Aliens: Newt’s Tale – Throwback Review

‘Newt’s Tale’ is an example of an absolute gem from the early days and sports a great John Bolton cover painting. 


Aliens: Newt’s Tale 
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Published 1992

Writer: Mike Richardson
Penciler: Jim Somerville
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Gregory Wright

This was one of 39 different mini-series and one-shots based upon the Alien/Aliens movie franchise that was handled so well by the folks at Dark Horse Comics. For over 30 years, Dark Horse was pretty much the sole publisher of Aliens comics, starting with the comic Aliens: Outbreak (originally titled simply Aliens) in July 1988. ‘Newt’s Tale’ is an example of an absolute gem from the early days and sports a great John Bolton cover painting. 

This two-issue story was based on writer/director James Cameron’s original screenplay and has all of the atmosphere, horror, and tons of action we found in the Aliens film. That’s no mean feat, transferring films well to comics. It is everything you want in a two-book mini-series, it’s so deeply true to the original Aliens film that any fan of the film would be hard-pressed to not be engrossed and invested in it. 

Just a little side note if you haven’t already read “Alien the illustrated story” by Goodwin and Simonson published by Titan Books that would be the perfect aperitif. The Dark Horse original three series sit well in chronological order with this offering, (Book 1, Book 2, and Earth War). They form a much better sequel to Aliens than Alien 3 since they involve a great Newt and Hicks dynamic and if you haven’t read them you might want to check them out too. Thank me later!

While this novel is recognizably true to the film this encounter is told from Newt’s perspective and includes more back story and the much-needed new material to really get this fan’s juices flowing. The plot development centers around the Xenomorph infestation at Hadley’s Hope. The overrun prospectors can only find hope in the wait for Ripley and the Colonial Marines to arrive.

The transition into the marine’s arrival transported me to the tender moment when Ripley finds Newt in the film and the action moves along well from there to an exciting can’t wait for book 2 nail-biting conclusion. The Xenomorph art is original yet familiar. These creatures aren’t posed, traced, frozen, or toy-like. These are original and appear sparingly and menacingly in an impactful way that adds terror and horror in equal measure. I find the character drawings charming. There is color and shadow mixed well with the expressions that follow the tension and action. Not one part of the team let this comic down. The only criticism I’d have is I wish this iteration of Ripley was drawn a little closer to other, slightly sexier, iterations or her at the time.


Verdict

A must-read for any Aliens fan.



Fantastic Four #280 – (1985) – Throwback Review

Byrne’s art is clean and graceful as ever. His She-Hulk is a particular highlight and her journey through the hellish burning city is a real stand-out.

Fantastic Four #280

Written and Drawn by John Byrne
Released – July 1985    

Published by Marvel Comics

The Fantastic Four is surrounded by an angry mob, with flaming torches and fists raised, crucified against giant stone letters spelling the word HATE while New York City burns in the background. It’s a dark and powerful image by writer and artist John Byrne and inker Jerry Ordway and makes a great cover for Fantastic Four #280. I definitely want to read on.

The story begins with the FF standing outside a giant hole in the ground, all that remains of the Baxter Building, their home, and base of operations, which has been plucked out of the ground and fired off into space and ultimately blown up. This all happened the last issue and necessitates a quick recap for anyone like me who missed it.

Exposition in older comics is always a pleasure to read. It’s clunky and unnatural and usually between characters who already know what happened but I love it all the same. Byrne being an excellent writer actually does it really well in this issue. It’s all done in a quick three panels on the second page as Reed Richards explains all to a disbelieving police officer.

Perhaps I should insert some exposition of my own. This issue comes somewhere in the middle of John Byrne’s revitalizing run at a time when She-Hulk has replaced The Thing as the team’s wise-cracking muscle.

Obviously, a building disappearing and leaving a gap in the skyline is going to draw a crowd and it’s here where the story’s dark mood begins to manifest itself. It starts with one old man, a tenant of the Baxter Building angrily berating the “Fancy-pants super-hero” for letting his snack shop be destroyed which he’s run for twenty-two years and carried a lifetime’s worth of memories.  Reed Richards tries to placate him but it’s clear nothing he can say can help and it’s the first indication of how powerless super-heroes can sometimes be.

Instead, a police officer takes charge, pulling the man away and slamming him against the wall. The old man is revealed to be a Jewish-German immigrant and comparison to Nazi Germany and stormtrooper tactics are soon made explicit. Byrne is not pulling any punches and isn’t interested in his point being misunderstood.

Things escalate quickly when the She-hulk tries to intervene. The police and then the watching crowd turn on the Heroes. She-hulk is arrested and the mob surrounds the others throwing bricks and brandishing clubs. Unwilling to use their powers against ordinary people the FF are forced to split up and retreat only to find that the epidemic of hate and anger has spread to the whole city.

