Friday, December 30, 2016

"The End" Week: The Batman Strikes #50!

Back in 2013, we checked out the last issues of four Batman cartoon tie-ins: the Batman Adventures, Gotham Adventures, another Batman Adventures, all tying into Batman: the Animated Series; and Batman: the Brave and the Bold. Today, we've got the last issue of the comic tying into the series between those two, with the Batman Strikes! #50, "Night of the Demon" Written by James Peaty, pencils by Christopher Jones, inks by Terry Beatty.

This is a fun little done-in-one guest-starring Etrigan, the Demon: centuries ago, he betrayed his cohorts the Demons Three--Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast, although they aren't named here--and they had been trapped in a puzzle box ever since. (Seems familiar somehow...) The box has fallen into the hands of the Riddler, who is compelled to open it and release the demons.

As often happens to the Batman animated titles, this was being phased out to make room for the new version. Shame to introduce Etrigan so late in the game! I had been re-watching the Batman on Netflix: if you're not sure about it, start with season four! Good grief, I think we mentioned an episode, "Artifacts," back in 2007!
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"The End" Week: Red Hood/Arsenal #13!

One of the problems I had with the Suicide Squad movie...and a lot of fiction this year...and most of Twitter in real that I have a hard time becoming invested, when everyone's a dick. But at least one may have hidden depths, in today's book! From 2016, Red Hood/Arsenal #13, "Later" Written by Scott Lobdell, pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Belardino Brabo and Juan Albarran.

There's a bit to unpack here, but here goes: between being Speedy and becoming Arsenal, Roy Harper did some mercenary work with a squad that would become known as the Iron Rule. The narrating Jason Todd points out while Roy did it to feel useful, the Rule weren't as public-minded, and have now become nuclear-powered monsters. With the Joker's Daughter, they've captured Arsenal, and plan on murdering him live on the internet, once enough people vote him down. (Shades of a Saw movie or Black Mirror, although they're bad guys and wouldn't be above swiping there!)

Jason, the Red Hood, goes to murdertown on the Iron Rule, using Arsenal's anti-nuclear meltdown arrows...presumably, cadmium arrows, a little gimmicky, but admittedly the sort of thing that would come in handy. Most of the Rule explode grotesquely, although Arsenal knocks out the female member, knowing the Hood wouldn't shoot an unconscious woman. In a standoff with the Hood, the Joker's Daughter wants it to end badly: "Our Dad would've wanted it this way." (EDIT: I'm not sure if JD was still wearing the Joker's old face here, or a somewhat more conventional mask, but there are some crazy eyebrows going there. And coming from me, that's saying something.) Arsenal mangages to tase her, but is a little dismayed how he and Jason might have come across to the viewing public. Jason doesn't care, or at least pretends not to, since he knows his friend Roy is going to stay a hero, even if he doesn't. "You have too much faith in people. I don't have any."

Also this issue: a flashback tale, "A Friendship Born!" Featuring the hero's first meeting as Robin and Speedy, in a charming retro style that's still Joe Bennett? Not bad.

Roy and Jason had only thirteen issues this time, coming after forty with Starfire as Red Hood and the Outlaws; and it's Red Hood and the Outlaws again now, with Bizarro and Artemis.

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"The End" Week: Fell #9!

We've seen any number of comics here that were cancelled and then relaunched, or the numbering transferred, or some other nonsense; but today we have a book that's either the end, or merely the last issue to date. From 2008, Fell #9, written by Warren Ellis, art by Ben Templesmith.

Running nine issues from 2005 to 2008, Fell was Ellis's experiment of a comic with a smaller page count, but a lower price, and hopefully offset by a more-packed storyline and whatever interesting "back matter" would fit. I'm not sure about financially, but it was a critical success and won a couple Eisner awards. Then between Ellis losing a number of files when his computer went down (including Doktor Sleepless, which I'd still like to see finished, Warren) and both Templesmith and Ellis moving on to other projects, Fell #9 remains the last issue to date. (Depending on who you ask, #10 could be at some level of completion, but Image may be unwilling to publish the series at the rate of an issue every decade or so...)

