Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review- AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL. 1: THE PARKER LUCK



AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL. 1: THE PARKER LUCK (Marvel, First Printing, 2014; Softcover)

Collects Amazing Spider-Man #1-6 (cover dates June- November, 2014)

Writers: Dan Slott with back-up features by Christos Gage and Joe Caramagna
Artists: Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba with back-up features by Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, Giueseppe Camuncoli, John Dell, Cam Smith, and Chris Eliopoulos
Colorists: Edgar Delgado with back-up features by Javier Rodriguez, Antonio Fabela, and Jim Charalampidis

Dan Slott made me quit buying Spider-Man with #700, which is really saying something considering that Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. I vowed to never buy anymore new Spider-Man comics for as long as Slott was the writer on them, as he is a jerk to fans on Twitter as well. My son checked out a stack of graphic novels from the library and wanted to read them with me, and this was one of them. So I haven't broken my vow to not buy anything that Slott does.

I am sorry, but Humberto Ramos sucks. 


Slott always had a good grasp on the character, which made his Superior Spider-Man/ Spider-Ock thing so wrong to me. It is a concept that might be fun for an arc, but for a series that lasted a couple of years? Forget about it. Humberto Ramos' art is still not to my liking, even though he has improved by leaps and bounds. His original Manga-influenced style was an abomination to the eyes. Here he is merely mediocre. So while the art left a lot to be desired, the story in and of itself is good.

S P O I L E R S ahead. Peter Parker is back. During his time in charge of Peter's brain Doctor Octopus finished Parker's doctorate, launched Parker Industries, and changed his life on a number of other levels. Peter comes back to the world like someone who was in a coma, albeit with someone else living his life for him in the meantime. Electro wants revenge on Spider-Man, as Doctor Octopus apparently was a more sadistic hero who captured and experimented on him. Ock also destroyed the life of the Black Cat, a one time love interest of Spider-Man. So Electro and the Black Cat are working together to get revenge on Spider-Man.

My son and I both enjoyed Slott's take on J. Jonah Jameson.


The other arc going on here is the introduction of Silk, a girl who was apparently bitten by the same radioactive spider that Peter Parker was. Her parents were contacted by Ezekiel and she has been in captivity for all this time for “her own protection”. In typical Parker fashion he finds out about her and breaks her out of her cell, only to discover the reason why she has been locked up: to keep her presence hidden from Morlun, whom Spider-Man fought (and apparently has killed) twice before. Only now it is revealed that he is still alive, although Spider-Man is unaware of this as of yet. So Silk gets the big set up and teams up with Spider-Man to defeat the Black Cat and Electro. Not bad. It certainly reads better as a story than it does when you write in down on “paper” and read a synopsis of the events like this.

My 9 year old son's take: It was good. I liked the fact that they sort of changed his origin (meaning that they added Silk). I liked that they used Electro and Black Cat in it. I disliked the swears, because if they didn't put the swears in it it would be appropriate for kids to read (meaning without parental supervision). That's pretty much it.

I do not indoctrinate my son with my opinions and feelings about continuity and artwork, etc., preferring for him to develop his own tastes. This is his Golden Age of comics and I can respect that. But I do let him know that I disapprove of swearing in mainstream superhero comic books, which is just ridiculous.

So this was an enjoyable way to spend time with my son and it was a decent enough story to boot. Not decent enough for me to buy this, but decent enough for us to go and check out Volume 2 from the library. Slott is still a butthead though. And I will never, ever think that it is okay for there to be swearing in mainstream superhero comics which are ostensibly targeted at a teenage audience. In reality they should be all ages since Marvel/Disney bombard young children with cartoons and merchandise of these characters. You would think that they would want the comics to be accessible to young, potentially lifelong readers. Aside from the swearing and one or two things about Silk which went over my son's head there was nothing in here that was inappropriate for a nine year old kid. So why is there a need to be “edgy” and have swearing? I am admittedly old-fashioned but come on, Marvel. You are better than this.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone-
Paper stock: Good weight glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review- STAR WARS- DARTH VADER VOL. 1: VADER



STAR WARS- DARTH VADER VOL. 1: VADER (Marvel, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Darth Vader #1-6 (cover dates April- August, 2015)

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larocca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado

My 9 year old son checked this out of the library and asked me to read it with him. I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was. This takes places between Episodes IV and V and deals with Darth Vader being taken to task by The Emperor for his failure with the destruction of the Death Star. Lots of Easter eggs, such as Vader hiring Boba Fett to track down Luke Skywalker, etc. The Emperor ends up making Vader seem too human. It was really strange to have Darth Vader be the “hero” of the story, with readers being forced to sympathize with him. I normally dislike it when the villain is humanized, as sympathy for the bad guy is something that I do not like. I prefer straight up good versus bad guy, white hats versus black hats stuff. Real life is not so black and white though, so I have come to terms with moral ambiguity and things being various shades of gray instead. To quote the kids, it is what it is.



