Roger Stern

Captain America 255 (March 1981)

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Wow, what a truly awful comic book.

Bryne inks himself here (I guess Joe Rubinstein) was busy and the results are unfortunate. The action lacks any punch and the bland faces have started, years earlier than I thought they would. It doesn’t help his rendition of the first Cap costume is silly.

As for the writing, Stern outdoes himself as far as expository. FDR narrates the beginning of the story (because FDR used to read reports aloud to subordinates) then Stern has the subordinate narrate some more of the issue.

It’s an iconic origin retelling. I remember it from when I was a kid (I think Marvel reprinted it a lot). If this retelling is the best one they had, they were in a sorry state. There’s not a single good moment in the entire comic book.

Every time Stern’s writing seems its worst, he drops it down another notch.

CREDITS

The Living Legend; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, John Byrne; inkers, Byrne and Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Joe Rosen; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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Captain America 254 (February 1981)

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What a bunch of trouble to launch a new Union Jack. I guess Stern gets to kill the original Union Jack (and Baron Blood) but the whole thing is just a setup for Marvel UK. Whatever.

I’m being really harsh and I shouldn’t be. The issue’s not bad—except Cap running around in his outfit, shield in hand, all the time. It just doesn’t work. They should have rethought it. Otherwise, Stern does a fine job mixing horror and superhero and Blood’s death scene is absolutely fantastic.

There’s a strange logic misstep at the end too, with it being unclear how Union Jack survived his first, noisy heart attack (before succumbing to his second, silent one). But the real draw is Byrne’s artwork. Besides Cap’s weak big blues, the art this issue is outstanding. Byrne does a British village, horror, contained action. His composition is comics masterwork. Great looking stuff.

C+ 

CREDITS

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot; writers, John Byrne and Roger Stern; penciller, Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 253 (January 1981)

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When Stern isn’t writing too much exposition, he really does a good job. I always forget during those exposition heavy issues.

Cap heads off to the UK to help out the aged former Captain Britain with a vampire problem. Byrne gets to draw the English countryside. The selling point of the issue is really Byrne’s art. The plotting’s fine and the dialogue’s decent, but the art’s just phenomenal. Except maybe the last page, where Cap’s eyes are too wide.

Other than the UK stuff, there’s only a couple scenes. The first is Cap foiling a robbery. Byrne really goes all out for it, using (or creating) iconic poses for Cap. Then Steve and Bernie have their first date. Stern accelerates the courtship awkwardly and kills a lot of the charm. Good will towards the characters helps the sequence pass.

It’s still impressive as an example of excellent superhero comic art.

CREDITS

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot; writers, John Byrne and Roger Stern; penciller, Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 252 (December 1980)

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Oh, is Stern’s exposition bad. I mean, it’s real bad. What I can’t figure out is why he bothers with it. It seems the only reason for the endlessly wordy narration is he has to fill space… but he doesn’t. This narration goes in boxes at the tops of panels. Byrne’s art is more than enough to hold the reader’s attention.

The best part of this issue is when Cap and Batroc team up against Mister Hyde. Byrne’s action is fantastic, but the team up also makes sense.

Unfortunately, the issue reads like a proto-“decompressed” narrative. Stern takes forever to get through what’s basically an all-action issue. Again, Byrne saves it.

At the end, there’s a little recap of Cap’s origin and his friends and so on. His apartment gets a page too. They just did an origin recap last issue, so the repeat’s pointless, but competently done.

CREDITS

Cold Fire!; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, John Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 251 (November 1980)

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Besides Stern inexplicably wasting four or five pages recapping Cap’s origin, it’s a good issue. The origin recap made me wonder if Byrne wanted to get to redo the iconic panels, but they’re really small.

Byrne does a great job this issue, especially once the fight scene gets started at the end between Cap and Batroc and Mister Hyde. The bad guys have teamed up to blackmail the city. The fight takes place on a ship. It just works out great.

Most of the issue is probably dedicated to the bad guys, actually. There’s a prison break sequence and then there’s them bickering about teaming up. Cap has his open, then pulls an all-nighter drawing for his day job. Bernie shows up (but not for long enough).

It seems like all Stern needs to do is write through his wordy exposition; once it’s out of his system, he’s fine.

CREDITS

The Mercenary and the Madman; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, John Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 250 (October 1980)

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After some hiccups, Stern finally gets the whole “Captain America for President” idea working. The problem scenes are the establishing ones. It’s Cap talking to the third party guys who want him to run on their ticket. The issue gets good once it’s Steve Rogers trying to figure out if he should run or not.

