Secret Origins Special (1989)

Secret Origins Special

I always forget how much Neil Gaiman threw himself into the DC Universe when he’d write in it. This Secret Origins Special is all about Batman’s villains; a TV investigative journalist has come to Gotham to do a special. Gaiman seems to enjoy writing those scenes–the ones with the behind the scenes, the Batman cameo, the anecdotes about living in Gotham City and the DC Universe in general. He doesn’t do well with the characters though, not the TV reporter and his crew. These framing scenes have art by Mike Hoffman and Kevin Nowlan. They do better at the start than they do the finish. By the finish, they’re getting tired and the detail from the opening isn’t there anymore.

Alan Grant writes the Penguin’s origin story, which isn’t a straight origin. There’s something modern to all of the Secret Origins here. Penguin’s grabbed a childhood nemesis–who just happened to grow up to be a gangster too–and Batman’s trying to find the guy while the Penguin’s torturing him. It’s an okay script, not great, but the Sam Kieth artwork is gorgeous. Kieth does action, he does Batman, he does Penguin, he does gangsters–he does kids. The best part of it is the tenderness Kieth shows when he’s doing the kids. I always forget Kieth really does know what he’s doing.

A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.
A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.

Gaiman handles the Riddler’s origin, which ties in a lot to the framing plot. The TV crew goes to interview him. Bernie Mireault on pencils, Matt Wagner on inks. Gaiman’s enthusiastic but misguided. Lots of monologue from the Riddler, but never particularly interesting. The details about the giant objects used in Gotham’s advertising in the past is more interesting than the Riddler teasing the TV crew with the truth. The art’s solid though and gets it over the bumps.

Then there’s the Two-Face story. Mark Verheiden writing it, Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano on the art. Broderick’s pencils are full of energy and light on restraint. It’s a messy story and a fairly cool one, focusing on Grace Dent (Harvey’s wife) and her side of the story. Verheiden doesn’t write the TV crew well and Grace Dent’s a little too slight, but it’s a solid enough story. The art is brutally violent and full of anger. Everyone looks miserable and angry about it.

Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.
Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.

The issue would’ve been better with stronger art throughout from Hoffman and Nowlan and either more or less from Gaiman. The TV crew ceases to be characters after the introduction, like one of the stories came in a page or two short and Gaiman was padding it out. But the Penguin story is good, the Riddler story could be a lot worse and is technically strong, the Two-Face story is super-solid mainstream DC eighties stuff. It’s good stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant and Mark Verheiden; pencillers, Mike Hoffman, Bernie Mireault and Pat Broderick; inkers, Kevin Nowlan, Matt Wagner and Dick Giordano; artist, Sam Kieth; colorists, Tom McCraw and Joe Matt; letterers, Todd Klein, Albert DeGuzman, Mireault and Agustin Mas; editor, Mark Waid; publisher, DC Comics.

Atari Force 5 (1983)

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Even with some great Gil Kane art, the last issue of Atari Force is a tad meager a finish for the series. Kane doesn’t have to suffer through a lot of video game-type space action, but there’s some and it’s too much.

Worse is the romance. Thomas and Conway promote it to a full-fledged subplot for the issue–worthy of a real flashback, then don’t give it one. Instead, the flashback is to these alien pacifists. That element of the story–intense non-violence–is kind of nest in a comic about blowing up Cthulhu-like space monsters, but it’s underdeveloped too.

The issue ends with a promise of another series, which might explain some the problem with Conway and Thomas’s script. They’re already looking ahead instead of concentrating on what’s going on here. Or maybe they just made things so big they’re unmanageable.

Still, gorgeous Kane art.

C 

CREDITS

Galaxian; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Gil Kane; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Andy Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.

Atari Force 4 (1982)

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Andru’s back for exactly the type of comic I expected with the title Atari Force. It’s roughly eighteen pages–I’m not counting the double-page spreads–and most of those pages is like watching someone else play a video game. Only it’s an Atari game, so the designs are pretty childish. (Not to knock Atari game designers, but how many bits of graphics did they have? Two?).

