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The ’90s Revisited: Thor #500

90s_revisited

thor_500Sunlight and Shadows

Writer: Wm. Messner-Loebs
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Lettering: Jonathan Babcock
Color Art: Marie Javins
Computer Separations: Malibu
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 1996
Cover Price: $2.50

I’ve long been "aware of" this issue. I vaguely recall seeing advertising for it–either in house ads, or Wizard Magazine, or both. And I’ve seen the cover image a number of times over the years. But somehow, I never before now actually got to READ the issue. I don’t THINK I’ve even owned a copy before now, as it’s not one that I "commonly" find in quarter bins and such. So when I recently came across it in a dollar bin, it felt like a no-brainer to pick up, to finally satisfy my curiosity at its content.

Plus, there’s the fact that it was "A Marvel 1st! Fantastic 500th Issue!" (as the cover proclaims). Back when Marvel titles had their LEGITIMATE numbering scheme, and many titles had high numbers, at that. This was Thor‘s 500th issue. Captain America was in the mid-400s; Fantastic Four had hit 400 about a year earlier, and Avengers had just crossed the 400 mark…and Uncanny X-Men wasn’t terribly far behind closing on 350ish, and I think even Incredible Hulk was somewhere in the latter 400s.

One of the more striking (for me) aspects of the cover is that THIS Thor has a rather savage look to him, and lacks really anything familiar-looking except the hammer. Wild, extremely-long hair, some sort of skintight costume that I would have sworn from "memory" was actually a shirtless-Thor getup (a trick of coloring, perhaps, given he IS shirtless within the issue, and the image for the next issue also shows him shirtless), and could almost be ’90s-Sabretooth’s brother quite easily by appearance.

As the issue opens, Thor is in the ruined city of Asgard, wondering what happened and where everyone has gone. He gets in a fight with some Trolls that have claimed the area, and eventually comes across several imprisoned/enslaved individuals…including Dr. Stephen Strange, aka Dr. Strange! Strange catches him up on a bit of recent stuff (presumably recounting the previous issue or few issues, if the reader–like myself–has not read them), and we head into the Enchantress teaming with a Frost Giant. When the Frost Giants attack Asgard’s ruins, they find Strange and Thor battle-ready; as well as a surprise "ally" in Ulik the Troll. Amidst the unfolding situation we learn that Odin had a plan to save the gods, involving their being sent to Earth as mortals with no memory of who/what they truly are. Thor regains his hammer, repels the invaders, and stands amidst his small band of allies as they realize their fight is not over, but must be continued on Earth!

Rounding out the issue, we have some pages of frivolous back-matter…a double-page quiz, a double-page primer of several of Thor’s looks over the years, a double-page ‘family tree’ of Odin; a double-page fact-sheet of Thor’s hammer, and two pages of letters (remember "letters pages"???).

The cover proclaims this as a "Double-Sized Issue!" but I only count 26 pages of story-content. I’m pretty sure–even in the 1990s–regular Marvel comics were NOT short 13-page stories! So that’s a bit misleading…at least if one (like me) counts an issue’s size on its STORY content, not so-called or frivolous "bonus content"/back matter (that if ever TRULY "bonus" would not be included in paid page count anyway). Including the backmatter and letters pages, I only count 36 non-ad pages, which still would suggest a non-double-sized issue would be only 18 pages. So while this might feel like a "bigger" issue (it does have "extra" pages/content), I don’t see that it qualifies as double-sized.

Then there’s the price of the issue: a big, round number 500, a Marvel first at the time, and the cover price was "only" $2.50 (at least the edition I have–if there were variant/other editions, I’m not aware off the top of my head) which is not MUCH more than the $1.50-$1.95ish I think most issues were at the time…while extra-sized issues tend to pose a better value as the extra pages don’t require an extra cover and separate physical production, I would expect a truly double-sized issue to have been in the $3-4 range in 1996.

