Monday, March 10, 2008


There are days, and then there are days, you know what I mean? And then, every so often, there are MONTHS. Well, this has been a MONTH, no doubt about it, full of presentations and productions and more presentations, basically all things that are less than interesting to you, Gentle Reader, so I'll just dispense with any further explanation. Suffice it to say that I was gone. And now I'm...


Once again, 50/50 involves a trip to my LCBS (Monarch Cards & Comics), where, with the help of my assistant, the lovely and talented Ed (yeah, that's right, Ed, you're my assistant...who's a minion now, huh?!), I randomly select two comics from the 50-cent bins. Then, I pit the two unlucky titles against one another in an effort to satisfy your bloodlust, you savages. This week, 50/50 watches through the window as Marvel and Image get it on, with Micronauts #44 (1982) giving it to Common Foe #1 (2005).

Given my proclivities (careful, now), this would seem to be a simple match, right? 80s Marvel versus...well, Image. Not so fast. Let's take a quick look at that cover to Common Foe. Whose name is gracing those creator credits? Is that a Giffen I see before me? This could be trickier than I thought. Well, let's take a look, shall we?

Covers --

Micronauts (my pick): Two words - Gil Kane. 'Nuff said, right? Well, not quite. It's Gil Kane (and quite lovely Gil Kane), but the coloring is a little, shall we say, garish. We've got Marionette, Acroyear, and Bug featured here, charging toward the reader (who is placed in the position of the enemy, if the guns intruding at the bottom of the image are any indicator). Marionette waves a standard (a magenta standard, no less, which, given the red, yellow, and orange in her costume, is already a questionable decision), and the sky in teh background shades from red at the top to a light orange at the bottom. These colors are more at war with one another than the Micronauts are against the forces of Mari's brother, Force Commander (also identified in the issue's creative credits as then-editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter).

Common Foe (Ed's pick): A more muted color palette here sets off some moody artwork by Esad Ribic depicting a soldier being attacked by two creatures, a ruined plane in the background. It's a simple yet effective composition, with a nice lighting effect as the muzzle flash of the soldier's weapon illuminates his terrified face.

Round One: Micronauts - 0; Common Foe - 1

Story --

Micronauts: Without going into too much detail, the Micronauts were a band of tiny adventurers who inhabited the Microverse (makes sense, I suppose), though they occasionally came to Marvel Earth, as well. A licensed property (based on a line of toys from Mego), they existed alongside the Marvel Universe proper. Along with Rom, Micronauts was one of the longest-running of Marvel's licensed titles. Others included Shogun Warriors, Godzilla, and The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior.

In any event, this issue finds the Micronauts' forces (composed at that moment of Devil, Bug, Nanotron, Microtron, Commander Rann, Marionette, and Acroyear) divided, Commander Rann, Devil, Nanotron, and Microtron battling Computrex (a living computer) and Professor Prometheus (a cyborg whose human "half," now dead, is well along in the decompsition process) on Earth, while Bug, Marionette, and Acroyear, fight the good fight in the Microverse. There's nothing incredibly innovative about the story (told here by Bill Mantlo and Gil Kane), but it's energetic and jam-packed, hardly a panel wasted. It's stories like these that really illustrate what comics were like pre-"decompression." There are explanatory captions and thought balloons and villains conveniently explaining how they survivied their last encounter with the heroes. It's all quite wonderfully old-fashioned. (Three inkers, though? Really? This is starting to seem more modern all the time.)

Common Foe: The copy on the back cover explains the premise best: "World War II. Amid the blood and chaos of the Battle of the Bulge, a battered squad of American soldiers and a platoon of German infantry do everything they can to kill each other. But to survive the night, the two enemies must come together and united (sic) against an ancient evil hell bent on destroying everything in its path." And now you know almost exactly as much as I know. This issue begins with the men on the run from the creatures, then flashes back to show the two forces (Allies and Axis) playing cat and mouse in a bombed-out urban landscape. None of these characters are provided much individuality, so I found it difficult to care about their individual fates, and the source of the supernatural silliness receives no attention here. All in all, not one of Giffen's better efforts. Nice work from artist Jean-Jacques Dzialowski, though, with some interesting layout choices.

Round Two: Micronauts - 1; Common Foe - 0

Oh, boy. We're all tied up. Time for a third round.

This is what I call the lightning round. It's sudden death, ladies and gents. I start with page one, and whichever one contains something that tickles me, there's our winner.

Micronauts: OK, done in one. Page one contains this gem of opening recap text: "Computrex lives! Professor Prometheus does not! Together, they've trapped those Micronauts who remain on Earth in the ruins of the Human Engineering Life Laboratories--H.E.L.L.!" How can you resist any group that would give themselves H.E.L.L. as an acronym. I know I can't.

*le sigh*

The real world needs to be more like the comics.

Well, that's another 50/50, and the little guys take it this time, the Micronauts triumphing over supernatural hijinks in WWII. Tune in next time when we set the heroes of the Greatest Generation against Garth Ennis. Yikes!

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