Cancelled Comics Commentary for 2003

January 2003

Lab Rats #8 (DC): A failed experiment. But the undoubtable reason that John Byrne was given this book to work on was because DC didn’t trust him with anything else (yet strangely enough, they do seem to trust some other unreliables with some of their better works)!

No matter. Byrne, to be quite honest, has let me down in more ways than one, even going to the point of offending me and other devoted comics fans, since he went down in talent in the mid-1990’s. First, there was his botch job on Wonder Woman, which included an abortive attempt to reconnect Wonder Girl/Troia to WW as her sister, adopted or otherwise. Unfortunately, while mystic arts have always played a hearty hand in the world of the Amazons in the DCU, this just didn’t work out. He was taken off the book after just two years.

Back in the 1970’s and the 1980’s, when he was working on X-Men, Fantastic Four, Superman’s post-Crisis reboot, and the Avengers, he was at the top of the list for writers and artists at around that time. And when he wrote the Namor series of the early 90's, that too was pretty good. Alas, he plummeted in style since then, with his botch job on Wonder Woman in the mid-90’s (the attempt to reconnect Donna Troy as Diana’s sister – or, as he wrote it – a clone, simply didn’t work) and even with Next Men, an apparent copy of guess what, and while he did manage to regain some success with X-Men: The Hidden Years, he’s been simply slumming since then, and even going so far as to show contempt for the fans he once honored and who did the same for him.

Lab Rats, which was sort of like an attempt to write a Jurassic Park-style fantasy series, will serve as no more than a mere blip on the radar in his now flagging career in the comics world. As a writer anyway. And while he may be the artist for the JLA in 2004, he seems unlikely to find much else to help him out now.

February 2003

Nothing available for this month.

March 2003

Superman: The Man of Steel #134 (DC): With this issue, the fourth ongoing title for the Big Blue Boy Scout since the post-Crisis era began ended, and while it’s a shame that this should have to end, whereas a lot of the lesser Bat-related spinoffs still went on, I’m glad that it ended on a good note. That being most notably the Lost Hearts story arc of early 2003, one of the best Super-stories of recent, and I must hand it to DC, that of all the “second-ranking” titles that came and went over the years, some without having even made it to the 100th issue, they certainly did a good job in keeping on with this book for quite awhile. (On a side note, I'm the proud owner of the premiere issue of this series myself.)

I certainly hope that the Super-family franchise will win the revitalization it deserves in time, and now, with the Superman/Batman co-starring series having been launched, I guess it could be said that Supes does have something new to make a fourth monthly appearance in.

April 2003

The Titans #50 (DC): It’s a real shame that what could’ve been a brilliant revival of the New Teen Titans/New Titans, as they’d become in the 1980’s, and now certainly in their early twenties, didn’t work out.

I suppose part of the reason was because of all the mistakes that were made either by Devin Grayson and/or by Jay Faerber when they were writing the book, and when Tom Peyer took over, he was only able to do so much in order to fix what errors were made. It was really dismaying to have to see even Jesse Quick get turned from a smart girl into an idiot here, and the story involving her mother, Libby “Liberty Belle” Lawrence-Chambers that was apparently intended to alienate them from each other certainly didn’t help matters.

Then again, nor did Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, which even went so low as to put poor Donna Troy to death, and also Lilith Clay. Written by the hack writer Judd Winick, it made for one of the worst miniseries of 2003, and would be best forgotten if you ask me.

That, sadly, is a fate that may await this series of the Titans as well, but considering the mistakes made in here, it’s probably just as well.

Since then, Nightwing for one has been leading a new team of Outsiders, with some of the former Titans taking part in it as well, and even the Huntress, though Winick it appears is the writer of that too. At the very least, I can say that his writing there is somewhat better, unless you include the mediocre way in which Gorilla Grodd returned following his prior appearance in the Flash.

May 2003

Azrael: Agent of the Bat #100 (DC): And so, an otherwise redundant Batbook comes to an end, as did Harley Quinn some time later, and at the end of the series, its lead got killed off too. What's amazing though is that for one that never amounted to much, this in spite of the fact that the great Dennis O'Neil was the writer and creator of Azrael, is that it managed to survive this long, and probably all because of said writer and creator.

Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for O'Neil, who wrote some very intelligent and poignant stories with Batman and Green Lantern in the DCU back in the Bronze Age. And his work on the Question in the late 1980's also got plenty of high, well deserved praise. Sadly, I'm going to have to admit that since the late 1990's, his writing seems to have gone down in quality, and the 3-parter he wrote in 2004 for the JLA was simply nothing to write home about. And this sadly also came off as pretty redundant, just another unexceptional entry in an already bloated franchise, that in the end did not have much of an impact on the audience, if at all.

Which is exactly the reason why it got discontinued, and its lead character done away with.

The Spectre #27 volume 4 (DC): So anyway, how did Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan end up taking over the role first taken by Jim Corrigan (whose own last starring role is spoken about in the 1997 files)? Well, here's how it apparently was first planned:

After the Zero Hour crossover during which time Hal had seemingly gone berserk and slaughtered tons of other members of the GL Corps from various other worlds, and after Final Night in 1996-97, in which he did what he could to make up for what sins he ostensibly committed in the ZH story, he ended up getting appointed to the role of the ghostly guardian this time around. Not only that, but even old timers long deceased, such as Abin Sur, the alien GL who gave Hal the power ring way back in 1959 before passing on, and Tomar Re, one of his best pals in the GL Corps from another world in the galaxy, returned here to offer guidance in the afterlife. Too bad they couldn't have advised him on whether or not he should be wiping everyone's mind clean of the fact that he's the Spectre after leaving the JLA whenever he helped them out on a misson, since that was one of the ways in which TPTB at the time were trying to avoid making any serious use out of Hal's own history as the Emerald Warrior of earth, a step which didn't make much of an impression on many of the readers, and understandably so.

Oh yeah, there were some interesting ideas to be found here, such as Hal's entering a world where he never was the Green Lantern, and getting to look at what he and Carol Ferris (who was never the Star Sapphire in this world either) could've been like in a simpler existance. But, unfortunately, it just didn't work out with anyone, and was cancelled by the 27th issue. And of course, there's that whole Zero Hour debacle hovering overhead...

Fortunately, for anyone who's concerned about Hal's own status, that looks to finally be dealt with in 2004, when writer Geoff Johns takes over reins of GL's own book. I certainly hope that there'll be good news to come of this, because it's already tiresome indeed that Hal Jordan be one of the most shabbily treated characters in the DCU. And successor Kyle Rayner just wasn't well written, and his ascension wasn't valid.

Supergirl #80 (DC): Well, it’s come to an end for now, with TPTB apparently having made up their minds early on about canceling it, due to sinking sales. It’s a shame, even though Linda Danvers does seem to have outgrown the role since she first assumed it.

As far as I can recall, the Maiden of Might's post-Crisis incarnation was first in a creature called Matrix (who may have appeared in the pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El’s adventures), who’d merged herself with high school student Linda Danvers, who’d been critically wounded by the leader of a ritual group who attempted to make her into a sacrifice and left for dead. That’s what led to Linda becoming the new Supergirl and also what they call an “earth-angel”.

And from 1996 to 2003, it was written all during that time by Peter David, and there were some pretty good things to be had in it during his tenure as well as a few bad ones, with Linda eventually coming of age to about 20.

And what happened in the last story here? What appeared to have been the original Kara Zor-El reappeared in a story that was meant for parody, and, rather than write it so that Kara could’ve been reintroduced into the DCU, and a series called “Blonde Justice” could’ve been launched, what happened at the end was that Linda, coming back from her adventure in the pre-Crisis era, knocked Kara senseless and put her back in the capsule she’d come in to this era, sending her back to the pre-Crisis era where she’d end up perishing instead.

That’s not the way I wanted it done myself. And it’s a shame that for now, it’s been discontinued, and that Linda has been replaced by a dull doppelganger called Cir-El, who turned up in the sans-adjective Superman under Steven Seagle’s tenure, but the good news is that, not only did Joe Kelly do an even better job with a character he didn’t even introduce himself in Action Comics, but it looks like there’ll be some good news on the horizon regarding the whole concept of Supergirl in time.

Which I hope will come to be, since the Maiden of Might’s been a fairly shabbily treated character more than enough times already. It’s time already to give her more than her fair share of the better treatment in writing.

Tomb Raider Journeys #12 (Image/Top Cow): This was a brief spinoff of the main Tomb Raider series, which I've spoken about more in depth in the 2005 files. It was published bi-monthly, something you don't see too often today in mainstream comics, since the publishers seem far too concerned with full-time monthly. (Astonishing X-Men was one other example of a possible bi-monthly, but Joss Whedon, who wrote that series, has politics too galling for me to really appreciate his work.

