DC, The Warlord #37, 38, 42, 44, written by Mike Grell, Jim Starlin, Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, drawn by Mike Grell, Jim Starlin and Greg LaRocque, 1980-1981 I’ll be honest, I only bought these comics because they feature an O.M.A.C. backup story originally written and drawn by Jim Starlin. I’m a huge O.M.A.C. fan and love everything Starlin, so I was quick to snatch up these books—Mike Grell’s The Warlord was just an added bonus for me.
Let’s start with that. I’m not really into sword and sorcery so The Warlord never really appealed to me. I thought the concept was sort of neat (an American soldier thrown into a magical, hidden land), and seeing the titular character wield a He-Man looking sword in one hand and a military issue pistol in the other was intriguing. I dove into these stories expecting very little and got a nice treat out of what I found. Issue 37 revolves around The Warlord’s relationship with his magical black cat. Said cat also likes to turn into a scantily clad, female, human form now and then as well, so it makes for some interesting interactions. It’s weird—I welcome that. Issue 38 introduces us to The Warlord’s daughter, who makes a strangely short trip to the magical land in search of her father. The emotions are downplayed in favour of some “I’ll defend you, daughter!” action and the plot seems bizarrely underwhelming. It looks like humans from our normal, earthly realm making the trip into the savage, magical wilds isn’t exactly out of the ordinary. Issue 42 is all-out action without much substance and issue 44 tells a fable-like tale of Warlord losing his horse and evading trickery to get it back.
Mike Grell knows how to write a short, relatively entertaining story. These tales aren’t anything I’m eager to collect more of, but they were a surprisingly enjoyable read. The fact that Grell is also able to draw these books—quite well, might I add, is testament to his talent. I didn’t care for his Green Arrow material, so I’m glad to have found work by Grell that I can appreciate. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s all done very professionally.
Now the backups, those magical O.M.A.C. tales I couldn’t wait to read; they kick off in a bizarre fashion, I must say. Starlin seems a perfect choice to reboot the relatively forgotten Jack Kirby concept, but after actually reading the material, I’m left wondering. His art is, no doubt, exactly what I was expecting. It’s detailed, dynamic, perfectly modeled work that makes O.M.A.C. look less like a Hulk and more like a futuristic Captain America (and from what I understand, this was Kirby’s original concept). Certain panels simply sing—this is classic Starlin at his finest.
The story, on the other hand, lacks. The first tale, “The New Origin of O.M.A.C.” is completely unnecessary. I loved Kirby’s original, unique origin story for O.M.A.C. (that’s the One Man Army Corps, for you uninformed out there). There was no need for Starlin to add an entire alien mythos behind it. Tying the Kirby concepts to the new Starlin ideas almost seems strained. Once the ball gets rolling, however, things work out nicely. O.M.A.C. is back out there duking it out with the corporations that rule the world and things begin to feel like Kirby with a Starlin twist, instead of an entire reboot of the property. Unfortunately, once things seem to be on the right track, they fly off again.
With issue 44, the O.M.A.C. feature changes hands (though this may have happen in the previous issue, 43, which I read too long ago to remember). Here, Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn take over and Greg LaRocque steps in for art duties. Their O.M.A.C. is just plain bad. Here, O.M.A.C. walks out on the corporations of the world and gets lost in at the fair. The funhouse is evil! Nuff’ said. Even LaRocque’s renderings fail as his O.M.A.C. seems to have a shrunken head and no personality. I would have loved to see Starlin’s rendition come to a beautiful fruition, but with the major change in creative teams the O.M.A.C. concept died pretty fast.
In the letter pages there’s talk of Grell himself taking over the O.M.A.C. feature, and that would have been awesome. Seems, though, that the Mishkin/Cohn/LaRocque version halted any momentum Starlin had built and the character would again fade into obscurity. The next time we see a proper O.M.A.C. series John Byrne has him time-travelling to kill Hitler. Yeesh! If you like sword and sorcery, you might really enjoy Mike Grell’s The Warlord, especially these issues. If you like O.M.A.C., go ahead and buy everything Starlin did, it’s worth a read. If neither of those sentences light your fire, you can pass on these bargain bin staples.
Marvel, The Sensational She-Hulk #9, written by Richard Starkings and Gregory Wright, drawn by Bryan Hitch, 1989 John Byrne’s Sensational She-Hulk series is a lot of fun. In fact, it’s one of the only Byrne books I really dig. With issue 9, however, Byrne is gone and fill-ins Richard Starkings and Gregory Wright take over with Bryan Hitch on art. Indeed, this is a titillating line-up.
If you didn’t already know, Richard Starkings is a king amongst comic book letterers. His company, Comicraft, is a major leader in digital comic book lettering. As far as his writing career goes, I was only ever familiar with his Elephantmen and Hip-Flask series. And I love those series! Seeing his name on an early She-Hulk book got me quite excited. I wasn’t as familiar with Gregory Wright’s name, but I do recall his credit as a colourist in more than a few books I own. And Bryan Hitch on art? There’s a name I didn’t expect to see, but boy howdy am I excited it’s there!
