Category Archives: Retro Friday

Retro Review: Old Man Logan

oldmanloganPublished in 2008 in Wolverine #66-72 and Old Man Logan Giant-Size, the story known as “Old Man Logan” would be one that would go on to impact the character known as Wolverine, and Marvel Comics, 9 years later. Written by Mark Millar with art by Steve McNiven, “Old Man Logan” fuses classic dystopian future X-Men tales like “Days of Future Past” with Mad Max, and western heroes made famous by the likes of Clint Eastwood.

“Old Man Logan” is a road trip story at its heart. A now blind Hawkeye enlists a retired Logan to help drive across the country to deliver a package. The United States is now a hellscape ruled by supervillains who have carved the country up into their own kingdoms after having banded together to defeats the world’s heroes.

It’s been 9 years since this story was first released and I remember picking it up in single issues and as a trade all these years later, it still holds up. Interestingly, the story beyond holds up, and definitely is a modern classic in many ways.

Millar doesn’t give us anything really new with the story, but how he packages it and its setting is what really makes it all stand out. We’re given a new Logan who is a pacifist, refusing to pop his claws or take part in any violence. He’ll take a beating instead of giving one. It’s a fascinating shift for the character who at one point was one of the most deadly superheroes out there. What caused him to be this way? That’s teased out through numerous issues getting to the emotional reveal that packs a punch. It’s not just a fall from grace for the character, but a reminder that deep down he’s an animal in many ways. Millar gives us humanity for a character who often is depicted as a killing machine.

Joining Logan is Hawkeye, Clint Barton, who is now blind and been up to some shady shit. Having to get a package across the country, out of the two, Barton is the badass letting arrows fly and talking up a storm.

The story is packed with winks and nods as we move across the country to see the devastation. From bones laying around to tokens of the villain victory, this is a comic that is full of Easter eggs for comic fans.

That’s delivered by Steve McNiven who’s backed up on inks and color by a team of individuals and the art is fantastic. McNiven is a talented artist who gives us both wide expanses and close up action scenes. There’s emotional moments and moments full of rage and destruction. With a sparse choice of colors that enhance the situation, the art will have you linger on every page looking at the details that tease the story within the story.

“Old Man Logan” holds up and in some ways, I appreciate it more reading it in one sitting and really taking in the details. The story falls back on tropes a bit too many times with twists that are easy to see coming, but it’s still enjoyable and entertaining. A classic in every sense of the word and something that’s been copied, but yet to be improved upon.

Story: Mark Millar Art: Steve McNiven
Inkers: Dexter Vines, Mark Morales, Jay Leisten
Colorists: Morry Hollowell, Christina Strain, Justin Ponsor, Jason Keith, Nathan Fairbairn, Paul Mounts
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Retro Review: Wolverine: Rahne Of Terra

Wolverine_Rahne_of_Terra_Vol_1_1.jpgFirst published in August of 1991 (according to the legal bit in the back cover), the last time I read Wolverine: Rahne Of Terror must have been nearly twenty years ago in an old British reprint comic called Wolverine Unleashed (Issues #24-26), so when I found it for $3 at my LCS a couple weeks ago I jumped at the chance to read it again. You can’t really go wrong getting a 64-page story for three bucks, I thought, and I remembered enjoying it when I last read the story. Of course yesterday I saw the comic in the dollar bin, but what can you do?

Now despite this being labeled as a Wolverine comic, the story focuses more on Rhane Sinclair and the New Mutants than it does the title character. While it was probably a useful tactic aimed at pushing the New Mutants using Wolverine’s name at the time – though how successful it was at the time,  I’ll never know because I don’t care enough to research sales numbers from that time right now.

Aside from focusing on the New Mutants Rahne Of Terra positions Wolverine as the villain thanks to the age old mind control trick, and places him at the mercy of an evil wizard who has pulled Wolverine into an alternate dimension that echoes medieval Europe in order to murder a few people. The story isn’t one of Peter David‘s best, but it’s still an enjoyable diversion for a half hour or so. Andy Kubert‘s art holds up surprisingly well, although some of the hair styles and costume choices have a very 90’s feel, the alternate universe nature of the story mitigates the aesthetically aging moments.

