Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Wednesday Comics: DC, May 1983 (week 4)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we look at the comics hitting the newsstand on February 24, 1983.

This is a big week with 10 comics.

Weird War Tales #123: There is no G.I. Robot or Creature Commandos this issue, which turns out to be an ominous sign. This is the penultimate issue of Weird War Tales as I discovered in (of all places) the letter column of this week's Arion. The cover story by Mishkin/Cohn and Buckler/Giacoia is an homage to the Captain Video tv show (1949-1955) and perhaps to fandom in general. It ends with a thanks to Frank Hodge who played Captain Video from 1950-55 and who passed away in 1979. In the story, Earth is defenseless before an alien invasion, its secret protector who was more than a TV actor having passed away. It's up to the now adult fans of the show with their secret away equipment to rise up and save the day.

Next up, there's a one-pager about dolphins inheriting the Earth after doomsday. Kanigher/Estrada daring present a tale of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs that seems to question just whose "Savage Gods Remain." Finally, a star Hitler youth kid grows up to a SS officer adult and gets what he deserves when a statue of Moses holding all the commandments the young sociopath has broken, falls and traps him, leading to his death. 

Green Arrow #1: Barr and von Eeden/Giordano get Ollie out of the backups and into his own, admittedly limited, series. Oliver Queen inherits a fortune from a deceased friend, and elderly woman he had developed an unlikely friendship with in his younger days, but her other would-be heirs aren't happy. Someone is unhappy enough to target him for murder. Much of this issue is given to retelling Green Arrow's origin, which I haven't reviewed for consistence with the standard take, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is at least some streamlining from what was presented before. The next tweaking, I'd guess, would be post-Crisis. Von Eeden pencils under Giordano's inks look nice here and seem a good fit for the character.

Action Comics #543: Wolfman and Swan continue the Vandal Savage storyline, but with Savage being the manipulator of events. Neutron is released from prison, over the objections of the Man of Steel who sounds more like the Dark Knight with his skepticism about Neutron's reform. Then, Savage has set up frankly a really contrived context that manipulates Superman into fighting him when Neutron is not actually committing a crime, making Superman look bad in front of the people of Metropolis. I feel like this is the sort of arc that would be handled better today, but here it's a bit silly.

Arion Lord of Atlantis #7: Moench and Duursema/Mandrake pick up where last issue left off. After a battle with a demon, Arion and Chian have been transported to the Darkworld to the citadel of Caculha. Arion uses his magic to free Grondar from the demon's control. The three adventurers then enter the stronghold to take on the demon that controls it and find a mystic key.

Meanwhile, Wyynde discovers that Mara is a shapeshifter. When she turns into a winged dragon, the two enter the portal to the Darkworld to help Arion.

Ultimately, our heroes are victorious, and Arion then turns the citadel into a giant ship to sail back to Atlantis.  They may have found the weapon they need to defeat Garn.

All-Star Squadron #21: Thomas and Ordway/Machlan bring in the Earth-2 Superman who has the Powerstone with him he has recently taken from Alexei Luthor. He suggests the team makes the Perisphere their new headquarters. Not long after the team votes in Wonder Woman as their newest full member (redressing some Golden Age sexism), they are attacked by two new super-villains, Deathbolt and Cyclotron, and Superman's old foe the Ultra-Humanite (now in a woman's body).

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #15: The JLA and Zoo Crew team up continues, we the teams trapped in limbo. Alley-Kat-Abra gets them out, but theen they have to do the "split into smaller teams" thing to take on villains gathered by Feline Faust and Doctor Hoot who are currently striking in different parts of the world. Captain Carrot, Wonder Wabbit and Rubber Duck travel to Sowdi Arabia where Digger O'Doom is draining all the oil into diversion tunnels. Yankee Poodle, Fastback and Aquaduck go to the Palomino Canal to stop Armordillo. Batmouse, Green Lambkin and Alley-Kat-Abra head to Cape Carnivore to tangle with Amazoo. Crash, Super-Squirrel and Pig-Iron travel to Mosscow where the Shaggy Dawg is rampaging through the Gremlin.