This issue, Detective Richard Fell continues his work in the disturbing "feral" city Snowtown. Having been transferred there under still sketchy circumstances, he seems to be adapting; although his superior officer wonders if maybe Fell isn't headed for trouble. Nonetheless, Fell convinces him to let him handle a hostage situation call, which he does, although he admits freely to making it all up as he goes, just like anyone else. This series was intended to be pretty readable in single installments, yet there's still more than a little foreshadowing this time...if it's still foreshadowing when the foreshadowed event never turns up.
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"The End" Week: Moon Knight #17!

Another year, another last issue for Moon Knight! Let's see: we saw Bendis's Moon Knight #12 last year, his original series wrap-up #38 in 2014, and Fist of Khonshu #6 back in 2011. Today his most recent last issue: from 2015, Moon Knight #17, "Duality" Written by Cullen Bunn, pencils by Ron Ackins, inks by Tom Palmer and Walden Wong.

This issue was the capper to the series began by Warren Ellis, with MK in a sharp white suit without the traditional cloak. And possibly less crazy than usual. Or differently crazy. Here we have another of the recent motifs of Moon Knight comics: his god Khonshu isn't just a figment of his imagination, he's totally real and rather a prick.

A new homeless shelter, managed by unsettling, always-smiling workers, brings in an old man, who notices the shelter is putting the homeless to work panhandling. Or mugging. But they have a different job in mind for anyone too observant: human sacrifice. Complete with guards that look like they're from a King Tut episode of Batman.

Luckily, the old man is a disguised Moon Knight, who manhandles the guards, but is then greeted warmly as "Father" by the smilers. They lead him to his "sister," the "mother," the priestess of Khonshu; who I thought was Nekra, but she isn't referred to by name anywhere here.

Nekra, if it is her, explains she does all this in Khonshu's name, at Khonshu's whim: as god of the moon, his aims may change like the phases. Moon Knight considers that pop-psychology mythology, but does have a bit of a hard time with her and the bizarre, armored monsters at her command. Drugged and hallucinating, MK still knows this was not Khonshu's will: he was.

Burning down the mission, Moon Knight limps away, with Khonshu by his side like the footprints in the sand parable, if Jesus was a violent nutjob. This isn't as good a done-in-one issue as Ellis's run, but at least it's not stretching two issues worth of plot into six-plus, which I kind of feel Lemire's current run is doing.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

"The End" Week: New Mutants #50!

I've been doing these "The End" posts long enough that I pretty much have to pick up any last issues I can when I find them. But I may have let this one drop in price a couple times before throwing down for it: from 2012, New Mutants #50, "House Party" Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, art by Felix Ruiz and Klebs.

This was the third volume of New Mutants, and was a return to more of the original roster: Dani Moonstar, Sunspot, Magma, Cypher, and Warlock; with new additions X-Man and Blink; and old members like Cannonball and Karma guesting here as the team throws a party. Not all of the team is ready to party, though: they had just returned from an alternate future where Cypher had gone bad, and while it had been reset, he was still weirded out about it.

Wolverine and Dr. Strange are among the party guests, and Wolvie tells Moonstar that she's doing all right with the team. Which is then attacked by Tyro, a Warlock-style techno-organic, who has fallen back under the control of his "Siredam." Before the earth can be converted to techno-organic, Cypher is able to use the knowledge from the alternate future to stop Siredam, and the team is able to get back to their party.

The New Mutants have been around since 1982...and honestly, I've never cared for them. At all. Ever. The last page of this issue mentions Cannonball and Sunspot were on their way to Hickman's New Avengers, and...meh.
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"The End" Week: Spider-Man 2099 #46!

We saw Doom 2099's last issue a couple years back, and now we finally catch up with the flagship 2099 title: from 1996, Spider-Man 2099 #46, "A House Divided" Story by Terry Kavanagh and Ben Raab, pencils by Mike McKone, inks by Harry Candelario, Matt Ryan, and Mike S. Miller.

Spider-Man 2099 #44 was Peter David's last issue, and the GCD notes some aspects were altered without his permission, like the reveal of the Goblin 2099. It was going to be the priest Father Jennifer, but instead here she's the hostage of the Vulture 2099. (They don't refer to each other with the 2099's!) Also, the latest Atlantean invasion continues, here claiming two casualties: Miguel's mom Conchata, and dad Tyler Stone. The latter had been one of the main villains the bulk of the series.

