Friday, June 28, 2024

Magic Like This

 I'd like to see a traditional fantasy rpg with magic like this:

Podmore picked up his fork and stood it on its end. Snaith stood, stepped over to the shelf behind Arthur’s head, and picked up a sharp knife. Moving by instinct, Arthur reached out and knocked over Snaith’s wine-glass. Snaith slipped on spilled borscht. He lay on his back looking confused, as if he had no idea what had just happened or why he’d stood up in the first place...

...Arthur said, “George—I’m sorry.” 

He snapped the stem of his wineglass, causing the leg of George’s chair to snap so that he fell on the floor and hit his head on the chair behind him. The dowager dame who’d been sitting in that chair gave a little shriek, then got to her feet and left, taking her party with her. A couple of waiters quickly came and led George off, bleeding from the head, in search of first aid. 

- Felix Gilman, The Revolutions

And this:

Her bedroom was still dark when Sadie woke up and there was a lump in her throat. She turned her head and coughed, and spat a stone into her hand. It was the size of her thumbnail, chalky white and light as a feather. Its dimpled surface was covered all around with tiny holes, and when she held it up to her ear she could hear wind in the treetops of a faraway forest.

She mixed a resin and coated the stone several times, until it was as hard and shiny as a nut, then took it outside where the morning sky had begun to turn pink along the horizon. She set the stone in the middle of the long trail that ran south from her house, through ruined cornfields and over the Arkansas River.

She left the stone there and went inside, laid back down in her bed and went to sleep.

- Alex Grecian, Red Rabbit

The last quote is the beginning of a sequence of events wherein the "stone" is picked up by a squirrel which is in turn carried away by a hawk, dropped and eaten by a fox, which is in turn killed and eaten by the man the stone is a message for. He chips a tooth on it before realizing what it is, putting it up to his ear, and hearing the witch's message.

In both of these works, magic isn't visually fantastic or flashy. Not at all like super-powers. But it is nonetheless powerful and mostly quick without a lot of ceremony. I suspect there are modern/occult rpgs with magic like this, but I'm unaware of any traditional, Medievalish fantasy with it, but I'd like to see it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 1983 (week 4)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics on the newsstand on June 23, 1983.

Sword of the Atom #1: After Ray Palmer discovers his wife Jean cheating on him with her new legal partner, he takes a trip to the Amazon jungle to give them some time apart in search of a White Dwarf Star Fragment. Unfortunately, the pilots of the plane he charters are also cocaine smugglers so when his explorations get too close to their facilities, they attack him. He fights them off as the Atom, but the plan crashes and he's stuck in his 6-inch size. Luckily, He meets a tribe of similarly sized, yellow-skinned people, citizens of the hidden city of Morlaidh. Unluckily, he takes the side of the condemned Taren, and is also condemned to death by rats. Meanwhile, in Ivy Town, Jean hears that Ray's wedding band has been discovered in the plane wreckage in Brazil and assumes her husband is dead. Strnad and Kane remake the Atom as a Lost World/Planetary Romance sort of hero, which is a combo Kane was born to draw.

Ronin #2: The samurai reborn in a cybernetic body in the 21st century spends most of the issue looking for a sword, encountering Miller's phantasmagorical underbelly of future Manhattan. He final gets one, and violence ensues. Well, there was violence before that, but now the samurai is getting his licks in. Meanwhile, an AI catches a corporate security leader up on everything that went down last issue, she sends her men to start looking for the samurai. The demon is lurking in the background, also. It's inhabiting the body of the corporation's CEO. Again, while the similarities to Miller's later work like Dark Knight Returns is clear, I'm struck by how much this seems like something that could have been serialized in Heavy Metal.

Action Comics #547: Rozakis, Kupperberg and Swan/Colletta/Marcos complete the Planeteer story arc. Superman keeps flying around the world, rescuing the kidnapped world leaders and unknowingly doing exactly what the Planeteer wants to power him up to Superman(ish) power levels. It isn't enough though, and after a goofy but not unappealing combat where they keep punching each other around the globe into landmarks (the Redwood of California, the Great Wall of China, the Sphinx), Superman defeats him at the North Pole. 

All-Star Squadron #25: Thomas and Ordway/Machlan add some new complications to the Ultra-Humanite arc. The JSA splits up as they are wont to do and encounter duos of new powered beings (the Infinitors from the future, it turns out, but you'd only know that from the cover) who seem convinced by Ultra that the JSA are working with the fascists. These combats end with a number of the JSA disappearing mysteriously. Meanwhile, Amazing Man has decided with work with the All-Stars to save Detroit as his parents are there. Infinitor Brainwave, Jr. wakes up and realizes he may be too late to stop his friends who are inadvertently going to cause a catastrophe.

