(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: THE DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #7
CAPTAIN MARVEL #0
DEAD INSIDE #1
DIVINITY III: STALINVERSE #1
POWER MAN & IRON FIST: SWEET CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #1
LADY MECHANIKA: LA DAMA DE LA MUERTE #3
Raiders of the Long Box: WEST COAST AVENGERS!
Opinions Are Like @$$Holes: WHEN CALENDARS WERE COOL!
In stores today!
THE DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #7Writers: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Artist: Andy Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey aka Optimous Douche
This year, the satirists of South Park introduced new characters called “member-berries” to it’s lexicon of socially cutting craziness. Imbibing these adorable grape-like creatures would allow the denizens of the snowy Colorado town to forget their current trials and tribulations by frosting their frontal lobes into a fugue state of 80s nostalgia. If weed could talk, then you’d have a “member-berry.” But looking past the jokiness of Star Wars references and Toto cover tunes, member-berries are a warning of the creative drought in our current culture. They are also the sign that we can never go home again, and twice baked nostalgia can never serve as the catalyst for originality in storytelling.
DARK KNIGHT III is a prime example of how comic collecting has become an exercise in member-berry fermentation. As we approach what was originally slated to be the penultimate issue of DK III (until a Hail Mary extension was announced in September), I realize my addiction to this title is merely a member-berry induced hallucination of what came thirty years ago when I picked the original DARK KNIGHT RETURNS up from the spinner rack.
Never have I absolved a comic series of the sins in inception, structure, and delivery as I have DKIII. Perhaps, the only exception to this rule was DKII. But back in 2001, I was a year or two away from reviewing comics so I had no moral obligation to call out the fallacies of the book. And with only three issues, all solely in Miller’s very sketchy hands, the fallacies were much faster seen than this time around. Yes, even for someone high off his ass on nostalgia.
When this third series in the DARK KNIGHT RETRUNS series was announced, it had a saving grace to help course correct the missteps of DKII. This overarching story of Kandor’s miniaturized citizens seeking retribution against Superman for putting so much of their time in a bottle wasn’t that lifeline. Frankly, I wondered how that would be interesting at all. No, my glimmers of hope came from the fact Miller was wisely being assisted this time around by the helping hands of Azzarello and Kubert. When the first issue was launched waaaaaay back in April of ’15, the ruse worked. We reviewers forgot about the story being all over the place to focus on how well the new creators could deliver a Miller pastiche.
A “fairly regimented’ scheduled offered further forgiveness for DKIII as we all blindly overlooked the story’s first egregious sin in that this had nothing to do with Batman. As DKII promised, we were now in the Dark Knight Universe and this tale would be one on the progeny of the house of El and Wonder Woman. Carrie Kellie, Bruce Wayne, Ellen Yindell, even the Mutants that were so damn “billy” a generation ago, had become forgotten whispers amidst this new story of child’s rage against Superman siding with Kandor’s rage against Superman because...well, seven issues in and I still don’t know.
Not only do we not learn Lara Kent’s rage against Superman, nor Kandor’s real beef with bug blue, but we then get another mystery plot in why the hell does Kandor have a beef with Batman? Of course the member-berries kept me stoned to this reality until the fourth or so issue when the Kandor army was literally on the tri-bridges waiting to cross into downtown. I didn’t question for the issues leading up to that moment why they were going. Now after seven issues, and the battle finally over, I still don’t know. No reason was ever given. I finally had to come up with my own theory so as not to feel I wasted precious moments of free time in my life: One Christmas, during a Justice League soiree, Batman stuck his dick in the Kandor bottle instead of the punch bowl for a yuletide prank. Please comic world, give me something better.
