Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review- X-MEN: FALL OF THE MUTANTS


X-MEN: FALL OF THE MUTANTS (Marvel, 2011; Hardcover)

Collects X-Factor #18-26, Captain America #39, Daredevil #252, Fantastic Four #312, Incredible Hulk #336, 337, 340, Power Pack #35, Uncanny X-Men #220-227, and New Mutants #55-61 (cover dates July, 1987- March, 1988)

Writers: Louise Simonson, Peter David, Ann Nocenti, Mark Gruenwald, Steve Engelhart, and Chris Claremont
Artists: Pencilers- Walter Simonson, June Brigman, Todd MacFarlane, Sal Buscema, Jon Bogdanove, John Romita, Jr., Kieron Dwyer, Keith Pollard, Marc Silverstri, Kerry Gammill, and Brett Blevins; Inkers- Bob Wiaceck, Randy Emberlin, Jim Sanders III, Hilary Barta, Al Williamson, Tone DeZuniga, Joe Sinnott, Dan Green, Todd MacFarlane, and Terry Austin

When is an Omnibus not an Omnibus? When it is the Fall Of The Mutants oversized hardcover. Clocking in at over 800 pages, this beast is an Omnibus in all but name as far as I'm concerned. While past trade paperback collections only collected the three main tie-in issues of each of the X-titles (9 issues total), reading that book felt like coming in 15 minutes late to a movie. The set up had already occurred and you spent the rest of the time trying to play catch up. This book goes in the opposite direction, adding so much of the set up that the plot sometimes feels lost by the time that you get there. It basically reads best in thirds (X-Factor and assorted tie-ins, Uncanny X-Men, and New Mutants).

The only issues that I bought when they originally came out were The Uncanny X-Men and Power Pack ones, and I honestly didn't feel like I was missing anything since this crossover didn't jump across each title. In all honesty, these crossovers and the emerging new breed of artists like Marc Silverstri soured me on the hobby. I was dropping comics throughout 1989, until by late 1989 or early 1990 I was done until Marvel Masterworks sucked me back in a dozen years ago. Look at me now...

"Artwork" by Marc Silvestri. 

Silverstri's layouts and storytelling ability are clear, but his artwork just leaves me cold. Wolverine was now the leader of the team and becoming overly wordy and heroic. Psylocke was still a British telepath. This was before that racist, Jim Lee, would change her into an Asian ninja. Can you imagine if someone today changed the ethnicity of an Asian character into a Caucasian? All Hell would break loose! I enjoyed the battle with Freedom Force, the Government-sanctioned renamed New Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants. This was back when Wolverine battling Sabretooth was exciting and new. Now it is as common as a cold and would cause me to fall asleep.

This was one of those “things will never be the same again!” type crossovers, back when those were still fresh and not the boring cliche which fans suffer through one after another after another. Storm gets her powers back, The X-Men “die”, and Cypher gets killed over in The New Mutants. Oops, quarter century old spoilers. Speaking of that title, going from June Brigman's clean, beautiful artwork to Brett Blevins' super-stylized art is jarring to say the least.

This was a pleasant enough trip down memory lane, back to the old world when things seemed to make more sense. I was 13 and 14 when this crossover went down. The Uncanny X-Men were one of my favorites back then. Now they are dead to me, ruined by careless writers. This book holds up well enough today and is better than anything currently being published with a 'X' in the title.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

I wonder if the corner was cut off of the film. This looks like a patch job done using a floppy.

The OCD zone- Triple dip! I bought (some of) the original issues, the 2002 trade paperback, and now this. I can't wait to rebuy the UXM issues when the Masterworks get there. Kill me now.
Linework and Color restoration: Pretty good for the most part. There are a few spots that look iffy but not bad.
Paper stock: Wonderful coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: While this has smyth sewn binding and lays mostly flat, it seems to lay flat in “chunks”, like this book is three books sewn into one. Weird.
Hardback cover notes: Faux leather casewrap with foil die stamps.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review- Mr. Griggs' Work


Mr. Griggs' Work (Orchard paperbacks, 1993 softcover printing)

Writer: Cynthia Rylant
Artist: Julie Downing

My daughter is in kindergarten and brought this book home from the school library. While I never review children's books, this compelling, disturbing view of a deranged employee obsessed with his job made me want to share this cautionary tale so that other parents out there can steer their children away from this psychological examination about the erosion of a healthy work/life balance.

