Monday, June 30, 2014

Magnus, Robot Fighter #2, #3, and #4 (Dynamite Comics)

Three months back, I posted a glowing review of the first issue of Dynakey's Magnus, Robot Fighter series Do the following three issues stack up, or is it an underwhelming continuation?

Russel Magnus has been torn from a virtual world he thought to be real, and has found himself in the strange new world of North Am, a futuristic city where robots rule over humans. Having been arrested by the authorities, Magnus is interrogated by Inspector Leeja Clane, a brutal 'human hunter' who sees Magnus as a terrorist. He soon manages to escape with a rogue robot, and goes in search of the Gophs (feral human outcasts), and his 'father', 1A, the Artificial Intelligence that created Magnus' virtual home. Unfortunately Clane is on his tail, and her shady senator father is desperate to be rid of Magnus, regardless of collateral damage...


This issue is a pretty decent read, even if it doesn't cover a whole lot of ground. It properly introduces Leeja Clane, who I'll get to later, as well as showcases Magnus' newfound abilities of communicating with and understanding the code of machines.

The first half of this issue is set in the sort-of Virtual Reality Correctional Facility, which the illustrators used as an excuse to not draw backgrounds. I'm not judging, though, as it is a decent looking location. One slight irritation with the layout is a 2-page spread that could have easily made up one page, as it feels a little sparse for two. As the issue tells a fair amount of story though, I don't mind there being a spread, and at least it's not the most wasteful I've ever seen.

The only problem I had with this issue is the comic relief-A jive-talkin' robot name H8R. I GET IT.  "Daaaaym, dat was da shiz nit, my flesh brother!" Ugh! He even says "YouknowwhatI'msayyn?". But to be fair, the character isn't grating, has a slightly interesting backstory, and doesn't appear a whole lot, so there's not much opportunity for him to be annoying.

One odd thing I might as well talk about here (given the Valiant Magnus comics are in copyright hell) is the robots' dying screams of 'Skreeee!' In the Valiant (and maybe Gold Key too, I'm not sure) Magnus series, they screamed 'Squeeee!'. Yes, really! I guess it was just random gibberish back then.


There isn't much story this issue, and the only thing is manages to establish aside from Leeja's reality show trade in busting criminals is an explanation on what Gophs are. Thankfully it doesn't come across as an issue-long fight scene, as there are varied things happening, as welll as good dialogue exchanges.

While we know way less about this universe than we should three issues in, it's serviceable, and mildly interesting. I like the idea of robots being religious, even if it is stupid and illogical. As for the state of this dystopian future...

...That actually sounds really good! Sign me up! As that sounds so awesome, I'm sure it'll end up being revealed that the Powers That Be behind it all will be a bunch of corrupt evildoers, etc, which is why we won't want to kick the crap outta Magnus for tearing down a perfect society. It isn't exactly difficult to tell where this series is going. It's predictable as hell!

The attempts at humour is where this issue really fails. The song at the start is unfunny, tonally awkward, and annoyingly hipster-ish, as is the reference the Bechdel Test. And as for the DRM joke-Hmm, I wouldn't think DRM would be a common thing TWO THOUSAND YEARS IN THE GODDAMNED POST POST-APOCALYPTIC FUTURE! Guh, this is like how in recent episodes of Futurama, stuff like apps and smartphones are mentioned, dating what's supposed to be a show set in the far future.

Another problem is the poor scene transition when the robot woman in the church defends Magnus. It feels like there's a panel missing.


Issue 4 finishes off this first arc, and unfortunately it feels like nothing has been accomplished. Four issues in, and Magnus has successfully ran away from the authorities. That's it, basically. And the brief exposition we about the Swarm and Singularity is a bit confusing. The ending for Magnus is a pretty neat cliffhanger, though.

Leeja is severely underused this time round, spending most of the issue unconscious under rubble, H8R continues to be 'eh, ok', and the Synod (robot church) is still annoyingly unexplored. The Swarm is a pretty interesting enemy, and I liked the way Magnus defeats it.


