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The ’90s Revisited: Quasar #59

quasar059Brothers in Arms

Writer: Ron Marz
Penciler: Andy Smith
Inker: Ralph Cabrera
Letterer: Diana Albers
Colorist: Paul Becton
Editor: Mike Rockwitz
Group Editor: Ralph Macchio
EIC: Tom DeFalco
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1994
Cover Price: $1.25

This issue grabbed my attention for the Thanos reference on the cover. By the coloring of Thanos’ head/face in the background, I would not have recognized the character from any other random Marvel Cosmic character while simply flipping through issues in a 25c-bin, so seeing Thanos’ name is what caught me. Contextualize it further with rather ticked-off looking Starfox and Quasar, and there was little that would convince me to NOT buy the issue.

I’ve recently been building up my Thanos/Warlock/Infinity ______ library, which also contributed to this grabbing my attention. Despite the cover, this issue was really not what I expected…whatever it was that I WAS expecting.

We open with Quasar telling someone he’d be there soon…and then find the very IMPRESSED Quasar marveling at Titan. He’s there to meet up with Starfox–Eros–for a bit. After greetings and brief showing off, Eros asks Quasar to join him for an errand, that turns out to be an annual tradition. Despite whatever bitter blood between the two, Eros and his brother Thanos put aside their differences for one day a year to spend time as brothers. While Thanos extends their truce to include Quasar, our hero is none too happy to be in the presence of one of the biggest threats to the universe he’s ever known. As the brothers exchange gifts, a squad of alien authorities show up…Thanos’ gift was stolen, and they’ve arrived to take it back (dealing death as penalty for the theft). The trio fights back, and the authorities are eventually sent off, nudged a bit by Eros’ powers of suggestion. As Eros and Quasar leave, we see Thanos…still in posession of the stolen item.

Quasar looks a bit “off” to me somehow…which is particularly noticeable to me as I’m not OVERLY familiar with the character. I just know that he doesn’t look quite right to my eye throughout this issue. On the other hand, Starfox doesn’t look that bad. And Thanos looks pretty good to me. Everyone is recognizeable so there’s no harm there, and I never had to pause to figure out what was going on or wonder at confusion at something shown in a panel. 

Story-wise, this is rather throw-away and generic, with no real change to any of the characters, their status quo, no tie to some bigger event or story…and yet I really, truly quite enjoyed this.

As stated above, I’m not overly familiar with Quasar, but I know of the character and while I have no idea as of this typing where the character is at present in 2015, he’s perfectly standard in the Marvel Universe I recall from the 1990s.

This issue is functionally a standard-sized issue one-shot. There’s no note saying this is continued from anywhere else, and the final panel of the final page clearly states END (though we can wonder exactly what Thanos is up to in the grander scheme of things). And particularly for only costing me 25 cents…I’m very happy with this being a one-shot. I’ve got characters I’m familiar with, as well as one I’m particularly interested in at present (Thanos), no catch-up or follow-up to do based on this issue, and it was an enjoyable read that didn’t leave me scratching my head.

I’m aware of having read a fair bit of Ron Marz‘s work–on Green Lantern as well as (I believe) Silver Surfer, and other stuff through the years. I certainly prefer Jim Starlin‘s Thanos to most…but Marz‘s take on the character seems very Starlin-esque to me and does nothing to make me question this appearance of the character. I’m not consciously familiar offhand with the art team…but this is from the mid-90s and I associate the period with a huge body of creatives that never stood out to me at the time, and apparently never made a name for themselves or stuck around for me to be familiar with contemporary work.

This is from mid 1994, putting this after the three Infinity Events (Gauntlet/War/Crusade) yet ahead of the Onslaught, Heroes Reborn, and Heroes Return stuff. While if I thought hard enough i could probably find (an) example(s) otherwise, I largely have a several-year blind spot with Thanos that this falls into. 

If–like me–you just want to read a “random” Thanos appearance (and I don’t know that this is reprinted or collected anywhere) this is certainly a fun one-off. All the better if you’re a fan of Quasar and/or Starfox. Though I wouldn’t see this as anything much more than a bargain-bin book (worth little more than 25-50 cents) I definitely recommend this as something worth the time it takes to read, just for the fun of it.

