Monday, May 21, 2018

Fantastic Four - The End is Fourever

Fantastic Four, Volume 4: The End is FoureverFantastic Four, Volume 4: The End is Fourever by James Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the invasion from Franklin's world ravages Earth, the last days of the Fantastic Four are upon us!

Here we are, the swan song for the Fantastic Four, at least until it's revival in August 2018. I'm proud to say Marvel picked a great singer in James Robinson. The End is Fourever is a summer blockbuster of a trade paperback. While I had high hopes going in, Robinson and Kirk surpassed them.

The Fantastic Four are in rough circumstances at the beginning. Reed is held captive by the Quiet Man, who is monologing after pulling an Ozymandias and releasing the invaders from the Heroes Reborn universe BEFORE telling Reed his plan. Ben, Johnny, and Sue are battling the faux-Avengers with the help of Namor, Captain America, and the original Human Torch. And the Future Foundation are watching Franklin get tortured.

Just as Reed himself said, the Fantastic Four's strength is that they rise again. Without going into a ton of detail, there were multiple moments in this issue that I caught myself grinning like a jackass. Bentley and his father, the Wizard, share a tender moment. The Wizard, Thundra, and She-Thing lend a helping hand when the world is on the brink. Hell, Robinson bringing in The Sleepwalker and making him an integral part of the resolution made me think it was 1992 again for a brief moment.

By the end, everything was back to normal. The Fantastic Four saved the world. As a whole, James Robinson's run was the best 18 issues of the Fantastic Four I've read in a long, long time. If the Fantastic Four had to go on the shelf for a while, this was a great way for them to go out. Five out of five stars.

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Fantastic Four - Back in Blue

Fantastic Four, Volume 3: Back in BlueFantastic Four, Volume 3: Back in Blue by James Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The downfall of the Fantastic Four continues as Sue battles Doctor Doom for Valeria, The Thing plots to bust out of prison, and someone kidnaps the Future Foundation kids...

Back in Blue is the penultimate chapter in the end of the Fantastic Four storyline, the result of a dick measuring contest between Marvel and Fox executives. It also happens to be a very good story.

In this chapter, the architect behind the Fantastic Four's woes is revealed. Jams Robinson is getting some serious mileage out of the Heroes Reborn train wreck of the 1990s. The Fantastic Four is in pretty deep by the end. Robinson demonstrates a deep knowledge of Fantastic Four history and his characterization is spot on. The interplay between The Thing and the Sandman was one of my favorite parts of the book, as were Wyatt Wingfoot and Spidey giving Johnny a talking to.

I haven't mentioned the art on this run yet but now I'm a Leonard Kirk fan. I've been a Tom Grummett fan since the Reign of the Supermen so it's no surprise his artwork is pretty sharp.

The villain of the piece makes a certain amount of sense in a comic book sort of way. I'm glad Robinson didn't go back to the old wells for the villain, frankly.

The past three volumes set up a lot of dominoes. I expect them to tumble down in spectacular fashion in the final volume. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Fantastic Four: Original Sin

Fantastic Four, Volume 2: Original SinFantastic Four, Volume 2: Original Sin by James Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The downfall of the Fantastic Four continues. The Avengers help kick the Fantastic Four out of the Baxter Building and Sue goes ballistic! Ben learns that Johnny botched one of Reed's attempts to make him human and Reed and Johnny lied about it. Ben storms off and by the time Reed catches up with him, it looks like Ben murdered the Puppet Master! Ben winds up on Ryker's Island with a bunch of super-criminals...

Wow. I wonder if James Robinson knew his job was the turn the lights out when he signed on to write the Fantastic Four.

Things are looking grim for the foursome in this outing. The Fantastic Four have been evicted from the Baxter Building. Johnny's going down a self-destructive path. Ben's in the joint after it looked like he killed the Puppet Master. Reed and Sue are living in an experimental community in Michigan. The Future Foundation kids are living at Camp Hammond with the original Human Torch.

It was cool to see Sharon Ventura, aka Ms. Marvel, aka She-Thing again, even though she's a criminal now. I also like that the original Human Torch is in the supporting cast. So who's pulling the strings behind the Fantastic Four's demise? No idea, honestly.

The story and the art are really good. My only gripe is the slow pace but that's my gripe with most modern comics.

I really like James Robinson and Leonard Kirk on the Fantastic Four. Too bad it's their job to pull the plug. Four out of five stars.

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Fantastic 4: The Fall of the Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four, Volume 1: The Fall of the Fantastic FourFantastic Four, Volume 1: The Fall of the Fantastic Four by James Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When alien creatures invade New York from a portal inside the Baxter Building, it's the beginning of the end for the Fantastic Four...

The Fantastic Four has been one of my favorite comics for decades and this was their final run before going on a years long hiatus. With James Robinson at the helm, I couldn't pass this one up. After all, he was the man behind Starman so he gets special consideration from me. I wasn't crazy about the black and red outfits but it wound up being pretty good.

