Adventure Into Fear 12 (February 1973)

Adventure Into Fear #12

Gerber does the stupid second person narration, but not a lot of it. Most of the Man-Thing story he does a close third person for Man-Thing; it works a lot better. Especially he confirms Man-Thing has no mouth.

Instead, Man-Thing listens a lot. He makes a new friend, a black guy on the run from a racist white sheriff. Gerber doesn’t shy away from the race issues. Gerber even takes it further, working race preconceptions into the surprise ending. He’s also turning Man-Thing into a real character, even if he can’t talk and doesn’t get any thought balloons.

Jim Starlin has a really fun time on the pencils. There are some really emotive pages. Buckler inks him well enough.

The fifties back-up, from Stan Lee and Russ Heath, has an interesting visual style but Stan must have been trying to impress his editor with how many words he could use.

B 

CREDITS

Man-Thing, No Choice of Colors!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Jim Starlin; inker, Rich Buckler; letterer, John Costanza. The Face of Horror; writer, Stan Lee; artist, Russ Heath. Editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Showcase 3 (July-August 1956)

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There’s not much to this issue besides Russ Heath’s fantastic artwork. Robert Kanigher’s script is pedestrian and predictable (for the most part).

It’s the story of a new frogman during World War II. The protagonist is short, which leads to teasing (even in the Navy). The teasing is aggravated by the protagonist’s ability to lip read. It’s a nonsense detail Kanigher uses to pad out the story, which is told in three parts.

For a while, during the first chapter, it seems like the story might have some factual basis or some interesting information about the Navy Underwater Demolition Teams. But then there’s a shark attack and all reality goes out the window.

Worse, Kanigher continues the bullying against the protagonist after he saves his antagonists’ lives (from the shark). The antagonists don’t even acknowledge the protagonist’s heroism. It’s painfully obvious Kanigher is padding.

But there’s some great Heath art.

Showcase 2 (May-June 1956)

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Good grief. I thought I was going to be able to talk seriously about this comic, starting with the story of a young Native American lad whose spirit animal keeps saving his butt, then through the story of a misunderstood youth and his mutt… but the final story is about a circus bear who escapes.

Now, the circus bear knows he has it pretty good at the circus, he just wants adventure. So the story–which, sadly, does not have an author credit–proposes the idea circuses (in the fifties) treated animals well. It’s also this Disney-like look at animals, which talk and think. It’s incredible. Russ Heath’s art is pretty charming, actually.

The Joe Kubert art on the Native American kid story is okay, some great vistas, but Ross Andru and Mike Esposito bore on the orphaned kid one.

This comic’s glorious nuts (and completely unaware of it).

Tom Strong 13 (July 2001)

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While this issue features some incredibly cool writing from Moore (more on it in a bit), it also has amazing art. It’s a five-part story, with Sprouse and Gordon on for the prologue. Then it’s Russ Heath (doing a teenage Tom Strong), Kyle Baker (doing the bunny Tom Strong analogue) and, finally, Pete Poplaski doing the finish. Poplaski makes the whole thing feel very Golden Age and it’s simply a superior visual experience.

As for Moore, he plays a lot with time travel and its effects, but he also comments briefly on the “imaginary story” genre. Tom Strong, it seems, has no imaginary stories. Moore gets a lot of mileage in figuring out how to make this one real.

There’s some great villainy from Saveen, though a lot of the dialogue refers to very distant events.

It’s also a mini-Captain Marvel homage with the “wizard.”

Simply wonderful stuff.

The Immortal Iron Fist 20 (January 2009)

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Okay, Swierczynski is finally back on track. Forgetting the special, he’s now written more good issues of The Immortal Iron Fist than mediocre or bad.

This issue resolves—maybe a little too conveniently (it should have taken eight)—Danny’s possible death at thirty-three. It also gets the search for the Eighth City back underway and brings in the Immortal Weapons to a more central role.

Not sure how much of it is Swierczynski’s fault for not plotting the arc right or if Fraction just left him with too much to do.

Swierczynski puts a solid bow on the whole thing, but all the stuff with Misty seems like a misfire. Though Foreman’s hat for her for her big farewell scene with Danny is brilliant. Swierczynski just never establishes their relationship as anything significant. It doesn’t feel like their goodbye has any real weight.

Still, I’m enthusiastically reading once more.

