Category Archives: 90s Comics

“And So It Was Written….” part 3

prophet-4-variant-nm-5-1-1

Well, here we are again. You. Me. And….him. You know, in writing my third article about the man, John Prophet, I believe I’m beginning to feel a type of kinship with the character. Yes. That’s it. I feel that I’m inside his head. So much so, that I believe that I too am on a holy mission. A mission to bring you, the loyal Unspoken fans, my musings on the subject. And who knows, maybe (in the far-off future) someone will discover these words and take them as a type of scripture. Becoming a warrior for what’s right, inspired by my words.

(Yeah. And maybe Batman fans will stop using “prep time” as an excuse…)

When we last left Prophet, he and Kirby had been battling the super-powered soldiers of Bloodstrike, but the fighting came to a screeching halt when Prophet saw his long-lost love Mary.

RCO003_1583780159-1Now Prophet awakens in anguish. He finds himself nailed through the wrists and ankles to a mighty tree, a large chain holding him in place! He struggles but it’s all in vain. That’s when he spies the robed men approaching him. Peering closer, he sees that these aren’t men at all! No, they appear to be demons! Before he can react, one of the human-looking demons pulls a long spear. He wastes little time as he pierces our hero through the heart!

Prophet truly awakens from his nightmare. (That’s what this guy has nightmares about? Damn! And I thought my dream about having a Big Mac for a head was scary!) The first word on his lips is: “Mary.” As his vision clears, he sees that only Kirby stands over him and that his surroundings have changed drastically. When he questions his partner, Kirby replies that they are now within a titanium-laced prison cell, held by the U.S. government! This bit of news doesn’t seem to bother the big man at all. Instead, he questions Kirby about Mary. Kirby doesn’t have much to add to the conversation before the two are interrupted.

RCO008_1583780159-1The cell doors open, and among several highly-armored, gigantic guards stands “Mary” and… (Note to self: Pausing for dramatic effect is a fantastic stalling mechanism when pretending to pass yourself off as a professional writer) the man who stabbed him through the chest in his nightmare!

The man introduces himself as Philip Omen, director of a government-funded research and development program called Ragnarok. He also introduces “Mary” as a Ms. McCormick of the FBI. Kirby and Omen then get into a verbal battle about their rights (or lack thereof) as prisoners. While this is occurring, Prophet keeps his eyes fixed upon the woman. Omen finally finishes by remarking that the two heroes should get comfy and that they gave up their rights when they attacked a government installation. He leaves the cell with a smirk. “Mary” is then left to question the two. John wastes no time in asking if she is in fact his Mary. (Way to beat around the bush, John! Geez! You know what? That’s cool. I was tired of typing her name in quotations anyway.)

The woman admits that her name is in fact Mary (thank God!), but she has no idea who he is. She then goes on with her questions. After she seems satisfied and turns to leave. Kirby decides to get a bit mouthy with her, but she verbally puts the small man in his place and exits. As the cell doors lock in place and they are alone once again, Prophet tells Kirby that Omen is Doombringer, the very one that he was created to stop and who is prophesied to usher in the end of all things! (Wow! Talk about a cool nickname! But does the moniker “Doombringer” really fit a guy with that haircut though? Look at the picture above for the answer.)

RCO016_1583780159-1Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., a strange woman stops her trek through a filthy alleyway. She places a canister-like object on the ground and opens it. Bladed projectiles shoot from the device’s innards forming strange, metallic wings on the woman’s back! She declares that she is called Judas and that John Prophet’s days are numbered! She then soars away, like an angel of death!  (Wonder how I knew her name was Judas? She talked to herself literally the whole page! I know that comics aren’t supposed to be very realistic, but, the whole page? Get some therapy, lady!)