Although this story doesn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped it would after twenty years, it’s still worth reading if you come across it in a dollar bin, but it may not be worth deliberately going out to look for it.

Story: Peter David Pencils/Inks: Andy Kubert
Colours: Sherilyn Van Vaulkenberg
Story: 6 Art: 7 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

Retro Review: Incredible Hulk #181

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_181.jpgIf you’re a Wolverine fan then you’ve probably read this comic in some form or another over the years, more than likely in one reprinted form or another – which is what I read for this review because I can’t afford an original copy. Specifically a 25th anniversary reprint edition of the story that also included Incredible Hulk #180 – Wolverine’s first appearance was on the final page in this comic, his full comic debut would come the following month in issue 181 – as well as a story featuring Hercules from Marvel Treasury Edition #26 that was largely forgettable, I can honestly say that The Incredible Hulk #181 was much better than I remember it being.

Having first read this story when I was twelve in a British reprint magazine (Wolverine Unleashed #16), I remember not really being all that impressed with the story. There was too much Hulk and not enough Wolverine for my twelve year old sensibilities, and it would be safe to say that a lot of the comic was lost on me back then.

While I don’t think I’ve grown up a whole lot since I was twelve – I literally just spent the last ten minutes posing an action figure – I may have matured somewhat in my understanding of story telling, and the themes of loneliness that Len Wein is exploring using the Hulk, because I don’t remember these threads running through the comic the The_Incredible_Hulk_and_Wolverine_Vol_1_1.jpgfirst time I read it, although to be I was probably more interested in the action at the time.

One of the first things I noticed was the style of the narration throughout the book as Wein filled in details that weren’t always covered by the art. While in today’s comics the reader should be “reading” the art as well as the words, that was less of a requirement here, which had the end result of feeling as though there was a lot more story included within the comic, and a greater insight into the Hulk’s thought process – such that it is. While I won’t claim to prefer this method over the modern, or vice versa, it is an interesting way to tell a story in a comic book, and as I read more older comics for these retro reviews it’s something I’m excited to see more of.

As I said, when I first sat down with (a reprint of) The Incredible Hulk #181 I didn’t actually expect to enjoy it, let alone for it to be as good as it is. Despite being more than thirty years old, this comic still holds up to this day; the story is still relevant and the artwork is still vibrant and exciting (and not at all dated); reading this today was one hell of a pleasant surprise, and if yu can track down a copy to read, I’d highly recommend you do so. Especially if  you’re a Wolverine fan.

Story: Len Wein: Penciller: Herb Trimpe
Inker: Jack Abel Colourist: Glynis Wein
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy (a reprint).

Retro Review: Wolverine: Doombringer

wolverine_doombringer_vol_1_1In November of 1997, Wolverine: Doombringer was released. A one shot graphic novel written by Doug Moench with Michel Dutkiewicz providing the pencils, and Jimmy Palmiotti on inks. The team are joined by colourists Mark McNabb, Dennis Calero and Atomic Paintbrush. 

Clocking in at 48 pages, the comic is set during the period of time after Mariko Yashida canceled her wedding to Logan in order to atone for the sins of her father and her final appearance in Wolverine #57, a comic published five years before the publication date of Doombringer. The story itself starts a millennium ago with one group of mystics trying to end the world by summoning the Doombringer, and another group trying to prevent them by freezing time using an intricately detailed piece of magic.

Fast forward a thousand years and the conflict between the two opposing mystic groups has been relegated to myth when one of those impacted by the spell is awoken and goes to seek aid from the modern descendants of his clan. Events transpire, and eventually, Wolverine gets involved.

Once that happens we get a pretty standard late 90’s Wolverine tale that won’t set your world on fire, but is the equivalent to a PG-13 popcorn action movie; an enjoyable, if unspectacular, comic that has all the action you’d expect with very little damage to Wolverine beyond his torn costume.