That opening is so bad, in fact, I thought the whole issue would be a disaster, but Cap’s speech explaining why he will not run is some iconic writing from Stern on the character.

Maybe the awful expository narration for the opening action scene (Cap versus a domestic terrorist) soured me to the issue prematurely.

Rubinstein’s art—Byrne’s credited with breakdowns—definitely has its moments. Unfortunately, the art’s the best while Steve Rogers is helping Bernie Rosenthal move into her apartment. That scene’s a good one anyway though.

It’s a fine issue, brief but effective.

CREDITS

Cap For President!; writer, Roger Stern; pencillers, John Byrne and Joe Rubinstein; inker, Rubinstein; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 249 (September 1980)

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The Dragon Man cliffhanger really does not resolve well. All Stern can think of to get it over with promptly is for Cap to throw his glove in Dragon Man’s eye.

Then Dragon Man heads off to confront Machinesmith and Cap tags along. This sequence, from the cliffhanger resolution to Machinesmith’s hide-out, is visually fantastic. Stern doesn’t even cloud it over with narration or exposition, we just get to see the Byrne and Rubinstein art.

Unfortunately, the Machinesmith stuff is far less satisfying. Three quarters of the issue is Cap fighting a robot (or a piece of a robot) only to discover another robot waiting to attack him.

The final resolution, coming after two flashbacks revealing Machinesmith’s tortured past (Daredevil beat him up amongst other things), has a very sci-fi feel to it. Stern inexplicably closes this sequence with some awkwardly patriotic thought balloons.

But the art’s great.

CREDITS

Death, Where Is Thy Sting?; writers, John Byrne and Roger Stern; penciller, Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 248 (August 1980)

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Steve Rogers as mild-mannered commercial artist is a little off at first, but once he settles in with his friends—and a girl, I sort of remember him dating Bernie Rosenthal when I was a kid—it gets a lot more comfortable.

Stern starts with more about him being wowed by the era, but it quickly dissipates and the issue’s a lot stronger than the previous one had suggested it could be. Dragon Man shows up and a big rooftop fight scene ensues. Machinesmith is still an annoying villain, but he eventually goes away.

I mean, Dragon Man tries to eat Steve’s shield. It’s hilarious.

But Byrne is what makes the fight scene work. They’re destroying building after building and Byrne makes it all seem real, down to the gigantic Dragon Man who can hold Steve in one hand.

Though, really, Captain America having money problems seems wrong too….

CREDITS

Dragon Man!; writers, John Byrne and Roger Stern; penciller, Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America 247 (July 1980)

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Byrne does a great job with everything this issue except Cap. He draws him a little like a big dope. There’s just something bland and dully affable about him. And he’s always in costume, so clearly Byrne is doing a good job of drawing him that way since he never gets to fully illustrate an expression.

The issue is about Cap recovering his memory, which might also lead to the dull part. He thinks he’s got false memories and he discovers the truth in a few pages, leaving him ready to fight Baron Strucker.

There’s a really cool bit about Nick Fury sending Strucker to Israel for war crimes, a nice mix of reality into it.

But most of Roger Stern’s script is too expository and obvious. The issue only has a pulse when Fury’s around. When it’s just Cap, it’s all too tepid.

Bryne partially makes up for it.

CREDITS

By the Dawn’s Early Light!; writers, John Byrne and Roger Stern; penciller, Byrne; inker, Joe Rubinstein; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Bob Budiansky and Jim Salicrup; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Doctor Strange: From The Marvel Vault 1 (April 2011)

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There’s nothing really wrong with this issue, it’s just off.

The combination of Roger Stern’s pleasant, deferential style and Neil Vokes’s animated-style artwork makes it all….

It’s like they’re trying to sell Doctor Strange for kids. But for kids who can’t even handle mildly scary stuff. This issue is maybe the least scary haunted house story I’ve ever read. It reveals Strange didn’t take up residence in his awesome pad without some problems. Ghosts, goblins, things along those lines.

Stern’s dialogue is all right—he relies a little too much on the funny names of spells—but his strength is in the plotting. It’s an origin story of sorts and Stern doesn’t have any pages to spare. He’s got to get it all down.

Vokes only once seems hurried (and not on Strange) and he does a good job. His style’s appropriate if Stern’s avoiding making it seem grownup.