Sin number three for this series is scheduling. It has taken almost two years for seven issues to come out. Were the quality stellar, I would say this was all worth the wait. But DKIII is no SANDMAN: OVERTURE here folks. I’d love to say also the delays might have been symptomatic of DC trying to course correct the title based on the horrid reviews that came pouring in. But nothing has gotten better. In a serial medium, these delays become exponentially more apparent with each passing five, six, seven and eight-week cycle in between. We comic collectors are fickle and forgetful as we age. We’re also getting exposed to more and more on the shelves each week. Keeping storylines straight (especially through reboots and retoolings) has become almost a chore as opposed to a hobby. When a story like DKIII crosses over these reboot moments, it is almost certain we’ll need to reread the past few issues to remember the alternate epic moments that occurred in this title as opposed to the twenty other epic moment books we’ve read in between. #EpicOverkill.
Issue seven specifically delivers the final sin of a series with more scars on its soul than Judas, with the resurrection of Batman. After a death last issue that was almost as nonsensical as the rest of the series (a heat vision hit from a floundering Kandorian), Supes whisks Bats away to a Lazurus pit to reapply that ole’ mortal coil. I was crest fallen because I saw some redemption in DKIII as a whole if Bats had finally died. Even though it probably wouldn’t have spared us from DKIV: The Quest for Peace, at least Carrie Kellie would finally get her time in the sun as the one true Batman. Now what we’re left with is merely a tale of familial relationship redemption since Lara Kent will most likely side with her Mother as the Kandorians try to steal baby Jonathan Kent in the middle of the night.
I held back on reviewing this series in desperate hope that an issue of redemption would rear its head over the past two years. It’s now clear though that I’ve simply been squeezing “member-berry” nectar into my mouth instead of truly looking at the title’s face value. In DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Frank Miller ushered in a new era of comics. DKR along with WATCHMEN didn’t introduce us to the fallible hero, but it certainly made the humanizing of our favorite heroes a mainstream monthly affair. Thirty years later the concept of darker heroes is mere rote. DKIII reveling in that fact was probably the biggest disappointment of all. DKR also unfolded a possible future for the BATMAN, a future that was the true culmination of Batman’s brutality, which we had forgotten in the silver age shenanigans leading up to DKR’s release. DKIII is neither a game changer, nor a crystal ball. It’s a last vestige for a creator whose vision is as bankrupt as his talent in execution was when DKII hit the shelves. Say what you will about DKII, there were still at least a couple cool concepts in the series.
The dark age is over; either bring DKIV to a darker age, a new light, or simply let this title finally live in the past where it was truly a sweeter experience for us all.
Rob works for IBM when he puts down comic books. IBM.com if you want to see his other world.
CAPTAIN MARVEL # 0Writer: Margaret Stohl
Artists: Emilio Laiso & Ramon Rosanas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Marvel's answer to Wonder Woman (or at least what they have been striving for), Captain (she used to be Ms. Marvel, er Binary, er Warbird, no wait Ms. Marvel!) Marvel gets yet another new series. Brought to us by Margaret Stohl, a novelists who brought us the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES series. And I gotta say, I don't get what Marvel is doing with- well Carol Danvers these days. Because she is easily the most unlikable character Marvel has right now- which seems to be by design!
Check this: For all intended purposes, Captain Marvel just killed Tony Stark (ok, he's in some kind of Kyptonian coma or mostly dead (pick which one you prefer). Because of this, she remains in charge of Alpha Flight Space Station, has carte blanche from the President and has become the world's most popular hero. Get that, she was proven wrong, basically killed Iron Man (all in CIVIL WAR II), and she's now our greatest hero?!? Is Marvel trying to prove the Peter Principle or what? Now getting to this issue, she's back on the job telling Canada's Alpha Flight what to do (which never made sense to me either). Accidentally shooting down a couple of NASA satellites, she can't sleep because she is having nightmares about killing Iron Man (kind a) and refuses any therapy and refuses to apologize for anything. Because she did what she thought was right- which is usually the case for why people have to apologize (Oh damn, I thought X, I'm sorry). I'm sorry Stohl, but why do I want to read about this train wreck of a human being?
