Monday, October 31, 2022

Batman in the 1980s Issue 65: November-December 1986 + The Best of 1986


The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino

Batman #401

"A Bird in the Hand..."
Story by Barbara Kesel
Art by Trevor Von Eeden

Wealthy women in Gotham City are being killed by trick necklaces created by Magpie, a villain who loves pretty things like jewels. Batman arranges for a showing of the Wayne Collection of the most precious jewels in town and, at the gathering, Bruce and Commissioner Gordon are harangued by G. Gordon Godfrey, a loudmouth who thinks superheroes are nothing but dangerous vigilantes.

During the party, Magpie murders a woman with a sharp, jeweled necklace, right under the noses of Wayne and Gordon. Batman departs to hunt for Magpie, while Godfrey blames the Caped Crusader for the murder. The Dynamic Duo quickly locate Magpie's hideout, where they battle her henchmen before being trapped in an elevator rigged with fatal laser beams. Batman deflects the lasers with a mirror and the heroes escape; they catch Magpie and take her into custody.

Jack: This issue marks the start of Denny O'Neill's tenure as editor, and it's a breath of fresh air. There's nothing new in the story by Barbara Kesel (credited as Barbara Randall), but it hurtles forward at a rapid clip and includes just enough excitement to be fun. I've seen better art from Trevor von Eeden, but I really like his version of Batman, which hearkens back to the way the Dark Knight looked in 1939. I think more changes are coming that will help revive this series.

Peter: I loved "A Bird in the Hand" and its retro art by von Eeden. The story is more violent than we're used to, perhaps as a consequence of the popularity of The Dark Knight Returns. I'm not familiar with the Magpie character but I'm always up for a new villain whose elevator doesn't go to the top floor. 

Detective Comics #568

Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Klaus Janson

During a rally denouncing super-heroes as passe and dangerous, a spectator is attacked by a giant falcon. Luckily, the Dynamic Duo had been on hand to watch the proceedings and Batman quickly traps the huge bird and eliminates any more bloodshed.

Meanwhile, the Penguin has taken interest in Dr. Baird, the man responsible for the giant Peregrine; he breaks into the scientist's lab and grabs his notes. Batman arrives and attempts a rescue, but Penguin makes a getaway, mad scientist in tow.

Turns out the scientist is breeding large falcons for an Arab sheik and the Penguin is hoping to ransom the recipe for a big bundle of cash. With a bit of deduction, the Dark Knight manages to track the Penguin to his lair and, with quite a bit of help from the professor, quashes Cobblepot's mad scheme. Back to Arkham goes the fowl felon.

A very disjointed adventure from the get-go. I assume the interludes with rabble-rouser Godfrey, who's not shy about giving his opinion on superfolk, have something to do with the mini-series, Legends, which was crossing over into several titles during the latter part of 1986. I've never read the series, so I've no idea what the gist of the story is, but what sneaks its way into "Eyrie" doesn't seem all that interesting. The Penguin's grand blackmail scheme doesn't break any new barriers, but its lightweight tone is perfect for a one-and-done. It's nice to see Joey Cavalieri given a chance to flex his funny book muscles in a full-length thriller. Wouldn't it make sense, though, for the bad guys to escape now and then rather than getting hauled back to their cells? It would certainly make it easier to swallow than being paroled every nine months. 

The Klaus Janson art here is not that great, sorry to say. I know he's always been a big fan favorite and I loved his stint on Marvel's Daredevil, but his work here looks rushed. Batman has almost as big a beak as Penguin, but no one fares worse than the Boy Wonder, who runs the gamut from emaciated pre-teen to overweight middle-ager.

Jack: The excitement continues in this full-length story written by GA scribe Cavalieri and illustrated by inker Janson! The pages look great and the layouts are terrific, but some of the close-up faces are a bit shaky. Janson isn't quite as skilled as Colan, but it's a big step forward from Mandrake. I'm always happy to see a classic villain like the Penguin and I have to note that Godfrey looks completely different than he did in this month's Batman.

Batman #402

"There's Nothing So Savage--As a Man Destroying Himself!"
Story by Max Allan Collins
Art by Jim Starlin

Batman interrupts a couple of violent muggers and breaks their necks! Of course, it's not really Batman, but the public and the news reporters don't know that and think that the Dark Knight has finally crossed the line. At Wayne Manor, Bruce asks Alfred to start calling around to see about renting a Batman costume. Jason Todd wonders what's so bad about killing off bad guys, but Batman sets him straight.

When Alfred learns that all of the Batman costumes for rent have been stolen, it becomes clear that someone is impersonating the Caped Crusader. Bruce Wayne visits Howard Despond, a man whose wife was murdered; Despond recalls a nice young detective who found the killers before they got off on a technicality. After nightfall, a man robbing a liquor store is caught and killed by the fake Batman. Commissioner Gordon informs Batman that the dead man had shot a store owner the year before and was let off on another technicality.

Those ears!
Gordon and Batman realize that Tommy Carma, the nice young detective, is the link between all of the cases. Batman tells Robin that Carma was not only a policeman, but also a Golden Gloves boxer, a black belt karate expert, and a former Marine. His wife and daughter were killed when the mob blew up his car. Tracking down Carma, Batman learns that the former detective lives with his mother. Batman visits the woman, who thinks he's her son and reveals that Carma worshipped Batman and named his daughter Robin.

Batman asks Gordon to tell him the location of a mob assassin named Snuffer. Before Batman can get to him, the fake Batman bursts in and tosses Snuffer out of a high window, but the real Batman arrives just in time to catch the crook before he hits the pavement. A brief fight ensues between Batmans, but when Robin shows up, Carma is distracted and Batman knocks him out, ending the menace.

Jack: I'm a fan of Max Allan Collins and Jim Starlin, so I was excited to read this story after I saw the credits. It's pretty hard-hitting for an issue of Batman and reads like it's been influenced by the work of Frank Miller. Starlin's art is pretty good, but he draws the ears on Batman's mask so long that they almost look like bunny ears.

Peter: I liked this a lot as well. No surprise since I've been a fan of Max for nearly forty years. No other crime writer is as consistently good as Collins and the proof is in the three series he created featuring Nate Heller (PI), Nolan, and Quarry (both hit men), the latter of which gives Donald E. Westlake's Parker books competition for Best Crime Series of All Time. As with "A Bird in the Hand...", the hook here is that Snuffer is psychotic; he's got his reasons for his actions but those reasons aren't exactly rational. Standout scenes for me would be Batman's discussion with Ma Snuffer and the Seven-esque panels of Bats perusing the "wall of fame." It's a pity Max only sticks around for a short stint, as the writer would have definitely steered our hero down some very dark alleys.

