A Look Back at What If #58 (1994)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

In early 1994, I was still in high-school. There was a time when I passed by a local comic book store that showed a new What If? comic book displayed among the many new titles. That particular comic book caught my attention because of its key question: What if the Punisher had killed Spider-Man?

That comic book was What If #58 published by Marvel Comics with a story by Chuck Dixon and art by Gordon Purcell. Check out the cover below.

Cover
The cover of this comic book took a lot of inspiration from that of Amazing Spider-Man #129.

To put things in perspective, Spider-Man and Punisher are both heroes in the universe of Marvel Comics but with very drastic differences between them. Spider-Man/Peter Parker fights crooks and other types of bad guys while maintaining a lawfully good nature even as he struggles to live a normal, personal life. Punisher, who is privately Frank Castle, is a killer who is driven to fight criminals beyond the boundaries of the law. The Punisher resorts to extreme forms of violence and guns are his main weapons. Due to the tragic loss of his wife and children, Punisher lives to wage a one-man war against criminals which only reflects the huge loss of his humanity.

Spider-Man and the Punisher first encountered each other in Amazing Spider-Man #129. Through the years, the two would face-off again and again. In the mid-1980s, the Punisher went on to rise in high popularity with comic book readers as Marvel Comics published three regular series: The Punisher, The Punisher War Journal and The Punisher War Zone.

That being said, we take a look back at What If #58.

Early story

Without involving Marvel’s galactic Watcher, the comic book begins with the Punisher aiming his gun at a man seated behind his desk. It turns out Punisher is waiting for the police to arrive at the place they are in.

From this point, the story is told in flashback with Punisher narrating. He is with the Jackal on the roof top of a building in New York City. Even as the Jackal pushes him to shoot a certain target already, the Punisher decides not to do it. He stressed he wants to study the target.

“It seemed right. Taking down a high profile outlaw like Spider-Man looked like the right way to go,” Punisher thought. “And Jackal promised unlimited funding of my war on crime if I succeeded.”

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Punisher doing research.

Gradually, the Punisher prepares himself to kill Spider-Man…

Quality

Let me start with the concept of this comic book. Exploring what would happen had the Punisher actually killed Spider-Man (note: this is so obvious from the cover) is a bold and clever story to tell. To put things in perspective, the Punisher’s attempt to kill Marvel’s iconic superhero happened way back in Amazing Spider-Man #129 which was published way back in 1974. Very clearly, Punisher failed and Spider-Man went on to live and fight for good.

When it comes to storytelling, Chuck Dixon delivered a strong script and carefully crafted a standalone story that looks at the Punisher’s first-ever attempt to shoot Spider-Man but the narrative was more on the vigilante’s point-of-view. The dialogue was solid and the narration gives readers a good look at the personality of Frank Castle. I also liked the way the story was paced.

What also makes this comic book really good is that it shows in convincing fashion what else would have happened after the successful assassination of Spider-Man. Without spoiling the surprise, you can ask yourself how would Punisher react once he learned who Spider-Man really was, how would the many people who personally knew Spider-Man (whether good or evil) would react and what the state of crime in New York would be like.

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The Punisher anticipating Spider-Man outside The Daily Bugle.

As for the art, Gordon Purcell did a decent job. He captured what was back then modern day 1990s look of the Punisher (completely rejecting the way the character looked in Amazing Spider-Man #129) and he knew how to present him from different angles regardless of what action was taken. On drawing Spider-Man, Purcell proved to be good. I noticed in some parts of the comic book, he tried hard to make Spidey look dynamic while traveling high above the streets of the city. The big money shot (in terms of illustration) for me was the moment Spider-Man got killed.

Conclusion

Overall, What If #58 is a good and fun comic book to read. Historically, this was released at a time when Spider-Man and the Punisher were both wildly popular. The decision to tell an alternate reality off Amazing Spider-Man #129 was inevitable and ultimately was nicely pulled off.

If you are thinking about acquiring What If #58, as of this writing MileHighComics.com shows that a near-mint copy of the regular edition is at $26 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition is at $77.

What If #58 is recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at X-Men 2099 #26

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

As already mentioned in my retro review of X-Men 2099 #25, a new creative direction was taken for the futuristic mutants of Marvel (who got back together after being apart for long) and the monthly series itself while still maintaining connection with the rule of Doom 2099 (already driven by Warren Ellis as the writer) as the US President. That story ended with noticeable changes on the characters, especially on Xi’an who ended up nothing like the strong and driven X-Men leader he was in X-Men 2099 #1. As such Tim Fitzgerald/Skullfire, who went through a lot of emotional struggles and confusion, finally learned to be strong to become the mutants’ new leader.