The issue recounts the victories of a fighter pilot who singlehandedly shuts down an evil alien species mining planets with slave labor. The regular cast does make some appearances, but only once do Conway and Thomas bother giving them any depth in their scenes. And that one instance is never resolved. The rest of the issue makes that scene moot anyway.

It’s generally competent, licensed material dreck. Andru’s art isn’t interesting, but endless space battles with goofy ships isn’t going to be interesting.

D 

CREDITS

Phoenix; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Ross Andru; inker and editor, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, DC Comics.

Atari Force 3 (1982)

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Even though the characters are still visually bland, Atari Force gets Gil Kane on the art and he knows what he’s doing. It’s a big read instead of a long one. Writers Conway and Thomas split the issue into three chapters, but it’s more like two–there’s even a cliffhanger mid-point.

For this issue, there are no more flashback introductions. Instead, there’s a somewhat weak flashback explaining the alien planet they find. It’s bumpy but passable.

Conway and Thomas to continue their rather serious look at what should be a goofy comic. One of the characters is a pacifist, burnt out by all the warring on Earth, and he doesn’t give up his convictions. There’s not a lot of fallout from it, but the writers do return to it a few times and the guy does turn out to be right.

With Kane, Force is all around competent now.

B 

CREDITS

Enter — the Dark Destroyer!; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Gil Kane; inkers, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Atari Force 2 (1982)

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This issue covers two more team members–both new members whose little origin stories come right after their introductions–and both of their stories are, once again, rather rough.

First there’s the Indian guy, who only got out of poverty because some British guy mistakenly accused the kid of theft and a tragedy followed. Then there’s the head of security. For her, Thomas and Conway have a really depressing war story. Atari Force, for all its jumpsuits and Atari lingo, is a rather grown-up comic. Not what one would expect from a game tie-in geared at kids (were Atari consoles aimed at kids?).

There’s also the bigger story. The team comes together to travel between alternate realities to find a world for the benevolent Atari corporation to colonize. So no big sci-fi action yet, but soon.

The art’s still a little off, but it’s fine enough.

B 

CREDITS

Berserk; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Ross Andru; inkers, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Atari Force 1 (1982)

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Atari Force is immediately strange on three levels. First, it’s game tie-in to the company, not a game. Second, it’s a reduced size comic and all the art looks too spacious. Ross Amdru is clearly trying to fill things out.

Finally, writes Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas borrow lots of sci-fi movie tropes. But they don’t apply them in the standard way–they turn them into action set pieces. Atari Force, despite Andru’s awkward page layouts, is something of a direct precursor to the 2010 film. It’s technological excitement in a sunny post-apocalypse.

This issue deals with a couple characters who are heading to Atari headquarters–it’s called something else, maybe the Atari Institute–to help save the world. Something along those lines. There’s actually a really tough flashback to post-World War III Africa. It’s not gritty looking, but it’s serious.

It’s a rather strange comic.

C 

CREDITS

Intruder Alert; writers, Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; penciller, Ross Andru; inkers, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 555 (October 1985)

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Gene Colan and Bob Smith are back on the art and it’s a strange return for Colan. It’s a lot of action and Colan goes a lot more dynamic than he usually does. There are some fantastic panels in this issue. Nice page layouts too. It’s a winner on the art.

Moench writes Jason’s diary; he’s obviously trying to get a handle on the character. It almost feels like a writing exercise, given all Jason’s distinct slang. It’s not quite a full personality but Moench seems aware Jason is lacking as a character.

And Moench’s slightly successful. There’s some very good insight, but then he offsets it with some unlikely nonsense. Only the nonsense is serious.

The Green Arrow backup is written by Elliot S! Magin and has Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano on art. It’s a throwback story, innocent Ollie, but they don’t play it up. Simple but filling.