Arion Lord of Atlantis #11: Moench and Duursema/Mandrake work in some stuff borrowed Blavatsky. An reveals an underground passageway beneath the palace, leading to the ruins of an ancient city of the Rmoahals. Arion and friends discover a being encased in a block of ice, and they bring tit to the surface for study. Ar

Arion is training with Calculha's crystals to try to reclaim his magic, but the psychic energy awakens the creature trapped in ice. It's a mutant created by the Rmoahals to remove their need for traditional food, as it feeds on psychic energy. After rampaging for a bit, the creature targets Mara who has the most powerful energy. She changes form into a chimera with doesn't have the level of mental energy the creatures needs and fights it tooth and claw. Arion then arrives and kills the creature who actually wishes to end its existence with a sword.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #19: The cover proclaims Thomas and Hoberg as the creators, but the actual credits list Shaw as the plotter and Cavalieri as the scripter. The Zoo Crew goes on a cruise and once again encounter Frogzilla who is in cahoots with a shady landcrab real estate speculator. Cavalieri's scripting as opposed to Thomas's or Shaw's is decidedly less pun heavy, which seems to me a bit of an improvement. 

Detective Comics #529: Moench and Colon/Giordano continue the story of Nocturna from this month's Batman. The Thief of Night is in custody after his last encounter with Batman. Justice is swift in Gotham because he's about to get his day in court, except Batman convinces the DA to hold it at night so he can show up to testify. Before that, however, Jason Todd who's running away to return to the circus happens to encounter Nocturna. She actually advises him to stick with his foster parent. She makes a good point, but Jason ultimately decides to go through with his plan.

Nocturna attends the hearing in disguise, then attacks the transport van taking Thief of Night to prison using her hot air balloon and some weaponized jewelry. Batman foils the escape attempt and captures both criminals.

All the time this has been going on, Bruce has been absent from his relationship with Vicki Vale. Fed up, she asks for an assignment out of the country and plans to leave town.

In the Green Arrow backup by Cavalieri and Gonzales/Magyar, the Russian embassy in Star City is attacked by 1983 topical right-wing paramilitary nuts led by the Survivalist. Ollie happens to be there for his paper, so Green Arrow is able to stop the attack, but he can't do anything about the suspicious the Soviets have that the U.S. government was behind events. GA shows one of their captured weapons to a General at the local army installation, who confirms it's of an advanced type, not a standard issue. They're interrupted by an attack by the Survivalist and his followers, who are using a device to start raising nuclear missiles from their silos. Their plan is to precipitate a nuclear war as they feel they will be prepared to take over in the aftermath.

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #2: Giffen is still involved as co-plotter here with Levitz, but he hands off art chores to Gibbons, which isn't as good as I might have thought. Gibbons just doesn't seem to have a real handle on some of the character designs. Anyway, the Projectra and Karate Kid are married in a ceremony unmarred by super-villain attack. The only wrinkle being that several of the Legionnaries got accidentally marooned in the past where they encounter Durlans masquerading as the Greek gods and have to rescued. It's an odd interlude, but not a bad issue.

Jonah Hex #76: Another nice cover, this one by Jim Aparo. Emmylou is back she issue, so I guess Fleischer hasn't forgotten her. She's still traveling with Jonah (and still dressed in Native American garb) though she's once him to settle down, and Jonah frets he's misleading her, because he isn't in love with her. Turnbull has hatched another plan for revenge on Hex. Does it have something to do with the governor requesting Hex undertake a secret mission going undercover in the territory prison? Hex's cover has him branded a criminal (and Mei Ling sees the charges in a newspaper), and things are pretty grim in the prison thanks to a sadistic and corrupt guard.

New Adventures of Superboy #45: A change in the art time this issue as Saviuk is on pencils and Schaffenberger inks. Despite everything going on in Smallville with Clark now dating Lisa, his father being asked to run for political office, and some sort of shennanigans at the local paper, Superboy finds time to head to Japan to help the authorities against Sunburst, a tokusatsu movie hero who apparently has real super-powers and seems to be behaving like a villain. We're left with a cliffhanger.

In the Dial H backup by Bridwell/Rozakis and Bender/Jensen, Chris and Vicki tell Nick Stevens about how they got the dials and he wants to see the mysterious box in Chris' attic himself.  They figure out a way to witness a past battle between the Master and a super-hero called the Wizard which leads to the creation of the dials and allows Nick to get over his mental block in drawing a sketch of the Master's appearance.

