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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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X-O Manowar #37 [Review]

xomanowar037Dead Hand Part 4: Red Earth

Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Diego Bernard
Inks: Ryan Winn w/Mark Pennington & Bit
Colors: Brian Reber
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Stephen Segovia & Brian Reber
Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor in Chief: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Date: June 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

While my feelings toward Valiant have taken a definite beating in the last few months, this issue reminded me why I’ll certainly be sticking with this SERIES even if I don’t stick with the entirety of Valiant‘s output.

We come to the conclusion of this Dead Hand arc, and we find things at a bit of a standoff. Authorities on Earth are quite alarmed at what might be coming, and seek to find out what they can of it. Meanwhile, as readers we see that Dead Hand has paused to consider how to proceed, taken aback by the sudden presence of a number of armors (that Aric has called to his side from throughout the galaxy) and then by their defense of life (Dead Hand having been programmed to eradicate the armors, all of whom were to be selfish things causing harm and destruction to life, not defending it). Of course, we get the predictable battle, with somewhat predictable results, then a bit of wrap up and an “out” to allow for future situations.

This issue truly felt like the end of an event series…yet it’s actually “only” the end of a single 4-issue story within the main X-O Manowar title, and there were no tie-ins, cross-overs, one-shots, etc. This was an organic follow-up to last year’s Armor Hunters, taking stuff set forth by that and exploring it further, adding to the X-O/Aric mythos, and serving as another off-earth “cosmic adventure” for our hero that makes SENSE. It also as an arc gave us some more characterization of and motivation to the Vine that will have long-lasting consequences in-continuity (say, like Marvel‘s Avengers‘ initial Kree-Skrull War).

A lot of my feelings come from the arc in general, and this issue lacks some of the core characterization and “moments.” We do have what I would consider a satisfactory conclusion to the arc, while leaving things open for later stuff to develop.

As the end of an arc, this is definitely for the continuing readers, and certainly not geared to be a jump-on point or a special singular issue (see the X-O Manowar 25th Anniversary Special for that or next month’s issue). If you’ve been following the title, it’s well worth getting this issue; any negative feelings I have come from external/”meta” stuff.

Venditti‘s writing continues to be strong, and with no less than 38 (37 plus the #0) issues CONSISTENTLY thus far to his name, has become the iconic writer of the character and book: with his name attached, it’s simple that the story works within its continuity and internal feel. The art is good as well, and I have no particular complaints with it.

In short, I enjoyed this issue far more than I expected to–both in and of itself as a single issue as well as the conclusion to a huge (but short) storyline.

Harbinger #15 [Review]

harbinger015Writer: Joshua Dysart
Penciler: Barry Kitson
Inks: Stefano Gaudiano and Mark Pennington
Colorist: Ian Hannin with Sotocolor
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover Artists: Khari Evans, Barry Kitson, Trevor Hairsine, and Rian Hughes
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I really enjoy seeing heroes’ downtime. Seems like just about every issue of (especially team-books) a title “has to” have lots of action, so I quite appreciate just seeing the characters be themselves, NOT fighting villains, NOT on some huge quest, NOT repelling invasions or facing life-or-death situations, etc.

So this issue was quite up my alley, seeing the kids decompress from the events of Harbinger Wars. They recognized a functional loss, but escaped with their lives, and so take some time in this issue to just be kids, to have fun with each other and the advantages their powers bring. I could enjoy an entire issue of single-page scenes just showing the kinds of stuff the group as a whole would be up to as well as what happens when the characters pair off for activities, the way they relate not just as a group but in the one-on-one interactions.

I’m especially interested in seeing the growing friendship between Faith and Peter, and while I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever read the first few issues of the original ’90s series, that was a good 14 years ago and I don’t recall much of anything at this point…though from “meta” info about that title I’m vaguely aware of a character death early in the series that I’ve been glad to see did not happen here (I sorta expected it to play out in Harbinger Wars).

While we start the issue on a relatively “light” note (all recent events considered), and get plenty of fun and potential as the issue continues, I got a sense of foreboding toward the final few pages. Despite this, I had an honest moment of shock when my fear played out…the end of the issue opens up a whole different potential for this title and the Renegades moving forward.

More and more I find myself considering this the cream of the crop of the current Valiant titles…and with the mythology Dysart‘s building, the character-building and realistic (for a comic starring super-powered psiots) settings and interactions and amount of story actually fit into a single issue, there’s little better out there.