I felt like whole list was necessary so you could all share in the puns. Anyway, the heroes are victorious, and everybody gets back to their own Earth.

Detective Comics #526: This is an anniversary issue (the 500th appearance of Batman in this magazine) with 56 pages, and Conway, Newton, and Alcala craft a story worthy of the expanded length. Joker has carried together a number of Batman's rogue gallery (including a number of now fairly obscure characters including Captain Stingaree, Signalman, and the Spook). with a plan to kill Batman and check the growing threat of Killer Croc. Catwoman, uninvited, eavesdrops on the proceedings and plans to stop them, while Talia (who was invited) wants no part of killing Batman and fights her way out.

After taking Jason Todd to Wayne Manor, Batgirl and Robin are trying to find the missing Todds. The GCPD bit them to it, discovering their gruesome remains in the reptile area of the Gotham Zoo where Croc had apparently been hiding out.

The Joker contacts Croc, offering a deal to help Croc kill Batman. Is he just double-crossing Croc or Croc and the villains he's supposedly teamed up with?

Anyway, the Bat Family, with the help of Catwoman and Talia, split up and take out the assembled villain before going after Croc and his men and the Joker. After a fight, Croc seems about to beat Batman again, but Robin jumps in at the last second and Croc is knocked unconscious. Jason Todd, who had hidden in the batmobile's trunk, emerges and stars beating the unconscious Croc, but he's restrained by the Bats.

Back at Wayne Manor, Dick takes responsibility for the death of the Todds and wants to adopt Jason.  Bruce doesn't like the idea. Instead, he decides to look after the young orphan, like he did years ago with another kid acrobat whose parents were killed by criminals.

Jonah Hex #72: At the end of last issue, things looked pretty bad for Jonah who had been forced to commit a crime dressed as Papagayo in order to get Emmy Lou back and wound up under the guns of the federales. He gets shot to hell before he can escape--or does he? Obviously, he does not. When Papagayo's thugs go to exhume Jonah's body and get the necklace, the very much alive Jonah ambushes them. It seems he and Col. Sanchez cooked up a little sting operation. Still, Papagayo's got Emmy Lou, so things don't go smooth. Our hero and his girl get tossed into a pit with a basket of tarantulas. 

Still, in the end, Jonah and Emmy Lou and reunited and Papagayo is breaking the fourth wall promising his return from a prison cell.

New Adventures of Superboy #41: Kupperberg and Schaffenberger continue the story from last issue and it's a really convoluted plot with Superboy quitting, Ma Kent blabbing his secret, and an alien invasion that in the end doesn't add up to much, and I honestly can't remember how it all fits together a week after I read it. It turns out the aliens are trying to transform Superboy into a living robot to control him (so none of that other stuff was even in their plan), but naturally Superboy is one step ahead. Aliens are defeated, status quo is restored.

In the Dial H backup by Bridwell and Bender/McLaughlin, the Silhouette takes control of billionaire Hubert Hess’s fortune and incriminates Chris' dad, but Chris and Vicki dial up justice as Glassman and Ms. Muscle.

World's Finest Comics #291: Simonson provides the cover this issue. Superman and Batman are at the mercy of Stalagron, who reveals his secret origin to them (he's a mutated spelunker) and tells them about his plan to revitalize his source of power: a hunk of green kryptonite, responsible for creating him and all his minions. His plan is to create a volcano, which will spew the kryptonite radiation all over, turning a lot more people into creatures like him and his goons. 

They plan to make Yumiko the first female of their kind, but she escapes and helps Batman and Superman to break free before she is recaptured. Stalagron and his crew succeed in creating the volcano and are placing the kryptonite in it, when the heroes arrive for another round. While Batman uses explosives to divert the lava, Superman fight Stalagron. The combatants fall into the lava, but Superman's strength carries the day.