I liked how events from the prequels were brought in and inserted into the original trilogy. I really enjoyed Triple Zero (0-0-0), a sadistic protocol droid. I found his behavior hilarious when compared to C-3P0's benign nature. Aphra was annoying in a way, but she worked as far as furthering the plot. I found her dialogue to be mostly unlikable, as the character herself was fine.



My son's take: It was good. I liked the fact that it was centered around Darth Vader. How Darth Vader framed someone. He liked the writing and artwork. We both enjoyed reading it together.

Kieron Gillen's writing is solid. He has a solid grasp on the Star Wars universe. Salvador Larocca's artwork is great, as it always has been. This is solid stuff that would please any Star Wars fan, old or new.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone-
Paper stock: Good weight glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review- AMERICAN SPLENDOR



AMERICAN SPLENDOR (First Ballantine Books Printing, 2003; Softcover)

Collects selections from American Splendor #1-11 (cover dates May, 1976- 1986)

Writer: Harvey Pekar
Artists: Kevin Brown, Gregory Budgett, R. Crumb, Gary Dumm, Gerry Shamray, Sean Carroll, Sue Cavey, and Val Mayerik

I have been going through a rough patch in my personal life over the past few months. I won't go into the whats or whys or wherefores of it all, suffice it to say that life is a strange thing and that there are no guarantees. A friend of mine repeatedly urged me to check out the works of Harvey Pekar. He told me that his life mirrored mine at the moment and vice versa. I trust the opinion of this friend, as he turned me on to Bukowski and is an artist who has produced work which I hold in extremely high regard.



Harvey Pekar is the star and hero of his own strip, the autobiographical American Splendor. While I know nothing about underground comics (or comix, as the kids who are now grandparents called them at the time), I can appreciate how far ahead of it's time this comic was. I am confident in saying that Pekar invented an entirely new language for comic books. Nothing out there at that time read like this. It was so far ahead of it's time that it reads as contemporary with 2016 eyes. I read things in the here and now and also consider the work within the context in which it was published, and this holds up on both counts.

Pekar is a well-intentioned (if self-defeating) free thinker who is his own best friend and worst enemy in one. In that regard he is exactly like the rest of us, at least those of us who are humble and like the simple life. Like Pekar, I toil in a seemingly menial job but am content with the living that I have eked out because of it. I would rather have relative financial security and let my mind soar at work than be stuck doing something “important” which would yield only less happiness for me. My only ambition in this life is to be happy, or as close to happy as I can be within the context of my circumstances. Also like Pekar, I value truth and loyalty over flash and hype in people. Pekar cannot fathom why virtues are not more valuable than monetary success, and he's right. A great artist whose work brightens the world can be poor while someone who does things to screw people over gets rewarded financially. Don't both things add value to life? One adds cultural value, the other financial value to a company's bottom line. What does that say about us as a society when we view and reward the one which is worse for everyone more favorably?



Pekar writes about ordinary life, which sounds boring on paper but in reality is the real heavy, kids. Waking To The Terror Of The New Day is profound. An Argument At Work is one of the many reasons that this book spoke to me. Leonard & Marie was touching. Stetson Shoes spoke to me for a reason I won't share here. I'll Be Forty-Three On Friday (How I'm Living Now) is the best story in the book. Pekar makes nothing seem like something important. Maybe it is because real life is important. Folks tend to sweep the little things under the rug when they should maybe stop and pay attention, because the little things become the moments that define us. At least that is the realization that I have come to over the past few months. The big picture versus the little picture. Focus on the one and you lose sight of them both.



Pekar touches on many themes such as race, socioeconomic circles, gentrification and integration and the effects thereof, and other truths. The lighter fare offsets the heaviness or preachiness of the weightier topics, resulting in a well-balanced slice of life.

The art is a mixed bag. While I am admittedly of the Adams/Kirby/Ditko/Steranko school of thought most of these cats carry the story forward well enough. A few of them are very good, with ideas far outside of the box of what comic books could look like during this time frame.

Middle age is a strange thing. I am no longer a young man ready to inherit the world, nor am I ready to give up on it. I'm not old enough to reap the rewards that old age brings. Middle age is like you're here, only here isn't necessarily what you once thought it would be, and even if you wanted it it may not be where you belong anyways. If there are answers to what life is, I certainly haven't found them yet. Harvey Pekar might have, though. He at least tries to point you in the right direction. Maybe further reading of his work will reveal the answer.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is much wider than a standard trade paperback.
Linework restoration: I haven't done any comparison with the original comic books and therefore have no comment.
Paper stock: Thick uncoated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback. It should be noted that this is a library copy and has been read countless times and has held strong.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick cardstock cover which has weathered repeated handling and hands far less careful than mine countless times.