The book starts with Sue writing Valeria a letter, foreshadowing things to come. Strange winged aliens invade New York through a portal in the Baxter Building from the Heroes Reborn universe. Remember that? Anyway, Reed settles things by poisoning them and inadvertently robs Johnny of his powers. After thwarting the new Frightful Four with help from Ant-Man, She-Hulk, and Miss Thing, the Fantastic Four goes up against it's greatest foe of all... the legal system!

I think the reason this worked so well for me is that I could totally see the legal system screwing super heroes. SHIELD taking the Future Foundation into custody for their own protection was the icing on the cake.

James Robinson and Leonard Kirk have something special going here. I'm glad I already have the next three volumes in my possession. Four out of five stars.

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Bug! The Aventures of Forager

Bug! The Adventures of ForagerBug! The Adventures of Forager by Lee Allred
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After dying at the end of Cosmic Odyssey, Forager emerges from a cocoon in a basement on Earth with a mute girl and her talking teddy bear for company. From there, things get weird...

I read the first three issues of Bug! as they came out but got sidetracked somewhere along the way. I pre-ordered the trade paperback as soon as it was available and wolfed it down in on sitting.

Michael Allred has been one of my favorite comic book artists for aeons. When I saw he was teaming with his brother to do Bug! The Adventures of Forager, my curiosity was piqued. According to an interview I read before picking up the first issue, Lee and Michael Allred became obsessed with Forager because of a battered copy of New Gods #9 at their guitar teacher's place when they were kids. Since Forager only made three appearances, including his death in Cosmic Odyssey, they pretty much had a clean slate. Bug grew on me pretty quickly. Bug reminds me of Madman, Mike Allred's most famous creation, with some Spider-Man thrown in. I love that he carries a shield that is too unwieldy to throw.

The book reads like a love letter to Jack Kirby's DC creations from the first panel. Bug tears out of a cocoon and gets plunged neck deep in strangeness. The love the Allred boys feel for Bug, and the rest of Kirby's creations, comes through on every page. Bug looks and feels like a particularly good comic from yesteryear with some modern sensibilities.

Most of Kirby's creations from the 1970s (and some from the 1950s) are here: The New Gods, the Forever People, The Losers, Deadman, OMAC, Atlas, the Manhunters, the Silver Age Sandman, the Golden Age Blue Beetle, the Golden Age Sandman and Sandy, the list goes on and on. The only 70s characters I noticed missing were The Demon and Kamandi.

The story is pretty crazy, which is in keeping with Kirby's later period. Eventually, I quite trying to figure out what was coming next and just enjoyed the ride. Bug bounces all over the multiverse, chasing Chagra and the pieces of orichalcum. The ending wasn't what I expected but was very satisfying.

The stars were perfectly aligned for Bug! I don't think another creative team could have pulled it off. I'd love to see the Allred clan take on the Challengers of the Unknown next! Four out of five stars.

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Rocket Raccoon and Groot Complete Collection

Rocket Raccoon & Groot: The Complete CollectionRocket Raccoon & Groot: The Complete Collection by Bill Mantlo
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rocket Raccoon & Groot: The Complete Collection collects early adventures of Groot & Rocket from Tales to Astonish #13, Incredible Hulk #271, Rocket Raccoon #1-#4, Marvel Preview #7, Annihilators #1-#4 and Annihilators: Earth Fall #1-#4.

Okay, like a lot of people, I never heard of Groot before the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie and I was only slightly aware of Rocket Raccoon. They're easily my favorite GOTG characters so I decided to give this a shot. Good thing I only paid five bucks for it.

Groot's first appearance isn't all that bad. It's an eight page Lee and Kirby tale from pre-superhero days of Tales to Astonish. The Groot in this story is evil and can talk normally. It turns out he's from the same species as our Groot but isn't related. It's pretty much a monster story.

Rocket's first appearance was a black and white story in an issue of Marvel Preview. He was called Rocky and the only interesting thing from the story is that the prince in it is Prince Wayfinder, who is part of Micronauts lore from Bill Mantlo's run. Rocket's second appearance is a lot better. The Hulk finds himself on Half World, a world populated by half animals. Rocket is more like the Rocket we know and love in this appearance.

The material from the Rocket Raccoon miniseries features art from Mike Mignola and writing from Bill Mantlo so I had high hopes for it. It was a damn mess. Too many puns, too much cheesiness. It was a long four issues for me.

The Annhilators issues made the book worth what I paid for it. Rocket is working a regular job after the death of Quill and gets pulled back into adventuring when someone sends a killer clown to kill him. It also makes the Half World stuff in the miniseries easier to take in retrospect. Rocket and Groot also tangle with Mojo in another fun adventure.

I'm glad I read Rocket Raccoon & Groot: The Complete Collection for it's historical value where Rocket and Groot are concerned but I can't say I enjoyed it or would recommend it. Two out of five stars.

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Cosmic Odyssey

Cosmic OdysseyCosmic Odyssey by Jim Starlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Metron discovers the truth behind the Anti-Life Equation and it isn't good. In order to save the universe, Darkseid must team with his greatest enemies. Will the combined might of Darkseid, Superman, Orion, Batman, Forager, Starfire, Lightray, John Stewart, Martian Manhunter, The Demon, and others be enough?

