Justice League Dark #1 2018

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Justice League Dark #1
DC Comics

Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Alvaro Martínez Bueno and Raúl Fernández
Colors by: Brad Anderson
Letters by: Rob Leigh

 

Comic book fans have been conditioned for the slow burn. In this era, most debuts lack a decent punch and publishers just expect your loyalty will result in showing them the green. I’m exited to report Justice League Dark bucks current convention and is a well crafted introduction.

Tynion’s script has an excellent balance of characterization, pacing and set up. The story begins with Wonder Woman noticing there is something awry with magic in the DCU. Recruiting a reluctant Zatanna to investigate, readers are treated to mystical cameos galore and take note Swamp Thing enthusiasts, continuity.

There have been some concerns expressed over the roster leading up to the release but as Detective Chimp, Man-Bat and Swamp Thing join the fray, they all fit into the narrative rather naturally.

The artwork was a fine compliment to the story. Alvaro Martínez Bueno and Raúl Fernández show they can handle super heroics with ease and the monstrous figures exhibit good depth.

If you enjoyed the previous series or other magic centric titles in the past, put this on your pulls presto. Packed to the gills with supernatural action, elements of horror and strong dialogue this book not only delivers bang for your buck, it truly feels like the start of something special.

8 out of 10

 

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Flash #163

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“I like weird and wacky!” No, this isn’t a code word to get into the fetish club downtown. Ahem… I think. Rather, It’s a statement that tends to be uttered at least once by every fan of the Silver Age. It’s also remarkably true. The majority of stories published between ’56-’70 had to flirt with the bizarre. Some just had a dance, others brought it home to meet the folks but either way it was a glorious era to be absurd.

If you’ve ever read any of my previous work, it’s fairly obvious I’m a huge fan. Not my utmost favorite age (that would be Bronze) yet who can resist all of those whimsical plot threads and colorful creativity?

Barry Allen actually kicked off this period in the pages of Showcase #4 and despite his O.G. status, I  haven’t read many of his adventures during that epoch. A lot of books cross my desk but the moment I saw this cover urgency struck. I mean c’mon, there he is in his talk to the hand pose insisting that I save his life. Naturally, I cracked it open post haste. The scarlet speedster needs ME! Or did he? Let’s take a gander at The Flash #163 ” The Flash stakes his life–on–you!” cover dated August 1966. Written by John Broome, penciled by Carmine Infantino with inks from Joe Giella.

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lineI may be showing my age here but personally whenever someone proclaims “STOP!”, my mind immediately flashes to Estelle Getty rocking a glock. Anyone else recall the 1992 cinematic masterpiece “Stop! or my Mom will Shoot”? The hours I spent as a 14 year old watching this flick filled with phallic follies and stale punchlines. What IS funny though, a Flash cover reminds me how wrong I was to believe Sylvester Stallone turned a corner as a comedic actor. The power of Back Issues at work here people! I digress…

 “Yo Ma, whaddya think of MY Meatloaf?”

The villain in this book BLOWS. Pretty bold way to describe a guy but it’s no exaggeration. This tale starts with him using a powerful puff to dissipate our hero. See what I did there? You better, I expect my readers to come equipped with a gong to punish me for my pathetic puns.  This scoundrels real accomplishment isn’t defeating a Justice Leaguer on the teaser page. It’s overcoming his uncanny resemblance to the Iron Sheik and claiming victory by other means than a headlock.

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“I think Hulk Hogan would prefer the Whistle Tickle finishing move. “

The Flash is speeding his way around Central City while on a pier, a little girl accidentally drops her doll into the ocean. No job is too small for the fastest man alive. He zips over water to grab the lost toy. Nice to see Flashy boy isn’t above some blue collar rescuing of inanimate objects. The writer notes this small act of kindness will play out later on. Hmm… wishful thinking, the Barbie taking a dip is retconned as the origin of the Anti-Monitor. Bit of a stretch? They say I’m a dreamer.

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“How many times I’ve said ‘never’ after a night of drinking. You got a lot to learn kiddo.”