B- 

CREDITS

Returning Reflections; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Workman. Green Arrow, The Case of the Runaway Shoebox!; writer, Elliot S! Maggin; penciller, Dick Dillin; inker, Dick Giordano. Editors, Len Wein and Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Camelot 3000 6 (July 1983)

Dick Giordano pitches in to help ink (or finish) and it’s a small disaster. This issue takes a completely different tone thanks to the art change. It’s the faces, really. The detail is gone from them.

After what’s so far the series peak last issue, Barr returns the comic to a middling affair. Arthur and Guinevere are getting married, which brings in questions about Arthur as the savior of the human race. Barr hasn’t thought it out. He also mucks around with the duality between being a regular person and a reincarnated one. Like I said, middling.

Barr doesn’t even keep up the tension through the comic. There’s a lot of drama, but it relieves, then tenses again. Barr never gives the reader enough information to know what’s going on with all the characters.

Camelot 3000 was DC’s first twelve issue maxi-series; I think Barr needed some more issues.

CREDITS

Royal Funeral; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Brian Bolland, Bruce Patterson and Dick Giordano; inker, Patterson and Giordano; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.


Contemporaneously…

Detective Comics 530 (September 1983)

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This issue is weird. It’s great too–I wonder if Moench created Nocturna with Colan in mind, since she basically looks like a vampire–but it’s weird.

There’s some action at the end, but the most striking parts of the comic aren’t the action scenes. Moench is serious about his rumination on darkness and he follows through with it at the end. It’s unexpected, but quite good.

The other striking scene is when Nocturna talks to Jason Todd. It’s a contrived encounter, but Moench sublimely makes the scene work. It’s also interesting to just hear Jason Todd try to explain his living situation. It pairs well with Bruce’s later order to Alfred–Alfred’s not allowed to report Jason missing.

The art from Colan and Giordano is fantastic. Moench’s securely in his stride now.

Cavalieri’s Green Arrow is, once again, incredibly lame. New penciller Adrian Gonzales has big problems with perspective.

Detective Comics 529 (August 1983)

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I try to be open-minded about Cavalieri and Cullins’s Green Arrow back-ups, but this one peeved me. Moench doesn’t get enough time with his Batman story–which is his fault for not pacing it out right–but come on. Who carries about Green Arrow’s lame villain? Though inker Frank Giacoia does ruin Cullins’s pencils in sometimes amusing ways.

Moench and Colan (joined by Dick Giordano on inks), on the other hand, do a fabulous Batman story about Bruce losing. He loses in a fight (the bad guy has better costume material), he loses Vicki Vale and he’s about to lose Jason Todd. His life, as much as a billionaire’s life can, is falling apart.

And Moench and Colan nail it. There’s a slick noir tone–Colan excels–with Moench expounding on the idea of nighttime habits as they relates to Batman.

It’s great. Shame it runs too short.

DC Special Series 27 (Fall 1981)

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The issue opens with Len Wein’s nearly incomprehensible expository narration. While the comic is written almost more as a tie-in to the “Hulk” TV show and an introduction to Batman, one almost needs an English degree to figure out what Wein’s trying to say.

But his plotting isn’t much better; in fact, it’s worse. At one point, Batman teams up with the Joker. You know, instead of arresting him for the mass murders and so on. Not to mention the big Marvel villain (the Joker’s partner) is this stupid space alien who looks like a jack in the box.

Actually, it’s too bad—the Hulk and Batman go together because they’re so different. The Hulk’s all about lack of control, Batman’s the opposite. A better writer would have found a good story.

However, the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art makes the comic worthwhile. It makes up for the writing.

CREDITS

The Monster and the Madman; writer, Len Wein; penciller, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez; inker and editor, Dick Giordano; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, DC Comics.

Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man (January 1976)

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It’s too bad this one doesn’t work out better, but at least it fails in an interesting way. Superman and Spider-Man simply can’t work together. It’s not so much the problems with them not matching powers—Lex Luthor zaps Spidey with some red Kryptonite powers to even the odds at one point—it’s the characters themselves, they’re too different.

