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The ’90s Revisited: Robin #24 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

robin_0024Insects and Violence

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Aaron Lopresti
Inks: Stan Woch
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Tim Harkins
Cover: Mike Wieringo, Terry Austin, Bob LeRose, Curtis King, John Wren
Associate Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Last month, a number of blogs and podcasts joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Due to computer issues and developments in my personal life, I’ve stretched my part into November to cover the Robin issues. In addition to my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG | Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast | Relatively Geeky Podcast Network | The Retroist | Chris is on Infinite Earths | Cosmic Treadmill | The Pop Culture Palace | Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast | The Idol-Head of Diabolu | Justice’s First Dawn | Justice Trek: The Podcast


This issue is a sort of tie-in that’s not a tie-in. In the previous issue, we got to see Drury Walker and Neron and Walker’s transformation from joke-villain Killer Moth into the monstrous bug-creature Charaxes, which ties in well with the general Underworld Unleashed stuff. This issue, though…if it wasn’t for the Underworld Unleashed logo on the cover, and following directly on the previous issue–one wouldn’t even know there was some larger "event" going on! This can be read as its own thing–you don’t need Underworld Unleashed itself, and other than simply knowing Tim’s been captured by the creature, you don’t even REALLY need the previous issue! (Thanks to context and exposition…and speaking for myself, 30 years of comics-reading.)

Robin’s been cocooned ALIENS-style (well, lots-of-things-style, but I’m in an ALIENS frame of mind), unable to free himself yet, but in contact with Alfred…who can provide some information if not actual help (such as the fact that a ‘Charaxes’ is a butterfly, not a moth…but Robin’s not sure his captor’s sweating the details. While Tim struggles and eventually manages to use his extending bo to free himself…the police–even armed with a shotgun–don’t fare well against Charaxes. Robin then gets to have a go at the creature, but eventually it looks like he’ll get to experience that which Alfred had told him about…when a mysterious figure shows up, shoots Charaxes, captures him in a high-tech net…as our hero passes out. When he wakes, it’s to Batman (who arrived too late to have helped), and both are left to wonder about the mysterious entity. At school the next day, Tim is approached by a rival who is willing to put aside differences and "recruit" Tim…in vigilante opposition to the influx of new students. When he shows off a gun…he’s got Tim’s attention!

This is a fairly solid issue of Robin. We get to see our titular hero escape a "death trap," fight the villain, and even interact with Alfred and Batman. In addition, we get to see a bit of Ariana and her family in their new home, as well as see Tim at school with his friends. While this issue came off a cliffhanger, one isn’t really missing a CRUCIAL piece of story–it’s easy enough to catch up from exposition. This is from a time when comics were not locked into a rigid cycle of X number of issues = 1 graphic novel/collected volume. Each issue was episodic, rather than "just" X of Y serialized chapters of a SINGLE story.

It’s perhaps a bit fitting that I get to this issue a couple WEEKS later than I had intended–it’s a "straggler" issue for me on reading, as well as covering as part of the #BestEventEver coverage of Underworld Unleashed. While it’s technically a tie-in, it seems to be a later one, and labeled as such almost as an afterthought. You’d want to read this if you’re reading the series, and if you read the previous issue and cared about how Robin escapes from Charaxes…but this really seems to have absolutely nothing to do with Underworld Unleashed, and would be suitable for getting in conjunction with that solely for the logo on the cover.

Visually, I like the issue. It’s just Robin for me. It’s not trying to be some distinctive visual interpretation, it’s just…Robin art for a Robin issue. If I wasn’t looking at the credits I probably wouldn’t identify the artist offhand…but in the way this issue is, that’s a good thing, as it just looks like a ’90s Robin issue, and not a bad one at that.

As with most ’90s comics…this is definitely worth a 25-cent purchase, though there’s not really much to this to make it stand out as a sole, single, isolated issue. Aside from the "completist" mentality for Underworld Unlimited, if you’re not interested in early Tim Drake Robin stuff, or Killer Moth and that character’s oddities, or the art…I woudln’t suggest hunting this down for the sake of itself.

As a Robin issue, and my being a fan of this character…these two issues were a treat to revisit and I’m quite glad to have read them!