Back to the Iron Sheik lookalike. His name is sure to instill terror into the hearts of men, ready for it? Mr.Haddon! Yeah, more like your 6th grade History teacher than treacherous tyrant. I’ve got the wrong subject though as it turns out he’s quite science enthusiast. So much so, he’s created an insane invention. Let’s try to wrap our minds around this: According to Haddon, belief in ourselves is based on how others feel about us. So he’s developed radiation that will erase a populations memory of a specific person. They forget someone exists and that person will disappear. You really got to have a broken Beaker to come up with that one. This weapon still needs some fine tuning. Witness the saddest first appearance in DC Comics history, Haddon’s cat “Jessica”. This furry feline only wanted some milk but received oblivion. Someone get Selina Kyle on the horn.

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“R.I.P. Jessica the Invisible Lab Rat Cat 1966-1966.”

Haddon uses the radiation on Central City. Now that no one remembers Barry, he begins to turn into a mist. He tries to run around  and get the attention of someone, but they just think he’s a nut job in a funny suit. Reduced to nothing more than second hand smoke, he still believes crime waits for no man..er..ghost thingy. A store alarm rings in the distance and Flash races to the scene to discover Haddon robbing the joint. With bags full of cash in each hand he takes a trick from the Big Bad Wolf Handbook by Huffing, puffing and blowing the Flash around.

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“What do Marty McFly and the Flash have in common? Great at fucking up timelines.”

Guiding Barry’s wispy form back to his lab, Haddon lays out his evil plan. With the Flash incapacitated he’s free to steal and use the money to move to an island and become it’s King. Seriously. Once the final person stops believing in the Flash…poof. Haddon is so confident in himself, he chomps on a congratulatory stogie and leaves Barry in his lair. So if no one can remember the Flash, how is he still alive? Rewind to that nugget on the docks.

flash16311.1“Where the hell are this kids parents? Is her Dad the Gorton’s Fisherman?”

YES! The little girl with a case of the butter fingers! That’s right, she would “never, never, never” forget him for rescuing dolly. The scene itself where he discovers she is the lone believer does play out a tad creepy in a lock down Chuck E. Cheese kind of way. If you find that odd, it doesn’t stop there. The Flash still needs to regain full form by refreshing the rest of Central City’s memory. In the age before e-mail, my baby…she wrote me a letter.

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“As bands in the 90’s understood, flyers were the ultimate promotional tool.”

Just like memes in modern times, people believed everything they read back in the day. Kinkos be damned, Barry just writes a butt load of leaflets and hands them out to people on the street. By golly, it actually works! The more they read, his body is restored. Now at full strength, The Flash is ready to smash the ‘Stache.

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“If I could only have Tom Selleck’s lush head of hair, I would be UNSTOPPABLE!”

Haddon is enjoying some Magnum P.I. fashion and Kooey Kooey Kooey servitude in a tropical locale. Heavy is the head that wears the crown  as he can’t quite put a finger on how he achieved his success. Screw it, He’s still living the dream. King of an island, armed guards and plenty pineapples can’t erase the feeling someone is out to get him. Paranoia proves to be prudent if not effective. The Flash promptly busts his party up and puts his shiny melon behind bars.

Was this one a classic? Nope. Not even close. The story proved to be terribly boring. Had the writer opted to embrace the insanity of the time period it may have been saved. Take the Mind Erasing Machine for example. I don’t have a problem with it’s function being vague but they should have went all out with it. No cool design, colorful beams of light or anything really. Just an old burger warmer from Wendy’s.

There’s a back up story featuring Abra Kadabra but by this point you can tell the creators had better things to do with their day than care what got published that month. I suppose an argument could be made Infantino’s pencil work is the one redeeming quality but we’ve got a flat liner here. Four color Ambien. The Surgeon General advises against reading this prior to operating machinery.

Thanks for the iconic cover guys but here’s to wishing I could wash my brain clean of this one. Maybe watching some T.V. will help with that…oh HELL yes!