The ’90s Revisited: X-O Manowar/Iron Man in Heavy Metal #1

90srevisitedxomanowar_ironman_heavymetal001Heavy Metal part 1

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Andy Smith
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Color Art: Twilight Graphics
Assistant Editor: Omar Banmally
Consulting Assistant Editor: Nancy Poletti
Consulting Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor: Lynaire Thompson
Editor in Chief: Bob Layton
Published by: Acclaim Comics/Valiant
Cover Date: September 1996
Cover Price: $2.50

I vaguely remember when this series was originally out. I don’t remember details, but I’m supposing (in retrospect) that the Iron Man connection is what caught my eye…though there was probably Wizard coverage, and I wasn’t unaware of X-O Manowar from the #0 issue at least. Of course, there was the video game, which this is based on or inspired by or what-have-you. Given Acclaim was doing the video game, and had bought Valiant, it makes a lot of sense that there’d be a tie-in comic.

While I’ve found many of the "later" Valiant comics, this issue has eluded me until recently when I noticed both issues of the "crossover" on eBay. Being edged out on the bidding at the last second I looked for other instances, and including shipping scored a copy of both this X-O Manowar/Iron Man issue and the companion Iron Man/X-O Manowar for the price of a single contemporary Marvel comic. While this oughtta be quarter-bin fodder, not finding it that way made it worthwhile to me to pay a bit of a premium just to HAVE the issues.

The cover looks rather odd to me–far from an ideal thing, and rather generic. There’s something a bit "off" to me about both armors…probably the "early digital" art, which may even be a still from the video game (I don’t care enough to investigate further). Either way for a cross-company crossover this does not look like anything special from the cover alone.

Upon opening the issue I immediately saw an art style that did not appeal to me. I don’t know if I’ve seen or liked anything else from Andy Smith, but in this issue, I am not a fan. It’s not horrible art, and it’s certainly far, FAR superior to anything I could possibly do myself. It gets things across and isn’t too wonky or anything…basically it does its intended job but does not stand out as anything special.

Seeing Nicieza‘s name as the writer was an immediate appeal for me…but getting into the issue I felt rather left down. This thing’s all over the place and does not feel developed at all. We jump from villains we aren’t given much about to other villains; and world to world. I found myself confused to realize partway through that we’re actually dealing with MULTIPLE sets of Iron Man/X-O Manowar and not just the two characters being matched up for a single double-universe adventure.

I believe this was a time when Iron Man had been "de-aged" or replaced by a younger parallel-dimension version of himself or some such, so that’s not ENTIRELY off-putting to "learn" here but that’s not really explained. And given this is an issue from Acclaim, it’s certainly well-past the X-O Manowar stuff I was familiar with, am familiar with…and having just read a 2015-published issue of the contemporary X-O Manowar series found the character dull and not at all 3-dimensional here.

I’ve often enjoyed Nicieza‘s work, particularly his X-Men stuff, and find myself seeing this as being completely hobbled by BEING a video game tie-in, presumably with a bunch of "checklist" points to be hit during the issue. And with Acclaim and Marvel both getting to publish an issue, there’s probably a certain bit of symmetry that had to be achieved as well. All of which ultimately leads to an issue that I didn’t enjoy.

I would be incensed at having paid full price for this–particularly had it been published in 2015 and passed off as anything supposedly special. However, it’s still something that I’ve been curious about for years, and a definite "artifact" of its time…so despite not enjoying the issue, I do expect I’ll read the Marvel-published one as well just to "get the story," and all that. Unfortunately this does somewhat taint my expectations toward the bulk of the Acclaim-published Valiant stuff and makes me hesitate just a bit on diving into reading any of those anytime soon.

Thanos Annual #1 [Review]

thanosannual001Damnation and Redemption

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciler: Ron Lim
Inker: Andy Smith
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Dale Keown & Ive Svorcina
Assistant Editor: Jon Moisan
Editor: Wil Moss
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

It’s safe to say that Thanos is one of my favorite Marvel characters. However, perhaps that’s something to be further quantified: Thanos as written by Jim Starlin is one of my favorite Marvel characters.