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

robin_0024_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: Robin #23 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

robin_0023Buggin’

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Aaron Lopresti
Inks: Stan Woch
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Tim Harkins
Cover: Mike Wieringo, Terry Austin, Bob LeRose, Curtis King, John Wren
Associate Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Last month, a number of blogs and podcasts joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Due to computer issues, I’ve stretched a bit into November to cover the Robin issues. In addition to my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG | Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast | Relatively Geeky Podcast Network | The Retroist | Chris is on Infinite Earths | Cosmic Treadmill | The Pop Culture Palace | Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast | The Idol-Head of Diabolu | Justice’s First Dawn | Justice Trek: The Podcast


I’m pretty sure I had not read this when it first came out…but I realized I must have read it quite a number of years ago–though at most recent, it would have been 2002! More likely 2001, when I bought a set of issues 1-40 from Capp’s Comics, which then left me (at the time) only missing 41-45 from being “current” with the series, as I’d jumped back in with #46 or so, and followed the series more or less to at least #100! So some part of me remembered having read this, the “upgrade” of Killer Moth to Charaxes! Other than this, or in spite of this, to me, the main thing I know the character from is that he was involved in an attempted kidnapping of Bruce Wayne in which Barbara “Babs” Gordon intervened as Batgirl (the incident is referenced in Untold Legend of the Batman #3, but Killer Moth himself/by name is NOT).

We open this issue on a large, green, bug-like face demanding “Do as I say or face the wrath of…Killer Moth!” The scene transitions and we see that it’s a dream, and meet the man himself–who longs to be feared and not the butt of jokes amidst even fellow villains. Neron (this is an Underworld Unleashed branded tie-in, after all!) appears to him and offers to transform him. We then shift to Robin “stalking” Tim Drake’s girlfriend, lamenting her family having had to sell their business and move. He feels angsty over stuff until Batman shows up, and asks him an interesting question–does he know who bought the family’s property? We then learn that it was bought by Wayne Enterprises at triple market value, which allows the family to thrive, and move to a better part of Gotham (which happens to be closer to Tim, close enough that Ariana will now attend the same high school!). Meanwhile, Arkham guards find a cocoon in Drury Walker’s cell, and eventually the cocoon opens, and a bug-creature emerges, agrees that “Killer Moth” is a ludicrous concept, and to call it Charaxes! At Gotham Heights High, we see Tim introduce his friends to Ariana and they interact a bit, before we see some results of Charaxes’ rampage. Eventually the actual police are called, and even they aren’t equipped to deal with this new “upgraded” threat from a previously-considered-a-joke guy. Learning of the situation, Robin prepares to head out, figuring it shouldn’t be a problem…after all, this is Killer Moth they’re talking about! Unfortunately, Robin winds up getting knocked out during the fight with the creature, and wakes up at the end of the issue stuck in a cocoon of sorts having no idea where he is or how he got there, knowing only that “it” will be back soon.

Somehow notably to me is Neron responding to Walker’s question of whether the transformation he’s agreed to will hurt. “You will forget the pain….when the transformation is complete.” This concept is something that I’ve often considered in various situations, and while I don’t know if my personal original coming across it was this issue, this issue DID spark at least a vague sense of deja vu or such with it. That painful as something is in the moment, once through it, the pain will be forgotten in light of the result.

Over the 16+ years since I would have read this, I’d forgotten plenty of details of Tim Drake’s early days as Robin. (Though he had 3 mini-series and an Annual even before about 2 years of this ongoing series…the character has been around for 30 years now and this issue was only about 6 years into that, so this is still “early” for the character.) Coming back to Tim still being with Ariana touches off a nice bit of nostalgia for me. I’d completely forgotten about subplots with her family and moving and such. For that matter, given the way most modern comics seem to be with the eye for the 4-6 issue “graphic novel,” sometimes I feel like I forget what “subplots” even were, and the sort of structure seen in this issue, with a number of points touched on that are not strictly structured for a specific, standard-sized collection.

I really like the art in this issue. As I read it, I hadn’t noted the credits…I just wanted to take in the story. I think I “assumed” the art was Tom Grummett, but was (pleasantly) surprised to find that it’s Aaron Lopresti…a name I’m more recently “re-familiar” with due to his work on the Malibu Ultraverse title Sludge.

It’s not surprising, then, that I liked the art! I’m not a huge fan of the Charaxes design…but then, I’m not a huge fan of bugs, so the character just has a look that I’m not quite comfortable with. However, I’d put that down as a success in the appearance! Throughout the issue, stuff’s not hard to follow visually, and Lopresti‘s style works very well with what I tend to think of for 1990s Robin, and fitting right in with prior Robin art so as to not be distracting or off-putting!

Story-wise, I enjoyed the memories in this, and that there wasn’t MUCH time wasted on exposition…and yet, it seemed easy enough to follow along. Granted, I’d read this issue before, know quite a bit about Robin and so on, but I didn’t feel lost or stuck “outside” the story. Even if one doesn’t know the characters or history, it’s pretty easy to pick up on the main points, much as one might casually watch an early episode of a tv series for which they’ve seen some later-season episodes.

