2019 comics challenge


Collects Cloak and Dagger maxiseries issues 1-11 (1985) and their part of Strange Tales issues 1 and 2.

Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Art Adams, Terry Shoemaker, Terry Austin, Mike Mignola, Bret Blevins, Marc Silvestri, June Brigman

Just like the first Cloak and Dagger collection, “Shadows and Light”, “Lost and found” is a perfect example of 1980s superhero comics. Compared to current comics, it’s very wordy. The pictures are explained and Mantlo also has lots of explanations about how Cloak feels. There are also some unfortunate stereotyping. But if you don’t mind that, it’s a very good read.

It starts right from the previous collection and has the same (small) cast of recurring characters. Cloak and Dagger break up a illicit porn shop. The police show up and the men who run the peep show, using mostly unwilling girls, tell detective Brigid O’Reilly that many of the cops in her precinct have been bribed. O’Reilly starts to look into it over several issues while tracking down a big drug shipment coming to New York. Also, father Delgado is increasingly obsessed with “saving” Dagger from Cloak.

Meanwhile, Dagger wants a normal life. When father Delgado tells Dagger that her mom and stepfather are in down, Dagger leaps to the chance to meeting them again. Unfortunately, she’s bitterly disappointed and becomes a bit disillusioned.

Issue seven takes our heroes out of America and to Europe where they’re tracking down the opium so that they can get to the source and shut it down. This takes them from Marseilles to Istanbul and takes the rest of the collection. They encounter various local gangsters and for a brief time Dagger even joins a circus and finds a little bit of happiness there.

On the long ship voyage to France they’re joined by another young stowaway, Bill Clayton. He’s enchanted by Dagger’s beauty and he tags along, claiming that he’ll be a good guide. He speaks many languages and does know a lot of about various European countries. But Cloak is unhappy; he knows that Bill wants Dagger for himself.

The last two issues, in the Strange Tales comics, are set in India.

Spider-Man guest stars in the third issue and the fourth issue is a part of the Secret Wars II cross-over with the Beyonder getting a small taste of New York’s criminal underworld. Unlike the vast majority of cross-overs, Beyonder’s guest stint isn’t too bad. Dagger and Cloak must explain to him a lot of things, like why he shouldn’t just kill the bad guys. This makes their mission more clear to themselves. They decide that they should give the criminals a second chance to repent and turn to the light. However, in practice, this doesn’t change their M.O. much.

During the first half of the series, there are subplots involving detective O’Reilly and father Delgado. However, these are quickly dropped without clousure when our heroes leave US. I suspect that since this maxiseries led to a bi-monthly series, the subplots continue there.

Overall, this was a good read with very down-to-earth heroes. It was great to see the heroes really trying to stop the drug trade rather than just fight the symptoms. On the other hand, there are some stereotypes which can be uncomfortable to modern readers. This story also deals with organizations which are supposed to be good for people and the society but are corrupt instead.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Cloak and Dagger. As long as he has his powers, Cloak can’t lead a normal life. His darkness needs to devour life’s light; he needs Dagger’s light or he will succumb to the hunger and feeding so much from humans that he’ll kill them. He’s jealous of anything or anyone other who draw Dagger’s attention and can’t help but to delight in Dagger’s disappointment in her mother and later in other disappointments. Dagger wants a normal life. When Bill Clayton gives her a taste of it, she’s eager to grasp it. But sometimes she gets weary of seeing bad guys all the time and wants to really punish them. Some of the stories explore her past but Cloak’s past remains mostly a mystery.

Rick Leonardi is the artist for issue 1-4 and 6. The other issues all have different artists. However, they’re styles are surprisingly similar so the differences didn’t bother me too much.

The first volume in a comic where Earth has lost gravity. Collects issues 1-5.

Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett

Willa was an infant the day Earth lost gravity. Her mother was sucked to the sky and died, along with a lot of other people and animals. Willa and her brilliant scientist father were inside and survived. Twenty years later, Willa is working for a delivery company and flying around Chicago delivering packages. Humanity has adapted to living, using ropes to tether themselves to buildings. She has a crush on her co-worker Edison who doesn’t have legs below the knees. She’d like to see the world but her father hasn’t left the apartment since G-day and Willa must support them. She carries a gun, but not really for protection but to use in an emergency: the recoil will push her back toward ground. She also carries a fire extinguisher to aim her flying.

Willa’s dad, Nate, was working on gravity when it failed and now he claims that he can reverse the effect. Willa hears from her surrogate mother that Nate had worked with a man who’s now rich and lives on the surface of Chicago. Nate has never even mentioned his partner Roger but Willa thinks that Roger could help her dad. So, she flies to the surface and encounters a really strange culture which tries very hard to keep things the way they were before G-day. The place is also dangerous.