With the kryptonite destroyed, the rest of the stalagmen are destroyed and the volcano collapses. Back at Wayne Manor, Batman and Superman play the switch identities thing once again to throw off Yumiko's suspicions about Bruce being Batman.

Monday, February 26, 2024

The War for Earth

Thinking about Armageddon 2419 A.D. (Nowlan's 1928 novel that introduced the world to the character later known as Buck Rogers) while listening to the audiobook of the first novel in The Expanse series, I think it would be cool to run a rpg campaign in a sort of updated version of Nowlan's world. Of course, TSR helpfully already updated that world in Buck Rogers XXVc in the late 80s, so that's a resource, but I think I would tweak things in a slightly different direction.

The basic idea is the same, though. Civilization on Earth is pushed to the brink in the 22nd century by climate change and the political and social upheaval that follows it. Eventually war breaks up, and the Western world essentially collapses.

While all this was going down Silicon Valley and other wealthy futurist types had been developing their exit strategy by pushing space colonization through private companies to orbit, the Moon, Mars, and Venus. The forward-thinking government of China gets in on these efforts, and eventually a hybrid, corporate culture emerges on Mars.

So we fast forward a bit to a time where Mars has colonies established in Earth-Luna Lagrange points and is the colonial power seeking to rebuild (and exploit) the backward Earth. Martian colonial types and the Earthers that get with the program live in arcologies (like the Plexmalls of American Flagg!), but outside of those it's all warlords, mutants, and dangerous left-over bio- and cyber-weaponry from any number of wars.

There are also rebels out there. Earthers, sure, but also bioroid and cyber beings trying to escape exploitation by the rapacious Corporation of Mars. The Earth independence forces have secret bases in orbit and if not friends, at least allies on other worlds who would like to check Martian power--through proxies, naturally.

Anyway, beyond the influences mentioned about, others might be film/tv like Andor and Rogue One, Blakes 7The Creator, Elysium, and games like Transhuman Space and Jovian Chronicles.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Xeno-File: Yazindi

Art by Steven de Waele

Yazindi are a winged, endothermic species evolved from crepuscular, frugivorous flyers in temperate forests. The yazindi have grown too heavy for true flight but are able to use their wings to glide, if they drop from a sufficient height
. On the ground, they walk on all four limbs with an upright posture, standing plantigrade on their back limbs and folding their wing fingers upward to walk on the three-fingered "hand" or they can lift their back limbs and move somewhat awkwardly on just their wing fingers.  When standing still, they use their hind limbs which have evolved dexterous "hands" for manipulation.

Their vision is superior to humans in dim light but somewhat inferior in bright light. Their hearing is more sensitive than a human's, and their sense of smell is as acute as a Terran canid's. 

Their preferred dwellings are dimly lit by human standards, and they tend to employ perches (ideally ones they can hang from to sleep) as opposed to more human suitable furnishing. 

Yazindi are gregarious and thoughtful even philosophic, but also quick to squabble or have outbursts of temper. On the other hand, they are also quick to forgive. They do not appreciate waiting, and too much of it can lead to one of their outbursts.

Height: 1.2-1.5 meters
Weight: 30-50 kg
Reproduction: Two sexes, viviparous

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Wednesday Comics: The Energon Universe

When Skybound/Image started the Energon Universe back in 2023, I was only mildly interested. And that interest was more curiosity at why they chose to start this shared universe of Hasbro toy properties, named after a substance from the Transformers with a completely original comic, Void Rivals. It was a title whose whole point of existence seemed to be to provide the surprise reveal of a Transformer link--which for marketing purposes had to be spoiled pre-release so it couldn't be a surprise.

Well, I still don't understand the point of that as I haven't read Void Rivals or the Transformers series written by Daniel Warren Johnson, but when I read a review of Duke #1 written by Joshua Williamson with art by Tom Reilly, I got onboard to the universe in general. 

Cobra Commander #1 followed a month later by Williamson and Milana. Issue 2 of that series hits comics shops today, I believe.