It’s a strong opening act reminiscent of Byrne’s award-winning work with Chris Claremont on the Uncanny X-Men who as mutant outsiders are continually hated and feared by the world. Except the Fantastic Four aren’t outsiders. They are the mainstream, Marvel comics most famous and loved superhero team. If the world can turn against them in a flash, it can turn on anyone and the impact is all more powerful because of it.

The rest of the issue follows a more conventional line as the real Villains make their move but the themes of powerlessness continue. Mr Fantastic struggles against the power of propaganda and She-Hulk finds that no matter hard she hits she can’t defeat a villain whose powers are intangible hatred and fear.

Byrne’s art is clean and graceful as ever. His She-Hulk is a particular highlight and her journey through the hellish burning city is a real stand-out.


Verdict

A very grounded issue of the Fantastic Four with a serious point to make with an excellent opening act and a brilliant cover. As a casual fan, I’d definitely be interested in reading more from Byrne’s 80’s run.


Reviewed by Ross Kelly



Top 10 Underrated Spider-Man Stories (That you may have never heard of!)

SPIDER-MAN is Marvel’s most popular, iconic, and lucrative character. He’s been headlining the comic industry for 60 years and has no shortage of iconic stories such as Kraven’s last hunt, the night Gwen Stacy died, coming home as well as a myriad of others. However, those are stories mostly EVERY Spidey fan has at least heard of if not read multiple times over, and not every great Spidey story has had its fair share of attention, so here’s 10 (count ’em, 10) Fantabulous Spidey books that deserve a little more love.

Some ground rules: 616 only (this list would be too hard if it wasn’t), must feature Spider-Man (obviously), and must be in comic book form, no books, games, or movies/shows are going to be found here.

10: THE CLONE SAGA (1994-1996)……..yup


Yes, the clone saga. THAT clone saga. The 2-year mega-event that for some reason is cast aside as a convoluted, uninteresting, pointless mess. Whilst it IS a convoluted mess, it’s got a hell of a lot going for it and most people you talk to likely haven’t read it due to what they’ve heard (and also the fact it was a 2-year mega-event). The clone saga gave birth to great stories like power and responsibility, revelations, and the heartbreaking issue 400; let’s consider these honorable mentions. I for one think that stories like these make memorable additions to Spider-man’s long history and so does the clone saga as a whole. The reason the clone saga is at the bottom of this list is that it’s kind of a cheat. It’s more of an era of Spider-man than one storyline but screw it, I want to show it some love. Go the 90’s! (P.S this isn’t the last you’ll hear from the clone saga on this list).


9:  TO HAVE AND TO HOLD (Sensational Spider-man annual #1 2007)


The final hurrah of Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s marriage before one more day (curse you, Joe Quesadaaaaa!) is a really beautiful, touching story set during the post-Civil war era where Spider-man is on the run from the government. Two paths are taken. Peter Parker in a cafe talking to an agent and also Mary Jane talking to a S.H.I.E.L.D operative. That’s just the setup however, the great part of this story is the flashbacks, redrawn masterfully by Salvador Larroca, the book gives us both sides of their experiences together in an incredible one-shot issue. I won’t spoil it so you’re just gonna have to go and read it!


8: Reborn (Peter Parker: Spider-man (1999) #’s 56-57)


When the self-titled ‘Spider-man’ title of the ’90s came to an end in 1998, it was relaunched as Peter Parker: Spider-man the following year (not to be confused with Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-man). In 2003, this new series would end, bringing the run to a definitive ending. The title gave us a hell of a lot of long box fillers but on the other hand, did deliver some fantastic stories like the one listed here. REBORN is the work of acclaimed writer Zeb Wells alongside legendary Maxx creator Sam Kieth. REBORN centers around the sandman…Um, sandmen rather. William Baker’s alter ego is having a supernova of a mental breakdown, dividing himself into parts: his good-hearted self, a seductive woman, an innocent child, and a disturbing villain. In the midst of this, Spider-man attempts to solve Baker’s problems and stitch himself back together for the better. The ending of this arc is kind of sad, however, and ultimately Spider-man loses. If you want to know how I guess you’ll just have to read it for yourself!

7: DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN (Marvel Knights: Spider-man (2004) #’s 1-12)


Mark Millar has delivered some of the most prominent comic book stories of the last 30 years: kick ass, the secret service, the ultimates, swamp thing and so much more, I could go on for hours. Marvel Knights Spider-man however, is a series that doesn’t get noticed enough though. Without a doubt, you can walk into any comic book shop and find an issue from this series no question. It’s absolutely everywhere and yet it’s treated like box filler! It’s great! It’s exciting and moody, bringing new villains like Mac Gargan as Venom into the mix as well as old ones like Norman Osborn himself, the thriller tone to the book keeps you from putting it down and Terry Dodson and Frank Cho do an absolutely jaw-dropping job on pencil duties. The only reason this series shouldn’t be on your bookshelf is that a complete collection trade paperback is pretty tough to come by and if you manage to spot one, it’s likely to run you some change, so the cheapest way to get your hands on this series is to actually get the floppy’s in all their well-loved glory.