In this review, we will take a look at the aftermath of the events that happened in the above-mentioned anniversary celebration issue. Series lead creators John Francis Moore and Ron Lim took another shot heading towards the new direction in X-Men 2099 #26 published by Marvel Comics in 1995.

Cover
The cover by Ron Lim.

Early story

The comic book opens with Doom 2099’s Minister for Humanity Morphine Somers waking up and learns from his digital assistant that disaster happened in the White House (refer to Doom 2099 #33).

The story then shifts to Halo City which is the walled mecca which continues to attract some hundreds of thousands of misfits, mutants and refugees who seek sanctuary from the mega corporations which have dominated societies in most cities around the United States. In the middle of the traffic jam going into the city, a man decides to get out of the taxi and head on by foot.

The man is identified as Gunnar Tristan, an entertainment journalist. As the city authorities examines Gunnar, a man wearing a shirt looking like the American flag fires a shot at one of the security personnel.

“Down on your knees and pledge allegiance! The time’s come to sweep out all the genetic trash that’s polluting this great country. I got a thermonuclear bomb that’s gonna wash this mongrel city of the taint of foreigners and freaks,” said the armed man.

Just as Gunnar is about to fire, Henri Huang/Meanstreak of X-Men 2099 intervenes to prevent anymore danger from happening. Meanstreak is with teammate Krystalin and seen on their clothes are V-like symbols. They are now officially working for the city authorities as the mutant protectorate….

Quality

Clearly following up on the ending of X-Men 2099 #25, this story delivered strongly on showing the futuristic X-Men as Halo City authority members which is a drastic change from their past as outlaws and misadventure participants.

14
The X-Men as members working for the authorities.

A strong element in this comic book is character development and it shows the former X-Men leader Xi’ian feeling guilty and has gotten obsessed with healing sick people as a way to atone for his sins. At this point of time, Xi’an went from a bag guy into a reformed man (X-Men leader) into a bad guy again before ending up weak and confused. This puts him yet again into conflict with his long-time trustee Shakti/Cerebra (who by this time can be seen as a suitable team leader with a very strong moral direction). Skullfire meanwhile is feeling uneasy with his team working for an administration and it can be seen that the time he spent in the wilderness took its toll on him.

When it comes to art, Ron Lim pushed his creativity hard this time by establishing the overall look of Halo City and how it is transforming into a hot bed for people who don’t want to live in a place monitored always by mega corporations. On characters, I should say that Lim’s designs for the new villain group The Undead is not very captivating although one of them really looked horrifying. On action scenes, Lim continued to deliver the goods.

Conclusion

I should say that I like this comic book a lot. It’s got more character development scenes and story build-up with noticeably lesser spectacle (which is not a problem at all). Being the 26th issue of the X-Men 2099 monthly series, characterization really had to be prioritized by the creative team to emphasize the bold, new direction taken. Just to see the X-Men become authority members even though they are not really qualified is just intriguing!

What makes this particular old comic book special in a rather bizarre and accidental manner is the raging debate about how America of today should handle its immigration problems especially with hot topics like securing the borders, building the wall along the south border with Mexico, and deporting as many illegal immigrants (even those who have families in America, established business and paid taxes) as possible. Back in the year this old comic book was published, immigration was not such a hot topic and there were even more Democrats (including then US President Bill Clinton) who favored stricter moves to curb illegal immigration.

The presence of the armed man who despises foreigners and mutants is now more socially relevant to see. It’s so symbolic, you should look at the page below.

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I wonder if anyone from the Democratic Party or the Political Left in America who support open borders had seen this page.

If you are seriously collecting comic books, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that a near-mint copy of X-Men 2099 #26 regular edition is worth $4 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition is worth $8.

Overall, X-Men 2099 #26 is highly recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at What If #9 (1990)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Long before the renaissance of Hollywood-produced superhero movies even started, the X-Men established itself as one of the most popular franchises of Marvel Comics. What some readers do not know was that while the X-Men indeed started in 1963 under Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Marvel’s mutants actually started getting successful in the mid-1970s with the 2nd X-Men team (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Sunfire, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Banshee and Thunderbird) handled by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum.