Art-wise, the issue is not bad. I recognize Deodato‘s name at LEAST from being aware of his Wonder Woman work. Overall, though, I can’t say this issue’s art really stands out in and of itself…what stands out is the "Savage Thor" look as a character design, not necessarily (offhand) the art as art. Presumably Marvel was really going for the changed-up look to Thor, getting away from the ‘classic’ look(s), infusing the character with the wilder ’90s sensibility, and Deodato brought that to this issue quite successfully! Whether its Malibu‘s coloring, the art itself, or other factors, this vaguely puts me in mind of some Ultraverse stuff, with Thor on the cover looking like a wild-haired Hardcase with a hammer. I think the main complaint I’d have with the art is the stupid ’90s trend of double-page splashes where you have to physically turn the entire issue 90 degrees to follow. I’m pretty sure that the same dimensions could fit proportionately on a single page without having to be blown up double-sized, especially when there’s little to no dialogue to be read!

Story-wise, I didn’t really "get" much out of this issue. Something to it felt rather repetitive, as if Thor is always finding Asgard in ruins, the gods missing, and having to seek them out. Or always coming across an unexpected ally in odd circumstances. Or always fending off/facing attacking trolls and/or frost giants or dealing with the Enchantress. I definitely got the sense that this was a latter chapter of a story, and suspect I’d appreciate it a lot more if I’d read the previous several issues. I also have the 21-years-later knowledge of the title running only to #502 or so before reverting to Journey Into Mystery again for about a year, while Thor was in the Heroes Reborn world, prior to the launch of the Heroes Return iteration of the title. That there are 2 more issues of this title AS Thor make this feel like a not-quite-penultimate chapter. Of course, having had only the initial "hype" around the time this issue was originally published combined with its continuing "mystery" to me for just over two decades, I cannot be too surprised that this failed to meet a thus-built set of expectations of grandeur and awesomeness.

Given the 20+ years since this was published, the 1998 reboot, the JMS reboot, the last few years’ Unworthy Thor stuff, and the new Legacy renumbering to #700 (200 issues SINCE this one!)…this doesn’t feel all that relevant nor particularly memorable or of any real significance…at least as a random, arbitrary single issue.

If you’re seeking it out already because of a personal interest, this is well worth the $1 or so if it’s in a bargain bin. I don’t recommend it just for the sake of reading a #500, or just to read an arbitrary anniversary issue or such. If you’re reading stuff from this period it’s probably more worthwhile, or as a focal issue to build a short reading-run around. Had I gotten this from a quarter-bin instead of $1-bin, I probably would have snagged from #490 or so through #502 and perhaps tried to read the run as a larger single story.

This issue leaves me curious as to the full "end" of the volume, and I realized I have the Journey Into Mystery run that followed as a collected edition, so if I get particularly ambitious, I can probably fill in context before and see where things go quite easily if I so choose.

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A Lengthy Stay in the ’90s: Savage Dragon

Since Savage Dragon #225 hit, I’ve found myself on quite a Savage Dragon binge. I already had a couple collected editions–including the original–Baptism by Fire–and quickly acquired several more. I also had recently bought and read the Image 10th Anniversary hardcover’s Savage Dragon piece. But that wasn’t enough for me.

I was also pretty sure I’d had a stack of the first couple dozen or so issues…but I was unable to find them, going through a huge portion of my boxes. Finding myself really wanting to read the stuff–and in color, not "just" the black-and-white reprints of the Savage Dragon Archives tpbs–I turned to online comic shops (specifically Midtown Comics, Lone Star Comics, and Mile High), as well as local shops Comic Heaven and Carol and John’s…and just since buying #225…I’ve put together a collection of the original mini-series 1-3; ongoing series 1-101 and a few scattered after that; as well as the Mars Attacks Savage Dragon 1-4, Mars Attacks Image 1-4, Savage Dragon: Red Horizon 1-3, Vanguard 1-6, and Shattered Image 1-4.

Of those, I’ve read the minis and the main series to #50, and several other one-shot/tie-in issues.

savage_dragon_1_to_50

Minus Spawn #52, the above graphic is the bulk of my reading lately…even to falling behind more on new/current comics!

And of course, I still have Savage Dragon #s 51-101 to fly through in the near-future.

Beyond that, I want to track down the various associated stuff–like Freak Force 1-18, the Superpatriot series, I believe there was a second Freak Force book, and a second Vanguard one. There’s also the Savage Dragon: Sex & Violence mini (that I believe took place about halfway through what I’ve already read of the main book).