6: VS. FIRELORD (The Amazing Spider-man (1963) #’s 269-270)


Do you want to see Spider-man beat the ever-loving H-E-double hockey sticks out of a herald of Galactus? Yes? Well then, you’ve come across just the Spidey story for you! This quick, two-issue arc from 1985 delivers one of the worst @$$ Spider-man moments of all time. Firelord, a cosmically powered super being descends upon the earth for nothing more than a slice of pizza, in the process, he ends up getting a couple of New York citizens hurt which royally ticks Spider-man off. So with the little confrontation between the two, Firelord begins hunting Spider-man down with no signs of slowing until Spidey uses a combination of brains and brawn to beat the snot out of the former right-hand man to the galaxy’s scariest foe. And don’t be deceived by the (absolutely incredible Ron Frenz) artwork, all though Spider-man IS in his black suit, his powers aren’t enhanced as it’s not the actual symbiote, meaning Spidey took the Firelord out with only his standard set of arachnid-enhanced abilities. The only reason this balls to wall epic isn’t further up on this list is that it’s probably the most famous among the tales on this page and is not actually THAT underrated.

5: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CRUSHER HOGAN (The Amazing Spider-man (1963) #271)


Well, would you just look at that? Roger Stern and Ron Frenz must have been doing something right when they delivered this sensational story right after the last entry on this very list! Whatever happened to Crusher Hogan is the only issue of Amazing Spider-man that made me cry (yep, I’m man enough to admit it). Crusher Hogan is, of course, the brutish wrestler Peter Parker fought all those years ago in Amazing Fantasy #15. Unfortunately for Crusher, these days he’s a caretaker of a wrestling ring under the ownership of Man-slaughter, a big ol’ tough guy akin to tombstone or kingpin. Crusher tells these wonderful stories to the kids training there about how he trained Spider-man and gave him his web-shooters and the like. So when Spider-man shows up to take down Man-slaughter, the pair finally reunite. Although Crusher’s stories were all nothing more than fables, Spider-man gives Crusher vindication for his hard work and tells all the kids at the gym that Crusher really was Spidey’s mentor, they shake hands and Crusher was brought to tears, truly one of the most beautiful and heart-warming stories in Spidey history. If you can find this issue in the wild, I promise you that you won’t regret picking it up.

4: FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME (Peter Parker: Spider-man (1999) #’s 42-43)


Remember when I was talking about the relaunched Peter Parker: Spider-man title? I said the majority of it was just long box fillers but there were some highlights. This story is one such highlight. A very, very high, light. Written yet again by Zeb Wells and again featuring the Sandman, this is probably the most fun, and funniest Spidey book ever, and when you’ve got an artist as cool as Jim Mahfood (GRRL SCOUTS author) there’s no way you can go wrong. If you want an absolutely hilarious story about the Sandman invading an MTV beach house equivalent with a certain web-slinger thrown into the mix, this is one story you don’t want to miss out on!

3: A MATTER OF FAITH (Taken from Spider-man: Holiday Special 1995)


It’s Christmas Eve, and Ben Reilly is taking out the trash in the New York City allies. (Yep, Ben Reilly, What did I say about the clone saga, eh?) On his patrol he sees that a woman is falling off the side of the Queenborough bridge, he instinctively swings in to save her but once they land safely on the ground, for the first time in Spidey’s career, he doesn’t get a thank you because tragically, the poor lady didn’t actually want to be saved. Sadly, the woman jumped off, so Spider-man decides he’s gonna show her around the city in an attempt to lift her Spirits, but on their tour, the D-list super-villain Scorcher shows up on the streets of times square! Spidey and the villain do battle but when some debris is flying straight for a member of the on-looking crowd, the woman heroically jumps in and saves them. Ben is able to teach Jenny (the lady’s name) that life is beautiful and worth living. Spidey is able to leave Jenny with a more hopeful output on life as they wish each other a merry Christmas. I myself have never actually heard anybody talk about this story, ever. So if YOU, o’ humble reader, see this, then hopefully you’ve discovered a story you weren’t formally aware of (or maybe you just know everything).

2: THE LOST YEARS (Spider-man: the lost years (1995)


Once more, we venture into the divisive clone saga for one of the most straight-up awesome Spider-man stories ever. Written by Spider-man vet J.M Demattias (Kraven’s last hunt, c’mon) and penciled by Spidey legend John Romita JR. The lost years take place in the five years in-between the original clone saga in the ’70s and its 90’s counterpart.  Centering around Ben Reilly and his ‘brother’ Kaine, these issues tell two sides of the same story in an unexplainably awesome fashion. I won’t spoil it, but this book reads like a thriller novel. We’re given all the tropes of a great Tom Cruise movie and it works like a charm. If you have a day or two to spare on a shorter Spider-man series, this is it! You don’t even need to know anything going into it whatsoever except that it’s not Peter Parker we’re following, but his clone. Stunning art and a stellar story, what could possibly go wrong? The lost years is one Spider-man storyline you’ll never forget.