Neron’s appearance itself is not explained or contextualized here–not even an Editor’s Note to “see Underworld Unleashed“–but his appearance here qualifies AS appearing here AND gives us the on-panel “explanation” for Walker going from some inept inmate desiring respect, to a cocoon on the ceiling and transformation into Charaxes. This seems like one of the more drastic changes to a villain, and seems fitting enough with the cocoon and all, transforming Walker physically/biologically into a killer bug, rather than having just a name and costume.

The introduction of Charaxes certainly fulfills my expectation of this as a tie-in to Underworld Unleashed, in seeing a previously-established low level villain receiving an “upgrade” into a larger threat. I don’t recall how long this change “stuck,” as I’m pretty sure “Killer Moth” as a petty, low-level villain is presently still a butt of jokes and “just human” and such, though I couldn’t say where the character is at present in 2018.

This issue doesn’t really stand out singularly or have any over-obvious cover to draw one’s attention to it in passing as to this particular story. That said, the cover image of a cocooned Robin looking wide-eyed at the giant bug-creature on the cover gives this a suitably “spooky”-ish type of imagery that would fit with an October issue (cover dates being a couple months ahead, this issue would have been an October 1995 issue).

This is a solid issue of Robin (the series), and works well in what I remember as the continuity of the time. We do have the “origin” and such of Charaxes, so there’s some significance in that regard, if one comes across it in a bargain bin. This does end on a cliffhanger, and there is a second tie-in issue (the next issue, #24) so this doesn’t work as well as a standalone thing, and is best acquired as part of the pair of issues. If you’re a fan of Robin, writer Chuck Dixon, artist Aaron Lopresti, seeking Underworld Unleashed tie-ins, or Killer Moth/Charaxes stuff, this’d be a definite treat to pick up.


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

robin_0023_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Incredible Hulk #350

90s_revisited

incredible_hulk_0350Before the Fall

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Jeff Purves
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 1988
Cover Price: 75 Cents

I snagged this issue from a quarter bin because of the cover. Hulk, Thing, and Dr. Doom??? Yes, please! Of course, then I opened the issue, and first thing I really take in text-wise is a note to pick up Fantastic Four #320, first…apparently this issue picks up where that one left off.

How DIFFERENT this is from modern-day comics! Where if there’s any crossover like this at all, it’s some MAJOR EVENT, with SPECIAL BRANDING and COVER BLURBS and all that, Part #whatever of 6 or 9 or whatever chapters for some pre-figured collected edition!

Instead, no…it’s an issue I grabbed completely on its own, essentially my "first" in that I don’t know I’ve read anything from early in Peter David‘s run, know only tangentially/broad stuff from it, etc…and EVEN THOUGH the issue refers me to another first…I can STILL follow along in this issue, as it catches me up on or refers to essentials so that I can read this as it is, as a one-off issue, not part of some mega-event or gigantic crossover.

Much of this issue is a bit of a slugfest, with the Thing coming out the worse for the issue’s portrayal. We open on the Thing standing over the beaten-down form of the gray Hulk, while a green Hulk approaches, challenging him. Apparently the Thing has recently been greatly enhanced, with an odd extra-rocky physical shape and strength beyond what he’d had before, allowing him to come out on the winning side against the Hulk! While he tangles with the green Hulk, the gray Hulk wakes and is met by Dr. Doom, who reveals to him that the green Hulk is an advanced robot, and prods gray Hulk into challenging the Thing smartly. So he does–luring Thing into a hit-and-run match that with further strategy leaves Thing defeated, and gray Hulk finds himself ultimately chatting with Beast and being drawn into some other big thing going on.

That this is not some numbered chapter of some big event goes to the way Marvel comics used to be–simply a shared universe. Some villain might decide to tangle with a hero he doesn’t usually, but then that hero seeks out the usual hero for advice, thus drawing them into things, and eventually you have a "story" that effectively spans multiple titles…yet it’s not officially billed as such. Of course, this style was also when "collected volumes" and "graphic novels" as they’re known in 2018 were 20+ years in the future. Single issues were just that–single issues–and the Marvel Model was not All-Event, All-the-time.

Story-wise, I like what I got here, overall. It’s not my usual fare, and in some ways a bit "talky" and a bit "basic" or "convenient" (Dr. Doom palling around with Hulk and finding old Eternals tech, etc) and Thing vs. Hulk being something, and so on…but for an issue I picked up for 25 cents, it’s not bad, and was an entertaining sort of read, as well as a bit of a time capsule. 1988…30 years ago!

Visually, this definitely carried what I see (remember?) as a "house style" for characters, making them all definitely recognizable and such. While Thing is extra-rocky and I’m not fond of the look, I recall just enough Marvel history to know that he’s had several odd appearances, and that this was a temporary shift for him, obviously going on at the time this was published.