Young Justice #55 (DC): Cancelled in order to make the move for the teen superheroes of the new era into the new roster of the Teen Titans.

I think it’s a shame that this version, scripted by Peter David, just like the above Supergirl, has ended, because, under Geoff Johns, the teens of the DCU have suffered badly with less convincing humor and darkness tainting the edge. Being funny was an excellent earmark of YJ when it ran for fifty-five issues at the time, and then Johns had to ruin everything with his PC approach. The new Robin, Timothy Drake, the former Impulse and now new Kid Flash, Bart Allen, the new Wonder Girl, Cassie Sandsmark, and so on got their first big break as a team with a lot of humorous fun in YJ, and now that's since collapsed when Johns rolled out his vision, with veteran Titans Cyborg/Vic Stone and Starfire/Princess Koriand’r serving as guides and counselors for them, while their other fellow Titans of yore formed a new Outsiders group, reviving an idea the began with Batman and the Outsiders in the 80’s. But they didn't do so entertainingly, and that's just what brought down that whole mess as well.

Speaking of which, it’s a real shame that the 3-part Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day was not only written by the hack writer Judd Winick, but that it turned out to be one really sour graduation ceremony. I remember one person describing it as “worst miniseries of the year”, and I must concur that it does seem like an apt description, even though some of Marvel’s own miniseries of 2003 outdid it their unadulterated badness by a thousand-fold that year. Donna Troy – and Lilith Clay – were just offed by an out-of-control Superman robot that otherwise would’ve been a mere speck of dust for them to defeat, and Jesse Quick was banged up enough to get her so frustrated and mad that she left the Titans and went back to bury herself in her paperwork at Quickstart Enterprises. (If she was in a bad mood in her office appearance in Flash #198, it’s an interesting question: was it because of the annoying experience she went through in Graduation Day, or, was it because of Winick’s disrespectful writing? If anything, it was certainly an obsession with bad characterization.)

Towards the end of this series, YJ member Secret went over to the dark side, coming under the influence of the notorious warlord Darkseid, who first made his appearance in 1971 in Jack Kirby’s The New Gods. That was a sad thing to have to happen, and as of this writing, I have no idea if she’s been saved from Darkseid’s evil influence or not. But if she hasn't, it's no shock with people like Johns and Dan DiDio in charge.

June 2003

Wolverine #189 (Marvel): Another, and for now, it appears that this'll be the last of the House of Jokes' relaunch stunts within an instant, at least for awhile. Although not that it really makes much difference to me either way.

As far as the X-Men's most enigmatic member goes, I'll have to be perfectly clear here: I don't dislike him as a character, but I do dislike the directions taken with him during the latter part of this series' run, along with the parent X-Men series where he first began. When he first debuted in the mid-1970s, creator Len Wein's characterization wasn't that great, but Claremont/Byrne did manage to improve it when he was inducted into the X-Men. And Larry Hama did a pretty good job when he took over this solo book until the mid-90s. Unfortunately, it went downhill after they left, as hack writers and editors took over, and the series became pointless. Another problem is, for a long time already, he's been overshadowing, if not usurping, the true leader, not to mention the true heart and soul of the team, Scott "Cyclops" Summers, as Marvel went too far cashing in on the popularity he achieved.

Having made his debut around the same time as the Punisher in 1974, in The Incredible Hulk, when he first appeared there, the green goliath (who got some pretty unfair treatment under the writing of Bruce Jones) knocked him flat pretty easily. But he recovered, and went on to become an effective member of the X-Men when Wein and Dave Cockrum relaunched the series the following year, and especially when Claremont/Byrne fleshed out his characterization.

Since then, this peculiar man-beast, whose only known name is Logan, hasn't been as easy to defeat, which isn't saying he's impervious (as seen in the notable Days of Future Past story from 1981), but then again, that he should be able to heal his injuries without too much difficulty is perhaps the biggest problem with him. Not because he's otherwise so tough to kill, but because this power has tragically made him into something like voodoo doll figure, who can be abused and maimed whenever the script calls for it.

That's exactly what turned me off from this subsequently abominable series after reading several issues of it, not very enthusiastically, and then one of Marvel's stable of hack writers, Frank Tieri, puts a final nail in the coffin for it with the horror-style atrocity he cooked up, in issue #165. I'm not going into details, I'm just going to point out that what could be seen in here is exactly the reason why horror movies don't do well in Israel, especially given how much terrorism the country's been inflicted with.

