Thursday, January 31, 2019

Tales of the Teen Titans #59 (1985)

Tales of the Teen Titans #59 (November, 1985)
"Where Nightmares Begin!"
Writer - Marv Wolfman
Pencils - George Perez & Carmine Infantino
Inks - Dick Giordano & Romeo Tanghal
Letters - Ben Oda
Colors - Adrienne Roy
Editor - Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.75

Hey Gang!  Welcome to this most special day... for today, we are celebrating our Three Year Bloggiversary!!! (with three exclamation points).  That's right... three full years of Daily Discussions and Reviews (including a Leap Year!).

I wracked my brain thinking about a book that would "fit" for today's milestone entry... and my mind wandered back to the very start.  I had mentioned way back in the long ago (and more recently during an episode of the Chris-Show), that I had this sorta ritual/routine (whichever word sounds less demented) wherein every New Year's Day I would attempt to start a new blog.

Every year it would be a different comics theme... and I'd come out the gates full of P&V... until losing complete and total interest by around midday.  Well, the year we started this journey (2016), that "theme" was going to be the New Teen Titans.

So, I sez ta myself... self; what better book to act as our last regular Discussion and Review here (more on that below), than the one that (if the bloggy-stars aligned differently) would have been the first!


We open with Robin stood before S.T.A.R. Labs being filled in by a couple of police officers about a terrorist stand-off going on inside.  They're threatening to detonate a bomb if their demands aren't met... and so, Robin goes to rush on inside... only, he's overcome with a most strange sensation.  He suddenly finds himself stirred back to "reality" by Wonder Girl... and he's now stood before the... never before seen - Titans Tower!  He doesn't have a clue what's going on... and I'd wager most of the folks reading this at the time felt the same way!

They head inside, where Dick is reunited with Beast Boy (now going by Changeling) and introduced to a couple of brand-new faces: Starfire and Cyborg!  Dick hasn't ever seen these people before... but they definitely know him.

Wally speeds on to the scene a moment later, and Robin's just happy to see another familiar face.  Everybody looks at Dick like he's got three-heads... because he really shouldn't be this confused.  After all, they're teammates!

Finally, Raven arrives.  This is another brand-new face to both Dick and the original readers of DC Comics Presents #26 (where this story first appeared as a "Bonus Book").

She comes with the dire news that a certain scientist managed to open a portal into another universe.  Now, if you think that sounds like a really bad idea... you're right.  From this portal oozes a gelatinous beast that overcomes the scientist.

The Titans (?) decide to hop-to and see if they can't topple this terror.  Gar attempts to rally the troops by doing a little Titans-Rah-Rah.  The best he can come up with is... "Titans--Let 'er Rip!", which I'm sad didn't catch on.

The team heads out, and finds the Flan-Beast atop a high-rise building.  Raven sends her soul-self into the monster... and finds herself immediately separated from it.  Even in her first appearance, Raven was so over-powered that she had to be kayoed within the first couple of beats of battle!  Worth noting that Wally is particularly protective of Raven... which is neat, considering their upcoming arc.

The rest of the Titans try and take the fight to the Pudding-Horror, however, all of their offense proves to be ineffective.  Then... Robin "wakes up".  He's back outside S.T.A.R. Labs, where one of the Police Officers informs him that he had to shove him down out of the way of a terrorist bullet!

Robin shakes off the weirdness, and decides to attempt to infiltrate S.T.A.R. Labs via his "rocket grappler".  No sooner does he scale the building than he is thrown back into that other reality... where he's battling the Custard-Critter!

The Titans fight the monster for a bit longer... not gaining much in the way of ground.  Then... after Cyborg is able to wound it using some heavy-duty decibels the thing finally attempts to flee.  At this point, Robin has an idea.  He's certain that the Wobbly-Wicket is heading back to its "point of origin", and he has a sneaking suspicion that place is somewhere inside S.T.A.R. Labs.  Upon arrival, Cyborg is none too pleased to head inside.