Now the book starts with promise. She-Hulk talks directly to the editorial tema about the switch in creators and the grand tradition of fourth-wall smashing continues. Unfortunately, it isn’t long before things go right out the window. The villain here, Madcap, reminds me of Keith “him again” Giffen’s Ambush Bug, but not in a good way. Starkings and Wright take the absurdist nature of She-Hulk to a headache inducing level. Things happen in this book without rhyme or reason, and though I understand that that’s the point, I don’t appreciate it. Shulkie herself is written well enough, but I found myself frustrated with the story instead of fascinated.
Bryan Hitch doesn’t let me down, though! This guy takes everything Byrne established in terms of style and design and renders it in beautifully detailed, expressive panels. Sight gags, sexy curves and a humorous flair all accompany a traditional Marvel style. Hitch’s future superstar status was well earned.
If you’re a fan of the weird and wonderful Sensational She-Hulk, you may enjoy this issue. It left me a tad dizzy, however, and I’m eager to move onto incoming writer Steve Gerber’s issues. Now those should be fun, right?
America’s Best Comics, Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales #5, written by Alan Moore, Leah Moore and Steve Moore, drawn by Jason Pearson, Sergio Aragones and Alan Weiss, 2003
As far as ABC’s comics go, Alan Moore’s Tom Strong was always my least favourite. I have no strong love for the adventure stories of Doc Savage so the nostalgia factor isn’t there for me. I mean, Tom Strong has a solid cast, creative plots and a host of classic concepts—I simply don’t care. With Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales, however, I figured a varied bunch of creators could spruce up the series. They couldn’t.
First up in this issue is an experiment by Alan Moore and Jason Pearson. Each page is a series of four trading cards with colourful graphics on the front and info on the back. It’s new, I’ll give it that, but it didn’t do it for me.
Next up was the story I was most excited for. Leah Moore’s tale is lovingly drawn by Sergio Aragones, and I was right to be excited. The story revolves around Tom Strong’s gorilla friend and it’s a beautiful portrait of a misunderstood creature. It’s funny, meaningful and honestly, the best Tom Strong related story I’d read since Terra Obscura. If there’s a reason to buy this issue, this story is it.
Steve Moore (no relation to the other Moores here) wraps up with Alan Weiss on a tale of the young Tom Strong. It’s a nicely drawn but easily forgettable. Seems Tom was spying on the native women’s rituals, which lands him in a bit of hot water. This is probably more homage to past book genre’s I don’t care about, so again this story didn’t cut it for me.
If you’re into Tom Strong, sure, buy this book. It’s got Sergio Aragones, after all. If you’re into early 2000’s Alan Moore, go read everything else he wrote. Especially Top Ten. Now there’s a decent book!
Marvel, Generation X #18, written by Scott Lobdell, drawn by Chris Bachalo, 1996
Remember Generation X? It was Marvel’s New Mutants for the 90s. We got Jubilee, Skin, Husk and a very, very poorly made TV movie. Now that you remember that, let’s go back to the comic book, which was actually pretty great.
Scott Lobdell was all over the X-books back in the day. I must own at least 60 issues with his name on them, many of which I enjoy immensely, and yet I don’t consider him to be an important writer. Truth is, he could be one of the most important writers my young, underdeveloped mind ever encountered. Back when I earned a pittance on a paper route, I spent every penny collecting up back issues from Age of Apocalypse. His Blink series was the first I ever put on hold at a comic shop. He wrote parts of the Phalanx Covenant and even my beloved Uncanny X-Men #392, the comic that lasted me an entire family vacation. I read it till its staples fell out. Then I put it back together and read it again. Damn, Mr. Lobdell, without you I might not be reading and writing about comics every single week. I might have more time on my hands too!
So how is Generation X #18? Not bad, but regrettably unremarkable. Teachers Emma Frost and Banshee decide to move the kids into a new place, but it seems Emma has more up her sleeve than meets the eye. We catch up with Skin as he spies on a wayward Chamber and Penance as she stalks a criminal, but the meat of the story lies in the mistrust the students (and Banshee) have for Emma. The scripting is great, as usual, but the plot doesn’t exactly go anywhere in this particular issue.
Now Chris Bachalo is seen as a bit of a staple in the X-world but back in 96’ his work was still making waves. His art here isn’t ground-breaking like his Shade, The Changing Man—it’s more comfortable. Bachalo seems to know what he wants out of his style and gives Generation X a very distinct look. I love it, but it can also be disorienting at times.
I can easily recommend this book, but try to grab it along with a healthy stack of Gen-X books. This issue alone won’t satisfy you’re hunger for mid-90s, game-changing X-books, but reading a bunch together is sure to please.