Yeah, I know, so Greg Rucka, when he takes to doing the relaunch the next month, does himself better than Tieri for one did (though I can't say I'm impressed with the leftist position I fear Rucka maintains). I wouldn't be surprised. But if you ask me, Logan is a character who's been long overexposed, and who doesn't need any more than he's already had.

At least he's back in Spandex duds by now. And that his title was apparently going to be added to the Marvel Knights line, at the time they still had it, was admittedly another plus, considering what his book is like, and that if any characters must have something going on in the MK line, then Wolverine would probably suit the line the best. Thing is, since this particular writing, the MK line has otherwise been discontinued, with Daredevil being one of the last to actually use the label.

July 2003

Marville #9 (Marvel): About time this got the shaft too! Former Marvel COO Bill Jemas' attempt at competing with Peter David for who'd get the better sales results for either this book or for Captain Marvel's "second volume relaunch", the loser of which would get cancelled in the end, proved Jemas no writer. But did he care? Does he even care now? Blatancy sure makes people do strange things.

The most appalling thing is that this was done in order to try and get people to buy David's book, and to prevent Jemas' from prevailing. In other words, a sales gimmick, but of a most outrageous kind.

As for whatever story exists here? It wouldn't be worth discussing, even if I knew what exactly it was. Though I do know that it took some apparent potshots at DC, and while some of their moves also appall me, if and whenever they take false steps (as they did with Identity Crisis in 2004), that was still a pretty insulting step that Marvel's former boss took.

Marville, to say the least, will only be remembered, if at all, for its Greg Horn covers, which were the actual - and apparent - selling point of this would-be series. It's something that since Jemas left the company the editors have been using less of, which is a good enough thing, since, while Horn is a talented enough artist, his use of such high-tech drawing just doesn't fit in with comics covers.

August 2003

Peter Parker: Spider-Man #57 (Marvel): With this issue, there ends a title that had in fact been relaunched during 1998, and then, when Paul Jenkins took it over, he used it to write self-contained stories, such as one with Fusion, and another one involving a kid from a working class background who dreams of being “Spider-Kid”, one that I was very impressed with. The series was then replaced with a new volume of Spectacular Spider-Man, and Jenkins continued on that, while Zeb Wells wrote the last issues of PP:SM.

Sadly, this past year, Jenkins let me down by writing a Doctor Octopus story in which the PLO was depicted in a sympathetic light, and more so by depicting Doc Ock wearing a Hasidic-like suit when kidnapping a PLO “ambassador”. As a result of that, Paul Jenkins has sadly removed himself from my list of favorite writers, and, as a result, I will not be reading most of his books from now on, not even the Marvel Knights miniseries of the Inhumans he did a few years earlier.

And come to think of it, I won’t be spending any time with this now defunct series, not even in back issues. It’s a real sad thing whenever a writer rejects a portion of the audience, that, if it weren’t for them, not only would Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, creators of these comics, not be around to bring them to life, but comics like these wouldn’t be around today either.

Soldier X #12 (Marvel): Well, I guess I can now give a sigh of relief that the X-world’s most convoluted character, that being Nathan “Cable” Summers, has had his “adventures” put to an end. Sort of. He still kept on in another title (I think) with Deadpool, who, while far from an X-related protagonist, is still a very lumpy one.

Frankly, I can’t help but point out that to just simply name any book with an X in it is little more than an open signal that this is yet another typical X-book, and by now, is nothing new and doesn’t help to boost sales in the least. Or at least not for this book’s protagonist. Somebody please cut the cable already, or at least what remains of it!

September 2003

Black Panther #62 volume 2. (Marvel): This was a series that, for much of its run, was a very good political intrigue adventure story, one that even I wanted to really cherish, that served as an excellent showcase for the ruling prince of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, T’challa, who managed to turn his country into one of the most successful researchers in technology in the world. And Christopher Priest turned in some of his best work as a writer on this series.

Unfortunately, after its first year, it went down considerably in the sales charts, and I think the decision to replace T’challa, described by some fans as “a Batman with his own country”, with a new protagonist named Kaspar Cole, a police investigator, and change the tone of the series into simply another urban detective drama on the LA scenario, in the 50th issue, may have ended up putting one of the last nails in the coffin for this series, the second for good ol’ T’challa, who also had a series back in the late 1970’s that ran about the same time as Carol Danvers’ series at the time she went by the name Ms. Marvel.