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David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.

 

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.

 

The Frankenstein Monster #8

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Halloween is here! Can’t say I’m much of the celebrating type considering my childhood was spent decked out in flammable plastic…and handing out candy to other kids. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Thanks Mom, for making an 8 year old man the door. Don’t feel bad. I’ve more than made up for it over the years by consuming my body weight in miniature Snickers.

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 “The sweet smell of nostalgia and noxious plastic fumes.”

We’re not here to discuss my tragic backstory. That’s what hard liquor is for. No dear friends, time to talk comics. With the spirit of this hair raising holiday in mind, I’ve decided to revisit some Bronze Age Marvel Monsters. Everyone enjoys a good fright right? Publishers recognized the appeal of horror and flooded the market with a myriad of titles dedicated to the macabre. The majority of these issues had an anthology layout while solo books were reserved for the genres movie mainstays. Dracula being the most notable and popular with the fans.

This makes The Monster Frankenstein #8 (cover dated January 1974) pretty interesting to me. First, he’s the big brute of scary set but with an over saturated market, the chatter in the crypt was Frankenstein’s book neared it’s demise. Frank’s adventures needed a little life, so Marvel turned to Dracula for a three issue guest appearance. Did it do the trick or was this story more rotten than a Jack o’ Lantern in late November? Let’s take the lid off of this nefarious narrative by Gary Friedrich and the brilliant John Buscema.

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As the cover indicates, we start with Frankenstein opening a coffin to reveal Dracula rip roaring and ready to go. For an immortal creature he doesn’t bother to waste any time. This leaves Franky boy a tad shocked. One would think Drac might like to use the bathroom after waking up, or perhaps enjoy a good stretch before going into stalk mode. We got ourselves one nimble Nosferatu here!

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“You and me both Pal…”

I gotta admit, it’s pretty cool this story hits you with action outta the gate but how did this meeting come to be? Sheer chance? Of course not. Enter Marguerita the Hag. This little old lady lured Frank into her gypsy camp last issue. Filling his belly with food and his heart with high hopes of finding a home, she requests he follows her to a cave. Turns out only he possesses the strength needed to open the coffin that lies within. Here’s the rub, Marguerita is in fact a vampire herself eager to see her dark lord again. Be careful what you wish for baby!

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“Knuckle sandwiches are included with the early bird special.”

While all this geriatric grappling is going down, the reader is introduced to Marguerita’s beautiful granddaughter, Carmen. Bearing witness to the melee, the girl is horrified to discover her beloved Bubbe is a baddie. Marguerita grabs Carmen violently, turning Frank’s eye away from Dracula. He saves the girl from a vampire bite and drives a stake through her matriarch’s ticker.

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“You’re the reason for my life…You’re the inspiration.”

Dracula sees this as prime time to hit the bricks. I mean, c’mon all that stalking makes a guy thirsty.  So off to the nearest town for blood he goes. Meanwhile, Frankenstein and Carmen emerge from the cave to discover the entire gypsy camp, once welcoming to Franky, have been slaughtered. The nearby Townsfolk felt the need to punish them for turning the woods into the Universal Studios Monsters Tour. Now they gone and done it. Not only is Drac on his way to suck ’em dry but Frankenstein is out to avenge his fallen friends.

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“Nowadays you can just illegally download some Gypsy Jams. Back then, not so much.”

Let’s tackle my biggest gripe about this issue. Hell, about Vampire tales in general. Anytime I see the whole change into a bat but keep my face thing, I’m annoyed. Why? Just go full on bat. To add garlic to my gripe, Dracula even keeps his collar here! You may think you’re the most stylish flying rat in Transylvania there buddy but next time just rock a leisure suit. The ladies will love it! Well, some maybe. Ok…keep the collar.

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“Do these wings make my ass look fat?”

