Archive for Marvel 70th Anniversary Specials

Under the Gun


Batman and Robin #5

The Red Hood and Scarlet have got the drop on Batman and Robin, who are trying to stop them from wantonly slaughtering criminals. They make their escape, and we learn that the Red Hood is actually Jason Todd, the second Robin, back from the dead, with yet another new costume, and the same old rotten attitude. For some reason, he now has red hair with a white streak down the middle. He looks like a younger, angstier Jason Blood. What the heck is up with that? Anyway, there’s a new villain who’s come to town — an assassin named Eduardo Flamingo, who just flew in on a pink plane from South America with a whole bunch of beautiful women — all of whom he’s killed by cutting off and eating their faces. And the guy’s gunning for the Red Hood and Scarlet.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not real thrilled with the odd revamp of Jason Todd’s hair color. (And a tad disappointed that it’s Jason under the hood and not the Joker) But the rest is pretty good. Wow, who woulda thought a guy named Flamingo would be so creepy?


Green Lantern #46

Zamaron, the homeworld of the Star Sapphires, is under attack by the Black Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps. Sinestro and Carol Ferris are sniping at each other when Hal Jordan and members of the Indigo Tribe arrive. They reveal how to defeat the zombies — expose their rings to light from more than one color of power ring, and the Black Lanterns collapse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop everyone from fighting each other. And even more unfortunately, the Black Lanterns are able to resurrect the crystallized, embracing skeletons that the Star Sapphires revere, prompting the near-total destruction of the Star Sapphires.

Hal, Carol, Sinestro, and Indigo-1, the leader of the Indigo Tribe, retreat to Korugar, Sinestro’s home planet, which has been taken over by the guy who’s trying to take control of the yellow rings, Mongul. Of course, there’s a huge struggle between Sinestro and Mongul. But the Black Lanterns are in hot pursuit, leading to the arrival of the newest zombies — some of the most important people in Hal’s and Sinestro’s lives.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The zombies are a bit less over-the-top, which is a good thing, because it gives our main players a lot of great chances to interact, conflict, and play against each other. The characterizations here are really wonderful, as is Doug Mahnke’s stellar artwork. And I gotta say, the best moment of this issue was the revelation of who the crystallized skeletons on Zamaron originally were…


Marvel Mystery Handbook 70th Anniversary Special

Like all the Marvel Handbooks, this is a collection of biographies and stats for various Marvel characters. The emphasis in this one, obviously, is on many of the characters from Marvel’s Golden Age during World War II. This includes everyone from well-known heroes like Namor, the Human Torch, and Toro to much more obscure ones like Philo Zog, Taxi Taylor, Flexo, the Phantom Reporter, Mister E, and the Black Widow, a Satanic superhero.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of goofy Golden Age fun to be had here, and reading all of it will take days. Even with the sky-high five-dollar price tag, that’s a pretty good bargain.

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Magical Mystery Tour


Daring Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

For some reason, I thought Marvel was done with their 70th Anniversary Specials, but I’m very pleased to see that they’re still being released. This one features (along with one of the finest covers I’ve seen in ages) the adventures of a guy called the Phantom Reporter. He’s a normal reporter trying to track down the tough stories, hunting for the leads that will let him discover who killed a childhood friend-gone-bad. But when he gets too close to the truth, the criminal syndicates come after him, and he puts on a gag mask to try to disguise himself, then ends up unleashing ungodly amounts of whupass on the mobsters. And after that, he realizes he doesn’t have to play by the rules of journalism to get at the truth of who killed his friend — he can just hit gangsters ’til they tell him what he needs to know. But his final opponent may be too tough to beat. After the main story, there’s a classic story from the Golden Age about the Phantom Reporter and his multiple secret identities…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Absolutely outstanding noir adventure. You got your mask-and-fedora hero who’s willing to bend the rules, you got a mourning mobster willing to talk to someone who’ll help him get justice, you got a femme fatale who may have dark secrets, you got complete scoundrels running the whole show. They could’ve made this a movie serial back in the ’40s…