One "trouble" now is that after so quickly getting such a significant run…it’s going to really try my patience piecing together  the latter 125 issues…some issues I do have, plenty more I’m missing…and now being past the "’90s glut" where everyone was printing huge numbers of everything and "everyone" had all the early issues (making them definite 25-cent-bin fodder now)…the later books did not have such high print runs or popularity/enthusiasm and such, and as such, where they ARE available as back issues, they’re more likely to command "modern" back-issue pricing and such.

But then, I have so much other reading to do, that I want to do, that by the time I get through another 50 issues I already have, I’ll probably be more than fine with a "break" while I get an issue or few here or there on a much slower basis!

The ’90s Revisited: The Savage Dragon #1

90s_revisited

savage_dragon_1992_0001Baptism of Fire

Creator/Writer/Artist/Inker: Erik Larsen
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Jannie Wong
Color Separations: Digital Chameleon
Published by: Malibu Comics / Image Comics
Cover Date: July 1992
Cover Price: $1.95

I remember seeing THE earliest issues of The Savage Dragon "on the stands" back at Capp’s Comics, back in the day. I don’t recall if I saw the first issue of Spawn or not, but Savage Dragon stuck out to me, somehow…I’m pretty sure it was the cover, with the bright yellow and red/oranginess and the main character charging forward. It was very much an "image" book in that regard–all flash, at minimum. But I’ve "always" since then been at least loosely aware of the title’s continued existence and ongoing nature, continually marching forth into higher and higher numbers (much like Spawn). As of this writing, the ongoing Savage Dragon title’s just had its 225th issue…which combined with my reading in full the Dragon story from the Image 10th Anniversary hardcover, and the ready availability of several collected volumes at significant discount and having a bit more on my shelf already than I realized has really rekindled an active interest in the character for me.

So what better way of things than to go back to the very beginning, to this very first issue of a three-issue limited series (when there was no guarantee the character’d support anything beyond that)?

I know the basics of the character’s origin, and little bits here and there, so this issue isn’t as shocking or such as it may otherwise have been. In a lot of ways, there’s something about this that reminds me a bit of the Ultraverse books–plenty of superhero trappings, but some definite, overt violence that makes the book more "mature" without veering grossly into "adults-ONLY" territory.

We open on a green-skinned fin-headed cop leaping into battle with some guy named Cutthroat, and the two beating on each other. The green guy eventually wins out and Cutthroat and his girlfriend are arrested. We then flash back to the guy in a burning field, and then waking in a hospital to officer Frank Darling, who questions him on who he is and how he came to be there–none of which the guy remembers. Darling tries to recruit him for the police, but "Dragon" refuses. But when his boss is threatened and then the warehouse blown up, killing him…Dragon agrees to try the police thing. He’s a one-man SWAT team, able to take on super-powered criminals the "regular" police don’t stand a chance against. We see Officer Dragon in more action, showing off his stuff and meeting others (criminal and costumed vigilante alike), before seeing a group of super-powered criminals about to be unleashed…and perhaps making for a rather short career for Dragon!

Story-wise, this is pretty basic. It feels like there’s a lot more to it conceptually than actual story-wise…and it’s nearly impossible for me to evaluate this "cold," as I know what I do and so can’t help but come to this already knowing a lot of stuff that wasn’t even available when this was published. That said, it’s cool to read this, consciously aware of things and how they go, while seeing the beginning foundation of it all start to unfold here. This also does as a good first issue should…namely, it introduces us to the titular character, shows him in actions, gives us a bit of an "origin" (at least how he came to be a cop), introduces us to some "minor"/supporting characters, gives us a villain (in this case, several!), and sows some seeds of what’s to come and makes you want to know where things go from here.

The art is solid…the character is very recognizable, of course…and though I’d expect a certain "roughness" to it, there are panels that I’d swear you could show me out of context and I wouldn’t be able to concretely place them as 1993, 2002, or 2017. Larsen‘s work is definitely more refined 225+ issues later, but it’s quite cool to see that he’s held a consistency across 25 years with the character and book.

I definitely look forward to diving into the series and seeing how far I get…whether I do a lengthy read now or "soon," but at least the rest of this mini-series!

I know I got this issue at least a couple times from quarter bins/50-cent bins…I don’t know if (for whatever 3 or so copies I have throughout my collection) I’ve even paid cover price for the issue TOTAL yet. It’s definitely worth a quarter, and if you can get the whole mini-series, I daresay it’s at least worth cover price per issue to get the whole story.