The comic’s split into four parts. First is a Superman prologue, then a Spidey, then Doctor Octopus and Lex teaming up before the culminating team-up between Spidey and Superman. The first three parts work great. The fourth part barely works at all. Peter Parker and Lois Lane meeting up, professionally, it works great. Morgan Edge and Jonah getting hammered? Also great.

Superman calling Spidey “web-slinger?” Not great. Though Spidey gets away with calling him “Supes.”

The art hodgepodge makes it visually interesting, but not good.

It’s sadly charmless.

CREDITS

The Battle of the Century!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Ross Andru, Neal Adams and John Romita; inkers, Dick Giordano, Terry Austin, Josef Rubinstein, Bob Wiacek and Romita; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Gaspar Saladino; editors, Roy Thomas, Julius Schwartz, Marv Wolfman, E. Nelson Bridwell, Carmine Infantino, Stan Lee and Conway; publishers, DC Comics and Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist: The Origin of Danny Rand 1 (October 2008)

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Thank goodness Marvel felt the need to recolor the first two appearances of Iron Fist with some terrible glossy digital coloring from Andrew Crossley. Someone with time on his or her hands should do a comparison between Crossley’s “modern” colors here and the originals from Marvel Premiere.

Oddly, there’s a classy opening from Fraction and Kano–I think that opening must be Fraction’s last work on Iron Fist–and Kano does his own, non-glossy colors.

The origin issues hold up pretty well. Both Thomas and Wein write in the second person, which makes the whole experience–learning about K’un-L’un, Iron Fist’s origin, Danny Rand’s traumatic childhood–palatable. Kane pencils the first part, Hama the second, Giordano inks them both smoothly. Even the silly coloring can’t mess up Giordano inks on a kung fu comic.

The reprinted stories aren’t classics in the quality sense, but they’re solid seventies stuff.

CREDITS

The Origin of Danny Rand; writer, Matt Fraction; artist and colorist, Kano; letterer, Dave Lanphear. The Fury of Iron Fist!; writer, Roy Thomas; penciller, Gil Kane; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Andrew Crossley; letterer, Gaspar Saladino. Heart of the Dragon!; writers, Thomas and Len Wein; penciller, Larry Hama; inker, Giordano; colorist, Crossley; letterer, Saladino. Editors, Cory Levine, Thomas and Jeff Youngquist; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Batman 359 (May 1983)

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Well, Batman is having a freakout–over women he decides. Having to decide between Selina and Vicki (mind you, Selina hasn’t appeared since the last really good issue Conway wrote) has made Bruce lose it. It’s why he let Killer Croc go he decides.

There’s a bunch of eye-rolling logic this issue and the Dan Jurgens art doesn’t provide much diversion from them. With the Giordano inks, the comic looks good enough, it’s just really boring. Besides the Batman stuff, there’s Killer Croc consolidating his power (still) and his origin. Jurgens and Giordano do a good job drawing him, scary but palatable.

Then there’s the Todd family stuff. Jason Todd’s parents here are complete morons and Batman’s fine with them getting killed to further his hunt for Killer Croc (because he let him go… because of Selina). It’s amazing how little responsibility Bruce takes for himself. He’s a jackass.

CREDITS

Hunt; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Dan Jurgens; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 525 (April 1983)

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Hmm. Young Dan Jurgens. Guess it’s why Bruce looks like Clark Kent without glasses.

I’m curious to see Conway’s original script–he includes expository scene after expository scene, all the fill in space–and there only good scene is incomplete. Bruce breaks it off with Vicki by acting like a thoughtless ass, but it’s never made clear if he’s really just being an ass or if it’s to get rid of her.

The Killer Croc stuff is also a problem… Batman’s convinced his subconscious keeps letting Croc win. His suspicion is based on Croc letting him escape from the Squid’s gang–Batman thinks he can’t let himself take Croc in.

Apparently, Croc being a savage murderer doesn’t bother Batman in this circumstance.

