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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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Zero Hour Revisited – Robin #10

90srevisited_zerohour

robin_0010Two Birds One Stone

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Ray Kryssing
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Albert DeGuzman
Assistant Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is probably one of the most "iconic" covers for me of the Robin run…as well as (loosely) one of my favorite issues. I’ve "always" enjoyed Tim and Dick’s interactions, and having their ages/experience somewhat reversed here (while playing with Tim’s relative inexperience solo anyway) just makes for an interesting, entertaining story.

We open on Robin (Tim Drake) pursuing a lead, but he encounters another Robin…one that turns out to be a young Dick Grayson. Realizing this is another instance of a time anomaly, Tim invites him along on the case. While pursuing "Weasel," the two bond a bit, and even learn some from each other. As the case wraps up, almost with a positive ending, outta nowhere, things fade to white.

Story-wise, this fits right into stuff with Zero Hour and the Batman family of titles, in that we have a solo Tim/Robin story, set during Zero Hour, that involves something not easily explained EXCEPT for "Zero Hour time anomalies." We see Tim in action, still early in his "solo career" as Robin (defining "solo" with the start of his ongoing series, having had solo adventures in the past across annuals and three mini-series, as well as Dick Grayson Robin having had solo outings years prior in backups and whatnot). We see that he’s still learning, still growing, and get some character development through that as he interacts with Dick. I also find it interesting Tim noting that he has more experience at the point this story takes place, than Dick does for the time he’s from. That’s the sort of thing MY mind does, pulling up such comparisons (it’s been longer now since Tim’s ongoing series ended than the entire time I knew OF any Robin character, prior to Tim’s ongoing).

This issue being part of a crossover/event serves to enhance things, allowing for character development and forward-movement that would not be possible in a single issue without the established backdrop OF the event. Additionally, this is basically a one-shot/done-in-one story, where you really don’t need to know anything about the previous issue nor what comes next…you just get a story of Tim as Robin by himself, encountering a time-anomaly Dick Grayson, and the two go after some criminal. This doesn’t feel like something continued from a prior issue’s cliffhanger, and it ALMOST ends without a cliffhanger.

Yet the cliffhanger ending is the concrete tie-in to Zero Hour, outside of Dick’s appearance.

The art is certainly up to par with what I’d expect from this "era" of the title. I quite enjoy Grummett‘s work with Tim, and find that his style is what I tend to think of when I picture these early issues of the title. While the characters do have similar appearances, and the costumes have their differences, there’s still just enough hint of the physical differences that I could probably tell them apart with little difficulty. Of course, the rest of the art team helps in this regard, and colors make a difference along with the design differences of the costume.

All in all, this is one of the better tie-ins to the event, as well as being a darned good issue of Robin, period. If you come across this in a bargain bin, it’s well worth picking up. And if you’re a fan of Tim particularly, that goes extra.

Zero Hour Revisited – Showcase ’94 #8

90srevisited_zerohour

showcase_94_0008The Secret Origin of Scarface part One – The Gallows Doll

Script: Alan Grant & John Wagner
Art & Colors: Teddy Kristiansen
Lettering: Ken Bruzenak
Consulting Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor: Neal Pozner
Cover: Ted McKeever
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

I know I’ve read the Zero Hour portion of this issue in the collected edition of the event…but until now, I’ve never actually read Showcase ’94 #8 itself as a standalone comic! I was surprised by it, and rather enjoyed the experience overall.

This first story focuses on a prisoner in Blackgate–Donnegan–and how he gets a book on ventriloquism as a “joke” but ends up taking it fairly seriously. He even makes himself a dummy–carved from the wooden remains of the prison’s gallows. He and the dummy form an interesting relationship over the years…which leads to some conflict when a new prisoner, Arnold Wesker is assigned to Donnegan as a cellmate. Wesker is interested in the dummy and appreciates the “show” of ventriloquism. However, Donnegan is quite non-plussed at the perceived intrusion on his space, and commands Wesker to leave his dummy–“Woody”–alone. Wesker’s fascination leads him to investigate, which earns him a beating. Not long after, he seems to be hearing the dummy…even though Donnegan’s sound asleep.

The visuals for this story are rather simplistic, and don’t really do much for me. I recognize the dummy, and Wesker, by prior knowledge of them, and the “iconic” look of the dummy, and Wesker’s glasses. Beyond that, the art’s rather generic and unappealing. Still, it works for the story overall, and doesn’t exactly disappoint me, as I had zero expectation going in. It’s certainly not a “selling point” for me, but since the point of my reading the issue isn’t even this “main feature,” it can have a pass.

