Happy New Year, everyone! For the entire week, we'll be doing a retrospective on The Amalgam Age of Comics. In 1996, DC and Marvel crossed over for a whole month in a four-issue miniseries entitled, appropriately enough, DC vs. Marvel. As an added treat, near the end of the crossover, Marvel and DC "merged" into one universe to create the Amalgam Universe, where every character was somehow a mixture of at least one character from each universe. There were 12 Amalgam titles, followed by another 12 in 1997.
We'll be doing quick shots here! Likes, dislikes, things we don't get, and random thoughts for each Cuber.
Need to catch up? Here are part 1, part 2, and part 3. Otherwise, read on!
by Larry Hama, Rodolfo Damaggio, Bill Sienkiewicz
Detective Bullock and the Sallis family are under fire, will the Bat-Thing save them, or does he want to kill them himself?
Ben Likes: Everything. I love Montoya and Bullock, and I have to wonder if this issue didn’t inspire Gotham Central to a degree. With the focus on the detectives, and the Sallis family, Bat-Thing can lurk around in the shadows and play the mythical menace, an approach that worked so well in series like Gotham Central, or Rucka’s Punisher.
Ben Dislikes: In the opening pages, I’m just going to pretend that’s how people talk “street” in this universe (I love you, Hama!).
Ben Don’t Understand: What the point of having someone else pencil if Sienkiewicz is going to ink, it always ends up looking like Sienkiewicz art. Not that I’m complaining.
Obvious Follow-Up Title: Giant Size Bat-Thing.
Duy Likes: Rodolfo Damaggio is a hell of an artist, or it may just be Sienkiewicz's inks. Regardless, that initial double-page spread is a killer.
Duy Dislikes: The first time we see a close-up of Bat-Thing, it's a three-fourths shot with his wing going over his head, so it takes me aback for a moment since it looks like a horn.
Duy Don't Understand: Who are Bullock and Montoya merged with?
Most Unlikely Amalgam To Get a Book: Really has to be Bat-Thing. Man-Bat and Man-Thing. Who thought this would work?
Matt Likes: The ™ on Kevlar. Otherwise, I’ve got nothing. This idea was terrible.
Matt Dislikes: Dialogue, so tough cop it comes across as terrible and trying too hard. My suspension of disbelief fails me.
Matt Don't Understand: Why would anyone want to read this thing?
Most Unlikely Amalgam To Get a Book: Lobo the Duck. Neither deserves it and the combination makes me shudder to read.
Travis Likes: The tone, the line densities, the body language, the color choices, pacing, characterizations... this comic kicks my ass and I love it. The title bat-thing looks way weirder and creepier and more inexplicable than wither Man-Thing or Man-Bat, heightening what I get from either of those characters’ stories.
Travis Dislikes: I would love this team on either Man-Bat or Man-Thing, but alas, never happened, and probably won’t.
Travis Don’t Understand: How did this not launch either a Man-Bat or Man-Thing comic with this crew onboard?
Best Art Team of Amalgam: Damaggio, Sienkiewicz, and Vasquez.
Challengers of the Fantastic
by Karl Kesel, Tom Grummett, Al Vey
The Challengers of the Fantastic have to fight the menace of Galactiac, he who drains the life force from planets!
Duy Likes: This is probably the best Amalgam title in terms of going for a classic, old-school feel. The story's really just straight-up from Fantastic Four's Coming of Galactus, and the characters are a natural fit with each other. The events even play into Spider-Boy Team-Up, adding a nice feel of continuity throughout. Man, I love Karl Kesel.
Duy Dislikes: "I'll be super-amalgamated!" What's that even supposed to mean?
Duy Don't Understand: Why a franchise as loved by its parent company as the Fantastic Four took all of four events (DC vs. Marvel, the first wave of Amalgam, and All Access being the first three) to headline anything.
Travis Likes: Universe-Two. The Stormtrooper clone. Infinite Kickers Inc. Sue’s new haircut. Silver Surfer on skis! Doctor Doomsday just chilling “across town.”