While I still enjoyed the comic, at the end of the day it wasn’t as good as I remembered – and that’s a bigger disappointment for me than anything else.

Story: Doug Moench Pencils: Michael Dutkiewicz Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colours: Mark McNabb, Dennis Calero and Atomic Paintbrush
Story: 6.75 Art: 7 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read 

Retro Review: The Incredible Hulk #404

incredible_hulk_vol_1_404Another dollar bin find a couple of weeks ago, I picked up this comic purely because of the cover. I’ve always been partial to the Juggernaut, so the thought of seeing him with the Hulk smashing some stuff around seemed too good to pass up for the lowly price of $1 (for those curious, the cover price was $1.25 when it was released in April 1993).

Written by Peter David, with pencils by Gary Frank, and inks by Cam Smith and colours by Glynis OliverThe Incredible Hulk #404 was a great read for the price I paid for it. The story picks up with the Hulk seemingly under some form of mind control as he attacks the Avengers (most of whom I don’t recognize) at the Juggernaut’s behest.

The issue takes place at some point in the middle of an arc, which meant that while I had no idea how or why things had evolved to the point they were at, but the nature of the comic – and the fight with – meant that I could enjoy it all the same. There’s also a subplot with Betty Banner, Doc Samson and (I presume) Rick Jones, but it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me – probably because I haven’t read any of the previous issues.

Artistically, I was a fan. This sort of style is how I remembered comics being when I fist started getting into them (ironic seeing as how it’s from the same era, eh?), so there was a nice throwback for me personally there, but your mileage may vary.

Overall, this issue hasn’t aged too badly; it probably wasn’t a great story when it was initially released, and while it still isn’t great, it was enjoyable.

Story: Peter David Pencils: Gary Frank Inks: Cam Smith Colours: Glynis Oliver
Story: 6.5 Art: 7 Overall: 6.75 Recommendation: Read

Retro Friday Review: Youngblood #1

youngblood__1992_1st_series__01Introducing the next generation of super-heroes…meet Youngblood. This explosive first issue features two teams and two exciting adventures. First Shaft, Die Hard, Bedrock, Vogue, and Chapel must confront the nefarious Four. Then, Sentinel leads Riptide, Brahma, Photon, Psi-Fire, and Cougar into a Middle-Eastern country to put an end to an evil dictator’s rule.

It’s been around 25 years since I last read Youngblood #1, the comic that really launched Image Comics setting off a revolution in the comic industry. Even then, I remember walking away from the comic enjoying the action movie quality art, but rather underwhelmed by the story. 25 years later, that pretty much remains. It might actually be a bit more negative since then.

In honor of Image’s 25th birthday I decided to go back and explore it’s launch titles over the next few weeks and it felt appropriate to start here. While Youngblood #1 is mainly attributed with Rob Liefeld, the comic featured dialogue by Hank Kanalz, and that crediting makes me think Liefeld plotted the general comic doing the art with Kanalz handling the dialogue after. And the comic really feels like that. While the action is over the top, the dialogue is stilted and at times makes so little sense.

There’s a focus in the first story on the briefing the team received. Like, they’re obsessed about it. What might be a witty back and forth in another comic for a panel or two goes on for pages, like this is all that’s on their mind. It gave me a bigger sense that there really wasn’t a script at all and things were written to bit what Liefeld drew.

Broken up in two stories, the comic follows two teams. One is sent on a mission to the Middle East to take on a Saddam Hussein like character giving a clue as to the age of the comic and what was going on at the time. The other story basically is just an introduction to that team mainly focused on Shaft, the “star” of the group. The two stories are diametrically the opposite in style, pacing, and to some extent actual look. Splitting the comic up to two teams was fine, but this first issue feels like one team is given a full story arc and the other just a sliver of a story. It’s odd, really odd. It also very much feels like it embodies the stereotypical 90s comic in a way too.