RCO020_1583780159-1The board of directors for Ragnarok meet to discuss the possibility for creating more advanced soldiers, like Jonathan Prophet. Omen, however, has other plans. He declares that he would rather move forward with his pet project. This would entail androids with sophisticated A.I. to pose as humans, to get close to their targets, and to assassinate them with perfect efficiency. (So, basically he plans on creating Terminators? Real original idea there. Wait! How about taking it a step further and creating cybernetic police officers? We’ll call them Robocops!) To illustrate his point, Omen rips the flesh from his face, revealing a robotic skull underneath! The real Philip Omen then enters the room, confident he has made his point.

Later, the prisoners are are approached once again. They are told that they will now serve Ragnarok as they see fit. Kirby replies that they’ll do it, but it will be on their terms. The deal is cemented with an ominous handshake.

RCO023_1583780159-1We begin the next issue with Prophet attached to a futuristic-looking device. He watches them like a hawk from his restraints as they take samples and put him through test after test. (Think Clockwork Orange on steroids! I mean, look at the picture below! He looks more pissed than afraid. Hell, I’m nervous to have a filling fixed!)

RCO003_1583550316-1As the testing continues, everyone is watching with wrapped fascination. From the higher-ups at Ragnarok, down to even the soldiers. Kirby is also allowed to watch, but he grows more angry by the moment. Omen decides it’s best to now test the subjects’ mind in virtual battle scenarios. As the program begins, D.O.C.C., the orbiting satellite that powers and also keeps Prophet in check enters his mind. At first, it attempts to keep him calm and collected. But when Prophet suddenly finds himself in the winter of Nazi Germany, during World War Two, the warriors mind takes over instinctively, pushing the mechanized voice out. He is now fully reliving his bloody memories!

(Crap! Omen really screwed up big time, huh? Because it’s always wise to force a superpowered soldier to dredge up his buried wartime atrocities! Yep. This guy’s a genius on par with the old man in Jurassic Park!)

RCO007_1583550316-1-1The warrior stalks his prey, hungry for their screams and the spraying of their life’s blood! He almost pities the enemy. Almost. He strikes without hesitation or mercy! He unloads shell after shell into their bodies, still warm as they drop, in broken pieces, to the cold snow beneath their feet! And then, suddenly he finds himself in the hot jungles of Vietnam. Once again, he watches the enemy before striking. He fires automatic hellfire upon them, dropping their corpses like flaming, tattered ragdolls! (I feel so unmanly as I write this. I wasn’t even a Boy Scout! Excuse me as I weep like a wee child…)

RCO010_1583550316-1Omen is warned again and again by Kirby and the others around him, but still he pushes Prophet deeper into his own raging mind. Prophet spies a woman running from him in terror! His soldier mind takes over. She is the enemy. She must be slain. Looking closer, he sees that she is with child. Prophet battles with his conscience as she flees! But his instincts win over his humanity. He pulls the trigger! He turns. Suddenly, his father, a man of God stands before him! He exclaims his utter disgust at his son’s actions. He then tells John that only Hell awaits his soul now. He turns and disappears. Prophet roars for his father as he fires his rifles to the heavens in rage and misery! (Damn! I gots me some writing skills! I’m all goose-pimply at my descriptions! Yay, me!)

RCO019_1583550316-1That’s when the machines that are hooked to him read that he is dead! The installation instantly goes into an uproar! That’s when they discover that John’s not dead, he’s disconnected and running free! Armed with only two bladed weapons, he cuts his way through the seemingly endless groups of heavily-armed guards! Soon, he bursts free of the compound! Now acting only on animal-like instinct, he takes possession of an advanced tank. And so, just like that, Prophet was free once again!  (Whew! Action-packed, eh, folks? I know! I’m so excited, I peed myself a little! Umm. Note to self: Delete this sentence before this article goes to print.) We end this tale with Omen trying frantically to come up with a plan. That’s when the small man, Kirby, pipes up. He’ll take Prophet down himself!

To be continued….

This article is dedicated to my son, James Miller. Without his constant scolding and attempts at teaching, I would never be as good as I am at “first person shooter” games as I am today.  (A solid 0.5 out of 10 in skill level now!) Prophet would be so proud! Thanks for the fun and nerve-wracking times, Boy!