Detective Comics #569

"Catch as Catscan"
Story by Mike W. Barr
Art by Alan Davis & Paul Neary

With help from Catwoman, Batman and Robin quash the robbery of a valuable piece of equipment known as the Catscan. After the bad guys (ironically, all former employees of Selina) have been vanquished, Cats wants to discuss with Bats their on-and-off romance, but the Dark Knight doesn't seem to want to be bothered.

Meanwhile, across town, the Joker is frustrated with the quality of his latest heists and tells his men they need to step it up. One of the more eccentric among them brings Joker the latest Gotham Gazette and points at a headline screaming "Dynamic Trio Nabs Gang." The Clown Prince of Crime has an epiphany.

The Bat-signal lights the sky and the Dynamic Duo head to Commissioner Gordon's office, where they meet up with Catwoman, and the Commish shows the heroes a Joker calling card delivered to the precinct a few hours before. Batman deciphers the message on the back of the card and the trio head for the Gotham Library. Sure enough, Joker and his henchmen are hiding in the aisles and a fierce brouhaha ensues. Joker gets the upper hand and traps Batman and Robin in a liquid straitjacket that tightens as its captives struggle. Joker zaps Catwoman and takes her away to his lair.

There, the villain confers with a mad scientist named Dr. Moon who, with the aid of the stolen Catscan, will "tear apart" Selina's brain. Joker misses Selina as a comrade and, clearly, the idea is that Moon will be able to bring back the "old" Catwoman. At the library, Batman practices his Zen and relaxes every muscle of his body (except for his brain, of course) and slips the constraining bonds. He frees Robin and then ponders their next move.

A solid, fun adventure with some dazzling art, as if Will Eisner had written a script and Bernie Wrightson had realized it. Lots of goofy, throwaway bits to celebrate here... Batman's rebuff of Selina's seduction ("Please, Selina... not in front of the boy.")... Henchman Scoop riding in on what appears to be a motorized tricycle to hand over the newspaper to his boss... Selina lounging like a pin-up on Gordon's couch... Scoop's deranged monologue, while dressed as Rambo, in the library ("You're pretty brave now... now that we fought the wars for you... bled and died while you wimps got sore feet protestin'...")... there's a lot to like from Mike Barr's script.

Of course, I will always have nits to pick... It might be just that I'm confused, since there are so many femmes in and out of Bruce Wayne's life, but the last I recall, Selina didn't know Bruce was Batman. I might have been asleep for the reveal (God knows you'd have to excuse my naps during the awful stories we got in the last year or so), but she's definitely in the secret circle as of this issue. Also, we never see how Joker acquires the Catscan. The last we see of the machine, it's been rescued by the "Dynamic Trio." Very minor quibbles. I can't quibble with the Davis/Neary art, though. It's fabulous and stylish. Their depiction of Joker is both beautiful and hideous at times, while Selina (as I mentioned) is curvy and erotic. Robin is suitably cartoony and Bats is big and scary. A total winner! What a great month for Bat-adventures.

Jack: The new art team of Davis & Neary blew me away! I love the cover and the interior art is just as good, though their Joker is a bit feminine and incredibly skinny. They clearly delight in drawing Catwoman! This issue returns to the classic formula: super villain + fun + cliffhanger=one of the best stories of 1978!

Miller & Janson
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #4

"The Dark Knight Falls"
Story by Frank Miller
Art by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson

Following the massacre at the amusement park, the police arrive to arrest the Joker and Batman. Robin gets away by hanging onto a helicopter, while Batman, who is badly injured, sets off some explosives and is lifted to safety with Robin's help. When the Joker's corpse is found, Batman is charged with murder.

In Gotham City, a vigilante group calling themselves the Sons of the Batman begin to get very tough on crime. Meanwhile, the Mutants are kept behind bars, where they watch the news unfold on TV: Russia has sent a massive nuclear bomb to hit an island after their troops were forced to withdraw. Superman intercepts the missile and redirects its course toward the desert, but when it explodes it disrupts electrical systems in the USA.

Barely out of the operating room at Wayne Manor, Batman puts his costume back on and he and Robin head downtown on horseback, just as a plane, its electrical system lost, crashes into a building. Chaos envelops the city streets, the mutants break out of prison, and Batman faces off against the Sons of Batman at the city dump and enlists their aid in calming the citizens of Gotham. Out in space, Superman is near death from his encounter with the giant bomb, but a close encounter with the sun returns his vigor and good looks. With the aid of the Mutants and the Sons of Batman, the Dynamic Duo restore order to Gotham City.

A week later, darkness reigns as a nuclear winter has descended. An aged Oliver Queen visits Bruce Wayne and together they hatch a plan for Batman to face off against Superman, who has been ordered by the president to bring in the Dark Knight. Batman puts on a high-tech suit and meets Superman for a final battle. In the end, "The Dark Knight Falls," brought down by a heart attack. In the days that follow, it's reported that Batman was Bruce Wayne and that the billionaire's fortune has disappeared. Wayne Manor was blown up by Alfred, who dies from a stroke. Clark Kent attends Bruce's funeral and, as everyone leaves, he detects a faint heartbeat below the ground with his super hearing. It seems Oliver Queen had a hand in faking Batman's death! Clark winks at Robin and, later on, Bruce Wayne is back in what's left of the Batcave, instructing the next generation of crime fighters.

Peter: Of the four chapters, this is easily the weakest, due to Miller's clipped dialogue, the frenetic pace, and the intermingling of perspectives. It's all way too confusing for this little brain, and that's from someone who absolutely loved the first three installments. I'm sure there are those out there who will say that Frank Miller maintained quality all through the series and put the perfect bow on the package, but it was a mighty big disappointment for me.

Jack: Like you, I found this confusing on first reading it, but when I went back through it to write the summary, it made more sense. I haven't been a fan of this series, but I have to admit that Miller succeeded in doing something new, even if I didn't really want to see it. The art is exciting, though I don't care for Miller's technique of drawing Batman and Superman as giant, lumbering monsters. I also don't care for the "adult" aspects of the story, including the language and the violence. Still, we have to reckon with this series and all that's come after it, so it certainly qualifies as a landmark.