What they're doing is sort of Ultimate G.I. Joe (in the sense of Marvel's original Ultimate Marvel Universe), but the more realistic/modernized version of the cartoon G.I. Joe universe than Hama's original comics. Duke #1 opens at a point before there's a G.I. Joe, where Duke is a traumatized soldier (he saw a bud crushed in the hand of a giant transforming robot who the reader might recognize as Starscream) and his command structure (personified by Hawk) tells him he's mentally ill and dismisses what he saw.

Duke hooks up with a group of conspiracy theorists and discovers a link between the robot alien technology and M.A.R.S., who seem to be building a private army with advanced tech. The conspiracy group is killed, and Duke has to go on the run. Hawk is forced to send other elite troopers to bring him in--a group which the informed reader will recognize as including Rock-n-Roll and Stalker. Duke is renditioned to some sort of secret prison where he meets...

At this point, you are either the sort that this will appeal to, and you are already sold or it doesn't interest you at all, in which case these series probably aren't for you. I will say I think Williamson's stories for both series are a nice balance of fan service and inventiveness. The world is made more "real" in the sense of implications of alien technologies and human motivations, while retaining all the fantasticness (perhaps goofiness) of the source material. I wouldn't have thought he could make Cobra-La work, but he pretty much does.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Spelljammer Revolution

There is no place in the Solar System that doesn't feel the hand of the Elvish Empire. They view themselves are benevolent civilizers, but the peoples of the Outer System view things differently. 

In amid the myriad, tiny worlds of the Asteroid Belt and on the moons of the gas giants, the fires of revolution are being feed by the heavy-handed tactics of the Imperial Navy and the rhetoric of propagandists. Soon, they may burn across the whole crystal sphere.

Take the basic "inners vs. outers" setup of The Expanse and combine it with Spelljammer, and give it a late 18th, early 19th Century gloss, and well, see what happens from there.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Wednesday Comics: May, 1983 (week 3)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around February 17, 1983.

One thing to notice before the reviews is no Camelot 3000 this week, or indeed this month!

Sgt. Rock #376: Great Kubert cover here. The main story is "The Dummy--Part 2." It's a follow-up to the story of one of those "red shirt" Easy Company casualties with a ventriloquist's dummy from issue 349 back in 1980. What's funny is it could easily be a horror story in basic outline: a dummy from a dead man gets returned to the guy's unit, and every soldier who carries it dies. The sergeant means to hear it talking to him, or at least imagines it's thoughts. Here it isn't, though, except in the sense of a lot of Kanigher's stories touching on the small horrors of war. In the end, the dummy is lost in the depths of a frozen river and Easy goes on.

The other stories include a story of Ancient Rome based on the Battle of Verona, and futuristic yarn by Truman where a human raider on an alien-controlled world fights and dies for a prize symbolic of his lost innocence: a teddy bear. 

Brave and the Bold #198: Barr and Patton/Hoberg tie up some loose ends from the Karate Kid series from 1978. Karate Kid comes back in time to tell his old 20th Century girlfriend, "hey sorry I never called. I met someone in the 30th Century, and I'm married now" but through an improbable coincident she's unknowingly let the wanted criminal Katy, who leads the terrorist group Black Heart, crash with her. So, Karate Kid gets to team-up with Batman and fight Pulsar (also from that Karate Kid series) who dies in this issue. This tying up of continuity loose ends is something the Marvel team-up books were fond of, and it looks like DC got in on the game too.

Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #7: Kupperberg and Infantino/Oksner pickup from last month with Supergirl busting into the Council's underwater installation, while Lester Adams is tried by his fellow Council members via a teleconference hookup and executed for his part of the failure to steal components for a communications-controlling satellite. Supergirl ultimately defeats the Council minions, Matrix-Prime, and Brains, and finds Adams's body, but doesn't know who killed him. Later, while at a concert in Grant Park, Linda Danvers sees a bolt of energy blast a figure in a trench coat, revealing her as Negative Woman of the Doom Patrol.