World's Finest Comics #295: This one is from a plot by Kellogg and script by Kraft with art by Moore/McLaughlin. With a setup that would seem strange with the "creature of the night" Batman post-Crisis, Batman is called to Cape Canaveral to investigate the possibility of sabotage of a new space weapon satellite. Batman has only begun to consider suspects, when there's an attack by the Moon Dancers, a very 70s Marvel Two-in-One team of themed adversaries. They manage to escape by incapacitating Batman with a gas bomb which turns out to contain a deadly alien virus. Superman strives to save his friend, and after traveling all over space finds the cure in the burning heart of a comet. (Yes, I know comets don't have burning heats. Tell Kellogg and Kraft!) 

Batman is cured, but this turns out to (amazingly) by exactly what the mysterious mastermind behind the Moon Dancers intended, because it involves Superman making a device with the cometary energy source. He sends the Moon Dancers to steal it, and Batman is too weak to fight them off. Superman shows up, and the heroes track the thieves down, discovering that NASA scientist Nakamura is the mastermind. A survivor of the atomic bombing of Japan he wanted to end the nuclear threat forever. The Moon Dancers wanted the same end, but were in the dark in regard to his means. The heroes defeat Nakamura and the Moon Dancers repent--in fact, the heroes just let them get away, despite their crimes. 

Superman III (Superman Movie Special #1): Weirdly, although the title on the cover is Superman III: The Official Adaptation of the Movie, the indicia for the book says the title is "Superman Movie Special, Vol. 1, No. 1." I wasn't able to get ahold of a copy to read, but I remember the movie and there's a review of adaptation here with some sample pages.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Amid the Kobold Parts

Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night with the party searching the room they fought the spider god in, then wedging shut the exits so they could take a much needed rest.

Once that was done, they explored beyond a secret door they had found. They gave goodberries to a troop of white apes to avoid conflict and then a suit of extra leather armor to a small party of rebel goblins. They took a seemingly magical crystal from the hands of an ensorcelled dwarf who appeared to have had his memories stolen by it, but unfortunately that led to his death despite the party's best intentions.

Having explored this level of the mind of Gob, they took the stairs down the the next level. In in the stairwell, they could hear the clamor of battle. They explored in a direction other than toward those sounds at first and came upon a pair of villainous Phanfasms gnawing on the choice bits of a wheelbarrow full of dismembered kobold corpses.

These guys the party fought and their numbers quickly won the day. Within the corpse wagon, they found a glittering gauntlet, one of the pieces of armor they sought!

Friday, June 21, 2024

John Benteen's Fargo

On my recent vacation, I decided to check out the men's adventure paperback series Fargo by John Benteen after discovering the whole series was cheap on Kindle. I became aware of the series thanks to the upcoming graphic novel adaptation, Fargo: Hell on Wheels, by Howard Chaykin.

Amazon bills the series as a Westerns, and I suppose some of them are, in the same way The Professionals (1966) or Fist Full of Dynamite (aka Duck You Sucker) (1972) or other adventure films in Western locales are considered Westerns. They take place in the early 20th Century (1912-1915 in the ones I've read so far) and involve imagery and action out of Westerns (tough men in wild country on horseback with guns), but they involve a range of locales more again to traditional adventure pulp. They range to the jungles of the Philippines and Panama, as well as the more traditional Mexican desert or Yukon.

I've read blogpost reviews that refer to Fargo as sort of a "Western Conan." I can see what they mean in that Fargo is tough as hell, irresistible to women (apparently due to sheer manliness, as he is described as unhandsome and hardly has a scintillating personality), and good at most everything in his warrior and outdoorsman purview. However, Benteen's attention to detail regarding gear and preparation for obstacles his hero faces, and his penchant for pitting Fargo against enemies that appear to be a match for him, serve to make the series feel more grounded and realistic. Only slightly pulpy instead of completely so.

Benteen's prose is lean in the mid-Century way, not pulp purple. His action and dialog are punchy and mostly effective but without any lyricism or descriptive vistas despite their natural locales. Unfortunately, but expected given their genre and when they were written, they carry a streak of misogyny, some of the volumes moreso that others. There is likely some cultural and racial insensitivity lurking in their too, but in the volumes, I have read the narrative is not unsympathetic to both Native Americans and Latinos, and Fargo himself doesn't exhibit any prejudice that I recall--though some of the villainous characters use racial slurs. 