The art is pure Liefeld. If you love his style, the comic holds up a lot, but even with the style it’s amazing to see how that’s changed over the years. While it’s what I’ll call “action movie” in scenes, Liefeld still generally sticks to panels, not really breaking things or changing up page layouts all that much. It’s kind of fun in a way to return to see this and reflect how he’s shown growth even on his own as well as seeing just how comics have changed. Still, everything stereotypical that Liefeld is known for is there. Lots of bullets, big guns, pouches. If you’ve got a check list of what to look for, it’s here.

There’s a concept toy Youngblood that’s great, an exploration of media and violence, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. This first issue doesn’t really touch on any of that. It’s a debut that doesn’t deliver on what is promised. I don’t remember things getting much better as they went on, but it’s fun in some ways to return and see something from so many years ago…  and more importantly reflect on how far we’ve come.

Dialogue: Hank Kanalz Art: Rob Liefeld Color: Brian Murray
Story: 2 Art: 6 Overall: 3 Recommendation: Pass

Retro Friday Review: Fantastic Four #281

fantastic_four_vol_1_281New York City is in flames due the hatred stoked by the Hate-Monger and his crew including the mysterious Malice (in bondage gear) and Psycho-Man, a concept and story you’d think was rather appropriate for this day and age. The issue is broken up with a few storylines including Daredevil leaping around attempting to stop a hate crime. Reed Richards and Johnny Storm are hold up at the Avengers Mansion attempting to figure out what’s going on and Johnny is more focused on a missing Alicia Masters.

All of that eventually leads to Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch and Daredevil battling Malice to eventually learn, it’s really Sue who has been brainwashed by the Hate-Monger who has brought out her anger towards her brother and Reed. A slap in the face later Sue is snapped out of it breaking down into tears.

Released in 1985 for a pocket breaking 65 cents, Fantastic Four #281 is a comic that can be read on its own but is best as part of the multi-issue story arc that’s going on at the time, which includes Secret Wars II.

Much of the issue is a set up for those final few pages featuring the confrontation with Malice. And lets focus on this incarnation of Sue Storm. There’s the skimpy bondage like out which you can catch some of on the cover. What’s missing is the leather mask featuring spikes an amazing top ten for questionable comic costumes of the time. There’s the motivation of Sue too which is chalked up to jealousy of everyone. And her being snapped out of it by a slap is icing on the cake of this particular issue as if Sue is “hysterical” and this will wake her. It just reeks of the trope of the hysterical woman and it’s almost comical if it weren’t so odd.

honkyThe oddity includes Daredevil’s segment which begins with his swinging around the city dealing with crime and protecting a woman who is being assaulted by two individuals. All of that leads to a rather infamous scene of the hero being punched by the woman who states:

Don’ touch me! I don’t want no jive honky touchin’ me!

This was 1985! Did anyone talk like that in 1985? I was all of six so don’t remember. Has anyone talked like that period!? It’s bad writing drawing upon a stereotype that today is humorous in how bad it is. And this was written by John Byrne who is considered a legend by many!

The art too is by Byrne with inks be the also legendary Jerry Ordway, colors by Glynis Oliver, and letters by John Workman. As I mentioned, Sue’s “Malice” personality is utterly hilarious in the design. Generally, everything is classic Byrne in its style and for those familiar with his work seeing the pages, it’s clear it’s him. None of it is absolutely amazing, but it’s classic for the time.

The issue is infamous for so many reasons, and what’s interesting is that the story and issue could easily be updated for today and be relevant in some ways. The idea of a person driving NYC to hate and tearing the city apart is a story that could easily fit in 2017 and with some tweaks, it’d be absolutely amazing. The parts that had me sighing are par for the time period with horrible costumes, moments that just don’t fly today, and a very different flow of the comic and dialogue compared to today.

It’s an interesting comic for the time showing off the good, the bad, and the just plain weird.

Story: John Byrne Art: John Byrne Inks: Jerry Ordway
Color: Glynis Oliver Letters: John Workman
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Retro Friday Review: Archer & Armstrong #2

archerandarmstrong2To save all Creation, Archer attempts to assassinate Erica Pierce! But “Mothergod” is beyond harm and she easily thwarts the attack. For this affront, Archer and Armstrong are thrown in the dungeon. When the pair escape, Erica sends her finest warrior, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter, to hunt them down. But, sensing Archer’s inner nobility, Turok spares their lives and forsakes his allegiance to Mothergod.