Jurgen’s has some good layouts–his Batman is weak–and the art’s passable superhero stuff.

The Green Arrow backup continues to offend. At least Ollie keeps the unions safe following a rousing speech.

CREDITS

Confrontation; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Dan Jurgens; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Mob Rule!, Part Three: The Irresistible Rise of Machiavelli; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Irv Novick; inker, Ron Randall; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Phil Felix. Editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 524 (March 1983)

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Once again, if Bruce, Dick and Alfred weren’t stupid enough to leave the door unlocked with Vicki Vale, Jim Gordon and a bunch of strangers in Wayne Manor, they wouldn’t have to kill Jason Todd’s mom for finding out Bruce is Batman….

Oh, wait, some of that statement is incorrect. I guess they don’t decide to kill her, just Dick is going to talk her into keeping it a secret. Thank goodness she’s going to get killed in an issue or two anyway.

The story is otherwise indistinct. Killer Croc shoots the Squid, which is a sad sendoff for Conway’s Eisner homage, though it’s not like the character worked in a serious setting.

Beautiful art from Newton and Giordano makes it a fine issue… though the ending leaves something to be desired.

The Novick art is better than usual on the Green Arrow backup, which is too silly for words.

CREDITS

Deathgrip; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Todd Klein. Mob Rule!, Part Two: Heat of the Moment!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Irv Novick; inker, Ron Randall; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Phil Felix. Editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 356 (February 1983)

batman_356.jpgIt’s a somewhat anti-climatic end to the Hugo Strange storyline Conway had been working on for… a couple years? Hugo shows up, back from the dead, with an army of androids, and Batman doesn’t bat an eye.

The art is so gorgeous, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not sure if Giordano is my favorite inker for Newton, but he does a great job with it. The issue even has a full page panel, the first I can remember from Newton, and it works… the art makes the story work.

The problem is with the pacing. Conway didn’t develop Strange as a villain, just as a shock guest star. So this issue needs to be beautiful to see, because the story is really just a perfunctory aside.

Though there is Bruce suspecting he’s probably lying to Vicki about his feelings for her. I like Conway acknowledging Bruce’s indecisiveness; it brings humanity.

CREDITS

The Double Life of Hugo Strange; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Human Target Special 1 (November 1991)

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Beyond Who’s Who, I don’t think I’ve read much regular DC Human Target. This special only partially counts as it was a tie-in for the failed nineties television adaptation.

It’s decent, far better than I was expecting. The art from Burchett and Giordano is good and Verheiden’s writing is fine. There’s a lot of humor–Christopher Chance does his work because it’s fun–and Verheiden harps on endlessly with the anti-drug message, but it’s a rather violent book. It opens with someone shot in the head and Chance goes on to kill a bunch of bad guys.

Unfortunately, since Verheiden is mimicking the TV show and assuming the reader has some familiarity with the cast of characters, there’s not much for the supporting cast to do but tell jokes.

If the comic’s any indication, the show might have been decent, Rick Springfield or not.

The comic does go on too long though.

CREDITS

The Mack Attack Contract; writer, Mark Verheiden; penciller, Rick Burchett; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Julianna Ferriter; letterer, Albert DeGuzman; editor, Brian Augustyn; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 259 (November-December 1974)

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So this crappy story is dedicated to the memory of Bill Finger. I guess it’s best to have a crappy story dedicated to your memory rather than you, since if you’re still alive, you might have to read it.

This second team-up between Batman and the Shadow is amusingly weak (but better than the first, which was so awful I never even got around to mentioning the Shadow in my response). Novick and Giordano are very strong on the art–better doing real people than Batman, actually. There’s a jewelry store robbery at the beginning and it’s just fantastic.

O’Neil’s writing is lousy. My favorite is Batman almost getting beat up by a fit ex-con–because Batman isn’t very fit. Not as fit as this fit ex-con, anyway.

Bad dialogue, stupid revelations of Batman’s psychosis.

