Wednesday, July 25, 2018

010. To escape once more! (Mister Miracle 19)

Unlike on Return of the New Gods, Rogers provided his own cover. Sadly, his
first is also by far his worst work on the book. 
After years without his own title, Mister Miracle returns to his own title with issue 19 by the super-star creative team of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers. The team is legendary these days for their year long run of Detective Comics that helped redefine the character (and gave us Silver St. Cloud, "The Laughing Fish" and the modern Deadshot.) That run was actually going concurrently to these issues. In fact, their second issue of Detective together came out the same month as this issue. They've got several issues of that series ahead of them. Not so much for this one.

The book opens with a stupendous splash page that quickly covers the nitty-gritty on the inner workings of Mister Miracle. It's a handy introduction to a character that's only had three appearances in the past three and a half years.

This is the kind of character work Englehart excels at, and Rogers kills it on the art side.
The story opens with Scott Free back on New Genesis with his bride Big Barda. Rogers draws Barda a bit more slight than she'd been before and certainly would become after this book. They allude to the events of Return of the New Gods, as both feel like they should be in battle as well. But Highfather arrives and lays out Scott's back story. Highfather admits his fault in the awfulness of Scott's upbringing. He vows to keep them free of the battle for the first time in their lives and that they should enjoy their honeymoon on New Genesis.

Do those kind of statements ever go well in comics?

Just as Scott and Barda agree and kiss, a boom tube opens right in front of them! But Apokolips hasn't sent one threat. They've sent four: Granny Goodness, Vermin Vundabar, Kanto and Dr. Bedlam! Neither of the happy couple will back down from a fight! They attack the Apokoliptans with all their force. Barda lays out Granny, but Dr. Bedlam and Kanto work together to capture her. Scott fights to free her, but before he can the villains summon another boom tube. They disappear with Barda in their hands!

Highfather warns his son that the heroes of New Genesis are on Earth. Even the Female Furies are away and busy. (At this time, they still hadn't returned to Apokolips and Darkseid.) The only person that can stop the villains and free Barda is Scott himself. Scott accepts this truth, saying, "I understand, Highfather! I have faced these four before! I can face them again! And I'll do it - the same way!"

We switch to Earth where Oberon opens the door... and sees the return of Mister Miracle! Scott followed Granny's trail back to Earth and joins his new friend (and even gives a brief mention of Scott's last Brave & The Bold appearance.) Oberon joins him as they fly off to find Granny and Barda. They trace her to a Utah mine, but before they can enter, a warning from Granny blares out to them! If he enters the mine with his Mother Box, they will kill Barda immediately. Mister Miracle knows he has no choice. He pulls the Mother Box out of his costume. He keeps a few of his trick gadgets though, ready to escape any trap Granny might have for him.

He quickly finds Kanto, Vermin and Granny, but Barda isn't here! Instead Granny shows him footage of a sedated Barda in a machine to return obedience to the former Fury. Kanto and Vermin move to secure Mister Miracle. They chain and bind Scott, them drop him into a tank to drown.

The villains have thought him too overdependent on Mother Box for his escapes. But as they leave, he removes the high tech lock pick from his mouth. He uses the device to slice right through his bindings and then cut his way free of the tank!

Mister Miracle is far craftier than the villains clearly think. 
The villains are shocked to see he's escaped again, but they are already fleeing with Barda in tow. he tries to slow them with the dynotherm bomb he smuggled in, but it fails as the villains boom away again. But earlier Vermin had let slip a comment about "looking down on you," one that helps Mister Miracle deduce the location of the villain's base. His next destination will be... the moon!

We are promised an "Eclipse" with the next issue as this one closes.

This tale isn't as strong of work as what the team brought to Detective Comics. Yet their talents shine through even in a somewhat clunky tale. Much like Newton on Return of the New Gods, Rogers lets loose here with some amazing work that really shows off his skills. Englehart clearly knows these characters, even if it feels like he's throwing out too many too fast.

We will learn the fate of Barda and experience in a few short weeks as we start the bounce from the two New Gods comics running concurrently! There's a lot ahead so stay tuned for our next installment in 7 short days!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

009. Orion and Metron get Deep Sixed! (Return of the New Gods 13)

Al Milgrom delivers a better cover than last time... but it's still got nothing on the interiors.
Issue thirteen kicks off with the entire team from the last issue: Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Dan Adkins. They start back in with Orion's escape from the US military as he again is confronted by American jetcraft. He can't outfly them (how Orion can fly without his astro-glider at all is never mentioned), so he uses his ability to survive in space to go where they simply can't.

On New Genesis, Highfather and young Esak watch Orion through a scrying pool. Esak is amazed at Orion's smile, a rare expression from the grim son of Darkseid. Conway uses the pair to sum up the events of the previous issue, just in case any new readers were joining the title.

Don Newton was a master, as shown on this impressive splash page! 
Back on Earth, Orion swoops down on an air terminal (something that would have sent the country on high alert these days.) He uses his Mother Box to walk around until he finds a man of similar height and build... and with the security status he'll need to confront General Torch again.

In his secret headquarters somewhere on Earth, Darkseid is informed their agent approaches "objective one." We also meet the first new edition to the New Gods post-Kirby in the form of Gargon, Darkseid's new hooded subordinate. (He looks disturbingly like a Durlan, actually.)