Mystic Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

More noir adventure, this time with a magic twist — namely a Golden Age hero called the Vision, a crimefighter from another dimension who can manifest through clouds of smoke. The mob is desperate to rub him out — after they hear about some weird lights coming from a local professor’s home, they sneak a gangster into the home to work undercover as a gardener, and he soon learns that the Vision is really an interdimensional traveler named Aarkus who has become trapped in our world. An experiment to send Aarkus back to his world is disrupted by the fake gardener, and the resulting accident with the dimensional gateway releases a cosmic monster able to induce horrific hallucinations in any humans it encounters. And again, once the main story is over, we’re treated to an old story about the Vision, this time drawn by Jack Kirby as the Vision faces attacks by werewolves…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great magical adventure pulp, with a great dose of horror. I loved the creepy zombie who menaces the professor and his daughter, and the hallucinating farm family trying to kill each other are chilling, especially after the Vision banishes their illusions, and they realize they may have already killed another family member. And the backup story with King Kirby illustrating a werewolf story is also wonderful.

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The Golden Ticket


All Winners Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

If you’d told me a few months ago that I’d be grooving this hard on a bunch of comics commemorating Marvel’s Golden Age, I’da laughed in your face. The Golden Age of comics — mostly centering around World War II — is something that requires a lot of nostalgia to get into, ’cause if you read the original comics from that era, they’re often not that good. But without the Golden Age, you wouldn’t have had any comics at all, and for that alone, it deserves respect. But I’ve always been more interested in DC’s Golden Age, mostly because DC does such a good job of promoting their Golden Age characters through the “Justice Society” series. Marvel? What’s there to know but Captain America, Bucky, the Human Torch, and Namor, right?

Well, wrong. This series of specials has been absolutely amazing — some of the best writing and artwork to come out of Marvel in ages, along with some of the best stories from the real Golden Age, too. If you haven’t picked them up yet, go get to it.

As for this story, we start out shortly after the end of World War II, with the All Winners Squad taking on Future Man and Madame Death. Captain America makes a careless error that leaves Future Man’s time ship falling through time, though the heroes escape safely. Waitaminute, wasn’t Cap frozen in ice at the end of the war? Yes, this is a guy named Jeff Mace who is a replacement Captain America — and he doesn’t feel he’s earned the right to take Cap’s place yet. There’s also some additional soap-opera drama — Miss America is pretending she and Cap are dating to get the media talking, which is making her real boyfriend, the Whizzer (snicker!) jealous. But a night out on the town soon devolves into an attack by undead soldiers — and when a zombie Captain America appears and says that he’ll return to life if the replacement Cap dies, what’s going to happen then?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderful plotting, dialogue, characterization, and artwork. The soap opera elements inject several months’ worth of drama into only a few pages, and the surprise villain was perfect for the story.


Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #6

Dr. Sivana has escaped from prison, but Captain Marvel doesn’t have time to track him down — there’s a Bigfoot terrorizing the area. Wait, that’s no Bigfoot, that’s King Kull, timelost barbarian warrior with a magic gun that turns wood into metal. But Kull may be as strong as Cap, and he’s definitely a more experienced fighter, plus his gun leads to some very rough moments for the Big Red Cheese. Is there a way for Cap to prevail?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This story is again written by Art Baltazar and Franco, who are best known for their work on “Tiny Titans” and “Patrick the Wolf Boy,” while artwork is provided by Stephen DeStafano. At first, I thought DeStefano’s art was extremely weird for this book, but the more the story continued, the more I liked it — it’s like a combination of ’60s underground art and retro Golden Age cartooning. It ends up being very appealing and perfect for a character like Captain Marvel.

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Golden Girls and Metal Men

Let’s take a quick look at two of the newest comics put out by Marvel to commemorate their 70th anniversary.


All Select Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

This one has a number of stories in it — two of them new, two classic. Our lead story focuses on the Blonde Phantom, an unpowered Golden Age crimefighter. In a change from the previous stories in this series, this particular story isn’t set in the ’40s — it’s been updated to the present day. The Blonde Phanton, now retired from crimefighting to work as a legal secretary, learns of the murder of an old friend, comforts his wheelchair-bound widow, and resolves to track down his killer. She puts on the slinky red dress and domino mask she wore as a superhero and “interrogates” a bunch of lowlifes. And what she eventually discovers leads her to a very unexpected suspect.