But at least O’Neil didn’t plagiarize any Oscar winning movies this time.

CREDITS

The Night of the Shadow!; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Irv Novick; inker, Dick Giordano; editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 253 (November 1973)

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What an awful comic book.

Not the art, the art is absolutely fantastic, making something of an Irv Novick convert out of me… but the writing is just hideous.

O’Neil writes Batman as a thuggish cross between Spencer Tracy and a beach movie surfer–the Spencer Tracy imitation makes sense, since O’Neil “pays homage” to multiple set pieces from Bad Day in Black Rock, but the surfer speak is… to make Batman seem cool?

The comic’s from 1973 and there’s no Robin in it so I’d assume it’s not being done to fit in line with the TV show version… so there’s got to be some other explanation for the godawful dialogue. What’s initially stunning is the use of exclamation points. It’s the standard for the era, but O’Neil doesn’t seem to understand how silly all of his bad, but quiet dialogue looks with them.

It’s a truly awful read.

CREDITS

Who Knows What Evil?; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Irv Novick; inker, Dick Giordano; editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman 255 (March-April 1974)

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Batman fighting a werewolf with Neal Adams on art. It’s incredibly great looking. I don’t even remember the last time I read an Adams illustrated comic, so everything was a joy. His panel layouts here are just fantastic. It’s both action and horror (at the beginning) oriented and it’s simply masterful.

Len Wein’s script is rather solid too. It’s got a lot of exposition, but none of it is ever useless. Even Batman’s thought balloons during the end fight scene work.

But Wein doesn’t spend a lot of time with Batman before that finish. He does open with Batman but he doesn’t stay with him, instead he goes into the werewolf’s story. There’s a neat introduction to the changeover.

Unfortunately, it’s not entirely successful. A great deal of the story depends on Batman being kind of stupid. For instance, he goes to the werewolf’s house on a social visit.

But beautiful.

CREDITS

Moon of the Wolf; writer, Len Wein; penciller, Neal Adams; inker, Dick Giordano; editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 500 (March 1981)

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For issue 500, DC went with something rather celebratory for Detective Comics–it’s very oversized (84 pages) and has many Detective Comics regulars–back to Slam Bradley–making appearances.

The opening Batman story, from Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, is fantastic one about Batman going Earth-3 to save his parents. It’s a great, touching story. I love it. I’ve probably read it, in one place or another, like ten times.

The rest is mostly a mess. Len Wein’s Bradley story is atrociously written, the Mike W. Barr Elongated Man story is flat–the Hawkman story does have some beautiful Joe Kubert artwork and a nice Martian Manhunter cameo (he doesn’t appear otherwise).

The final story, by Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino, featuring Batman and Deadman, is a total mess.

I couldn’t get through Walter Gibson’s prose story.

But it’s worth it for the opener alone and it’s well-intentioned.

CREDITS

To Kill a Legend; writer, Alan Brennert; artist, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza. The “Too Many Cooks … ” Caper!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jim Aparo; colorist, Tatjana Wood. The Final Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe!; writer, Mike W. Barr; artist, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez; colorist, Wood; letterer, Costanza. The Batman Encounters – Gray Face; writer, Walter Gibson; artist, Thomas Yeates. The Strange Death of Doctor Erdel; writer, Paul Levitz; artist, Joe Kubert; colorist, Wood; letterer, Adam Kubert. What Happens When a Batman Dies?; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Roy; letterer, Costanza. Editor, Levitz; publisher, DC Comics.

Green Arrow 4 (August 1983)

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Wow, what a weak ending. The issue is mostly action, which makes it completely different than the previous three. And it’s weak action with an absurdly weak bad guy. But weak or not, Green Arrow still needs to bring in Black Canary and some CIA agent (they quickly and inexplicably disappear) because he can’t handle the pirate guy alone.

Seriously, the big bad guy who gets at least a ten page fight scene is a pirate. It’s so lame, Green Arrow mocks it in the narration.