It’s also interesting to note that even though this bears the Image comics "i" logo on the front…this was actually published by Malibu!

For a general reading experience, I’d recommend the collected edition…I know Larsen did some slight revisions and reordered the pages into a story-chronological order for the collected volume and fleshed thinks out a bit…so you’ll have a more thorough and refined story reading that way. Still, I enjoyed reading this as a single issue…and even found that there’s a bound-in mini-poster ripe for framing and hanging on my art-wall!

The ’90s Revisited: Eclipso #1

90s_revisited

eclipso_0001The Count

Plotter/Breakdown Artist: Keith Giffen
Penciller: Bart Sears
Scripter: Robert Loren Fleming
Inkers: Ray Kryssing, Mark Pennington
Letters: Gaspar
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editors: Michael Eury, KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November, 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

Though I was aware of The Joker and probably Catwoman and the Penguin, as well as Lex Luthor, Bizarro, and Mr. Mxyzptlk to name a few comic book villains…MY first wide-spread, "universe"-threatening villain was Eclipso.

Yeah.

See, I was introduced to comics in 1988, began "collecting" comics myself in 1989, and was just starting to "get back into" comics in the summer of 1992. While hanging out one day, a friend shared with me a couple new comics he’d gotten–including "a" Superman #1. With Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1, I was introduced to Eclipso, and the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story that was taking place in the various annuals that summer.

Get to the end of that crossover, and I remember an ad for Eclipso and Valor–two series "spinning out" from the "event."

Nearly twenty-five years later, I’ve finally READ Eclipso’s first issue!

I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly–perhaps some extension of The Darkness Within, but with newer or lesser-known characters, given the "big event" was over with. Perhaps I expected some loose-knit "team" to have been assembled, perhaps Bruce Gordon gathering folks together to go after Eclipso. What I GOT, though, was a story of Eclipso possessing an outcast and slaughtering a village, essentially reminding himself that he was capable of this, particularly when not hampered by super-heroes. Later while checking out the slaughter, a black diamond is found and taken–with the hopes that its value will make up for the loss of the village and prevent some Count from shooting the messenger. Of course, this being Eclipso and that a black diamond…well, Eclipso feeds on the Count’s anger and possesses him…and slaughters the Count’s household. When the police arrive to investigate this…Eclipso is ready. The black diamond is flipped to a sergeant who is goaded to anger…and thus Eclipso has another minion with whom to continue to kill. And for him…it’s a good day to be a villain.

While we have a narrative story here, the issue is particularly interesting to me as the issue is "hosted" by Eclipso himself, essentially venting to the reader about stuff and showing off to the reader–as he’s got no one else to do it with. He shows us where he came from, what he’s capable of, and lets us in on a bit of his thinking and reasoning and plans for the future…namely, he’s learned from recently-transpired events and is trying a different means of getting whatever he wants.

Story-wise, I really dug this issue. As said, it took me nearly 25 years to get around to reading this, and where I’d expect it to be a letdown for so many years of NOT being disappointed by it to actually read the thing…I really enjoyed this quite a bit, in what it is. Not for the slaughter and casual taking of lives, but as a first issue about a villain that sets him up for his own series. This isn’t making the villain into an anti-hero…it’s the villain BEING a villain. He doesn’t even need a super-hero to fight to do nasty stuff, to be vile and dark and all that. He’s just that regardless of a bright foil. And having the character talking to the reader, aware of us following him through these pages…it’s like a dark take on the usually-lighter way I think many think of for Deadpool, She-Hulk, or Harley Quinn. Plus there’s the nostalgia of the notion of the "hosts" of the House of Secrets books, and here’s Eclipso "hosting" his own book. I later realized that it makes sense, too…the character first appeared IN House of Secrets!

Visually, I really liked this issue. This is Eclipso as I think of the character by default…perhaps because this issue has Bart Sears as the artist, and I believe he was the artist on the bookend Eclipso: The Darkness Within #s 1-2, which adds a great consistency from that mini-series/event into this ongoing series.

Story and writing, I think I really enjoyed that there were no heroes here. It gives room for the Eclipso character to be shown–if not at his WORST–then at his default. And bad as that is, it at least hints at how bad he can be if he’s actually worked up or challenged.