Meanwhile, she has fan clubs all over the world--in fact some of the Alpha Flight Space Station crew are members and star stuck by her. She also manages to rescue some alien refugees, as their ship almost crashes into A.F. space station. So really she was protecting her Space Station and luckily the refugees got noticed before she ripped their ship apart. And then she makes up with her best friend Spider-Woman, by not apologizing (works every time). Oh, in the middle they give us a little of Marvel's origin (minus the part of her getting superpowers). Short version, it sucks to be a girl. Although, in light of how she's behaving, maybe her Dad was right.
Now if you think I'm picking up CAPTAIN MARVEL #1, you must be high. Of course, I can step back and think; well maybe this is the set-up for Captain Marvel redeeming herself. And maybe Marvel is setting up some weird parody of Donald Trump (very popular, despite killing someone). Ok, that could all be true, but is that the best way to sell their number one super heroine?! By making her as unlikable as possible? I'm surprised they didn't turn her into an alcoholic again, like Kurt Busiek did.
Artwork wise, Italian artist Emilio Laiso (main pages) & Spanish artist Ramon Rosanas (flash back pages) do a decent job. In some ways Laiso reminds me of Jeff Moy, who drew DC's LEGIONNAIRES for years. Though, I'm not sure about the decision to show the backs of two characters while they are having a heartfelt conversation.
This is just seems like another attempt by Marvel to make Carol (whatever her name is) Danvers a popular, meaningful character- by putting her in a pretty unlikable book (doesn't matter if it doesn't sell because Marvel is going to keep her on the shelf, come hell or high water--they have a movie to pimp). Yet as I often say, as soon as you stop 'trying' to make a character cool, important, popular and meaningful, that's when they actually have a chance of becoming all that. Until then, we get this.
DEAD INSIDE #1Writer: John Arcudi
Art: Toni Fejzula
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt
Dark Horse promoted this book as, “perfect for fans of crime and prison TV, such as Law & Order, NCIS, Orange is the New Black, American Crime Story, or Making a Murderer.” Of those shows, I only like two: OITNB (Crazy Eyes is just fantastic) and American Crime Story (It better win all the awards this year). I also was never able to get into the whole Law and Order or NCIS stuff (sorry not sorry!), but if they were more like this book I think I could.
The story starts off with a dark and gruesome murder/suicide inside of a jail. We then meet Detective Linda Caruso, who works for the Jail Crimes Division of the Sheriff’s office in Mariposa County. Caruso is brought in to process the crime scene, but starts to believe this is no “normal” murder/suicide.
The killer is just months away from his freedom before he commits the murder. Add in his questionable death, and these are just two big red flags for a detective like Caruso. The more she starts to look into things however, the more pushback she receives from both the jail and her office. You are lead to believe there is a big conspiracy going inside the jail, and clearly there is. Caruso is sure to find out what it is, since she’s quickly shown as the type of character that will not just let sleeping dogs lie.
Caruso, a haunted lead character, has a history with many of the other characters you meet in the story and Arcudi’s storytelling unveils this for you in a very natural way. Sure this story features the stereotypical “hard-drinking detective” (Best hard-drinking detective of all-time by the way? The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty. Easy), but even with some of its crime genre clichés, the story never feels stale.
That’s in large part because Arcudi is just really good at creating this classic-type of crime story. A final panel reveal digs a little further into what happened in the murder/suicide, and with the reveal, you fully realize that the event itself is the least of her worries. The jail is a dark and unsettling place, but those at the top hiding a deep dark secret may be even more frightening.
Another reason this first issue works so well is the art. Fejzula’s style is just a great fit for a story like this. The dark murder scene at the beginning is striking and draws you in from the very start. Fejzula’s artwork on Dark Horse’s 2014 mini-series VEIL was stunning, but the writing on that was pretty lackluster. It’s nice to see here that Fejzula has a way better story here to match his distinctive artistic ability.
Arcudi and Fejzula have built something very interesting with this first book. Both of their styles seem to mesh almost perfectly when it comes to a story like this. If this first book is any indication of what’s to come, readers of this series should be in for a real treat when it’s all said and done.