Since I loved what I read of the Allred Brothers on Bug! The Adventures of Forager, decided to backtrack to Forager's biggest role prior. I read in an interview that Jim Starlin was supposed to write a story mapping out the science fiction portion of the DC Universe. Instead, he wrote Cosmic Odyssey. It was released with little promotion, which is a damn shame. With art by Mike Mignola, it's a pretty awesome book.

Created in the days when an epic could be told in a four issue standalone miniseries, Cosmic Odyssey is a crossover that mattered. It's a love letter to Jack Kirby's 1970s stint at DC comics, namely the New Gods and The Demon. Through most of Darkseid's first couple decades, his motivation was to find the Anti-Life equation. Cosmic Odyssey is what happens when the Anti-Life Equation is revealed.

After Metron is found, Darkseid goes to New Genesis of all places for help. That conveys the seriousness of the threat. The pairing of the heroes was done very well, most of the pairings done to contrast the heroes involved.. It made a lot of sense to send Batman back to earth to find that aspect of the Anti-Life Entity since he would be out of his element anywhere else. It also gave Forager a chance to shine. Orion and Superman on Thanagar did a great job showing the differences between the characters. Starfire and Lightray meeting Adam Strange and saving Rann reminded me of 52. I can't remember if Starfire and Adam Strange referenced Cosmic Odyssey there, though. The character moments between John Stewart and Martian Manhunter were also very well done, particularly at the end. Darkseid being Darkseid, things eventually go south but the ending is pretty satisfying.

Mike Mignola's art isn't quite where it was when he created Hellboy is still great. I wouldn't think his moody artwork would set the tone but I was wrong. I'd love to see Mignola doing a New Gods series after this. Starlin's writing conveys an epic scope in just four issues and hearkens back to his earlier work.

I don't really have any gripes with this. I wouldn't have minded it being another couple issues, though. It felt a little rushed at times. Also, it could have used an appearance by Mister Miracle. Other than that, no regrets.

In my mind, Cosmic Odyssey is an overlooked gem of the last 1980s. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Micronauts: The Collection Continues - part 2

Here we are, the fourth installment of my Micronauts read.  Previous installments can be found here, here, and here.

Anyway, the aftermath of the Micronauts' second battle with Baron Karza is a bittersweet one, with Cilicia leaving the team and Biotron dead.  And on with the show!

30 - This cover depicts the Micronauts battling a giant Anglerfish type creature.  This is probably my favorite Broderick cover to date and illustrates how much the current incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy owes to the Micronauts.

In the prologue, an obelisk is unearthed in the Indus valley with glyphs that look like early Sanskrit, but are actually the language fo the Microverse...

The Great Distress has begun and the only thing that can stop it is the Engima Force.  Now, the Micronauts must find the three keys that will enable them to contact it, keys Acroyear, Marionette, and Bug learned of while exploring Rann's mind last issue.  Simple, right?  Too bad Acroyear decides it's time to leave the team and go back to Spartak.  Fortunately, Pharoid joins the team.

There are some emotional moments in this issue.  Bug cries when Acroyear leaves the team.  Rann keenly misses Biotron.  Acroyear weeps when he returns to Spartak.

There are also cool battles, like the Micronauts against the Leviathan, the Anglerfish thing from the cover, receiving help from Lady Coral and her Dolphin Riders.  Rann and Marionette are swallowed by the Leviathan, only to be handed over to Aqon, lord of the sea, who has plans for them.  The last panel has a cameo by Doctor Strange, who recognizes the glyphs on the obelisk found in the beginning.

This issue was fully loaded, setting up the next big storyline and splitting the team up.  For once, Bug wasn't the one going off on his own.  I'd say this was my favorite issue since the original Mantlo-Golden run.  Great stuff.

On a side note, did anyone ever play this game?:


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31 - Who knew Frank Miller did a Micronauts cover?  This one depicts Bug, Arcturus Rann, and Marionette trying to get one of the keys from a giant hand.  This scene does not appear in teh book.  Frank Miller does a passable Rann and Marionette but his Bug is all over the place.

Doctor Strange learns the origin of the Microverse and heads there to stop the Great Distress.  Meanwhile, Bug, Microtron, and Pharoid follow the Dolphin Riders into battle against the Oceanians, who have Rann and Marionette prisoner.

The end sees the Micronauts with the first key but the Seazone destroyed and Pharoid revealed as a spy, only not to the Micronauts.

I'm not sure about this key business just yet but it's cool that the Time Travelers left them behind.  Not sure what's going on with Acroyear either.  My favorite part of the issue, besides Bug fretting about the water, was Microtron lusting over Nanotron.  The roboids are part human, after all...
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32 - Bug, Rann, and Marionette battle a large polar bear with the second key on its chest.  It's not a bad cover by any means but Marionette must be cold in only her bathing suit and thigh highs.