Magnus, Robot Fighter is doing an ok job at world building, but too little too late, given Dynakey's pathetic issue structures. If you can't tell a story in one comic issue, that's bad enough, but if you need four to tell one, you FAIL! Let's compare, shall we. The latest volume of Deadpool takes several issues to tell it's arcs because they're big arcs with heaps of characters and plenty happening, and the same goes for the current Quantum and Woody series, whereas Dynakey's Turok, Dinosaur Hunter spent four issues on a barebones story with barely any characters, who we know nothing about in a world we know nothing about, and Solar is doing the same thing. Thankfully Magnus fares a bit better in both the storytelling and character departments, but the problem still stands-We're four issues into this series, and we still barely know anything about the world that we're in. It's especially annoying because it only took me a couple of minutes of brainstorming of how to fix this, and compress the story to a single issue without losing anything in translation.

Onto the characters. Magnus isn't exactly a bland character so far, and we at least get what drives him, given the events of #1, but we know practically nothing about who the guy is. H8R is decent, despite his jive-talking not really meshing with the series' tone all that well, and 'Human Hunter' Leeja Clane is a somewhat interesting character, especially from what we come to sort-of learn at the end of #4. Given who Leeja is in all the other Magnus incarnations, I can see where she's going pretty easily, but maybe DynaKey will compensate for our knowledge of past incarnations of the character by making her and what she does/goes through very different (technically they already have by starting her off as a villainous human hunter, but who else has already assumed that Leeja will realize her society is corrupt, join Magnus, and fall in lovey-love with the studly MAN hero). Her bad guy senator father is pretty underdeveloped so far, and has done next to nothing aside from releasing The Swarm, unfortunately.

The art in this series continues to be quite good. Nothing bad on display here.

One pretty minor problem with MRF is the The 'Previously On' recaps at the start of each issue. They try to be funny, and they fail. They'd still be a pain if they succeeded though, as funny recaps are not welcome in a dead serious comic universe!...Well, dead serious minus the random intrusions by unfunny comedy.

As I found out at first by perusing Dynamite's website, the next issue of MRF is a #0. My first reaction was 'Already?!', and my second was 'Aw crap, it's gonna be two months before we get back to the story proper, isn't it', but as it turns out, both #0 and #5  are being released in the same month, which I immensely respect. They could have just done the same as lots of other companies do, and release #0 in July, then #5 in August! I'm glad, because a two month gap really does screw with the flow of an ongoing series.

So far, this series is showing promise, and has some interesting (albeit frustratingly unexplored) concepts, but it's up in the air where this'll go from here. At the end of my very positive review for Magnus, Robot Fighter #1, I said 'Thanks Dynamite!'. I think I'll go back and edit that out out of spite. As for how I'll finish of this review, how about-You're on thin ice with this, Dynamite!...Actually, I think I will thank Dynamite for one thing-Thanks for not having Magnus wear a mini mini-skirt! It only brings Zapp Brannigan to mind, as well as making us wonder if Magnus wears any underwear to conceal his robot-fighting balls! (Look at the constant black shading under his skirt in those old Valiant/Dark Horse comics and tell me I'm wrong).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Shadow-Man #1-#6 (Acclaim Comics)

Ever since I played 1999 Nintendo 64 game Shadow Man, I was instantly in love, and was curious and hopeful about what the comics it was based on (Valiant and Acclaim, respectively) were like! Unfortunately...Valiant Shadowman sucks! Acclaim Shadowman sucks! New Valiant Shadowman sucks!

From the game's horrific atmosphere, disturbing visuals and music, interesting Voodoo setting, and one of the most important black video game leads in game history, you can imagine my disappointment in the comic iterations when they all turn out not to be up to snuff, and I thought that all hope was lost...But then I found out about the second Acclaim remake, which as I've found out, is...*gasp*...actually good!

Running at six issues, several months after the canning of Acclaim's first Shadowman series, this is a remake of the franchise. Bafflingly enough, the internet has zero information (that I could find, at least) on what these six issues are. Are they a continuation from the previous Acclaim SM series? Is it a reboot? Is it really the submission guidelines to Unity 2000 posing as Shadow Man, ala Marville #7? Before I bought the issues, I had no idea, and curiousity was really eating me up!

So, let's get into Shadow Man!...

