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Ultraverse Revisited: The Night Man #1

ultraverse_revisited

nightman_0001The Night Man

Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciller: Darick Robertson
Inker: Andrew Pepoy
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Color Designer: Paul Mounts
Interior Colorists: Foodhammer!
Editors: Chris Ulm & Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: October 1993
Cover Price: $2.50

I think this issue’s cover is one of my favorite #1s of the Ultraverse. I really like the gradient from dark purple to a pink for the background, as well as the full moon, a bit of city architecture, and the gargoyle at the foreground with our title character perched on it, looking quite ready for action. The visual is rather striking, and seems quite "iconic" to me, despite being a generic pose or such–perhaps because this is the (only/main) cover for a #1 issue officially introducing the character. batman_608_2nd_printThis single image is truly "selling" the thing–visually and conceptually. This is no Batman, but perhaps borrows a bit of the imagery (though the most "iconic" Batman-and-a-gargoyle image I can think of–at age 37 in 2018–is the Jim Lee cover to Batman #608, which came nearly a decade after this cover). The fact of this being a #1 likely also lends to the "iconic-ness" of the cover…it’s simply a first issue, and carries a whole other sort of significance as such.

We open on a black-clad figure with goggles coming at us, apparently leaping down from above; the figure is narrating, informing us that he’s not who he was, and that he is (and this gives us the title of the issue itself) The Night Man. Our hero’s about to hit a roof, and flashes back to earlier. First, an accident he was in (this is "Johnny Domino," and he was in the car hit by the cable car when the Strangers got their powers back in Strangers #1). Then when he got out of the hospital, he now needs to shield his eyes from bright light…and discovered that he could "hear" evil thoughts. We follow him trying to deal with that and realizing the ridiculousness of the premise, eventually settling on having to do something himself. His first foray into thwarting evil leaves him banged up and this initial costume quite damaged. During the day, he meets with his father, and we see their interaction, and get a bit of setup for what’s likely coming later. Johnny continues his ‘detective’ work, and tries to save the woman who’s been threatened. Unfortunately, we find that he’s too late–when he gets to her place, she’s already been killed, and the killer has literally stolen her face. A chase ultimately leads to a fight on a boat, and the villain winds up in the water, apparently eaten by the shark. And of course, Johnny didn’t sense any evil from the shark–it’s just a shark looking for food. Closing out the story, having survived a couple of nights AS The Night Man, he takes full ownership of the role, that this is his duty, put on him by the cable car accident, and he is The Night Man! (and then a menacing fist with a knife sticks out of the water–the villain’s apparently not completely dead).

This is a strong first issue. We have ties to the larger Ultraverse–the story universe in general–as Johnny first showed up in Strangers #1. That was a nice bit of detail that at the time was sorta throwaway, but comes into play here in a major way–what was "just some guy in a car" is a major character with powers and his own series, now! But while those details are great for tying this to the larger universe…they’re conveyed in such a way that you don’t have to have read Strangers or other issues…you just get a better appreciation for the details if you have. In typical/trope-ic fashion, we’re tossed into the action and essentially given the "…see that guy? That’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got here…" thing. We get Johnny’s name, what he does, what’s happened to him, his current status quo, meet his father, see that he’s the owner of an amusement park resisting a takeover, get plenty of exposition to flesh out the relationship between father and son, etc. We see the character discover his power, start figuring it out, make decisions based on it, don multiple iterations of a costume (learning from near-fatal experience); we’re introduced to a "super villain" or potential "arch enemy" (at least "first major enemy who might be a recurring figure"), and generally have all this stuff packed into this one issue.

In 2018, this issue alone would probably be spread across some special issue/one-shot(s) and no less than 6 issues, each with umpteen variant covers.

That it’s all crammed into one issue makes it a very good value, and a strong stand-alone piece that sets you up to want to find the "sequel" in the form of subsequent issues.

Visually, I really like the issue. The art is quite appealing, with a great sense of realism, while not trying to be something other than a comic book. That is, it’s not particularly cartoony, nor is it hyper-realistic. There’s a good amount of detail throughout, with an assortment of page layouts that change things up nicely, keeping stuff from being just a bunch of pictures placed evenly on a page. The coloring also plays a huge part, and like with the cover, I particularly like the night-time stuff with the purple skies, full moon, and dark water.

rune_0cRune [C]: The Sorcerer
Plotted by: Barry Windsor-Smith & Chris Ulm
Drawn & Colored by: Barry Windsor-Smith
Scripted by: Chris Ulm
Inked by: John Floyd
Computer Color by: Albert Calleros
Lettered by: Patrick Owsley
Text Pages Designed by: Jim Chadwick
Edited by: Steve Gerber

I feel like this is the most detailed piece of the Rune story so far. We’re given visuals to go along with what is essentially a journal entry or letter written by Tesla–presumably the actual historical Nikola Tesla–used here in fictitious context. He writes about someone coming to him for information about energy, and muses on who or what the figure was, figuring it must have been a vision…except for a stone he found on his desk with a particular rune on it, that meant "fire" or "sorcerer."