1: THE COLLABORATOR (Spider-man’s tangled web (2002) #15)


Here we are, number one on this list. So that means that in my opinion, at least, this should be the best and yet most underappreciated Spider-man comic book ever. Well friends, I truly believe that this is it. The collaborator is the greatest Spider-man comics book of all time.

It’s not just the best-underrated one, I can honestly say that this is the best. Ever. Master of independent comics Paul Pope joins marvel for a one-shot story for Marvel’s criminally overlooked tangled web title which tells the tale of a teenage girl who absolutely adores Spider-man, more than anything in the world. Unfortunately, her father doesn’t share the same opinion. But when the daughter is caught in the middle of a super-powered attack, Spider-man appears on the scene, on one page only, for the girl to tell him where the Villain went. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin the end for you because you owe it to yourself to hunt this book down like it was dinner for tonight. The sheer brilliance of this story lies in the fact that it is a Spider-man comic book through and through and yet he appears on one solitary page, in silence. The story isn’t even about him but it shows Spider-man how he would really be. The story is crafted to make you anticipate and build your expectations for the arrival of the wall-crawler and when he shows up you find yourself awe-stricken by the sight of this hero. It’s simply Amazing, Spectacular, sensational, ultimate, one could go as far to say its Web of. When I say that you NEED to read this issue, I really mean it. Treat yourself and snatch it up. My imaginary hat goes off to Paul Pope 1000%.

And with that, we draw to the conclusion of our list. So what have we learned? That’s right, Spider-man rocks and we should read more comics. Good night!

Article by Leo Brocklehurst


Tales From The Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 – Throwback Review

Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 is part of a 10-issue series that puts a new spin on some of the biggest events in DC comics history, by looking at them from alternative realities, where all the wrong choices were made.

Writers: Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins
Art: Javier Fernandez
Colors: Alex Guimaraes
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Released: 16/10/19
Published by DC Comics

The first single issue comic book that ever I bought, as opposed to a collected edition graphic novel or movie adaptation, was issue 19 of Batman: Shadow of the Bat. It featured a man named Jean Paul Valley, wearing a brutal looking variation of the dark knight’s costume, traipsing around like he was Batman. I was so offended by this notion that I scratched a mark across the front cover of that very comic book. Little did I know at the time, that the long running story-line (Knightfall, Knightquest and Knight’s End) of which that issue was but a fraction, would go on to become one of my all-time favourite Batman stories.

Something else I didn’t know at that time was that the man parading himself around as Batman, Jean Paul Valley, would go on to become a huge part of my life as a comic book reader (I own all 100 issues of the original Azrael comic book run and have written a rejected screenplay for an animated movie featuring the character’s origin story). So it goes without saying that anything featuring links to Knightfall, in particular Jean Paul and Azrael, peaks my interest big time!

Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 is part of a 10-issue series that puts a new spin on some of the biggest events in DC comics history, by looking at them from alternative realities, where all the wrong choices were made. In the case of this particular story, Bruce Wayne’s Batman did not defeat Jean Paul Valley at the climax of Knight’s End, leaving Jean Paul to wage a religious war against crime for thirty years in Gotham. The result is catastrophic. Without his defeat at Bruce’s hands, Jean Paul’s instability has brought ruin to the city, whose people are now divided into two camps: those who worship “Saint Batman” and those who secretly yearn for someone to save them from Jean Paul’s tyrannical rule. That possible salvation comes in the shape of a man claiming to be the son of the super villain, Bane, as well as the highly skilled martial artist, Lady Shiva. As they lead an assault on Valley’s forces it becomes clear that victory may depend on one man; Bruce Wayne, or what’s left of him. But can thirty years of brokenness be overcome by the former Dark Knight?

Writers Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins do a great job here of capturing the flavour of the Batman comics from the 90’s. If you look at where the character of Jean Paul was at the time in which this story kicks off (a slave to “the system” seeing visions of “Saint Dumas”) then it’s logical to assume that the path he might head down would be not too dissimilar to what we get here.

There is a tendency, for anyone who isn’t named Dennis O’Neil, to write Jean Paul as a religious nut-job with a psychopathic personality. Check out a recent iteration of the character depicted in the pages of Legends of the Dark Knight for a prime example. But to do so is to strip him of all the growth he achieved as a character during the years that O’Neil was writing him after the events of Knightfall. It takes him twenty steps backwards and fails to understand what O’Neil was doing with the character. But Snyder and Higgins set their story at the perfect moment in time to justify taking Jean Paul down the kind of rabbit hole that most other writers should be trying to avoid. For this reason I am able to go on the journey willingly as we see what might have been.