So the issue is atrocious on that front, but it doesn’t get any help from von Eeden’s crazy approach to action illustrating. He spends more time establishing something explodes than showing where the object is in relation to the characters. It’s impossible to follow.

The mystery’s resolution, once Barr remembers it, isn’t nearly worth the price of admission.

It’s a very disappointing last issue.

CREDITS

Showdown at Sea; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Trevor von Eeden; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Green Arrow 3 (July 1983)

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At least in the eighties, people took the time to make the oil companies the bad guys. Now, when they’re even more clearly the bad guys, no one ever uses them. Except Syriana, I suppose, but I doubt Green Arrow’s solution will be to blow them all up.

One can hope though.

This issue just makes it all the more obvious how little it matters Green Arrow is the lead… It basically could be any superhero–and it only needs to be a superhero for a couple scenes, when Green Arrow beats up some oil company thugs.

It does open on a specific scene though, with Green Arrow torturing Count Vertigo through a perverse version of shooting an apple off the head.

Lots more impressive narrative illustrating from von Eeden here. I’m not even sure I’m fond of him, I just love how he and Barr make the story move along.

CREDITS

Hexagon of Death; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Trevor von Eeden; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Green Arrow 2 (June 1983)

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I kept meaning to count panels per page, but I never paused and did it. I’m guessing the average page has twelve to sixteen panels. And it’s not a talking heads book. The amount of work von Eeden does here–the issue has town and country settings, not to mention some hallucinations–is incredible. Especially for a mainstream book with a mainstream artist.

Barr is pretty straightforward this issue with the narrative. No flashbacks, only one character appearing out of nowhere (Count Vertigo, one of Green Arrow’s regular villains–who knew Green Arrow even made regular villains?). It’s mostly just a mystery story, with a murder needing solving and characters revealing secret agendas.

It’s a compelling way to approach a limited series, because the mystery is what’s important, not the titular character. I mean, he’s sort of important, but it gets an otherwise uninterested reader on board.

Even if Count Vertigo is goofy.

CREDITS

A Slight Case of Vertigo; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Trevor von Eeden; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Green Arrow 1 (May 1983)

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I’m a Mike W. Barr fan from The Maze Agency, but none of his DC work has ever gotten me excited. The Outsiders, for example. But I’m really liking this Green Arrow series so far.

First, it’s got a lot of story to it. It opens with an action sequence, does one flashback, then another (the second being the origin flashback), then moves into some dramatics, then does a final action sequence. It’s a lot of content and Barr’s got a good handle on making the character likable. I’ve never really liked Green Arrow because, in addition to being kind of silly, he’s loud and obnoxious. But Barr humanizes him, leaving out the volume.

My favorite thing is how jumbled Barr keeps the issue. The Trevor von Eeden art is a little confusing, but it does work….

I just love how quietly they bring Black Canary in. Poof, she’s there.

CREDITS

All My Sins Remembered!; writer, Mike W. Barr; penciller, Trevor von Eeden; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Superman 240 (July 1971)

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Superman’s powers finally go this issue, burning out as he uses them more and more. It’s a very awkward issue, with Supes coming across almost like Spider-Man at times, he’s so depressed. He discovers, for example, average people don’t really care about him. Without his powers, he’s an object for their scorn.

Given the Pre-Crisis Superman is without an immediate support system, he’s basically on his own… until Wonder Woman’s pet sufi shows up to offer a cure. It’s such a small story–Clark Kent gets tailed by bad guys who go after an impaired (human) Superman–and O’Neil’s frequent references to Superman’s Silver Age planet juggling abilities make it feel unique.

The conclusion is, though somewhat hackneyed (human Superman versus thugs), very effective.

Lots has to do with Swan’s art. His figures in action are great, but he also goes for viscerally involving panel layouts.

Good stuff.

CREDITS

To Save a Superman; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Dick Giordano. The Man Who Cheated Time; writer, Cary Bates; artist, Michael Kaluta. Editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

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