Professor Marc’s Homework Assignment: Part Three

October 6th, 2007 by | Tags: , , ,

Weird Wonder Tales #3

Year: 1973
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Synopsis: Weird Wonder Tales is a collection of older Twilight Zone-type stories reprinted together. There are four of them here and none of them have much to do with that cover. No mud monsters attacking people in cemeteries here.

The closest is the first story, which begins with our female protagonist being assaulted by a fish man crawling out of a muddy canal. Things calm down immediately, as the fish man means no harm. He’s part of an underwater race of fish people and got lost. Now he’s on the surface and people run and scream from him. The woman allows him to stay at her place for the night so he can continue the search the next day. The fish man remains at the woman’s place longer than expected, but keeps giving her gifts like pearls and other jewelry. She comes to realize that this creature is in love with her. On her way to find the creature and confront it, she finds the police are in her shed, brutalizing the poor guy. Turns out that the fish man had been robbing jewelry stores for these gifts.

And then…

The next story is about a guy named Norton. His friends laugh at him because he spends his time trying to create a time machine. This becomes concern once he quits his job to continue his scientific addiction. The three guys come up with a plan to mess with Norton. Norton tries his machine and sets it to the future. Three futuristic beings walk out and greet Norton. Soon, Norton figures out that it’s his friends messing with him and gets overly frustrated.

He then starts laughing like a madman over his failure. One of his friends opens the door and finds that they really did fly into the 25th century! That’s the good news. The bad news is that robots rule the planet and use humans as slaves. They tell Norton to send them back before it’s too late, but the crazed Norton thinks it’s just another joke and smashes up his machine. The last thing we see is a metallic fist break through the door as Norton’s friends huddle in fear.

We get a story about a farmer whose bitchy wife keeps complaining that she can only do so much with her two arms. An alien crashes into his barn and the farmer takes care of the visitor. The alien is grateful and leaves the next day. The farmer discovers that the alien gave his wife a special gift.

The final story is about a lawyer that gets his kid a toy laser gun for Christmas. The kid loves it a bit too much and pretends to blast just about everything. As the kid plays in the backyard, an escaped criminal that the lawyer failed to save in the courtroom breaks into the house and prepares to kill him. The kid comes back in and points his laser at the criminal. The criminal laughs and eggs him on, leading to the boy pulling the trigger. For some unknown reason, the thing disintegrates the criminal. While grateful for this miracle, the lawyer still tosses the gun into the lake out of fear.

I would’ve sold it to NASA, but that’s just me.

Best Part: The time travel story was great. The down-to-earth characters mixed with the dialogue, chilling descriptions, cheesy twist ending and strange-yet-welcome science fiction developments made it feel like Rod Serling himself wrote this. It easily could have been a Twilight Zone episode, and a very good one too.

Worst Part: The farmer story. Manga Jesus Christ was that one annoying. The setup for the punchline is driven into the ground every other panel that by the time you get to the payoff, you can only groan. You can guess how it’s going to end by the fourth panel, and yet they somehow stretch this into five pages.

Bottom Line: A little bit of good with a little bit of bad. The stories were short enough to keep your attention, even if it ended up being idiotic.

Web of Spider-Man #100

Year: 1993
Writer: Terry Kavanagh
Artist: Alex Saviuk
Synopsis: Ah, yes. That issue. When I started this series of articles, I mentioned that there was only one specific issue that I had already known about. Here it be.

It starts off with Spider-Man being ambushed by the New Enforcers, a villain team working for the mob made of rather random villains. At the moment, Spidey’s contending with Vanisher, Blitz, Eel, Dragon Man, Dreadnaught and Super-Adaptoid. I have no idea who most of those guys are, but that’s still nasty odds for our hero. With a little distraction here and there, he gets out alive and swings away to fight another day.

Blood Rose, AKA Richard Fisk, prepares to confront the New Enforcers. He had a falling out with his old friend Alfredo, who now wants revenge on Richard and calls himself Gauntlet. He calls himself that because he stole a magic red gauntlet from Spawn Nightwatch.