Snyder and Higgins focus on one of the key aspects of Jean Paul’s character that O’Neil was always trying to explore, which was the fact that, Jean Paul’s father not really having been there for him means that he has got some serious daddy issues. He looks for approval from the closest father figure he has had in his life, which is Bruce Wayne, without being emotionally equipped to function beyond what “the system” has programmed him for. And so he remains locked in an internal battle concerning his own identity. That was always the journey of the character that O’Neil played out. The question of, “who am I?” constantly hung on Jean Paul’s shoulders. We find Jean Paul here having decided who he is, and yet still seeking that approval from Bruce, which will never be forthcoming. It makes him a tragic figure rather than a mere nut-job playing at being Batman.

Another key influence for Snyder and Higgins appears to be Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. It’s a cliché these days to name that particular work as an influence. But it’s almost inescapable. If you look at where we find Bruce’s Batman at the start of TDKR, we are given an almost plausible journey to show how he became that particular version of the Batman. It’s clearly not the same, but with a few tweaks here and there, it very well could be. Gotham City certainly looks ripe for a mutant takeover by the time we reach the end.

Javier Fernandez does a great job on the art work. I love his design of Jean Paul’s evolved Batman costume. It looks like a variation on his famous Knightquest costume, with a bit more medieval knight vibes added in for good measure. Another gripe I have, besides different writers tackling the character, is with different artists who’ve come to draw Jean Paul’s Azrael over the years and their purposeful attempts to simplify his costume. The original Azrael costume, designed by Joe Quesada, is quite simply one of the best costume designs in comic book history. The iconic Az-Bats costume of the “Knightquest” era is also a particular standout for me. So it’s great to see Fernandez putting as much care and attention into making something that looks just as iconic.

This book made me yearn for the days where Jean Paul was a part of my life each month. He’s never been a particularly popular character, no doubt due to the threat he posed to the mantle of the bat. But maybe it’s time for a reappraisal of the impact this character has had upon the legacy of Batman. And maybe it’s time writers like Snyder and Higgins were encouraged to bring Jean Paul back into regular continuity with a monthly title all of his own again. On the strength of this, I’d say he deserves it.


Verdict –
An absolute must-read for fans of 90’s era Batman comic books. Snyder and Higgins do a great job of re-imagining the ‘Knightfall’ legacy, without betraying the roots of the original story or it’s characters.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 08/01/21

Conan The Barbarian #1 (1970) Facsimile Edition – Review

A facsimile of Conan the Barbarian #1 originally published by Marvel in October 1970.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1

Written by: Roy Thomas
Art: Barry Smith
Released: December 15th 2021
Published Marvel Comics

A facsimile of Conan the Barbarian #1 originally published by Marvel in October 1970.

For those unfamiliar with Robert E. Howard’s original stories published in Weird Tales from 1932, this is a great way of introducing one of pulp fiction’s most enduring characters to a new generation of readers. Writer Roy Thomas begins Conan’s story with the briefest of background information, welcoming the reader to the Hyborian Age placed somewhere between “the sinking of Atlantis and the dawn of recorded time.” At the back of the comic is The Hyborian Page, which goes into more detail about the world Howard created and, like all good works of fantasy, includes a half-page map indicating the various lands and kingdoms.

From page 2 it’s straight into the action with the youthful, mercenary Conan fighting alongside the Aesir against the invading Vanir. With the promise of more gold, Conan helps Olav — an Aesir chief — pursue two high-ranking Vanir warriors. Their search leads them to a shaman in possession of a Star-Stone, a cosmic jewel that can bring forth visions of both the past and future; it’s a neat narrative trick by Thomas that allows the reader to learn more about Conan’s past, while offering a glimpse into what will become of him.

Hyperbole and the heroic language associated with tales of sword and sorcery is a staple of the Marvel Universe, particularly in Thor and Tales of Asgard, so the world of Conan already feels like a natural fit for a comic book adaptation. Respectful of the source material, fans of Conan will appreciate the efforts Thomas has gone to in retaining the authentic dialogue (“By Crom!”) and imbuing in Conan the grey area that all great anti-heroes hold; he makes it clear that Conan is a mercenary first, but whose moral compass is such that he will still fight for what he believes is right over monetary gain. Barry Smith’s artwork is lively, breathing life into the battles scenes without resorting to the bloodshed that spattered the pages of Howard’s stories, while the various warriors, sorcerers and winged monsters will be instantly recognisable to those whose tastes lean towards fantasy. The lettering by Sam Rosen highlights key words, drawing attention to the names of the tribes and places that are all important when building an imaginary world, though in some panels this world-building would have benefited from more background detail by Smith rather than using blocks of colour.


Overall, this is a fine adaptation, as satisfying to a Howard reader as it is accessible to a newcomer to Conan’s world, serving as both a gateway for those who want to explore further and a homage to the pulp stories that inspired the likes of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and, of course, Roy Thomas.


Review by Christopher Witty

Web of Spider-Man #97 (1993) – Throwback Review

This book features some good, old school, 90’s fun. When everything was going great for the most part, when Spidey was married, Venom and carnage were the coolest guys around and clones weren’t on anybodies mind.