#1-Mission Unspeakable

Michael Leroi, a deadpan radio DJ, makes no secret of his occupation as Voodoo protector of the living world from threats of Deadside-the afterlife-but only those who believe in Voodoo know he's telling the truth. One such person is Eugene, a caretaker of Carrefour townhouse, a crossroads between the worlds. He's helping renovator Astrid Lockyer clean the place up, but she inadvertently cleans out spirit jars, unleashing an evil force upon the house...

This is a quite good first issue. It establishes both Mike's role as the Shadow Man, as well as his 'day' job as a radio station DJ (which has many slightly humorous interactions). It could have done a bit more work in explaining what Deadside is though. The story is decently written, and it's actually about genuine Voodoo, unlike other Shadowman incarnations.

Both Nettie and Jaunty have brief cameos, and if you've never played the game, you'll have only the vaguest idea who they are. And even if you do know who Nettie is, you won't know why she's incorporeal here, as the series never bothers to explain. Jaunty here looks very different to his game and previous comic counterpart, but it's only a temporary new look, though.

This issue has some foreshadowing of things to come, which includes a cameo from the villain of the game, Legion. That's my other problem with this comic-He's meant to say 'For we are many', not 'For I am many' as he does here! That's why he's called Legion-He's a gestalt being! And this is a problem that stays with this series, tantamount to the 2012 revival constantly saying The Deadside (there is no 'the'!).

The Voodoo aspects are pretty unexplained, so those not in the know will likely be confused at words like 'baka', po tets, and 'Lwa' (which is actually an alternate spelling for Loa, something I didn't know until I googled it). That's no huge problem though, as it's not necessary to understand those things.

One odd bit is a completely superfluous scene with an Irish tourist being attacked by zombies. This is never brought up again this issue, or any other.

Running at a doubled page length, this is a good first issue to the series.

#2-Lwa and Order

A street graffiti artist draws stylised Loa veves (symbols), causing havoc as the respective Loas are summoned to earth in diminished forms. With the help of Loa of the crossroads Papa Legba, Michael searches out the people responsible for the art before disaster strikes...

There's not a whole lot to say about this issue. It's a decent standalone story, with a little bit of things to come in what happens to the character of Dubois.

It is a bit silly that Papa Legba is a talking chicken here, but it doesn't come across as stupid, and is pretty easy to roll with.

#3-Asylum Seeker and #4-Soul Surviver

The evil being Legion has created Asylum in Deadside-A horrific cathedral to pain where he's unleashing his plans for armageddon. Back in Liveside, Astrid is visiting a serial killer on death row-John Barber. As she's the only one who ever escaped his clutches, Barber has an obsession with Astrid, and will only reveal the locations of his victims' bodies to her. Things go awry however when a riot is initiated, tearing a hole through the veil, leading straight to Deadside and the Asylum...

These two issues tell the story of the game, and it actually tells it very differently, which is a nice departure from simply having the exact same story we already played.

Unfortunately it tells the story over two issues unsuccessfully. I wish it were three, so things would have more time to unfold, progress, and be developed (for example, what we see of the Asylum makes it disturbing, but that's basically just one panel). This story doesn't really have a middle. It has a beginning, and and end, and that's it. Having three issues would also allow the comic to develop Legion more, and ease more easily into the Astrid twin plot point, which as it stands comes across as a deus ex machina.

By the way, funny story-Last night I had a dream about a third issue of this storyline. It was a mix of Lo, Hellraiser, and Shadowman, and was disturbing as hell. It was awesome! And when I woke up, I was actually pissed that it wasn't real!

As I said above, Legion isn't a very well developed villain, and the same can be said for his band of serial killers. That's where the plot could've done with the most work.

The other big problem is the fight between Michael and the three killers-Part of it's offscreen, and is just narrated to us! Grrr!...  And there's one really confusing scene transition when Dubois attacks Michael. It doesn't help that the form Legion is in looks exactly like Dubois from the previous panel, but Barber in the Asylum looks exactly like other villain Jack the Ripper! And the transition back to the fight is a mindscrew too, and afterwards, Barber starts looking like himself. What kind of screwup was there in the art room?! And was the caption machine broken?!