That new team literally made a splash with readers with the release of Giant-size X-Men #1 in 1975. That comic book, which is very valuable now, saw Charles Xavier recruiting new mutants to form a new team with Cyclops being the only pioneer remaining. Subsequently the X-Men monthly series of that era saw lots of stories of this particular team solving problems and fighting evil. Along the way, Chris Claremont got hired as the new writer and then the rest was history.

In this retro comic book review, we will take an interesting look at what would have happened had the 2nd team of the X-Men died on their first mission.

This is What If #9 written by Roy Thomas, drawn by Rich Buckler and published by Marvel Comics in 1990.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The comic book begins with the Watcher of Marvel’s universe explaining what actually happened during the X-Men’s mission in Giant-size X-Men #1. Then he offers an alternate version of the events asking “What if…the new X-Men had died on their very first mission?”

The new reality begins in Scotland where Moira McTaggert receives a telegram from the United States. The message read that her friend Charles Xavier is ill which compels her to leave immediately. Before leaving, a little girl named Rahne comes to Moira followed by Craig who asserts his authority on her. Subsequently Moira and Rahne arrive at Salem Center, New York, greeted by Hank McCoy/Beast who confirmed that he was the one who sent the telegram to her.

Moira finally meets Xavier who expressed surprise to see her. As it turned out, Xavier had isolated himself in a room using Cerebro. After separating from Xavier, Beast explains to Moira what happened previously to Cyclops, Jean Grey, Havoc, Polaris and Ice Man on a far away island (read Giant-size X-Men #1). Cyclops was fortunate enough to survive and return to Xavier who was compelled to use Cerebro to trace mutants around the world (note: the 2nd X-Men team).

2
When trouble hits the world…

This leads to events told in Giant-size X-Men #1 but something drastic happened…

Quality

Storytelling is easily the strongest and most defining element of this comic book, especially if you are fortunate enough to read what happened in Giant-size X-Men #1 from 1975. The alternate plot by Roy Thomas is pretty intriguing and highly dramatic, and yet it still manages to add some spectacle to maintain balance.

What If #9 strongly delivered on what it promised what would have happened had the 2nd X-Men team died on their first mission complete with the narrative shifting dramatically through the eyes of Moira McTaggert, Xavier and Beast.

In terms of characterization, I really enjoyed the dramatization of the close friendship between Xavier and McTaggert. Having read lots of X-Men comic books through the decades, I should say that McTaggert was often limited to supporting roles or guest appearances. As seen in this comic book, she and Xavier made a solid pair of mentors. Lastly, the portrayal of Xavier being somewhat broken and regretful is wonderfully executed. Adding to that, the portrayal of McTaggert as a strong provider of direction and support for a fragile Xavier is memorable.

When it comes to the visuals, Rich Buckler scored nicely. The characters are all recognizable (with Beast looking a bit more visceral than how he actually appeared in the 1970s to 1980s) and their facial expressions were nice to see. Buckler also proved to be good with visualizing the action and the suspenseful parts.

Conclusion

1
Very nice artistic presentation by Rich Buckler. Readers of 1975’s Giant-size X-Men #1 will be able to relate with this.

Overall, What If #9 is a great comic book to read. It is the closest thing you can get when it comes to seeing Marvel’s mutants led by Xavier with McTaggert working behind the scenes together. Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler really scored a homerun with this non-canon X-Men story!

For the comic collectors reading this, based on the rates at MileHighComics.com as of this writing, a near-mint copy of this comic book’s regular version is $24 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition is priced at $51.

What If #9 (1990) is highly recommended!


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at X-Men 2099 #25

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Back in the 1990s, comic books with gimmick covers and higher cover prices were abundant and also were easy targets for collectors. In the case of Marvel Comics, the concept of the “anniversary issue” was important because it gave them a chance to sell comics at a higher price.

To put things in perspective, many times back then Marvel would produce comic books with slightly more pages and a gimmick cover in celebration of a so-called anniversary such as the comic book series reaching its 25th or 50th or 75th or 100th issue and so on. Other anniversary celebrations include a character specific anniversary such as Spider-Man’s 30th anniversary celebrated with the comic book Amazing Spider-Man #365 which had a lot of pages and a hologram cover.

Of course, such anniversary celebrations were implemented on the Marvel 2099 line of comic books. Check out my review of Spider-Man 2099 #25.