Web of Spider-man (1993) #97 (Retrospective)

Published in 1993 by Marvel Comics
Written by: Terry Kavanagh

Artwork by: Alex Saviux, Derek Yaniger


Welcome to this corner of the Spider-verse, to a time long, long ago. 1993. Horses were still being ridden and the world enjoyed blissful ignorance to the horror show that would be…Coldplay. Also, this issue of Web of Spider-man was released!

Web of Spider-man was the sister in-law to the Amazing Spider-man (the sister series being the spectacular Spider-man). It began in 1985 and for a while there, it was the more artsy Spider-title, featuring incredible ,then upcoming artists like Arthur Adams, Marc Silvestri and Mike Mignola. This was all well and good until issue 35 when artist Alex Saviuk jumped on board. Don’t get me wrong, his art is good and in later issues (around issue 100 and after) even great but his seven year stint on the book made it feel like the lesser Spider-man book on stands. His house style would have been no doubt perfectly adequate in other time period but then the 90’s rolled around. Artists like Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen and Mark Bagely were making waves with their electrifying pencils And even Spectacular Spider-man had legendary marvel artist Sal Buscema on the title leaving Web of Spider-man the weakest series. That’s not to say “Web of” was bad though, the issues before the one being reviewed here were part of the awesome Spirits of Venom storyline which crossed over with the spirits of vengeance book. And a few issues later, the 14 part epic maximum carnage was told in part in the pages of Web of. So with all that context out of the way, let’s get into this issue.


First of all, this issue marks a first appearance, being that of Nightwatch who appears in a weird scene where he introduces himself to some dudes on a beach.
The story is mainly centered around blood rose, the new moniker of…the rose. The issue starts with him taking down some gangsters in a particularly gruesome fashion for a Spider-man book. We then cut to Peter at the doorstep with Betty Brant who has dinner with the Parkers (which, at the time, included Peter’s ‘parents’). Just as a quick side note, this a time where Peter and Mary Jane were married which was the best part of Spider-man comics for about twenty fricking years and they ripped it away from us. WHY MARVEL, WHYYY!!! Sorry about that, just have some issues with Joe Quesada’s at a certain comic book publishers.


Once dinner is finished, Peter is being yelled at by Robbie Robertson when a huge explosion is hears from Fisk towers, Pete suits up and gets caught up in a bloody rampage that blood rose is making. Gunning down men left and right and throwing them out of windows until Spidey intervenes. Rose makes a getaway, or so we think until he shows up behind Spider-man with a hostage! Spidey it’s the hostage in the face with impact webbing (which was pretty funny), making him land on the webbed net outside the tower. Rose shoots at our hero until Spidey can get a couple of punches in when the tower quickly begins exploding and collapsing upon the pair. Outside, bystanders are evacuated as Spider-man breaks through the rubble. Stumbling upon Robbie and also, on a cliffhanger note, the Blood Rose!



This book features some good, old school, 90’s fun. When everything was going great for the most part, when Spidey was married, Venom and Carnage were the coolest guys around and clones weren’t on anybodies mind. The book was by no means bad, but just a little predictable, which is fine. If you have me a trade with 20 issues of Web of I’m sure I’d enjoy it, but then again it wouldn’t rock my world.

Epic Retro mega mono rating: 6/10


Review by Leo Brocklehurst

Throwback Review – The Uncanny X-Men #146 – June 1981

The Uncanny X-Men #146 came just a few short months after not one but two of the most iconic, revered, and well-regarded X-Men stories of all time…


THE UNCANNY X-MEN #146

Reviewed by Nathan Harrison


Written by: Chris Claremont
Art: Dave Cockrum and Jeff Rubinstein
Released: June 1981
Publisher: Marvel Comics



The thing about winning streaks is that inevitably, inexorably, undeniably they must, at some point come to an end.

The Uncanny X-Men #146 came just a few short months after not one but two of the most iconic, revered, and well-regarded X-Men stories of all time – The Dark Phoenix Saga (so good they filmed it twice – badly) and Days of Future Past.
Even those with the most passing knowledge of Marvel’s mutant heroes will likely have heard of these essential parts of comic book history and they, of course, form small parts of a record-breaking and essential 17 year run on X-Men by the incredible Chris Claremont. However, even the best in the business have their off days…

This issue comes slap bang in the middle of a 3 issue tale, which sees the X-Men rescuing their foe, Arcade, from the clutches of Fantastic Four big bad, Doctor Doom. An exciting premise on paper…until you remember that Arcade is involved. While his elaborate escape room antics could be seen as a precursor to horror legend Jigsaw, Arcade appears as something more akin to a Chucky doll stuffed into a white suit and polka-dot bow tie, a look which must have seemed dated even in 1981.

Even fairly recent appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man have failed to update him in a convincing way. He’s the sort of lame, ridiculous villain that the comics try to take seriously but who’s crying out for the kind of treatment DC have recently given to Polka Dot Man in the latest Suicide Squad movie – main adversary for Deadpool’s first MCU appearance anyone?