Travis Dislikes: Wakanda needing US intervention to keep out a bunch a apes a bald scientist. Triserinak is in no way a cool, or even uncoolly funny name.
Travis Don’t Understand: Are there actual rockets with the seating arranged like that? All facing a different direction? It seems such a bad plan, even for observational purposes, but also pressure, acceleration, etc.
Homage Travis Can’t Place: Sue falling out of the plane, reaching for the free-falling parachute.
Matt Likes: This cover is fun, except Sue’s haircut, I also like my senator’s two-fisted. There is so much wonderful insanity here, I actually might read this series.
Matt Dislikes: The crash landing was the hokiest and I didn’t like it. Sue’s haircut too.
Does Matt get the references??? Some. I knew it was FF and Challengers of the Unknown and the latter wear purple! And they probably had an hourglass thingy.
Fantastically Challenged: Galactiac! Evil DNA! Dream Crystal! Doctor Doomsday! Super-Amalgamated! Not at all casual sexism!
Ben Likes: Tom Grummett was doing a better John Byrne than Byrne.
Ben Dislikes: The only comic I’m interested in less than Fantastic Four, is Challengers of the Unknown. If only there was a way to combine the boredom of both into one unpalatable experience…
Ben Don't Understand: Why every cameo amalgamated character is way more interesting than the main characters.
Best Spin-Off: Galactiac and the Silver Racer, Fight Dinosaurs in Gorilla City, plus Black Panther. (Working title.)
by Peter Milligan, Adam Pollina, Mark Morales
The band of mutant outlaws known as Generation Hex, are on the run from the robotic Razormen, leading Jono Hex on a collision course with his traumatic past.
Ben Likes: I was fully prepared to hate this, but I ended up loving it. Pollina did a good job of approximating Bachalo’s art (at that time) and the resolution of the story was both clever and satisfying. “And then the massacre began.”
Ben Dislikes: The overall unsavory depiction of horse doctors.
Ben Don’t Understand: Why the second wave of Amalgam titles is light years better than the first.
Best Spinoff Potential: Retribution
Duy Likes: As someone who likes DC's Western heroes more in concept than because I actually read the stories, and as someone who knows nothing about Generation X other than the fact that Julibee is in it and some girl can change into diamond or something, I was surprised by how entertaining this was.
Duy Dislikes: Your mileage may vary, but I don't really like this kind of quirky type of art in a Western.
Duy Don't Understand: Why is Bolivar Trask merged with Bat Lash? Bat Lash is awesome. And quirky. And a good guy.
Best Amalgam Ending: I'm giving it to Generation Hex. That was a hell of a plan and it actually creeped me out a bit. It made it feel like a true done-in-one issue.
Matt Likes: Wait, is that Random as a cowboy on the cover? Hell to the yes. A flaming horseman too...
Matt Dislikes: A town called Humanity is just a whole lot on the nose. And Bat Trask?! The horror.
Matt Don’t Understand: I don’t know anything about Generation X or X-Factor, so a lot of this stuff is lost on me. Just disfigure the kid and I’ll follow along. He’s Chamber Hex, could’ve just gone with that.
Best Ending: That is some cold ass shit there. Plus, basically, the whole time I sang Johnny Cash songs to myself.
Travis Likes: The title, the tall tale style storytelling, the exaggerated art. Some of the layouts and one-two draw-and-gutshot pacing is beautiful. The Razormen look fantastic. The fate of the townfolk is strong.
Travis Dislikes: I have to wonder if this would have been more effective if it looked like a traditional dyed in the wool Western.
Travis Don’t Understand: Are the Razormen not just Sentinel riffs?
Best Line: “Put your skin away.”
Lobo the Duck
by Alan Grant, Val Semeiks, Ray Kryssing
Lobo the Duck is trapped in a post-apocalyptic world, his girlfriend Bevarlene is mad at him, and he's been paid to frag someone, but he doesn't remember what the job is exactly.