My experience with Valiant comics in the 90s was scattered and I don’t remember reading this issue before, and in general anything from the Unity event.

Archer & Armstrong #2 was written by Jim Shooter and Barry Windsor-Smith and part of the company-wide crossover from 1992 bringing together Harbinger, Magnus, Rai, Shadowman, Solar, and X-O Manowar. It also introducde new series Archer & Armstrong and Eternal Warrior. The main story involves Mothergod who attempts to rewrite reality bringing together all of these heroes.

So, here I am reading this second issue for an event I don’t remember.

The issue is an interesting one and you can see a lot of what we’ve come to expect with today’s take on these two characters. Armstrong is the long lived partier and Archer is still the religious conservative. This take though has Archer more as a monk than the Christian nut we see in the latest take. It’s a slight difference, but an interesting one to note.

What’s also fun is seeing Turok involved in the series. For those not familiar this version of the Valiant universe featured Gold Key characters like Turok, Magnus, and Solar. Those were comics I remember a bit more and seeing Turok running around with his bow taking on these two added a bit of nostalgia for that take on the character (my first introduction to him).

The story is basically a jail break, nothing much more than that, and the relationship between these two characters that continues to shine. This might be one of the best pairings of characters ever in comics and what works now worked then giving it a bit of a timeless feel to it all.

The art by Barry Windsor-Smith is solid with colors by Maurice Fontenot and inks by Bob Layton. I’m not quite sure how to describe the style but the colors have an almost colored pencil look to it on top of Windsor-Smith’s fantastic pencils. I’ve been a fan of his art for some time, and we can see some of why here.

The issue is being dropped in the middle of a story but I found myself being entertained. There’s enough there that one can enjoy and seeing versions of these characters from 25 years ago kept me pretty entertained. Though it was different, a lot remained the same.

Story: Jim Shooter and Barry Windsor-Smith Art: Barry Windsor-Smith
Ink: Bob Layton Color: Maurice Fontenot

Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Read

Retro Friday Review: The Avengers #256

avengers_vol_1_256The Olympian Apollo visits Avengers Mansion, bringing Hercules a new costume to replace his previous garb, shredded in battle. Then, at the team’s regular meeting, the Wasp is reinstated as chairman and the Black Knight officially rejoins the roster. The team is then summoned to the site of a South Atlantic shipwreck, where they learn of a monstrous extraterrestrial menace called Terminus. Following the mystery being’s trail, they rescue the staff of a wrecked Antarctic research station and deduce that their quarry has entered the hidden primeval jungle known as the Savage Land, where, at that very moment, the giant alien menaces a party of researchers and their guide, Ka-Zar.

Released in 1985, Avengers #256 was 65 cents worth of… parliamentary procedure. Kicking off a new “era” for the team the issue mainly revolves around where the team will go from here. It would seem the Vision went a bit nuts and took off with Wanda quitting the team and that means there needs to be new leadership and that winds up being… the Wasp!

There’s so much wrong in this issue, it’s actually hard to figure out where to start and it’s almost comical in a way.

But, lets start with the Wasp because so much of the issue revolves around her. Janet is depicted in full 80s jazzercise (with ass cheeks hanging out) as she flirts with what seems like every member on the team. She comes on to the Black Knight who doesn’t know she’s now divorced from Hank Pym and then later hits on Hercules… it’s weird. It’s uncomfortable. It also shows how far the industry has come from 32 years ago. Hercules doesn’t help matters actually questioning her ability because she’s a woman is the vibe I got, and goes along with her being elected team leader just because everyone else is going along with it. Again… sigh.

mu_herc3And speaking of Hercules, he gets a new costume provided by Apollo and channels He-Man in a style that’s reminiscent of the character that was popular at the time. The costume is a familiar one designed by the legendary John Buscema, but boy does it look like a certain cartoon character as you can see to the right.

