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Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 285 (December 1985) September 15, 2008

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If this issue serves as any evidence, it is not hard to see why John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four is considered legendary. In this standalone issue, “Hero,” the Human Torch gets a stark contrast to Peter Parker’s “The Boy Who Collected Spider-Man” tale. The beginning of the story focuses on a boy named Tommy who idolizes the Human Torch. At school this boy is bullied, and his parents seem to have little time for him at home. The only thing that he seems to live is to follow the adventures of Johnny Storm. When a neighbor leaves out a tank of experimental fuel and asks Tommy to put it away, he cautions him not to spill any because it could turn him into “a real Human Torch.”

A few weeks later, Johnny is approached by a doctor who says that a dying boy would love to meet him in his final moments. As Johnny meets him, we learn that this boy is Tommy, and is suffering from third degree burns because he wanted to be “just like his hero.” As Johnny tries to cope with a death that he believed he caused, he is visited by the Beyonder (this is a Secret Wars II tie-in after all), who shows him that all Tommy ever lived for was the Torch, and that the rest of his life was only sad and pathetic. According to the Beyonder, he did not die because of Johnny, he lived because of Johnny.

I do not know if I really agree with this statement. Is it better that he had a shorter life full of suffering, or would it have been right for him to continue on with a chance to improve his life? I cannot truly say if I enjoyed this issue, but I must say, it does introduce some interesting philosophical questions. If you’re looking for a single story, not concerning traditional superheroics, but something that’ll leave you thinking for quite a while afterwards, this is certainly one to look into.

Next week: Silver Surfer 6 (Volume 1)

-LOTRKing

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Review of Mini-Marvels: Rock, Paper, Scissors TPB (4 stars) September 12, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This graphical novel compilation is utterly hilarious and completely worth the cover price! If you enjoy superheroes and humor, this is a must read. My review can be found here.

-LOTRKing

Review of Secret Invasion 6 (4.5 stars) September 11, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how Bendis does it. Very little actually happens in this issue. As with every previous issue, there seem to be panels and pages that serve as nothing more than an ad for various tie-ins. And yet, this still manages to be a spectacular read. I’ll start off with the first thing I wondered: the Skrulls seem very happy that the heroes have the Wasp with them; what exactly was in the formula that “Hank” gave her back in Mighty Avengers 8? And why is Veranke so sure that it guarantees their victory, but wishes to use it only as a last resort?

Now concerning the new speech that the Skrulls made on all of our media, that was a brilliant move. I could see how many humans would be swayed to accept the Skrull’s promise of peace and prosperity. No matter how this story ends in two issues, the Skrulls will have still left a huge scar on Earth. Seriously, if we thought the aftermath of Civil War was big, the Skrull’s attack on Earth will definitely have much larger ramifications. And what is this Dark Reign that Marvel is hinting about?

Of course, the best part comes at the end (SPOILER WARNING), as Thor finally meets the new Captain America, and summons as many people as he can to make a last stand against the Skrull army. I won’t lie, seeing an army of heroes and villains united together to take on a legion of Skrulls caused my little nerd heart to almost burst with excitement. Once again, the parallels here between Secret Invasion and Civil War are amazing. Once more, the call of “Avengers Assemble!” is given to rally the troops, but it is no longer a war of ideas, now it is a war of survival. The battle begins on the final page, but this will not be fighting to disable, with a few accidental deaths, as occurred in CW, this is a battle to the death, and I expect the casualties to be high. (Oh, and I still think Dr. Strange will show up to pwn some Skrulls before this is all over.) Secret Invasion just may be Marvel’s most epic crossover yet.

-LOTRKing

Review of Fantastic Four: True Story 2 (4 stars) September 10, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Hey, another day with nothing new to review! So, you now get a link to previous review by me from WCBR. For those who aren’t reading this (and you should be), Fantastic Four: True Story takes the FF to a place they’ve never gone before: the world of fiction. As a dark force seeks to control the world of human creativity, the FF must travel through some of literature’s most beloved novels to stop it. FF: True Story is certainly very different from the rest of the comics you are reading, but is just as certainly an entertaining story. It is written by Paul Cornell, who writes the current Captain Britain and the MI:13 series in addition to be a well known writer of the Dr. Who TV series. If you don’t plan on picking up the single issues, I at least encourage you to get the TPB when it comes out; this is not to be missed. Here is my review of issue two, and, for good measure, my review of issue one.