In the depths of Polaria, Prince Peacock stalks the Snowbear and misses it but meets Marionette, who leads him to the rest of the Micronauts.  Once the Micronauts learn of the second key, they help Peacock hunt the beast a second time.  Meanwhile, Doctor Strange continues trying to find a way into the Microverse.

The legend of the Snowbear and its slayer losing the thing he held most dear made the ending a little predictable.  Yet another bittersweet ending in a Micronauts tale.  Pharoid has second thoughts, probably leading to a valiant self-sacrifice in the near future, and Acroyear follows a comet, only to have his eyes burned out.

The Micronauts already have two of the three keys.  Something tells me this is going way too easy.
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33 - A blinded Acroyear is being stalked by an unknown beast in a Bob Layton cover.  I'm a Bob Layton fan from his valiant days and he draws a mean Acroyear, complete with Kirby crackles around the blade.  I'm pretty sure he takes over when Pat Broderick leaves.

Acroyear stumbles around Tropica, knowing a beast is one his trail.  I don't think he'll be killed but he's not listed as a member of the Micronauts on the title page.  Never a good sign.

Meanwhile, Polaria is melting after the death of the Snowbear last issue and King Argon is being kind of a douche about it to Rann and the Micronauts.  Not only that, Pharoid is dreading having to betray the Micronauts when they get to Aegypta.

After some standard super-hero misunderstandings, Acroyear meets Devil, a pinkish Beast-like humanoid, and Fireflyte, a fairy-like creature with sonic powers.  As fate should have it, Devil's people guard the third key and their civilization has fallen into disrepair because of it.

Acroyear clashes with Devil but gains the key.  Acroyear, Devil, and Fireflyte take the third key and head for the Dead Zone, where they'll undoubtedly encounter Doctor Strange, who arrives in the Microverse in the Dead Zone on the last page.

This was another issue where a lot of things happen.  I knew Devil and Fireflyte joined the Micronauts eventually but I didn't know it happened this soon.  I'm glad Acroyear got his eyesight back.  Why is Argon being such a douche?  Will Pharoid betray the Micronauts after all they've been through?

Heavy stuff.  It's great to see that Bill Mantlo doesn't coast.  Every issue advances the plot, sometimes by quite a bit.
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34 - King Argon stands over a fallen Arcturus Rann, branding the Micronauts outlaws.  What a dick!  Anyway, the cover does a good job of spoiling the contents of the issue.  Bob Layton's art on the main figures is okay but the faces of Marionette, Bug, Devil, and Acroyear looking on are very well done.

Pharoid betrays the Micronauts to Argon, who has a hard-on for them for some reason, and they get thrown in the hoosegow.  After a change of heart, Pharoid, Nanotron, and Slug bust the Micronauts out of the clink.

Doctor Strange finally arrives in the Dead Zone and begins piecing together what happened to the travelers from earth who came to the Microverse.  As he discovers the three keyholes, he is attacked by a demon!

Argon's forces duke it out with the Micronauts for the three keys.  After a brutal fist fight, Rann defeats Argon and grabs the three keys.  The Micronauts head for the Dead Zone with Argon hot on their heels.

Shit is getting hectic!  I wonder if Argon was tainted by Baron Karza's personality or if he was always secretly a douche.  The new additions to the team are going to take some getting used to.  I'm sure they stick around since I read Minimum Carnage a while back.  I'm pretty stoked to have Doctor Strange meet the Micronauts next issue.
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35 - The Micronauts battle an unseen foe with the Microverse in the background, presumably because the fate of the Microverse is in the balance.  This is my favorite Bob Layton cover so far and possibly my favorite non-Golden cover to date.

This is a double sized issue and a lot of shit happens.  Here we go.

Argon, looking more and more like Baron Karza, declares war on the Micronauts.  Pharoid and Slug put together a force to delay Argon's troops from catching up with the Micronauts but are crushed.

The Micronauts battle Dog Soldiers on the way to the Dead Zone and send Microtron and Nanotron back to the First Zone to get the Endeavor.  Meanwhile, Doctor Strange learns the full origin of the Microverse from a demon.  The Micronauts FINALLY meet up with Doctor Strange.

After some battles with demons, Rann uses the keys while the Micronauts battle Argon's grotesque Death Squad.  The Micronauts prevail and Rann uses the keys.  Once contact is made with the Enigma Force, Commander Rann and Doctor Strange become Captain Universe and repair the Spacewall separating the Microverse from the regular universe.

Just as Argon is preparing to kill the Micronauts, Nanotron and Microtron show up in the nick of time with the Endeavor and save the day.

Phew, that was something.  It felt like a two-hour season finale.  While the book always has a fair amount of action, it's the relationships between the Micronauts that keep me interested.  It's good to have the team back together, plus Devil and Fireflyte.  Microtron and Nanotron were surprisingly cute together.

All the dangling threads were wrapped up as far as I can tell.  It looks like Force Commander will probably be the villain from here on out.
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36 - The Micronauts battle unseen foes on what looks like a teacher's desk.  As if that wasn't clear enough, Return to Planet Earth has replaced They Came From Inner Space on the title.  It's a Bob Layton cover.  I'm curious while Bug isn't on it, though.

