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The ’90s Revisited: Wildstorm Chamber of Horrors #1

wildstorm_chamber_of_horrors_0001Warblade
Story: Ron Marz
Layouts: Bernie Wrightson
Finished Art: Alex Bialy
Colors: Lee Ann Clark
Computer Color: Ominous Color

Lord Emp
Story: Steven Grant
Art: Trevor Scott
Color: Gina Going
Computer Color: Quantum Color

Tapestry
Story: Merv
Pencils: Jason Johnson
Inks: Chris Carlson
Color: Monica Bennett
Computer Color: Ominous Color

Savant
Story:
Jeff Mariotte
Pencils: Tom Raney
Inks: Al Vey
Color: Gina Going
Computer Color: Ominous Color

Framing Pages
Pencils:
Aron Wiesenfeld
Inks: John Beatty, Alex Garner, Al Vey
Color: Monica Bennett
Computer Color: WildStorm Effects, Ominous Color
Production: WildStorm Effects

Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: Simon Bisley
Pinup: Jeff Rebner & Richard Friend
Editor: Jonathan Peterson
Editorial Coordinator: Amy Zimand
Cover Date: October, 1995
Cover Price: $3.50

Well, that’s an extremely long list of creator credits for this issue! For purposes of this post, I suppose that’s my fault, as I’m not breaking them up for individual-segment thoughts on writing/art/etc. Because while I read the issue, I quickly realized it’s a collaborative one-off piece…essentially a bunch of characters coming together, hanging out, exchanging stories while doing so…and different creators handling the different parts that are then stitched together into this single comic book.

I found this issue in a quarter-bin, and the main reason it even caught my attention was the "generic" Wildstorm in the title…then drew me in with the Chamber of Horrors bit. Hey, Halloween is almost here, and I haven’t acknowledged October. So I’d thought ok, I’ll get this issue, and maybe read it in time to do a post before Halloween. So here we are.

I know the "high points," or the "bullet points" of Image in the ’90s…and largely consider (personally) that most of what gives "The ’90s" a bad rap in comics IS the Image stuff. And while there’s some nostalgia for me, I’ve yet to really dive in and erase the blind spot so much of ’90s Image still has for me. That said, or as such…I’m not all that familiar with characters in this issue…very few by name, just looking at them. I recognize a few, and a couple others sort of look familiar…but this is a jam piece I fail to appropriately "appreciate," I’m sure.

This issue is–as said–a "jam piece," with 5-6 "creative teams" involved in multiple segments that collectively make up the issue. At its core, characters come together and wind up in their own space at a party, but outside of "authorized space" at the museum that’s hosting them, and are free to tell stories amongst themselves that would not work for a general public. So the characters swap stories about horror situations they’ve found themselves in–from dating/making moves on a body possessed by spiders, to experience with the Salem Witch Trials, to a mirror that led to horrible versions of what should have been one’s best dream.

As a whole, this issue was entertaining enough. Reading it, I simply breezed through–I noticed the visual changes, but the story overall seemed relatively seamless…or at least, nothing jarring that didn’t mesh with the other parts. As said, I’m not familiar enough with any of these characters or individual series to come to the table with any real expectations, so stuff really just "is."

The art’s not bad in and of itself…though I really "see" a lot of ’90s Image in the stuff (considering this IS "’90s Image," that’s to be expected!). For a 25-cent purchase that I had zero real "expectation" for going in…I honestly enjoyed the issue, and it was worth the purchase and reading. Despite the title, and the cover, other than it incidentally being the characters gathering around a Halloween party, this could be "any time," just messed-up situations or "out there" stuff.

I never knew this issue existed, nor sought it out. I wouldn’t say it’s really anything to go to great lengths to acquire…but it’s worth a 25-cent purchase/read-through, and can serve (at least visually) as a sort of "sampler" of stuff being put out at the time.