-LOTRKing

Review of Amazing Spider-Man 571 (4.5 stars) September 9, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Marvel has done it again! No, I’m not referring to delivering another spectacular chapter of New Ways to Die (which they have done), I’m referring to them using yet another false hope cover. To anyone who was hoping that Norman Osborn would return to his Green Goblin persona is these pages, you’re going to be severely disappointed. To top it all off, Peter and Norman don’t even fight in this issue. I realize that covers are supposed to attract readers, but don’t they realize that new readers will feel just as cheated as everyone else when they realize that the cover is just a gimmick?

Well, initial disappointment aside, this was yet another enthralling issue of New Ways to Die. Spider-Man is, ironically, saved from Anti-Venom as the Thunderbolts attack, while Norman proves to Menace that despite not wearing a suit nor flying a glider, he can still make a stand for himself. Returning to Anti-Venom, we learn that he does not have the weaknesses to high sonic frequencies or heat. As for Menace, we still do not learn who he is, but we finally see some motivation behind his attacks. And just to throw in some further character development, Harry finally shows that he has a backbone, and stops being the whiny snob that he’s been for most of Brand New Day.

Of course, the big shock comes at the end. Spider-Man, in his haste to escape Anti-Venom and the Thunderbolts, leaves his camera webbed on a ledge where it is discovered by Norman Osborn. Examining the photos, Norman is able to ascertain that Spidey’s spider chest symbol is always in the center, and must therefore contain a tracer for the camera. With the camera examined, he discovers this frequency and plans to use it to find Spider-Man. And who does he intend to capture him? Bullseye. As you can see, we get plenty of more action and story build up in the chapter. Where will it all end? We have two issues to find out…

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 157 (April 1975) September 8, 2008

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Either I’m easy to please, or I’ve been really lucky the past couple weeks because this issue is yet another great read that was randomly picked. I mean, the cover should say it all: the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, AND Dr. Doom? How could this issue NOT be good? The story is the finale of a three-parter (I haven’t read the first two parts, so I’m not too familiar with the entire story) as Doom has captured the FF (which includes Medusa as a current replacement for Sue) and is transferring a portion of the Silver Surfer’s Power Cosmic into his own Doomsman android.

First off, Rich Buckler needs to be awarded kudos for his very Kirby-esque pencil job. He also definitely gets tons of cool points for his last four pages being seemingly framed by fire (which makes sense when the master villain is revealed.) Of course, good art is always to be paired with a great story, and Roy Thomas delivers. Much of it is typical FF drama as the team tries to work their way through a series of dangers and traps that Doom has planted for them.

But the heart of the story comes with the seeming reunion of Norrin Radd and Shalla-Bal. Shalla-Bal seems to have lost her memory of the Surfer, until the two embrace, only to find tragedy. The reason she has lost her memory is because she never had it: she is only an Earth look alike, tricked into serving Doom to help capture the Surfer. As the Surfer is able to break free and help the FF defeat the Doomsman android and Doom himself, the Surfer leaves, sorrowing, and wondering if he shall ever see his Shalla-Bal again.

Here, Thomas pulls back the curtain and reveals that all of this was carefully constructed by Mephisto to further torture the Surfer. And the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) part? There was no look-alike. The girl is indeed Shalla-Bal who has been implanted with false memories from Mephisto. Norrin will continue to attempt to escape Earth to find his true love, while she will be living here, unknown, while he does this.

As I said, I didn’t actually read the first two parts, but I probably will. If this issue was any indication, this arc is a great piece from the early “Bronze Era” of Marvel Comics. It may be old, but if you ever get a chance to read these issues, I once again have a high recommendation. (I’m almost hoping next week’s pick will be a bad or mediocre one, so I don’t have to keep telling you guys to look up all these great old back issues! 😉 )

Next week: Fantastic Four 285 (A Secret Wars II tie-in!)