Travis Likes: Everything. This comic is beautiful. The pacing, the jokes, the dialogue, the art, even the coloring is just mad and splendid.
Travis Dislikes: Billie the Millie doesn’t show up anywhere else.
Travis Don’t Understand: How is “duck-assed" not a more frequently deployed insult.
Made Travis Understand: The appeal of Lobo, particularly classic, big Lobo.
Ben Likes: The art, the writing, Howard the Duck, Doctor Bongface (he looks so cute), Spider-Dog, Bevarlene, Born to Die, Bad Dan’s Guide to Supervillains, Daphy Wuz Here, “Slap leather, ya mangy, duck-assed bastich!,” Gamorola, Billie th’ Millie, Bonghunters Special, Galactus Dog, Batdog, and threeways.
Ben Dislikes: That it ended.
Ben Don't Understand: Why I didn’t get more Doctor Bongface.
Best Amalgam Comic: This one, obviously. It’s legit good, not seemingly good because my standards were repeatedly lowered by reading Amalgam comics.
Duy Likes: The sheer ballsiness of this comic.
Duy Dislikes: Neither of Lobo's or Howard the Duck's brands of humor have ever really worked for me, and this was no exception.
Duy Don't Understand: The appeal of either character, in general.
Best Running Joke: The Lockjaw/Impossible Man Amalgam, just popping in randomly dressed as different DC and Marvel, not Amalgam, characters.
Matt Likes: Jokes by page 2 is always a plus. I only need 6-7 towers, 4 if it’s a castle.
Matt Dislikes: That I don’t follow Superpets enough to vaguely know who half of half of these characters are supposed to be.
Totally Lobo: Bastiches and cigars, that’s totally Lobo.
Duck!: The Fourth Wall is just crumbling all around us. Surprisingly, this method works due to its cartoonishness.
Thorion of the New Asgods
by Keith Giffen, John Romita Jr.
Thorion faces Thanoseid and his half brother L’ok Desaad, who wields the Mother Cube.
Ben Likes: Giffen and Romita Jr. do a good job of telling a tale of cosmic Gods. The visuals are appropriately gaudy, and Romita Jr.’s blocky style works well for the subject matter. An entertaining comic.
Ben Dislikes: This would have been much better without all the overrated New Gods stuff, but that would defeat the purpose.
Ben Don’t Understand: L’ok Desaad? They just gave up on a good name for him didn’t they.
Best Porn Title: When Thorion Blew Ass Gods
Duy Likes: I love Thor. I like the New Gods a lot, and my favorite is Orion. There's really no way I wouldn't have liked this.
Duy Dislikes: L'ok D'saad? They just gave up, didn't they?
Duy Don't Understand: So is the pre-Asgods Asgard the Marvel Asgard? And how does that work with the way Amalgam was created?
Biggest What Were they Thinking Moment: "Asgods"? Really? No one saw this and thought it'd be weird?
Matt Likes: The cover is a great homage. Even I get it.
Matt Dislikes: Thanoseid. I prefer my unadulterated Darkseid. It should’ve been Darknos. Plus he’s really ugly.
Matt Don’t Understand: Thor-eeon? Or Thor-ryan? I’m going with Thor-ryan.
What Were They Thinking?!: This issue just really highlights how much of a ripoff Thanos was of Darkseid. There is basically no need to re-design. It looks like it was drawn with colored pencils by a
Travis Likes: The pre-credits pages are gorgeously huge. John Romita Jr’s line densities, tectures, arrangements and chiaroscuro are as deeply intentional and affecting here as his attention to detail and evocation. Dan Brown’s colors are surprising and definitely push the line art into a new realm. Giffen… I have the biggest hero-crush on Giffen, let’s just leave that there.
Travis Dislikes: Asgods. L’ok Desaad.
Travis Don’t Understand: Are the names supposed to be so awkard?
Makes Travis Sad: That this isn’t the team who did DC vs Marvel.
Go to Part 5!