The Alchemax building is blown up, and as it collapses Miguel wonders what the next chapter of his life as Spider-Man will be like. Short: he would appear in the short-lived 2099: World of Tomorrow, then in the coda prestige one-shot 2099: Manifest Destiny. That also features Mike McKone art, and was a nice wrap-up/sendoff for the 2099 line: it's also squarebound so I can't scan any of it for you, but dig it up! Skip this one, though.

Since his costume was virtually tailor-made to be an alternate video game costume, Spidey 2099 managed to keep showing up here and there, and has actually had two first issues and a last one since this one: with Peter David, Miguel would return for 12 issues in 2014-2015, then start his current series late 2015 with a new costume. I'm not sure it's selling well, but he's getting an action figure soon, which I'm hoping will make me like the new costume more...

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"The End" Week: JLA Classified #54!

Sometimes, we find a last issue more by chance than design. Like this book! From 2008, JLA Classified #54, "Final Justice" Written by Roger Stern, pencils by John Byrne, inks by Mark Farmer. 

This was the conclusion of a five-parter, split between the classic, pre-satellite roster and the Watchtower team; both facing evangelical alien supergod Titus. Railing against earth's current religions, Titus offers himself as an alternative and in his initial visit, offers the JLA spots in the pantheon under him. On his return visit, he's mostly just out for revenge, and Wonder Woman worries his victory may be prophesied.  

Titus's "thou shalt have no gods before me" schtick could be tiresome, if these issues weren't straight punch-'em-up.  Design-wise, he resembles Kalibak a bit; and even has a big honking mace; but there's no New Gods tie-in here. Still, a perfectly fun wrap-up to this title.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"The End" Week: 2000 AD Showcase #54!

The classic British weekly comic 2000 AD is coming up on its 2000th weekly issue as I write this (months ago, I bought the 2000th prog and it's great!) and is still going strong. But today we'll take a quick glance at a last issue--something I don't see coming for the main title anytime soon! From 1990, 2000 A.D. Showcase #54, featuring stories by A. Ridgway and Alan Hebden, and art by Mike White and Massimo Belardinelli.

This was part of Fleetway/Quality's reprint series of British titles, primarily Judge Dredd stories; and there's even a Dredd two-pager this issue. (It's a bit of a groaner, but still.) The 2000 AD Presents was used to spotlight characters who then might go on to their own reprint title, like Judge Anderson or Dan Dare; or shorter-run features like D.R. & Quinch or Harry Twenty on the High Rock. (There was also a bit of numbering-rejiggering, per the GCD, not unlike a number of American comics!) This issue features the conclusion of the serial "Meltdown Man," which had been serialized since #26, about a man thrown via nuclear explosion into a future of animal-men versus men. There was also a chapter of Mean Arena, a long-running strip about the future sport "street football." Neither is especially well-known in America, but may still be recalled fondly by longtime 2000 AD fans.

Rarely see them mentioned anywhere, but I loved Fleetway/Quality's reprints: I started with Judge Dredd #7, and they introduced me to Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog, the ABC Warriors, the Steel Claw, and more. This book is probably best remembered for reprinting Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's Zenith, although that was just a short portion of its run.
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"Planet Dust."

And I forgot any commentary! Lazy...OK, Klyt is Markov from the game Evolve; we've used the Val and Goliath figures during this storyline already. I haven't played the game, but I did like the figures.

The "alien corpse dust" I think I got from Warren Ellis's brief run on Thor, which had creepy, post-Ragnarok men who would live off of the dust of the destroyed humanity that came before. They were pretty gross, yet somewhat tragic...and it's also been far too long since I listened to the Chemical Brothers Exit Planet Dust.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"The End" Week: Justice League America #113!

If you've been reading comics for some time, you might remember Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis's reinvention of the Justice League; or you might recall Grant Morrison's return to the big seven. You may not be familiar with the ending between those two. From 1996, Justice League America #113, "The Purge, 3rd and Final: To All Our Company" Written by Gerald Jones, pencils by Chuck Wojtkiewicz, inks by Will Blyberg and Prentis Rollins.

While members of Extreme Justice and the upcoming JLA search for them, most of the then-current Justice League was missing in space: Nuklon, Obsidian, Blue Devil, Power Girl, Fire, and Ice Maiden. Along with a version of El Diablo, they were helping the alien Yazz against slave trader Flicker--whose name has to be a joke, since in comic lettering...well, it's a little dicey. If the printing isn't clear, the L and the I can run together and look like a U. Which is why you sometimes don't see names like "Clint," for that matter.