-LOTRKing

Review of Amazing Spider-Man 570 (4.5 stars) September 5, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

New Ways to Die, Chapter Three does nothing but build up an increasingly epic story. As Venom and Anti-Venom begin their brawl, Spider-Man enters the fray, and Anti-Venom discovers he has “cleansing powers” which he wants to use to kill the Venom symbiote. Much of the issue is a beautifully rendered fight scene (kudos to JR Jr!) with Norman Osborn observing and assessing.

There is however a quick break as Menace attacks the home of Bill Hollister. Call me crazy, but did anyone else see Menace’s Bennett-like qualities in this scene? For example, when Menace says: “And Bill? My Li’l Billy Boy? My Billy, that guy ain’t gonna be you!” was anyone else reminded of instances when Bennett said (about Peter): “My scoop-getter guy! My scoops! My scoopy!” or similar phrasing about Norman in part one of NWtD? (Though I don’t remember exactly what he said, and I’m too lazy to dig that issue out.) Note also that both Menace and Bennett are extremely anti-Hollister.

Anyway, moving back to the battle, as Anti-Venom and Spider-Man unite to take out Venom and Dan Slott pulls a fast one by inserting a dirty joke. (No Spider-Man, I don’t want to know what you’re doing to Venom. What happened to don’t ask, don’t tell?) As awesome as it was to see these two once arch-rivals team up against one of their greatest enemies, am I the only one hoping that they didn’t really kill the Venom symbiote, like it appears they did? I mean, killing Carnage was one thing (besides, it looked extremely cool to see the Sentry tear him in half) but killing the original symbiote? Please tell me that didn’t just happen!

And as if that’s not enough, Anti-Venom throws a new conundrum at us. As he attempts to purge Peter of the remaining bits of the symbiote that he apparently still carries, he also discovers that Peter has irradiated blood, and decides to cleanse that as well, despite Peter’s begging cry not to. Yes, we’ve had “Spider-Man’s lost his powers in the middle of a big fight, now what’s he gonna do” storylines before, but I for one am dubious as to how Peter’s gonna get himself out of this mess. Oh and the final panel of Norman meeting Menace? Priceless. I echo my words of last week: do NOT wait for the TPB, get this NOW.

-LOTRKing

Review of Invincible Iron Man 5 (4.5 stars) September 3, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Well, we finally got it, the epic battle between Iron Man and Iron Man 2.0 occurs within these pages, and to those who complained about the Iron Man/Iron Monger fight in the movie, this is definitely more satisfying. But I’m jumping ahead of myself, the beginning gives us a nice refresher on Iron Man history, by telling us the history of Stark Industries via a tour that Zeke is taking (along with other civilians). This serves as just another example of Fraction’s ability to integrate movie fans smoothly by telling them how Stark Industries has evolved from the weapons manufacturer displayed in the film, while remaining relevant to the story and not seeming like a rehash.

In the midst of this tour, the focus jumps to Tony who begins an evacuation of the four Stark facilities where Zeke’s tech was detected last issue. Tony, who has gone to the Long Island location, hopes he has picked the right one and goes on the hunt for Zeke. Meanwhile in Valencia, Spain, the evacuation is not quick enough, and the bombers there detonate themselves, taking some fifty remaining civilians and workers with them.

MAJOR SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH: As the tables turn and Zeke finds Tony, the earlier mentioned brawl begins. Larroca and D’Armata deliver some of their best artwork yet as the two high tech enemies display the full extent of their power. This isn’t the “Tony still getting used to the armor and Obadiah’s trial run” battle of the movie. This is two experienced fighters with some of the highest evolved tech fighting to the death. And death seemingly comes for Tony. Given, this is obviously a trick, because I don’t think Marvel is going to kill off one of their major superheroes so soon after a) they’re still working on Captain America’s Death storyline and b) Iron Man just became one of America’s favorite superheroes after his highly successful movie. But exactly how Iron Man has eluded death is something I can’t wait to discover next issue.

THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IS SPOILER-FREE: There is still time to jump on this series! If you loved the movie, and are looking to start reading comics: this series is the perfect place to start (hey, it’s working for my nephew!) Despite being in the middle of an arc, this issue still serves fairly well for jumping on, though picking up the first four issues is recommended, if possible. I’ve said it at least a dozen times, and I’ll say it again: if you enjoyed the movie or comics in general: you need to be reading this. If you enjoy both, there is something seriously wrong with you if you aren’t reading this already! If IIM can keep this up, it might just take Avengers: The Initiative’s spot in my monthly top three!

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Amazing Spider-Man 284 (January 1987) September 2, 2008

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Picture this: a six-part Spider-Man saga, involving a Green-Goblin inspired villain, whose identity remains a mystery, a group of villains led by a mastermind, a close friend of Peter acting mysteriously, two rivals vying for one of the most powerful positions in NYC, throw in some troubles that Peter is having with a new publisher at the Bugle and add in the fact that Peter is currently not married to Mary Jane, and what do you get? Well, it’s certainly not the current “New Ways to Die” storyline, if that’s what you’re thinking. No, this describes 1987’s lesser known (unfortunately) “Gang War.”

In this instance, the goblin villain is the original Hobgoblin, his identity was just as much a mystery as the original Green Goblin’s was, and as much as the current Menace’s is. (One of these days, they’ve gotta create a new Goblin and tell us who he or she is right off the bat.) The funny thing is, all three of the major contenders for this role (included who it actually turned out to be) appear in this issue, all acting suspiciously (namely, Ned Leeds, Flash Thompson, and Roderick Kingsley – and if you don’t know who it turned out to be, you better do some research, because it is actually a fairly complicated story.)

As for the power fight, it is not a mayoral election, rather a war between gang-lords to fill the recently vacated seat of the Kingpin. While Hammerhead and Silvermane make a play for it, the two biggest contenders are the Arranger (who was left in charge by the Kingpin at his departure) and the Rose (whose identity remained a secret at this time, but when revealed, not only fit the story perfectly, but showed that he had as much a claim to the Kingpin’s “throne” as the Arranger did).

The entire saga relayed the power struggles of the various groups, the resulting violence in NYC, and the reactions of Spider-Man and other heroes to this power-grab. I don’t know if this was ever released in TPB (I doubt it), but despite not being legendary, it was an extremely great read. ASM 284 is the first part, and it runs through 289. If you ever get the chance to read these issues, I highly recommend it. I my eyes, this is one of the best “unremembered” Spider-Sagas.

Next week: Fantastic Four 157

-LOTRKing

Review of Avengers: The Initiative 16 (4.5 stars) August 29, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how Slott and Gage do it, but they’ve once again not only packed in a massive amount of story into a single issue, they’ve also continued to maintain their excellent story-telling standards. Somehow, they manage to touch base with everyone remaining at Camp Hammond (including providing a very interesting set up for the upcoming issue of Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., I may have to look into that one) and also with Crusader at the battle in NYC, and still provide what feels like a full length story with 3D-Man joining the Skrull Kill Krew. We even meet back up with Komodo by the end.

At Camp Hammond Trauma and Physique find War Machine and the Baron, who in turn all go look for Pym. Luckily, remnants of Stanetech have kept War Machine’s suit from complete failure, and eventually let him reboot. As this happens, he receives an embedded programmed message from Tony instructing him to stop whatever he is doing, and go to a certain location for instructions, and most importantly, to keep it secret. As Trauma, Physique, and the Baron go to the infirmary to help the injured, Pym has a meeting with other Skrulls on base, Ant-Man, who has remained hidden, sees this, and wishes he was elsewhere.

As 3D-Man meets the Kill Krew, they decide to take out the infiltrated Skrull from each Initiative team, with the first stop being Arizona. There, after defeating an undercover Skrull, Komodo plans to join with the next stop being Vegas to save Hardball! (And they better stop by Montana pretty soon, or there’s gonna be an angry fan if Cloud 9 turns up dead!)

So Slott and Gage prove once again that A:TI is one of the best books on the market. Add in the fact that Caselli has returned for art, and you have just another typical(ly great) issue from this series. If you aren’t reading this yet, take a moment now to ask yourself why.

-LOTRKing