Elsewhere, Peter Parker experiments with a new “hard-web agent” in hopes to give him an edge in his upcoming fight. It all comes to a head in a park, where we get Spider-Man, Blood Rose, Gauntlet, Spawn Nightwatch and the New Enforcers in one big battle royal. Spider-Man debuts his silver armor, which gets trashed several pages later. Lots of fists fly until only Spider-Man and Blood Rose are left.

Spider-Man unmasks Blood Rose and is immediately taken aback by the realization that he is Richard Fisk. He hands Blood Rose and the New Enforcers over to the police and leaves, while Spawn Nightwatch sneaks off into the night.

Then we get the origin of Spawn Nightwatch as a backup story. Yay?

Best Part: This comic led to Armor Spider-Man as a secret character in Marvel Superheroes vs. Street Fighter. That was pretty cool.

Worst Part: Um… I don’t care about anyone in this comic other than our hero and maybe Richard Fisk. I appreciate the big fight, but this is a worse set of generic villains than Secret War.

Bottom Line: Your usual hollow 90’s comic showing. It’s a big fight that isn’t all that great and Spider-Man wears something shiny for five panels. Thumbs down.

The Two-Gun Kid: Sunset Riders: Book One

Year: 1995
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Christian Gorney
Synopsis: Lawyer Matt Hawk has a double life as the Two-Gun Kid. Due to time travel, he had spent some time in the present as a member of the Avengers. While many would consider it a bad idea, he went against the grain and looked up the events of his own life. He knows the day Matt Hawk dies and he knows the day Two-Gun Kid dies. Now he’s back in his own time. Ten years have passed and he knows his days are numbered.

“Matt Hawk” dies as the Two-Gun Kid fakes his secret identity’s death while rescuing a black man from hanging. Two-Gun thinks the guy is innocent, but later finds out that it isn’t 100% accurate.

And yes. He brought some of our time’s toys back with him as souvenirs.

Two-Gun Kid and his black friend Fournier team up with an Apache named Running Fish, whose tribe has just been massacred. They get sucked into a plot based around a pair of golden minks, some Civil War soldiers and some evil Japanese dudes that want them. After Two-Gun and friends sail off on their adventure, a skilled samurai warrior is hired to take care of them.

Best Part: The action scenes are great, like Two-Gun saving Fournier or Running Fish saving Two-Gun from some enemy soldiers with a series of sniper arrows. Though what I really loved is the way Two-Gun would incorporate modern weaponry. When a ship is chasing theirs, he puts together a bazooka and nips that problem in the bud. All the while, Fournier and Running Fish have no idea what the fuck.

Worst Part: Boring political scenes. Sure, it leads to samurais out of nowhere, but still, meh.

Bottom Line: Really cool. Outside of this, I only know Two-Gun Kid as that asshole that stole Awesome Andy’s woman in She-Hulk, and even then, I didn’t read enough of that series to get a real feel for him. The whole future knowledge aspect really makes him interesting, whether it be his brief discussions with Fournier about how different our time is to theirs or by dealing with the realization that his time on Earth is short because history says so.

Blackwulf #3

Year: 1994
Writer: Glenn Herdling
Artist: Angel Medina
Synopsis: Oh boy. You know how many comics since the 90’s have tried to put paragraph explanations of who you’re reading about? Who Superman is and why he has powers or what the deal is with Peter Parker? Let’s see what we get with Blackwulf.

“A holy war rages beneath the streets, sparked by the evil Lord Tantalus and his peecekeepers. Opposing him, his son, Blackwulf, and the Stalwart Underground. And upon the outcome of the struggle rests the fate of all mankind!

“Stan Lee presents… Blackwulf!”

Oh. Well, that explains everything.

From the looks of things, one of those high-ranking military guys who turns out to be a total fascist with mental issues has just inherited some serious firepower in the form of serious fire powers. He renames himself Scorch and says that he will put an end to all monsters.

One of his flames had destroyed a jet carrying Blackwulf and some of his loser superhero friends. Somehow, Blackwulf survived.