In the end, I honestly can’t think of another book like this that is out right now, and that’s a good thing. I do remember the old CSI books by IDW a few years back, but those really only appealed to CSI fans. And while fans of the crime genre should certainly enjoy this book, I believe this murder mystery has much broader appeal and is definitely worth checking out…Until next time!
DIVINITY III: STALINVERSE #1Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Trevor Hairsine
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
With Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine's third DIVINITY series, things go into 'elseworld' territory. As something has changed the history of the world, allowing the USSR to conquer it all. Matt Kindt has written several titles for Valiant, including DIVINITY and DIVINITY II, while British artist Trevor Hairsine, who worked on a fair amount of titles for Marvel before, helps Kindt on these DIVINITY series.
So what is Divinity? Well it's a he, Abram Adams, a Russian cosmonaut from the 1960's sent into deep space and returning will god-like powers. Divinity 2, as it were, is Adams' partner, Myshka, also returning with god-like powers. On some level you can think of this like Miracle Man, Dr. Manhattan, Marvel's SECRET WARS II or DC's THE WEIRD- how does the world deal with all powerful being.
As DIVINITY III kicks off, we are dropped into an 'elseworld', getting the run down of how the USSR managed to take over the world. Part of the fun, is discovering where Valiant's popular characters are in this world (just like any Elseworld from DC or What If from Marvel). Here come the spoilers: First, we see how the USSR is keeping everyone in line: Blood Shot, Sting (aka Peter from Harbinger), X-O Manowar and Shadowman. And they all work under the guiding hand of Colin King. Although for reasons unrevealed yet, Colin is the only one who knows the world has changed (mind you, we don't know what caused the world to change either (first guess, Myshka). Plus no one knows Colin King is Ninjak. Ninjak has been working hard in the past few years. He’s been working undercover to become a high ranking Soviet Office dealing with their psiots (the Valiant word for metahumans), and looking for a way to return things to normal. At the end of this issue, he feels his only hope is Divinity, who has been locked away in an insane asylum. Meanwhile, Divinity 2, Myshka, is out claiming the other planets of the solar system for Russia with other psiots.
Clearly, if you enjoy the Valiant Universe and or the last two DIVINITY series, you will eat this up with a spoon. Anyone else should process with caution, as you will be a little lost, jumping into this book. Mind you, if you enjoy alt-history stories, you should dig this anyway. The bulk of this issue is a set-up, but as I mentioned, seeing what everyone is up to is half the fun. Aside from that, I can't really say what's good or bad, because Kindt's script is pretty straight forward. Although I suppose that, in itself, is a good thing.
Hairsine does nice job of drawing everything. It's a bit loose, but still nice work. The 'Rasputin' bearded Bloodshot is sure a hit. Bottom line, this should be yet another good book from Valiant.
POWER MAN & IRON FIST: SWEET CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #1Writer: David Walker
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
In an attempt to unblacken my godless, heathen soul, I’m doubling down on comic book Christmas Specials!! Following up my digesting of the near 100-page giant of Holiday Cheer that DC put forth last week in anthology form, I grabbed me a tighter and lighter plate of Christmas treats with the POWER MAN AND IRON FIST model. I want to say that it’s a classic example of “the best gifts come in small packages” but actually, much as I enjoyed this piece of holiday mood lightener (and I sure needed it over the holiday weekend), it goes way quicker than one would like. Just as the stockings are being hung and the chestnuts start their roasting (or, in my house, the cats start dismantling things) everyone packs up their gifts and heads home to do it again next year.