Best Script:
Frank Miller, "Hunt the Dark Knight" (The Dark Knight Returns #3)
Best Art: Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, "Hunt the Dark Knight"
Best All-Around Story: "Hunt the Dark Knight"
Worst Script: Harlan Ellison, "The Night of Thanks, But No Thanks," (Detective Comics #567)
Worst Art: Tom Mandrake, "Strike Two" (Batman #399)
Best Cover: Bill Sienkiewicz, Batman #400 >

The Five Best Stories

1- "Hunt the Dark Knight"
2-  "Catch as Catscan" (Detective Comics #569)
3- "The Dark Knight Returns" (The Dark Knight Returns #1)
4- "The Dark Knight Triumphant" (The Dark Knight Returns #2)
5- "A Bird in the Hand..." (Batman #401)


Best Script: Frank Miller, "The Dark Knight Returns" 
Best Art: Alan Davis & Paul Neary, "Catch as Catscan," 
Best All-Around Story: "The Dark Knight Returns"
Worst Script: Harlan Ellison, "The Night of Thanks, But No Thanks," 
Worst Art: Tom Mandrake, "Binary Brains," (Batman #397)
Best Cover: Marshall Rogers, (Shadow of the Batman #2)

The Five Best Stories

1-"The Dark Knight Returns"
2-"Double Crosses," Detective Comics #564
3-"Catch as Catscan"
4-"The Dark Rider," Batman #393
5-"Free Faces," Detective Comics #563

Next Week...
Did we really need an "In Deep II"?

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 72: Atlas/ Marvel Horror Comics


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 57
January 1954 Part I
by Peter Enfantino

Adventures into Terror 27

“The Man Who Ran Away” (a: Al Luster) ★★1/2 

(r: Beware #3)

“The Screaming Man” (a: Bill Benulis & Jack Abel) 1/2

(r: Crypt of Shadows #4)

“The Big Story!”

(r: Crypt of Shadows #4)

“Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble!” (a: Chuck Winter) ★★1/2

(a: Dracula Lives #3)

“Pep Talk” (a: Paul Reinman) 1/2

Disdainful of the brain capacity of his fellow man,  Professor Barton invents a time machine and journeys one thousand years into the future to share his knowledge with elevated intellect. Problem is, Barton arrives in a civilization so far advanced that they put to death anyone who’s beneath them. Sayonara, Barton. The delicious irony of the climax of “The Man Who Ran Away” is never in doubt but Al Luster’s macabre delineations are what keep the blood flowing here. Luster chooses to portray Barton as the spitting image of Satan (with bad teeth) rather than the obligatory bespectacled, bald and obese brainiac.

In the witless “The Screaming Man,” two writing partners rent a spooky old castle on a cliff in order to draw inspiration for their terror tales. An awful smell from the basement beckons and they soon discover an abandoned well. One of the writers falls in and becomes a skeleton for some reason. Don’t dwell on these matters, Stan says. Even worse is “The Big Story!,” a 100% predictable groaner about a newspaperman who yearns for the big time so he causes a train derailment, unaware (until that expository final panel) that his visiting son is onboard. The panel of this upwardly-mobile reporter interviewing one of the dying victims is the apex of ludicrosity. 

The entertainment value of “Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble!” is 95% compliments of Chuck Winter’s gorgeous artwork. The tale, an updating of Shakespeare’s MacBeth, is as stuffy as the original, but an absolute feast for the eyes. As a dreary send-off this issue, we’re given “Pep Talk!,” which is essentially a three-page history of war on Earth and a few final panels as a twist - the history lesson is being given by a caveman in the future, one of the survivors of World War III, who’s urging his fellow Neanderthals to join him in battling his neighbors. The Reinman art, as always, is a plus.

"Fire Burn..."

Adventures into Weird Worlds 25

“The Men From Mars” (a: Bill Everett) ★★1/2

“Nightmare” (a: Joe Sinnott) 1/2

“A Million Light-Years Away” (a: Sam Kweskin) ★★

“Two Times Two” (a: Paul Reinman)

“The Mad Mamba” (a: Joe Maneely) ★★1/2

Henry wakes up one morning and imagines everyone around him is a green-skinned alien. His wife, his best friend, and his doctor all tell him the same thing: he’s having a hard time acclimating to a human skin! Very soon, the Martian invasion will be complete and Henry will understand all too well. Henry’s convinced they’re all monsters and he’s the last human left standing. But, once the climax rolls around, we all learn differently. With eccentric art from Bill Everett, “The Men From Mars” is a slightly above-average disguised-commie tale that has some genuinely unnerving moments. It’s only with the very last panel that we know Henry isn’t hallucinating it all.

In the three-page “Nightmare,” a man undergoing an operation has an out-of-body experience where he hallucinates everyone around him is a green-skinned alien (much like the aliens found in “The Men From Mars!”). He awakens to discover it was not a dream. Two green-skinned Martian invasion stories in one issue is perhaps one too many.

Ben Jarvis is an electronic whiz who helps build spaceships for travels to the the far ends of the galaxy. Ben wishes he could leave his mundane life and, just once, visit Mars or Saturn or…Uranus. When one of the crew members on a flight to Uranus is deemed unfit for duty, Ben is ecstatic to get the call to fill the void. The trip goes swimmingly and the crew land on the seventh planet and are accepted with open arms by the planet’s population. But the glee soon turns to boredom when Ben discovers that this race is so much more advanced than Earthlings, they’ve done away with unnecessary things like food, books, and labor. Once the journey is over, Ben is so glad to get back to his family and job.

“A Million Light-Years Away” is a tale of two stories, the first half being a gritty drama about a man who gladly leaves his family (in fact, telling both his wife and son he can’t stand them) for a big question mark, and the second part of the story has a lazy and maudlin wrap-up that erases the think piece that came before it. Ben’s predictable turn around in the final panels is almost vomit-inducing. 

Every planet in the galaxy wants peace; every planet that is except for the world behind the “cosmic curtain,” Rroosskkaa. While the Rruusskkaan president stalls the peace talks, his number one scientist is working on an invention that will fabricate a huge Rruusskkaan army that will destroy all the other planets in the galaxy. One very smart Rruusskkyy egghead comes up with a “Duplicator-Ray” that, yep, duplicates the entire population several times over. Unfortunately, the extra weight “drops the planet out of its orbit” and Rrusskkyy is destroyed. 