The Micronauts arrive at a school with the new and improved Death Squad on their tail.  After running Miss Glockenspeil out of her classroom, they eventually destroy the ship pursuing them.

This issue was mostly a long fight.  To be honest, it was a nice break after the last storyline, providing some breathing room before the next catastrophe.

A young, apple-cheeked Keith Giffen takes the reins on art in this issue, some nice foreshadowing of the super stardom he would later achieve on The Legion of Super Heroes for DC.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed Bug and Acroyear acting as a team.  Marionette still gets exasperated at Rann, as most significant others do, as he rushes into trouble.  I'm hoping for a Marionette-oriented issue at some point.  She's a stronger character than most female characters of the time period but still doesn't get a hell of a lot to do.  The rest of the team is still adjusting to Devil, as am I.
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37 - This cover by Greg LaRocque shows the Micronauts in disarray, startled by Nightcrawler of the X-Men.  This was during that brief period where Marvel was pushing Nightcrawler as a solo character instead of Wolverine, if you can believe that.  Anyway, the cover is pretty good for one that shows most of the characters from behind.

The Micronauts are repairing the Endeavor when Huntarr, Argon's latest creation, comes for them.  In the running firefight, they wind up at a certain school for gifted youngsters, where Nightcrawler is on sentry duty.  Huntarr activates the damaged danger room and The Micronauts team with Nightcrawler to stop him.

There was lots of humor in this one, like Bug thinking Acroyear likes Devil better than him.  Nightcrawler interacting with the Micronauts was the best crossover in the book since the Fantastic Four showed up during the Psycho-Man debacle.

Huntarr lived to fight another day.  We'll see if he shows up again next issue, which is the first Direct Market only issue.  The next big storyline isn't apparent yet but it's clear that the Micronauts will have to settle Force Commander's hash sooner or later.

The team is getting numerous once again.  I can't help but think Nanotron is going to get the axe sooner or later.
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38 - What's this?  Another Michael Golden cover!  The Micronauts are charging toward the reader with what I'm assuming is Force Commander in the abstract background.  It's cool to see the team drawn by Michael Golden again but Bug's lower torso and Marionette's hair look a little off.  It's cool seeing his take on Devil and Nanotron, though.  Biotron and Arcturus look great.

The first direct market only issue serves as a jumping on point for new readers.  That doesn't make a ton of sense to me but whatever.

The first story is the tale of how Arcturus Rann earned the title Space Glider.  It's also his first conflict with Baron Karza.  No surprises here: Karza was a dick before he was a baron.  After a brush with death at the hands of his teacher, Karza, Rann battles a gang of assassins.

The second story is the tale of Bug's first meeting with Acroyear.  Gil Kane handles the art chores in this tale and is pretty spectacular.  Compared to some of the past issues post-Golden, this one had some dynamic panels and great art.

This issue did nothing to advance the plot but was a good jumping on point for new readers.  It's also a good time for me to take a breather.  In the next installment, I'll tackle issues 39-47.  Hard to believe I'm over the hump now and rocketing toward the end.  Until then, farewell, Micronuts!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Micronauts: The Collection Continues - part 1

After buying the first 20 issues of the Micronauts on eBay, I was hooked after reading the first issue, which I wrote about here and here.  Once I'd devoured those, I thought about savoring the rest of the series but decided to wolf them down as fast as I could.  So here we are.

21 - The cover of this issue depicts the Micronauts peeling back the corner of the cover to see Homeworld and Spartak inside.  The art on the Micronauts themselves is great but the cover concept isn't my bag.

In the main tale, Arcturus Rann and Marionette wind up in a New York City flower shop.  The proprietress and her beau exchange goodbyes and the beau winds up being Plantman!  Rann wants to head for the hills but Marionette convinces him to stay and fight for the missing woman's honor against Plantman and his carnivorous plants!  It's Plantman so he gets his ass handed to him.

In the backup tale, the first installment of Tales from the Microverse, we get to find out what's happening on Spartak, namely the resurrection of Prince Shaitan.

Pat Broderick did a great job in this issue.  Unfortunately, the joy that may have given me has been tainted by the knowledge that he frequently disregarded parts of Bill's plots.  Still, the man knows his way around a Micronaut.
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22 - This covers sees Acroyear, Microtron, Biotron, and Bug in the process of getting run down by a Mack truck.  It's another one of Michael Golden's kick ass covers.

After sorting out the Mack truck from the cover art, Acroyear, Microtron, Cilicia, and Bug wind up at McDonald's just in time to foil a robbery by the world's worst burglar in a pretty hilarious encounter.  They are finally reunited with Marionette and Arcturus Rann and go looking for Biotron and the Endeaver.

In the Tales from the Microverse segment, Slug sees all is not well on Homeworld and the signs lead her to... Prince Argon?  No!!!!

Well, I happen to know Baron Karza shows up soon so I guess we'll get the inside scoop soon enough.  Even though I'm aware of his personality clashes with Bill Mantlo, I'm still happy to have Pat Broderick as the regular artist at this point.