Robin rushes inside and chats up that scientist that called the thing here in the first place.  He informs him that there's no way they can beat this baddie... and their only hope is to send it back from whence it came.  Since this things primary attack is converting Oxygen to Methane... they realize they're going to have to get this Whopper into an air-tight room.  Starfire volunteers to act as a lure, since she doesn't need to breathe Oxygen anyway.

Then, they do the thing... and everything's hunky-dory.

As the dust settles, Cyborg has words with the scientist... who we learn is actually his father, Silas Stone... also, the man who created Cyborg's mechanical body (though, if we're being technical, he also created his organic one).  It's clear that there's no love lost between the Stone men.

Suddenly... Robin "wakes up" again.  The Officers thank him for ending the terrorist stand-off without a single loss of life.  He hasn't the foggiest idea what any of them are talking about.  Then, he's approached by a most grateful Dr. Silas Stone... which ups the confusion all the more!

We wrap up with Robin heading off, questioning just about everything that just went down.  He ultimately writes it off as a dream/nightmare and decides to just sleep it off.  Raven is nearby, however, to inform him (and us) that this was no dream... the New Titans are his (and our) future!

Our second story begins with an unconscious Speedy being dumped into a lake.  Thankfully, Aqualad is nearby... and he scoops him out before he can drown.

We jump over to Titans Tower, where there's a knock at the door.  Starfire goes all lunatic-warrior-alien, and lunges toward the door as though she's about to wreck whoever dared knock.  Donna lassos her up before she can do any damage... and it's a good thing too, because their guests are... Aqualad and Speedy!  How 'bout that?

After Roy comes to, he shares his tale of woe.  Ya see, he was investigating a group of drug dealers.  He watched them from, of all places, up in a tree.  Which... I mean, if you're going to wear a bright yellow and red outfit... maybe hiding in trees isn't the best idea?  Maybe if it was Fall we could give that a pass... but, this is just dumb.  Anyhoo... one of the drug-runners just happened to be a machete expert.  I tell ya, this dude is so good at throwing machetes that they turn around in mid-air!  From here, Speedy got dumped in the lake.

After giving Starfire the quick 'n dirty on just what drugs are, the Titans decide to take care of bidness.  Robin takes point, and sends Wonder Girl and Starfire off to follow the druggies' helicopter to Miami (I guess that's the location of the Druglord's "Corporate Offices"), while the fellas are going to attempt to topple the local chapter.

And... well, that's exactly what happens!  Really not much more to say.  In the matter of two pages, the Titans win the war on drugs.  The story wraps up with Roy and Garth being invited to stay on as full-time Titans... but they're both too busy to commit.  Annnnnd, that's that!


Now, that was a nutty couple of stories, wasn't it?

I feel like reading our lead story without the proper context does it a grand disservice.  Unfortunately, it's pretty damned difficult to just "forget" everything that happens after this... and treat it like the (in some cases "literal") brand-new thing that it was when it appeared as a "Bonus Book" in DC Comics Presents #26 (October, 1980).

I'd love to be able and go back to experience this one the way it was meant to be experienced.  It's just such a strange way to introduce, not only brand-new characters, but a whole new concept for an existing property.  I wonder if there were people who were annoyed by this... if there were any readers who felt this besmirched the "sanctity" of the Teen Titans.  If only I could find USENET posts going back all the way to 1980 (the earliest ones I've found are around 1984)!

The story we get here... uh, I guess you could say it's a bit difficult to follow, perhaps hindered more by our current-day familiarity with the Titans.  Robin not knowing any of the newbies puts us in this strange "is it a dream/nightmare/twilight zone?" mindset which is kind of difficult to shake off, ya know?  That's probably why I usually skip this issue anytime I did a New Teen Titans "re-read project".

I never felt like it added all that much... though, if we can squint enough to view it as a sorta-kinda "flash-forward", there are things to dig here.  We get (some of) the skinny on the tension between Cyborg/Silas.  It's made pretty clear here that Wally and Raven have some sort of connection.  Beast Boy now goes by Changeling.  All things that we will know to be true sooner than later.