Whether or not that was the case, I cannot be entirely sure. But if it was, then I think it possible to say that this move may bear a bit in common with how the audience views the whole concept of Spider-Man, and the Clone Saga fiasco of the mid-90’s that alienated many of the fans: simply put, just like it’s Peter Parker who makes Spider-Man work, and not some third-rate clone, it is T’challa who makes Black Panther work, and NOT some mere substitute wearing the same costume as he does.

So to say the least, there’s your answer as to why BP failed in the end, plain and simple. And yet, that doesn’t come close to what was done in the item to follow.

The Crew #7 (Marvel): As much as I would like to praise this book, and its writer, Christopher Priest, the editorial interference that was performed on this book, more on which anon, prevents me from doing so.

First, the idea of this book was to serve as a series where the a trio of black protagonists, including Kaspar Cole, the abortive replacement for the real Black Panther, T’challa, in the latter’s now defunct second series, Jim Rhodes, Tony Stark’s best pal and former army buddy, who took up the role of War Machine years ago, and another black character, Josiah X, who was supposed to be related to the main protagonist in Marvel’s controversy-baiting atrocity, The Truth, could form a crimefighting team together on the urban scenario, or, more precisely, a black buddy series.

And I think that my description of the third member of the team here pretty much sums up why this was a failure:

1] The advance word that the series was going to make even a de-facto connection to The Truth may have been what doomed it. Given how offensive the series was, the stereotypical artwork by Kyle Baker alone being by far the most offensive thing about it, many audience members were rightfully repelled, and that this series should make any kind of a connection to it, even if Priest did what he could to better the premise/background given to the character, it was still editorial interference, plain and simple, and after what kind of editorial biases were imposed upon various Marvel books during the Jemas reign, so that anyone could end up being alienated by such a move is understandable.

2] As far as making a statement against racism in the time of war is concerned, if Marvel had wanted to do it, all they had to do was just write one. It’s as simple as that. Instead, they tinkered/tampered with an established character’s background and history – namely, Captain America’s, at the expense of what the character stands for. Indeed, how can one really take Steve Rogers seriously as a freedom fighter and as a representative of liberty and justice if his background is to be tarnished? Certainly not those who are new to the comics scenario, and who’ve never even heard of Captain America before.

3] For the reasons given above, this, sadly, seems to explain why, while there were those who, with the exception of the editorial shoehorning, liked it from an artistic viewpoint, there were also those who didn’t, apparently because of said editorial shoehorning, but also because they felt that the character of Josiah X or another one of the lead characters in the series was depicted stereotypically, and maybe also because Rhodey’s sister was being depicted as a prostitute/junkie.

I understand how those who liked it felt, but that’s exactly why the editorial interference shouldn’t have been committed. If the audience does indeed like the concept itself, why ruin it with something that’s unnecessary?

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

Doom Patrol #22 volume 3 (DC): The concept, which originally began in 1963 and spun out of DC's popular My Greatest Adventure series, was about a really exceptional band of superheroes, which included such bizarros as Robotman, Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl, all brought together by a leader named Niles Caulder, whom they called the Chief, to fight crime around the world and to protect Caulder from his enemies as well. And the greatest coincidence was that, like Charles Xavier, the X-Men's mentor, Caulder too was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. Not only that, DP predated X-Men by just three months when making their debut, so it's even more of a coincidence than ever as to how similar they are - or were - in concept and approach. Later on, however, they had to risk sacrificing their lives in order to save an entire island population from a gang of criminals that eventually became adversaries of the Titans, and while Robotman and Negative Man survived, Elasti-Girl did not, much to the anguish of her lover and husband, Steve Dayton, who descended into madness sometime after this, and took it out on Garfield Logan, better known to the comic audience at large as Beast Boy/Changeling of the Teen Titans, who'd first appeared in 1965 in DP, as a youngster who was suffering from a grave illness, and in order to cure it, he ended up taking a form of medicine that ended up both turning his skin green, and giving him the power to turn into animals of all sorts while in the same color. Dayton, a wealthy inventor, later used his gadgets to help turn himself into Mento, a supervillain with mind control powers who turned on Gar and the Titans, but was later cured of his madness, even though he later descended into it again, this time becoming Crimelord, as seen in Deathstroke's own title during the mid-90's.