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23 - The Micronauts are about to be grabbed by The Molecule Man on this cover.  They look completely unaware.  My favorite bit of the cover is Bug hanging on Biotron, afraid to get his feet wet.  This scene never happens in the book but it's still a fun Michael Golden cover.  Get 'em while supplies last.

Biotron, stuck repairing the ship as usual, leaves Odd John's barn to scavenge parts.  He winds up in a scrap yard and startles a bum, who grabs a strange wand and gets possessed by the Molecule Man!  Biotron gives Molecule Man a running battle until he finally eludes him, just in time to meet up with the other Micronauts back at Odd John's barn.

The was a pretty good issue.  Biotron usually doesn't get much play but was star of the show here, barely eluding the Molecule Man.  Pat Broderick's art is going a long way toward making me forget Michael Golden isn't ever coming back.

The back stories were decent.  Microtron rolling in on Marionette and Arcturus Rann getting down was hilarious and it was nice to touch base with the events on Homeworld, which I assume the Micronauts will find themselves in the middle of in another issue or two.

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24 - Microtron, Bug, and Commander Rann battle some kind of psychedelic image on a computer.  In the corner, the page is ripped away to reveal Shaitan, hinting at the back story.  It's not a bad cover but it's Golden's last.  He should have went out on a higher note than this.

The Micronauts get the hell out of dodge but something takes over the Endeavor's computer systems.  The Micronauts find themselves at some kind of installation where they battle Computrex, an evil sentient computer.  As Computrex tries to take control of Biotron, Rann is forced to relieve his past memories and nearly beats Marionette to death in the process.  Heavy stuff.

In the backup story, Shaitan's uprising continues and he encounters Prince Pharoid.  Slug's on his ass, though.

While people compare Micronauts to Star Wars, it's far more a love letter to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, primarily the epic Lee and Kirby run on Fantastic Four and Kirby's Fourth World.  The Micronauts feel more like a family than an Avengers style team and the character designs are Kirby-esque.  I shouldn't be this excited to keep reading a comic from 1981.
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25 - I may just be being pissy because Michael Golden isn't doing the covers but this one seems off to me.  Bug, Rann, and Marionette are battling The Fixer and Mentallo with the Endeavor in the background.  The perspective just seems out of whack on this one to me.

The interior is better.  After all the biological Micronauts except Bug get some action, The Micronauts battle The Fixer and Mentallo.  Eventually, they get the upper hand and Rann pries the secrets out of Mentallo's mind, being that they serve HYDRA and HYDRA is being controlled by someone in the Microverse.  The Micronauts decide to go to SHIELD for help and it's roll the credits.

In the backup story, we're told the origin of Baron Karza and Argon winds being host to Karza's personality.  I smell another epic confrontation on the wind...

The interior was better than the cover but The Micronauts are due to fight someone besides earthbound super villains.  I'm looking forward to the inevitable return to the Microverse and Micronauts vs. Karza II.

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26 - Nick Fury is locked in combat with a Hydra agent with the Micronauts assembled at their feet.  Baron Karza looms in the background, hidden behind the Hydra symbol.  It's an okay cover but I'd like it better if the Micronauts took center stage instead of the guest stars.

A ton of stuff is packed into this issue, a reminder of what we've lost in the name of decompression.  The Micronauts help SHIELD repel a HYDRA invasion of the SHIELD helicarrier and protect the ESPers from Hydra agents.  However, it is not enough to stop Baron Karza from seizing control of the Enigma Force from Arcturus Rann and reducing Marionette to atoms...

... sending her back into Microverse, where she warns everyone of the coming of Karza.  But it's too late!  Karza has control of the Time Travlers!  We're all fucked!

Ahem.  A ton of stuff happened.  Turns out SHIELD has a collection of Microverse artifacts.  For some reason, that made me very happy.  Bug releases Dagon, another Acroyear, and there's a big damn fight.  Mantlo didn't shy away from big events and there's a big one coming.  Microwar II is going to be spectacular.  Random thought - the Spacewall is a lot like the Source Wall separating the New Gods' universe from the DC universe.
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27 - Baron Karza battles Commander Rann with some kind of psychedelic background on this one.  It's a pretty average cover, which is a shame because Pat Broderick could do a lot more.

SHIELD and HYDRA duke it out on the helicarrier while Baron Karza battles Commander Rann.  The Micronauts are betrayed by Dagon the Acroyear and Biotron might be dead.  The issue closes with SHIELD on the verge of defeat and Rann comatose at Karza's hands.

Yeah, Mantlo really didn't mind throwing the Micronauts from the frying pan into the fire in almost every issue.  Big stuff is on the horizon.  I kind of wish they hadn't already revealed the fate of Marionette, though.

Bug teaming up with Dum Dum Dugan was my favorite part of the issue.  I can't wait until Dagon gets what's coming to him for what he did to Biotron.  And Karza's defeat, of course.

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28 - Baron Karza and Acroyear go toe to toe with the fate of the universe in the balance!  This is a pretty sweet cover with a lot of detail.  I didn't even notice the rest of the Micronauts in the background until after I stared at it for a while.