The issue starts like any good Christmas tale does: With people waiting around in deep lines for hot new gift items to buy. In this case, two of those suckers, I mean diligent shoppers, are Marvel heroes Luke Cage and Iron Fist, with the young spawn of the former in tow. And immediately, the “good look” that has really made this series as pleasant as it has been under the pen of writer David Walker comes into effect, and that is the almost ADHD bounciness of Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist. His abject glee over the holiday season is contagious and ramped up to eleven in the presence of young Danielle, Cage’s daughter, as they try to and land them some Schnuckies--the aforementioned hot commodity of materialism this Christmas season in the Marvel U. For the series thus far, his boyish enthusiasm has definitely been a highlight and a good juxtaposition to Cage’s “serious dad” appearance and some of the real world infused storylines they have been placed in as a tandem, and this tale is no exception, even if it is just “about some toys.” And that juxtaposition plays itself out well again here, as Danny and Danielle sing the Schnuckie jingle and Cage thinks the world has lost its goddamn mind and stumbles into newly mothered Jessica Drew. Enthusiasm is met with holiday dread and overwhelmed parenting and a good time is had by about a third of all involved. And then motherfucking Krampus and Damion Hellstrom show up and it just becomes my kind of Christmas party.
But what also happens is the book kind of just ends. Walker and guest artist Scott Hepburn create some fun and amusing holiday jabs and material that brings forth the holiday spirit and then bring some amusing team up characters to the party to have a supernatural dust up, and then the party is over before every is even done donning their hats. It’s definitely a case of “wanting more of a good thing” but it’s also more that things do just resolve fast once they really get going. By the time Krampus is revealed and his grand plan for eating the souls of children across the world is in effect and Hellstrom is on the scene, the story ends basically the way you would expect it to give some allusion just a page or two into the conflict. It doesn’t make the issue bad or wreck my enjoyment of the whole shebang, it just makes the raucous diversion this comic is all that much more fleeting in a year ending season that needs a boost. Trust me, I feel kind of foolish kind of knocking a holiday book that turned out way better than most one-offs around this part of the calendar year wish they could be, but it’s the holiday comic book we both needed and deserved and these celebrations tend to drain on you eventually.
End of the day though, this was a great pick me up issue and a celebration of why the book of POWER MAN AND IRON FIST proper has been such a treat this year. Danny Rand and Luke Cage make the best “opposites attract” pairing in comics, filling that Yin and Yang personality mashing tradition of comic book tandems like Green Arrow and Green Lantern, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle and so on have carried on down the years. That David Walker and his compatriots on this book have been able to retool one of the original “hard traveling’” tag teams from forty years ago and make them as fresh now as they were funky then has been an accomplishment worthy of hanging one’s headgear on, because that’s a saying people still use, I guess. And that Walker and company were able to take those personalities and turn them into a perfect last sparkling ornament laid perfectly into place on the tree. Unlike my usual Yule affair that is more cat target practice than anything, I look forward to unpacking this (Sweet) Christmas again next year.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
LADY MECHANIKA: LA DAMA DE LA MUERTE #3Writers: Joe Benitez and M.M. Chen
Artists: Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel
Publisher: Benitez Productions
Reviewer: Masked Man
You may recall that I said the last issue of LADY MECHANIKA: LA DAMA DE LA MUERTE had one of the biggest holy #@(k moments I've ever scene in a comic. Well as the story comes to a close, and if you were too dumb to check it out for yourself, I will now spoil it.
Ok, serious spoiler time people, this will greatly lessen the impact of the story. But a) that's what we do here and b) maybe it will help get you off the couch and buy this. So in a 'past' adventure of Lady Mechanika, freshly on her own (as she was hooked up with some bad guys, after she woke up mechanical (the big mystery of the character), wanders into a small Mexican town. This sets up a typical 'man with no name' story. With the bad guys dressed as spirits, during the day of the dead festival, for extra color. These bandits are rather brutal, maiming children, and Mechanika easily chases them off. When she tracks them down, she discovers they have doubled back and kill everyone. Everyone, I mean, frick'n everyone; small children, babies, everyone in the town. While she is in shock over it all, they shoot her dead- or mostly dead. This issue, she gets back on her feet, and debates whether or not she is an angel of death sent to free the remaining villages from the bandits. Either way, with a serious mad on she takes out the bandits once and for all.
This is one of the darkest 'adventure' comics I've ever read. There's not much of a happy ending, just vengeance. But then most of Mechanika's stories don't have happy endings, the evil just stops, thanks to her mechanical fists or guns. But yeah, this one is something else. If I have one complaint, it would be that the final battle was a bit too typical. I would have preferred seeing Mechanika really drive a stake (was it were) through the 'hearts' of these bandits- a little more eye-for-a-eye I guess.
