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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.

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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.

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

Archie #606 [Review]

Yesterday Today Tomorrow / Career Weak / Unflappable

Scripts: Michael Uslan, Angelo Decesare, Craig Boldman
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inking: Bob Smith
Lettering: Jack Morelli
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Cover: Dan Parent
Published by: Archie Comics

Archie is one of those comics that seems to stick to a status quo far moreso than any other comics I can think of offhand–even more than super-heroes such as Superman or Batman, which can seem to at least take a year or two to deviate from status quo now and again.

I picked up Archie #600 not solely because of being a legitimate milestone (no reboots, restarts, disassemblings, etc en route), but because it was the first of a 6-issue story. Unlike the digests the publisher puts on regulalry, this wasn’t just some “theme” for a bunch of gag shorts and whatnot–it was six issues of full-issue-length ongoing story featuring the Archie mainstays. Archie of course, Betty, Veronica, their families, Jughead, Reggie, Moose, Midge, Pop Tate, Principal Weatherbee, and the other usuals. We’re familiar with them, we know who they are and what they’re about, and they can carry full-length stories.

This issue bills itself as an Epilogue, as a “Part 7,” whereas the Archie Marries Veronica/Archie Marries Betty/Will You Marry Me? story was for six issues billed as __ of 6. So rather than jump off as intended with #605, I picked this up, because I thoroughly enjoyed the 6-issue arc, I figured one more issue of follow-up couldn’t hurt.

Boy, was I wrong on that. This issue returns to the multiple stories per issue, with the stories more gag-oriented and predictable than being solid character-drivin stories.

The main feature is the follow-up to Will You Marry Me, as the guys give Archie a hard time for his notion of having seen a future where he married each of the girls, and sees him booking a date with each for the same night, and the fallout from that when the girls bump into each other on their way to meet up with Archie. The next short sees a bunch of gags as Archie supposedly embraces different potential careers, to the distress of his parents. Being a diver, or a painter, a mechanic, or a zoologist are all things that would be interesting to see Archie embrace–I’d gladly read a series of issues where each one sees the kid attempt to get into these career paths–but they have no real depth as given here with just a page or two per idea. And the final short sees Archie going ga-ga over a new girl, and tries to do everything he can to annoy Veronica so that she’ll break their date, freeing him to go with the new girl guilt-free.

The art isn’t bad in this issue–it’s “standard Archie,” the visual style we’re all used to for the various characters…no complaint there. It’s the lack of serious, deep story combined with a cover that led me to expect another issue like the previous six that makes this issue quite a stinker. If you’ve been following this title solely for the “big story,” there’s no need to get this issue–it adds NOTHING to the previous six issues. If you prefer your Archie with short gag-driven stories, though…this one’s for you, and you can freely ignore the huge “Part 7” displayed on the cover. As for me, I’ll wait for the next longform “special” arc.

Story: 3/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 4/10

Archie #605 [Review]

Will You Marry Me? part 6 of 6 – Archie Marries Betty: “Happily Ever After”

Script: Michael Uslan
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inks: Bob Smith
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics

I bought into the hype from two angles. One…it was Archie #600…and the title had gotten there legitimately. No reboots or restarts and funky number-playing across multiple series that were intentionally made distinct for the purposes of renumbering, mistake or otherwise. Two…it was the story of Archie FINALLY choosing one of the girls, and doing the right thing by her. He was choosing Veronica, for better or worse (I’ve always rooted for Betty). So imagine my surprise when the story swerved at the end of Chapter 3, showing that instead of 6 issues of Archie marrying/being married to Veronica, we were actually getting two 3-parters under the banner of “__ of 6.”

Also of note is the title of the story. I’d initially thought it was “Archie Marries Veronica” based on the cover; but as said above, obviously that changed halfway through. This issue states on the cover “Archie Marries Betty” and the chapter title, as well as the “Part 6 of 6.” Inside the issue, however, we find an ad for the graphic novel Archie in “Will You Marry Me?” billed as “The complete 6-issue story arc!” at the top of the page. There’s also the fact of that ad existing–here, in the final issue of the story, the company is trying to get the reader to order the collected volume of the story they’re holding. Sure, I expected this–I bought these single issues despite knowing full well there’d be a collected edition–I had to wait for that edition on the recent Freshman Year arc, and if they collected that I knew they’d collect this. Still…the Archie books being what they are, chances are that many people buy just a random issue here and there, and so would not have all 6 chapters.

“Gripey” as that may sound, it’s not much of a gripe. This is a decent conclusion to a decent story. Why it’s not “great” is that it’s something that can’t truly matter long-term in the Archie comics without radically altering the status quo and the nature of the series. This puts me in mind of the silver-age Superman stories focusing on one of many alternate Earths; such as the one with the “Super Sons” or any where Superman actually married Lois. So, this is an “imaginary story” within the Archie universe. And as has been said of these “imaginary stories”… “Aren’t they all?”