As I said before, I was briefly paranoid that this series was merely the submission guidelines to Jim Shooter's comic event Unity 2000. This was because of the statement on the cover of #3, the lack of info on this series on the net, and my knowledge of the Marville series. As for what the statement really means, there's a two-part prologue to the event spread out over two issues of Shadow Man. How is it? Meh. I might go into more detail when I get around to reviewing Unity 2000, but probably not. There's not really much to go into detail about. It's a brief story that's just kinda meh.

These are the two least-best issues of this series, and don't do the game they're based on any favours.

#5-A Twist of Lemon

A group of people roosting in an old fruit estate have tasted the citrus that grows there-Forbidden fruit which leaves them with an unquenchable thirst. Now endowed with superhuman speed and strength, they kidnap people to be like them, and share their malevolent thirst for blood...

This issue offers an interesting and original (as far as I know) take on vampires, which is very much appreciated! Hell, the potential is kinda wasted on a twenty page comic. The story here is ok, but the climax is a bit poorly handled, as it's rushed, and the way the fight scene with the vampires is drawn isn't 'choreographed' very well.

Astrid is absent this issue, and the secondary main character this time round is Detective Dave Bellos, who's pretty decent. I think he becomes a vampire at the very end, which is both depressing, and confusing, given the poor dialogue and structure of that scene, and the fact that he and another character look the same. Things are so confusing that I originally thought the character leaving the estate at the end was kidnapped and initiated gang member Raymondo, which would make sense, as otherwise, all his prior scenes would be pretty pointless character-wise (I say character-wise because those scenes establish the vampires, and their initiation tactics/rites, so they're not a waste of time).

Overall, this is ok, but not all that memorable. It just goes by too quickly to leave an impression.

#6-Masquerade: Part One

The Krewe of Tyresias are a group of immortal libertines who hold annual masquerade parties, where they do whatever the everything they want, and invite whoever they deem worthy. This time, they're in New Orleans, and Michael is worried they might get up to something bad. However, it turns out they are the least of his worries when the villainous Inquisition show up...

Yeah, this is Part 1 of a story, and the last issue of Shadow Man. In other words, Dammit!

This is a pretty neat story, and I'm curious to know where it would have gone. Urgh, couldn't the powers that be Acclaim have kept the series going at least long enough to push out the second part to this story?! *sigh*

This has its problems, mainly the really confusing chase scene, which is compounded by the baffling ending (though I'm sure the latter would cease to be a problem come next issue...if it ever came). The other problem is the presence of Master Darque. Yeah, I know he's already kinda in this continuity with the Unity 2000 prologue in #3 and #4, and this is Acclaim's version of the character, not Valiant's, but just like with Jack Boniface, I have no patience for any version of Master Darque.


Shadow Man is a pretty good series. The plots are decent, with some neat ideas behind them. Franchise characters such as Mama Nettie and Jaunty are very underused, however. Jaunty gets only two scenes across two issues, whereas Nettie has brief appearances in the first three. After that, they're both absent from the remaining issues. Astrid Lockyer makes for a decent and likeable recurring character, but doesn't really have much character to her.

Michael Leroi isn't developed at all in this series, and the only thing we even find out about his backstory is a small tidbit in #1. But none of this matters too much, however, as he's a likeable and fun lead, and interesting too.

The artwork here is a great upscale from the shitty drawing in the previous SM iteration. I'm not saying it's great though. There are parts that aren't drawn quite so good (and there's one scene in #3 that uses the same picture for three panels, as well as inconsistent artwork for the Asylum between issues), but after Ashley Wood's art in the previous Shadowman series, it's a treat for the eyes.

The covers are all good, although 4 and 6's have a bit of annoying cheesecake (not the literal kind). This series also had a set of alternate photo covers, which are ok.

Overall, Shadow Man is a series I recommend. It isn't great by any means, but if you want a Shadowman comic that feels like the game, I'm afraid this is the closest you will ever get...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Archer and Armstrong #0 (Classic Valiant)

Archer and Armstrong is a comedy series from Valiant, and was one of their most popular lines for a while, for good reason. It's a very funny series, with some great backstory and character. It did start to suck late in the run, but that's neither here nor there for now.