This was a really fun idea and visually the comic is really appealing. It’s fast-paced. Willa is brave and curious but she also argues a lot with her dad and is very impulsive and trusting. Nate blames himself for “letting” his wife die on G-Day and is deathly afraid to leave the apartment. Edison was apparently born without legs but now he’s able to fly just like everyone else. However, I didn’t care for the way Willa’s mom is killed off to have her dad scared of leaving the apartment.

I found the culture on the ground fascinating, but won’t spoil it for you. But the way the people have adapted to flying was great, very visual.

However, I didn’t really care for one thing in the ending which I won’t spoil. The ending is not a cliffhanger but leaves everything open.

Collects issues 1 and 2 of the miniseries.

Writer: M. M. Chan
Artists: Joe Benitez, Martin Montiel

I was a little disappointed when I realized that this collection has only two issues and the cover gallery. This means that the plot must be very straightforward, which it is.

The story starts with a kidnapped little boy. The child is strapped on a table and next to him is a childlike automaton. They both have wires running to their heads. Someone pushes a rolled piece of paper into the mouth of the automaton.

Then we return to Lady Mechanika and the young Winifred, Fred, as she’s called. Fred has noticed an interesting article about murdered young boys who have been the subjects of mechanical experiments. The lady and her right-hand man inventor Lewis go to investigate. Near the crime scene they’re attacked by street toughs but they give up after one punch from the lady. At the crime scene the mechanical gadgets bring to the lady’s mind her own life. She doesn’t know who did her mechanical augments or why. She remembers very little of it but thinks that this case could be related to her past. However, they are interrupted by detective inspector Singh. It seems that nobody else is interested in the murders of poor boys but Singh is investigating them. He joins forces with the lady and Lewis to find out who is responsible.

This story is very different in tone compared to the previous one. This one is focused on solving the murder mystery and because of the limited page count it’s done very quickly. However, I rather enjoyed it and I also liked Singh a lot. He seems to be more complex character than the others and I’m hoping we’ll be seeing him again.

The art is again lovely, if focused too much on the lady’s breasts which are on display in a very non-Victorian way. Otherwise, it has a wonderful steampunk feeling with lots of gears and gyros.

Collects the first Superman versus Aliens miniseries.

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Dan Jurgens, Kevin Nowlan

Just like I predicted, to make the aliens at all threatening, Superman must lose his powers.

Lexcorp has a space program. Lois and Clark have been invited to interview the head of that program, doctor Sheryl Kimble. She’s an ambitious scientist (and I’m sure you all know what that means in the context of aliens…. :)). Lexcorp has captured a message from space. It’s in unknown language but Clark recognizes it as Kryptonian and as a distress call. When the probe which sends the distress call splashes into the ocean, Clark rescues it. It makes a mental connection with him and sends images of a surviving Kryptonian city which is badly in need of help. Reluctantly, he allows Lexcorp to investigate it.

Lexcorp has a hyperspace capable small space ship. Clark takes it and heads to the city which is on an asteroid, far way from any sun.

There he finds that the city has been ravaged by alien monstrosities. He finds four unconscious survivors, who look human (or Kryptonian). He puts them in the ship and sends them back to Earth while he remains to explore the city. He’s not any longer under a yellow sun so his powers diminish quickly. He’s attacked by aliens who burn his eyes. A blonde young woman, Kara, saves him. Kara tells him that the aliens have been attacking the city for years and she grew up as a soldier. Clark wants to find a way to help her and the rest of people who are out of food and medicine.

Meanwhile on Earth, the ship has returned. Of course, all the “survivors” have been infected. The aliens burst out and start to attack everyone.

This exactly what you expect from a cross-over. Superman fights increasingly desperately against hordes of aliens with Kara by his side. Kara is an experienced soldier even though she’s only 16. In the ship, on the way to the city, Clark reminiscens how he was forced to kill his fellow Kryptonians before and is determined never to kill again. Even when fighting the aliens, he tried not to kill them. When he first meets them, he tries to talk to them, so he’s very much in character. Meanwhile, Lois tries to survive the aliens and is determined to kill them. She lectures Kimble who wants keep the aliens alive for research.

The art is solid and brings out the horror of the aliens. This cross-over works surprisingly well even though it has pretty much all the expected aliens plot points.

Collects the first Batman/Aliens miniseries.

Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Bernie Wrightson

The story starts with Batman parachuting down to the Amazon jungle at the border of Guatemala and Mexico. After wrestling with a crocodile, he meets five elite soldiers who are on a secret mission. Batman himself reveals only that he’s there to rescue someone. The leader of the soldiers, Sealey, is very hostile toward Batman while the only female soldier, Hyatt, stops Sealey from posturing and gets them to focus on the mission. After a while, they stumble on Mayan ruins and next to them is a spaceship. They find the body of a humanoid alien whose chest has been torn open from the inside. They continue to the ruins and are soon face to face with the terrible Aliens.

This is exactly what you expect from a comic like this. The soldiers include a belligerent commander, a religious man, and the woman who wants to prove herself. There’s also an obligatory twist that one of them betrays the others. The coolest thing are the Aliens and Batman fighting them.

The art is great. Wrightson is co-creator of Swamp Thing and has illustrated a lot of horror comics. I really like his Batman and he draws great Aliens.

Collects issues 1-4.


Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Mike Perkins

The first issue of the series starts with an alien Green Lantern dying when an Alien bursts from his chest. Back on Earth, Green Arrow and the Black Canary stop a bank robbery in Hal Jordan’s hometown. They’re about to get a bite to eat together when Hal is summoned away. He meets five of his fellow Green Lanterns. The Guardians of the Galaxy send them to investigate the disappearance of another Lantern. They’re attacked by the Aliens and once over their surprise, they easily defend themselves with the rings and would have killed the Aliens. Except Hal stops them, reminding that the Aliens are just animals and don’t deserve to the killed. Instead, they take the Aliens to Green Lantern planet Mogo where they (hopefully) can’t hurt anyone else.

Ten years later, a group of former Lanterns (including a couple who were in training to become Lanterns) come looking for help from the only Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner. Saalak, who was with Hal in the previous story, tells Kyle about the Aliens. Now, a space ship has crash landed on Mogo and the former Lanterns are afraid that the crew is in terrible danger. Kyle agrees to help and takes them all to Mogo. They investigate the ship. The crew is gone. Only the captain of the ship, a beautiful woman called Crowe, is still there. She leads the others to a hole down to the planet, leading to the nest where the rest of the crew has been taken.

The group is attacked. The Aliens take Kyle’s group as well, leaving only Kyle, Crowe, and Saalak behind. Kyle also loses his ring. He feels unarmed but can’t leave the others in danger. Armed with only a pistol he can’t use, he follows Crowe and Saalak down.

This was pretty cheesy and Kyle lost his ring, as I guessed. But it also has some surprisingly nice human touches. Ollie, Dinah, and Kyle have a nice, if short moment. The Lanterns resent Kyle or what he represents and he’s not thrilled with their attitude, either. The captain, Crowe, is focused on rescuing her crew and isn’t at all interested in Kyle’s advances. So, overall this was a bit better than I expected.

I’m familiar with Rick Leonardi’s art from his X-Men work but here it’s more impersonal, more generic than previously. Maybe it’s the inker.

This is clearly aimed at fans of both franchises. If you like these sorts of cross-overs, this is one of the better ones I’ve read.

Collects X-Men Gold issues 7-12.

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Ken Lashley

The adventures of the new X-Men Gold (Kitty, Kurt, Ororo, Rachel, Old Man Logan, and Peter) continue. This time we get a mix of familiar old villains and a couple of new ones.

First, a mutant killer is stalking the X-Mansion. He’s a human whose son and wife were killed by Magneto and now he wants to take it out on heroic mutants. He kills one young mutant who we didn’t get to know and has set a huge bomb inside the mansion. Also, Peter was hurt in the fight against the super sentinel in the previous story and can’t change to steel anymore.

In issue 9, Peter and Illyana find out that they have an uncle, named Anatoly. Anatoly is a member of the Russian mafia, the Bratva, and that’s why the rest of the family shunned him. However, now he needs help. He contacts Peter who wants to connect with his only living relative, except for Illyana. So, the X-Men and Illyana travel to Russia. However, Anatoly’s boss has revived Omega Red from the dead and needs Illyana’s power to keep him alive. Of course, it’s a trap.

The final issue, 12, focuses entirely on the newest member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He’s an alien from the Negative Zone but also a mutant among his own species. More surprisingly, he’s a despot who clawed his way almost to the top of his race, only to be humiliated. He was set free in the first issue and I’m sure we’re going to be seeing more of him in volume 4 which is called the Negative Zone War.

This is solid and familiar to us old fans. Old story lines are rehashed so much that even the characters talk about how this all feels familiar, such as Peter losing his powers after Magneto tried to heal him or Kitty trying to persuade US senators not to pass a Mutant Deportation bill. However, I also rather enjoyed Kitty getting back to her ninja skills and the rekindling of her and Peter’s romance.

Of course, it’s not perfect, but I’m looking forward to the next volume which is Mojo Mayhem.

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