While I have yet to read the entirety of Annihilation or Annihilation Conquest; or the Thanos Imperative, or even the more recent Infinity, I’ve been loosely aware of the character’s recent appearance and involvement in Marvel stuff. I’ve been sucked into buying various issues solely on the appearance of Thanos on the cover, the promise of the character within.

So it was the almost random “notice” of Jim Starlin writing and Infinity Gauntlet artist Ron Lim on art that prompted my purchase of this issue.

Despite the aforementioned favoriteness, it’s been a long time since I’ve read most of what I vaguely recall having once read–maybe 15 years since the original Infinity ____ volumes, a decade since the shortlived “ongoing” series…a fact that’s rather “idealized” Thanos for me, and coated things with that sweet nostalgia of childhood memories that so often props something up IN memory but leads to disappointment upon revisitation.

As such, I was prepared to be quite disappointed in this issue.

I’m not a fan of the standard cover…however, I opted to purchase it over any of the variants I saw. In the short term gratification sense, I probably would have preferred the Ron Lim cover…but I feel strongly enough on the “issue” of variants that I would have been quite disappointed having something LABELLED as a variant rather than the “real” cover. Particularly given the “core” creative team of this issue being Starlin and Lim, it’s truly beyond me why neither of their covers were “the” cover and instead shuffled off as variants. Starlin‘s own cover actually fits the interior story, and Lim‘s is equally as fitting visually…whereas Keown‘s cover is a generic (and not even particularly “iconic” to me) image far more suited as an interior “pin-up” page if not a variant cover instead of being the standard cover.

This issue is essentially a prologue, setup, for the forthcoming graphic novel Thanos: The Infinity Revelation. We open on Thanos upon his first major defeat in Marvel continuity–having lost the Cosmic Cube. Dealing with the massive failure, he is approached by Mephisto, but the intervention of an Infinity Gauntleted avatar of Thanos appears and takes this Thanos on a journey through time and space, as it processes various events and how they play into the younger, defeated Thanos’ future. We’re ultimately given setup for a new event in Thanos’ life, which presumably will be chronicled in the OGN this Fall.

I recall being pleasantly surprised at the ease with which Starlin brushed off several years of less-than-ideal characterization and use of Thanos in Infinity Abyss–that the appearances of Thanos in Ka-Zar, a Hulk Annual, and even a Thor-versus-Thanos arc in Thor’s own title proved to be duplicates of the ACTUAL Thanos; less than perfect at that. So this issue referencing multiple “avatars” of the Infinity Gauntlet Thanos fits right in with past precedent and gave me no pause at all, where it may have with other characters.

As a fairly simple one-off story, this worked well for me, giving me a chance to dip back in with Thanos without feeling like I actually missed anything from Infinity or anything else I didn’t feel lost, and actually quite enjoyed the touches on continuity that I recognized.

Visually, this entire issue was quite a treat. It had a feel of the familiar that I appreciated–and EXPECTED. While familiar, the coloring and such certainly showed through as “modern,” keeping this from feeling entirely like some ’90s throwback. I don’t much like Thanos’ appearance without his headgear, but having seen imagery of him without it before, everything fit. In the various detailing other than noticing how ugly he looks without the headgear, nothing of the art itself jumped out as a distraction. 

I enjoyed seeing familiar scenes and characters, and the only one I really didn’t recognize offhand was what I believe to be a “current” version of Adam Warlock that I’ve not actually read in-continuity yet.

The $4.99 price of this issue is a bit steep; I read the thing cover to cover in under 20 minutes…but then, these days, that’s par for the course to me with a Marvel issue. Steep price point for a quick read, whether it’s good or not.

To best of my knowledge, this is not a follow-up to Infinity, and that story seems to be solely referenced by the “previously” page, so you need not have read any of that to enjoy this. Similarly, if you’re looking FOR Infinity follow-up, this isn’t really gonna meet that expectation. 

However, if you’ve read or are familiar with the Thanos stories from the late-’70s and 1990s to early 2000s, and you’re a fan of Starlin‘s work in general and Thanos in particular, this should be a pretty enjoyable read and whet your appetite for an original graphic novel apparently due out in August this year.

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