There’s an ad in the back of the issue for a $30 "chromium" poster version of the cover…which makes me wonder if there might be a "chromium" version of this issue out there somewhere. If there is, I obviously haven’t seen it. The cover image gives me a bit of deja-vu…so perhaps I’ve seen it before without consciously taking it in; maybe I’ve seen the poster; maybe just the ad. (Or perhaps there’s some promotional trading card from Wizard with this image on it that I’ve seen).

Though titled Chamber of Horrors…you could definitely find worse horrors than this issue.

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.

Zero Hour Revisited – Flash #94

90srevisited_zerohour

flash_0094Reckless Youth chapter three: Just Do It!

Story: Mark Waid
Guest Pencils: Carlos Pacheco
Inks: Wayne Faucher and Jose Marzan Jr.
Letterer: Kevin Cunningham
Colorist: Gina Going
Assistant Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Well, that explains a bit, on multiple fronts. Some early Wally/Bart interaction, as well as (now) confirming [1.] that yes, that was “the” Wally in Zero Hour #4 and [2.] How he wound up in the future with no real context provided.

We open on Bart, with Wally’s narration…Bart’s not familiar with his own power/abilities, and Wally’s job is to keep an eye on him. Iris Allen–Barry’s wife–is present, and plays coy on details of Wally’s future. Meanwhile, Linda’s got a guy named Argus involved in some current investigation (I think he’s the Bloodlines character introduced in the Flash 1993 Annual). Wally’s none too happy about being pressed into responsibility for Bart…and takes full advantage when Argus phones in a tip. Wally investigates,and finds himself about to get some really good intel on Kobra when Bart rushes in, spoiling things. Resigned, Wally joins the fight, but soon finds himself facing Kadabra…and then he’s pulled into the far-future, Kadabra’s own time…and while still trying to get his bearings, Waverider appears.

The credits list Pacheco as a guest penciller…which explains my relative (but only slight) surprise at this not being a Weiringo-drawn issue. Though some panels come off slightly more cartooney than I’d prefer, with an odd sort of simplicity to them, on the whole the issue is quite good-looking, and not bad to see. I can mostly follow stuff, though I’m mentally piecing together context, as this is listed as part 3 of a story, but I’m reading it because it’s a Zero Hour tie-in. We get plenty of linework to suggest Flash’s speed, but nothing special or surprising. I “get” that Flash is fast, but there’s no particular creative styling to suggest the speed in a way that the very layout of the page does it, and the art style in general isn’t something drastically different from other contemporary books. It’s “just” superhero art, works well, and fits the issue.

Story-wise, I’m a bit lost, with not knowing where the story began (if this is part 3, I can assume #92) nor how long it should go (six issues from this would be #100, though there’s the #0 yet between). Similarly, given the tight continuity, I spent most of the issue wondering how Wally’s here doing this stuff when in Zero Hour #4 he’s in the far future, apparently having just captured someone (Kadabra). That does get addressed at the end of this issue, and perhaps my expectations were thrown by the Batman issue: that one shared several pages’ worth of story with Zero Hour #4…this one basically a panel. I’d “assumed” we’d get something a bit more detailed in this issue on Wally’s actions trying to shut down the Time Rift…but apparently that was “uniquely” contained to the Event Book itself.

I’d half thought/assumed over the years that Bart–Impulse–first appeared in Zero Hour itself, that this story shoehorned the character into the Flash mythology…but it would seem that I was wrong…and that has me all the more interested in getting up to speed (no pun intended) with the Flash book. This was a first-time-through for me with this issue…I didn’t read it back in 1994, nor had I ever read it prior to this reading project…so it’s actually rather cool to get this taste of the Flash’s own story, knowing the exact point it’s taking place in relation to a bunch of other ’90s issues…namely, during July 1994, and the Zero Hour event.

As this issue is part of the earliest stage of the story, the Time Anomalies are just being discovered, the wibbly-wobbly-ness just started to get noticed, so the bulk of the issue really IS “just” a typical Flash story, just any issue of the Flash book.

I enjoyed it, and look forward to the #0 issue, and eventually/someday getting fully caught up contextually with Wally’s time as the Flash.

