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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.

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The Weekly Haul – Week of June 08, 2016

The past week was yet another that could be counted as both a huge week yet a “small’ week for new-to-me comics.

weekly_haul_week_of_20160608a

Had the five new Rebirth issues–three more of the one-shot/prologue/kickoff issues, as well as the first two of “regular numbering” for ongoing books in Action Comics and Detective Comics.

The Action Comics issue was by far my absolute favorite of this bunch–with ‘Tec not far behind…though all were of sufficient quality to continue to validate my own personal interest in the initiative for now.

(And rather than this post last week, I wound up gushing about the Action Comics issue instead!)

weekly_haul_week_of_20160608b

The Rebirth stuff, of course, is on top of the other “usual” stuff of late. While the covers in particular on the Bebop and Rocksteady are a bit iffy (yet I am so extremely Extremely EXTREMELY glad the multi-part image covers multiple issues rather than being umpteen variants on the same issue!!!) I’m enjoying the notion of a weekly (if only a “mini”/limited series) TMNT book…more content/story/etc in a compressed amount of time…works for me.

I nearly missed the Thunderbolts issue…quite enjoying this new iteration…though hoping it does not tie into Civil War II, as I have absolutely no interest in supporting that story, in supporting “the latest event from Marvel, and it’s already prompted me to decide I’m done with Power Man and Iron Fist despite otherwise kinda enjoying that book.

I’d followed the “solo books” on the Gold Key stuff from Dynamite, tried the first issue of this mini, and figured it’s “only” 5 issues, might as well stick it out.

And I liked the last Aliens/Predator/Prometheus/AvP arc of minis, planning on keeping up with these (though they seem more spread out than that last one, linear rather than overlapping).

I need to get caught up on actually reading the Legends of Tomorrow book…I have no idea if it’s continuing past six issues, but I believe I saw something a few weeks ago of a Firestorm collected volume collecting that story as its own thing from these…and just as I want to support the $2.99 price point on the Rebirth initiative, I also want to support the $7.99 price point for this quadruple-sized-content series, anthology or not!

weekly_haul_week_of_20160608c

Getting into bargain-bin stuff…last year (like April or March 2015) I’d noticed a bunch of copies of WildC.A.T.S #1, and got at least one or two. Then last August I bought $4 worth of the issues–16 copies–on a random whim/self-amusement. Given the quantity of copies still remaining…I figured for just half the cost of a contemporary DC issue…nothing wrong with another 6 copies. For the sake of the ridiculous quantity. Just because I can. (regardless of there being zero wisdom in it).

weekly_haul_week_of_20160608d

Snagged a few other randomish issues. Almost did the same thing on the $1 copies of GI Joe #2…but a friend had “warned” me that there was a second print from that time, so all copies looking the same, I bought one and glad for that–it’s a second printing edition. Which I think I need for my singles collection, but there’s no “fun” in buying umpteen copies for the sake of umpteen cheap copies of a second print.

The other issues grabbed my attention for various reasons, and at 25 cents were not a bad purchase!

weekly_haul_week_of_20160608e

While I’d tracked down the entire run of Eclipso: The Darkness Within annuals, I’ve had very little luck with the Valor or Eclipso ongoing books’ issues. Neither series lasted that long (hardly two years!) but given the annuals’ significance to me in my early days as a comics person, I’m quite curious about both series, as they remain a “blind spot” in my reading.

Finding four unique Valor issues was a bit of a surprise…as was my third (at least!) copy of The Darkness Within #1 with the 3-D purple “black diamond” thingie glued on. (I’d hardly known these existed before, and now have come across ’em a number of times, opting to purchase at least 3).

And then on strength of the pricing online, I ordered Batman: Shadow of the Bat vol. 1 as well as the 2nd (of 2) volume of The Infinity Watch…both for half off cover price. Yet even more stuff from the ’90s that repackaged and sold as new, I am quite enthused to buy…far, far moreso than I am most anything new!

The Weekly Haul – Week of August 5th, 2015

Though the photo looks contrary, this was my smallest week yet since dropping all Valiant several weeks ago.

weekly_haul_20150805a

The only thing on my pull list is the TMNT issue. The Age of Apocalypse mini is one that I’ll buy even though I’m primarily waiting for Secret Wars to make its way to Marvel‘s Digital Comics Unlimited.

The Eclipso: The Darkness Within issue is from the quarter bin, and really only caught my eye due to being one of the issues with the plastic 3-D diamon shard…a nifty artifact of the ’90s.

The Savage Dragon, the Strangers in Paradise, and Ultimate Spider-Man tpbs were in a 90% off bin…combined, the three were still cheaper than a contemporary single issue!

