Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review- DITKO MONSTERS: KONGA! HC

DITKO MONSTERS: KONGA! (Yoe Books/ IDW, 2013; Hardcover)
Collects Konga Nos. 1, 3-15 and Konga's Revenge No. 2 (cover dates June, 1960- November, 1963)
Writer: Joe Gill
Artist: Steve Ditko

This is the sister volume to Ditko Monsters: Gorgo! Instead of this being a book about a reasonable facsimile of Godzilla with artwork by Steve Ditko, this one is a reasonable facsimile of King Kong with artwork by Steve Ditko. Ditko's artistic idiosyncrasies, such as the eyes and hands, are here. In short, if you are a fan of Ditko or of Silver Age post-code monster comics then this should be right up your alley.
 One of the things about the writing in this series that I enjoyed was the real sense of continuity from one issue to the next. Most Silver Age comics that were not done by Marvel had little to no real continuity going on. Each issue was almost a reset of the main premise. Not so here. Konga has a lingering fondness for the humans who accidentally mutated him into the giant that he is.


My favorite issues are the ones where Konga fights the giant squid, the one with the Atlas (Marvel) Comics flavored Ditko space aliens, and the one where he enjoys playing in the snow and causes an avalanche. Every issue is enjoyable but these are the standouts for me. #15's The Evil Eye is pure Ditko. Everything that a Ditko fan could possibly want is in that one issue. The tension, the paranoia...much like Ragu, it's in there.
I found this book to be way more enjoyable than Gorgo in spite of the fact that the scenarios are similar. Konga is a more sympathetic monster. He merely wants to eat and be left alone. Foolish humans seek to enslave, destroy, or exploit him, and that is when things go wrong. The stories run the gamut of typical Cold War fears. While this is an enjoyable read I found it best to be read in moderation. Any more than two issues in a row and I was nodding off. That is not a knock on the quality of these comics, merely commentary on these dense, text heavy reads. Everything in moderation.
LOVE those Ditko space aliens!
 Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This being an artist centric collection means that only the Ditko penciled covers are included. The covers for #4-11, The Return Of Konga 1962 one-shot, and Konga's Revenge #2. All of the covers are collected in the front of the book rather than before the individual issues.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Konga! Introduction by Craig Yoe (8 pages).
The Clash! Konga and Gorgo: No degrees of separation. (2 pages)
King Cohen: Author Tom Weaver interviews the writer-producer of the Konga movie, Herman Cohen (2 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5. High resolution scans. These are really cleaned up. The drawback to this method is that you can see all of the imperfections of the original comics. Line bleed, off register printing, and other such anomalies are present throughout the book. Many fans actually prefer this to the frame up restoration found in some lines of Archives-type books. Your mileage may vary. It's all subjective. Both methods have drawbacks and advantages.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. This book has some stupid thick paper. It is quite possibly the thickest paper ever used in a collected edition.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, 8 stitches per signature. While the book lays mostly flat, the binding sounds a bit creaky at times. There are one or two spots where you can see the crash (cloth) between the signatures. The liner paper came unglued from the crash but everything is overall solid and should last a lifetime so long as you don't handle your books like the Samsonite gorilla handles luggage.
Hardback casewrap rating: 5 out of 5. Beautifully designed casewrap with artistic flourishes which, while unnecessary, add a feeling of luxury to the proceedings. Highly durable and scuff resistant, Craig Yoe gets top honors in book design in my opinion. His books are not only books of art but are works of art themselves.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/IDW/STEVE-DITKO-MONSTERS-HC-VOL-02-KONGA/FEB130373

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review- FERALS VOL. 3

FERALS VOL. 3 (Avatar Press, 2014; Softcover)
Collects Ferals Nos. 13-18 (cover dates February- November, 2013)
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Gabriel Andrade
Colorists:Digikore Studios

Dale Chesnutt is knee deep in it now, as the battle between the Fathers and the wolves has spilled enough blood that it has caught the attention of the FBI and the Army. Viggo and Adolph pull the Fathers into a compound for a desperate last stand. Using the females to infect males with the sexually transmitted “feral condition”, the Fathers play their Trojan horse gambit and bring about the “Wolfpacalypse”.
I have always been a sucker for the lupine set. Ferals is the best werewolf comic since my beloved Werewolf By Night. This being an Avatar Press book means that it has all of the graphic violence, gore, sex, and nudity that the more discerning comic reader could want. All ages reading this is most certainly not. For those of you who like it over the top with the amps turned up to11, this is Horror comics done right. This title is on hiatus for now but will be back. Bring it!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Avatar Press releases a maddening number of variants, and they do not list the issues where they are from on them in the book. Praise be www.comicbookdb.com for their invaluable assistance in helping me identify the covers. Not all of the variants are included. #13-18 slashed edition variants and #18 Gore variant are omitted, but in all fairness the slashed edition variants feature the same artwork as the regular edition, recolored with slash marks across it.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: #14 Gore variant (1 page)
#15 Gore variant (1 page)
#16 Gore variant (1 page)
#17 Gore variant (1 page)
#6 Gore variant (1 page)
#13 Gore variant (1 page)
#4 Gore variant (1 page)
#13 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#14 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#15 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#16 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#17 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#18 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#5 Gore variant (1 page)
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Excellent weight glossy coated stock paper.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Nice thick waxlike lamination.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Avatar-Press/FERALS-TP-VOL-03-%28MR%29/DEC130906