They're all quick reads (under 200 pages) and fast-paced. So far I've read:

  • Fargo (vol 1): Set in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution, Fargo is hired to rescue an engineer (and his mine's haul of silver) from deep inside that war torn and escape bandits with revolutionary pretensions.
  • Panama Gold (vol 2): A prequel set in 1912. Fargo is asked by Teddy Roosevelt himself to investigate and thwart an attempt to foreign powers to use a mercenary army to sabotage the nearly completed Panama Canal.
  • Alaska Steel (vol 3) In 1914, Fargo is hired by a movie starlet to find her wayward husband so he can claim his oil money inheritance. The problem is, he's disappeared in the Yukon where he was seeking his fortune as a prospector.
  • Apache Raiders (vol 4) Just started this one, but Fargo is back in Mexico in 1915, smuggling guns for Pancho Villa. Presumably there are Apaches.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 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 June 16, 1983.

Warlord #73: This was the first issue of Warlord I ever bought, at the age of 10. I reviewed the main story here. In the Barren Earth backup by Cohn/Randall, Jinal and her allies make an assault on the Mulge ritual site to get their friends back. The mushrooms have already gone through the chest of one of the men, so they kill him out of mercy, but Skinner they are able to save after painfully removing the fungi.

Omega Men #6: Courtesy of Silfer and Giffen/DeCarlo, Tigorr and his forces continue their assault on the Citadel, and it all goes pretty well despite the concerns of Primus, which has the effect of making his conservative leadership look bad. Silfer tries to ameliorate this by hinting multiple times that something bad will come of all this. The reveal of the first Citadelian as kind of a serpent in the Eden of the Vega system, a source of aggression that will continue after the defeat of his forces, is deployed in the service of this idea, but all in all it looks like a victory for Tigorr and the forces of freedom, despite some dialogue to the contrary.

Arak Son of Thunder #25: This issue feels like it culminates in a bit of a new direction for the series, though whether that goes at a natural turning point in the storyline or as an attempt to attract new interest is hard to say. Not long after leaving White Cathay, Arak and crew are attacked by Tartars led by Xadox, son of Xadox who is understandably upset Arak killed his dad in Hell. A spell from Malagigi drives off the tartar horde, and Xadox is captured. The group takes refuge in a cave for the night and Arak and Valda get some private time in a hot spring.

Xadox escapes and releases a dragonish salamander from a cocoon, which immediately attacks. Malagigi is able to turn the creature back on Xadox, and Arak kills it with a stalactite.

The next morning the company splits up, with Arak and Satyricus setting out the journey back to North America and find the surviving members of his tribe, and Malagigi and Valda heading back to Frankland.

Batman and the Outsiders #2: Barr and Aparo pick up where last issue left off with Batman, Black Lightning, and Metamorpho prisoners. Baron Bedlam gets to tell his side of things, and it reveals him to come from a family of Nazi collaborators and to be an abuser of women, just in case there was any doubt he's bad.  

When left alone, the heroes combine their powers and break free. They meet up with Katana, Halo and Geo-Force and together they thwart Baron Bedlam's army, and Metamorpho rescues Dr. Jace. Geo-Force goes one on one with Bedlam and tosses him to the peasants of Markovia for suitable punishment. Batman approves.

With the battle over, Batman suggests the group to return to Gotham City with him to find new purpose and work together as a team, and the Outsiders are born. All and all, a serviceable origin story.

Camelot 3000 #8: Barr and Bolland/Austin finally have Arthur betrayed as they have been teasing. Merlin is the removed, thanks to a magic item, but who did the it? Arthur devotes his attentions toward finding the traitor. Of course, the story leads you to believe it was Tristan as he even agreed to help Morgan in exchange for being returned to his male body, but through psychological trickery Arthur discovers the traitor is Kay. Kay misguidedly was trying to lift Arthur from his funk and rouse his to action but misunderstood the gravity of his actions. Arthur sentences Kay to death, but before he can carry out the sentence, aliens attack. Naturally, Kay dies in battle, but Tom Prentice is also wounded. Arthur elevates him to knighthood.

Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #11: Kupperberg and Infantino/Oksner pick up where last issue left off with Supergirl presumed dead by the Prof. Drake, the scientist working for the nefarious Council. Of course she isn't, and she breaks out of the cloning chamber just in time. Despite her weakened state, she manages to battle her way out of the laboratory and head for the Fortress of Solitude. Drake, at the Chairman's command, sends the six mini-Supergirl clones after her. In her current state, the clones defeat her, and begin dragging her toward a disintegration pit!