 

“And So It Was Written….” part 2

prophet-4-variant-nm-5-1-1I awaken. The small spark of life grows within my nerdy, fanboy heart as I gain my strength. Sarcasm levels are suddenly off the charts! I clench my fist and shatter my cryogenic sleep chamber! Wiping off my glasses, I place them over my eyes. I then roar to the heavens, “Superman revealed his secret identity?! Who wrote that piece of crap?!”

And, just like that, comic book news brought your Symbifan back to you from many months of slumber, ready to grace you, my loyal fans, with the second installment of my look at Image Comics’ Prophet! But, since I was gone so very long, I’m going to reward you with not one issue review…but two! (Aren’t you special? I really do spoil you.)

I will make you wait no longer. Let the review begin.

RCO005_1583737760-1When we last left Prophet and Kirby, they were attempting to break into an installation that, once within, would hopefully reestablish Prophet’s link to the satellite, D.O.C.C., therefore bringing the warrior back to full power. What they hadn’t counted on, was the sheer number of robotic soldiers that would resist their entry! (Seriously! You’d think that with the high number of high-tech automatons present, the government had money to literally throw away! Ah, America!)

Prophet and Kirby battle, back to back, against insurmountable odds. Prophet’s strength depletes from the excessive stress to his already-weakened body, until Kirby suddenly spots the chamber they are after! Forcing the outer door closed, he helps his comrade, arm over his shoulder, to the healing platform. (Kirby throwing Prophet’s arm over his shoulder to help him, made me giggle. I admit it! A four-foot man, dragging a man that’s reasonably around seven feet? You do the math!)

RCO017_1583737760-1-1Kirby enters a password into the computer console and wham! A beam from the now-active satellite hits John Prophet full force, bathing him in energy!

But before the two can celebrate a mission well done, a government-sponsored super-team, Bloodstrike, bursts in ready to rumble! A gift from the Prophet’s supposed ex in the government. (Remember her? With the god-awful red outfit? Yep. Her.) To be continued…..

RCO019_1583737760-1-1…..right now!

In the next issue, we start right off with a superhero showdown. Prophet and Kirby stand ready as Cabbot, field leader of Bloodstrike, orders them to stand down or expect force. Kirby leaves the decision to Prophet. And we, the readers, get what we want, a resounding no. (Now, we’re about to enter an average hero versus hero smackdown. Buckle up your seatbelts and grab your popcorn, because these are so rare in comics. You don’t believe me? Good. That shows great personal growth on your part.)

RCO005_1583838834-1While the heroes get ready to fight, a helicopter circles the base below. It is inhabited by two people. One, a military pilot. The other? Mrs. “Red Dress” herself, Mary! Meanwhile, in the base, the heroes attack! Prophet makes his way past Cabbot with a well-aimed slice of his blades but immediately finds himself attacked by the clawed member of Bloodstrike, Deadlock!(Look everybody! We found Wolverine’s long lost twin brother! Isn’t he going to be happy?)

RCO010_1583838834-1As the two battle, Deadlock tries to get under the skin of our hero by speaking ill of the Bible. This is not a smart idea! Prophet puts everything he has into one mighty punch! Say goodbye to Deadlock! But, as Prophet just won his battle, Kirby’s has just begun! The small man faces two highly-trained, super-powered women at the same time!

Using his small size and the force of the rushing women against them, Kirby ducks between Fourplay’s legs as she and Tag smash into one another! He then kicks the two into the computer consoles with enough force to take them out of the fight! (Way to go, Shorty! You won a cat fight! Snicker!) But, he then turns to see the giant, metal behemoth called Shogun ready to fight! Prophet, on the other hand, isn’t just kicking back and relaxing! Nope. Cabbot is far from being out of this scrap yet! The two men put everything they’ve got into this final showdown,  but ultimately, Prophet is just too skilled to be defeated.