That said, while the majority of the traps that Arcade and Doom set for Banshee, Havok, Iceman and Polaris (as well as some of the more popularly known X-Men who feature briefly) are on the silly side, there are some mind-bending and borderline scary panels – one featuring a merry-go-round with living vampiric horses stands out, as well as the twisty checkerboard hell that Wolverine finds himself in. David Cockrum and Jeff Rubinstein do a solid job of conveying the terror – when the trap itself is actually in any way terrifying. Less impactful are Havok’s trip on what appears to be Space Mountain and the whole team sliding down the pipes from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Special mention must be given to a panel from one of the final pages, which sees Havok…well…just take a look at that pose. Naughty boy!

Well hello

VERDICT

Claremont certainly can’t be blamed for going for a lighter story after the earth-shattering and emotional events of what came before, but this one sadly misses the mark. What should be a fun romp turns out to be a bit of a slog, with only a few moments of levity and the occasional nightmarish panel (you decide which category that Havok one falls under!) to break up the tedium. However, that’s not to take anything away from a legendary run which will undoubtedly feature on every comic fan’s must-read list until the heat death of the universe.


Review by Nathan Harrison 5/8/21


Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990

Batman goes to Russia to help the Moscow police commissioner catch The NKVDemon, protégé of The KGBeast, who is out for revenge against those who betrayed his master…

Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990
Review by Bryan Lomax

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Jim Aparo

Inks:
Mike DeCarlo
Published by DC Comics March 1990

Batman goes to Russia to help the Moscow police commissioner catch The NKVDemon, protégé of The KGBeast, who is out for revenge against those who betrayed his master. The Demon works his way through a hit list of 10 people, much the same way as the KGBeast attempted to do in Gotham, only this time the hunting ground is his home turf in Russia. Can Batman accomplish what he once did in a city he is unfamiliar with?

‘Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast’, written by Jim Starlin in the late 80’s, is one of the seminal works of that decade. Marv Wolfman, no slouch when it comes to writing Batman, is given the task, two years later, of writing a direct sequel to that story. ‘When the Earth Dies! Chapter One: Red Square, Bloody Square’ is a pretty good starting point for it.


Wolfman bookends his story with two sequences. The opener sees Batman catching a villain in Gotham, his home turf, precisely because he knows every street, every alleyway, every sewer tunnel. The closing scene plays out similarly, only this time the villain escapes, precisely because Batman doesn’t know the layout of the city he’s in. In Moscow, the streets, alleyways and sewers belong to The Demon.

Batman #445

I love when stories are bookended. It’s a great device that writers can use to show us a change has happened, whether it be in a character’s personal growth, or in their circumstances. Here we see that Batman is Gotham. Gotham is as much a part of him as the air in his lungs. Without it, he cannot breathe, he cannot function as well as he once did. It gives his nemesis the edge.

That nemesis in question is probably the weakest element of the story, as The Demon is essentially just The Beast, only with a slightly different costume. I would rather they had just brought back The Beast himself. It would be much more fun to see a rematch with the iconic villain, where Batman no longer has the upper hand, instead of giving us a carbon copy in his place.

I always have a sense of nostalgia for Jim Aparo’s artwork. He’s not my favourite, but seeing his work always takes me back to my childhood, when I started reading comic books. It’s very much a golden era for me personally. But it’s great that both Aparo and inker, Mike DeCarlo, both return here, as it was the two of them that brought the ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ storyline to life.


It must be said that this particular story is very dated as it assumes quite heavily on the audience’s knowledge of Russian politics of the time. And seeing Bruce just randomly bumping into Vicki Vale whilst dining out in Moscow is very quaint. Also, it seems to me that, if The Demon spent as much time doing stuff as he does gasbagging about a better Russia, he might actually stand a chance of achieving his goal. Some of his dialogue is stilted to say the least.

Batman #445


Verdict:

A great nostalgia trip for anyone who read comics as a child of the 80’s, but reading Jim Starlin’s ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ before this is strongly recommended.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 24/07/21


Throwback Review – Silver Age DC Classics: Adventure Comics #247

Re-released here as part of the ‘Silver Age DC Classics’ series in 1992, this is a really attractive prospect for any fan of DC or indeed, comics in general.

Review By Andy Flood


Written by:
Otto Binder (Superboy)
Ed Herron (Green Arrow)
Jack Miller (Aquaman)
Art:
Al Plastino (Superboy)
George Papp (Green Arrow)
Ramona Fradon (Aquaman)
DC ComicsApril 1992



Originally released in 1958, Adventure Comics #247 is packed with three stories, each featuring a well known DC character.  Re-released here as part of the ‘Silver Age DC Classics’ series in 1992, this is a really attractive prospect for any fan of DC or indeed, comics in general.