So, outdated gender roles? Check. Weird costumes that make no sense? Check. A lot more dialogue than today’s comics? Check.

Still, the issue is an entertaining one that’s generally devoid of action instead setting up a mystery that eventually leads to Terminus, the villain of the next story arc. In other words, this is actually a really good jumping on point!

Written by Roger Stern with the return of Buscema and Tom Palmer on art, the issue also debuts a new logo inspired by fan Steve Bove. It’s a fun snapshot of the time for its good and the bad.

Story: Roger Stern Art: John Buscema and Tom Palmer Letter: Jim Novak Color: Christie Scheele
Story: 7.7 Art: 7.95 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read

Retro Friday Review: Cable Vol. 1 #4

cable_vol_1_4It felt appropriate for a “Retro Friday” review to check out a comic featuring Marvel’s time-traveling mutant Cable! Cable Vol. 1 #4 stems from 1993 and holy crap does it feel like a product of the time meeting all of the stereotypes of the comics from the time and living up to all that was bad during the time period.

I recognize that I come into the story four issues in so the story arc is well under way, but that’s part of the point of this column, not everything is going to be first issues.

The story involves Cable trying to find the Six Pack and eventually X-Force but first he has to fight G.W. Bridge who thinks is a sell-out for working with SHIELD. There’s also Kane making coffee and watching the fist fight.Then there’s Six Pack featuring Grizzly, Hammer, and Domino, plus there’s Copycat (remember her as fake Domino?) who are looking for Cable and X-Force.

Then there’s Six Pack featuring Grizzly, Hammer, and Domino, plus there’s Copycat (remember her as fake Domino?) who are looking for Cable and X-Force.There’s also this guy named Sinsear that I don’t remember at all being all villain in his secret base.

There’s also this guy named Sinsear that I don’t remember at all being all villain in his secret base.Eventually Cable catches up with the Wild Pack and Hammer attacks Cable for injuring him in the past. It’s the usual hero fighting hero before they team-up story.

Eventually, Cable catches up with the Wild Pack and Hammer attacks Cable for injuring him in the past. It’s the usual hero fighting hero before they team-up story.

Written by Fabian Nicieza, with Art Thibert, Rob Liefeld, Jim Reddington, Bill Wylie, and Scott Koblish all on art, Bart Sears provides the cover, Al Milgrom does inks, Marie Javins and Michael Thomas are colourists and Chris Eliopoulos is the letter. I think fewer people put a man in space than put this comic on the shelves.

From stunted dialogue to a choppy narrative I re-read this comic utterly baffled that I loved the comic when I was younger. What was I thinking that I enjoyed it? But, it also explains how I read so many comics so quickly back then if this is what they were all like. The action sequences are by the numbers laughable, such as Kane getting coffee for Cable and Bridge as the two men fight. There’s the by the numbers hero fights hero before coming to his senses. A bad guy disappears. Another bad guy looms in a secret base. I almost want to dig out the rest of the comics in this story arc to bask in the horribleness of it all.

cablevol1-4-cardfront

The best part of the comic? The trading card still inside it in perfect condition and when I saw it the existence of them came rushing back to me… ah memories. There’s also some retro ads that are amazing like an X-Men/Pizza Hut tie-in (have it!) and a Stridex tie-in (have it too!).

This was “of the time,” I’ll go with that. At the time, it was so cool (ah 14 year old me), but today, holy crap is it bad. Laughable dialogue, inconsistent art (Cable’s hair!!!), and predictable sequences all abound. It’s x-treme and with pouches galore! We’re past this as an industry and reading this, so happy we’ve come to our senses.

Story: Fabian Nicieza Art: Art Thibert, Rob Liefeld, Jim Reddington, Bill Wylie, and Scott Koblish Inks: Al Milgrom Colors: Marie Javins and Michael Thomas
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos Cover: Bart Sears
Story: 2 Art: 3 Overall: 2.5 Recommendation: Pass

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