“Two Times Two: is another wearying Red Scare story that isn’t signed by Stan but sure smells like a commie-hating soapbox set up by “The Man.” The extremes are laughable and the climax, where a child watches the planet blaze out and mistakes it for a shooting star, is a blatant rip-off of the final panels of Gaines/Feldstein story, “Home to Stay” (from Weird Fantasy #13, May 1952). As noted several times before, the 1950s must have been a nerve-wracking era indeed, but these exaggerated Russian Monster tales do not age well.

Assistant to the brightest dance manager in the world, Lola Britton is jealous of her boss, Jolie Martin. When a chance comes up to fly with Jolie to Haiti and learn exotic dance routines, Lola accepts and plots a coup against Jolie. She’ll sketch the dances and costumes, then break off on her own to become a solo sensation. As she’s leaving from the dance exhibition, Lola insults an old witch but the woman seems unfazed and invites Lola back to the graveyard for some really top secret dance moves. Not the brightest star on Broadway, Lola accepts. Some ghoulish shenanigans from artist Joe Maneely elevate “The Mad Mamba,” despite a weak script.

"The Mad Mamba"

Astonishing 29

“The Immortal” (a: Russ Heath) ★★1/2

“They Cover the Earth” (a: Gene Colan) ★★1/2

“The Man Who Sent Himself” (a: Bob Fujitani)

“Anyone Up There?” (a: Bill Benulis) ★★★

“The Visible Man” (a: Joe Sinnott) ★★

The visually vibrant and gloriously goofy “The Immortal” begins with astronaut Jan Calso bemoaning the fact that space travel has been abruptly canceled since it was discovered that a round-trip to Mars would take 350 years and most men don’t live that long. Fortuitously though, Calso passes scientist Dr. Henry in the hall; the egghead is looking for the man in charge of the space program to let him know that he, the great Dr. Henry, has concocted an immortality serum. What are the chances the one man looking for immortality on the base should meet his savior at just that moment? Henry explains that the serum is almost ready to use but lacks one “essential” ingredient… But before the brilliant scientist can finish his sentence, Calso inexplicably blasts the professor with a ray-gun to keep anyone else from benefiting from this wonder drug. 

Calso wastes no time hopping into his rocket ship, injecting himself with the formula, and heading for Mars. Sure enough, it takes him 175 years to get to Mars and he spends approximately three minutes on its surface before heading back into his ship, monsters gaining on him. Nevertheless, he arrives back on Earth, 175 years later, happy that he’s the only human being to have achieved space travel. His glee is short-lived when he encounters a technician on the landing pad who informs him that not only is space travel an every day occurrence but that a short cut through the fourth dimension enables travelers to land on Mars in less than a month. Oh yeah, and everyone in the world is immortal now, thanks to the writings of super-genius Dr. Henry. Once Henry’s peers discovered the “one essential the serum lacked” was a man’s will to live, immortality was a snap. Depressed, Jan Calso crumbles to dust. 

A good twist ending to “The Immortal,” but there’s some obviously silly trappings here. Already mentioned is Henry’s murder just after he tells Calso there’s this one flaw in the system… Wouldn’t Calso have thought it essential to discover what that flaw was before injecting himself with whatsis juice? And was the astronaut’s plan the whole time to endure this awful journey only to snap one photo for proof and then head on back home? And, finally, I get that space travel was still a ways in the future but a little research tells me that Mars is 144 million miles from Earth and my calculator tells me that for Calso’s ship to take 175 years to arrive at the Red Planet, he would have to average 95 miles an hour. That seems like a inordinately leisurely pace for a rocket ship.

Doomsday arrives in the form of a mass invasion of ants, swarming over every country in the world, killing thousands with their fatal bites and eating up all food supplies. Scientists concoct a plan to destroy the insects in three stages: feed the ants food on the first day and then follow up with two doses of poisoned food. The ants, the theory goes, will bring the poison back to their nests and infect the entire colony. The plan works but it’s soon discovered that all the food in the world (yes, even those tins of pork and beans) has been consumed by the little bastards and mankind is doomed. But an unknown savior from the sky begins dropping food parcels and the starving masses greedily wolf them down. Bad news: the Martians have the same three-stage plan our scientists did. Another great twist ending, some really nice Colan art and “They Cover the Earth” is an oddity: an ant-invasion strip that, for the most part, avoids showing the little critters.

Bad art and script sink “The Man Who Sent Himself,” about a dope who discovers a way to send himself through space and time using his TV set. Unfortunately, his overbearing mother-in-law dooms him by turning off the set while the would-be genius is making his trip. Much better is “Anyone Up There?” A scientist discovers a race of beings living fifteen miles below the surface and invents a contraption that allows him and his assistant to visit. They make the long journey and exit into a fabulous subterranean world where grotesque creatures walk the streets of a utopian city. Alas, the paradise is reduced to ruins and the entire underground populace destroyed when an accidental “pressure leak” from above occurs. Sadly, the scientists return to their lab and dwell on the catastrophe, hoping that the civilization that lives miles above them on the surface world never attempts a similar expedition. Clever, clever twist and some dynamite Benulis art make this a top-notch Atlas SF tale.

The final tale, “The Visible Man” is a talky and boring time-travel saga made slightly more bearable by some nice Joe Sinnott work. It’s official: Sinnott is really good.

Menace 9

“Kill Me a Monster” (a: Paul Reinman) ★★

“Blood Relation” (a: Ed Winiarski)

“The Fangs of the Wolf” (a: Bill Everett) 1/2

(r: Vampire Tales #1)

“Symphony in Death” (a: Joe Maneely) ★★

“The Walking Dead” (a: John Forte)

A hitman discovers he’s been given contracts on aliens who disguise themselves as human. When the tables turn and the hunter becomes the hunted, the assassin has nowhere to turn. Paul Reinman seems to have been heavily influenced by Gene Colan before penciling “Kill Me a Monster.” Ed Winiiarski contributes a truly dreadful four pages of artwork to “Blood Relation,” a piece that looks as though it had been held back since 1949. A young man searches for the father he never knew and when he finds him, the pop is a vampire. Bottom of the barrel.

Since childhood, Kenneth Long has had an irrational hatred for dogs; he shoots any cur that walks past him. Then, when Kenneth is bitten in the arm by a wolf in the forest, he begins transforming, growing fur across his arm. The family doctor has no choice but to amputate and the threat of werewolfism disappears. At least it’s assumed the danger has passed. Then, several years later, Kenneth buys a huge estate and has it stocked with wild dogs. He hires a hunter and gives the man one job: kill any mongrel that the man sees. Though this is probably all down to bad timing, Kenneth’s lycanthropy returns, his employee mistakes him for a wild dog, and shoots him dead. What to make of a high concept horror story like “Fangs of the Wolf,” a remarkably lame-brained werewolf tale with so-so Everett graphics? The script seems as though it’s stitched together from several discarded drafts and then greenlit due to the impending deadline. No reason is given for the lapse in Kenneth’s curse; it just appears magically years after it seemed to be cured.