Green Lantern #164: Barr and Pollard/Adkins open with Hal forced to play Haljor the Barbarian, weilder of the Powersword. He's sent on a quest to find King Caarl's daughter, Princess Caarol, accompanied by Dorinda. Haljor follows the trail to Castle Oan, where the wizard Guardon holds the princess hostage. It turns out the Myrwhydden, a Mxyzptlk wannabe wizard, who is trapped inside the power ring. He's behind all the nonsense over the past two issues. It's all been a ploy for the wizard to escape, but Hal threatens to kill himself which would bring the Guardians' attention, so Myrwhydden releases is forced to release him.

Meanwhile, on Earth, a crystalline entity consumes the man who previously found the strange crystal on the floor. It keeps feeding on the carbon of the people around, growing larger. On Oa, the Guardians are watching, and they need to send a Green Lantern, but they can't un-exile Hal, so they decide to send John Stewart.

In the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backup by Klein and Gibbons, Green Man must find a way to help a tribe of space [alternate name for the Romani people now often considered a slur] avoid destruction by antimatter, but they will only accept help from one of their own. So, he temporarily deputizes one of their young men as a Green Lantern so together they can save the caravan.

Night Force #10: Wolfman and Colan bring the "Beast" storyline to a close. The criminal, Brooks, that Winters sent into the brownstone is still desperate to find a way out. A doctor living in the building claims to have found a way, but the beast changes his behavior and starts attacking with some of the trapped people not wanting the Beast destroyed--one even suggesting that would be blasphemous. In the end, the door is opened, but none of them are brave enough to leave--except Brooks, when he hesitates, the Beast grabs him, and he most used the deceased doctor's poison-filled syringe to poison himself to kill the Beast. The now freed tenants don't know what to do. Overall, this was a good arc, but as an allegory for dictatorship, it's a bit strained and it probably could have been shorter with what story it had.

House of Mystery #316: In "I...Vampire," it's off to Moscow, where Bennett and Deborah go to find Mishkin, who they believe has been kidnapped. At the airport they are detained by the KGB, who have solar-powered, anti-vampire energy weapons.It turns out their boss, Col. Yuri Rashnikov. is a vampire and leader of a cabal slowly replacing the Russian high command with vampires, using a powder that removes a number of vampiric weaknesses. The Blood Red Moon, not to be left out of the issue, storm the compound led by Dunya Mishkin. Bennett and Deborah are cornered by werebeasts, but Dmitri arrives to save his friends, revealing that he has become a vampire!

Mishkin/Cohn and Tuska/Celardo present a tale of a 19th Century boxer challenged to match by an alien. The last story is about a puppeteer whose family isn't what he thinks it is. It's written by Fleming, and it's made creepy (and a bit confusing) by von Eeden's art. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #299: Karlak doesn't let up with Blok, White Witch, and Dawnstar. Things aren't looking good, but then White Witch unleashes on him. Meanwhile, Invisible Kid passes into a strange, dream-like dimension and encounters what seems to be his predecessor, and also finds Wildfire, who has somehow transformed back into Drake Burroughs, and is living it up. Invisible Kid hauls him back to the reality. A nice issue from Levitz, Giffen, and Mahlstedt, if nothing special.

Warlord #69: I reviewed the main story in this issue here. In the Barren Earth backup by Cohn and Randall, Skinner and Jinal arrive at the Harashashan camp, where they are taken captive and forced to reveal Jinal's crazy scheme to kidnap the leaders of both factions and make them negotiate. Surprisingly, the reader of the reptilian clade admires her moxie or something and agrees to meet with the kidnapped leader from the city.

Monday, February 12, 2024

At Last, Thono Inn

 After a bit of a hiatus, or Gnydrion game using Grok?! continued. The party was complete:

  • Antor Hogus (Paul) - Vagabond, now with the air of authority.
  • Jerfus Grek (Jason) - A Gentleman of the Road, high on patent medicine.
  • Nortin Tauss (Aaron) - An arcane dabbler whose quality is underappreciated.
  • Yzma Vekna (Andrea) - Just along for the ride.