Green Lantern #168: Cavalieri and Tuska/McLaughlin continue the saga of the improved power rings. Jordan heads to D'xe to confront Kaylark who has taken over her homeworld and declared herself Empress Surrenda. The Free Lancers who started this whole mess show up to make Kaylark fulfill her bargain by giving them the improved power ring to copy, but she reneges as is the privilege of Empresses. She throws them in a dungeon. They get out later to fight Jordan but get defeated. These guys are weird; they're distinct enough and important enough to the story it feels like Cavalieri is trying to make them a thing.

Anyway. Jordan makes Kaylark see her past and feel the fear of being unloved and unrecognized, which similarly to the others, was powering the ring. With her defeated, he retrieves the ring and destroys her fortress. He heads back to the Guardians with the recovered rings and Dorine fretting over the fact Hal thinks of everyone but her.

In the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backup by Harris and Moore/Trappani we begin the story of Lysandra. She is bequeathed the ring by a dying lantern but her people on the planet Zinthia have a religious taboo against even looking at the stars, much less traveling in them. The Guardians are surprisingly cool, though, and let her be the lantern of her single world, but then she discovers her world's star is going to go nova. If her people won't leave, she'll have to move the planet!

House of Mystery #320: The Kaluta cover on this issue has nothing to do with this issue's contents. In the first story by Kashdan/Catan, a murderous, would-be thief finds himself condemned to work as a slave on a Chinese junk where even death provides no escape. Barr and Harris present a tale of a Nazi agent in London working as a DJ, who gets her comeuppance when the ghost of the woman she murdered calls down a German airstrike on her.

The last story by Jones and Morrow is interesting in that it is unpredictable. An underground, post-nuclear war society is still plagued by racism. However, the sole black member of an expedition to the surface gets to shed his second-class citizen status when rain reveals the white members of the group are actually unaccountably ease to corrode robots and he is the only actual human among them.

Sgt. Rock #380: In main story by Kanigher and Redondo, Easy gets 3 new troops. Two are seasoned fighters, the third is the untried, nervous sort. Easy tries to make the kid feel at home, but ultimately when his two friends are injured, he steps up to save the day. The issue is filled out with a short about a WWII aviator that goes from the frying pan to the fire has he encounters a dinosaur after a crash, a sci-fi piece about robot gladiators in an alien arena, and features on WWII era pin-up girls and atomic war.

Legion of Super-Heroes #303: The Emerald Empress has taken command of Weber's World and sets the artificial planet on a collision course with the United Planets' fleet. The Legionnaires she captured manage to break free, though, and Brainiac 5 comes up with a plan for Supergirl to knock the planet off course. In defeating Emerald Empress, Shrinking Violet demonstrates she has knowledge of a Durlan special move. Could be important later. Brainiac 5 tells Supergirl why his thinking has been so muddy lately: she's too distracting for him. Also: Jecky and Karate Kid get ready for their wedding. 

Night Force #14: This is the final issue, and it feels a bit rushed. Katina plans to take on the Beast in the present, while the Baron and Gowron go for a little father-son bonding to confront his minions in the past. I don't feel like we're given a clear indication of who the nefarious players are here and how they got the power they have. I suspect it's because Wolfman was perhaps forced to shorten it. Anyway, despite it beating them before and them talking about its power, they manage to beat it with a point stick in the 1930s. The good guys are victorious, and the house is free of malign spirits. A new status quo is established with Katina and Gowron moving into Baron's house, as well as an accidentally time displaced young woman from the '30s. So long Night Force. It feels like your potential was unrealized. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

Weird Revisited: Untrue North

My recent trip to Alaska brought to mind this old post from 2011...

An arctic of only (melting) ice is sort of boring, don’t you think? At least in comparison to the flights of Age of Exploration fancy. Why settle for mere ice when you could have a magnetic Black Rock, a swirling whirlpool, and islands of pygmies? Check out this 1595 map:

Gerard Mercator based his maps and his descriptions (in a letter to John Dee in 1577) off older works. He describes a landmass divided into four lands by channels through which water rushed into the whirlpool surrounding the Pole, and "descends into the earth just as if one were pouring it through a filter funnel.” This unusual geography supposedly led to the deaths of 4,000 men from the expedition King Arthur sent to the island, according to Mercator's report. The ultimate source of this version of pole is believed to be the account in the Inventio Fortunata, a 14th Century work which is unfortunately lost.

At the pole itself, in the center of the maelstrom, was a giant, black mountain, Rupes Nigra--the Black Rock or Black Precipice. Mercator writes: “Its circumference is almost 33 French miles, and it is all of magnetic stone. And is as high as the clouds...” Its magnetism was said draw ships made with iron nails to their doom.