Our second new story is by humorist Michael Kupperman — it’s about the very short-lived but very bizarre character called Marvex the Super Robot. Marvex is a robot from the fifth dimension who has a human-looking face and hair — but he’s very obviously made of gray metal. Despite this, he runs around in a suit like he’s got a real secret identity. He encounters beautiful women who express romantic interest in him, which he dissuades by telling them he can’t have anything to do with them because he is Marvex the Super Robot. Then he takes off his clothes to show them. And while this is augmented by a lot of goofball silliness about button-up socks and a villain named Ingrediento who was born of a sandwich, it’s still extremely true to the original “Marvex” stories…

…which are also reprinted here in all their utterly mad glory. How mad is it? Check out the final three panels of the very first Marvex story:




Marvex, the Lubbock Police Department would like to speak with you. Do you have your sexually oriented business permit?

And again, check out that final caption:


That’s just about the weirdest caption ever. The picture is odd enough, but the caption just pushes it to a whole new level of whacko. I love it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The plotline and artwork for the Blonde Phantom story are just wonderful, the new Marvex story is entirely hilarious, and the two Marvex reprints are also great bonuses. Go pick this one up.


USA Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

This comic focuses on an old character called the Destroyer. We follow a German reporter, loyal to his home country but opposed to the Nazis — just not opposed enough to do anything serious to stop them. He gets kidnapped by the Destroyer, a foreign spy captured by the Nazis and turned into a superhuman killer, who uses him as bait to kill more Nazis and goads him about whether he has the courage to stand up against evil. But why is the Destroyer keeping the reporter around at all? Why hasn’t he either killed him or released him? What’s his ultimate plan? All that plus another classic story from Marvel’s Golden Age.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not as strong a comic as “All Select” but still very good. The reprint of the old comic is pretty good, too — it has an absolutely amazing two-page splash of an explosion.

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The Best and the Not-So-Good


Young Allies 70th Anniversary Special #1

Just about all of Marvel’s special issues paying tribute to their WWII Golden Age characters and the company’s 70th birthday have been outstanding, but this one is probably the best yet. The main story, by writer Roger Stern and artist Paolo Rivera, focuses on Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s former sidekick and the new Captain Marvel, as he discovers that some of his friends from World War II are still alive. The Young Allies were a bunch of normal kids — a stereotypical Brooklyn tough kid, a smart, bespectacled kid, a chubby kid, and a black kid — who occasionally teamed up with Bucky and Toro, the Human Torch’s sidekick, to fight the Nazis. Anyway, Bucky finds the two surviving Young Allies — Pat “Knuckles” O’Toole, the tough kid, and Wash Jones, the black kid — in a veterans hospital. Knuckles is on his deathbed, and Wash is paying him a last visit. They’re both overjoyed to see Bucky again, still young after all those decades. There’s some reminiscing over their WWII adventures and about their post-war lives. And in the end, Knuckles dies, and a few months later, Wash follows him. They close out the last few pages of the comic with reprints of ads, text stories, and comic about “Terry Vance, the School Boy Sleuth.”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Numerous thumbs up, along with several pinkies and even a couple of big toes. This has got to be the best done-in-one comic I’ve seen in months. The action sequences are fine, but where this story really shines is the small, personal moments, with a trio of old vets sitting around a hospital talking about how their lives turned out, and seeing one of their number through to his final curtain. It’s a beautiful, emotional story, and I hope like heck it wins some awards.


Justice Society of America #28

The Spectre takes Power Girl, Atom Smasher, Damage, and Judomaster back into the past to save Green Lantern, Flash, Wildcat, Hourman, and Liberty Belle from the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Kung, a former Japanese assassin who died in the bomb blast, hopes to sacrifice the American heroes to return himself to life, but can anyone stop him and his army of Japanese spirits?

Verdict: I’m gonna thumbs-down it. The action sequences are fine, but this just felt too needlessly complicated, on several different levels.