Inside the mysterious chest in the wagon was a device of the Ancients that the group surmised was the peddler's means of making his patent medicines. It seemed to be missing any substrate for manufacture at present. The group loaded up the chest with the device and personal supplies of the medications, which Antor and Jerfus wasted no time indulging in.

Back on the road, they soon were in sight of the resort on the banks of the Lake of Vermilion Mists. They turned over their caloot and hostler with a suitable tip. They also chose to confide in the make regarding their special mission, but then they swore him to secrecy.

They make their way into the main building of the Inn, where they are greeted by Yrleen Thono, the 25th generation of her family to operate the resort, and her husband, Gris Samber. They confide in the couple regarding their mission from the Compulsor. After overcoming Samber's qualms, they are allowed a look in the guest book. There is indeed a "W. Zunderbast" who has been there 5 days. Probably the malefactor they are looking for!

Yrleen has Merva, one of the servants, lead them to their suite. They have their luggage (mainly their appropriated chest) brought up to the room. They look forward to a dinner of lake gas steamed land crab and seasonal vegetables.

Friday, February 9, 2024

A Sci-Fi Setting Idea

My recent readings in science fiction and musings on Star Frontiers have given me an idea for a science fiction setting combining some thoughts I've had stemming from both.

The basic idea involves a future Earth controlled by benevolent AI that is something those presented in the novelization to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Stross' Accelerando and a little like Watts' Blindsight. Most people are enmeshed in digital simulations to various degrees and have little, direct human contact. They're content to let the AIs run things. More individualistic, conservative elements of human society, still interested in physical experiences and challenges, have moved to the outer Solar System.

When a wormhole gateway left by a previous intelligent culture is discovered in the Solar System, the AI guides of the human race see the perfect way to channel the more erratic humans of the outer system: they open up the Frontier.

Exactly where in the galaxy (or perhaps the universe) the Frontier is located is unclear, but it's far from Sol. In a relatively small area of space compared to Sol's local environment, it has a number of human habitable worlds--and a few technologically advanced alien species.

Megacorporations are allowed to guide settlement of the region. Both the settlers and the AI on Earth ironically agree that a new society replicating the one on Earth shouldn't be created on the Frontier. To this end, technology is limited and controlled, policed by the Institute. This gives the Frontier a somewhat retro, "cassette futurism"-tinged vibe.

Eventually, the Frontier develops away from corporate rule, but after the unexplained collapse of the wormwhole back to Sol, there is war, and then an economic depression that paves the way for a corporate bailout and a re-establishment of central government via a "special-purpose district." The megacorporations promise to re-establish full representative democratic rule in time for the bicentennial celebration of human arrival on the Frontier. 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

What's on TV

Here's your periodic reminder that if you have an interest in old TV shows, Jason "Operation Unfathomable" Sholtis and I are watching one a week, pulled from the forgotten corners of streaming and the moldering pages of old TV Guides, in our "Classic TV Flashback" over on the Flashback Universe Blog.

We've been on a British TV kick lately, sampling Star Cops (1987) and Jason King (1971).

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Wednesday Comics: May, 1983 (week 2)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I've got the comics at newsstands the week of February 10, 1983. 

Batman #359:  Conway and Jurgens continue Croc's rise in the Underworld as he murders Boss Falco in prison and proclaims himself "King Croc" in this issue. (Interestingly, Batman and Gordon call him "Killer Croc" but that's not a name Croc himself ever uses.) The cover is misleading as no costumed villains show up. It's all part of Conway building the pre-fab menace.