For years, I’ve thought that an Eclipso: The Darkness Within omnibus would be fantastic. Now I’m even more convinced of that…but adding to it the wish for an Eclipso omnibus for this series, and perhaps other appearances through the years. It’s also interesting to note that this was a first issue of a brand-new series, spinning out of an EVENT, with high-end talent creatively…yet it is a standard-sized, standard-priced single-cover first issue. No variants, no fancy gimmicks, no extra-pages to lure someone in or jack up the price…it’s just a comic, that happens to be a #1, that gives a good start to a new series coming off an event.

I won’t say this is by any means a "happy" issue…but it stands alone quite well, and is worth snagging if you can get it for $1 or less, just to read this issue, regardless of anything else read of the character…provided you’re interested in Eclipso. As for me…this has me psyched to read the rest of the series, as well as increased interest in finally going through my Showcase Presents volume and perhaps hunting down some other Eclipso issues.

The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #14

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0014Yesterday’s Sins 4 of 4: Guys and Draals

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

We open on narration from Guy talking about his opponent–his decidedly duplicitous Draal duplicate. He and some fellow Draal prisoners–Green Lanterns–are acting on an escape attempt, but find themselves facing the newly powered-up evil duplicate of Guy Gardner! As the battle rages, Guy-Prime recognizes a notice from his stolen ring…it’s about to run out of power. This leaves the dupe on even terms with the original, and Guy lays into it. He’s eventually taken down by the Draal, who realize they still need more from him, and so once more, Guy faces the brain-drain Xanagryph critter. Flashback-wise, we pick up with Guy in the hospital with his older brother Mace–who’s been shot. His parents are there, lamenting their favorite son. While there, they learn that Mace wasn’t "on the job" when he was shot–he’s dirty, and even if he lives, he will no longer be a cop. Soon after, when he does wake up (and learns he’ll never walk again, let alone have a career as a cop) he kills himself. This sends the parents into a downward spiral that Guy can’t do anything about…so Guy gets out. He graduates from college, works with disadvantaged kids, and even winds up involved with the Green Lantern Corps. Injuries end that for a time, but then a great Crisis led the Guardians to heal him, and Guy does become a Green Lantern, becomes a part of the Justice League, and gets to be an actual super-hero! Eventually the Guardians take his ring, though, and he winds up seeking out the yellow ring that once belonged to Sinestro, and currently gives him his powers. Back in the present, the Draals are mostly defeated, the prisoners control the ship…but the Evil Guy is on Earth, and Guy himself isn’t presently sure how to defeat it…but knows that going to face it will also force him to face his past in-person.

As is so often the case, there’s loads of potential built to, so much expectation I can build up based on the opening chapters, that it’s rare for a conclusion to be truly satisfactory anymore. And that applies here to this 24-year-old story as well. Some part of me was hoping the conclusion would be more memorable, more DEFINITIVE, more CONCLUSION-Y. Instead, the issue basically ends on a cliffhanger, as well as a note to check out an issue of Justice League, to boot! And that’s rather annoying for an issue billed as "4 of 4."

BUT.

But, this issue is #14 of an ONGOING SERIES. This is NOT the final/fourth issue of a four-issue MINI-series. This is the latest monthly issue of a monthly series. So of COURSE it’s not gonna be close-the-book, total finale, that’s all that’s wrote, absolutely concluding possible events. So this actually does well for itself: we get conclusion on the IMMEDIATE story: the Draal are defeated, Guy is no longer their prisoner, they’re no longer using the creature to access his memories…we’re done with the flashbacks and such with the present day being like a framing device. Story-wise, we’re good…some of my expectation is SURELY from subconsciously latching onto the YEAR ONE, even though I’d consciously noted that to begin with as being tacked on and NOT applicable here in the way it was with other stories.

And this issue is definitely a success in that, even all these years later, re-reading it right now, I want to read that Justice League issue. I want to track down and read Guy Gardner #15. And isn’t that a sign of a good comic? That a reader wants to read the next issue? That there’s enough story hook, enough investment in the character(s) to want to know what happens next? I mean…I have the long-view; I know what comes shortly when the title gets re-branded, and Zero Hour, and then stuff a few years later with Our Worlds At War, and a craptastic story in one of the Superman titles not long after, and then Green Lantern: Rebirth, and the whole Johns run and New 52 and all that. It’s been 24 years. But I don’t REMEMBER #15. I don’t remember that Justice League issue (a bit of deja vu so I’m sure I knew OF it). And I want to read those, even though they might not have any singular significance at present.