Where were we? Ah yes, a fury infused Frankenstein! The denizens of Gypsy Genocideville are aware he is en route. Rather than play sitting duck, the Burgomeister  insists they set out to kill the monstrosity before it arrives. Gotta love the role of Burgomeister. Has there been any other profession portrayed as a bigger dink in realm of fiction? The only other job that may hold a torch is the Hospital Orderly. I challenge you fine reader, to prove me otherwise.

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“Burgomeisters…cementing a bad rep for over 200 years.”

As the Villagers wonder where to start the hunt, Frank’s already arrived at the town square. He smashes a wagon and goes on a diatribe about hatred. For a supposed lunkhead, he’s fairly spot on about men being the true monsters of the world. Word of advice to Frankenstein though: the Ghandi routine gets lost in translation when you murder everyone within arms reach! Hey, It’s the thought that counts…right big guy?

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“Quit running! I have to see if your nether regions can accommodate a wagon wheel!”

Similar to Trick or Treaters that descend upon the house giving away full size candy bars, the locals manage to swarm on Frank. Someone finally realizes pitch forks are useless and grabs a rifle. Guns are a pretty lousy solution to any problem but I will say this, I’d be willing to get the resulting sound effect tattooed on one of my buttocks.

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“Look on the bright side, at least scarring isn’t an issue!”

Subdued by the bullet, Frank is tied to a post and given the “burn the witch” treatment. This ends with a splash page and is probably my single favorite moment of the book. The beast shows bravado only to seemingly crap his pants and with the odd word balloon placement, the chimney is telling him to die.

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“Just friggin’ great, you bumpkins had to go and burn the last good street pole!”

Was this the spooky spectacular that reinvigorated my spirit for the season? Not quite. The problem here is the script. It cashes in on every cliche that’s been used in genre from the get go. Pacing was good but it’s terribly predictable. The art is the strength here as John Buscema makes you feel like you’re watching a classic Monster movie.

Worth a read for fans of the subject matter but for the rest of us, It’s a pass. Seal it in the Tomb of Tired Tropes and hope no one ever sets it free.

 

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.

 

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Showcase #55

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Solomon Grundy born on a Monday, died on a Saturday. Every article written about him starts with the nursery rhyme. It’s officially part of his origin and immediately recognized by fans. That’s all fine and dandy but I prefer to think of him as the villain who made Clamdiggers cool. Some of you may refer to them as Capri pants. The fact  remains, Solomon could easily show up at Pee Wee Soccer practice and mix with the Moms.

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“Grundy did you forget the orange slices again?”

Fashion choices aside, I can’t say I’ve ever been overly fond of the character. There are actually a lot of cool elements there. A reanimated corpse spawned from Slaughter Swamp. Totally creepy monster. Has swapped dukes with just about every major hero in the DC Universe. Then I remember the negatives that turn me off. Talks like a buffoon. Resorts to petty crime. Frankenstein wants his shtick back.

I needed to find just the right avenue to get my Grundy on. Previously my exposure tended to come from his misadventures with Swamp Thing.  This time around, I traveled 52 years in the past and cracked open a copy of Showcase #55 cover dated April, 1965. “Solomon Grundy goes on a Rampage” isn’t the snappiest title but it was written and drawn by legendary creators Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson.

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I may have gone a little overboard talking about Grundy as the issue actually features some DC luminaries not to be sniffed at. Dr.Fate, Hourman and Green Lantern are the hot tickets in town. One of which, like Grundy, I need a little help in gaining respect for. Hopefully, this book can kill two birds in that department. Who of that trio could I possibly roll my eyes over? Hourman. The guy pops a pill and gets powers for one hour. Kinda lame, I mean there’s tons of dudes who down a Viagra and claim to have super strength running around nowadays. Plus, where the hell did he buy that cape? Maybe he just snagged a beach towel from someones clothes line.

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“I assure you, this cougar was properly dried before I punched it in the spleen.”

First thing you need to know about this story is doors aren’t cool anymore. At least not in the traditional sense. Knob salesmen look away this will be the stuff of nightmares. It appears that during the 60’s entering via rectangle was quite square. Walking through walls or access via a hatch was all the rage. Thankfully this was fixed post crisis, resulting in bad guys knocking prior to shooting you.