The backup story (which first appeared in The Best of DC (Digest) #18 (November, 1981)... was... ehhhh.  It kind of feels like a(n extremely) dry-run for the Anti-Drug PSAs that would come in 1983... only without the Protector.  Super-quick superheroics... with some rather unpleasant Carmine Infantino art.  Not much more to say about this one.  It filled the pages... it did that much.

So yeah... that's that!  Three full years of "Random DC Comics Discussions and Reviews" in the can.  This is usually where I'd get all gushy and do the "Oscar Speech" thing... but, we'll forgo that this time around... just know that if you've ever visited the blog, reached out, said hi, left a comment... you've made my day.  I've loved doing this... and I love y'all for stopping by.

So, here's the thing...

In a scant handful of weeks, I will be heading off to Grad School in order to procure my Ed.S. and State Certification to become a School Psychologist... this is most certainly going to put a crimp in my "free time".

Now, this little blog may not look like much, but I do put two-to-three (sometimes four) hours of work into it each and every day.  That's upwards of thirty hours a week... could be over a hundred a month.  That's a lot of time.

Between the blog and the "Chris and Reggie Network of" show(s)... I knew something was going to have to "give".  There's no way I could continue both and still have time for school, work, and family.  And so, after more sleepless nights than I'm comfortable admitting to (though, I suppose I sorta just did), I decided that with this Anniversary post, I was going to "put a pin" in the site.

I decided that around New Year's... so, like a month ago.

Then, I found myself going through the classic Kübler-Ross stages of grief.  Ya see, as if this isn't abundantly clear, I have sort of an addictive personality... and a hard time letting go of things.  I mean, this blog, as unspectacular as it may appear, has become sort of my "digital home", ya know?  It's also like the second-longest "relationship" I've ever had.

And so, I eventually hit stage three on the Kübler-Ross Scale: Bargaining.  How could I somehow continue this blog... while returning to school, and maintaining the Podcasts (and ya know, all that "real life" stuff too)?

As I was pre-hearsing my final sign-off for this blog... that's a normal thing people do, right?  Like write bits and pieces of their blog while in the shower or doing the dishes or something.  That's not obsessive behavior, is it?  Well, anyhoo... while mentally pre-writing what I assumed would be my final "send-off" and farewell... well, I think I might've found a way to keep on truckin'... it's going to be kind of different, though somewhat familiar.

And at this point in my writing, I'm chuckling to myself because really... nobody cares about "my process".  Barely anybody knows or cares that this blog exists in the first place.  Ah well, in for a paragraph... in for an essay.

One of the books I've wanted to discuss long-form, almost from the get-go is... Action Comics Weekly.  I've wanted to go through and cover every story in the anthology... but always considered it too daunting a task.  I mean, there's a lot of pages in those books... and not all of 'em look fun.  Action Comics Weekly is also a subject Reggie and I want to cover the entirety of in future episodes of the Cosmic Treadmill (we've already done four-episodes on the Green Lantern chapters alone!).

So, here's the plan... for now.  We're going to cover a single-chapter from Action Comics Weekly a day.  ACW has six chapters per issue... so, each issue will take a week (on the seventh day, I'll compile the chapters into one great big "normal" post).  We'll call this project:

Now, this isn't to say that we won't deviate from Action Comics Weekly, should I get the urge to write about something else... because, that's going to happen.  It's also not to say that this whole thing won't blow up in my face, and peter out in no-time flat.  I can say for certain that it'll likely be a bit wonky at first while I iron out any wrinkles and get situated.

I'm generally a pretty rigid dude when it comes to how I format my stuff... so, this will likely be quite the learning experience for me.  We'll play with it... because, I mean... it's not like there are any rules here to break... only the ones I've imposed on myself!

So, I hope you'll join me for our adventure into Action Comics Weekly... and for anything else I'm able to fit in.  Thanks so much for stopping by... especially if you managed to read through all my mutterings to this point.