Archie and Betty have returned to Riverdale after their year away…both to teach at the high school. They reunite with old friends, and discover a number of other changes. Jughead and Midge are married (and Jughead bought Pop’s as Pop was retiring); Moose is calm and mature…and Reggie and Veronica just got engaged. The story follows the young couple dealing with these events, and then the birth of their twins, Veronica and Reggie’s wedding, as well as life afterward–dealing with “grown-up stuff” in the form of juggling work, the kids, and some sort of social life. And then the story ends on the reverse note the 6-parter opened with…perfectly fitting.

The story is fairly simplistic and formulaic, of course. There’s some drama, but nothing that’s really drawn-out (if it were, I could imagine this one issue getting stretched to 6 issues itself!). There’s a lot of character stuff and forward momentum, and even time for that ending. While hardly complex–and certainly not apologetic about the means by which the story was achieved and then left behind–I really don’t feel cheated nor let down. Heck, this story is one that would make a great tv mini-series of sorts…basically do a pair of movies that make the one big movie. One movie for each of the girls as the bride of Archie. It’d be great if the story was “timeless,” but there are some elements thrown in that date the story–including a reference to “stimulus money,” which firmly roots this in the present. Aside from those references, though, the story is fairly timeless, not actually giving any hard dates for things…just a walk on Memory Lane.

The art is standard Archie style; none of the “New Look” stuff (good as those stories are). The only real complaint I have with the art is the cover–something about Archie’s proportions seems “off” a bit, and overall, he doesn’t look quite right, and I’m not sure why.

I don’t recommend specifically seeking this issue out if you haven’t either been following since #600, or #603. However, if you’re at all a fan of Archie, Betty, and/or Veronica…I highly recommend considering the graphic novel.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Archie #601 [Review]

Archie Marries Veronica, part 2: The Wedding

Script: Michael Uslan
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inks: Bob Smith
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Cover: Goldberg and Smith
Publisher:Archie Comic Publications

Second issue in, and the story’s even better (perhaps because we’re into the thick of things, with no silly walk-UP-memory-lane as the vehicle to facilitate an “easy out” of this major story).

This issue sees the wedding itself of Archie and Veronica, with a lot of great moments, cliche though some may be. We see Archie and his groomsmen dealing with the woes of tux-fitting, while Veronica and her bridesmaids have a fitting of their own. The couple-to-be shares some concern over what their future is to be. Then we get the “core scene” of the issue in the wedding–with a double-page splash of the big moment, a couple of full-page shots, and then a montage (including the classic Archies’ song “Sugar, Sugar”) that perfectly captures “a wedding.” The tail end of the issue moves the story ahead a year as we find the newlyweds facing another new step in their lives as Veronica shares some significant news with her husband.

All told, there’s not too much to be said on the art on the surface. It’s got that classic Archie style to it, and all the characters seem perfectly recognizeable to me–even if I couldn’t tell you their names offhand, they’re visually familiar from one thing or another of Archie I’ve read in the past. The declaration of the newly married couple and the full-page panels that followed reminded me of the Superman Wedding Album issue and took me out of the story a bit, as I noticed these as being those (newly) “iconic” images that would seem more appropriate for marketing than within the pages of this story. Still, one does not really get to have those double-page splashes, even for huge/important moments in real life…so getting them in a comic isn’t that bad a thing–especially as double-page splashes or even a full-page image seem such a rarity for an Archie book (in fact, I can’t think of any Archie story in the past that has had such pages).

The story itself isn’t terribly complex…but it definitely rings true to life. I’ve been to a number of weddings the last few years as a number of friends have gotten married, and the montage found in this issue made it easy to connect to the characters and the experience. There’s still some drama and conflict…even questions…as the story goes along, but they seem to be the usual sort of human drama…wondering how relationships will be affected, or seeing the various relationships play out in the shadow of an event as important to two lives as a wedding is.

What struck me as particularly interesting with this issue is the Betty/Veronica relationship. The two have always been rivals–one might argue that the rivalry is built into the fabric of the characters themselves in the Archie-verse– but I’m not used to seeing them portrayed as having such meaning to one another…that this is played up a bit does great credit toward making the characters more well-rounded and believable.

All the good of the issue not to say it’s without cliche…there’s nothing particularly shocking–even the issue’s end (while done as a cliffhanger) is only natural in a story like this. The nature of the story at hand allows for such huge things since we’re invariably going to be returned to the status quo after this arc is complete. But while I’m confident I see what the ending will be since the beginning of the arc, the ride is still very enjoyable–so much so that I’m honestly probably going to be disappointed to see the status quo return.

Perhaps Archie comics are aimed at kids…but these are not “just” for kids by ANY means. I’m a 28-year-old male…and I’m enjoying this arc as much or more than most other comics I’m reading these days. If you can find the first isue of this arc, I highly recommend giving the story a chance…whether you’ve ever read an Archie book before or not, if you know anything of the characters, you should have no trouble following right along.

While the story and art taken alone don’t rank quite as highly…this issue’s rating is based on the whole, which is greater than the parts.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 9/10

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