Microwar II comes to a head.  SHIELD and HYDRA battle in Fantasy Land, a stand-in for Disneyland.  Karza looks to be on the verge of victory until Shaitan betrays him and dies a second time.  Acroyear and Karza battle it out with the fate of two universes in the balance.  It ends as expected, with Acroyear and the Worldmind defeating Karza, leaving a naked King Argon behind.

So the team is reunited here but Biotron is presumably dead, Rann is in another coma, and Spartak is probably devastated.  Mantlo really knew how to push a guy's buttons.

I'm guessing the next issue will be the aftermath.  Good thing since I need a breather.  Mantlo and Broderick did a fantastic job of portraying such an epic scale conflict.
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29 - Acroyear battles some undead Acroyears while Nightmare lurks in the background.  This is an odd cover but a good one.  Acroyear looks like he's going to be overwhelmed by undead Acroyears.

Doc Samson guest stars in this issue that sees Bug, Marionette, and Acroyear go into Commander Rann's mind to save his life, kind of like Fantastic Voyage meets Doctor Strange.  Meanwhile, Dagon means to kill Rann with only Microtron standing in his way.

For an aftermath issue, this one had a lot going on. Cilicia calls Acroyear a coward for leaving the team. The truth behind Dagon is revealed.  Bug, Marionette, and Acroyear go up against Nightmare and finally save Commander Rann.

The Micronauts are returning to Homeworld in the next issue which makes this a good stopping point for me.  In the next installment, I'll tackle issues 30 to 38.  Until next time, Micronuts!

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Micronauts comics I bought on eBay - part 2

For some reason, I never managed to pick up a Micronauts comic as a kid.  Odd, since I had a Biotron I bought at the flea market when I was four or five.  Anyway, the series looked unlike anything else published during the time period and was written by the great Bill Mantlo so I grew more and more curious as I got older.  It took awhile getting there but I nabbed a bunch of early issues on eBay on the cheap.  I've already covered issues 1-7 and 9-12  and here are my thoughts on issues 13 thru 20.

Annual 1 - King-Sized Annual 1 features three stories of The Micronauts from the days before the team formed.  The first story features Arcturus Rann and Biotron encountering a vortex on their thousand year journey.  The second story features Microtron, Mari and Argon running afoul of Baron Karza for the first time.  The third story features Bug and Acroyear in the gladiator pits.

This is easily my least favorite Micronauts comic so far.  While I love Steve Ditko on Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, his art seems out of place here.  The three stories are acceptable but not exceptional.  The Bug and Acroyear story is by far my favorite.

Michael Golden was sorely missed in this volume.  It felt like Ditko was phoning it in, for the most part.  Mantlo's dialogue couldn't save the uninspired plots.  The King Size Annual felt like DVD extras for the first year of Micronauts, somewhat interesting but ultimately non-essential.

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13 - Michael Golden is back on cover chores in this one.  Bug is locked in combat with a few other Insectivorids with others looking on in the background.  Great stuff.

Bug wakes up on Kaliklak and runs into his old mentor.  Wartstaff, an old enemy has taken over the old gang and Bug's not having it.  Bug overthrows Warstaff, his father, with some help.  Meanwhile, Rann is recovering and itching to return to adventuring.

I was prepared not to like Howard Chaykin on art duties but Howie did an admirable job filling Michael Golden's shoes with Al Milgrom on inks.

Mantlo used this opportunity to flesh out Bug's background, revealing how he ended up in the pleasure pits way back in Micronauts #1.

I can't help but feel something is going to happen with Prince Argon.  He sure seems like he's up to something.  I'm also wondering what's going to come of the Microverse artifacts on earth.  For a bronze age comic, there's a hell of a lot of forward planning in The Micronauts.

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14 - Michael Golden provides the cover again, this time of Bug and Jasmine fighting for Kaliklak with the rest of the Micronauts watching on a monitor.  Nothing resembling this scene appears in the book but it's still a good way to showcase Bug while reminding us their are five other Micronauts.

Bug's revolution is in full swing in this one.  Wartstaff is presumably killed and the governor is deposed.  Meanwhile, Rann, Microtron, Biotron, and Marionette set a course for parts unknown and are reunited with Acroyear and Cilicia.

Back on Earth, a SHIELD agent takes the Microverse relics to one of earth's foremost minds, Reed Richards!  Since the crossover with the Fantastic Four against Psycho-Man is one of the reasons I wanted to read The Micronauts, I'm pretty excited.

Mantlo's writing manages to be emotional but still action packed.  I can't say enough good things about it.

I don't know what happened since the last issue but Chaykin doing layouts and Milgrom doing everything else didn't really work for me.  Bug was fine but a lot of the other figures looked squat.  The layouts were great so I'm laying the blame on Al Milgrom.  We'll see how next issue goes.

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15 - Michael Golden once again does the cover duties, this time with the Micronauts standing behind a fallen Microtron while hordes of Antrons bear down on them.  Not my favorite cover but even a lackluster Michael Golden cover is worthwhile.