We get Croc's origin this issue (he's from Tampa FL and apparently born in 1948), some digs at the criminal justice system in the South, and a view of a more reactionary asshole Batman emerging after years of the nice that will take inner city kids out to clean up a park. He's dismissive of Croc's trauma-filled childhood (or at least Gordon's mild empathy over it), and chews Robin out when he suggests maybe having the Todds investigate these murderous criminals isn't a good idea. He says he's tired of "citizens" waiting for someone else to save them, and that the Todds made a commitment, and they should stick to it. Some of this may be Conway signaling Bruce is stinging from getting beaten (again) in this issue by Croc, but it's still a shift--and will have in-story consequences.

Against Robin's instructions, Joe and Trina Todd follow Croc's minion extorting money from the circus. At the Gotham Zoo, they walk into a trap.

Flash #321: Infantino's art comes off different this issue, likely due to the mysterious inker credited as "Taurus S." Anyway, Sabre Tooth, the assassin from previous issues, escapes from jail and is going to kill Barry Allen. He almost does so as Barry and Fiona visit Creed's grave. Barry's Flash abilities save him, but Sabre Tooth gets away. Meanwhile, Tomar Re has pancakes with a family, and the Reverse Flash makes a last page escape from whatever extradimensional realm he was stuck in. Even beyond, the new inker, Infantino seems to stretch himself on the depiction of that place.

The Creeper backup trudges along with Gafford joined by a new art team: Patton and DeCarlo. Patton took over last issue, but I think I forgot to comment. Anyway, the Creeper traces the source of the tainted cocaine that seems to be turning users into monsters.

G.I. Combat #253: After D-Day, the Haunted Tank and crew are on their way to Paris. When their captain is killed before they reach the city and Notre Dame, which he had dreamed of seeing, Jeb vows to take his body there, despite orders from Eisenhower that they are to hang back and give General Leclerc and his French 1st Armored Division the honor of retaking the capital. Racing ahead, Jeb and his win find the city still very much in German hands and have to evade death until help arrives.

The second Haunted Tank story is one of those with a mildly humorous premise Kanigher does from time to time. Rick sees a little French girl eyeing a doll in a shop window and vows to buy it for her, but he and the rest of the crew are pulled out of the pay line to be sent on a mission to recover a fortune in stolen gold. Their way back is made more difficult by country folk constantly demanding payment from the "rich Americans" to help them, but the crew has no money except the gold they are carrying and can't spend. In the end, the girl gets her doll, but only after the crew has a shoot out with Germans on a bridge with stacks of gold bars as cover.

Kanigher and Catan have the Mercenaries in the Middle East tangling with an Arab leader whose men executed some Western missionaries.  
The other tales are by Boltinoff/Trinidad and Kashdan with Talaoc and Ayers and are (mostly more serious). A kid dreams of firing a machine gun, and gets put on a crew, but dies in the bitter cold on a frozen river before ever firing a shot. His lifeless fingers, frozen to the trigger, manage to kill some Germans, though. A French dog saves a G.I. from a German soldier, and a G.I. is saved from the Japanese by Truk Islanders and tries to return the favor by rushing to warn them so they can escape a U.S. bombing. 

Omega Men #2: Slifer, Giffen, and DeCarlo pick up from last issue with the team in trouble. After the nuclear attack, Primus is badly injured, and their "bio-systems" are nearly depleted. Tigorr disobeys Primus to go get supplies and barely makes it back. We get more of Broot's tragic backstory and discover that while most Changralynians blame him for the destruction, there is a cultish group that idolize his resistance.

Meanwhile on the Omega Men's ship, Kalista forces a captured Citadelian to send false reports to his commander. Treacherous Demonia begins sowing seeds of mistrust within rank and file, scaring some with a tale of Primus' apparent mind-control capabilities.

Saga of the Swamp Thing #13: This storyline comes to an end, and I am sorry to say, Pasko and Yeates do not stick the landing, which honestly is a result telegraphed for a few issues now. I lot of things happen at the last minute and the ending seems sort of arbitrary. In the Fortress of the Beast, Swamp Thing, Liz, Dennis, and Dr. Kripptmann are each tricked by hallucinations of their most painful memories that disguise death traps. Once they make it through, it is revealed that Grasp has been the Anti-Christ all along. Or maybe he's just the Herald of the Beast? Is there a difference? Anyway, the Golem's back, and there's stuff with the locket, and then Swampie gets powered up enough to defeat Karen and Grasp.