A heartless music critic steals the work of an unknown musician but pays the price in the end when the victim returns to steal the thief’s soul. At least I think that’s what happens in the final panel of “Symphony in Death.” Joe Maneely must have been scratching his head at that climax just as much as the readers, but Joe is a professional and so delivers yet another sharp set of panels. “The Walking Dead” chronicles a hungry zombie who rises from the grave and attacks an old man in his own living room. The old guy turns out to be pretty smart though and he tricks the zombie into entering his own private crematorium (no, seriously!), where he was just getting ready to incinerate his recently dead wife. Can it get any more random than that?

In Two Weeks...
Twenty more ghoulish pre-code tales!

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 96: August 1978


The Critical Guide to
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter

Creepy #100

"The Pit at the Center of the Earth!" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Pablo Marcos

"Professor Duffer and 
the Insuperable Myron Meek!" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by John Severin

"Tale of a Fox" 
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Nobody's Home" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Joe Vaultz

"Winner Take All" 
Story by Len Wein
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Hell Hound" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Russ Heath

"Wisper of Dark Eyes" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"They're Going to Be Turning Out the Lights" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alex Nino

Starring Roger Moore as Sebastian
and Herve Villechaize as Pinky
The year is 2000. Much of the world's oil has been depleted thanks to those gas-guzzling Oldsmobiles sold in the 1970s, and now man of action Sebastian finds himself guarding a big rig in the middle of the Amen Sea. The Arabs don't take kindly to Americans stealing their precious bounty and they've launched bombing raids on the rig, which was built (for some ungodly reason) on the cliff of an undersea chasm.

An undersea explosion opens a massive crack in the ocean's floor and a black mass oozes out, eating everything it touches. Sebastian and his gorgeous boss, Mrs. Heckman, pilot a bathysphere deep down to see what the fuss is about. They're sucked into the killer blackness just as the Arabs drop a huge bomb on the rig. It's the end of the world as we know it.

A reasonably entertaining apocalyptic thriller, "The Pit at the Center of the Earth!" moves at a fatally frantic speed and would no doubt have benefited with five or six more pages to allow the narrative to breathe. Pablo Marcos seems to see every panel as an excuse to create a Hollywood movie poster; both leads perform all their duties in what appears to be their underwear. Still, this one's better than any of the doomsday crap Warren ran in the last issue.

Professor Duffer takes his protege, Myron Meek, to movie agent Mr. Scrimp for a possible future in films. Duffer seems convinced Myron can bring smiles to the faces of thousands, despite his obvious handicaps. The agent is sold on the pair's audition and the huge key sticking out of Myron's back makes him all the more charming. It's only after Myron Meek becomes the biggest star in Hollywood that Scrimp realizes the kid is really a robot. "Professor Duffer and the Insuperable Myron Meek" is a cute change of pace and, to me, what makes it insufferably cute is that we seem to be the only ones, outside of the professor, who know Myron is a robot! Bill slyly uses that absurdity to his advantage in the reveal panel. 

In ancient China, two brothers, Quang and Wu-Fong, are sworn enemies, and each lords over his own province. Quang, seeking to murder his brother and rule over two kingdoms, kidnaps Wu-Fong's daughter, Ming-Toi, with an eye to replacing her with his own daughter, a Ming lookalike named Sun-Li. With Wu-Fong dead, the faux Ming-Toi would be a puppet ruler for her father. But Ming has an ace up her silky sleeve: she's a shape-shifter and can transform into a fox. This comes in handy when the guards come to execute her.

An absolute delight, "Tale of a Fox" is easily the best-written and best-illustrated story in years. There are no cheap shocks or stupid surprises, only a bedtime fantasy tale given time to unfold its clever twists and turns. Cuti and Ortiz seem to have thought this a more prestige project than the usual zombie and barbarian dreck; we don't even get the obligatory Warren "boobies" shot when Ming as a fox slips into her clothes to morph back into a human. I've always been a fan of Ortiz's work, but this might just be his best. 

A rebel has ziphoned a hole in the Ion Inclosure [sic] and fully intends to... well, do something. The authorities immediately launch "projectiles" at the rapscallion and he is immediately reduced to rock particles. The NASA Viking probe rolls over his "body" and the astronauts agree that Mars seems to be a dead planet. This harmless five-pager is more like a snippet than a fully formed tale, but Buz Vaultz's art continues to amuse. I assume I'll grow tired of his style (which reminds me of a Pixar movie) eventually, but for now it's still an interesting variant.

The barbarian Gart wins the lovely slave girl, Katika, in a card game with a wizard. As Gart is leaving the village with his new prize, the wizard curses him and swears the barbarian will rue the day he set eyes on Katika. Sure enough, obstacles and violence stand in front of Gart's trek home, but he swears the old wizard will not win. In the end, Gart discovers the danger was always closer than he thought. Meh. A Warren color story is not the cause for celebration it once was. The Bermejo art for "Winner Take All" is nice enough but would have been just as gorgeous in black and white and the color process Warren changed over to can't compare to the vibrancy of the mid-1970s. It looks like cheap newsprint color. Len Wein's script offers no surprises or alterations to the usual sword and sorcery stuff.

After a nasty divorce leaves him an emotional wreck and an alcoholic, Jonathan Hamlin runs across a wounded wolf at the beach and takes it home to nurse it back to health. The wolf becomes Jon's faithful companion, but weird deaths occur shortly afterwards, beginning with Jon's ex-wife. The woman was torn to shreds on a camping trip, as if by some sort of wild beast. Is there a connection between the deaths and Jon's wolf, or is it some mad coincidence?

Well, it's Creepy so you probably already know the answer to that (and besides, most of you have already read the darn thing) but, thankfully, Bruce Jones doesn't settle for the usual cliches. It's not the ex-wife reincarnated. It's not the beautiful girl Jon picks up at a bar one night. The creature's identity is never really revealed, but for a super-clunky expository in the finale. That finale is a good one; I'd just as soon Bruce left the origin to our imaginations.

