Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Issue #71: Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, September 16, 2009 & BLACKHAWK #1!

Action Comics #881 (DC)

This week is between paychecks, so I will have to wait until next week to pick this up at my comic book store, Action Comics in Longwood, Florida . I mentioned in the latest episode of Superman Fan Podcast: #92: Action Comics Weekly! that I would begin a bi-weekly feature (on the weeks between paychecks like this one, when I won't be going to the comic book store) of featuring one of the sixteen issues and one special of the Blackhawk series from 1989 - 1990. This series followed the events of the Blackhawk stories that appeared in Action Comics Weekly. Read the Superman Fan Podcast blog entry of Episode #92 for more information about Action Comics Weekly.

Since then, however, I decided that I would begin instead with the three issue Blackhawk mini-series written and drawn by Howard Chaykin, published in 1988. As I mentioned in the podcast, Howard autographed my copies of the series in 2005 or 2006 at Orlando, Florida's MegaCon.

Blackhawk: Book One: Blood & Iron, publsihed on November 24, 1987. Howard Chaykin was the artist for the cover and interior story as well as the writer. This mini-series has never been reprinted as far as I can find out, but you might be able to find the issues in the back issue bins of your local comic book store or on the internet. This review is filled with spoilers, so if you have not read this mini-series, but would like to, you might want to postpone reading the rest of this review until you have read the issues.

The issue opened with a movie newsreel about Major Janos Prohaska, Blackhawk and his U.S. citizenship problems because of past Communits ties during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's. Senator Hightowers, a Joseph McCarthy clone, pushed for his deportment. Two African-American Army truck drivers were killed and the truch stolen by mobsters. Prohaska wound up losing his citizenship and was based in London.

Death Mayhew, an Errol Flynn style British actor and exposed Nazi spy, thanks to Blackhawk, was involved in the truck heist that began the story. However, the mobsters that pulled the job were Jewish, and they found out that they had been hired by Mayhew through another party. The unnamed cargo was flown to the Middle East, in the trunk of a car, and the Blackhawks are sent to recover the cargo before the Nazi's can get their hands on it.

Mayhew went to Tehren, where the car and its hot cargo was located, and killed the mobster who had been hired for the job. Blackhawk got there before Mayhew could get away, but Mayhew escaped with the hot car after a short fight. Blackhawk left Tehren with Natalie Reed, pilot and flight engineer, as well as former Communist herself. They flew in a plane that Miss Reed had repaired herself. The issue ended with Mayhew and his agents, with the car and its cargo, being loaded aboard a ship.

My rating: * * * * *
Howard Chaykin did an excellent job of introducing the characters, introducing the object of everyone's interest, and jumping into the action. There is a lot of action, and the character interaction advanced the plot as well as developed the characters.By the end of this issue the story was barreling down the road and ended on a cliffhanger, much like a 1940's serial. All I will say about the next issue is the pace will get even quicker as the chase is on.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Issue #70: Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, September 2, 2009: And Disney/Marvel and Time-Warner/DC!

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 2, 2009:
Supergirl Annual #1 (DC)

I will have to wait until next week for payday, so I will get this issue with the ones for September 9th, so I will use this post to express my opinions on the comics news recently. The Disney - Marvel deal caught me and everyone else by surprise. While the DC news this week was less earth-shaking than the Disney - Marvel deal, it showed that things are not going to stay the same at DC either.

When I found out that Paul Levitz was leaving his position as President and Publisher, to return to writing the Legion, at least at first, it seemed like a consolation prize to make the sting of pushing him out of his job less painful. Paul Levitz's open letter seemed to indicate otherwise, as well as Marv Wolfman's views about the change for his old friend. I hope the change is one Paul welcomed and not a bitter pill that he has swallowed and is keeping on his happy face. I began reading the Legion of Super-Heroes after Paul's run was over, so reading hew Legion stories by him will be welcome.

One thing I hope the corporate changes at DC Comics accomplishes is getting the film side of the company to get their act together. It has taken too long to get a new Supemran movie, of any kind, into development. With the Disney/Marvel merger, and the recent successes of Marvel movies now combined with the strong Disney/Pixar movie powerhouse, DC media properties seems to be in a weaker spot. Superman stories, and DC in general are publishing comics of high quality, like Blackest Night. Except for Watchmen, there weren't any other theatrical release from DC I can think of. This year is slow as far as super hero movies, but the comic book based movie Whiteout looks promising. I would like to see a firmer hand on the Warner Brothers studio to get their act together (either embrace the bright blue, red and yellow Superman and forget the "dark" Man Of Steel, or don;t bother).

One thing that bothers me with the recent press releases from the new DC Entertainment in their mention of all the media the company can tap into, the words "comic books" doesn't seem to be mentioned. While this current fad of super hero movies has generated some of the most popular movies of recent history, it hasn't generated increased readership of these characters' original media, ink and paper. With the emergence of electronic media changes in the print media or developing, to what end is not clear yet.

What is clear is that things are not going to stay the same. I just hope that, in whatever form, super hero comics, and comics in general, can remain a viable media, and grow the readership it desperately needs.

Paul Levitz's open letter: .

Marv Wolfman's thoughts about his old friend: .

Kurt Busiek's thoughts: .

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