The original cover was by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye and shows Superboy seemingly facing the judgement of ‘The Legion of Super-Heroes’.  Depending on the reader’s age, it’s either deeply nostalgic or else curious to see art in this style; very evocative of the era and full of elements rarely used today.  Everything from the lettering and logo through to the colours and line work are different and hint at just some of the allure of these older comics.

There was often some form of teaser or ‘pitch’ on the cover, sometimes plucked from the pages within, other times featuring headline hyperbole designed to pull the reader in.  There’s a sense of fun and a feeling of incredulity brought by the dialogue on this cover and, if you want to know whether Cosmic Boy is actually serious, you clearly need to read the story within!

The lead story is notable for being the first appearance of ‘The Legion of Super-Heroes’, comprised here of Cosmic Boy, Lightning Boy and Saturn Girl, along with cameos from un-named members of the legion who would pique the curiosity of readers back in the ‘50s

It’s a great story, full of the optimistic futurism which was prevalent during the time of writing.  We see rocket ships, jet packs and gleaming utopian cityscapes as Superboy is transported to the 30th century!  There he faces the trials of ‘The Legion’ as they attempt to assess his worthiness for inclusion in their club.  Exactly how they go about all this might be seen to be morally dubious but seeing Superboy’s powers pitched against inventive use of other singular super-powers makes for great entertainment.

We then go on to join Green Arrow as he faces ‘The 13 Superstition Arrows’, along with his trusty sidekick Speedy.  This is obviously a much earlier incarnation of Green Arrow and perhaps seems comical when compared to his more modern counterpart.  However, this is an inventive and fun yarn, with lovely art and dramatic writing typical of the age.  Current fans might get a kick from seeing Green Arrow in his early ‘classic’ form; there’s lots to enjoy and some familiar elements that remain through to today’s version.

Our second backup story features Aquaman in ‘Aquaman’s Super Sea-Squad’.  This wild ride reads almost more like one of the war comics of the ‘40s, featuring as it does several military elements.  That’s not to say that it’s not fun; despite the threat of subaquatic nuclear disaster, this remains a remarkably light hearted and thrilling read.  Will Aquaman make it on time? Will the denizens of the deep help him in his impossible task?  Will he pause to paint a nuke green?  Well, yes, as it happens.

As if these three wonderful short stories weren’t enough, we are treated to brief letters or essays from DC creators working on later iterations of the Legion, giving their perspective as they look back on this classic issue.  It’s an interesting read, and highlights the value of these early titles.


Verdict

There’s something special about picking up an old or vintage comic.  It looks different, smells different (yes, I’m weird) and certainly feels different when you read it.  There’s a magic to it which is very specific to almost any comic prior to the year 2000.  Perhaps it’s the small ads offering x-ray vision for $3.25, or a ‘master kung-fu in a week!’ scheme.  But more likely, it is the imaginative stories, focused purely on providing fun, excitement and entertainment – all things which this issue brings in spades.  Suspend your disbelief at the door and treat yourself to almost any vintage title.  Judge a book by its cover and, chances are, you’ll be glad you did.


Review by Andy Flood, 20/7/21


The Mighty Thor #271 – Throwback Review

This was my first old issue of Thor I have read, and I can understand why he has been and always will be a fan favourite….


Reviewed by Angus Woods


Writer: Len Wein

Artist: Walt Simonson


Published by: Marvel Comics
May 1978

First of all, I would like to talk about the cover art, wow, just wow, I really do enjoy the vibrant and exciting covers of old comics, of course just being about 18, I am used to the more artistic and detailed covers that we have today, but what really drew me into comics is the old style of covers with dialogue and an action packed scene. This cover has the main man Thor and Iron man smashing a missile to pieces and all I can say is it gets you hyped for the story inside so let’s go…

In this throwback issue of my favourite super hero right now Thor and Iron-Man team up to defeat the evil self-serving computer that is Faust that has sent missiles to destroy earth, made out of adamantium it is very hard for Thor and Iron man to destroy the computer from the inside.

To be completely Honest, it’s no Donny Cates, but hey what is. This is definitely a happy one-off kind of story, there is no real character development for Thor, but as I understand you rarely find it to the same type of extent in these older comics. The story move’s at an okay pace but it would have been nicer to have another hero up there with Iron Man and Thor when fighting Faust.

Not to be taken away from is the beautiful art by Walt Simonson and colours by Glynis Wein. I have always been a fan of how Thor used to look in the old comics and how his colours always popped of the page, and I have to hand it to Walt Simonson and Glynis Wein they really carried this issue, they have shown some amazing talent and understanding of each other’s work in this issue.


Verdict

Overall, this is a fun issue to pick up and add to your collection, if you enjoy Thor and Iron man, you will enjoy this there is no doubt about it. This was my first old issue of Thor I have read, and I can understand why he has been and always will be a fan favourite. The art and colours match each other so well and the cover just makes you want to read it, so go pick it up.


Reviewed by Angus Woods 16/07/2021