Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1981 - The Avengers

Avengers #203-214

1981 was a rather forgettable year for the Mighty Avengers as the title struggled to find any direction amid the shuffling of creative teams.

David Michelinie, who had served as writer for almost two years, and fan-favorite George Perez left the title as of #203 and #202 respectively. For the remainder of the year, six writers and five artists would work on the title, with none of them really getting an opportunity for any lengthy runs, except for Gene Colan. Issues #204 and #205 featured the Avengers taking on the Golden Age villain, Yellow Claw.

Issues #207-208 were disappointing fill-ins that pitted the Avengers against a cliche villain, the Shadow Lord, and featured Bob Budiansky and Danny Fingeroth as writers. Issue #209 marks a changing point in the Beast's life that would see him leave the Avengers and eventually join the Defenders (this issue was written by Defenders writer J.M. DeMatteis). Issue #210 had the Avengers battle The Weathermen. There aren’t enough sighs to sum up that story.

However, the silver lining in this brooding cloud is Colan’s art which really shines despite the title’s inconsistency.

Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter decided to personally step in and assume the permanent writing chores for issue #211. Issue #211 stands out as the best of the year and features a line-up change, which limits the team to six members. Yellowjacket is reintroduced and Tigra is added back to the line-up. The new roster is Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Tigra, Yellowjacket, and Wasp.

During his first mission upon returning to the lineup in issue #212, Yellowjacket maliciously harms the antagonist who had already surrendered. The following issue had Yellowjacket court marshaled, but he then conceives of a ludicrous plan to restore his standing as an Avenger. The plan, of course, backfires and Pym is booted off the team. Issue #213 featured Hank Pym at the height of his depression and madness and he vents his anger on the Wasp, striking her.

I never liked this storyline and always felt that Hank Pym was one of those heroes that writers always picked on. It really wasn’t until Englehart and Byrne in the West Coast Avengers, where Hank Pym really began to rise to his potential.

Issue #214 finished up the year (thankfully) and has the Avengers go after the Ghost Rider. It’s a pretty silly battle that has most of the Avengers heavyweights (Cap, Thor, Iron Man) needed to take him down.

Monday, November 29, 2010

1984 – Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange #63-68
Writer(s): Carl Potts, Ann Nocenti, Roger Stern
Artist(s): Carl Potts, Tony Salmons, Paul Smith, Steve Leialoha, and Terry Austin

The bi-monthly Doctor Strange title was quite good in the mid-1980s and in particular in 1983 through to 1985.

Carl Potts took a break from his editing chores to write and draw issue #63, “Cry of the Spirit”. He delivered a decent story, although it’s a bit predictable and should have avoided the cliché ending. The art was good, except for a few rough panels and the overuse of shadows.

Ann Nocenti stepped up to the bat as guest writer for Dr. Strange #64, “Art Rage”, and was joined by Tony Salmons, put out a great issue. This story was well-paced and pleasant to read. Nocenti’s Strange seems a bit out of character and not his usual stern and serious self. His lighter side is a nice change and worked well with the story. Tony Salmons art usually doesn’t appeal to me as his penciled art always seemed incomplete and looked like he tried to finish the art through his inks. I did, however, really like his work this issue. Strange’s facial expressions and  the variety and shapes of his panels all worked well.

Roger Stern returned in issue #65, “Charlatan”, as the regular writer and was joined by Paul Smith, who had recently drawn the Uncanny X-Men. Smith immediately delivered with a wonderful splash page. He inked his own art in this issue and it isn’t as sharp and clean as Terry Austin's inks (who inked issue #66).

Stern penned one of my favorite Dr. Strange story in issue #66, “The Chosen One”. In this issue, Dr. Strange helped the monks of an Eastern holy order find their reincarnated master. Their master is reincarnated in the body of an American golf greens keeper and of course, this reincarnation caught the monks off guard. One of them attempts to kill him to remove the taint of Western culture, but the master revealed that his Western influence was the precise purpose of this incarnation.

Terry Austin’s thin line inks did a marvelous job complementing Paul Smith’s detailed penciled art. Stern captured Strange’s character and showed us why he’s one of Marvel’s best writers in the 1980s. Stern’s Doctor Strange is composed, intelligent, and carries himself with an air of humble authority. Smith and Austin also did an incredible job on the detailed backgrounds this issue. An all-around outstanding issue.