Right here we will take a look at the first-ever anniversary celebration issue of the X-Men of the far future with X-Men 2099 #25 written by John Francis Moore and drawn by Ron Lim. This comic book was released in 1995 and Marvel already published multiple series of other franchises of their 2099 line. Prior to X-Men 2099 #25, the team saw its members separated from each other and went through lots of misadventures and unfortunate events before finally getting back together.

Cover
The full cover drawn by Ron Lim.

Early story

X-Men 2099 #25 begins with a research of Xi’an and his band of mutants being presented by the Minister of Humanity (Morphine Somers) to the President in their airship flying above California.

“I see in this current generation of X-Men an untapped potential,” said the President. “Now, tell me you have finally relocated them.”

The story then shifts to the slaughterhouse of the Theater of Pain wherein a restrained Shakti/Cerebra is standing helpless next to Brimstone Love and a masked Xi’an who are about to execute a sinister plan. Shakti speaks out against them and tells Brimstone that they are parasites preying on the pain and vulnerability of innocent people. Brimstone insists that the weak and helpless provide sport for the rich and powerful, and that his group was founded for the select powerful few who crave for and pay a lot for performances. Xi’an, who had a sinister past before getting reformed to revive the X-Men (before reverting back to evil due to Zhao’s invasion of his mind), only emphasized the theater’s importance.

Defiant, Shakti tries to reach deep into Xi’an and turn him around.

Elsewhere, the former Theater of Pain member Luna (who by this time got close with Tim/Skullfire) is chained and is confronted by her sisters in the theater. Skullfire meanwhile is in the waste disposal center where he meets someone who betrayed their team. They both thought about setting aside their differences to do something before time runs out…

Quality

19
X-Men 2099’s Krystalin, Meanstreak and Bloodhawk get into the action.

In terms of visuals, I can say that Ron Lim’s art is pretty good and, most likely in tandem with the writer, took careful steps to control the pace enough to keep readers entertained without ever making things look disorienting. When there is action, the pace moves fast and the impact of the action done is always visible. As seen throughout the X-Men 2099 series, the look of the southwestern region of America is always striking and I like the fact that the wilderness setting comes with lesser presence of futuristic technology (compare this to what was seen in 2099’s New York) which gives this comic book a more laid-back concept.

When it comes to the storytelling, character development is nicely emphasized in this comic book. If you read enough of the early comic books (let’s say the first ten issues) and paid close attention to the futuristic X-Men, you will be able to relate with their struggles which add a lot of depth to the usual good-versus-evil storytelling here. Without spoiling the story, I should say that this comic book concluded with a believable new direction emphasized which in turn made me want to look to the next issue. It’s that strong of an ending!

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It sure is intriguing to see Shakti, one of the most prominent X-Men 2099 members, really suffer along with others.

I also liked the way this comic book emphasized the connections between the Theater of Pain with the Chosen (another group of villains) and most notably with Zhao (a previous leader of the X-Men before Xi’an’s time).

As for in-universe crossing-over, this comic book nicely ties up with Doom 2099 which, at the time of publishing, was under the creative direction of Warren Ellis who is now one of the best comic book writers.

If there is anything I have an issue with, it’s the cover art. It has a few characters who appeared on the cover, most notably Desdemona, and yet were absent in this comic book’s story. They ended up looking like cover art filler. Not a problem but distracting and meaningless.

Conclusion

Let me make it clear here…I really like this comic book. It definitely has the best and most engaging story of the X-Men of 2099 ever and that’s because this particular monthly series had an extensive build-up on all the characters since issue #1 and issue #25 executed a great payoff.

During the first ten issues of the X-Men 2099 series of the 1990s, the team drastically changed since the start of issue #4 and this includes members who went far away or decided to exclude themselves. X-Men 2099 #25 tied up most the loose threads not only by having the team members back together but also emphasized how much they developed over the past few years (in real life, that is). This is also the kind of comic book that will make you want to revisit the very start of its series and rediscover the characters.

5
Luna in chains.

If you are seriously collecting comic books, be aware that based on the listings of MileHighComics.com as of this writing, as a near-mint copy of the comic book’s regular edition is $4 while a near-mint-copy of the deluxe edition (with gimmick cover) is at $6. X-Men 2099 #25’s newsstand edition is worth $8 for a near-mint copy.