A glowing orb descends from the heavens and lands in the ocean beside Halibut Haven. A woman named Gizelda waits for her adulterous husband to come back from his work at sea. Within the orb, an alien presence emerges and takes over Gizelda's body. When her husband Lancaster returns, the possessed Gizelda exerts an erotic power over her mate. She orders him to murder his mistress, which he does, and then watches as the alien "ship" rises from the water and heads back to its planet. Spell ended, the couple realize what they've done and madness ensues.

Well, I have to say my synopsis is based on guesswork somewhere after the "A glowing orb descends..." part, since I fell asleep shortly thereafter. Though not quite in the league of "Orem Ain't Got No Head Cheese," "Wisper [sic] of Dark Eyes" is one of the decade's worst. A hodgepodge of pretension and nonsense but, worse, boring concepts. The three panels on page 56 describing the thing's state of mind (Invariably in these psychic unions, a residue was deposited in the mind of the subject.) are the prose equivalent of two Tylenol PM capsules.

Equally abysmal is "They're Going to Be Turning Out the Lights," Bill DuBay's commentary on eroding morals and the power of the government. A city's mayor orders martial law and "shoot on sight" in the midst of a violent blackout. Sounds like a good antidote? Pretty heady stuff at a time when no one was commenting on the destruction of decency in humans. But here's this bold writer, no, let's call him a journalist, at a funny book company, giving us his deepest thoughts and exposing his fears about where we were headed should the power fall into the wrong hands. It's the kind of thing Harlan Ellison might have written in the early 1970s, but he probably would have pulled it off. "They're Going..." is about as empty-headed and fanatical as anything the right-wingers ever came up with. I'll also grouse that the sideways paneling gimmick has run its course and Nino's art appears unfinished and faded (perhaps not his fault). Aside from the final pair of tales though, this comes off as a splendid anniversary issue!-Peter

I'm a fan of silent movies and I love John Severin's art, so "Professor Duffer" was my favorite story in this special issue. A robot obsessed with the poster for Metropolis? Count me in! I thought the color looked good in "Winner Take All," though I don't think it adds much to Bermejo's art. The ending was satisfying. Nino's strong art is the highlight of "They're Going to Be Turning Out the Lights," which features a powerful story. Too bad the pages are sideways. I also liked "Tale of a Fox," just not as much as you did. I agree that the art is terrific and the twist is clever. "The Pit" has a fairly interesting story, but the ending is a dud; Marcos's art looks more like something we'd see over at Marvel or DC.

"Hell Hound" suffers from some of the most mediocre Heath art I've seen, a confusing story, and a letdown of an ending. "Wisper of Dark Eyes" isn't much better, though the decapitation panel is shocking. The sci-fi elements drag the story down and this is not Auraleon's best work. Finally, I thought "Nobody's Home" was terrible--monotonous art, the usual dull Warren sci fi elements, and a silly twist ending. Overall, issue #100 was better than some others we've seen recently but hardly a milestone. The spelling in this issue was particularly glaring--"Wisper" should be "Whisper," Auraleon is misspelled, as is Cary Bates, and so on, and so on. Does anyone know who's responsible for the lettering? It's a hallmark of the Warren mags, and not in a good way.

Eerie #94

"The Coming of the Annihilator"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Honor and Blood"
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Leo Duranona

"Dead Man's Ship"
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Isidro Mones

"Divine Wind"
Story Uncredited
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Don't Drink the Water"★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Martin Salvador

"Bruce Bloodletter of the IRS"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay & Fernando Fernandez
Art by Fernando Fernandez

When the Army detonates a neutron bomb under the Southern California desert, it causes "The Coming of the Annihilator," a big creepy-crawly that heads for the nearest city! In outer space, Vampirella and Pantha are heading for Earth on a spaceship manned by Starpatch, Mother Blitz, and Quark. Vampi wishes that she could turn back time and Starpatch sees Restin Dane and crew flying to the aid of the Army to battle the Annihilator. Starpatch suggests that the Rook could take Vampi and Pantha back in time so they'd be with their own kind.

Mother Blitz recognizes the Annihilator and raises the alarm, telling everyone that it eats energy and Earth is doomed. On Earth, Dane's flying ship has to land when its energy is drained; the Army sends jets after Starpatch's spacecraft once it enters Earth's atmosphere. Vampi thinks fast and suggests that the Rook could take them back in time to prevent the Annihilator ever coming to Earth. The Dane crew meets up with Vampi's crew in a cave and they decide to hop into the Rook and the backup Rook in order to head back in time to try to stave off doom.

I don't know why Bill DuBay felt the need to work Vampi, Pantha, Starpatch, and crew into a Rook story, but this one is twelve pages of nonsense. Seriously, is the solution to every problem going back in time? How well does that ever work out? What if they step on a butterfly? Will Warren comics suddenly improve? As if Vampi's costume isn't silly enough, Bermejo draws Pantha in an outfit that looks like she's auditioning for a part at the house of ill repute on Twin Peaks. Bermejo's art is decent but not great; the story doesn't create much anticipation for part two.

Back in 1841, on Walpurgis Night, a satanic priestess (and dead ringer for Farrah Fawcett) named Sybil, who was both a witch and a vampire, married a man whose identity was hidden because he was wearing an elk's head. Not long after, little Ian Vrykola was born; his furry palms and forked tongue marked him as a vampire. Dr. Hopkins, who delivered the baby, rushed to a nearby cemetery to feed it soil from the grave of a vampire in order to remove the curse. He was followed by Mama Sybil, but when she was still there and the sun came up, she disintegrated. Believing the child's curse lifted, Dr. Hopkins raised Ian as his own son.

Ian grew up to be a lawyer, who got married and had a son named John. When Ian travels to the dangerous neighborhood of Whitechapel (somehow having ended up in London), he is murdered by a criminal named Whitey Looper, but he later awakens in his coffin, having become a vampire. He takes revenge on his killer but soon finds that he can't escape his own lust for blood. Ian heads home to find Dr. Hopkins, who reveals that he was the guy in the elk head and actually is Ian's real father. Hopkins puts a stake through Ian's heart and thinks the curse is ended, unaware that young John Vrykola is showing troubling signs of his future as Jack the Ripper.

"Honor and Blood" is a goofy story that jumps around from place to place and reminded me a little bit of an Eerie version of Forrest Gump. A guy in an elk's head marries a satanic priestess who is a witch and a vampire. Their kid is fine until he dies and suddenly becomes a vampire. His kid is Jack the Ripper. What's next? We'll find out in the next exciting installment!