Essentially, this segment shows us that Rune met with Tesla…and that he has the ability to influence how he is perceived. In this case, perceived as quite the cleaned-up, respectable figure. This could be interpreted as shape-shifting, but the detail of Tesla noting that he could almost see something else, suggesting that this truly was his being influenced to see one thing despite the actuality of Rune’s true appearance. The emphasis on the word "sorcerer" gives us a bit more insight into Rune; that where once he was worshipped as a god, as time went on he’s gone from being a god to being a sorcerer, as an explanation for "what" he is and how he’s beyond human.

As a stand-alone piece, I feel this is the most effective so far, as it is an entire thing within three pages. We have Tesla’s letter/thoughts/recollection and the visuals show us both what he saw and what was actually there; the entire episode is conveyed right here. The lengthy wordiness really helps, given the limited page count, making it seem like more than just taking in a page, turning the page, and being at the end of the segment.

Since this is a serialized piece of a single issue and the creative team remains entirely the same, the consistency of visual style keeps this feeling like the next bit, without some jarring change. Where the first chapter was just there to be taken as itself, and then a drastic change in setting for the very next segment, and now another here…at least at this third part the "story" begins to take a bit more shape or pattern as it grows clearer that we started in the present with Rune, and now are seeing moments from the past, leading us to the present, perhaps.


nightman_dvdThis issue comes off like a pilot episode of a tv series, and while there’s the Firearm #0 thing advertised in the Sptember 1993 Ultraverse titles–giving a short live-action piece that continues in a comic, this feels more like something that would fit as an ongoing live-action thing, like a tv series…

…which is rather fitting, as there actually WAS a tv series of The Night Man, that ran 44 episodes across two seasons! (And is freshly available on DVD!)

With the Rune piece on the flipside of this issue feeling a lot more substantive than the previous couple of segments and working nicely as its own standalone unit…The Night Man #1 as a whole is an excellent single issue! Most of the Ultraverse #1s make strong jumping-on points, but this one seems like one of the best so far (if only for being the one I’m currently taking in). This issue’s definitely worth 25 or 50 cents in a bargain bin…and really, is one I’d even consider worthwhile to get for up to its original $2 cover price…especially given the tv series is now (June 2018) out on dvd. This is a great piece to read to get a sense of the original comic and the comic-version’s origin for the character, before perhaps diving into watching the tv series.

I’m feeling like I definitely missed out on something special by not having followed this series back in the day–I definitely remember GETTING this issue, and reading (but not caring for it) back then…but now it seems like this would have been one of my favorite Ultraverse titles! I’m looking forward to getting into the coming issues as well as hopefully getting and digging into the tv series.

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The ’90s Revisited: Dr. Strange #36

90s_revisited

dr_strange_0036Footnote to Infinity

Writers: Roy & Dann Thomas
Penciler: Dan Lawlis
Inker: Andrew Pepoy
Letterer: R. Parker
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Mike Rockwitz
Editor in Chief: Tom Defalco
With Special Thanks To: Jim Starlin, Advisor
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 1991
Cover Price: $1.50

I bought this issue completely outside of any kind of context for the Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme series. It initially caught my attention specifically for the presence of Adam Warlock on the cover with the Infinity Gauntlet. The corner blurb that this is an Infinity Gauntlet "Epilogue" solidified it for me. I’ve read The Infinity Gauntlet a couple times (though it’s been a number of years now and I’m due for a re-read–as if I’m not extremely far behind on all my NEW reading) and early issues of Warlock and the Infinity Watch. But I’d never read this issue, and I was curious as to exactly how it was addressing Infinity Gauntlet, its place in the timeline. I’m glad to say that my curiosity was satisfied.

We open on Dr. Strange arriving back home, reuniting with his supporting cast. It’s an impromptu party, and among other reunions we see Strange and Clea (who is the only other person in the room that remembers what happened). As they dance around the subject and share the joy of everyone being present, Wong announces that he’s engaged…and moments later, Pip the troll and Gamora appear, disrupting things–they’re here for Dr. Strange, hoping he might aid them in dealing with a driven-mad-with-power Warlock. Strange confronts Warlock, and winds up having to use every resource available to him, basically, just to hold his ground. After he’s "survived" attacks involving the other Infinity Gems (yes, this is back when they were GEMS, not STONES), he turns the tide by going after the Soul Gem–the one most closely linked to Warlock…and manages to get through to him, helping him see what’s happening, and stand down. After thanks, a friendly handshake, and promises to see things stay on the right path, everyone parts ways…though Strange gets a brief encounter with Eternity…the cosmic being representing the universe itself. Eternity intends to claim the Infinity Gems, by bringing Warlock to some cosmic trial…but that’s not for Strange to deal with, and he finishes his return journey home.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed this issue more if I was "up" on contextual continuity for this series at the point this issue falls. I basically remember THAT Strange was involved early on, being maybe the first Silver Surfer made contact with of the Earth heroes regarding Thanos having assembled all the Gems; and then with Warlock and the "behind the scenes" crew in taking on Thanos. I also vaguely remember that Wong was one of the "half the living entities in the universe" that were blinked out of existence at the start of Infinity Gauntlet. I’m not invested in any of the supporting cast or cameo appearances. And I felt like Warlock was extremely out of character, given the out and out attacks directed at Dr. Strange…and it all rang as the old cliché "hero vs. hero" and such that I really don’t care about. At least here, though, the situation is resolved within the same issue, it does NOT take up the ENTIRE issue, and certainly does not become an entire story arc for a mini-series or title. I was glad to see stuff resolved here, and where I was curious going in as to WHERE exactly this took place in "the timeline," the end of the issue with Eternity suggests to me that this essentially led into Warlock and the Infinity Watch #1.

Story-wise, this felt like "the next issue" of the title. That is, it didn’t waste time trying to retell that which is told elsewhere, nor did this feel like just some "middle chapter" or such of a serialized graphic novel. There are details that are obviously "subplots" being moved along, while the main focus of the issue is an encounter that is begun, run, and resolved within this issue. For a reader perhaps checking this out BECAUSE of seeing Strange in Infinity Gauntlet, it seems to have him pulling out all the stops, and in a way "showing off" for the newer readers, while perhaps reminding older readers of what he can do on his own, as more than just a single character of a huge ensemble cast in a Marvel Universe event.

Visually, I liked the art for this issue overall. For one thing, I felt like I recognized everyone I would expect to–particularly Dr. Strange himself, Pip, Gamora, and Warlock. I attribute this to a "house style" that I feel like I recall being prevalent in the early ’90s; at the least, everyone looks familiar enough that I had no problem with their appearances and nothing messed with my memory of how they "should have" looked or whatever.

As a single issue, this isn’t enough to "sell" me on Dr. Strange’s series…I’m in no particular hurry to find out what happens with the next issue (though I’m "curious" at the tease of "Frankensurfer" and wouldn’t be entirely opposed to keeping an eye out for the issue in a passive sense) nor do I feel any great need to rush out and get previous issues. That said…this seemed a solid issue, a decent follow-up to Infinity Gauntlet, and probably not the worst thing one could read from Marvel for the early 1990s. I enjoyed it enough to have more than justified the 25 cents I spent for it, and I’m glad to have read this.

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Zero Hour Revisited – Team Titans #24

90srevisited_zerohour

team_titans_0024All Good Things…

Writers: Jeffrey Jensen & Phil Jimenez
Penciller: Nigel Tully
Inkers: Andrew Pepoy, Rus Sever, Dan Davis
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Assistant Editor: Chris Eades
Editor: Rob Simpson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

This is another issue I’d never read before, and really had very little expectation going in. It’s also one that didn’t truly engage me…other than Garth (Aqualad), I don’t even know who any of the characters are. I know the NAME Terra but not the character (despite knowing OF Titans history, they remain yet a blind spot in my comics experience). So while I could literally, physically "follow" the story, page after page…this was much as I’d imagine tuning into a semi-popular tv show’s final episode without ever having seen prior episodes and only having commercials to go on for the past.

Given that this really is not at all intended as any kind of jumping-on point (it’s actually the end point, kinda-sorta-maybe-somewhat wrapping things up) and seems to dovetail into Zero Hour itself (with the final, ultimate payoff coming in that and not even in this 24th issue of its own run!), this is yet another tie-in that does not seem relevant nor important to Zero Hour. It fleshes stuff out for me a bit in that it’s more content I’ve now read, but does not change any of my understanding or identification with any of the characters and such.

The writing is satisfactory for my experience…but not having read any prior issues, not being familiar with the characters and story, recognizing the intent is not to have someone jump in cold, etc. I cannot really judge it and really have nothing to compare it to. I got what I "expected" out of this, I guess.