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The Golden Age of Beating up Nazis

Marvel’s having its 70th birthday, so it seems like all their comics are including references to their characters from World War II…

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #37

It’s 1954, and Miss America and Golden Girl have discovered that Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, and Toro have all gone missing. When the Whizzer (Heh.) disappears before their eyes, they follow him through a time portal to find themselves in the modern day, where the villainous Puppet Master is controlling the Golden Age heroes with plans to send them back to the past to take over the world for him. Wolverine, Spider-Man, and the modern-day Captain America show up to help out, but they’ve got their hands full with just the Whizzer (Heh.) — how are they going to handle it when the Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, and Toro show up?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Dario Brizuela provides a different art style than we’ve usually seen on this comic, but it works out quite well. And Paul Tobin’s dialogue is plenty of fun, especially the way Wolverine keeps making fun of the Whizzer’s name.

Sub-Mariner Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

We get three different stories about Marvel’s Golden Age bad boy. The first one, written by Roy Thomas his ownself and beautifully illustrated by Mitch Breitweiser, focuses on Namor being tempted to join up with the Germans. The second is a somewhat pulpy story about Namor fighting Nazis with the aid of a female American pilot and a giant squid. But the third is the real prize — Bill Everett’s very first “Sub-Mariner” story from 1939’s Marvel Comics #1, starring a particularly rotten version of Namor killing divers and wrecking a recovery ship.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Three excellent stories — ain’t nothing to complain about.

Miss America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

Well, while the character on the cover is blonde, the Miss America in the lead story is very definitely brunette. And she wears glasses. Even in her superhero costume. Definitely makes for a unique look. Most of the action involves Miss America undercover at an American shipyard snooping out some Nazi saboteurs. After that, there are two classic stories starring the Whizzer (Heh.) and a short feature called “Let’s Play Detective.”

Verdict: Thumbs down. I enjoyed the first story alright, but for a character as obscure as Miss America, we should’ve gotten a little background on her — something other than “She’s strong, she flies, she wears glasses, she’s engaged to the Whizzer.” But what killed the fun on this one was the backup stories — they just weren’t interesting or exciting.

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Fast and Furious

Tiny Titans #16

Sidekick Elementary’s PE coach is Lobo, which isn’t quite as cool as having Darkseid as a lunch lady, but it comes close. Anyway, Coach Lobo has decided that the best way to get all the students in shape is to have them race all the way around the world, which really isn’t going to be fair for most of the kids. We also get to meet the Tiny Titan version of Bombshell and Mas y Menos.

In addition to that, we also get this deliriously odd panel:

Mmmm, that’s great non sequitur!

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, this is just a very, very fun comic. It’s marketed to kids, but I think it’s a good read no matter how old you are.

Marvel Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

Another in Marvel’s special comics to commemorate their 70th birthday, this one puts most of its focus on Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch, and the great rivalry they had during the Golden Age. We also get guest starring roles from Toro, the Angel, and Electro — not the Spider-Man villain, but an old robot hero from the ’40s. They’re all fighting Nazi saboteurs (of course) and a bunch of robots that burn with green flames. Once that’s over, we get treated to some reprints of classic Golden Age stories, including one with the Human Torch and another starring a guy called the Ferret, a detective whose gimmick is a trained ferret. Yeah, no kidding — pet ownership used to be enough to get you a comic book series…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The reprints at the back are pretty silly, but the main story is solid work — good script, excellent art, and I love Namor’s near-constant state of offended rage. It’s really too bad that we don’t see that version of the Sub-Mariner very much anymore.

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20th Century Analog Boys

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910

The first part of a new chapter in the literary-themed adventure series from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill focuses on the early part of the 20th century. The current League includes former vampire victim Mina Murray, the rejuvenated Allan Quatermain (masquerading as his own son), immortal sex-changing warrior Orlando, ghost-hunting detective Thomas Carnacki, and reformed thief A.J. Raffles. They’re on the trail of a bunch of occultists, led by a fictionalized version of Aleister Crowley, who are trying to bring about the end of the world. Added on top of all this are the daughter of the late Captain Nemo, who becomes known as Pirate Jenny, and a brutal killer (who may actually be Jack the Ripper) named Jack MacHeath, who is better known as Mack the Knife. In other words, a large chunk of this story is based on Bertolt Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera” — and yes, there are characters who actually break out in song during the story. Frankly, this is extremely weird. It all ends with a terrific slaughter, but with the prophesied apocalypse seemingly scheduled for many years in the future.