Swamp Thing with the help of Liz, Dennis and Kripptmann, returns to his home swamp in Louisiana to restore and heal himself from his infection. General Sunderland still has plans to get Swamp Thing, though.

In the Cuti/Carrillo Phantom Stranger backup, Yehudi Jones has the knack for never being seen and makes a living pilfering from people. The Phantom Stranger forces him start living in the world and be somebody to save a beautiful girl from corruption by the hands of the drug pusher, Dan D. Candy.

New Teen Titans #31: After their defeat last issue, the Titans aren't in a good place when they get back to the Tower. Kid Flash is still convinced Raven is evil and frustrated the other Titans aren't listening to him. Cyborg is still ruminating over finding out the girl he is into has a fiancé, and Robin is still being distant from Starfire for reasons. Oh, and Raven's been kidnapped. But hey, Donna show's up and tells them Terry proposed. None of this goes anywhere, but it's simmering in the background as they head to Zandia to get Raven back.

In Zandia, we learn the Brotherhood is after Brother Blood's secrets. The Brain has deduced that Raven likely discovered these unconsciously. When all of his teammates attempt at coercion and torture fail, Brain tries a gentler approach, and Raven agrees to help. Trailing the bad guys to the site of Brother Blood's secret "Regeneration Chamber," the Titans come on strong, but the Brain is able to turn the tide against them. Believing her teammates have been killed, Raven goes berserk and almost kills the Brotherhood before Wonder Girl manages to bring her to her senses.

Superman #383: Bates and Swan/Hunt give us another one of those "puzzle stories" so common to Superman comics of the Bronze Age. First off, Bates lays out a lot of character business in the Daily Planet, presumably to pay off in later issues, including the big one of Lois questioning her relationship with Superman given that he won't commit--and perhaps realistically can't. 

In the main storyline, an ancient robot is unearthed, and it immediately attacks Superman. All is not as it seems, however! It turns out that Robrox, the ancient alien robot, is here to prevent some catastrophe foreseen by his makers that would destroy life on Earth. They catastrophe will be triggered by Superman's heat vision thanks to the machinations of the Superman Revenge Squad. Robrox prevents Superman from unleashing his heat-vision on Earth, then explains everything to him once Superman has safely deployed it on the lifeless Moon.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Talking with Gob

Our Land of Azurth 5e game continued last night. The party was still dealing with the bifurcated black and white adepts from last session. They tried to make sense of each adept's claim that the other was the villain, but ultimately, they just decided to try and seize the magic sabaton and be done with it.

A fight broke out as one kept blasting them with glowing orbs, while the other triplicated himself and attacked. The party triumphed, but only after depleting poor Dagmar's healing magic keeping them from going down. They wore forced to take a long rest in the barricaded room and wind up having to bluff a Phanfasm and his goblin troops once and them stay quite when some other (unseen) wandering monsters came sniffing around.

The next room contained the crystalline Gob, himself--or more precisely, Gob's self-image. He was at work on some sort of geometric equations and fretting over the elementary particles responsible for good and evil. The party got to ask him some questions about the origins of the world, discovering that Azurth was a sort of "terrarium" and outside it's "event horizon" was the rest of the universe. Whatever any of that meant!

After that, they had to backtrack to the domain of the Snooty Elves to go another direction. They found a room with a red crytal altar that held another piece of armor, a greave, floating in the middle of the room. When Waylon tried to grab it, he was frozen in some sort of stasis field. The party tried dispelling it (didn't work), then moving things with mage hand (didn't work in the duration of the spell), but finally Erekose was able to drag Waylon out. They then used mage hand to put a noose around the greave and they took turns slooowly dragging it out of the field.