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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Raven #1 (2016)

Raven #1 (November, 2016)
"The White Carnival, Chapter One: The Hunt"
Writer - Marv Wolfman
Art - Alisson Borges
Colors - Blond
Letters - A Larger World
Assistant Editor - Brittany Holzherr
Editor - Alex Antone
Group Editor - Marie Javins
Cover Price: $2.99

In celebration of the twelve-issue Raven: Daughter of Darkness maxiseries wrapping up today... and make no mistake, we are celebrating the fact that that book is over and done with (it was one of the more painful books I'd ever agreed to read), I figured today we'd look back at where it all began!

If you're interested in following me down the path of madness (and boredom), you can check out my reviews of the entire Daughter of Darkness series over at Weird Science DC Comics.


We open with a monologue from Raven... which is thankfully devoid of numbered "Raven Facts".  If you're reading the follow-up, you'd know how ubiquitous (and unfunny) a presence they were.  Anyhoo, this is in the wake of Tim Drake's death, and that team of Teen Titans being spread to the winds.  And so, in order to get a better understanding of who she is, and where she came from... Raven decides to move in with her Aunt and Uncle.  They're Christian, by the way... we're going to be reminded of that fact a whole lot.

Raven is instantly uncomfortable, not just because of the abundance of crufixes (crucifi?) peppered around the home, but also by more mundane things like knick-knacks and pillows.  I get that this is a "fish out of water" story... but, feels like we're trying to hard to make the ordinary appear extra-ordinary.  The fam gathers around the table, and says grace... which makes Raven worry that she made a mistake by coming here.

That night, Raven is haunted by a nightmare... it's the usual stuff.  Did you know that Raven is the daughter of Trigon the Terrible?  Of course ya do... because that's Raven's only story.

Anyhoo, Raven wakes up and finds herself surrounded by her Aunt and Uncle who overheard her crying about something called "Trigon" and came running to see what was wrong.  Raven is mum on the contents of her nightmare... but is comforted by the fact that her Aunt and Uncle appear to care about her.

The next day, Raven starts at her new school.  Gotta say, the dialogue she overhears in the hallway isn't nearly as cringy as I was expecting.  This definitely isn't Daughter of Darkness... because, woof... that's cringe-city.  This scene is really well rendered... single over-sized panel that still gives the impression of progression.  I like it a lot.

As Raven makes her way toward class, she is overcome with feelings of extreme nausea... she believes it's due to a psychic scan, and fears that her brothers might have caught up to her.  She hurfs in a garbage can, while her fellow students all get grossed out.  To throw them off the (literal) scent, she makes them face their worst fears... which, are unanimously about getting knocked up.

After class, Raven is approached by a multi-culti band of good kids.  They instantly begin asking her questions about where she came from... and conveniently, they even ask about her father.  I mean, for such a paranoid girl, shouldn't she think this is kinda weird?  Maybe it was just a way to remind us that Raven is the daughter of Trigon the Terrible... in fairness, it has been about two-pages since our last reminder.

Raven is overcome by the sickness once more... making her fear another psychic scan.  She doubles over, and catches a glimpse of a tall girl coming down the stairs.  Just then, her new pal Archer starts screaming... his eyes don't seem to work anymore!

Raven begins to control traffic, and uses her powers to give Archer his sight back.  He's taken away by the paramedics... and everything winds up cool.  Raven wonders just who that tall girl was... and how she manufactured this situation.

Before heading home, Raven is informed about... and invited to a Carnival going on that evening.  Then... things go nuts.  White globs show up... Raven finds the tall girl... and when they touch, we flash to Archer in his hospital bed writhing in pain (I think).

The tall girl (who, hell... might not be all that tall after all) reaches into Raven's chest and grabs at her soul before flinging her off to the side.  Raven is able to deduce that this girl has nothing to do with Trigon... so, she's probably wandered into the wrong book.

That night, we check in on the carnival... where... okay, this is where the art kinda gets to me.  There's a girl who might be the "tall girl" hanging out with Raven's new pals?  It's really unclear... since they all look like they should be part of the Burger King Kid's Club (minus the one in a wheelchair), none of them really stand out.  Anyhoo, the maybe "tall girl" breaks away to call a Ugo! Car (Uber) to take her home...

