Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review- PIRACY ANNUAL VOL. 1



PIRACY ANNUAL VOL. 1 (Gemstone, 1998; Softcover)

Collects Piracy #1-4 (cover dates November, 1954- May, 1955)
Writers: Carl Wessler and other, unidentified writers
Artists: Wally Wood, Reed Crandall, Al Williamson, Angelo Torres, Jack Davis, Bernie Krigstein, George Evans, and Graham Ingels



Piracy is either a latter day New Trend title or a precursor to the New Direction titles, depending on who you ask. I tend to lump it in with the New Direction titles, the ones where EC was attempting different things to distance themselves from their Horror output which was under fire at the time. As was the case with those titles, the writing and artwork are head and shoulders above the output of anything else on the stands at the time, even if the material in this title wasn't as strong as the New Trend stuff.



This comic book does exactly what is says on the tin: “Sagas of the sea, ships, plunder and...Piracy”. These are stories of high adventure and ruthless men whose greed and ambition show us the worst traits of mankind. Some of the stories are historical accounts while others are loosely based on historical events, using them a launchpad for the story. Man's inhumanity toward his fellow man is on full display here.



Artwork wise, this book boasts some of George Evans and Graham Ingels' finest artwork. Having said that, many fans tend to dismiss the New Direction stuff. I have never heard any EC fan claim that Piracy is their favorite title. It is merely a footnote in the history of EC Comics. EC remain the gold standard for comic books in my mind.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Gemstone overprinted their single issue reprints in the '90s with an eye toward selling their own back issues. They re-purposed this overstock by trimming and gluing 5 entire issues into a cardstock cover. While this is not technically a trade paperback (it has no ISBN), it is squarebound and has the title on the spine. Close enough for Rock and Roll in my book.
Linework and Color restoration: Shot from the original artwork with a color palette authentic to the original publication. If you want to see EC Comics in full color then this is the best way to do so, as these look superior to the originals in terms of print quality.
Paper stock: Standard pulp paper of the day. The pro is that this looks and feels like a real comic book. The con, and it is a very large one, is that this will age and yellow, just like real comic book paper. I am admittedly less and less worried about this sort of thing as time goes by, as I will likely be dead and gone before this book deteriorates too badly. Sorry fans in the year 2068.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Thick cardboard with minimal coating. There are signs of wear after years but all in all very solid. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review- AVENGERS INFINITY CLASSIC



AVENGERS INFINITY CLASSIC (Marvel, First Printing, 2013; Softcover)

Collects Avengers Infinity #1-4 (cover dates September- December, 2000)
Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Sean Chen (Penciler) and Scott Hanna (Inker)
Colorist: Steve Oliff



Roger Stern's return to writing The Avengers happened while I was on sabbatical from the hobby. A bunch of heavy hitter Avengers alumni team up to do some galactic avenging in the far reaches of space. Thor, Photon (the second Captain Marvel), Quasar, Moondragon, Starfox, Tigra, and future Avenger Jack of Hearts form an ad hoc space Avengers.



This is an epic cosmic adventure, with The Avengers taking on the Infinites, beings that are so powerful that the stars themselves are mere playthings to them. Even Eternity is dwarfed by their power.



The writing and artwork are solid and this a satisfying read. It seems silly to see such a sprawling, fate of the universe type tale confined to a mere four issues, as this would be pimped out in a major crossover today. That seems to be the problem for both Marvel and DC these days. Their sales are in the tank, propped up by gimmick variant covers that dealers order X number of copies to achieve the “incentive cover”, which they flip on eBay for more money than if they sold all of the copies that they order. The rest wind up in the $1 box at conventions. The next bubble is about to burst. When it does, maybe they will go back to making more self-contained reads like this.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Nothing unusual or remarkable to report.
Linework and Color restoration: These comics were made during the digital era, so no restoration is required.
Paper stock: Good eight glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review- AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION BOOK 1



AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION BOOK 1 (Marvel, First Printing, 2013; Softcover)

Collects Avengers #231-241, Avengers Annual #11, 12, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, Fantastic Four #256, and Doctor Strange #60 (cover dates Annual 1982- March, 1984)

Writers: Roger Stern, John Byrne, J.M. DeMatteis, Bill Mantlo, and Ann Nocenti

Artists: Al Milgrom, Bob Budiansky, John Byrne, Dan Green, Butch Guice, and John Romita, Jr. with inking by John Romita, Sr., Joe Sinnott, Jack Abel, Brett Breeding, Kim DeMulder, and Rick Magyar



Roger Stern's run on The Avengers picks up steam as it goes along. The book starts out with a non-Stern tale, Avengers Annual #11, which I had as a quarter box find in 1983 or 1984. This issue should have been collected during The Trial Of Yellowjacket trade, as it was published during the timeframe of those issues. Marvel is really good at picking up spares with their unofficial “no issue remains uncollected” policy. I am sure that whenever they get around to rereleasing this material in the Masterworks or Epic line that the issue will be inserted in it's proper place. Another stray that belonged in that book was Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, which introduced the new Captain Marvel. Better to have them here than not have them collected at all though, right?

I had quite a few of these comics as cheapo quarter box comics shortly after they were originally published. I had Avengers Annual #11, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, and #235, and 236 back in the '80s as a lad.

I really enjoyed the crossover of issues 233 and 234 with the Fantastic Four issues. Annihilus has arrived on Earth and is set to destroy both our universe and the Negative Zone. It is during this arc where the Vision enters the Null-Field surrounding the Baxter Building where Annihilus was running his campaign, shorting the Vision out and putting his synthetic android body into a coma of sorts. Avengers trainee Starfox contacts his home, the moon of Titan, and has the moon's computer brain, ISAAC, beam it's consciousness to Earth so that the Vision can obtain the knowledge necessary to repair his android body. Things change for the Vision in ways that are not yet fully revealed.



Roger Stern is among the holy trinity of Avengers writers, right next to Roy Thomas and Kurt Busiek. Steve Englehart is a close fourth, while Brian Michael Bendis doesn't even enter the conversation when talking about great Avengers writers. Al Milgrom does the bulk of the artwork in this book, and his work is best described as serviceable. I liked his art quite a bit during the '80s but it honestly doesn't hold up very well today. Only when he is paired with a strong inker like Joe Sinnott do things look good. Modern fans weaned on Photoshop assisted art and coloring will likely balk at the dated nature of the artwork in this book.

If you are able to get past that then what you have are some fine stories. Roger Stern comes into his own on the title, continually refining his craft. The issues collected in the next book are where things really get cooking. Stern is basically setting the table here...and what a table it is.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I am a sucker for trades that clock in over 400 pages and use this paper stock. I will buy almost anything old collected in this format.
Linework and Color restoration: Everything looks good except for the Fantastic Four issues. The restoration on those was done over a decade ago and the best source material was not used. This is the same restoration on those issues found in the old Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne line of trades as well as the Fantastic Four By John Byrne Omnibus books. I am certain that the Masterworks will eventually improve them when that line gets there around the turn of the next decade.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock of sufficient thickness and weight. This is the same stock found in the softcover Marvel Masterworks and Epic line books.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination.