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The ’90s Revisited: Warlock and the Infinity Watch #42

90s_revisited

warlock_and_the_infinity_watch_0042Win, Lose, Draw!

Writer: John Arcudi
Pencils: Mike Gustovich
Inks: Keith Williams
Colors: Ian Laughlin
Letters: Jack Morelli
Editor: Mark Gruewald
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July, 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This was a hard issue to read. I’m really not familiar with the art team, outside of perhaps earlier work on this title that I read 15+ years ago. While characters are visually familiar from the time, this is hardly the BEST rendition of them. The story is rather scattered and without much context (no "previously page" and not much in the way of in-story exposition). I suppose that’s a good thing by contemporary standards–not wasting much space on that…and this IS a "final chapter" of whatever the story is, as well as a series finale.

Unfortunately, this feels like a rushed, tie-up-as-much-as-possible finale that may have been something seen coming but not entirely "expected."

We basically have a scattered team, with a member physically hospitalized while her mind is active (psychically) with the team; a former member allied with Thanos, another member turned "traitor," and the team’s "home turf" facing a huge storm that could wipe the place out. Out of nowhere, the team’s Infinity Gems (hence "Infinity Watch") all disappear; Warlock is apparently killed; Maxam returns to his own time without further explanation, and the team is left with Warlock heading out on a solo quest to figure out where the gems went. The End.

Frankly, this is a horrible issue in terms of a context-less, isolated cold-read. As said, it’s a series finale, so it’s scrambling to try to wrap stuff up in a hurry as best as possible. For a series that started on such a high note, this is a pitiful whimper to go out on.

Context-wise, from what I recall of reading scattered later issues (I’ve never had the ENTIRE series to read in one go), I can imagine the team and book were headed for a status quo change and some new developments, perhaps plenty of positive, just that stuff got cut short. And a book NOT being given "time" or a new direction given time to shake out, etc. is something that I can "accept" for a story falling flat, even if I don’t like to. In a way, it’s a sign of the times, when series were not written simply as serialized graphic novels, but as episodic things with ongoing developments and actual "subplots" and the like.

A key factor of this issue, though, is its failure to even acknowledge Marvel‘s then "sister" company, Malibu, and its Ultraverse. See…in this issue, the Infinity Gems just simply, arbitrarily disappear out of nowhere, and that’s that. But, if one reads the Rune/Silver Surfer (flipbook Silver Surfer/Rune) issue, we see the Ultraverse character gain the Time Gem, stop time, and snag the rest. Given he steals them all WHILE time is stopped, that explains the sudden, simultaneous disappearance of the gems. It seems counter-intuitive and even a bit shameful to me that that event happens in another book entirely (Silver Surfer got a cartoon in the 1990s, so was more of a "hot" property–so I can see Marvel wanting the bigger brand "out there") with zero acknowledgement in this title…the title in which the Infinity Gems were housed, and the story of their place in the then-Marvel Universe was chronicled for over three years, a long-running title!

I actually found myself with two copies of this issue "handy," hence reading this as an isolated single issue. One copy I’d pulled when I came across it going through some comic box looking for something else in my collection; the other with a stack of 25-cent-bin issues; I’m certain I acquired both from 25-cent bins. And frankly, that’s what this issue is worth. There’s sentimentalism to be had if you’re fond of the title or Warlock or any of the other characters, but that’s about it. Outside of "free," this issue is perhaps worth the "base" price of 25 cents, but I wouldn’t say much more than that. On the other hand, the first issue is a great read (as I remember) as are a number of the early issues, perhaps through the Infinity War stuff.

Overall, I’d give this a pass; there’s a lot of better stuff out there to be read.

The ’90s Revisited: The Flash Plus #1

flashplus0001nightwingThe Flash + Nightwing: Doorway to Nightmare

Story: Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn
Pencils: Eduardo Barreto
Inks: Gerry Fernandez
Letterer: Gasper
Colorist: Ian Laughlin
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1997
Cover Price: 2.95

I’ve seen a number of these Character Plus+ issues through the years…acquired some myself, even…though I don’t know that I’ve ever actually gotten around to reading any. But being in a Flash mood recently, and this being extra-sized as well as knowing it “had to” be more of a one-shot, it was something I knew immediately would be well worth a quarter, fishing it out of a quarter bin.

Wally and Dick are headed out on vacation. Dick’s a bit peeved that Wally yet again failed to do the planning for their vacation, so he had to make all the plans/arrangements. And Wally–impatient as always–is not happy being stuck in a car to make their way to a destination rather than being able to simply run under his own speed. The two arrive in New Orleans at a haunted house/attraction…and though Wally couldn’t see how there’d be anything special to it, the two soon find themselves up to their necks in trouble. They ultimately uncover plans of an alien invasion and must work together to stop it, beat back existing aliens, and save the world.

…Which is a really simplistic summation of the issue, considering its extra size. But I’m not writing this as a wiki piece of the issue–this was yet another of my embracing a ’90s comic and enjoying it.

With The New 52 having done away with the DC Universe I grew up on several years ago, and Wally being sidelined for years before that, I’d forgotten about the friendship he and Dick shared. Both started out as sidekicks (Robin and Kid Flash), both “graduated” into their own identities–Dick as Nightwing, Wally embracing and living up to his part in the Flash legacy), both are now (at this point in the continuity) adults, and there’s that sense of history and friendship with them…at least from my knowledge of the characters.

The cover is rather generic…yet I definitely enjoy it. I like the shadowy effect with mostly-black, but the lightning in the background showing us key parts of the characters and their costumes so we know who they are. I’m pretty sure genuine lighting doesn’t work that way in actuality…but the effect for this image is plenty cool enough for my eye! I also like the quasi-“grid” effect at the top…whether it’s supposed to be part of the logo or not, it reminds me of classic DC covers in a very subtle way.

The art on the interior is quite good, and I enjoyed it. It was solid, conveying what needed to be conveyed, and never particularly took me out of the story; there were no pages that left me curious about creative human anatomy or if I missed something, and so on. Truth be told, I actually hardly noticed it, which is how I’d prefer: I should enjoy the story in general, and not be relying on the art to carry a poor story nor be taken out of a good story by poor art. I’m not yet familiar enough with this period of The Flash or Nightwing to know offhand if Barreto is the “regular” artist for either character…but while specials and annuals can often have the “look” of being just some random story or fill-in with a non-series-regular artist, this issue did not have that feel for me.

That this issue IS basically a one-shot and not part of a crossover, longer story, event, or so on nor an Annual for either title, I don’t think we’d get something like this today. A single issue playing well within what I’m aware of continuity-wise with both characters, yet doesn’t rely on an individual/ongoing story for either nor require reading of both titles…and lacking a specific-arc tie-in and not ending with a lead-in to some other story…this is a unique piece of history, and an issue well worth its cover price.

Some of the quality probably does come from this being written by Waid/Augustyn–names I’m starting to notice repeatedly cropping up together, though I was already aware of Waid‘s significant (and highly-praised) run on the Flash title. This one issue gives us a good beginning, middle, and end; as well as giving insight into both characters, while sticking primarily with the Flash (Nightwing IS the “plus” after all, not the headlining character).

In an age of $4 comics, where I got to buy and read this for 1/16th that price, by default the issue is very much worth what I paid for it. Even at full cover price, though, this issue would seem to me quite worthwhile compared to a modern issue, and “experiencing” the quality of the story from nearly two decades ago for myself continues to build my interest in reading “classic” Wally West Flash stories, and put shame to the notion of all ’90s comics being crappy stories and periods for characters.

The ’90s Revisited: Warlock and the Infinity Watch #25

Blood and Thunder part 12: Raid on Asgard

Creator/Writer: Jim Starlin
Pencils: Angel Medina
Inker: Bob Almond
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Ian Laughlin
Editor: Craig Anderson
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Cover Date: February, 1994

It’s been years since I’ve read anything from this title; but when I originally read through what I had of the title–probably back in 2000 or so–this issue was not one of them. And, I haven’t read this Blood and Thunder story, either (other than having maybe read one or two other random chapters, but never have read it as a singular story or all the parts in order). Yet, I’ve had a vague concept of what the story was–Thor goes crazy and some of the cosmic characters had to team up to take him down.

That this had such a cool cover of Thanos, Warlock and a chained-up Thor piqued my interest such that I found myself reading the issue in its entirety despite lacking context of any recently-read earlier chapters of the crossover or any recent reading of any Infinity Watch issues for continuity reminders.

Basically, Warlock, the Infinity Watch, Dr. Strange, and the Silver Surfer show up on the Rainbow Bridge with Thor imprisoned in a stasis field of some sort. Odin sees this and assumes with Thanos in their midst that they’ve–despite proving their Character in the past–shown up with Thor as a hostage, and he sends the forces of Asgard against the group. After a lengthy battle, Odin wades into the fray himself before Sif and Beta Ray Bill intervene, finally putting everyone on the same page. Odin attempts to simply fix things, but it doesn’t work, and so he declares that Thor must die.

The story itself is pretty good–sufficiently “cosmic” for me, which makes sense given the characters involved. And this IS classic Starlin…and given his hand in Warlock and Thanos stuff through the years–particularly back in the early/mid-1990s when this issue came out–can’t ask for much better. I really like the way this plays firmly within what I recall of the ’90s Cosmic stuff–Warlock and his group, Thanos, Thor/Odin/Asgard, even the Silver Surfer is found here. Starlin‘s got a great grasp on his “usual” characters, and seems to do the same with the Thor characters–at least, they all seem within the characterization I’m aware of for them.

My main disappointment in the issue is with the art–for me, as a casual reader, it seems incredibly uneven. I really like the cover–it’s got plenty of detail, and the characters all look quite good–recognizable, detailed, etc.–and that goes for the outer as well as inner cover images. The art for the issue itself seems truly simplistic by comparison, though, with many panels having extremely minimalistic background if anything but solid color–and many of the characters (while they remain recognizable as individuals) are distractingly simplified such that they look ugly, rough, and unfinished or rushed–especially compared to the cover. This may be a stylistic thing–and doesn’t fail to get the story across–but it’s not exactly to my liking at present.

All told, though…this was a very welcome read as something I pulled from a bargain bin sometime in the last few years–I found it a few weeks ago while searching out other comics in my unorganized collection, and set it aside TO read. I’m not certain, but I think this issue and the Thanos/Odin battle may even have been referenced in the Dan Jurgens run of Thor, post-Heroes Return, which makes it that much more satisfying to (even a decade later) have finally read for myself.

Even with the cardstock, die-cut dual cover (you open the main cover to the same image of Thor, but surrounded by all the other primary characters involved in this story) and extra story pages, this issue was only $2.95 cover price–over $1 cheaper than a standard Marvel comic today. And with bargain-bin pricing–presumably 25-50 cents–if you’ve any interest in Thanos in particular–this is well worth the price of admission.

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