Down in the area of Kansas where Jesus is pronounced Jee-zus, Obadiah Archer is a young boy with a special affinity for aiming and throwing. He desperately wants to tell his emotionally distant parents about his new gift, but his Pastor father and mother don't often have time for him, for a chilling reason Archer soon uncovers. Archer is knocked unconscious by his murderous parents, left in a house fire, and dies from smoke inhalation. However, he's brought back by doctors, and quickly escapes hospital before his parents can finish the job. He finds his way to Ladakh, Tibet, where he trains at a Buddhist monastery at various weapons and fighting skills, hoping one day to return and enact vengeance on his evil parents. When Archer returns to America, he finds out that his parents were found out and arrested shortly after he ran away, and despondent, Archer walks aimlessly around Los Angeles until he comes across Armstrong, an apparently immortal homeless drunk being hunted by an evil sect of assassins who believe him to be satan incarnate...

This is a very good first issue, but there are a couple of problems. The first is that Archer escapes from his parents, vowing to someday uncover their evil crimes and punish them...And he waits TEN YEARS to do this! Jesus, dude, being prepared is one thing, but at this stage, your parents will have murdered dozens, if not hundreds, of people! It's lucky for him then that they were arrested only weeks after he ran away! The fact that Archer didn't even do any research on what his parents were up to over the years doesn't make much sense either

I also wish that Archer's time at the monastery in Ladakh wasn't so underdeveloped. It literally makes up just one page! I would've wanted to know what he said to the temple's master (who was unwilling to accept him because of constant karate wannabe TV fans) to convince him to take Archer in, and I would've liked the reason for Archer's departure from the temple to not be so rushed. This could have been better handled if some scenes were pared down, or removed altogether, such as the pointless basketball bet scene.

One annoying thing is this issue's classification. I have no idea why this is a 0 issue, and not just #1, as it's not an origin recap, but an actual origin story. There's no reason why it can't be #1!

And finally, the issue is called Lifelines Part 1: Revival. What's so bad about that? There was never a Part 2! Clumsy idiots!

Onto the positives, Archer is a well-written character, and the evolution of his character is nicely done, albeit a bit rushed in places. Armstrong is pretty underdeveloped, and we know next to nothing about him, but that's ok, as the issue spends most of its time establishing Archer.

This isn't very humorous, but that comes later. I guess this series wanted to knock off the origin before establishing the tone.

The artwork is all good, and there's some neat symbolism in one scene (when Archer is running away from hospital). The cover is ok, but the background is pretty odd, and the series logo is bland. Thankfully it's replaced by a better one come a few issues.

This is a very good introduction to a very good series, and is definitely worth a read! It's just a shame that the next two issues of A&A got hijacked by the Unity crossover. Because doing stuff like that is absolutely the kind of crap you wanna pull with a new series!...

The H.A.R.D. Corps #4 (Classic Valiant)

The H.A.R.D. Corps (a superpowered mercenary strike team) has discovered a mysterious heavily guarded shipment being sent by evil businessman Toyo Harada to Eastern Europe, and they fly over to take it down...

Just like the previous issue of HARD Corps, #4 is a done-in-one, successfully telling a complete story in just twenty pages. It's a well-written piece of action fun, and it's a blast to read, as always.

The majority of the HARD Corps team don't get any development this issue (aside from a bit at the end of the climax), but they're likeable, and badasses, so it's ok. As for Charlie 'Gunslinger' Palmer, he does, and it's well-written.

The only problem I have with this issue is that after the end, the damage done by the Corps represents a multi-billion dollar loss for Toyo Harada, so logically the events in this issue alone should be enough to completely sink his Foundation! But no, thanks to the insanely spoileriffic series bible Rai #0, Valiant Comics' continuity was locked into a certain direction with Harada, and had no freedom to change things up, or do anything different.