RCO019_1583838834-1Good thing too. Because his partner is in need of serious aid as the mechanical monster fires countless bullets at him as it approaches! But with all of the attention on Kirby, Shogun doesn’t notice Prophet leap onto its shoulders! Too late! Prophet twists and pulls the giant metal head free of its body, ending the fight for good! (Daaaaaaamn! That’s all I can say here. Return to the narrative, already in progress….)

RCO020_1583838834-1This moment of victory is interrupted by a woman’s voice telling both men to stand down. Turning, Prophet sees the woman he loved so many decades ago, Mary! The mighty warrior is in a state of utter disbelief! She then orders their surrender! Will they do so? Find out next time, loyal Unspoken-ites! This is Symbifan, back and badder than ever, baby! (God, it feels great to write again! Oh, and don’t think Mary’s horrendous choice in dress escaped my notice!)

RCO021_1583838834-1This article is dedicated to you, the readers, for waiting month after month until I finally get these reviews out. Recently, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. This causes me to just drop off to sleep whenever and wherever it feels like it. With this going on, I have felt like I have been in a complete coma for about a year. (Hence my comical beginning to this article.) That said, know that I am now on the road to recovery and I couldn’t appreciate your patience more.

Much love,

Symbifan

 

 

Opposites Attract: Archer & Armstrong (Presented by SBTU)

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!  It’s me, Dean Compton, back again once more!  I know it’s been some time since I dropped by here, and believe-you-me, I have missed this place and all of you!  Life comes at you fast, and even The Flash himself wouldn’t hit as fast as the way life has hit me over the last year.  I’m about to embark upon my second move in 14 months, which will result in the 4th state I have lived in in that same time!  It’s enough to make my memories seem like they stretch back to the beginning of time, Mr. Fantastic style!

Of course, my memories don’t really do that.  I am blessed to have a good memory (although all that results is in me recalling every time someone was mean to me — I’m looking at you, Mrs. Jeffries, my fourth grade teacher!) ,but I can only remember what I have learned in my decidedly short lifetime.  For someone who is eternal, though, having an even average memory means recalling details of thousands of years ago from great historical moments to what it was like to shit next to Woolly Mammoths.

Which brings us to the Super Blog Team Up theme this go-round: Immortal.  Living forever or being eternal has its ups and downs, and between all the topics you’re gonna see around SBTU, we’re gonna hit every one of those highs and lows harder than Armstrong hits the bottle!   90’s comics were chock full of Immortals, but the Valiant Universe’s triad of immortal brothers has always appealed greatly to me.  Gilad the Eternal Warrior, Ivar the Timewalker, and Aram…the drunk?  They are brothers who are bonded by somehow being immortal.  They can be killed, but it would take utter vaporization to keep them from being healed from most other wounds.

To be fair, Aram (whose name has evolved into Armstrong as time goes on) is much more than a drunk, although that is the image he puts forth most prominently.  Having seen so many deaths and so much violence, he has seemingly retreated into debauchery.  I mean, why not?  The path of excess will lead to the palace of wisdom, or so I have been told. And when you this hard to kill, there’s lots of paths that lead to lots of excess that will surely end up in lots of wisdom, correct?  Aram seems to think so.

Archer, on the other hand, isn’t immortal, isn’t nearly invulnerable, and isn’t a drunk.  His parents were evangelists who engaged in awful torture and molestation of the younger members of their congregation, all without Archer’s knowledge.  Archer, you see, believes wholeheartedly in his parents, their beliefs, Jesus, and himself.  This belief enables him to sometimes become otherworldly in his ability to accomplish physical feats that would be impossible.  After he catches his parents in their gruesome rituals, they attempt to kill him via burning the house down with him in it.  He heads for the light, only to realize that someone needs to deal with the evil that is his parents.  Archer heads back for reality.

