bomb shelter.  One that Roy bought and renovated to at as the headquarters for the not-Titans.


Dick looks around, and meets Thunder and Grace... and doesn't appear to be terribly impressed.  I feel ya, muchacho.  He's suddenly alerted to a dangerous presence, and hurls a nightwing-a-rang toward the door... where it's caught by Indigo!  Remember her?  Sure ya do... she was the initial "big bad" of Graduation Day.  Roy informs his bosom bud that Indigo works for the good guys now... not only that, she's also a member of their team!


Some arguing ensues, because... well, it's a pretty contentious situation.  Dick doesn't exactly feel safe with a murdering robot from the future "having his back", and I can't say that I blame him.  After all, if not for Indigo... Lilith and Donna would likely still be alive.  Metamorpho interrupts the exchange to suggest they take a peek at one of the video monitors... and wouldn'tcha know it, it's the cruise liner barreling into the docks... we also learn that our hijacker was... Gorilla Grodd and his army!


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This aged a bit better than I thought it would.  This was a perfectly fine "gathering the forces" issue... giving introductions for a new (and legacy) character, and providing a decent shift from the Titans series it sprung from.

Everything is well done, however... and this is just me personally... there's something about Judd Winick's writing... especially during the early-to-mid 2000's, that rubs me the wrong way.  It's often hyper-sexualized... and comes across as pretty "empty".  Like there's a try-hard "hipness" to it... that just feels so shallow.  Also, lectures... lots and lots of lectures.  It's strange, because I loved his work on Justice League: Generation Lost during Brightest Day... but, here... all the pieces are there, but it doesn't feel "right".  Dunno... maybe it's just me.

I'm not too hot on some of the character designs here (though, the art itself is pretty great)... it feels like somebody who was behind the times insofar as trends concocted some of these looks.  It feels like when back in the 80's and 90's they would give characters a bad mohawk to show they were "with it"... that's how I view character designs like Grace.  It feels almost instantly dated... if she were to make her debut a couple years before or after, she'd have to look completely different... which might seem like a silly complaint when Marvel is still trying to squeeze Dazzler into comics and make her work.  Also... Roy's soul patch... looks so gross... Doritos crumbs, man... blech.

Overall... this was more hit than miss... even a decade and a half hence.  Some odd character designs, but that's certainly not something that's limited to this book in particular.  I'd say it's worth checking out... it was one of the foundational books signifying the changing times at DC Comics as Dan Didio was taking control, and in part helped set the tone for the line going forward.  It's been collected in trade and is available digitally.

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