Another aspect that could be seen as a problem is the stupidity of Gunslinger's father. Charlie's family is one that's been in the military for generations, and his father is upset that he quit, even though Charlie was in a prison camp for twenty years! Jeez, asshole, cut your son a bit of fucking slack! The logic he uses is really dumb, as he claims that for all those years, he never gave up hope that his son was alive, but Charlie did give up by quitting the military! This could be seen as stupid writing, or a stupid character, so I guess it's up to the reader to decide which one they see it as.

There is one spot where I thought there was an extreme misuse of the word 'casualty', but apparently the word can also refer to injured people, not just dead ones.

The artwork is mostly good. Gunslingers face looks a bit weird in one early panel, but aside from that, everything's good. And the cover is pretty awesome!

To finish, The H.A.R.D. Corps continues to be an exemplary series with this issue!...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The H.A.R.D. Corps #3 (Classic Valiant)

Superpowered mercenary unit H.A.R.D. Corps gain a new member in Sam Yoon Kim-codenamed Flatline-and they go on a training exercise to break in their new recruit. Meanwhile, their enemy Toyo Harada, a malevolent supervillain, is plotting something sinister in Eastern Europe...

This is a perfect example of a comic done right! It shows the daily lives of the main characters, showing off their personalities and problems, then shows their downtime together, training, story leading into a villain's plan next issue, and the main training exercise, and all of this fits snugly in the 21 page limit, which is something comic writers nowadays REALLY need to learn to do!

The characters are all likeable, and get some development (mostly Flatline and Superstar this issue). The writing here is very good! There isn't any real conflict on display here, but that's ok, as after an action-packed first two issues, this is more of a downtime story, interested more in developing the characters, and showing what their lives in and out of HARD Corps are like.

The artwork is all fine. There are a couple of blank white backgrounds here and there, but that's not too big an issue. As for the cover, it's good, although that caption box is a little misleading. Like all V comics, the title page is a splash page, and the one here is pointless and wasteful. But like I said, HARD Corps #3 still manages to tell a complete story in just one 20-page issue! Even if you give this series as little space as possible, it'll still come out on top!

Do I have any complaints at all with HARD Corps #3? Uh, one panel is at a dutch angle which looks a bit wonky. That's it.

The HARD Corps is one of my all-time favourite comics, and I definitely recommend it if you're interested!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Secret Weapons #5 (Classic Valiant)

Oh boy, this series just isn't getting better, is it!

Superpowered friends Eddie 'Stronghold' Sedgewick, Amanda 'Livewire' McKee, and Geoff McHenry, discover an arms shipment in Estonia spearheaded by evil supervillain Toyo Harada, and head over to stop it, collecting the help of opposing arms dealer and ninja Ninjak...

This issue is decent, but not very good. The writing is supremely better than the previous two, which isn't saying a whole lot. It has many problems,  like how it makes repeated mention of Toyo Harada (recurring villain in Valiant Comics' shared universe), when neither he, nor any of his underlings are ever seen, to the point where it's confusing as to what he even has to do with this arms deal.

Series mainstay Gilad (Valiant superhero Eternal Warrior) is absent, and of course he is, as he could have only fixed this issue's conflict easily! And again, another Valiant character guest stars and takes the spotlight from the regulars. It's like there was an editor deliberately trying to sabotage Secret Weapons. Maybe it was meant to be a failure, ala The Producers.

Strongold, Livewire, and Geoff again don't get much to do. While guest star Ninjak is fighting the leader of an evil cult, and blowing up the whole evil base, ending the nefarious arms threat, mankind's secret weapons are just breaking out of a cell. I wish I was joking! Hell, their arrival on the scene is what got Ninjak caught in the first place, so simply by being in this story, the main characters make things worse! Take out these superfluous characters, and you could easily rename this Ninjak #1! Plus, the way they even find out what's going on is pretty contrived.

Speaking of the world's worst named ninja, Ninjak isn't quite a walking cliche, but still not written very well. He's your typical ''Honourable ninja fighting injustice, and battling evil'. He's definitely presented as being much more honourable and likeable-ish here than he was in Bloodshot #6-7 (where he mind-raped a quitting employee), which I attribute to better writing...though it's still inconsistent.