Finally, the Nightwing volume. This has the original 4-issue mini-series and then the first 8 issues of the ongoing (sadly, the Return of Alfred issue is not included). While I’d prefer to get something like this for a discount, I’m so completely fed up with Amazon right now that they’re not even a consideration. Plus, lacking Valiant, I wanted to get something I wouldn’t otherwise, and continue to support the LCS, so I bought this volume. 12 issues’ content for roughly original cover price, even a bit cheaper…nto bad at all.

I’m looking forward to the Robin volumes like this, and have had my eye on the Spectre ones as well as Saga of the Swamp Thing. These hit a sweet spot of having quite a number of issues while holding to a $20 price point. Sure, tax makes ’em a bit more, but to mentally settle at “$20” works, where even “$21” seems a lot steeper to me.

The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics Annual #4

actioncomicsannual004Eclipso: The Darkness Within / Living Daylights

Written by: Dan Vado
Pencilled by: Chris Wozniak
Inked by: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, Steve Mitchell
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Edited by: Dan Thorslan
Edited by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.50

Offhand, this issue is my earliest memory of the Captain Marvel character. If I was “aware of” him prior, it’s not a conscious memory. I wanted to re-read this issue given my recent foray (October 2013) into the Shazam/Captain Marvel character, as well as for the nostalgia. That, and while not from the 1970s or 1980s, I would have pegged this as a perfect issue for the Superman vs. Shazam collection…and this is certainly the issue that I think of when I think of the two characters fighting.

The issue’s cover is fairly iconic for me, showing an Eclipsed Superman struggling with Captain Marvel, captioned The Evil of Eclipso vs. the Power of Shazam! It’s rather interesting to realize the cover is by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, given Quesada‘s eventual and current involvement with Marvel. The 11-year-old Me certainly had found it engaging, igniting curiosity as to the Eclipsed Superman and who this other guy was that he was fighting.

The interior art, while not nearly as thrilling, gets the job done. Particularly on this re-read, I was more interested in the characters and interactions than the actual art, though nothing about it particularly screamed “go find more that matches this art!” Given this is an extra-sized issue produced simultaneous with the weekly ongoing saga in the main Superman books, and is from 21 years ago, it’s not a great concern and largely gets a pass as such.

The story itself is a bit mixed. On one hand, I’ve read this before, I know the overall bit of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within ‘event’ and where things go; I have a fuller context all these years later of the characters, situations, and so on, so it’s hardly as engaging as it was originally.

The story picks up with a town having been captured by Eclipso, and the heroes are unable to reclaim it. The only condition by which he’ll relinquish his hold is in trade for Superman’s body–which he has, thus far, been unable to possess. Given this is Superman, of course he agrees–willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others (regardless of all the potential harm that could be done by Eclipso controlling his body and powers). While he makes the deal with Eclipso, the other heroes begin a plan to combat an Eclipsed Superman, which involves bringing in Captain Marvel–the only one to truly have a chance of going toe to toe with the Man of Steel.

The story itself isn’t terribly deep…though it does provide reasonable motivation for what occurs…stuff doesn’t come outta nowhere (such as Captain Marvel just happening to “fly by” at the exact moment he’s needed…he actually has to be called in). We have broad, ongoing plot points of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story in general, and this feels much more like a key point in the event rather than “just” the “encounter of the week” with a Black Diamond.

I actually paid $4 for this copy of the issue, for the immediate gratification of getting to re-read the thing without having to dig through umpteen longboxes or quintuple the issue’s cost paying for shipping, etc. Despite paying that kind of money for a 21-year-old comic that typically oughtta be 25 or 50 cent-bin fodder, it was worth it for the reading experience…especially given the cost matched virtually any current Marvel, many current DC, and anything presently on my pull list–yet this issue has more than twice the content of a current series (in some cases, nearly 3 times the content!).

If you can find this in a bargain bin or just have an interest in Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam fighting, this is definitely a worthwhile issue. Ditto if you’re looking for just a handful of the Eclipso Annuals from 1992.

DC Villains Month, Week Three

THE ROGUES (Flash #23.3)

foreverevilrogues001This was a last-second choice for me, but ended up being one I’m quite glad I made! I got pulled into The Flash back in 2002 or 2003–with Johns‘ #197 or so, starting off the Blitz story arc introducing a new Reverse Flash/Professor Zoom/whatever. I’d heard plenty of good prior to that, and finally checked in on the series, and found the issues focusing on specific Rogues to be extremely enjoyable–adding far more depth to cheesey characters than I would have ever seriously considered. Similarly, I’ve heard about some “changes” to the Rogues in the New 52; of their prior “gimmicks” being turned into “powers” through machinations of one of their own…but I never bothered to follow up. So this issue gave me a sampling of exactly what I wanted out of the issue and expected: a glimpse at the Rogues; how they’re interacting, what they’re like, and all that. Seeing that they still have a Code; that they may not get along perfectly but still have each others’ backs…I like that. That it’s mixed with seeing where they’re headed in light of the Crime Syndicate’s bursting onto the scene shows there’s a lot of potential. The cover’s fairly generic/”iconic,” but I still like it…though I seriously doubt it would have grabbed me in and of itself.

