Category Archives: Retro Friday

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

Retro Friday Review: Superman #185

superman_v-1_185For the first review of “Retro Friday” it felt like it’d be fun to go WAY back into the GP vault of comics and take a look at Superman #185, the first volume of the series that was released in February 1966. Back then comics were 12 cents and featured 25 pages of story and more.

Written by Leo Dorgman with art by Pete Costanza (for the first story) and Jim Mooney (for the second story) and a cover by Curt Swan the comic is so different than modern books with a style and story that has more in common with the classic Superman television and radio show than modern comics. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it’s interesting to see how much comics have changed in the 50 years since this comic was released.

The first thing I noticed is there seems to be a lack of credits anywhere in the comic. I went through it multiple times to figure out who handled the writing and art, but had to resort to a Google search to figure that out. It’s a minor thing, but caught me off guard and to begin reading the comic with that in my mind, I was looking at all of the details I could.

The issue features two stories the first up being “Superman’s Achilles’ Heel!.” When one part of his body is made vulnerable by a Red K exposure, Superman is targeted for death–literally–by gangland assassins. Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds and even has Superman sporting a metal device around his hand to make the villains think that’s his vulnerable spot. Arrows, yes an arrow as in bow and arrow, are used along with rifles and other weapons to try to take Superman down.

The villian is a former actor turned gangster who’s initially out to just find Superman’s secret identity, but then finds out his flaw due to the Red K. From there, plans unfold in an attempt to shot him in his vulnerable spot. Riddles are sent tauting him, lions are released in a football game, it’s goofy to all levels, but still somehow entertaining probably due to it’s focus on the story of Achilles and not adding any other distractions.

The second story, “Target Superman!,” is told in multiple parts (I have no idea why) and features South American multimillionaire Jose Rivera who wants his daughter Dolores to marry Superman, she is attracted to Clark Kent…and Clark’s double on the Kandor Look-Alike Squad steps in to woo her.

There’s absolutely some antiquated views of women and their roles, though the story isn’t as cringeworthy as I expected once I figured out the gist of the story. It’s not good by any measurement, but the headshaking sighs as I read the comic weren’t as present as I thought they’d be.

There’s Superman, his robot, and then a being from Kandor? Yeah, this is a take on the twin taking over in a role type story with a twist at the end and it’s… interesting. Entertaining on some levels, an example of the time in many others, it’s that weird type of story that feels right at place in an anthology. Hell, with some small tweaks and a touch of more weird and this story could be revamped for today easily.

superman-185-quizThe art is great with nothing too dynamic, but this still feels like the early years of comics where overly dramatic depictions of action were still being figured out. It’s a bit choppy in the flow, but it’s fun to see the retro look of everyone depicted, especially Superman who looks more like a Fleischer cartoon than today’s take.

What’s really fun is the additional items in the comic beyond the story. There’s a letter page, ads, and a quiz that left my jaw on the floor. You can see it to the right here, but the quiz is the measure your “Brotherhood Quotient” and is published as a “public service in cooperation with the National Social Welfare Assembly, coordinating organization for National Health, Welfare and Recreation Agencies of the U.S.” What I think is more amazing is the answers that whoever owned the comic checked off. The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.

Going back to read a comic that was published decades before I could read is not only interesting to see a snapshot of the time, but also see how comics have changed in the 50 years since this was published. To be able to come upon a quiz like that found in the comic, especially considering the answers(!), you really get to see some history.

The comic was an enjoyable one. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but goofy fun where you can turn your brain off and just enjoy the stories within.

Story: Leo Dorgman Art: Pete Costanza and Jim Mooney
Story: 6.5 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.65 Recommendation: Read