Dixon finishes giving us some key "backstory" of Guy, fleshing the character out and enriching who he is, why he is, and so on. Whether it’s the "brand new as of 1993" detail I think it is or not, this being Guy’s first solo series, and being relatively fresh off Crisis on Infinite Earths and his being "just another member" of the Justice League title, it makes sense to me that this’d be where a lot of this was either inserted into his mythology, or fleshed out and expanded from basic, broad details.

Staton‘s art continues with consistency, and nothing stands out as wonky or weird to me about human anatomy, everyone continues to be recognizable and familiar, and I have no trouble following the action. It’s just good art.

So ultimately, as a concluding chapter of a specific story within an ongoing series, I think this does quite well. It wraps up key points of the main story, but opens the door on stuff to come, having set stuff up and contextualized and built more drama for the main character to deal with. And though I only "signed on" to read a four-issue arc–had no intention of "caring" to go beyond this arc–I want to read more.

I also had mis-remembered the timing in part of this arc, and was thinking things were already a bit past Emerald Twilight somehow, not realizing that this is still a few issues before that point in the continuity, which also reminds me of another story in this title that I was AWARE OF but not certain if I actually read years ago or not (if I read it, I read it around the same time I read this, previously).

I think on the whole, I definitely would recommend this arc if you can find all four chapters to read in one go. It adds a lot to Guy’s character, makes him a lot more sympathetic and well-rounded as a character…it makes him likeable, so help me. Whatever the case…I enjoyed it, and I now have a couple other comics to seek out in the near future.

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The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #13

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0013Yesterday’s Sins 3 of 4: Inside Out/Outside In

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

This issue takes the introduction/cliffhanger of the previous issue and fast-forwards a bit. Or in tv terms, we come back from the commercial a bit further in. Adult Guy and Teen Guy are bustin’ heads at Scotty’s, and we come to realize that after popping into the car with Teen Guy, Adult Guy has come along with his younger self to save him from getting his butt kicked. Having taken care of that, Adult Guy moves on to explaining his plan–since he can stop the Draal’s memory-siphoning Xanagryph’s accessing his memories, perhaps he can at least exert an influence over what gets programmed into his double…like a codeword that’ll make it go nuts, revealing itself as NOT the true Guy Gardner. Adult Guy is ripped out of the memory before that can happen…busted! Of course, the Draal still aren’t done, but having disrupted Guy’s plan, they have another go at him–this time we see a still-older Guy who has just turned 18. He’s nabbed by the police…but instead of being given a slap on the wrist or taken to jail, his older brother Mace–who has pulled his own life together–roughs Guy up a bit to set him back on a path for good. Guy gets a job, gets his high school equivalency, and even gets into college–where he redirects his anger at life into football. And at the height of his "glory," where he should have won his parents’ attention and praise at last…it turns out that Mace has been shot. Back "in the real world," Guy and the other Lanterns manage to execute their "plan B" escape plan…but the ‘element of surprise’ they’d counted on is turned on them as they meet…Guy Gardner!

The further I’ve gotten into this story, the more certain I am that I’ve read this before, and that the feeling is not merely deja vu. As of this issue, I feel like I AM re-reading something. And it is something I’m enjoying. I’m also realizing that whenever it was that I read this, it must’ve been at least early during the Johns run on Green Lantern, because I’m pretty sure this did "color" my view of Guy, and actually make the character likeable. For years, the character had been largely some caricature or 2-D ’90s roughcase, but either this story or at least this story’s influence carried into other stuff that made the character much more a well-rounded figure that could be identified with and understood–not just some jerk anti-hero or such.

At this third of four chapters, this definitely feels like a Dixon sort of story, fitting right in with Batman, Robin, Nightwing, etc. in getting details of a backstory that influences the character’s present and all that. While I can see DC having an issue at present with re-presenting certain comics headlined by Gerard Jones…I’d certainly love to see a modern collected edition of Dixon‘s Guy Gardner, or at least of this particular story! It could even be re-branded somehow to fit whatever status quo for present…but having the content brought back would be great.