CLAYFACE (Batman: The Dark Knight #23.3)

foreverevilclayface001I’ve never been a huge fan of Clayface, though he always had potential. Yet, while that’s a singular thing…my very first “true” Batman villain in comics I owned as a kid was Clayface…or rather, it was the Mud Pack–Clayface II, III, and IV banded together attempting to bring back the original. And it was the fond memory of that 1980s arc that prompted me to want to check out this issue, and while it certainly doesn’t measure up to 25 years of sentimentality, I found it to be a solid issue. We get a glimpse at Basil Karlo in this case…a rather different Clayface than I remember pre-New 52, or from The Mud Pack. Here, he’s basically a thug with a temper and powers, who refuses to blindly follow others and prefers to act on his own plans and initiative. Nothing here particularly struck me or interested me in seeking out other stuff…but it was still an enjoyable enough issue, and with the 3-D cover, certainly “worth” my $3.99 for the issue.

LEX LUTHOR (Action Comics #23.3)

foreverevillexluthor001This was probably my favorite issue of the Villains stuff this week, and definitely one of my favorites for the month. Seeing Luthor BE Luthor…businessman and evil and all that, yet not without thought/motivation. We get to see him–amidst dealing with other stuff–take apart a rival businessman’s life for slighting him, JUST to make a point. And while a feat on that level to many would take a lot of time and effort…it’s hardly a second thought for Luthor. It’s also a look at what he does–can do–outside of solely plotting and executing plans for Superman’s downfall. Probably what hit me the most was that it reminded me a lot of Luthor from the late-80s/early-90s…not an exact fit, but I could see this Luthor propositioning a waitress just to mess with her, and then drive off, leaving her to wonder what her life could have been. That this issue leads directly into Forever Evil #1 which I read a couple weeks ago adds to my enjoyment…here I’m only really visiting DC stuff again for a month, and there’s already some “continuity connection.” I was also quite glad that–despite the cover–Luthor was NOT the power-armored mad-scientist in this. The cover itself doesn’t blow me away or anything, but works for the issue…I suppose I have to “accept” that the power-armored Luthor IS rather “iconic” in general.

ECLIPSO (Justice League Dark #23.3)

foreverevileclipso001The first real “crossover”/event I remember “experiencing” in comics was the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story that crossed through a bunch of DC‘s Annuals back in 1992, and carried with it some iconic moments for me, and gave me a rather serious introduction to the character beyond his goofy-ish earlier appearances that I–to this day–have yet to read. So getting to read an issue focusing on the character now in the New 52 seemed ripe for an enjoyable check-in of sorts…though I found myself somewhat disappointed with the issue. There’s a lot of potential, but there’s no way one lone issue can hold the level of story that a dozen Annuals held…there’s just not that much room! Add to that the hassle getting this issue in the edition I wanted (3-D cover) and it just wasn’t gonna measure up to expectation. That said, I by FAR prefer this take on the character to the stuff post-Identity Crisis, and wouldn’t mind reading more dealing with this character. I do quite like the cover itself as well–for one thing, Eclipso’s name is spelled out pretty much as its own logo, so the Justice League Dark logo looks like just more dark energy radiating from the background swirl or the black diamond energy. The issue’s not worth the hassle I went through getting it…but it was worth reading, and I’m glad I did get to.

Eclipso: The Darkness Within (19 years later)

eclipsocoverscircleBack in 1992, a friend shared with me a new Superman #1 issue. It had some new villain, was a #1, AND he’d gotten it at a store that SPECIFICALLY SOLD *COMICS*. Such a novel thing to a kid who’d only been able to find comics at the local Waldenbooks or a spinner rack at the grocery store.

But that Superman comic was Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1, part of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within crossover through that year’s DC titles’ annuals. Not long after, I tracked down the other Superman annuals, as well as Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2; among my earliest “back issue hunting” was Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1. This was also when I was introduced to the Direct Market, the world of comic stores.

Even though I read a handful of the Eclipso annuals, and wound up with a few others from bargain bins here and there through the years…it wasn’t until a package arrived today that I finally have the complete event.

19 years after they came out, I’ll finally be able to read the whole story.

eclipsoeclipsed

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