Story-wise, I liked this. All these years later and I’ve never consciously known–or at least retained–the origin of “The Ventriloquist” and “Scarface” (Woody). And this being (in part) an Alan Grant story (I don’t recall if he created the character to begin with, but I recognize him as one of the major writers on Batman stuff in the late-’80s/early-’90s) so that predisposed me to enjoy the story, and not write it off as just some throw-away story of a lesser-known Bat-villain. This is part one, and the fact that Wesker isn’t the original “Ventriloquist” (or there’s something a bit more messed up going on) is interesting, and I actually look forward to reading the next chapter.

Wildcat – Brujas y Gatos

Writer: Eddie Berganza
Penciller: Nick Gnazzo
Inker: Ray Kryssing
Colorist: Suzanne Bourdages
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Neal Pozner

I’m not overly familiar with Wildcat. I know the name Ted Grant, and recognize the character from Geoff JohnsJSA stuff (assuming I’m not mixing THIS Wildcat with someone else). Since I’ve never read anything in particular focusing on the character, I have no real preconceived notions to bring into the reading experience.

This is a short piece that finds Wildcat infiltrating a resurrection ceremony that seems to be–purportedly–to raise someone from the dead. Contextually we learn that the body to be raised is that of Ted’s friend Yolanda–who had attempted to become a new Wildcat…but she was apparently killed by Eclipso recently. (I have yet to read but was aware OF the short-lived Eclipso series that spun out of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within and recall hearing about there being several character deaths in short order toward the latter part of the series–I always remembered The Creeper being killed, but apparently Yolanda/Wildcat was also one). Wildcat observes, and only intervenes when a “fake” Yolanda shows up. He busts the ceremony and the fake Wildcat, revealing the truth and bringing some closure (albeit uber-convenient and quick) to the family of the dead woman.

This is a throw-away story, but recognizing it as a bit of follow-up to what I presume to be a virtually un-noticed otherwise death in a minor, now-forgotten book from the early-’90s, I can definitely appreciate its existence and purpose. At the least, it reminded me that that Eclipso series is out there and I’ve not yet acquired it, though I’ve had an interest in it for a couple decades now.

The art’s slightly over the top in a way, but not bad. I don’t recognize the art team’s names, but it’s not a bad piece. That this short “slice of life” episode IS so short but actually ends without a cliffhanger suggests to me that it’s a one-off piece in this anthology series…so it’s not even long enough for me to develop much opinion one way or the other.

The primary drawback to the piece at all is that it stood between me and the Zero Hour story.

Sum: Zero

Story: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Frank Fosco
Inks: Ken Branch
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Consulting Editors: Mike Carlin & K.C. Carlson
Editor: Neal Pozner

Vanishing Point–a place beyond Time itself, headquarters of the Linear Men. Hunter finds Waverider reminiscing, and confronts him over the fact that he–Waverider–may have stopped Monarch, but himself wiped out an entire timeline in the doing, making him worse than Monarch ever was. Waverider, though, doesn’t share the sentiment–though he does realize perhaps he should check into things with Hank Hall a bit more…though what he sees disturbs him. When he (and tag-along Hunter) journey to the late 20th century to investigate an anomaly that could be Monarch’s doing, they find him waiting, and themselves quite unprepared for this.

This piece is the “selling point” of the issue for me; the entire reason I picked the issue up to read. I’m pretty familiar with it already from having read the Zero Hour collected volume at least a couple times over the years, but this might be the first time actually reading it as part of this Showcase issue, in this exact format.

Trying to evaluate the art as a standalone thing, I realize it feels just a bit “off” somehow…probably because of not being Jurgens‘ art, or some such. It’s not bad by any means–and both Waverider and Hunter are familiar and distinct, and the imagery we get of Monarch and other elements that ought to be familiar from Armageddon 2001 fit, and convey the story.

The writing is Jurgens, and as a prologue to the Zero Hour event, this fits perfectly into stuff, giving us a bit of story involving these characters just prior to their stepping into that event.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I thought about “just” touching on the Zero Hour story and “ignoring” the rest of the issue, but figured why not just read the whole thing? And I was pleasantly surprised. I got a chapter of a story fleshing out the background of a Bat-villain that isn’t the bore I might’ve thought it’d be. The Wildcat story wasn’t bad and its primary drawback was that I finished the Scarface story and was a bit surprised to not turn right into the Zero Hour story.

While the issue’s page numbering INCLUDES ad pages, it goes to page 46…which is much longer than “just” 20-22 pages, so even with ads, it’s roughly a double-sized issue for not much more than a standard-length issue would have been at the time. Considering I paid fifty cents or less for the issue, the time it took to read vs. the amount spent makes it an excellent value; I enjoyed the reading experience, and when adding the time spent writing up this post, means that it’s by far one of the highest-value comics I’ve read in quite awhile, holding/being the focus of my attention for so long.

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