Things start off innocently enough. We are introduced to Mr. Griggs, a veteran window clerk at an undisclosed Post Office branch. The reader is almost immediately endeared to such a dedicated, hardworking employee...until he punches out and goes home. Mr. Griggs is portrayed as living alone, although the likely backstory is that his obsession with his job led to his wife fleeing with their children in tow during the middle of the night. He lives in his mind, dreaming of work while he is in the bathtub and while doing his dishes, thoughts of mail and parcels dancing around his sick, sick head. 


It is at this point that insanity begins to seep in, as Mr. Griggs goes to work in the middle of the night “to check on things”...for free. No one in their right mind would go to work outside of their regular schedule, especially when you aren't being paid to do so. I turned the page slowly, afraid at what could be around the corner. Would he murder a janitor working the night shift? Stalk a woman jogger in the park, skinning her alive and wear her skin as clothing? Pretend to be his dead mother and murder people? None of these things happened, although the mentally deranged man began to imagine animals as mail, squirrels as letter carriers, and trees as Post Office boxes. His grip on reality is now tenuous at best.

His obsession with his chosen profession had begun to wear him down. With all of his mental faculties focused on his unhealthy obsession with his job, he became sick...so sick that he actually had to take a day off of work. The thought of someone else doing his job made him despondent. Whatever ailment he had seemed to vanish the next day, as he went back to work and continued his descent into madness. His delusions caused him to be late for work, with customers being lined up outside in the cold waiting for him to open the door. They seemed to appreciate his unhealthy obsession, which they mistake for dedication, to his job. The book ends on a chilling note, as this lunatic is still out there, selling stamps...

I know that I will sleep a little less soundly tonight.
 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review- CREEPY ARCHIVES VOL. 10


CREEPY ARCHIVES VOL. 10 (Dark Horse, 2011; Hardcover)

Collects Creepy #46-50 (cover dates July, 1972- January, 1973)
Writers: Jack Butterworth, Doug Moench, Rich Margoupolos, Jose' Maria Bea, Lynn Maron, Greg Potter, Ed Fedory, Cliff Jackson, Buddy Saunders, T. Casey Brennan, Dennis P. Junot, John Throxis, Steve Skeates, Bill Dubay, John Cochran, Fred Ott, James Stenstrum, Al Hewetson, and Al Milgrom.

Artists: 'Sanjulian', Luis Garcia, Esteban Maroto, Tom Sutton, Jose' Maria Bea, 'Jorge B. Galvez', Richard Corben, Cliff Jackson, Ron Cobb, Reed Crandall, Martin Salvador, Luis Dominguez, Jerry Grandenetti, Bill Dubay, Rafael Aurlaeon, Jaime Brocal, Josep Gual, Adolfo Usero Abellan, and Felix Mas.

Will you just look at all of that talent listed above? It should come as no surprise to anyone with a working knowledge of '50s-70s creators exactly how many great writers and artists worked on this title. Some of them did some early work here before they were considered great (Doug Moench and Richard Corben), others were veterans of the industry at this time (Reed Crandall).

These Warren Magazines were the illegitimate children of 1950s Pre-Code Horror comics like EC. Being a magazine meant that they could show things not permitted in comics due to the constraints of the Comics Code Authority. Creepy was a black and white anthology series 'hosted' by Uncle Creepy, a Cryptkeeper type with bad puns. All of the covers and the handful of pages with color are presented here in full color.

Luis Garcia and Esteban Maroto took photo realistic artwork to new heights. I wonder if they used photo models and lightboxes or if they were simply that good? If they came out today I would automatically assume that they cheated and used Photoshop. Reed Crandall is one of those artists whose work looks better in black and white than it does in color. His EC stuff was stellar but here he is at the top of his game.


The stories all run the typical Gothic Horror gamut. My favorite in this book is #50s Frog God!!, one of those cautionary tales that doesn't end well for the protagonist. These stories might seem tame to kids weaned on Saw movies but are worth a read for those interested in traditional Horror comics.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Issue #48 was an all-reprint issue. Only the cover and handful of new pages are reprinted here since the stories were all reprinted in earlier volumes.
Linework restoration: Scanned from the original issues and slightly cleaned up. Looks good enough for me.
Paper stock: Thick coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. Book block has sufficient room to flex in the casing and lays flat.
Hardback cover notes: Faux leather casewrap, die is foil stamped.