Visually I wasn’t blown away by the art. It’s a bit "off" from what I expected, but really not bad. As with the writing, I don’t have much of anything to compare it to, so it really just IS.

Ultimately…I’m really only glad to have read this for the sake of having read it; checking off another box in my read-through of everything I can find directly involved in Zero Hour. Unless you’re reading this series itself, all you need to know about the Team Titans seems to be played out in Zero Hour itself and if you try to go on this issue alone, you won’t really have much more context with the issue than without.

Zero Hour Revisited – Steel #8

90srevisited_zerohour

steel_0008The Challenge!

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Chris Batista
Inkers: Rich Faber, Andrew Pepoy
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Gina Going
Editor: Frank Pittarese
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is the only issue of this crossover that lacks the Zero Hour logo on it. I didn’t know–and wouldn’t know–of its connection without whatever checklist I used a couple years ago to finally track down the entirety of this event. While I don’t have or remember context of issues of this series surrounding this particular issue…reading it shows clearly that it fits, and does so better than at least a couple other issues that DID carry the Zero Hour banner.

We open on a scene of Steel in Metropolis interacting with Superman…the latter essentially offering John Henry a “job” in Metropolis, asking if he’d want to stick around. Getting back to Washington (as in “, DC; not the State), Steel slips back into personal mode and interacts with family, which apparently includes at least one foster kid in the extended group, who has recently been the victim of gun violence. We also see a couple of villains interacting, pulling some strings and basically serving as villains themselves while also manipulating/using others. While Steel has to fight, his family is “at the park” where they encounter someone separated from his class group on their Senior Trip. When he gets caught up in the fight–“saving” Steel “right on schedule,” we learn that this was a time-displaced John Henry himself. The “main villains” also prepare to step up plans, and that doesn’t bode well for Steel for coming issues.

Two things particularly stood out to me for this issue…firstly, it felt like Steel and Superman had never interacted before…something about their exchange seemed like typical superhero-chatter between characters making nice/playing nice that hadn’t met before or fought side-by-side before. Given Steel’s very origin, and the events of Reign of the Supermen, I’d’ve expected the dialogue to have a slightly different feel to it. But then, I’m much more sensitive to nitpickiness on the Superman side of things, especially like this, than I am many other things. The second thing that stood out was a bit more “fun”–I noticed John’s wearing a shirt in part of the issue that says “Body by Bog.” It’s “just” a shirt, nothing special…except I recognize it as a reference to Steel’s co-creator Jon Bogdanove (Simonson, writing this issue, being the other co-creator).

Story-wise I liked this issue. I know little bits here and there of Steel’s time “away” from the Super-books (particularly while he had his own series here, before he got folded back into the supporting cast OF the Super-books after his series ended) but overall it’s new territory for me, particularly in the actual details. I could follow along pretty well overall with context and picked up where the title’s apparently just coming off the Worlds Collide thing (a DC/Milestone crossover back when there was no other shared continuity with the Milestone characters). I like the family elements with Steel, seeing that he has a family, and cares about them…they’re not throw-away characters. However, I did get a slight sense of ’80s “After School Special” with this…I can’t entirely put my finger on it.

Visually, I wasn’t blown away…but I really enjoyed that this FELT LIKE a comic book. It looks and comes off as a ’90s superhero comic with the ultra-strong but extremely maneuverable armor, huge cape, etc. and worked well for the story. I doubt I could look at random art and say “that’s Chris Batista‘s art!” without the credit, but that’s as much good as it is neutral: the art does not stand out in a negative sense, so just fits the title and story, gets everything across, and I’m happy with it.

Perhaps the only thing that might disqualify this, really, from being a Zero Hour tie-in is that Steel thinks “right on schedule” at one point as the “young John Henry” gets involved…suggesting that John REMEMBERS this from his own youth…so this is truly his younger self from the current timeline or such, and not some random anomaly from an alternate timeline. I do not know if this is picked up in later issues or plays out with anything, or what, but I’m glad to count this as part of this reading project!

Obviously in lacking the banner, there’s nothing by the cover to suggest it’s worth picking up as a Zero Hour reader…but it’s not a bad issue. As it is not officially part of the crossover, and thus LOOKS just like it’s “just another issue,” it’s nothing essential…but I enjoyed it.

If you like the character, it’s certainly an issue to get along with the rest of the run; but outside of Zero Hour or that, it’s essentially mid-story stuff, and there doesnt’ seem to me to be anything to make this stand out–in and of itself–as any “key issue” to specifically seek out.

Life With Archie: The Married Life #2 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Life With Archie: The Married Life #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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