As always Joe Benitez does a great job drawing this issue. His level of detail and style of storytelling is really affective. Again, kudos to Martin Montiel for helping Benitez keep it all on track and keeping the art at such a high level.
Another great story from Benitez and friends. Even as a non-steampunk fan, Lady Mechanika is one of my favorite books. You should really try it.
GAMORA # 1Writer: Nicole Perlman
Artist: Marco Checchetto
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Marvel's favorite female assassin finally gets her own series--written by Nicole Perlman, no less. If you didn't know, Perlman is what you call an overnight sensation (which usually means she toiled away long hours before finally getting noticed (snagging a spot in Marvel's Screenwriting program didn't hurt either)). What she wound-up writing was GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, as in the MOVIE! Now she's been tapped to write just about everything: CAPTAIN MARVEL, BLACK WIDOW, ROM, SHERLOCK HOLMES 3. I'm willing to bet two years ago no one would take her phone call, now they are killing themselves for five minutes of her time. Good for her.
Funny enough, the thing I didn't like too much about this comic was, how close it was to the movie! But I've been reading Gamora for a while now, and on some level Jim Starlin (her creator) is the only one who gets her. But that's not to say this isn't a good issue. In fact, even as I started off with my grumpy disposition, she quickly hooked me with the narrative and kept me curious.
So what happens (aka spoilers)? Well it starts in the past with Gamora as an 18 year old, living in a steel room being raised/trained by Thanos. She also lives with her 'sister' Nebula. Both of them look more like the movie versions than their comic book selves. As you may guess, her original 'body sock' and fur cape is the outfit I like the best. Like most movie costumes, her's just looks boring (before you right me off as sexist, I'll mention I'm not asking her to wear that ridiculous 'thong outfit' Jorge Luis Pereira and Adi Granov put her in). Anyway, Thanos gives Gamora a birthday gift: Allowing her to kill the entire Badoon Royal bloodline (History / Recon time, so originally Gamora's planet was genocided by the Universal Church of Truth (aka Magnus), it was then changed to the Badoon; and now hinted that Thanos did it, lying to Gamora that the Badoon did it). While she is doing that, Thanos and Nebula are raiding the Badoon's royal vault for an object containing energy from the big bang. Returning to the ship, Nebula tells Gamora that she has learned of Badoon Princess hidden away on a $h!t-hole planet (fyi- all royal female babies are supposed to be killed). This surviving Princess means Gamora failed to kill everyone. So Gamora is off to kill her. While the Badoon, in an effort restore stability to their planet are trying to recover the Princess as well. For his part, Thanos is quite pissed off that Nebula has 'tricked' Gamora into this fools error (fyi- Nebula just f's with Gamora every chance she gets).
So yeah I dig all that. There are enough moving parts to this plot that I'm quite curious how it will all turn out. The only guarantee I see is that no one is going to get what they want. And it should be a lot of fun and pretty cool watching it all blow-up in everyone's face.
Perlman is joined by Italian artist Marco Checchetto, who has been bouncing around Marvel comics for a while now. He's worked on SQUADRON SUPREME, PUNISHER, AVENGING SPIDER-MAN and other series. He does pretty great here. Nice looking figures with some good looking space opera. I really like the spiral staircase page.
So while Marvel is tinkering with these characters to make them more like their movie counterparts, GAMORA is starting out pretty damn impressively. I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.
By Masked Man
In this day and age, it's hard to remember a time when there was only one(!?) Avengers comic book. From 1963 to 1984 there was only one Avengers title. What happened in 1984? Well Marvel decided to expand the Avengers coverage with a Los Angeles team, enter the WEST COAST AVENGERS! Before starting its 102 issue run in 1985, with the likes of Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas, Marvel tested the waters with a four issue limited series (DC called 'em mini-series), written by Roger Stern with art by Bob Hall and Brett Breeding.