It was a concept with potential, though it was far from being successful as a series, at least at first. During 1987, it was relaunched, with Paul Kupperberg doing the writing at first, and then, who should take over for the next few years but - the overrated Grant Morrison, during which time it was added to the New Format line DC had come up with at the time, where more adult titles like Swamp Thing and even Green Arrow could be published. Then, in 1993, when the Vertigo line was launched, so it ended up being moved into that catagory along with ST (GA remained part of the regular DC line, though the part about being "suggested for mature readers" stopped being printed on the book after about 80 issues), where it continued until about 1995 under the helming of writer Rachel Pollack. (And somehow, given that Morrison was the writer to take over during 1989-92, and that I can't enjoy much of his work no matter what others say about him, it doesn't really matter if what he did was largely pried out of the regular DCU when shunted to Vertigo.) When revived, it starred Celsius, a woman who said she was the wife of Caulder, who found out already in the late 70's that 2 out of 3 survived, and recruited them to restart the DP again, this time adding even a few more members such as Lodestone, Tempest, Karma, and - are you ready for this? - Negative Woman! Celsius died in an alien invasion (possibly the Invasion crossover from 1989?) and then Caulder returned to lead the team yet again(!), leading me to wonder now if there wasn't any mysogny involved when you think about how both Elasti-Girl and Celsius bit the bullet. (Considering how a few of DC's and even Marvel's women were being badly treated at the time, and again in 2004's Identity Crisis miniseries, it probably wouldn't be that far off a theory.)

And in the end, it got so jumbled that no wonder the audience complained that they couldn't comprehend an iota of it whatsoever.

Then, in 2001, it returned, in the regular DC line and universe again. It had some qualities to it, but alas, it didn't catch on with the readers. Too bad, because John Arcudi is a good writer, and did his very best with this volume.

Yet not as bad as it may end up being with yet another version of the Doom Patrol, introduced in JLA #94, all in order to suit the needs of co-writer John Byrne, and if it hadn't been for him, I might be able to enjoy Chris Claremont's writing there more than I can. To say the least, it appears to contradict even post-Crisis continuity from what I can gather, which is decidedly not a good thing, when you take into account that they were after all how Gar Logan came to be, and even Steve "Mento" Dayton, those years ago.

So when Robotman (assuming that's the one we know on the cover there) says "we're doomed," I simply must concur. Likewise when he says on the cover of the last issue, which looks almost similar to the first here, "I was right. We're doomed."

Sadly, that may indeed be the case.

Micronauts #11 vol. 3 (Image): another attempt at building a comics series based on the toy action figures first built by the Japanese toy company Takara in the mid-70s under the name Microman, which were later sold in the USA for a short time by another company called Mego (who later changed their name to Abrams-Gentile Entertainment in 1983) with a slightly different name. The Micronauts were the first toy line adapted to comics when Bill Mantlo took up the writing job for Marvel and launched the first series in early 1979. He was inspired when he looked at some action figures his son Adam got for Christmas in the late 70s, and talked Jim Shooter, then new as the EIC, into obtaining the license to publish adaptations. The story premise concerned the Microverse, a tiny galaxy populated by miniature beings and worlds that was being taken over by the murderous Baron Karza, who slew the royal family of the Homeworld, who happened to be the parents of a space adventurer named Commander Arcturus Rann, who's just returned from a sojourn in deep space in suspended animation along with his robotic co-pilot named Biotron. This led to a war across the Microverse between Rann's allies and Karza.

The rest of Cmdr. Rann's allies included Princess Marionette, who loves the main star, and her brother Prince Argon, 2 survivors with connections to the slain family, and also Acroyear and Bug, the former a warrior prince and the latter a comedy relief insect-like alien. Another is Microtron, a robot tutor for Marionette. And Karza's own army consisted of forces like the Dog Soldiers. Their adventures had them alternately stuck on earth where they were just 6 inches in comparison to regular humans and battling inside their own worlds in the Microverse before finally defeating Karza for good. During this time, they even had encounters with some of the Marvel heroes like the Fantastic Four and some of their own adversaries like the Molecule Man.