With their powers neutralized by slaver manacles, Blue Devil manages to get the team loose, by sexually harassing Power Girl. He's doing it to get her mad enough to break free (and has the presence of mind to frame Flash for it, since Wally had been pretty bad when they were in the JLE!) but it's still sketchy. Flicker is defeated, and Yazz decides to use his teleportation tech to help other alien refugees; writing him out of the title. Some of the other Leaguers seem not to notice it coming, but others plan on moving on, since it already seemed like the team would be changing. This isn't an awful issue, but nowhere near as memorable as what came before or after.
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"The End" Week: Batman '66 #30!

This issue's barely a year old, so you've got a chance to find it! From 2015, Batman '66 #30, "Main Title" Written by Lee Allred, art and color by Michael and Laura Allred. If you ever watched the Adam West/Burt Ward TV show, this issue is a must-have.

Gotham City is uncharacteristically quiet, since the Penguin, Joker, and Catwoman have organized a business convention for crime! It's a who's who of every costumed creep in town, from Atomic Man to Zebra Man! With only one "major no-show," the Riddler! Who wasn't invited, since Penguin, Joker, and Catwoman are still sore about what happened in Batman: the Movie. Furious over being "blackballed," from prison the Riddler sends a clue to Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'hara, which Batman and Robin solve in about fifteen seconds. (Admittedly, the Riddler wanted them to get this one!)

The criminals see Batman and Robin coming, but even a trap set by Clayface can't stop the Dynamic Duo. Can three hundred crooks, though? Robin starts to get winded, noting by the time they've punched out the crooks once, the first ones are back up again. Under a dogpile of hoodlums, Batman hits the remote control to bring in the Batmobile, which zaps most of the lot with the Bat-Beam. Riddler shows up to laugh at his former compatriots, only to catch a beating from Penguin, Joker, and Catwoman; who are then stopped by Batgirl. The heroes then leave for another adventure, after a quick chat with a variety of familiar reporters and photographers...

This whole issue was set up as a tribute to the opening credits of the show, and is just as good a way to wrap the series as any. Although it ended as a regular title, there's already been three mini-series crossovers: with the Green Hornet and Kato, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the Avengers, Steed and Mrs. Peel. I know Wonder Woman is coming up soon...

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"The End" Week: Rune #7!

It's weird that we've already seen the conclusion to this story, but this is the last issue. Confused? We'll clear up some of it. From 1996, Rune #7, "Fire with Fire" Written by Len Kaminski, pencils by Gabriel Gecko, inks by Stephen Baskerville.

For this series, the vampiric god-monster Rune was only part of the equation. Twin brothers Noel Robinson and Erik Johnson, as part of a government conspiracy/experiment, were fused into a single, superpowered body. Noel had the godlike powers of the Shu-ji during the daylight, while Erik took control as Rune for the night. (During the other's shift, the brother not in control was just a disembodied and usually ignored caption box voice.) This month, Noel was having a hard time of it against cybernetic Rune clones sicced on them by the government's super-computer Genie. At sunset, Rune tags in, and takes the clones apart. Literally.

Meanwhile, visiting from the Marvel 616, Adam Warlock helps a young woman with Ultrapowers control her killer instinct, which gives her inner soul...a makeover. And a falcon. I...huh. The issue closes with Noel back in control the next day, and he's decided he's "taken all the crap (he's) going to from this miserable planet," and is going to start destroying cities until mankind shapes up! Even the more brutal Erik is like, too much, bro. Warlock arrives to confront Noel, which would be wrapped up in Ultraverse Unlimited #1, which we've seen already. The letters page promises a new Rune mini-series in the fall, but I'm not sure it ever appeared. (I thought they might've meant Curse of Rune, but that was before this one.)
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"The End" Week: Dreadstar #64!

It's one thing to have an off issue, but it's another to go out on one: from 1991, Dreadstar #64, "Franchise and Empire" Written by Peter David, pencils by Angel Medina, inks by Bill Anderson.

Peter David had been writing the Jim Starlin-created Dreadstar for a good two years, and had written a number of Star Trek novels and comics as well. For a while there, he also had a rep as a "funny" book writer, in that there were more jokes than usual for that time; and although he could go dark as needed. This issue featured a broad parody version of Star Trek, and is pretty awful.