The reunited Micronauts encounter a massive ship and decide to board it, only to be overrun by Antrons.  Meanwhile, on earth, the Fantastic Four and Agent M talk about someone from the Microverse that has invaded the Baxter Building, stealing something.  Reed, Sue, and Ben head to the Microverse, sending the Human Torch to Florida to investigate HELL.

Back in the Microverse, Microtron is killed and the Micronauts are captured by Psycho-Man, setting the stage for the next couple issues.

I sure didn't expect Microtron to die but I guess one sass-mouthed robot is enough and Biotron is a better character.  The Micronauts sure don't take it easy.

The art is better since the last issue.  Maybe Al Milgrom is more comfortable with the characters.  I wonder how long before Jackson Guice becomes the regular artist.
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16 - On this Michael Golden cover, Psycho-Man clutches the Micronauts in one hand and it doesn't look like the Fantastic Four is going to fare much better.  This one has a great composition and makes me want to read the interior as fast as I can, which I nearly did.

The Micronauts are thralls of Psycho-Man and his mood altering gizmo, sending them into fits of fear, doubt, and hate.  Eventually, they get their shit together, just in time for the Fantastic Four to show up to help.

The team of Chaykin and Milgrom is getting better after some bumps in the road.  The Micronauts team feels a little bloated, making me think either Jasmine or Cilicia is going to leave soon.  Poor Microtron, though.

Acroyear tying Mr. Fantastic in knots may have been my favorite part of the issue.
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17 - Psycho-Man has some weird stuff going on on this cover, while the Micronauts and the Fantastic Four are held captive.  Not my favorite cover but it still has a lot of interesting things going on.

After the Human Torch nearly burns off all the oxygen in Psycho-Man's ship, Biotron is torn apart and everyone else is held captive until the Fantastic Four and the Micronauts put their differences aside and launch a counter attack.

In the end, Psycho-Man is defeated, but not without a terrible price.  Jasmine is killed and Psycho-Man lives to fight another day.  At least Biotron and Microtron are back to normal at the end, however.

The art team of Chaykin and Milgrom continues to get better together but there were still a few panels I found problematic.

Side note: Bug and Acroyear are my favorite Micronauts by far.

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18 - The Micronauts battle mannequin-like figures while a giant human looked into the window.  It's a surprisingly creepy cover for a Micronauts issue, excellently done by Michael Golden.

The Micronauts escape Psycho-Man's clutches and themselves on an unknown world with titanic vegetation.  They wander to a mis-sized house and battle the denizens, robot-like dolls.  Yep, they're in a doll house on earth.

This one had a lot of emotional content.  Bug buries Jasmine and mourns for her and for himself.  The dollhouse reminds me of a creepy Doctor Who episode and the godlike child manipulating things reminds me of Kate's House.

One thing I haven't mentioned is that Marionette is written a lot stronger than most female characters of the time period, forcing Rann to treat her as an equal.

The next couple issues promise more amusing and probably terrifying adventures on Earth.  I cheated and looked ahead a bit.  It looks like Pat Broderick will be the new artist soon.  I liked his work quite a bit on Captain Atom so I'm looking forward to it.
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19 - On this cover, a giant hand clutches Space Gilder with a mutated version of Bug perched on its wrist.  The other Micronauts wrestle with mutant bees.  The layout is strong and dramatic with Bug and Arcturus in the center.  Another winner by Michael Golden.

Bug, on his own, discovers a barn and meets Odd John, a crazy scientist with an eye toward insect evolution.  The remaining Micronauts eventually track down Odd John, only to go up against a horde of mutant insects, led by a mutant Bug.  Things look grim as Odd John takes control...

This was another fun tale of the Micronauts venturing into the regular Marvel universe, complete with humorous misunderstandings.  Bug getting mutated and evil wasn't so humorous.  We'll see what happens next issue.

Pat Broderick's art is a welcome breath of fresh air after Howie Chaykin and Al Milgrom playing tug of war for page after page.
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20 - The cover of this one is in my top five of the series so far.  The Micronauts, plus special guest Ant-Man, battle mutant insects on a grocery store shelf.  Also, spotting the G on Micronauts covers is getting to be like finding the Playboy bunny back in the day.

Marionette uses a hammer to knock Odd John out and get the other Micronauts back into the game.  Meanwhile, the mutant bugs, our Bug included, are on a rampage and wind up at a supermarket.  Fortunately, Ant-Man is on the scene to lend the heroes a helping hand.

Bill Mantlo's writing doesn't get praised enough for my liking, a great blend of humor, drama, and action.  Microtron and Biotron had some great lines in this one.  Ant-Man's size reduction gas saves the day in this one, restoring Bug and the insects to normal.  I didn't know Pym Particles could do that but whatever.  I'm also digging Pat Broderick's art.


And thus concludes the Micronauts comics I bought on eBay.  Fear not, however.  I've since bought twenty-something more issues, plus X-Men vs. Micronauts, so I'll be tackling those in large installments in the near future.  Until then, farewell, Micronuts!