Scorch completely overpowers him and prepares to crush him with a giant hand made of fire. Inexplicably, his powers give out and Blackwulf beans him in the head with a rock. His friends show up alive, except for one. I guess the only reason they’ve given us to mourn this character is because in a flashback, Blackwulf called her “ravishing”. That’s the equivalent of finding out that the Hooters waitress that once winked at your friend was in a car accident. Yeah, okay, I guess it sucks, but it’s not like there was any real romantic connection.

Scorch’s powers kick back in and he thrashes the heroes. The army arrives and Scorch reverts to his human form and tells them to arrest these “monsters”. Since our heroes are a little banged up, they decide to go along with it.

Then we find a woman named Dr. Maddox, who experiments on the bodies of dead aliens. She’s doing an autopsy on a Skrull, only to be shocked when she finds it isn’t quite dead. She screams at her superior, only to be reshocked when she finds out that he appears to be a giant caterpillar cosplaying as Iron Fist.

Then there’s a backup story about the girlfriend of the previous guy to take the Blackwulf mantle, who happens to be dead. She cries about her loss, flies around and ends up getting in a confrontation with Ultron.

Best Part: After the backup story, they reprint the pencils of a page from an earlier issue and it looks great. It’s almost like Angel Medina is pleading with us to believe him that his art is actually quality and the comic’s final product is all the colorist’s fault.

Worst Part: I know it’s my own fault for walking into a story right in the middle, but when reading this, I played a game of “which character do I care about the least?” Beyond that, the issue feels like a rip-off. Only sixteen pages are given to the main story and it’s mostly an ugly fight scene that doesn’t go anywhere.

Bottom Line: Looking it up, Blackwulf turns to be one of those Deviants of Eternal lore. You’d think that they could have made some slight reference to this somewhere in the issue, like in the character summary. This whole thing felt like a waste of time, and not in a fun way like with Hyperkind.

Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #201

Year: 1992
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: MC Wyman
Synopsis: Weird little thing here. This story is meant to fill in the blanks when it comes to Conan’s history. Several stories made reference to a time Conan was a prisoner in a dungeon in a village called Tarantia. Said incident was never shown in a Conan comic. This issue comes across as a reprint, just because it points at old issues in future tense. Like if Conan tells a dude that he will pay him back, the asterisk will say, “And he will, in a comic from five years ago!”

The story starts with Conan leading the soldiers of Tartantia into a very bloody battle. Well, not too bloody, since the art is colorless. Things go well and they return as heroes. We see the King of Tartania as a total asshole with a gigantic ego. He uses up his kingdom’s gold supply to make statues of himself and throws a fit whenever they make him look old and/or fat. So he just hates realism. He also has an evil sorcerer as a trusted advisor.

He tries to use Conan’s success as a general as a way to boost his own ego. They ride around the kingdom together and the crowd unanimously chants for Conan. This annoys the king. Later, in his chambers, Conan is visited by a tattooed dancer Trommelind. Conan and Trommelind do the deed and things are looking pretty good for the warrior. Then, when Trommelind shows favor for Conan during one of the king’s parties, the king loses it. He drugs Conan’s drink and has him taken to the dungeon. In the dungeon, Conan is faced with a pack of Barakas.

Turns out the creatures are just an illusion created by the king’s sorcerer to mess with Conan’s head. To mess with him more, they show him what became of Trommelind by handing Conan and torn piece of tattooed flesh. Conan is a saaaad panda.

Some of the other guys in the castle really want Conan free so he can do something about their king. They go to a dank bar in disguise and ask around. Some drunk in a cloak starts screaming in response about how Conan is a liar and a thief. This drunk swaggers out of the pub and ends up getting in a fight with another loudmouth patron. Removing the cloak, we see that this drunk is in fact a woman with a sword. She beats up her attacker and brings the others to her home.

I figured she was Red Sonja or something, but it turns out she’s Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, whoever that is. She used to be Conan’s enemy and used to have a thing with him. Same difference.

She sneaks into the castle and rescues Conan. At first he thinks it’s another illusion, but she kisses him so hard that his lips start bleeding. Damn. On their way out, they kill off a couple of guards. The king’s pet sorcerer senses this and adds a little magic to the equation. Zombies!

When living guards show up, Conan just uses the zombies against them, such as throwing the possessed head into another guard’s throat. The sorcerer is a little too tired to do any more magic, but gets the word out to the others to catch Conan. Since Valeria is injured and dead weight, Conan punches her out and hides the body. He evades the legion of guards, topples over a couple stone pillars with his bare hands and rides off on a horse.

Conan goes to lay low elsewhere for a while, but those who orchestrated his escape know that he is alive and he will return to save them all.

Best Part: It’s strangely violent and they didn’t pull any punches. Despite this being early 90’s Marvel, we get some Braveheart-level gore in the battle sequences. Not only that, but there are other risqué things added here and there. Nothing as extreme as nudity, but stuff that made it more PG-13.

Worst Part: Anything I can think of to put here is trivial stuff, so I’ll skip it.

Bottom Line: Even the lack of color and the confusing chronology don’t hurt this fun barbarian tale. People get sliced up in the name of what’s right and that’s all that matters. I can never see myself closely following Conan’s adventures outside of this, but for the here and now, I had a blast.

Justice Society of America #7 and #8

Year: 1991
Writer: Len Strazewski
Artist: Grant Miehm
Synopsis: This story is Post-Crisis, but Pre-Zero Hour. It takes place in the 50’s, where the JSA are in their prime. They’re up against immortal enemies Vandal Savage and Solomon Grundy, with a bunch of cannon fodder criminals in tow. Ted Knight, the original Starman, is for some reason working for Vandal Savage. He watches his former allies tackle the villains and feels a bit inspired.

Savage’s side gets its clock cleaned, so they go back to his headquarters and he puts on a strange set of ancient Egyptian duds. He goes back after the JSA and summons three beings called the Living Constellations. They are gods of entropy and have been sent to consume the energies that fuel the world, such as electricity, radio waves and atomic power. Due to the television signals, the Living Constellations take the forms of Babe Ruth, Lucille Ball and a generic Native American chief.

The JSA can’t really do much against these guys, though it is funny to see Green Lantern face a giant Babe Ruth and insist that he can’t be hurt because his giant baseball bat isn’t really made of wood. Finally, Ted Knight shows up in his wheelchair to confront Savage. He literally flies out of his chair and starts fighting, showing that he’s got his cosmic rod in hand. He beats Savage, wounds the Living Constellations and rallies the JSA into a plan that gets rid of the giants and sends Savage and Grundy into the stars.

Yeah, even the writer just shrugged when it came to explaining Savage and Grundy’s fates here.

Starman rejoins the team and everything’s cool. Unfortunately, the happy final scene is ruined when the news reports on the beginning of Joseph McCarthy’s reign of anti-communist idiocy.

Best Part: The JSA taking on Grundy and schooling him with some very amusing teamwork.

The look on the middle Flash’s face when he’s pummelling Grundy is perfect.

Worst Part: Words can’t describe how much I hate Hawkman when he’s wearing a mask that doesn’t have a beak. At least the hawk mask gives him a cool intimidation factor that distracts you from his crappy power.

Bottom Line: There was a follow-up on-going series by the same writer that came several months later. It was pretty popular and I can see why. Sadly, it got canned a few issues in because the editor didn’t like the writing, the art or the fact that it was about older superheroes. Fuck that guy. I’m not big on the JSA. I want to be. When I finish reading the Bendis and Brubaker runs of Daredevil, I’ll probably go through the last volume of JSA, at least for the Johns parts. I’m sure this doesn’t compare to the Mr. Terrific and Black Adam stories, but for what it was, it wasn’t bad at all.

Now that I have these reviews done, I have more important matters to attend to. Like reading bad comics about things I’ve actually heard of.

Seriously, though, check back in a couple days. I have a look at a comic from the early 90’s that I can only consider a surprising breath of fresh air.

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