The plan jumps into gear as an alien submarine rises from the waters in New Orleans. It's spotted by a drunk, but it quickly atomizes the man before he even realizes the danger he's in. Elsewhere in the city, singer Lorraine Hampton admits she believes Metron's revelations from the previous issue. She receives a new gig from her smarmy agent. Outside, a  mysterious eavesdropping villain plans to take her at her first night on the job...

Under his new alter ego of Anthony Masters, Orion easily finds his way into the secure facility. Mother Box warns of an Apokoliptan threat, so he decides to wait it out. But before he can find the threat, the threat finds him! Jaffar of the Deep Six jumps him from behind. But Orion is far more powerful and despite taking some hits, easily takes down Jaffar in a matter of seconds. But not without making enough noise to alert the base security.

As Orion demands answers from the villain, the guards arrive. Jaffar has only time to reveal he's simply a decoy and the true attack is happening in New Orleans. He doesn't yield and is hit by a bullet that levels him. General Torch looms over him, happy to have caught his prey.

Metron follows Lorraine to her show. He quickly gains a love of her disco sound, and perhaps, a few feelings for her as well. It creates an interesting moment of humanization for the most enigmatic god of New Genesis. And it's quickly interrupted by an attack from the Deep Six's Slig! Metron is far weaker than his companions and the one strike is all it takes to lay him out!

Newton draws a few human moments for Metron as well, proving his talents in slower moments as well.
Back in Colorado, Orion has been taken to an interrogation room and strapped to a chair. Torch demands answers, instead he gets the smell of burning! Orion's Astro-Force destroys the bonds. He attacks the general and his guard!

In New Orleans, Slig grabs Lorraine and moves to make his escape. As civilians scream in terror from the monster, his victory seems assured... until Orion makes his arrival!

Slig's punch is nearly as effective as it was on Metron. But the aquatic Apokoliptan takes time to gloat. Orion's grim fury rises and as Slig looms over him, he unleashes the full power of the Astro-Force against him. Within seconds, Slig is dead and only a pile of ash remains. Lorraine is left in shock at the death and her place in the greater story.

And Darkseid watches on. Orion has won this day, but Darkseid sees his own sort of silver lining. As he ponders his son, he says, "Each time you kill you become more and more the true son of Darkseid. And someday... who knows? The father may claim his own."

The issue clothes on that truly foreboding note.

Conway doubles down on two of his plot threads from last issue. The more human side of Metron is an interesting touch for the character as before and after this issue he rarely is presented as more than an enigma. Rarely does he even take an active role in the battle against Darkseid, let alone show emotion.

Don Newton and Dan Adkins' art really brings all of it home. The two men make a stupendous team, providing art leaps and bounds above much of DC's fare at the time. Yet the old regime still had its strange ways, as their work again doesn't make the cover in favor of (IMHO) far inferior work from Al Milgrom.

Next time around, we enter the second half of the New Gods' rebirth and bring back one of the greatest writer / artist pairs in comics history. Stay tuned for "It's all in the mine!"

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

008. The quest for Anti-Life begins again! (Return of the New Gods 12)

Don't ask me to explain the Al Milgrom cover over a Don Newton drawn book.
Over a year after their "return" in the last 1st Issue Special DC debuted the first issue of Return of the New Gods. It seems clear that former Secret Society writer Gerry Conway was clearly more interested in these characters than the other villains, as he's back as writer here. Mike Vosburg has been replaced by the late, great Don Newton. So you know the art is great on this one.

Newton's art is a thing of beauty!
We open with a brief synopsis of the origin of New Genesis and Apokolips, beautifully rendered as a double page spread by Newton. The New Gods are soaring over New Genesis as we kick off, not just the usual suspects of Orion, Metron and Lightray, but also Forager, Lonar and Jezebelle of the Fiery Eyes, a late addition by Kirby.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

007. The ultimate sacrifice... as Earth-death looms! (Secret Society of Super-Villains 5)

The lack of New Gods on the cover signals a
bad sign for this comic. Art by Ernie Chua. 
We kick off Secret Society of Super-Villains 5 right where we left off in the last issue with the arrival of the Black Racer and Mantis groveling at Darkseid's feet. But we get a new writer and artist, rarely a good thing in part five of a five part story. Vince Colletta remains on inks, but is now joined by writer Bob Rozakis and artist Rich Buckler.

It's immediately obvious that Buckler is a much stronger artist to draw the Kirby creations. Darkseid looks on model for the first time in this series.

The story kicks off with the Society finally coming face to face with Darkseid! Darkseid banishes Black Racer before he can drag Mantis away to death as Manhunter, Star Sapphire, Mirror Master, and the Captains Cold, Comet and Boomerang confront him!

Darkseid once again sends Mantis into the fray, declaring, "Prove your loyalty to Darkseid by destroying these super-villains!" Darkseid makes his escape as Mantis faces the villains. But Manhunter won't let Darkseid escape and recruits Sapphire and Comet to pursue him. Cold, Boomerang and Mirror Master use all their abilities to disorient and weaken Mantis.

Darkseid threatens Mantis again as the bug seems near defeat. Mantis tries to save face, claiming he's toying with them, but just as he blasts the three villains, his attack fizzles out. Captain Comet has toyed with his mind. He uses the distraction to lay out Mantis with a series of punches.

Manhunter strikes at Darkseid, but Darkseid is unfazed by his assault. As the Black Racer again swoops down toward the battlefield, a boom tube arrives to allow Darkseid his escape. He declares there's nothing the villains can do to prevent it.