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“Finding someone willing to deliver a pizza is impossible around here.”

Grundy has returned to Earth. During a previous battle with the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott, he was imprisoned in an emerald globe and shot into space. Able to shift his weight around, he navigated his way through the cosmos back to his beloved marsh. The impact attracted the attention of Dr.Fate. Arriving at the crash site he magically reassembles the shards and is amazed that G.L. can blow such a big bubble from a single stick of gum.

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“Will the Lanterns ever learn? Forcing your balls on us doesn’t work!”

Didn’t take long for me to find another reason to dislike Hourman. When he’s not frolicking around in Sears latest bath linens, you can call him Rex Tyler. Proud owner of the Tyler Chemical Company just outside of beautiful Gotham City. What’s the problem with this secret alias? Not much besides the fact he’s responsible for a crap ton of pollution. Think there’s any three eyed frogs out there cursing his name? Hmm…we may have to revisit that later.

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“Are thought balloons admissible in court?”

Hourman is eager to protect all that sweet radioactive sludge so he trudges into the swamp with a handful of his “Miraclo” capsules. Solomon comes out swinging and promptly puts Rexy on his keester. Dr. Fate swoops in with a slew of spells that do diddly-poo until he pulls an odd one out of the deck. Remember the cover image where he’s crackling with energy and stiff like he stole Hourman’s prescription? Turns out to be a case of playing possum. Grundy believes he has Fate dead to rights but gets frozen in place by contact. Probably jealous that Fate’s mannequin routine is more interesting than his entire backstory, Hourman plants a punch into Grundy’s bread basket ruining the entire trap.

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“DC should have considered copyrighting Man-Thing.”

This ill timed blow proved to be pretty costly. Not only did it allow Grundy to get away but Hourman basically just crossed the streams. It figures he’d be the one to bring the bad juju. Now, not only do their powers fail when they are in close proximity, they can’t control the urge to kill each other. It also created a side effect where Solomon Grundy attracts objects made of wood. As he stomps off, all the junk from Grandma’s back yard follows suit.

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“Hey, it’s got 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes already!”

Wanting revenge on his jailer, Solomon struts into Gotham and robs a bank. Green Lantern arrives and we’re subjected to the worst weakness in comics. Yep, Alan Scott can’t handle wood. The debris Grundy had hovering around put G.L. down for the count. Undone by a broken coffee table leg. Oh, the humanity! Grundy scoops him up and back to Slaughter Swamp they go. FYI, flicking a toothpick at him is just as effective as a thunderbolt.

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“If Pinocchio shows up… he’s screwed.”

Meanwhile, Dr.Fate and Hourman have realized by staying at a reasonable distance the spell wears off.  Unfortunately there’s no time for high fives or bro hugs . That toxic waste the Tyler Corporation has been dumping transformed Alan into a Grundy Lantern!  It’s as cool  as you imagine but short lived. Fate finally whips up an incantation that works reverting him to human form. The three heroes use their individual abilities to wear Grundy down. What to do with him? Surprise! They encase him in yet another orb and knock him out of orbit like a cue ball.

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“We replaced his Folgers Crystals with our Biohazard Blend. Let’s see if he notices…”

Sure I poked a decent amount of fun at it but Showcase #55 was awesome. Just a really fun read all around. It may be one of my favorite silver age yarns to be honest. Holding up extraordinarily well, this classic is a testament to the talents of Fox and Anderson. I highly recommend you pick this up, physical or digital.

Can I say I’m more of a Grundy fan after checking this out? Maybe a little. This did nothing to change my perception of the dumb lug but I’m more interested in checking out his adventures, especially from this era. What I will say, without a doubt, Hourman can take a hike. Give me the android version any day of the week. He deserves credit for one thing though. Rex Tyler was rocking a time piece for a necklace long before Flavor Flav was even born. Now stop polluting the environment and ditch the stupid costume ya jerk.

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David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.

 

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.