Overall, X-Men 2099 #25 is highly recommended. The creators outdid themselves and made the best story of titled characters. Truly, this comic book is where the mutants of 2099 really got defined in their respectful place within the Marvel Comics universe of the 1990s.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

 

 

A Look Back At Wonder Woman #9 (1987)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Very recently, Warner Bros. announced that due to the ongoing coronavirus disease COVID-19 pandemic, it has decided to reschedule the release of Wonder Woman 1984 to August 2020.

While fans, geeks and moviegoers have to wait a bit longer for the much-awaited movie, we can take time out to look back to the year 1987 when DC Comics published the comic book Wonder Woman #9 written (plot) and illustrated by the legendary George Perez with scripting done by the late Len Wein.

Remember seeing Dr. Barbara Minerva (Cheetah) played by Kristen Wiig in Wonder Woman 1984? This comic book marked the debut of the post-Crisis Cheetah whose civilian personality is Dr. Barbara Minerva (her literary debut was in Wonder Woman #7). To make history short, the original Cheetah that appeared in 1943’s Wonder Woman #6 was Priscilla Rich while the second Cheetah was Deborah Domaine (Priscilla Rich’s niece). Dr. Minerva is the third and arguably the most modernized and most popular Cheetah.

With the history talk over, here we go with Wonder Woman #9!

WW9a
The cover drawn by George Perez.

Early Story

The story begins with a ritual performed by a short, old man with a knife. He cuts the skin of a naked woman and collects some of her blood. He uses the blood to feed a plant he believes to be a god (the plant-god). Afterwards he returns to the naked woman and covers her with the cloth.

The next morning, at another location, Wonder Woman flies happily in the air. Below her were publicist Myndi Mayer, Julia (Diana’s host and personal educator) and teenager Vanessa.

It turns out, Wonder Woman, who strongly values honor, was happy to have received a letter from Dr. Barbara Minerva. Julia however is not confident and based on her research, she described Minerva as “shady as your average weeping willow.”

Myndi, who is looking for the next great scoop, dismisses Julia’s concern and remains focused on accompanying Wonder Woman to meeting Minerva.

Quality

Apart from marking the first appearance of Cheetah (no longer a lady wearing a silly costume) in the post-Crisis era of DC Comics, Wonder Woman #9 is still a very compelling and fun comic book to read. Its great quality combined with a solid concept can be attributed to George Perez.

On storytelling, Perez and Wein delivered a solid balance between spectacle, characterization, plotting and mystery. The presentation of Dr. Minerva as an accomplished yet arrogant archaeologist is a clever concept of having her involved with Wonder Woman who in turn also has a personal interest in relics and evidences of established cultures and societies (given the Amazonian society Diana came from). Minerva’s transformation and first action as Cheetah is indeed excellent to read.

WW9b
Diana/Wonder Woman and Dr. Minerva/Cheetah meet for the first time ever.

Being one of the greatest comic book illustrators ever, it is no surprise that this comic book still looks great! Even though Perez used a lot of panels per page, the amount of visual details as well as the maintenance of his art style remain high.

When it comes to the first-ever battle between Cheetah and Wonder Woman, Perez pulled no punches back with the spectacle. There is a good amount of brutal action which so enjoyable to see and I can only hope that director Patty Jenkins took inspiration from the comic’s action scenes for Wonder Woman 1984 (a conflict between the Queen of Superheroes and the animalistic villainess on the big screen is inevitable).

WW9c
Brutal action between Cheetah and Wonder Woman!

On characterization, this comic book continued to deliver the good and believable development of Wonder Woman who is still adjusting to Man’s World. To put it short, it is not exclusively focused on Cheetah and Wonder Woman (whose encounters were the highlights). You will get to see how much Diana adjusted with modern society, what she thought about how modern society’s members perceived her and how close she got with Julia and Vanessa while still keeping strong with her Amazonian values.

Going back to Cheetah, the development of Dr. Minerva changing into her animalistic form is very well handled by the creators. There are enough details that explained her physical transformation and her uncanny abilities, not to mention showing her being able to give Wonder Woman a good amount of trouble. This way of modernizing the literary Cheetah is, indeed, very compelling and definitive. By reading this comic book, you will realize why this particular version of Cheetah was chosen to be part of Wonder Woman 1984.

For the collectors reading this, if you are serious on getting an existing copy of Wonder Woman #9, be aware that, as of this writing, a near-mint copy costs $77 according to MileHighComics.com

Overall, Wonder Woman #9 (1987) is highly recommended! It’s a great collector’s item too!