... but winds up walking into a portal instead?

And then... "the white" explodes, filling the carnival with blinding light.  Is this a backdoor pilot for DC's version of the New Universe?!


Ya know... I have a sneaking suspicion that, had I not just read the twelve-issue followup to this series, I probably wouldn't have cared much for this.  However, with as mind-bogglingly awful as Daughter of Darkness was, this issue feels damn near good by comparison!  It's still not a story I personally really want to read... but I can't outright dismiss it as being "bad".

In fact, the first half of this issue (as ham-fisted as it could have been taken), was mostly enjoyable.  I like the idea of Raven trying to discover more about her mother's side of the family.  I also like the idea that her Aunt Alice (and fam) are more traditionally religious (as in, they don't worship the Goddess Azar)... though, it does edge on being overstated here.

Raven not "getting" knick-knacks... ehh, it's silly, but harmless.  The follow-up (not to dwell) has Raven mystified by such things as Christmas.  I mean, I understand "fish out of water", but there are certain universal things that anybody, regardless of how sheltered they are/were... ought to know.  Especially if you've actually spent time around people... like Raven has.

The art here is decent... though, more easy to follow during the first half.  The characters, when introduced all at once with no real identifiable traits, become interchangeable... and worse yet, confusing.  I mentioned during the synopsis that I wasn't sure if the girl who stepped into the portal was the same girl that triggered Raven's nausea... and Archer's blindness.  Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not even sure we were following the same group of kids here!  This might have been an entirely different Burger King Kid's Club Clique!  And I tells ya, that is a problem.

Overall... I might still just be shellshocked by Daughter of Darkness... but, this wasn't a half-bad issue.  Not something I'd lose myself in, but there are far worse books out there... like Daughter of Darkness.  This issue is available digitally (at full-cover price).

Remember to come back tomorrow... for it is our special THIRD ANNIVERSARY Spectacular.  We'll be celebrating Three Years of Daily Discussions... and, discuss the future of this humble blog.  Changes are comin'... Don't miss it!


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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Adventures of Superman #558 (1998)

Adventures of Superman #558 (June, 1998)
"Another Typical Day"
Plot - Karl Kesel
Script - Jerry Ordway
Pencils - Steve Yeowell
Inks - Denis Rodier
Colors - Glenn Whitmore
Separations - Digital Chameleon
Letters - Albert DeGuzman
Assistant Editor - Maureen McTigue
Editor - Joey Cavalieri
Cover Price: $1.95

Now there's a cover that's gonna tickle your curiosity, ain't it?  I mean... what in the world could it be about?!  Tell me that wouldn't just jump off the shelves atcha!

This cover is credited to little Tommy Grummett... though, I'm not sure if this is actually a doodle from his childhood, or just an approximation at drawing "kiddie".  Either way, it's really neat!

So, let's find out what this one's all about.


We open with Jimmy Olsen waking up, and ooh boy is he running late!  It's half passed ten, and he knows the Chief'll have his hide if he doesn't get to work with the quickness.  At that very moment, Superman is hanging out somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean... when a "ball" comes flying his way, which he swats away with a broken piece of mast!

The "ball" is sent into orbit, where it's caught by... Supergirl.  She doesn't really look like the Supergirl who was running around during the turn of the century, but it's definitely a Supergirl.  By the time she snags it, Superman is flying over Machu Picchu.  In case you haven't picked up on it yet, they're playing a game of sorta-kinda Cosmic Baseball.

Supergirl hurls the "ball" back to Earth, where Steel is waiting for it.  He whacks it away, hopeful that it might find its way to... Superboy, who is flirting with some local ladies in Paris.  His costume doesn't really look "contemporary" either, it's worth saying.

Back in Metropolis, Jimmy Olsen arrives at the Daily Planet.  He's instructed to get to the roof right away to snap some pictures of what's about to happen.  As he climbs the stairs, however, he is overcome by a weird paralysis... which he blames on his "accidentally" injesting an alien isotope (during the Superman Forever Prestige Format book), because of course he did.