A really interesting adventuring site, I think.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Seven Blades in Black

Seven Blades in Black
is the first volume of The Grave of Empires series by Sam Sykes. A scarred, gunslinging bounty hunter with a magical sentient gun seeks the vengeance on the seven mages that betrayed her in the war-torn landscape of a country caught between two powers. 

The plot and some aspects of the setting certainly have a classic Western feel to them (and perhaps a bit of Kill Bill), and the guns and devices (including tanks) employed by the Republic have a Steampunk feel to them. For me, what it has the feeling of more than any Steampunk novel, however, is anime. This is mostly in certain aesthetic details. The gun employed by the heroine, Sal the Cacophony, shoots shells of various magical effects like the caster Gene has in Outlaw Star. The mages are classed by the type of magic they employ, and these tend to work like super-powers or special abilities rather than spells. Then there are little aesthetic things: Sal has a signature long scarf. The wind mage has tall spikey hair when "powered up."

Another thing that might be borrowed from anime is the very cinematic approach to action, which there is a lot of, and I think, very well done. This is the heavy worldbuilding sort of fantasy with a glossary in the back, but the setting is well realized, and a lot of interesting details are dropped. Despite my pointing out references or inspirations above, the setting has a number of unique elements. For instance, mages can hear "the Lady's song" when other mages employ magic--the mysterious voice of the goddess magic is derived from. When a mage dies and the Lady takes them, only ashes are left, which are harvested to make magic items like powerful healing spells.

There is a touch of the, well, Whedonesque to the proceedings. Sal's snarky, first-person narration might grate on some readers, and the telling the story to an interrogator frame could feel a bit precious. Both were deficits to me, but more than made up for by the book's strengths. I intend to continue with the series and perhaps seek out other books by Sykes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 1983 (week 2)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I've looking at the comics released the week of June 9, 1983. 

Superman Annual #9: The stories here seem like they may have been sitting around a few years waiting for the place to publish them. The first has a Silver Age-y (really perhaps more of a cinematic story of the era) by Elliott S. Maggin where Lex Luthor supposedly exposes Superman to Red Kryptonite, causing the hero to be changed into a duplicate of Luthor, so he gets arrested in Luthor's place. Batman guest stars, though, and the heroes are one step ahead of Luthor. The portrayal of Luthor here seems very Superman: The Movie informed. To the extent this story works, I think it all comes down to the great art by Toth. The Kane cover is great, but it's a shame Toth didn't do that as well to match.

The second story sees Earth-Prime Curt Swan visiting Earth-One and meeting the Superman he draws. It's pretty much for what you would expect for these sorts of stories.

Batman #363:  Moench and Newton/Alcala pick up where last issue left off, with the newspapers proclaiming Batman's continued failure to catch the Thief of Night. We're introduced to Nocturna, a beautiful woman as dramatic as she is pale, whose lifestyle the smitten Thief is supporting with his thefts. As Natasha Knight, Nocturna is invited to a Wayne corporate event where she meets and does a little flirting with Bruce, until the Thief of Night shows up and robs everybody there. Still, Bruce notices the connection between the two, and later, as Batman, confronts her. Nocturna reveals her origins as the adopted daughter of a criminal who taught her to value the high life. The Thief shows up and knocks Batman out, but Nocturna doesn't let him kill the Dark Knight. When Batman wakes up, Jason is there, having followed the Thief from Wayne Manor. Bruce scolds him and sends him home, so Jason calls up his friend Waldo the Clown.

Batman tracks Nocturna and the Thief of Night to the Gotham Observatory, where Nocturna is collecting her things preparing to leave her job. Batman confronts the Thief and flips on a light to keep his shadow-blending from giving the Thief an advantage. Batman captures his enemy, but Nocturna manages to escape during the fight in a hot-air balloon. I don't know that they ever had staying power, but Nocturna and Thief of Night seem a decent addition to Batman's Rogue's Gallery.

Flash #325: In the aftermath of the Reverse Flash's death, Barry Allen is still absent as the Flash goes into full heroic mode to distract himself from thinking about what he's done. Members of the Flash's Rogue's Gallery steal Professor Zoom's body from the morgue to hold their own memorial where they eulogize him then condemn his failure. Fiona is admitted to the hospital due to acute stress and spends most of the issue unconscious. As the media coverage continues, the Flash is summoned to the police station where he is placed under arrest. This was a pretty good story from Bates/Infantino/Jensen. I particularly liked the sequence with the Rogues.