In ending this, watch this first official movie trailer of Wonder Woman 1984.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Action Comics #544

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

I just love it when comic book creators really pushed their creativity and bold concepts to make an anniversary celebration comic book fun, engaging and memorable. As seen in the history of American superhero comics, such great comic books become essential when their concept sets a new standard of quality or when it sets its series (and its featured superhero) to a new and well accepted direction (which then opens up many opportunities to keep the series and the superhero fresh creatively).

Such greatness was achieved by DC Comics and its creators with Action Comics #544 published in 1983.

AC544cover
The cover.

As seen in the cover above done by artists Gil Kane and Dick Giordano, Superman in the background could do nothing but be surprised to see his two foes Lex Luthor and Braniac presented in doubles reflecting a change of design – Luthor getting his now iconic powered suit of armor and Brainiac having a more robotic design.

So you must be wondering…how is the quality of the story and art of this particular comic book that celebration Superman’s 45th anniversary?

We can now start with my retro comic book review of Action Comics #544.

Early Stories

This special-sized comic book features not one but two separate Superman stories titled “Luthor Unleashed!” (written by Cary Bates and drawn by Curt Swan) and “Rebirth” (by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane).

“Luthor Unleashed!” begins with Luthor already down on the ground hurting from the crash of his aircraft and with Superman present. Even though Luthor’s already helpless, Superman flies away to an unknow destination confident that the super villain will still be there once he returns. However, Luthor got assisted by a robot of his who took him to a secret lair and rode a spacecraft going into deep space. Luthor arrives on the planet called Lexor.

“Rebirth” begins with Superman saving a lady and dog from getting hit by a car on the city street. Afterwards, he flies into space and arrives at a computerized planet that Brainiac created. Just nearby, the star of Epsilon 4 is about to go supernova which prompts him to do something so that many lives will be saved.

Quality

Visually, the art of both stories, respectively done by Curt Swan (arguably the most memorable artist to draw Superman during the pre-Crisis age) and Gil Kane is still good to look at. Both artists knew how to frame the action in interesting ways, put enough details on the people and environment surrounding Superman or Luthor or Brainiac.

When it comes to the storytelling and characterization, not only were both stories really well written, they succeeded in humanizing Luthor and Brainiac. In “Luthor Unleashed!”, the portrayal of Lex Luthor as a family man (he has a wife and a child) as well as a highly revered leader among the citizens of Lexor was excellently done. By just reading that story, it really looked like Luthor could have been a great contributor for the good of the DC Multiverse had he not been a super villain. What writer Cary Bates made clear was that Luthor’s hatred for Supermen was deeply embedded within him.

AC5441
Lex Luthor the husband and father.

The story of Brainiac meanwhile was very engaging. Marv Wolfman really went all-out on portraying the death and rebirth of Brainiac who got reshaped in the form of a futuristic robot armed with his own octopus-like spaceship. What is great about this cybernetic form of Brainiac was that he not only looked more sinister but also proved to be a more dangerous super villain than before. Also, Superman’s first encounter with Brainiac in his new form is very memorable.

AC5442
A great debut for Brainiac in his new form.

Conclusion

While Action Comics #544 is a celebration of Superman’s 45th anniversary, it is truly a showcase of the two classic super villains who not only got new looks but also went on to become more challenging to Superman on a new and higher level. Before he got his iconic powered suit of armor (designed by the great George Perez), Luthor was not much of a physical challenge to Superman. Before he got his robotic body, Brainiac was not as deadly and had much less resources to be cause chaos to Superman and others. To say the least, this comic book is a true classic of superhero literature!

If you are a collector, be aware that as of this writing, a near-mint copy of the newsstand edition of Action Comics #544 is now worth $77 while its other edition’s near-mint copy is worth $39 at MileHighComics.com.

Overall, Action Comics #544 is highly recommended. This great comic book also has another thing of value: great inspiration and references that Warner Bros. should use when making a new Superman movie with Luthor and Brainiac as the super villains.


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A Look Back At Bloodshot #1 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

You must have heard about the live-action Bloodshot movie (starring Vin Diesel) that failed to make big bucks at the box office. Then you must have learned about Valiant Comics.

To understand Bloodshot before reviewing the early-1990s comic book Bloodshot #1, here’s a look at the history of Valiant Comics.

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The cover with chromium and Bloodshot drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith.