An amazing thing about the comics is that they long outlasted the toy line, which had been canceled stateside in 1980. The first official volume was published between 1979-84, although towards the end, it went exclusively direct sales and was no longer sold on newsstands. Another volume was then launched that lasted 20 issues and finally ended in 1986. This was pretty much the same case with ROM: Spaceknight, another Mantlo-scripted comic that began in late 1979, which was based on a toy line published by Parker Brothers in an attempt to enter the then-burgeoning market for action figures. That line was far less successful, yet there too, they had a case of a comic book long outlasting the toys and being published up to 1986 too. In the end, presumably because the license to publish was expiring along with declining sales, the last story had the Micronauts sacrificing themselves to save their galaxy and restore it to safety.

This Image-published volume was apparently an attempt to remake the concept originally begun by Marvel (which still has the rights to certain characters specially created for the Micronauts and was able to bring them back at one point under the name Microns) as part of a tie-in with a new take on the toys that was to be built by a company called Palisades. Unfortunately, their attempts to rebuild the toys were disastrous - some of the figures had defective parts - and the project only ended up losing a considerable amount of money for them, and the comic didn't do any better this time, ending in very short order. This fiasco also tainted the reputation of the toys when another company called Sota tried to launch a line as well in 2005, but the bad rap they suffered from Palisades' abortive efforts affected this one too, and in the end, they didn't get very far either. Hasbro, the largest American toy company and surely most successful at working these things out (they were the ones who launched GI Joe and the Transformers lines, after all), announced in 2009 that they'd be relaunching the Micronauts toys with help from Takara. It remains to be seen how successful that'll be.

And back on the comics, Devil's Due Publishing tried to publish a series as well, which you'll see in the following year's files.

The Power Company #18 (DC): a small superhero team created by Kurt Busiek and owned by him too, as far as I know, consisting of such members as Josiah Power, for whom the series is named, Witchfire, Manhunter and Skyrocket. And a little something that never really got off the ground.

Thunderbolts #81 (Marvel): This actually ended with issue number 75. I'll get to around to explaining all about that part soon.

As far as this series goes, I must admit that the concept of several criminals who were working as a crimefighting group worked surprisingly well, and I'm glad that Moonstone not only reformed, but was also moved past the stereotype of a crooked psychologist she'd begun as. I'm also glad the group refused to accept Baron Zemo as a leader, which helped the theme of redemption in this series to work. I can't say it was my most favorite title, but it had some good moments.

There were some high points to it, at least under Kurt Busiek's writing - you never really knew what was going to happen next, and Clint "Hawkeye" Barton was a leader for the group at one point. Heck, they even once did a crossover story between this and the Avengers, which bore some connections to some of the characters here, most certainly Hawkeye. However, in the end, it lost popularity with the audience when Fabian Nicieza took over, and they decided to cancel it, even turning the team back into villains in the 75th issue, an appalling resolution to their run, and then, what happened? They attempted to duplicate the success they had with X-Force in its last issues before being relaunched as X-Statix, by turning the series into some hodgepodge about a peculiar fight club in the 76th issue, where several guys hang out and duke it out all the time. From what I saw of that hogwash, yuck!

When they did that then, they had intially said that they were going to boost the price of such books to three dollars, and then, they announced that the initial sales for the series in its new, ludicrous conception, had supposedly done well enough to keep it at $2.25. It was bewildering as ever, though perhaps not surprising, given that this was around the time of the Nu-Marvel regime, but then, shortly afterwards, they announced that it was cancelled, indicating that sales apparently weren't as good as they initially implied. Which is just as well. However, it was revived about 2 years after as New Thunderbolts. But while the old team was reinstated this time, there was no energy anymore, not just because a year prior, Busiek and Nicieza took much of it all apart with an Avengers vs. Thunderbolts miniseries that wasn't any more satisfying, and was a casualty of the written-for-trades mentality that Marvel's upper echelons forced upon all writers. A couple years later, in the era of Brian Bendis, the book was replaced with Dark Avengers, which was just as awful.

One interesting thing to point out about the last five or six issues under this "bold" new direction of theirs is that, in a time when Marvel largely stopped using captions and word balloons on their covers, these ones were drawn to look like covers for men's magazines like Maxim. Talk about a cheat...

October 2003

Harley Quinn #38 (DC): Well, here’s one thing from the Bat-line that I sure as hell won’t be missing – the series starring the villianess who’d first debuted in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, then was written into the DCU just a year and a half afterwards. Harleen Quinzel, a criminal psychologist (hmm, do I detect an insult to the psychological industry, if not a stereotype?), was assigned to working on dealing with the Joker, no less, who turned the tables on her own hypnotic practice, turning her into a criminal as well, and sadly, almost as deadly as he is.