Archer & Armstrong #000_Archer & Armstrong 000-07
Well this is just fucking awful

His powers kick in, and he gets away, only to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation. With his parents lingering and waiting to kill him, he escapes from the hospital and somehow makes his way to a monastery in Asia, where he masters martial arts, marksmanship, and everything about their philosophy except for letting go of the pursuit of vengeance.  To be fair, if my parents tried to kill me, I’d be all about some fucking Ghost Rider style vengeance too (probably with less flaming skulls, though).  Archer leaves the monastery to get his vengeance, only to learn that his parents were arrested about two weeks after he ran away.

I know what you’re thinking: these two fucking belong together.  Lucky you, buddy, because Valiant is giving you just that with Archer and Armstrong!

Archer & Armstrong #000_Archer & Armstrong 000-00fc
You really can’t go wrong with Barry Windsor-Smith.  This is one of my favorite covers of his.  Also, I just now noticed Archer is barefoot.  Take my badge; I’m off the force.

Created by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and Barry Windsor-Smith, you’d be hard pressed to find a funnier or more fun buddy comic than Archer & Armstrong.  The book is sort of the superhero version of the relationship between Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat from the “Opposites Attract” video.  If you have not seen this video, goddamn, man, what are you waiting for?  If you have and you are not smiling at the thought of it, you are a Terminator.

The song highlights a relationship between two people who have little in common.  These differences start with the fact that one is a hot choreographer turned pop star and one is a cartoon cat and eventually end up much more mundane, like who makes the bed and who messes up the sheets.  Archer and Armstrong, believe or not, have a similar dichotomy.  Archer, the ultimate pious man who eschews vices, and Armstrong, who will seemingly live forever and never met a vice he didn’t enjoy twice.

Like many odd couples, these two meet on accident, with both of them living up to their ideals.

they ,eet
And rest assured, Armstrong is more than willing to take his last five.  And yours.  Give it to him already, will ya?

Armstrong sees this act of magnanimity as something to celebrate, and Archer has nothing better to do with his purpose gone.  Armstrong promises to hear about Archer’s troubles, but instead does nothing but drink and tell what Archer perceives to be tall tales.  You’d be hard-pressed to blame him for not believing Armstrong about the stories he tells.  He often talks of long dead historical luminaries like Hannibal, and he looks like a cabbie from a 1970’s exploitation film.  The only thing that differentiates him from other tellers of tall tales is that his are mostly true.

There’s no way for Archer to know this, though, so he departs from Armstrong, but not before Armstrong convinces him to look for a job as a bar bouncer.  Archer’s naïveté disqualifies him from this job, despite his physical ability to perform it.  His performance does attract a strange man named Mahmud, who seems to know a lot about Archer.  He convinces Archer that there is a great evil that needs to be taken care of.  If you guessed that said evil is Armstrong, then you have read a comic book before.  Congratulations!  They’re fun.

Over time a group of people have formed The Sect, a cabal dedicated to destroying Armstrong.  Over the many years he has been alive, people of varying religious faith have determined that Armstrong is Satan, or at least a Satan.  This makes sense. How many times over the years has this large cabbie dude bumbled into a village/town/city, gotten mega drunk, seduced some ladies, beat up a bunch of dudes, and then destroyed heavy property with the strength of a rhino? So, yeah, I bet some people have thought he was the devil, or at least close.

The Sect only manages to get Archer on their side for a bit, until Armstrong points out that he is only trying to get away, compared to The Sect, who is trying to kill him and  don’t care who gets caught up in the collateral damage.  Finally, our heroes are together and ready to make a stand!

Archer & Armstrong #000_Archer & Armstrong 000-25
The shirtless cape is a bold fashion choice, but I have to say Archer is making it work for him.

The Sect has to wait, though, since at this very moment, Armstrong’s brother arrives on the scene, using Solar’s hand to find Armstrong to help battle the MotherGod during the events of Unity! (Which I still consider to be the best superhero crossover of all time.  It’s mindblowingly amazing and seamless, even if you can’t read every part.)

 

Archer & Armstrong #001_Archer & Armstrong 001-01
As someone who has a brother, I can attest that whether in a car or with a veritable God’s hand, they will only ever show up unexpectedly at awkward times like this.