I’m also somewhat amazed at the consistency–this is the THIRD ISSUE in a row with the same creative team! In 2017, I’d swear that’s practically unheard of! Maybe you keep the same writer on for a number of issues, perhaps an inker or letterer or colorist…but the entire team remaining the same for three issues? At this point, that just SCREAMS "high quality!" to me. That I’m enjoying this story as much as I have been adds to that as well. That said…not much else to say about the art except to reiterate that it’s clear, consistent, and recognizably the characters involved, with no wonky silliness or abstraction/experimentation/etc. Just forthright art that conveys the visual aspect of the story and doesn’t take me out of the story by anything weird.

As also said previously–while the first issue of this story seems a great jump-in point that one can do so "cold," as the third chapter of a 4-part story, I’d highly recommend starting with that first chapter, and not merely jumping in here. At the same time, this IS a ’90s comic…back when every issue COULD be someone’s first, and there’s a hint of context and such where even AS a third-of-four chapters, this is not MERELY a third chunk of pages that collectively make up some seamless whole–this is still a comic book, an issue, and reads as such…this is years before the serialized graphic novel.

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The ’90s Revisited: Guy Gardner #12

90s_revisited

guy_gardner_0012Yesterday’s Sins 2 of 4: Dream a Deadly Dream

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Terry Beatty
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

We open on a scene of an "evil" Guy Gardner taking on other familiar heroes: Batman, Flash, Hawkman, with already-defeated Aquaman, Sentinel, and Blue Beetle on the ground around him. Narration lets us see that this is actually Guy considering what it might be like for the other heroes to see what he’s TRULY capable of, when the Draal unleash his double on them. That he–the REAL Guy Gardner–has held back and kept himself in check, though they haven’t treated him with the respect duly his for that. In the "present," Guy begins to form a plan with the other Lanterns…while in the course of a couple more encounters with the creature siphoning his memories, we get two scenes of Guy’s past: first, seeing that his brother Mace is still his father’s favorite, to Guy’s exclusion; and then that Big Brother Mace isn’t nearly as perfect as his father or younger brother believed him to be. Then, acting on the start of an escape plan, Guy and the other Lanterns fight, which brings the Draal in to "protect" their star resource–Guy himself. Of course, this gets him put back under for more memory-siphoning…but he aims to use it to his advantage. As we see a young Guy (though a few years older than the previous glimpse) driving a stolen car and picking up a police tail…the younger Guy is surprised when the present-day-Guy pops into the seat beside him…having inserted his present self into the memory!

Dixon‘s story begins to feel particularly formulaic, and the Guy-gets-captured-by-memory-viewing-aliens can be rather cliché. It becomes a framing device for isolated flashbacks…rather than our just simply being given an entire story set IN the past. But this is Dixon, this comic is from the ’90s, and for as clichéd and caricature-like I’d seen Guy initially…this story is quite "deep," really grounding and humanizing the character, inserting this detailed backstory that really helps explain Guy’s cockiness and attitude and driving need to seem like the best, and so on. That the "current" story is largely a generic framing sequence adds to the accessibility of this story–it’s not particularly drawing on continuity points that’d be overly important to the understanding of the story. You just know that Guy is in a fix, and while he and fellow prisoners seek escape, we’re seeing glimpses of his past as the alien creature sucks the memories from him to feed into the duplicate Guy that’ll be the Draal’s "sleeper agent" on Earth.

Visually, this is again a solid, consistent take on the characters. Everyone looks fine as they are, and familiar and distinct, with nothing weird or out there or such that takes me out of the story while reading. This is simply ’90s Guy, embodying the character as he was at the time.

I continue to enjoy the story as it unfolds, and though I somewhat knew it was coming, I either didn’t recall or know for sure that Guy (present day) would pop into his own memories to interact with his past self, so that’s got some fun potential, to say nothing of loosely firing up my own imagination on the topic in general beyond just this comic or its story.

Once more, a solid single issue and well worth getting as part of this four-part story (Yesterday’s Sins aka Guy Gardner: Year One). While the previous issue could be picked up "cold" and be relatively accessible, as the second part of the story, this one’s less so. However, this adds to my feeling overall that one can pick up this story arc by itself or as a first introduction to the ongoing Guy Gardner and do quite well with it!

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