The four issues were chock-full of old Marvel goodness and obviously proved to be a hit. The team was led by Hawkeye, followed by his then wife Mockingbird (Avenger newbie), with returning Avengers Tigra and Wonder Man (sporting his action-man jacket look) and replacement Iron Man, Jim Rhodes. For a guest-star they had the hero who masqueraded as a villain, the Shroud. Now let's jump into it!
The series starts pretty much with a set-up issue. Hawkeye, who is ecstatic about leading his own Avenger team, sends out invitation/summons: Recruiting Iron Man, Tigra and Wonder Man. As they get together at the new LA compound, the Shroud shows up tailing Tigra. Not knowing Tigra was tapped by the Avengers, some of her worried friends asked him to make sure she was all right. Of course there are fights with the Shroud getting his ribs bruised before Tigra convinces everyone that he's really a good guy. One thing I liked about this issue is the cover, which features characters who may or may not be on the team. One of the heads is Rom the Space Knight- yeah, like that was happening!
The second issue starts slowly as the team works on team-work, using Iron Man as the enemy in some war games. At this point only the readers know Iron Man is really Jim Rhodes and not Tony Stark. Meanwhile, Wonder Man has a run in with a bank robber calling himself the Blank. The Blank is armed with a force-field that turns him into an invincible walking blank (otherwise known as a piece of zip-a-tone). Still, it's not enough against Wonder Man, as he barely manages to escape. Turns out, the Blank is just a dork who got his hands on some super-tech which is spilling energy into the dimension that Thor dumped Graviton!
In the third issue, the team is still working with growing pains, as Tigra and Wonder Man aren't sure they have what it takes to be Avengers. Meanwhile, Graviton has fully formed and with the Blank as a flunky, starts setting himself up as new LA crime boss (really?). This causes him to bump heads with the Shroud. As luck would have it, Wonder Man and Tigra team-up with the Shroud to see what this new gang, fronted by the Blank, is up to. As $hi!t hits the fan, Graviton steps in and wipes the floor and walls with Tigra, the Shroud, Wonder Man and the Blank (who has worn out his usefulness).
Moving to the climax, the rest of the team learns what happened. While the Shroud is too injured to help and Wonder Man is stuck at the bottom of Graviton's swimming pool, as a trophy. The team also learns that Rhody is in the Iron Man suit. Hawkeye worries about screwing up and killing the West Coast Avengers before they even start. Rhodey reminds Hawkeye that he was the guy who saved everyone in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES SECRET WARS. So Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Iron Man and Tigra plan their next move. First, they infiltrate Graviton's headquarters with Tigra posing as Madame Masque. Once they discovered Wonder Man's location and surround Graviton, they attack. Luckily, Graviton hasn't fully recovered from is dimensional ordeal giving these heroes a decent chance against him. Wonder Man has a great scene busting loose from the swimming pool and Iron Man hooks into the California power grid to take Graviton out- just about anyway. With a job well done, Hawkeye is hopeful that the West Coast Avengers, under his watch of course, are here to stay.
While Stern's script is fine and good, the thing that really stands out to me in these four issues is Bob Hall and Brett Breeding artwork. It's just 'how to draw Marvel Comics' to a 'T'. Great looking superhero work. The scenes of the iconic Iron Man flying around and blasting stuff really makes me miss those days. The end barbecue, with everyone in full costume, reminds me of those kinder, gentler days. Just throw the apron over all that purple leather Hawkeye! To throw stones, when the regular series kicked off, Allen Milgrom became the regular penciler. Milgrom could do amazing work, but more often than not, he was very dull, with very run of the mill panelwork. Tony Stark, now back in the silver Iron Man suit, replaced Jim Rhodes as well. Which is a shame, because Rhodey worked so well with the team dynamic.