On the roof, Lois waits with a Superman Robot to find out if the Real Steel Deal or the "ball" arrives first.  Looks like Superman wins by a nose.

Well, er, he does cheat though... by using Krypto to pluck the "ball" out of the sky.  Superman retrieves the "ball", which is going to be auctioned off for charity later on.  Krypto kind of freaks out a bit when he gets a load of Jimmy Olsen...

... who appears to have been turned into an alien.  Whoops.

We head back inside, where Superman "kents down".  It's made clear right off the bat that Lois isn't "in" on the secret.  They head over to Jimmy Spaceman who has turned the "ball" into gold!  Why it's like he's got the Midas touch!  That sounds familiar...

Jimmy and Lois are then sent to Krypton Park... a Superman-inspired park set to be dedicated with tonight's Charity Auction.  There, they meet Lois' sister (and Jimmy's squeeze) Lucy.  She's okay with Jimmy looking like a Spaceman... so long as it ain't permanent.  Gotta figure, this might be one of the tamer transformations she's lived through.

Later on, the Auction is set to begin.  Before it can, however, the (all too realistic) "Fire Falls Riverbed" goes boom threatening to flood the whole place with firewater!

Superman hops into action, and quickly deduces that this wasn't no accident.  Oh, and Jimmy is now missing as well!  After checking his Pal's favorite "haunts", Superman is alerted by the Zee-Zee-Zee of the Signal Watch, which guides him directly in for a speedy rescue... from, Lex Luthor (naturally).

Later on, back at the newsroom... Superman and Lois consider just what they're going to do with Jimmy... who hasn't yet shown any signs of returning to "normal".  They compare him to a child, and set him aside do some doodling.  Lois suggests that Jimmy Spaceman might benefit by having a Mom and Dad to look after him... which Superman sees through as yet another attempt at having a ring put on it.

Just then, Jimmy Olsen emerges from the Fire Exit.  Wait, what?  Well, ya see, it turns out he never transformed!  The isotope he "accidentally" must've belonged to the Spaceman... and so, the alien demanded payment, in the form of... Jimmy's clothes?  Okay then.  Anyhoo, at this point, a blinding pink light fills the room... and when it clears, the Spaceman is gone!

All he's left behind (besides Jimmy's clothes) is a doodled picture of Superman! Could the Spaceman be little Tommy Grummett?!

The Man of Steel snags it... and takes it back to the Fortress of Solitude to try and analyze it.

A Fortress of Solitude... full of some very strange relics and artifacts for those of us who came in after 1985.  Different shades of Kryptonite... strange Kryptonian costumes.  Heck, you oughta see the door on this thing!


Well, that was... weird.

This came out during one of my "DC dark" periods where I wasn't really following all that much from the publisher.  I did grab the Superman Forever one-shot prestige book that proceeded this arc, and remember feeling wildly lost when I gave it a shot.  I'm sure had I stuck around, I'd have been even worse off!

Ya see, the gimmick here is "Forever"... and the disparate Superman Family books are all taking place during different times/ages.  Man of Steel is a tribute to the Golden Age, Superman (vol.2) is in the future... and I wanna say Action is in the present... or closest to the present.  This book is, of course, is a celebration of the Silver Age.

The Silver Age is something I've grown to have a lot of affection for, however, back in the 90's I doubt I would have appreciated this silly story all that much... or understood it!

This time around though?  I really enjoyed it.  I'm still pretty confused by how this story is happening the way it is, but I'm intrigued enough by the strange little doodle being left behind that I really want to come back for more.  Also, the juxtaposition between contemporary characters (the then-current Superman Family) among all of the Silver-Age trappings was interesting to see!

Ya see, writing this blog every day can be kind of handcuffing in a way where I get very little opportunity to do any "fun" reading... but it also affords me the chance to fill in some interesting blanks in my own fandom "career".  Today is a pretty good example of that.

Overall... I'd say this one is worth it for the cover alone.  I mean, it's just so wild, it's hard to believe it's even real!  The story might not live up to the cover (how could it, really?), but it's a fun and intriguing little tale.  This issue is available digitally.


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