Verdict: I hate to say it, but thumbs down. While Jenny was an outstanding character, and her storyarc was very satisfying, the rest of this felt like Alan Moore was thumbing his nose at me. Sure, okay, Alan, you’re vastly smarter than I am, there’s no denying it. But do ya have to rub my nose in my own intellectual inferiority?

Secret Six #9

In one of the “Battle for the Cowl” crossovers, Batman is seemingly dead, and the criminals of Gotham City are going wild. A band of kidnappers have targeted the children of wealthy citizens, but Catman and Bane both decide to help stop them — partly because both of them would like to try to take Batman’s place. And Ragdoll is tagging along, because he, disturbingly, has decided that he wants to take Robin’s place. None of the trio is much good at leaving any of the kidnappers alive, but they do manage to save the children and their families — and they all get off some excellent one-liners.

Verdict: A big thumbs up. This one is a huge amount of fun, the action is absolutely top-notch, and like I said before, the one-liners are primo. Ragdoll gets the most, especially when he discovers that everything he says ends up sounding perverted, but Bane and Catman get their share, too. This one’s definitely worth picking up, even if you’re not into the “Battle for the Cowl” storyline.

The Human Torch Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

Marvel is putting out a whole series of comics focusing on their Golden Age characters to commemorate their 70th birthday. This one, by Scott Snyder and “Atomic Robo” artist Scott Wegener, focuses on the Human Torch from the 1940s — unlike the more familiar Torch from the “Fantastic Four” comics, the Golden Age Torch was an android who was able to set himself on fire. The first story is pretty straightforward — the Torch rescues a woman from a sewer monster, but its venom means he has to discard his human-looking skin. Finding himself despised as a robot monster, the Torch has to decide whether to stay inside where his appearance won’t horrify people, or to go out and save lives anyway. The second story is a reprint from an old “Human Torch” comic, featuring the introduction of the Torch’s sidekick Toro.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a charming story, with wonderful illustrations. The reprint is a nice bonus. Definitely worth a read.

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Punching Nazis in the Face

Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

This is the first of a series of comics Marvel is putting out to commemorate their 70th birthday. And I gotta say, I love the cover, with Cap and Bucky beating the snot out of Nazis, plus that retro “Timely Comics” banner — for those of you who aren’t as up on comics history, Timely was Marvel’s original name.

Anyway, our main story is written by James Robinson, one of my favorite comics writers, with illustrations by Marcos Martin. It tells a story of Steve Rogers before he became Captain America, when he was a skinny 4-F reject, heartbroken that he won’t be able to serve his country. But by blind luck, a murdered fed pushes a mysterious jewel into his hands, and Steve is on the run from a gang of Nazi saboteurs. He manages to elude them, even manages to kill a couple of them. He even pulls off some fancy stunts with a garbage can lid that suggest that Cap’s later shield-throwing abilities didn’t come from the super-soldier serum.

And there’s a followup story, a reprint from Captain America Comics #7 in 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Far from the battlefields of WWII, it details Cap and Bucky’s battle against a villain called the Toad as he tries to ruin the Brookly Badgers baseball team by killing off the players. It’s a decent story, but I kept getting distracted by the villain, who despite being called the Toad, wears a costume that looks like this:

Siiiigh. You almost wish they’d just called him Batman. (Dig the jawline on his lowlife henchman, though)

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Simon and Kirby reprint is a great bonus, but the main story really is excellent. Steve’s dejection at being rejected by the Army is really well done, the chase through New York is excellent and thrilling, and the framing sequence — Cap and Bucky preparing for a paratrooper jump over Europe — is also very good. Gotta love the way 4-F Steve manages to take out so many Nazis, even if he gets winded and banged-up in the process. And of course, there are very few things, either in comics or in the real world, that are more awesome than beating the heil out of Nazis! This is just a plain wonderful comic from beginning to end.

Wonder Woman #30

Genocide is torturing Etta Candy, Zeus has resurrected Achilles to serve as his warmongering peacenik ambassador to the Earth, and Wonder Woman beats up on Cheetah, mashes the Secret Society’s headquarters, and gains Dr. T.O. Morrow as a new (though probably temporary) ally.

Verdict: Ehhh. It seems fairly well produced, but I’m just colossally bored with this whole storyline.

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