In the late 1980s, a team composed of former Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief, former Allman Brothers Band manager Steve Massarsky and some investors failed in their bid to acquire Marvel Enterprises. Instead of letting their failure stop them, they went on to establish Voyager Communications with the backing of Triumph Capital. Voyager then created the imprint Valiant Comics which went on to launch its first titles in 1991 with Magnus, Robot Fighter (which started in the 1960s in comics published by Gold Key) and Solar, Man of the Atom (also started in the 1960s through Gold Key comics).

Subsequently Valiant’s first original superhero Rai was introduced followed by other original properties like Harbinger and Eternal Warrior. It was within the pages of Eternal Warrior #4 Bloodshot made his first appearance followed by a first full appearance in Rai #0.

Then in November 1992, the same month DC Comics released Superman #75 (The Death of Superman, Valiant released Bloodshot #1 with a cover price of $3.50 (cover dated February 1993) and a very eye-catching chromium cover of Bloodshot drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith.

Now that the history lesson is done, we can finally explore Bloodshot #1 (written by Ken VanHook and drawn by Don Perlin) in this retro comic book review.

Early Story

The story begins at Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom. Immediately after a man and a woman (both wearing coats and hats) performed an exchange with a briefcase, two other men (also wearing coats) reacted to them but Bloodshot jumps into the action firing his gun, taking a shot to his arm and grabbing the briefcase. Bloodshot escapes from the airport.

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Adulterated action!

Behind the scenes, an old man meets with Thompson and Otomo informing them that Bloodshot was an experiment of theirs under Project Rising Spirit. The project was disrupted when a young blonde male got to Bloodshot and adjusted one of the devices. The young guy was caught by one of the operators until Bloodshot (still bald and naked) got up, attacked the personnel (freeing the young guy), gathered data from their computers and escape.

The old man noticed Bloodshot’s rampage at Heathrow Airport and was able to identify him. He issues orders to Thompson and Otomo.

“I want him returned—I do not care the condition,” he said.

Quality

Looking beyond the eye-catching chromium cover, Bloodshot #1 from the early 1990s is actually engaging and intriguing to read. While it is a superhero comic book, it sure has a dark and gritty tone as well as being noticeably grounded with reality.

With the spectacle, the action is violent and somewhat bloody. It may look tame by today’s standards but back in the 1990s, this was exceptional and it really aimed towards older comic book readers. To put things in perspective, comparing this comic book with the typical Marvel or DC Comics superhero comic book is like comparing an R-rated action film to a PG-13 action or adventure film. Don Perlin’s artwork has a nice flow when it comes to the action and the dialogue scenes.

The writing by Kevin VanHook is good even by today’s standards. I like the way he handled expository dialogue in the first half of the comic book and from that point on, the spotlight was on Bloodshot and his exploits.

There are some weak spots in this comic book. There really was no room for real character development with Bloodshot. The comic book eerily reflected the hero’s approach to doing things: no slowing down, time to take action from here.  That’s not to say it is a brainless read but rather the plotting is decent and relied on the spectacle to make up for the absence of character development. That being said, Bloodshot as a hero who was a victim under his handlers, is hard to like. Based on this comic book alone, he is a rampaging killer looking as evil as the bad guys. It does not help that he is very unstoppable (because of nanites in his blood system which worked to enhance and heal him) and, at least in this comic book, there’s no real sense of danger for him.

When it comes to supporting characters like Sinclair and Malcolm, I can’t help but keep remembering Commissioner Gordon and butler Alfred Pennyworth in the Batman comics.

Conclusion

While it has some flaws in its presentation, Bloodshot #1 is still good and fun to read. On face value, Bloodshot looks like a typical macho action hero with guns but he actually has an interesting personality even though character development was badly lacking in this particular comic book. I also enjoyed the creator’s approach on emphasizing realism by using gangs and secret sinister organizations (which conduct unethical scientific experiments on people) on the background showing that Bloodshot himself is small player in a dangerous game of secret operations.

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As a standalone story, Bloodshot #1 has more than enough good stuff to make up for its flaws and it is worth reading by today’s standards. This is the true value of the comic book that its flashy chromium cover does not reflect. In other words, this comic book is more than just a gimmick.

If you are a collector, be aware that as of this writing, Bloodshot #1 is worth over $40 for a near-mint copy according to Mile High Comics.

Overall, Bloodshot #1 (1993) is recommended. As a piece of amusement, the comic book is so much better than the Vin Diesel Bloodshot movie. That say’s a lot!


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com