If you like super-hero team books, I definitely recommend this title!

Fatal Attractions Revisited: Wolverine #75

Nightmares Persist

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Adam Kubert
Inkers: Mark Farmer, Dan Green, Mark Pennington
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Cover: Adam Kubert, Mark Farmer
Editor:
Bob Harras
Published by:
Marvel Comics
Cover Date:
November 1993
Cover Price:
$3.95

Bishop arrives in the blackbird (having been called by Colossus) to take the X-Men home. Wolverine’s obviously gravely injured from losing the adamantium. Xavier, weakened from the exertion of the exo-suit and shutting Magneto down gets Jean’s help to go into Wolverine’s mind, to try to deal with the psychological trauma of what’s happened. They see bits of his past–as he remembers it–but it’s not much help. They’re ripped out of his mind when the Blackbird hits turbulence and Jean winds up having to hold the plan together with her telekinesis, leaving Xavier alone to keep Wolverine alive. As things get particularly bad, Jean is taxed to her limit and about to lose it–while on the ground, Moira, Cyclops, Jubilee, and the others are horrified by what they’re hearing. Just as Jean does lose the plane, she’s caught by a bandaged arm–Wolverine. They share a moment, as they realize that while he was basically dead, some part of him was aware of her situation and he came back–for her.

Later, Wolverine’s determined to prove himself, to see if he still has what it takes to call himself an X-Man, and takes on a Danger Room scenario. Others watch, and while he’s holding his own, he’s having trouble. Instinctively, he finally pops his claws, to everyone’s horror–not only does he still HAVE the claws, but they’re BONE…and his healing factor so taxed, the punctures of them ripping out of the back of his hands are not closing easily, leaving him literally a bloody mess. A couple weeks later, Wolverine spends some time with Jubilee, catching up a bit, before offering some “final advice” that makes her suspicious. Finally, we close with a letter he leaves for her as he’s made the decision to leave the school and strike out on his own–to find himself, and deal with what’s happened and how it affects things moving forward.

This is the only “solo” title of Fatal Attractions-all the other issues are team-books: X-Factor, X-Force, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, Excalibur. As such, the hologram on this cover is the most appropriate–Wolverine himself. While it’s a cool hologram, it’s not my favorite–I think that distinction goes to the Havok or Magneto ones. The cover takes a different perspective than X-Men #25, showing Wolverine with all these curvy spikes sticking out of his body, apparently representing the adamantium; rather than him just injured with metal/bone showing through.

As I’ve been saying over the past several posts, this issue and X-Men 25 are my favorites of the 6, and form the “heart” of the story. X-Men 25 climaxes with Wolverine losing the adamantium; this issue picks up the pieces, and ultimately results in Wolverine leaving the team for a time. Also as I’ve said, this issue is such a core part of my childhood with comics that it’s not an issue I see particularly objectively. It’s an iconic, key issue in things–and began nearly six years of Wolverine NOT having the adamantium (a long enough time and becoming a part of the character that the depiction even made it out into licensed products at the time). From #75, Wolverine was without the adamantium until #146, 71 issues later; nearly half the entire run of his series to that point.

I remember this issue being a tense read–the situation the characters were in, and their not knowing what was actually gonna happen. I like the way it shows the characters working together–a team–and the sense of family sprinkled in. There are a lot of great moments that are truly enhanced by knowing about the characters and continuity; maybe even moreso now, with the knowledge of where many of the characters wind up. Xavier’s sense of responsibility to Wolverine–bringing him into the X-men to begin with, involving him in the mission to Avalon, his inability to help Wolverine break through the memory implants, but the help he has provided the man through the years. Stuff with Jean–her past with the Phoenix, and that other horrific return-journey to earth.

The art is a pretty definitive take on the characters–everyone’s familiar, and the visuals are very similar to X-Men 25, further placing both issues at the heart of the story. It also definitely helps that it’s one art team rather than an entire group, and thus a singular consistency throughout the issue.

Probably the roughest part of the issue for me is Wolverine’s letter at the end–the font is hard on the eyes after the lettering of the rest of the issue. I appreciate the representation of a hand-written note, but for just reading the issue, it’s a bit jarring.

On the whole, though…this is one of THE most memorable issues of Wolverine for me, in all the series/incarnations. It’s certainly my favorite, particularly for the time. And for awhile, this was the end of my experience with Fatal Attractions. I originally missed the Excalibur issue as these were coming out, and I’m not even 100% sure if I’d even read the issue until I read a copy for this series of ‘Fatal Attractions Revisited’ posts.