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review- SPIDER-MAN: THE NEXT CHAPTER VOL. 2

SPIDER-MAN: THE NEXT CHAPTER VOL. 2 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 7-12, Peter Parker, Spider-Man Annual '99, and Peter Parker, Spider-Man Nos. 7-12 (cover dates July- December, 1999).
Writers: John Byrne, Howard Mackie, J.M. DeMatteis, and Tom Brevoort
Artists: Pencilers- John Byrne, John Romita, Jr., Al Rio, Liam Sharp, Sean Phillips, and Geof Isherwood; Inkers- Scott Hanna, Dan Schaeter, Liam Sharp, Ray Kryssing, John Byrne, John Beatty, Rodney Ramos, and Sean Phillips.

Wow. This book serves as a textbook example why modern Spider-Man comics suck so bad. Real artwork. No bloated endless crossovers. The Sinister Six reassembled in one issue. I can imagine that one being done in even one trade nowadays. Then having the battle stretched out across a mini-series, one-shot, and an Annual.
Things start out slow. Amazing Spider-Man #7-8 are a Mysterio two-parter which feel more like a Silver Age DC comic than a Marvel one. At least they have John Byrne artwork. Byrne is one of my all-time favorite artists, and was my absolute favorite as a kid in the '80s. While this era is not his strongest, he still turned in good work when paired with a strong inker like Scott Hanna. 
Next up is Peter Parker, Spider-Man #7-8, which is another two-parter, this one about vampires and the mob. Blade The Vampire Hunter (not Slayer- he was called Hunter at this time,) tries to stop them from opening a chest. I'm going to spoil the shit out of this one, folks, because inside that chest was my beloved Morbius The Living Vampire! John Romita, Jr. rules, and here he really, really rules. His artwork is incredible, and his take on the character is easily as good as Gil Kane's or Paul Gulacy's. Why on Earth can't Marvel let him draw a Horror series? I guess that that point is moot since he has left for DC after 36 years of service. 
Peter Parker, Spider-Man Annual '99 is a middle of the road tale featuring a radically different, Alan Moore Swamp Thing-esque take on the Man-Thing and the Scriers. There was some Photoshop work in that issue that must have been impressive to the technologically oppressed neanderthals of 1999. My phone could probably do that stuff now, though.
Things begin building. Doctor Octopus and Venom return, even if Spider-Man doesn't directly deal with them...yet. Subplots begin piling on top of one another. Peter Parker's name appears on a list of survivors of the accident that made Doctor Octopus into, well, Doctor Octopus. In this tweaked and revised reboot era, it is that same accident which gave Spider-Man his powers via a spider bite. There are one or two continuity discrepancies, such as this and the fact that Spider-Man has claimed to never have seen a vampire before. Electro's redesigned costume is another part of this new, temporary alteration to the continuity. That said, pretty much everything else that occurs falls in line with what happened before. This gentle reboot pales in comparison to what would occur shortly after this over in Ultimate Spider-Man, but that is a different conversation altogether. 
John Romita, Jr. rules! Look kids, no Photoshop!
While this is building, things take a side trip into a, wait for it, crossover. The Eigth Day “only” runs across three other titles, though. I find crossovers to be insulting. Expecting, nay, demanding “kids” (I would like to think that kids still read comics, at least) to spend their allowance on other comics is a rub. I remember doing this for Secret Wars II in 1985, buying crap like Daredevil and Doctor Strange that I had no interest in at the time. Part 3 is collected in this book. There is a text recap page for parts 1 and 2 and another for part 4.
The book is capped off by a two issue double-sized extravaganza which runs across both titles. The return of The Sinister Six! This time with a twist, though, as they are going against Doctor Octopus. Joining the Sandman, Mysterio, the Vulture, Kraven The Hunter (II- Junior), Electro (in his horrid blue and white redesigned costume), and Venom. 
I found John Byrne's take on the Vulture to be different yet pleasing.
These comics were so much more enjoyable than modern Spider-Man. It is not nostalgia talking; indeed, I read the first 7 or 8 issues of each title when I found them at a garage sale several years ago. I am simply comparing them to what is going on nowadays. This is the beauty of collected editions and back issues. Even if something is crapped up beyond redemption you can always go back discover “new” things to take it's place.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I really like these thick chunky trade paperbacks. Consider this a proto-Epic line book. Marvel had been playing around with it around this time and finally went all in.
The covers to the three crossover issues not collected here are provided along with the text recap pages.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: All 13 issues minus the trade dress. (3 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Everything looks great.
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback. Decent weight glossy coated stock, ideal for this type of computer-assisted colored material.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Thick waxlike lamination makes me sleep soundly at night.
http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Marvel/SPIDER-MAN-NEXT-CHAPTER-TP-VOL-02/NOV110664

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