CREDITS

This Old House; writers, Joe Edkin and Roger Stern; penciller, Neil Vokes; inker, Jay Geldhof; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Tom Brennan and Tom Brevoort; publisher, Marvel Comics.

West Coast Avengers 4 (December 1984)

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Hall hasn’t made much of an impression during West Coast Avengers but during the climatic battle scene here, he does a great job. He’s got Breeding and Berardi inking him (and this issue has no art hiccups like the previous three) but it’s really about his panel composition. Plus, he’s able to bring real drama to Stern’s scripting of the action sequence.

Otherwise, the issue lacks any distinction. It’s a mediocre superhero book. The Vision shows up again to congratulate the team (he doesn’t call them “Angels” though) and Rhodey reveals himself to be Iron Man II. Stern handles that revelation well. Though, by the end, Iron Man’s off by himself with Tigra paws Wonder Man.

There’s also some funny stuff about Graviton’s molls thinking he’s a lame creep.

Stern comes up with a decent plan for the team to confront him.

Again, it’s fine. Most impressive for Hall’s contribution.

CREDITS

Finale; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, Bob Hall; inkers, Brett Breeding and Peter Berardi; colorist, Ken Feduniewicz; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Mark Gruenwald; publisher, Marvel Comics.

West Coast Avengers 3 (November 1984)

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There’s something weird about Graviton. It’s almost like he’s overcompensating.

This issue focuses mostly on Tigra and Wonder Man (Rhodey gets cast aside). First it’s about their insecurities, then it’s them teaming up with the Shroud to go after the bad guy (who’s secretly working with Graviton).

The splash page has some weak proportions from Hall and Breeding but it clears up fast. Except for Iron Man only showing his teeth through the mouth slot, I imagine in five more issues, the art would start getting good. Too bad there’s only one more issue.

Stern, being a professional superhero writer, is able to work through all the nonsense and expository dialogue and actually make Wonder Man sympathetic during his talk with Tigra. Still, it’s weird how she’s pairing off with him, sort of leaving Rhodey to be a third wheel to the still underrepresented Hawkeye and Mockingbird.

It’s okay stuff.

CREDITS

Taking Care of Business!; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, Bob Hall; inker, Brett Breeding; colorist, Julianna Ferriter; letterer, Rick Parker; editor, Mark Gruenwald; publisher, Marvel Comics.

West Coast Avengers 2 (October 1984)

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Is it possible for Wonder Man to be any more annoying? He spends every moment either bragging about himself or whining. And Stern loves expositional dialogue, so it’s a lot to get through.

My favorite line in the book is from him, though–”Who would be crazy enough to rob a bank in broad daylight?” Either Stern (who’s written a lot of comics and they must have had bank robberies) is out of it or he’s very subtly trying to point out Wonder Man is a complete idiot. Unfortunately, I think it’s the former.

The book opens with the team training, which leads to Rhodey (as Iron Man) and Tigra both having lengthy low self-esteem thoughts in balloons. It’s getting to be a problem, especially since Hawkeye and Mockingbird barely make an impression this issue.

Again, decent enough superhero art from Hall and Breeding. Nothing sensational, nothing too terrible.

CREDITS

Blanking Out!; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, Bob Hall; inker, Brett Breeding; colorist, Julianna Ferriter; letterer, Diana Albers; editor, Mark Gruenwald; publisher, Marvel Comics.

West Coast Avengers 1 (September 1984)

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Wow, Stern writes some tone-deaf dialogue. Not all of it, but some… there are some lines in here, it’s like he got out the thesaurus. Though I suppose naturalism wasn’t his goal. He goes overboard with the thought balloons too.

What he does do—which is actually quite neat—is set the issue up a little like an episode of “The Love Boat” and the superheroes are the guest stars. We get a nice introduction to everyone and a little backstory and it all feels very… eighties. But in an okay way.

And the Vision’s guest spot is a little like “Charlie’s Angels.”

The resolution is pretty funny (the issue’s conflict is due to Jessica Drew prying into Tigra’s personal business).

The art, from Hall and Breeding, has a lot of problems. Their people are awkwardly squat.

It’s not any good, but it’s particularly bad.

Though Wonder Man’s goofy.

CREDITS

Avengers Assemble!; writer, Roger Stern; penciller, Bob Hall; inker, Brett Breeding; colorist, Julianna Ferriter; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Mark Gruenwald; publisher, Marvel Comics.