This is truly the moment where the two are cemented together as partners.  Being whisked off on an adventure that they really didn’t choose sets the template for the series.  Archer & Armstrong  is just one long buddy road trip story, and I mean that in the best possible way.  I reckon this is also the moment that they become partners because Archer literally fucking says so.

pardners
Archer enlisting Armstrong in causes of moral righteousness also sets a template for the series.

I’m not going to tell you everything that happens to them during Unity or beyond, but I do want to take a moment to show the encounter between Turok and these two.  After A&A botch an assassination attempt on Mothergod in the land of Unity, the would-be God sends Turok after our diametrically opposed duo.  Just to see how opposed they are, look at how they differently they handle captivity:

opposed philsophies
The true odd couple of superheroics.

It’s funny to think about, but Turok is almost certainly the most well known Valiant/Gold Key character in mainstream circles, due to his exploits on the N64 after his well-received game came out.  I have lost count of the number of times I have manipulated a conversation into the realm of Valiant Comics (yes, this is something I do; don’t act like you don’t too), and the only character non-comics fans know is Turok.  Perhaps that will change with the impending Bloodshot movie and all; only time will tell.

Before his N64 conquering days, though, Turok was a badass in the Valiant Universe.  Everything he did just seemed and looked cool. and when he decides to take up arms in the service of the Mothergod with his cool fucking bow against Archer and Armstrong, it was must see.  Could this Native American with somewhat advanced technology take out the Immortal and Quasi-Invulnerable Armstrong?  Could he deal with the martial arts prowess of Archer?

Um, yeah, more or less.

turok vs armstrong
Jesus, even armored and immortal that has to hurt. It reminds me of the heartburn I had last night after eating WaWa meatballs, which, coincidentally, were also served to me via flaming arrow.

After showing our own dysfunctional duo that he could honestly drop them just about anytime, Turok asks Archer why he shouldn’t.

turok conscience
The Fat One is my new nickname for Armstrong forever.

Archer is able to convince the world’s greatest dinosaur hunter that he and his rotund and immortal pal aren’t the enemies here by appealing to Turok’s innate and devout sense of right and wrong.  Archer always tries to appeal to the better nature of humanity.   Sometimes, that costs him, but I find it inspiring that no matter how many times he is betrayed or how many times he is let down, Archer refuses to stop believing that there’s a better part of all of us.  He insists to Turok that one day, a good man like Turok will realize MotherGod is evil. If Turok has to kill them this day, go ahead, but Archer implores Turok to take up arms against MotherGod on the day he inevitably figures out MotherGod is an evil deity.

In this case, it works out for Archer, as Turok has had a sense of Archer’s righteousness from the start due to his own connection to the Earth.  He spares the  duo and goes off to do his own soul-searching, but he realizes MotherGod ain’t the way.

Archer & Armstrong #002_Archer & Armstrong 002-21
Armstrong always looks on the bright side of things.

That’s the end of the first three issues of Archer and Armstrong.  There’s so much more ahead, but that’s for another day.  I can’t get enough of the antics between these two.  There’s nothing like the polar opposites in your group of pals that seemingly never stop arguing but also never stop getting along.  Here we get to see all of that, plus they are involves in the high stakes world of the Valiant Universe.  For superhero buddy comics, it just doesn’t get any better.

Make sure and check out the rest of the SBTU gang at the links below, and hopefully, we’ll see you around here again really soon!

 

Chris Is On Infinite Earths: Podcast Episode 26 – Resurrection Man 1997 & 2011

Black, White and Bronze: What Price Immortality? A Review of Red Nails

DC In the 80s: Young Animals Bug

Between The Pages Blog: Big Finish: Doctor Who’s Finest Regeneration

Comics Comics Comics Blog: Dr. Fate

The Superhero Satellite: Mephistos Whisper: The Immortality Of Peter and Mary Jane (One More Day)

Comic Reviews By Walt: TMNT and Highlander