This issue is definitely well worth picking up–particularly if you come across it in a bargain bin. In the years since it originally came out, I’ve paid up to cover price for it–but know I’ve snagged at least one copy from a quarter-bin and one from a dollar bin, another as part of a 3-for-$10 purchase.

AVP: Three World War #2 [Review]

Three World War

Script: Randy Stradley
Pencils: Rick Leonardi
Inks: Mark Pennington
Colors: Wes Dzioba
Lettering: Blambot!
Cover art: Raymond Swanland
Book Design: Lia Ribacchi
Associate Editor: Samantha Robertson
Editor: Chris Warner
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

I’ve read a lot of Dark Horse‘s Alien comics, and enjoyed those via the Omnibus volumes. I’ve yet to read much in the way of the Predator stuff, though I’m somewhat familiar with the Predator side of things from the first movie, and both of the AVP films…and a couple of novelizations of Aliens vs. Predator stories from the mid-1990s.

This issue picks up with a bunch of military people heading toward a world where Predators are present (and apparently Aliens as well), and as their guide/advisor, they have the woman who was for a time accepted amongst the Predators, who warns them of how to behave and react around the Predators if they want to stay alive. Where the title comes in–Three World War–seems to be the Aliens, the Predators, and Earthmen. Once the military arrives where the Predators are, the woman leaps into mortal combat with one, apparently following tradition by which one earns the right to speak to the Predators and be taken seriously.

The story itself seems fairly shallow, and one has to make a lot of leaps in following the action and plot, as there’s virtually no context or real sense of history given…if I wasn’t already familiar with the properties, this would seem entirely new and unconnected.

The art is where the strength of the issue lies, as the design and coloring blend for an end result that looks very much like a comic book–as it should, since this is one–and yet, also comes across as something like an adaptation of a screenplay, carrying a lot of weight of story by showing things rather than narration or exposition laying things out. The visuals seem fairly simple and not all that detailed…but these would work fairly well if this were to be an animated tv production.

As seems to be the case with most blends of these two properties, the story tends to be more about the Predators or otherwise those dealing with the Aliens, and the Aliens become a plot device…which I have no problem with. However, one really needs to either be a fan of or not mind reading about the Predators to enjoy this, as the Aliens get virtually zero presence here, and no real development…they’re just kinda there.

All in all, a solid enough issue. There seems to be more unrealized potential here than what’s already unfolded, and the book could do with a recap page (I couldn’t summarize the plot of the previous issue offhand without laying out some serious B.S.). But if you’re a fan of these properties, this is definitely worth a look-see, and if you don’t mind a highly visual-driven reading experience, this is a good series to check out. I do think this will ultimately read best as a collected volume, rather than in single issues with 6-some weeks between issues.

Story: 4/10
Art: 6/10
Overall: 5/10

Captain America #45 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 3 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencilers: Luke Ross with Butch Guice
Inkers: Rick Magyar, Mark Pennington and Butch Guice
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production Irene Lee
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Bucky (well, Captain America) continues his battle with Batroc and a mysterious assailant with ties to the past. By the time all’s said ‘n done, Cap finds himself facing an even bigger threat than he’d initially thought.

No real complaint on the art here for me. Art duties are shared a fair bit according to the credits, but nothing on-page took me out of the story or got me to pause and think about having seen different art–which is credit to the team for keeping a consistent enough style to not jar me outta the experience. (Which is not to say one can’t find the differences).

The story’s solid as usual for the title, and we’re really seeing all the more a tonal shift from the “super-hero” stuff to the spy/espionage stuff. The costume, shield, and title of the series are Captain America…but with a diferent man under the mask and different relationships with supporting cast, this is beginning to feel like a much different character and title.

There’s a fairly decent ending to this issue, closing out this 3-parter; but we’re still left with a to-be-continued note, as this story “cliffhangers” into the next.

As 3-parters go, this is not a bad initial post-Steve, Bucky-actually-IS-Cap-now story. However, having been brought on-board with the Death of Cap back in #25 and following that and checking this out, I get the feeling that this is going to read much better in collected format, and so plan to discontinue purchasing the monthly issues and wait for the collected volumes to follow this. Brubaker’s story is fairly deep, layered, and well-done…but I’m ready to break from his single issues and wait for full stories.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

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