These four issues have been reprinted from time to time, from WEST COAST AVENGERS: ASSEMBLE and the Omnibus's. Of course, that won't get you all the great ads of the day! I'm taking movie posters for THE LAST STAR FIGHTER and BUCKAROO BANZAI. Video games like FROGGER II, MARIO BROS, and STAR WARS: THE ARCADE GAME. You could even buy some diamond rings in these issues. On a sad note, Jim Shooter wrote a short piece about the passing of Sol Brodsky. Stan Lee's behind the scenes man who helped make the Marvel Age. You also had SECRET WARS toys, Saturday Morning Cartoon line-ups (MUPPET BABIES, DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, MISTER T) and more. So while this WEST COAST AVENGERS wasn't an iconic run or anything, it was a lot of 80's Marvel fun.
And it proved that the industry could sustain another Avengers comic- which we've been paying for ever since!
By Masked Man
Well as we move from the religious holiday that America has declared war on (glup) to the New Year (says you, replies Asia), it's time to hang up the new calendar! As a comic book fan, I enjoy the typical super-hero calendar, but seriously, over the years they have started to suck.
These days a calendar from DC or Marvel, or a licensed one from them is full of old artwork and stock images. Why? Because it's cheap and I guess there is no money in calendars. That said I haven't bought a super-hero calendar in years! Don't get me wrong, I like old covers and stock images, depending on what they are. I think the last calendar I did buy was DC's SUPERPOWERS calendar from 1988. While it was still quite boring, it had 12 or so images from Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and he is just always amazing. But seriously, the same frick'n Batman covers again?! The same Marvel Silver Age covers again!? Yeah, no thanks. A few times I've created my own super-hero calendar, printing on 11x17 paper with artwork from older calendars, when they had original artwork.
What, you say? DC and Marvel used to put out calendars with original artwork on them!?!? Yup, in the 1970's and 1980's, they used to pay their top artists for new artwork to fill a calendar and they were all frick'n awesome! Marvel pretty much kicked it off in 1975, and kept in going until 1981. Sometimes they featured a single character, like Dr. Strange (?) in 1980, the Hulk in 1979, and Spider-Man in 1978, but most of the time they featured everyone (1975, 1976 (heavy on the Bicentennial), 1977, and 1981) For DC's part they put out three awesome calendars in three years. The first one in 1976 was an all Neal Adams affair featuring beauty shots of all their heroes. In 1977 it was a battle royal each month, with a hero slugging it out with a villain. This one was drawn by a wide range of artists, but each month was pretty awesome. 1978 was filled with disasters, all villain made as the heroes came to the rescue (yeah I don't get that topic, but it was great!). In 1986 they did a giant door poster calendar featuring artwork by George Perez, Garcia-Lopez, Marshall Rogers, Gil Kane and others.
Having great feature artwork wasn't all they did too. On the pages with the actually dates, they would jam in creator birthdays, characters birthdays and other 'day in history' facts. Marvel was the best at this. If you couldn't get to a con, these crummy b/w photos were most likely the only time you could see what a creator looked like. And of course they were all jammed with corny jokes. Marvel seems too corporate serious for corny jokes these days.
Anyway, while I was too young to buy any of these when they came out, boy do I miss them! I would buy a new version of these calendars in a heartbeat. Especially, compared to the tired, boring calendars they print today. Hell, I'd probably get two, one for the office and one for the home. Seriously though, if Boris Vallejo can have a successful calendar every year, you'd think Alex Ross could.
Even if Dynamite Entertainment put one together with some of his covers: Green Hornet, The Shadow, Doc Savage, Steve Austin, John Carter, I'd so get that over a high priced hardcover book. But even artists like Ivan Reis, Fiona Staples, Greg Smallwood, Art Adams, Dave Johnson, Frank Quietly, and Jenny Frison should have their work showcased in calendars (poor man art prints, sure, sure).
I suppose there are reasons that my tiny little mind can't understand, to why DC and Marvel doesn't do this anymore. Though I could see Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, IDW, BOOM or just about anyone else being able to sell 'original' art calendars of their properties. Because until then, I'm just not going to buy another clip-art calendar- or one filled with a bunch photos of actors, photos we've already seen a hundred times.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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