The ’90s Revisited: Flash #79

flash0079The Once and Future Flash

Story: Mark Waid
Pencils: Greg Larocque
Inks: Roy Richardson
Letterer: Tim Harkins
Colorist: Gina Going
Assistant Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $2.50

I snagged this issue for 25 cents…the primary reason that it caught my attention was that it felt as thick as an annual…spotting the price, I saw it was priced as one also. Looking at the cover a bit closer, then, I realized it was an issue by Waid, and had the Reverse-Flash on the cover…a dynamic more interesting to me now as a fan of the tv series than any time previous. Plus, it has a nice “old-style” feel to it with the Flash’s speech balloons on the cover getting me curious. “You messed with my memories, threatened my city, and hur tmy friends…now you’re gonna pay!!”

Turns out…this issue seems to cap off the The Return of Barry Allen story that I’ve heard of, but never yet read for myself. So coming in, I’m at a loss of specifics to this story…but still felt like I was able to follow along without much issue, given my prior knowledge of Wally as the Flash, and stuff I’ve read about the character’s development aside of what I’ve actually read OF the character through stories.

Eobard Thawne–Professor Zoom–the Reverse Flash–apparently was posing as Barry Allen. Or rather, for a time he THOUGHT he actually WAS Barry. He stands revealed here, and ready to rumble–as he and Wally collide to fight out who gets to be THE Flash. We learn how Thawne wound up in the position he did, how he came to hate Barry, and so on…this is a younger Thawne, before he ever actually met Barry. Given the history that’s unfolded, he must be returned–alive–to his own time, that events might unfold as they’re known. This puts the entire timeline at risk, meaning that Wally can’t just kill him. In the course of the story we see the damage Thawne has caused, as well as the allies by Wally’s side, and it seems this is “the” issue where Wally fully, truly came into his own, getting out from under Barry’s shadow, etc.

Visually, this was a very solid issue. I read through it pretty quickly, and it wasn’t until I reviewed the first few pages that I really caught on to a nifty element: that we’re seeing Zoom’s fist get closer and closer until he and Wally collide–but interspersed between the fractions of time, we’re given flashbacks and context to bring us up to speed as things then jump to “real time.” On realizing this, it seems extremely cinematic–at least TV-cinematic. And that alone works very well for me. While my mind wants to compare this to the tv series, there are obvious elements that do not sync on a literal panel-to-screen basis…but the tone itself does. Leaving aside the visual differences to the tv show (which came some 20-21 years after this issue was published), the art is quite good and I have no problem with it at all. Given the size of this issue–at least double, if not TRIPLE–there was room for a lot to be packed in, as well as other moments spaced out…which allowed several full or double-page splashes to be VERY effective in a way that seems like a lost art in contemporary comics.

Story-wise, this had plenty of context–it’s from an era when it was NOT “inevitable” for everything to get a collected volume–so even coming in on the final chapter, I picked up readily on the overall “core” story beats related to this issue as I read. There’s plenty of detail, certainly some great moments and such that went over my head or that were in other issues so not even in my realm of awareness–but this felt like a season finale that I jumped in on, and didn’t feel LOST.

The prime drawback to me of reading this issue isolated and now lies in the fact that it illustrates to me–in one issue–just how deserved Waid‘s reputation on the book is and leaves me interested in the rest of the story, as well as more Flash (comics) in general.

I still know very little regarding the other speedsters outside of Jay and Wally…but I appreciate their presence, recognize them by name at least, and enjoy seeing the “Flash family” united, with a great sense of history and development. Though this issue leaves me interested in more Flash comics, it’s an interest tied to this era, to this particular incarnation of the series, emphasis on Wally…as opposed to much from the final several years before and thus far in the New 52.

I enjoyed this on reading it…and in typing the above roughly as stream-of-consciousness, I’m left simply feeling this was a fantastic issue, very well worth my time and money. Consciously knowing it is the end of a larger story, I’m hesitant to recommend this solely as a single issue…but if this one issue is an indicator of the quality of the entire story, I’ll “blindly” recommend that for now, containing this issue.

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