Which is fine, since not every at-bat is a home run; but the letters page also promises a three-issue prestige format mini-series, Dreadstar Rising, that now only lives on Peter David's Lost Works. Publisher First Comics would go under before their attempt to switch from monthly titles to prestige minis got any books out. (Badger: Bedlam might have been the only one that was released, and I hadn't been sure about that until I looked it up!)

Three years later, Dreadstar would return for a mini-series with Bravura/Malibu. Which wasn't bad; and a damn sight better than this issue.
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Monday, December 26, 2016

"The End" Week: Starman #45!

It's not the version most people think of, but it's the one I probably read the most issues of: from 1992, Starman #45, "Star Shadows, part 4: Starlight, Star Bright" Written by Len Strazewski, pencils by John Calimee, inks by Roy Richardson. And a Mike Mignola cover!

This was the last issue for the Will Payton Starman, who wasn't connected to the Starman from the Justice Society, even though James Robinson would connect him to the legacy later, which would retcon some of the retcon going on here: seeking help for his erratic powers, Will goes to his science consult/love interest Kitty Faulkner--a.k.a Rampage, from Superman. In turn, Kitty gets an assist from her old professor, Dr. Bruce Gordon, formerly known as Eclipso. Gordon had believed his evil alter-ego Eclipso was destroyed, he was not, and he also claims to be responsible for Starman originally getting his powers!

Previously, Starman's origin had been that he was accidentally hit by a blast of stellar energy from a satellite that an "elitist scientific group" had intended to use to give their own agents powers; but Eclipso claims to have turned the satellite on Payton on purpose, to turn him into a battery of energy he could use. In Robinson's retcon, the blast was actually the previous Starman, the alien prince Gayvn; who may have supplanted Payton. Dick move, guy.

After a scuffle with Lobo--who unwittingly had been hired by the Lords of Chaos, who wanted revenge on their failed former servant Eclipso--Starman makes a quick phone call for some back-up, which shows up in a timely fashion! How often does that happen? Power Girl arrives and she and Starman wallop Eclipso in pretty short order. (The villain would not be down for long, Eclipso: the Darkness Within was only a couple months away.) Although she had been worried he'd be more attracted to Power Girl, the issue--and series--ends with Will and Kitty together. I don't think they'd have long, though, since I think Will would die in the second issue of the Darkness Within. He'd be back, eventually; although with the question of whether Will was ever really there.

I think I read this title from start to finish: the early Roger Stern/Tom Lyle issues were probably the best. This last run was relatively straightforward, meat-and-potatoes superheroing; but I liked that Will was a nice, fairly angst-free hero. Though I don't know if his original purple and yellow costume had a lot of fans...

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"The End" Week: Thunderbolts #81!

Sometimes when a long-running series tries to set up a new direction, a jumping-on point can also serve as a jumping-off point. And sometimes--especially with Marvel--a last issue retroactively might not be. From 2003, Thunderbolts #81, "Getting Even More!" Written by John Arcudi, art by Francisco Ruiz Velasco.

Thunderbolts made its debut in 1997, but after six years the title was making a change; from super-villains struggling for redemption, to a super-villain MMA organization-slash-Fight Club, with covers in the style of men's magazines of the day like Maxim or Stuff. The stakes may have been lower, but arguably more personal. Still, it didn't take off, and was cancelled after six issues. This issue, some of the villains--including Mankiller and Scorpion--complain about Spider-Man, who they blame for most of their misfortunes. They agree to team up to take Spidey down for good, even though at least one of them points out that may have been tried before.

Still, Daniel Axom, aka the Battler, has his doubts, even if he's still filled with rage over the beating Spidey gave him and the time he had to serve afterwards. (He also blames Spidey for a lot of the property damage, and may have a point, since Spidey smashed a wall with Axom's face knocking him out.) Likewise, Mankiller hates Spidey, but when she's acquitted of the charges against her she loses her motivation to fight him again. After a talk with former champ Armadillo, Axom opts out of the super-villain team-up, which ends with Scorpion and a woman--possibly low-tier Spidey villainess Delilah--webbed up to a streetlight with little kids throwing stones at them.

I don't think you'll find Thunderbolts #82-99, but the numbering would return for Thunderbolts #100.
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