Out to sea in 1869, a ship's captain spies a "Dead Man's Ship" approaching and pulls up alongside to board it. He finds all of the crew are skeletons and sees evidence of the plague, but he is shocked to find that the dead captain is himself! The captain believes that the ship is his own ship in the future. He blows it to smithereens and tells his crew to keep quiet about what they saw.

Arriving in Shanghai, the captain is told that another ship with the same name as his left port a few months ago. At a tavern, a sexy fortuneteller informs the captain that events will keep happening over and over and he thinks he and his crew are caught in a vortex of time. He gathers his crew and sets sail immediately; soon, his men begin to come down with the plague. They see another ship approaching and the captain orders his men to fire on it, thinking it's yet another version of his ship. Instead, it's a British warship that destroys the unfortunate captain's ship.

Now I'm really confused. Was the ship really caught in a time vortex, or was the captain just a nut? The end of the story suggests that the latter explanation is the correct one. We haven't seen Isidro Mones in the pages of the Warren mags for a while, as best I can recall, and his art is just so so--kind of on the level of Martin Salvador.

In the 11th century, the armies of Kublai Khan sailed for Japan to attack the island nation for the first time. The samurai of Japan saw the invaders coming and prepared for battle, while women and children headed for safety. The Mongol hordes attacked on foot, since their horses were coming later on other ships. The battle between Mongol warriors and Japanese samurai was fierce and bloody; as night fell, a "Divine Wind" brought a storm that led to a lull in the fighting. That same storm destroyed the oncoming ships, drowning the invaders, but many samurai also lost their lives. Japan would not be attacked again until WWII!

A rare story where there are no credits, "Divine Wind" is clearly drawn by Maroto but the writer is unknown. That's a shame, because this mix of history lesson and thrilling battle tale is better than the stories that precede it in this issue of Eerie. Wikipedia tells me that "divine wind" translates into Japanese as kamikaze, and the Mongol invasions occurred in the 13th century, not the 11th; the end of the story gets it right when a caption says that the next invasion came 700 years later.

A head-on collision on a rainy road between a truck and a car leaves both drivers dead. No one notices the canteen that was thrown clear from the car's front seat, but the police are shocked when Doc Willis announces that the car's driver was not human. Later that morning, on the way to play a pickup game of baseball, young Matty finds the canteen and takes a sip of the bad-tasting liquid inside. In a nearby cabin, an alien in human form is dying, bitten by a mosquito and waiting for the antidote that was in the canteen that his fellow alien was bringing to save him.

When a play doesn't go his way in the ballgame, Matty unexpectedly picks up a bat and beats another boy to death. He runs off alone into the woods, taking more sips from the canteen, until he reaches the cabin and finds the now-dead alien. As the police search for him, Matty takes another swig from the deadly container. The cops nearly catch him, but he escapes and tries to escape by swimming downstream in the river. He is killed when he goes over a waterfall; the canteen empties its contents into the town's water source. Matty's little brother takes a drink of water from the tap and, before you know it, his dad comes home to find that the lad has killed his mother and is gnawing on her arm. Similar things are happening all around town.

"Don't Drink the Water" suffers from the usual bland art by Salvador, but the sudden outbursts of violence and the panel of Mark chewing on his dead mother's arm ensure that this is a story that belongs in Eerie. We are told that the liquid in the canteen is an antidote for the toxin delivered into the alien's body by a mosquito bite, but we don't get much more explanation than that. Still, it's a chilling tale.

"Bruce Bloodletter of the IRS" and Muffie land on the planet Catatonia, searching for a tax cheat disguised as a madman. They are immediately judged demented and jailed after an attempt at escape, but not before they identify Silas Mendicant as the big bad guy. Bruce uses his wits to break them out of prison just in time to witness Mendicant departing the planet in a giant ship.

I can only assume that Fernandez wrote some other dialogue and drew this story before Bill DuBay came in and wrote new dialogue. The whole thing is terribly unfunny and hard to read. This is not the first time we've encountered a screed attacking the IRS; I was not aware that comic book creators felt so strongly about taxes in the 1970s. The art isn't bad, it's just unnecessarily busy.-Jack

Peter-The Rook this time out is indeed a boatload of nonsense, but I found it slightly more enjoyable than the recent Rook adventures. I love Ortiz's art, but he runs into the same problem Jose Gonzalez contends with in this month's Vampirella saga, in that Vampi and Pantha look so much alike you can't tell who is who without guiding captions or dialogue. 

"Honor and Blood" reminds me of one of those badly dubbed 1960s Italian horror movies where you never know what's going on (why did our hero suddenly become a vampire when he was murdered and how can grampa be so sure the new kid is free of the curse?), even when they tell you. I don't care what anyone says, Duranona's art is the pits. "Dead Man's Ship" made my head hurt with its convoluted time travel theme but I do have to say I haven't chuckled so much at Warren dialogue in nigh on a century (how about "With hands coated with sweat and limbs shaking beyond control, I finished what I (the other me) could not do before." and "It's true! We are destined to meet ourselves at sea. We're caught in a vortex of time!"). The Isidro Mones art is kinda funky, as if he let his six-year-old son doodle some of the panels.

Unless Warren was relaunching Blazing Combat and no one told me, I can see no reason for "Divine Wind" to be in a funny book called Eerie. It's not a bad story but, as Jack notes, it's as if (Uncredited) had been gifted a set of Encyclopedia Britannica and got right to work on making it pay off. "Don't Drink the Water," coupled with "Dead Man's Ship" confirm two things to me about Warren in 1978: 1/ Louise Jones might have been considering the return of an Eerie sans series characters (aside from the Rook) and 2/ Louise had no problem greenlighting loony scripts and assigning bland artists to those loony scripts. Filling three titles with 15+ stories eight-nine times a year had to be a pain in the ass and quality was sure to slide. That's what was happening in the Summer of '78, fer sure. "Bruce Bloodletter" is as funny as an IRS audit notice, but just what we've come to expect from the Dube. I've so had it with these "fill in the box" strips.

Vampirella #71

"The Case of the Connected Clowns and the Collector!" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"Trial of the Sorceress" 
Story by Bill DuBay & Esteban Maroto
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Night of the Chicken" 
Story by Michael Fleisher
Art by Jess Jodloman

"Macchu Picchu: The Treasure of the Incas" 
Story by Josep Toutain & Nicola Cuti
Art by Luis Bermejo

Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Leo Duranona

Fresh off her last cinematic triumph, Vampirella is cast in her sophomore effort, a thriller about disappearing film starlets. Unbeknownst to our bloodsucking femme fatale, that's exactly what's been going on at Century Studios. Over the last five decades, five actresses have shown up for work and never left the studio, their bodies never found. 