The villain of this issue is Ninjak's arch-nemesis Scratch. After years of conflict, these bitter rivals are finally about to engage in the final showdown!...But who the hell is Scratch? Yep, the character of Scratch, Ninjak's supposed longtime enemy neither appeared, nor was mentioned at any point before this issue, and never appeared again, as he's dispatched extremely quickly-In a small 1-panel montage! He's an ok villain, but doesn't appear nearly enough, nor does he do much. His first scene is decent, although that's more down to the dialogue of his associate.

The art style is different from the rest of the series, just like #4, although thankfully it's a bit better drawn this time round. There are a couple of annoying little things, like it taking two whole pages just to show Ninjak driving up to a truck and jumping on in. And there's one pointless establishing long-shot of a skyscraper in the middle of a conversation. As for the cover, it's decent.

The dialogue is sometimes clunky and oftentimes confusing-There's one moment when Ninjak randomly says "Danger to the left of me...Danger to the right of me" when running from security guards. That's it. It sounds like it's going to lead to him making a Stealers Wheel reference, but it doesn't. He says one out of place line, then nothing. And there's also lots of unrealistic exposition dialogue, which would be much better suited as thoughts. Of course, I don't think Classic Valiant even knew what thought bubbles are, as there are repeated moments in their series' where characters verbalise what they should instead be thinking.

Like I said, this is nowhere near as bad as issues #3 and #4, but Secret Weapons is still an extremely poor series, and reading it is not recommended in the slightest. I'm not looking forwards to the upcoming issues, but hey, once at the bottom, there's no other direction than up, isn't there?...

Secret Weapons #4 (Classic Valiant)

Superpowered Harbinger Eddie 'Stronghold' Sedgewick is going on a date when he's spied by Dr. Laing, an insane scientist obsessed with Harbingers and the superhero Solar. Laing spikes Eddie's drink with a drug that causes his powers to start going haywire. Now uncontrollably absorbing everything he touches and growing to gigantic proportions, Eddie rushes to get help from his friends before things get worse...

This is an improvement on the last issue of Secret Weapons, but it's still not a particularly entertaining read, as is unfortunately the norm for this series.

This isn't so much a story as it is an event. Literally, an event. This one thing happens, and that's it! At least the issue has a prologue which goes a way to developing the villain. It doesn't succeed at all, but I appreciate the thought. Dr. Laing could have even been a recurring villain if the writing was better, and the series didn't reset 11 issues in. Laing never appeared again after this one comic. Maybe he drank too much fluoridated water and died.

The issue's conflict is a decent one on paper, but it's not portrayed effectively. Eddie's absorbing everything he touches (just with his hands, apparently), no matter what, and that would be a huge problem if there wasn't nothing stopping him from just standing out in the open, away from everything. Now, Eddie is a bit dizzy from being drugged, but he's not 'fall unconscious' dizzy, and definitely aware and able enough to not collapse. But no, instead of doing that, he stupidly goes into his friend Amanda's apartment, destroying it, and then goes through a busy park, then escapes into the ocean, where there's nothing but mass to absorb!

I suppose you could say 'What if someone sees him?', but eh, so what. It's not as if the exposure of Harbingers to the media would be a bad thing. Hell, it'd be a good thing for taking down Harbinger supervillain Toyo Harada!

The way the story's problem is resolved is really unsuspenseful. 'Gee, how will we stop Eddie's uncontrollable growing?! I know, let's call Solar!' Problem solved! They just call Solar (Man of the Atom) up, he comes, and fixes everything pretty easily. Not only do this series' own heroes rarely contribute to saving the day, but usually its a guest star from a different series that does!

None of the characters are advanced in the slightest, save from one line from Eddie, where he's shocked at the damage his powers could have done. That doesn't lead to him bettering and understanding his powers more though, so I wouldn't call it legit character development.

The art is pretty bad, and has taken a severe downturn from previous issues. Weird angles abound, people are sometimes in odd positions, facial expressions and eyes are drawn very off, and there are constant brushes of purple and red on faces, as if everyone in the stories has both bad bruising, and a severe case of hayfever. With a grotesquely over-muscled Stronghold, the cover is very Liefeldian, but there's an actual reason for it, so it's no problem.

I don't recommend this issue, nor the rest of the series. Your money could be better spent.