Bates and Saviuk/McLaughlin also provide a Kid Flash backup. In Blue Valley, Kid Flash learns that his new girlfriend Jill Manners has psychic powers (what is it with Kid Flash and girls with psychic powers? He's really got a type) that warn of impending danger, which goes in handy with the day they have.

G.I. Combat #257: The first Haunted Tank story is a bit of a rarity for Kanigher as it contains fantastic elements beyond a ghostly Civil War general giving commentary. Attila the Hun is apparently the guiding spirit of a panzer, so he rushes the Haunted Tank and slashes it with his ghostly sword, somehow throwing them back in time rescue a warrior girl, Zeena, from a Hun onslaught. Finding their advanced tech doesn't work, they make common cause with Zeena and try to journey to safety. The story is continued next issue. The other Haunted Tank story involves prejudice toward Algerian immigrants in a French town and an Algerian boy they bravely rides along with the tank crew to help them navigate, when the bigoted French townsfolks approval.

There's an O.S.S. story by Kanigher and Cruz where Control is (again) haunted by all the agents he sends to their deaths, so he goes into the field himself and is only saved from a bomb strike by Allied forces thanks to an underground stream. Drake and Redondo have perhaps the best story of the issue about a bomb disposal squad reunited by a ceremony honoring them in the French town they saved. They must overcome their lingering irritations with each other, and the frailties time has brought to each to disable an uncovered bit of unexploded ordinance from the war.

New Teen Titans Annual #2: In TV terms, this would be called a "back door pilot." Following up on the events of issue 34, Adrian Chase is seriously wounded, his family is dead, and Robin his having to answer questions he'd rather not in front of the media and ultimately on a witness stand. He wants to bring down Scarapelli, but thanks to a restraining order, he can't get near the guy and has to convince the reluctant Titans to help him. Scarapelli is making unwise decisions too as it goes against the advice of his capo, the Godmother, and hires some quasi-super-powered mercenaries through the mysterious Monitor in a satellite above the Earth. This turns out bad for the Titans, but they have a mysterious helper, too, who only Robin ever meets: the Vigilante, Adrian Chase's new crime fighting identity. In the end, Scarapelli gets justice and there's a new crime fighter with more lethal methods in New York City.

As is not uncommon with introductions of new characters, the Titans are sort of made to look weak to give Vigilante some spotlight but given he's just a DA who I guess works out some, it seems forced. Much is made of his willingness to kill like it's something new when the Punisher is sitting right over there

Anyway, this issue has some other introductions. While the Monitor technically back in issue 21, he wasn't named in this issue, I don't think. Also, one of the mercenaries he calls in to fight the Titans is Cheshire, who will go on to play a significant role in Titans lore.

Superman #387: This issue has a groovy Kane cover, but the interior feels like a throwback to at least Superman stories of a couple of years ago, if not the 70s. So much so, I wonder if it was an old story they just dusted off to use here. Anyway, it's Rozakis plotting and Kupperberg scripting. In Egypt, eight heads of state are kidnapped and imprisoned in force filed cube by the Planeteer, who claims he's a reincarnation of Alexander the Great from the stars or something. His force fields are strong enough to give the Man of Steel a hard time, but as always, through ingenuity Superman prevails--only (in a plot twist we've seen before) maybe that's what the Planeteer wanted to he could use Superman's actions to generate energy. In an end of the issue development, a couple shows up at Global Broadcasting asking for help, claiming the Planeteer is their son.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 1983 (week 1)

My ongoing mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of June 2, 1983. 

The Meanwhile... column in this issue mentions a number of projects in the works. The ones that won't ever see publication are Teen Titans/X-Men volume 2, JLA/Avengers (not this version, at least), and a Firestorm graphic novel.  The ones that will come out include Thriller, Nathaniel Dusk, Infinity, Inc., New Talent Showcase, Star Trek, and Atari Force, as well as the Star Raiders and Warlords graphic novels. Joe Kubert's The Redeemer is an in-between case as it will see print but not until 2013!

Wonder Woman #307: The Kane cover here differs from the previous sort of iconic covers in that it looks like it might have something to do with the issues contents...but doesn't! Mishkin and Heck/Giacola pick up where last issue left off with Trevor down under the onslaught of Aegeus and Wonder Woman jumping to his defense. Aegeus is out for revenge and has gotten special daggers from Vulcan to do the deed. These daggers are strong enough to destroy one of Wonder Woman's Bracelets of Submission, which according to this story puts her in danger of losing her mind in some unspecified way. She still beats Aegeus though by spinning him around, so his dagger slashes dig a whole into the ground, then leaving him there. There's some more stuff about Abernathy's crimes, and it turns out that it was a hawk in the government looking to use his past to turn public opinion against a new treaty with the Soviets. Wonder Woman thwarts another attack on Trevor (whose already in the hospital with a dagger lodged internally) by Aegeus, but she has to let him go because somehow, he's involved with the U.S. government and this mess with Abernathy...I don't know, the explanation given made no sense to me. Anyway, Trevor pulls through, and Aegeus slinks off.