Steve Leialoha stepped in as guest artist for issue #67, “Private Eyes”. I find Leialoha’s art awkward in the same way I find Carmine Infantino’s art awkward. Leialoha’s work tends to become more distorted when he inks his own art, like in this issue. Dr. Strange helps out private investigator Hannibal King to track down and stop and attempt by the Cult of the Darkhold to bring in an extra-dimensional vampire to Earth. Roger Stern’s script and plot are good, but the art just didn’t complement the story.

The Dr. Strange that I identify with stands at the edge of the mystical world as the Earth’s sorcerer supreme and keeps things in order. In issue #68, “Sword and Sorcery”, Dr. Strange makes a house call at Castle Garett to check up on Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, who has been restored to life in the 20th century (see Avengers #226). 

Unfortunately, the Ebony Blade's curse catches up with him and overrides his reasoning. Dr. Strange battles Dane and manages to exorcise the Ebony Blade's bloodlust curse. Once again, Smith’s pencil art and Austin’s inks are spectacular. ‘Nuff Said! Stern, through the Avengers and this issue, puts Dane Whitman’s life back together. The Black Knight rejoins the Avengers in Avengers #251. And not to be missed was Doctor Strange #69 featuring a great team up of Doctor Strange and the Black Knight that lead into the Dark Dimension storyline that would keep Strange busy for the next year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shameless Plug - Back Issue! #45

Forgot to plug Back Issue! #45 which should have hit your local comic book shelves last week! It has my Cloak and Dagger article.

Download a free preview here: http://twomorrows.com/media/BackIssue45Preview.pdf

Back Issue! #45
84 pages - November 2010

Now shipping 8 times a year, with 16 color pages each issue! In BACK ISSUE #45 (84 pages with 16-page COLOR section, $7.95), we feature “Odd Couples,” headlined by an in-depth look at DENNY O’NEIL and NEAL ADAMS’ award-winning, groundbreaking Green Lantern/Green Arrow—plus an examination of the real-life events that inspired these relevant stories. The unusual pairing of one of Marvel’s hottest writers of the ’70s with DC’s Justice League of America is explored in an exclusive interview with STEVE ENGLEHART.

Also: Daredevil and Black Widow, Power Man and Iron Fist, Vision and Scarlet Witch, Cloak and Dagger, and… Aquaman and Deadman (?!). With art by and/or commentary from TERRY AUSTIN, GENE COLAN, GERRY CONWAY, DENYS COWAN, DICK DILLIN, RICHARD HOWELL, RICK LEONARDI, STEVE SKEATES, and more. And a glorious recreation of the cover of Green Lantern #76 by NEAL ADAMS! Edited by MICHAEL EURY.

Mavel Solicitations for February 2011 - 1980s goodness

Hey, I'm back for a quick post. Doing well with NaNoWriMo already hit my 50,000, so I'm keeping going and seeing how far I can get.

Meanwhile, here's some fun 1980s stuff coming out in February 2011:

Hawkeye! His wife, Mockingbird! Wonder Man! Tigra! Iron Man! When the Avengers set up shop in California, there’s no shortage of enemies waiting to destroy them — from Kraven the Hunter to Morbius the Living Vampire to a war between Ultrons! Plus: It’s the most complicated family tree this side of Cyclops when the Vision marries the Scarlet Witch, and the Grim Reaper wants revenge! Guest-starring Hank Pym, the Wasp and the Thing! Collecting WEST COAST AVENGERS (1985) #1-9 and VISION & THE SCARLET WITCH (1985) #1-2.
296 PGS./$34.99

The X-Men and Alpha Flight have always had Wolverine in common, even when fighting over who should keep him! But when the stakes get high, these two teams of iconic heroes can set aside their differences and join forces to save the world! See Marvel’s mutants and Canada’s greatest heroes join forces against Loki, Sentinels, Hydra and Wendigo! Collecting X-MEN & ALPHA FLIGHT (1985) #1-2; X-MEN/ALPHA FLIGHT (1998) #1-2; and X-MEN (1963) #109, #120-121 and #139-140.
280 PGS./$34.99


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