Meanwhile, Pantha has been booked on the Frick and Frack Freckles TV show, thanks to the efforts of Pen. Neither girl knows what danger lies ahead of them. Vampi is kidnapped by the murderer of the five actresses,  the studio's prop man who keeps the starlets' moldering bodies on display in his office, while Pantha is taken by the stars of the F+F show, who just happen to be Siamese twins: one pure at heart, the other a sadistic madman who likes to inflict pain on women. The girls show their captors their alter egos and the reveal drives the men insane. Pantha and Vampi sigh, chalking the whole episode up to just another day in Hollywood.

Well, at last we're introduced to Frick and Frack who, without any explanation from Dube, headlined the Vampi adventure back in #69 without ever showing their faces. "The Case of the Connected Clowns and the Collector!" is a (all together now) disjointed mess that makes not one whit of sense. So the prop guy has managed to keep rotting corpses in his warehouse for fifty-plus years (even though the guy doesn't look 75-80 years old) without the police checking the building out during that entire time? These cops must moonlight as hick sheriffs in Dube's backwood yarns. I've said it before and I'll doubtless say it again, but is there a goal here? Did Dube have a plan? It sure doesn't seem like it.

In ancient times, a woman accused of witchery is put upon the rack and tortured for her "crimes." There's not much more than that to "Trial of the Sorceress." There's a lot of really nice Maroto artwork here, but the story is way too long and repetitive. I do have to give Bill credit for coming up with a narrative to fit the pretty pitchers, but that monologue is dry and boring for the most part. The caption boxes on page one alone would equal those of the ordinary Warren strip. I'm a big fan of the "woman on the rack" stories that filled the pages of Web Terror Stories, but "Sorceress" has too few cat o' nine tails hijinks.

Lucas Walsh owns the best and most productive chicken farm in the state, but what's his secret? Well, it might be the special mixture he feeds to his chickens, composed of the bones of luckless prostitutes and wayward travelers. Lucas just loves to get a woman dressed up in a sexy chicken outfit and then cleave her skull with a hatchet. But, it turns out, the chickens become very enamored of the bone and gristle meal and decide to cut out the middleman.

There's not much sense to "Night of the Chicken"; it is, in fact, just a more violent version of the sort of stuff Michael Fleisher became famous for in the pages of DC Comics. I'm a big fan of Fleisher's work at that other company, as evidenced by my raves when Jack and I were dissecting the DC mystery titles, but "Chicken" is just dumb and lazy. Lucas's yen for dressing up his women before cutting them down has nothing to do with reducing them to chicken feed, nor does the climax, where the little mothercluckers peck Lucas to death and reduce him to bone. It's just what Fleisher perceives to be the only ending a horror tale like this could be given. When a script is inane, might as well give it an inane twist. Or one could say this is Fleisher commenting on the violence in society and how little we prize human life. Nah, you're right, it's just a dumb story. This is the first Warren contribution by both Fleisher and artist Jess Jodloman, whose work here is quite effective.

Scalawag Diego will do anything to lay his hands on the treasures found inside the temple of Macchu Picchu, including convincing its comely priestess that he will marry her if she helps him access said treasure. But once inside the temple walls, Diego reveals that his heart belongs to someone else, a woman who requires a certain level of wealth before she'll turn her attentions to him, and his promises of unending love to the priestess were empty vows. Betrayed, the woman tells Diego the gods will not surrender their booty until the wedding ceremony is complete. The Gods move out of the shadows, revealing themselves to be alien astronauts, and explain their master plan for the people of Macchu Picchu.

Originally planned for the aborted Warren zine, Yesterday, Today... Tomorrow, "Macchu Picchu: Treasure of the Incas" is a confusing and meandering waste of time, a beautifully imagined jumble of piffle. The cherry on top, of course, is the wild von Daniken reveal in the climax, five or more years after Chariots of the Gods fever had peaked. The highlight, for me, was the series of panels where Diego promises to marry the girl and then immediately admits there's someone else in his future. I'm all in on the Bermejo art, though, so atmospheric and moody. A shame it's set to a TV Movie of the Week plot.

It's uncanny how similar the actions of Marvin, who works at a top law firm, coincide with that of NGH, a caveman at the dawn of time. They both like snazzy suits, both take up with prostitutes (well, with NGH, it's a cavegirl who's wandered in from another tribe), and both are bullied into causing one of their competitors to commit suicide. Y'know, being a caveman isn't easy. But after Marvin does what the boss tells him to do, he and his wife are given tickets for Time Hunter, a new company that provides transportation back to prehistoric times. Marvin and his wife jump in the time pod and arrive in somethingsomething BC, bumping into NGH while he's on security detail. NGH runs Marvin through with a spear, hoists Mrs. Marvin onto his shoulder, and heads back to the cave with his new prize.

In one of those clever split-time narratives, Bruce Jones shows us just how awful the human race can be, timeframe be damned. "Arteriosclerosis" (sorry about the spelling, but I figured since Warren's proofreader couldn't give a damn, why should ?) gives new meaning to the word "bloated." This plot had already been done to death so I'm wondering just what new message Bruce thought he was conveying. Maybe that if you're going to write a turkey, best to place it in an issue this bad. -Peter

"Night of the Chicken" was so bad that it was good, and easily my favorite story in this issue. I love the last panel and I smiled when the gal tried on the chicken suit and found it "'kind of sexy.'" The whole thing reminded me a bit of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "Arthur," if only AHP were to add women in scanty chicken outfits. The Vampi story is helped immensely by Gonzalez's artwork, but I must admit I got confused midway through and thought there were three gorgeous women with long, black hair: Vampi, Pantha, and the agent. Then it began to dawn on me that Pantha is Vampi's agent. It might help if Jose drew the women so that they didn't look like twins. Only Bill DuBay would think to have Siamese twins host a kiddie show.

I found the Maroto art on "Trial of the Sorceress" to be sub-par and it seemed obvious that DuBay was given finished pages and told to come up with captions to try to make some sense of them. "Macchu Picchu" started out as a fairly interesting historical adventure, making me wonder if Josep Toutain was the uncredited writer of "Divine Wind" in Eerie (see above), but then the story took a Cuti turn with the astronauts. "Australopithicus" was painful to read, with its alternating pages making a heavy-handed comparison between primitive man and ad agency types. The twist toward the end was unexpected but went nowhere.

Next Week...
The big finale!