The Cavalieri and Bair (credited as Hernandez)/Gaicola Huntress backup is let down by its art. It's all a hallucinatory sequence (presumably caused by an injection in a previous issue) where the Huntress confronts her fears: the insurmountable legacy of her father and the dark side of her mother. Dr. Strange makes a cameo in one trippy panel. 

Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld #5: Granch manages to get ahold of the amethyst again, and he and his monstrous siblings tumble through a warp into Amy Winston’s classroom, outing her to her parents at least if not the school and the cops. Meanwhile, Dark Opal is delivered his tribute, Princess Emerald and the implication is that he kills her, though this happens off-screen. Prince Topaz is unwilling preparing for his wedding, as he doesn't want to marry Princess Sapphire, but is instead smitten with Amethyst. Mishkin/Cohn and especially Colon continue to turn out solid work on this series.

Blackhawk #262: Evanier and Spiegle send the Blackhawks off to protect world leaders from being assassinated by Hitler lookalikes after der Führer's nutty scheme to enhance his rep after being seen to personally kill his adversaries is revealed. Andre and Chuck meet with the French underground and protect De Gaulle. Stanislaus and Chop Chop head to the Soviet Union to protect Stalin. Olaf and Hendrickson go to protect Roosevelt who is secretly visiting London. Blackhawk also heads to London to protect Churchill, but he is captured by the one remaining assassin. Still, Blackhawk and Churchill together prove capable of the defeating the killer. With the mission done, the Blackhawks learn that Domino has escaped from British custody. The team is tasked with finding her while Hitler commands her to kill Blackhawk.

DC Comics Presents #61: Wein and Perez/Marcos and Hoberg team Superman with OMAC, his first appearance since the end of the Warlord backups in '81. I would say the plot seems derived from Terminator, but that film is over a year away, so it can't be. Intercorp sends its robot assassin, Murdermek, back in time to kill Buddy Blank's ancestor, Nathan Blank, so that OMAC will be wiped from history. OMAC follows through time and both arrive in 20th Century Metropolis. Murdermek acquires a gang armed with future tech, while OMAC meets Superman and in typical comics fashion they have to fight. Eventually, they team up and Superman takes on the very powerful Murdermek while OMAC deals with his thugs. Nathan Blank is saved, but his identity remains a mystery to the characters (if not the reader) at the end of the story. Brother Eye helpful figures out a way to transport OMAC back to the future.

Given the usual approach to team books, I expected some retcons or at least some tying up of dangling plot threads from OMAC's story, but no, it's just a team-up.

Fury of Firestorm #16: Ronnie and Stein both are in the featureless, black nether reaches of their (I guess) combined mind as Firestorm. They can't remember how they got there. Stein calms Ronnie and gets him to slowly relate what he remembers. He calls they discovered Lorraine Riley had been kidnapped, and they had another tangle with Multiplex. Then he remembers he tried to visit his father at work and discovered he was acting strangely and making comments as if someone was after him. Eventually, they are able to discover what he is that that caused their state, what they can't remember--what Ronnie is blocking. Firestorm tried but was unable to save his father from an explosion at their home. The effect of the delayed reveal is marred by it being given away on the issues cover, but if you ignore that and just go with the interiors, Conway and Broderick do a good job with the structure.

Justice League #218: Burkett jumps into the writer's chair with Patton/Tanghal still on art. This story is fine, I guess, but it seems as throwaway as last months. It's like filler. Super-powered androids appear and kidnap various top athletes, including Black Canary. The robots prove too tough for individual Leaguers, so the whole team goes into action. While Superman, Elongated Man, Green Arrow, and Red Tornado try to stop the androids from further abductions, Aquaman, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman attempt to trace them to their base. It turns out Professor Ivo is behind all this. He's been monstrously disfigured as a side-effect of the immortality serum he drank (back in The Brave and the Bold #30), and he plans to use a machine powered by the life-energies of people with the needed genetic makeup to restore himself.  Aquaman, disguised as one of the androids, sneaks into the base destroys their power source, allowing the Justice League to abruptly triumph.