Since then, she’s been yet another in Gotham’s rogues gallery, and it seems like she constantly keeps trying to impress the Joker with her own attempts at murder and other crimes, yet he often treats her with casual brutality, and doesn’t always like it that anyone else should be trying to compete for his position as the Clown Prince of Crime. But aside from all that, I’ve never been able to see the point in the whole premise of this series here, and it certainly never washed with me during its close to 3-year run. Not even her, ummm, connections with Poison Ivy, the stereotypical villainess who sadly became a staple of the rogues gallery since her debut in the Silver Age. No, I do not want to get into details about what could be implied here, only that the notion of featuring a murdering nutcase like Harley Quinn is questionable at best, and tasteless at worst, and the black humor approach of the series wasn’t any good either.

In the latter part of the run, it became even worse in this way, when they tried to make it “funnier”, and yow, if that’s how they’re going to write it, then we are in trouble. Deathstroke the Terminator this ain’t.

Harley Quinn seems to have dwindled in popularity nowadays, and hasn’t been seen much, if at all, and like I said before, I won’t be missing her series, nor will I care if she ever gets written out of as quickly as she was written into – the DCU and the Bat-world alike.

November 2003

Alias #28 (Marvel): The first MAX book, and I couldn't care less if it were also the last. But it wasn't.

The problem I had with a series like this was the superfluous profanity that dwelled within (apparently, adult storytelling equals cussing in Marvel's opinion), and even the fairly stereotypical depiction of Luke Cage, which was off-putting too.

Jessica Jones, the star of this fairly overrated series, was a minor character who'd appeared in Avengers some time around the mid-80's, but who never made it to the top in getting a membership, because her superpowers were too minor and uncertain to help qualify her on that level. And as for this series, it appears to have been made as something where she'd investigate crimes with her powers, if not on a big team, then at least use them for detective work.

But forget it. As much as I'd like to appreciate Marvel's attempt to mimic DC's Vertigo line, they don't even scratch the surface.

As for Jessica Jones, the regular MCU version may be appearing in a new journo-type series called the Pulse, but frankly, I doubt that I'll be in much of a hurry to read that one.

December 2003

The Crossovers #9 (CrossGen): This was a satirical series from one of the best indie companies I've known since they'd first been launched, and the title, interestingly enough, reminded me of the old Saturday Night Live sketch, the Coneheads. Unfortunately, it didn't make with readers as much as some of the other books.

The First #37 (CrossGen): It’s kind of eerie as to how this was also the first of any Sigil-verse books from the now defunct CrossGen to be cancelled during this time.

It wasn’t something that I myself tried to keep up with among all the titles they published, but it was well written, and is recommendable. However, at the same time, it was also a fairly complex story, and proved harder for some readers to follow than most of the other CG books.

Whether or not CG intends to make any more use of the characters in this book remains to be seen in the future. Until then, I’d recommend it, but would advise to keep in mind that it is a fairly hard title to fully get a grip on.

Interestingly, the last two issues of the First came out during the same month, probably because they were hurrying to end it.

Sigil #42 (CrossGen): This sadly came to an end an issue short, believe it or not, due to CrossGen's financial collapse. Whether or not their buyout by Cal Publishing will help to see that the last issue actually does get published in the future, remains to be seen.

While the space adventure premise here was good, I cannot say that having star Samandahl Rey going off on his own here on solo journeys to travel the depths of space to deal with archnemeses proved to be so interesting. Though I will have to say that the computer created lady in here who served as a leading commander on Samandahl's spacecraft was a great story element.

I don't know if this'll have any real chance of returning in the future, but, we'll see.

Solus #8 (CrossGen): It's a shame that what could've been George Perez's most classic job for CrossGen didn't make it. Alas, in a move that also may have had what to do with the company's trying to move away from their Sigil-based concept, also had what to do with this title failing in the end, plus, some readers just found it too mediocre to enjoy as well.

It's really sad, in my opinion, since Perez is by far one of my favorite of contemporary artists, and instead of getting what could've been a big hit, it appears that all that's resulted is simply an 8-part miniseries. Luckily, since then, he's been assigned as the artist for a crossover between Sojourn and Lady Death, which, I must say, looked like a pretty exciting project indeed, but was sadly shelved when CGE declared bankruptcy.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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