I’m sort of curious to read the Fantastic Four issue referenced, and even to follow this into Avengers Annual #17…but not really enough to make a big focus of tracking the issues down. If I think to, I may look for them in dollar bins at upcoming comic events I attend, but mostly I just enjoyed this as a 25-cent issue and something "different" to read. Though it’s only a "middle chapter" essentially, it has a definite sense of "authenticity" about it that I do not get from contemporary Marvel comics.

And look–it’s #350, a nice "anniversary-numbered" issue, and it’s only 75 cents, the standard/usual price. Not artificially inflated. And to my knowledge, no variant covers. It’s just a comic that’s glad to be a comic, that works as a comic, and doesn’t try to be anything else.

Definitely recommended if found in a bargain bin, but though more enjoyable in its way than many modern comics, not overly spectacular in and of itself–it’s not worth putting a big hunt in.

incredible_hulk_0350_blogtrailer

Fatal Attractions Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #304

…For What I Have Done

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencilers: John Romita Jr., Jae Lee, Chris Sprouse, Brandon Peterson, Paul Smith
Inkers: Dan Green, Dan Panosian, Terry Austin, Tom Palmer, Keith Williams
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: John Romita Jr., Dan Panosian
Assistant Editor: Lisa Patrick
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Dated: September, 1993

After a couple of the X-Books that were not the actual X-Men themselves, this issue finally pulls the X-Men I was familiar with into this story. Granted, I wasn’t extremely familiar with them–but I knew who most of them were thanks to the cartoon series. Wolverine, Bishop, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast, Professor Xavier, even Colossus…and of course, Magneto.

I recall reading the death of Illyana–Colossus’ sister–in the previous issue (sucked in by the image of Jean Grey and Jubilee with the blurb “If you read only ONE X-title this month–this issue MUST be it!”). This issue has the funeral as we see the various characters reacting to the death of the young girl. We also get some backstory on Magneto and the losses he’s suffered, which have been driving factors in his methods of trying to “save” the “mutant race.” There are some quieter moments between various characters; I especially like the Kitty Pryde/Storm and Banshee/Bishop scenes. I’m still amazed in retrospect at how very new some of these characters were in the summer of 1993 (particularly Bishop), and how much more all the characters have grown, changed, or otherwise [been] developed in the decades since this story.

As Illyana’s funeral draws to a close, Magneto crashes the party, which is almost immediately further crashed by Exodus and the rest of the Acolytes, who have come to grips with the revelation of Cortez’ part in Magneto’s near-death. The X-Men and Magneto and his Acolytes clash, as the ship Avalon is brought into Earth’s atmosphere above them, causing world-wide issues and fear. The battle quickly becomes one with catastrophic consequences should the X-Men fail, but ultimately it falls to Xavier to pull a new trick out of his figurative hat to save the day, using his power in a way I don’t recall seeing him do prior to this (though it wouldn’t seem all that out of place nowadays).

This issue felt a bit more like being dropped into the middle of a story, the way it opened–the Acolytes already trying to tear Cortez apart for his deception. I honestly don’t recall if this continues directly from Uncanny X-Men #303 or from some other issue of the X-books. While I vaguely remembered that it was shortly after Illyana’s funeral that Colossus left the X-Men, I’d forgotten that the funeral itself was in this issue, and the way Magneto and Co. crashed the funeral. I’d also completely forgotten the way Xavier ended this particular battle, which seemed both absurd and epic at the same time, to me.

The issue’s art is a bit fractured–there are five pencilers on the issue, and I noticed it while reading–particularly with Magneto’s flashback. Fortunately, other than Jae Lee‘s art, the rest fits relatively well together and isn’t glaring. Of course, that’s something I notice now but if I noticed back in ’93, I don’t recall it being a conscious thing of recognizing different artists’ work, or knowing about “fill in artists” or any such stuff. All that said…this is another issue that I don’t mind the art on the whole, and which seems to fit the story.

Including a few ads, this issue has 62 pages for only a $3.95 cover price. I like the cover–most of the characters shown on the front are the ones I would have been most familiar with, though in this sense are rather generic. But once opened up, we see that there are a lot more characters involved in the image, all angrily looking toward a huge foreground closeup of Magneto. And yet again, I like the hologram on this cover. While the hologram itself is pretty cool, its image strikes me as rather iconic for the time–I’m sure I’ve seen that several image of Magneto with the swirl of debris outside the context of this story. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve snagged a copy of this from a bargain bin since buying my original copy at full cover price in 1993, but the copy I have onhand right now for this rereading and such was part of a 3/$10 deal, which while not as satisfying on principle as getting the issue for under or around $1, is still quite worthwhile for being less than cover price.

This issue seems to set the stage for the next couple chapters, which to me are the heart of this story, and what I MOST think of with the title Fatal Attractions.

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