CREDITS

The Mortal Iron Fist, Conclusion; writer, Duane Swierczynski; artists, Russ Heath and Travel Foreman; colorist, Matt Milla; letterer, Artmonkeys Studios; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist 19 (December 2008)

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Oh, there are other Immortal Weapons? Wonder if their appearance has anything to do with the issue working.

Just as Swierczynski gets out of his writing rut—well, I’m not sure if that’s an accurate description—he returns to a decent approximation of Brubaker and Fraction’s run on the title, Foreman just plummets.

He goes through maybe four different styles here, but the unifying factor is his people look different from panel to panel. Not like he forgot a facial characteristic, more like in one panel he draws one as a toad and in the next as a butterfly. It’s awful looking.

While Swierczynski does underuse the other Immortal Weapons (just having them show up is nice), he does return some intelligence to Danny, some thoughtfulness. The opening scene works great, even with Foreman confounding the whole thing.

Not sure the series is back on track, but it’s much improved.

CREDITS

The Mortal Iron Fist, Chapter Three; writer, Duane Swierczynski; artists, Travel Foreman and Russ Heath; colorist, Matt Milla; letterer, Artmonkeys Studios; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist 18 (October 2008)

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Okay, either Swierczynski is covering for Foreman or Foreman is covering for Swierczynski here.

There simply is not enough story this issue. It’s not so much a pacing question, it’s just… almost no story. Luke, Colleen and Misty rescue Danny from the guy who’s out to get him (a demon, I think), Danny recuperates, cliffhanger at Danny’s kung fu school for kids. Some scenes in K’un-L’un, establishing everyone but Danny knows about the Iron Fist-killing demon. Oh, and that new hire at Rand, the one I said was a bad guy?

He’s a bad guy.

I’m not quite given up on Immortal Iron Fist, but Swierczynski is definitely showing some problems here. He just doesn’t have an approach to the series. He’s trying to continue the Brubaker and Fraction run, not bring anything new (having Danny be funny about dating Misty doesn’t count).

My optimism is falling fast.

CREDITS

The Mortal Iron Fist, Chapter Two; writer, Duane Swierczynski; artists, Travel Foreman and Russ Heath; colorist, Matt Milla; letterer, Artmonkeys Studios; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist 17 (September 2008)

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Swierczynski’s approach to Iron Fist is to continue the Brubaker and Fraction format. We even get Heath doing the flashback art.

There’s one big difference. First is how Swierczynski structures the villain in the issue. He’s not mysterious. We get his story right away. And his motivation is pretty straightforward. He’s the guy who kills the Iron Fists at thirty-three–it’s kind of like Halloween: H20, but on a thirty-three year cycle.

Also strange is the way Swierczynski continues from the previous issue. He does a direct sequel (though a few pages are prologue to it). So the last issue has that amazing moment with Danny’s friends surprising him with a cake and this issue has it be a whole party.

I’m generally positive… except how Foreman keeps changing his style. Sometimes he’s finished, sometimes he’s rough. It’s too varied for a single issue.

Reading with guarded optimism….

CREDITS

The Mortal Iron Fist, Chapter One; writer, Duane Swierczynski; artists, Travel Foreman and Russ Heath; colorist, Matt Milla; letterer, Artmonkeys Studios; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death 1 (April 2008)

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Fraction takes on the writing chores here solo but since it’s an Orson Randall story set in the thirties and forties, it’s kind of hard to tell what not having Brubaker around does to it.

The majority of the story feels like it takes place in Germany, when Orson shows up at Frankenstein’s castle. I haven’t seen Marvel use the Monster of Frankenstein in a while; Fraction does a great job with the cameo. The art on that section is from LaRosa and Gaudiano and is the best in the issue.

The art’s all pretty good, except Breitweiser. Even he gets a little bit better as his pages progress, but he’s nothing compared to the earlier artists.

The issue balances exploring Orson’s adventures while still offering new information for readers of the regular title. Turns out the Thunderer’s revolution had been long planned.

There are plot holes, but who cares.

CREDITS

The Golden Age Iron Fist!; writer, Matt Fraction; pencillers, Nick Dragotta, Russ Heath, Lewis LaRosa and Mitch Breitweiser; inkers, Mike Allred, Heath, Stefano Gaudiano and Breitweiser; colorists, Laura Allred, Heath and Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Artmonkeys Studios; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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