Saturday, May 19, 2018

Review- JUPITER'S CIRCLE VOL. 1




JUPITER'S CIRCLE VOL. 1 (Image, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Jupiter's Circle #1-6 (cover dates April- September, 2015)

Writer: Mark Millar

Artists: Wilfredo Torres, Davide Gianfelice, and Francesco Mortarino

Colorist: Ive Svorcina



Everything is not what it seems to be, and heroes aren't always perfect people. That is the takeaway from the second arc in Mark Millar's Jupiter universe. Read on its own and taken at face value, this is some entertaining stuff. Compare and contrast with every other post-superhero, post-deconstructionist property. I can see both sides of this argument (all heroes should be heroic versus not all heroes are heroic) but enjoy this series for what it is: An exercise on the motivations of superheroes in “the real world”.

The backdrop of the series is the early Silver Age (1959-1960). Instead of the Justice League Of America battling Starro the Starfish you have this team dealing with J Edgar Hoover trying to expose their dirty little secrets. Like Astro City, their battles are largely left offscreen.



I really enjoyed issues three and four, where we see The Flare make a selfish decision that impacts his family and his teammates. Brainwave (Walter) tips his hand in #5 and 6 and shows what a piece of garbage he is. Anyone who read the first series already knows that, but it is now apparent that he was the snake in the grass from the word go.

The artwork has that Darwin Cooke kind of faux Silver Age feel to it. It's inconsistent compared to the first arc in this series, but I believe that this was the intention. Millar wanted this to look like something out of the past that couldn't possibly be misconstrued for the present. The coloring is largely flat, also an artistic choice done to emulate the Silver Age.


I am intrigued enough to continue reading and am looking forward to see what happens next.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

Paper stock: Medium weight coated stock with a slight sheen, closer to glossy paper than matte.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Review- JUPITER'S LEGACY VOL. 1




JUPITER'S LEGACY VOL. 1 (Image, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Jupiter's Legacy #1-5 (cover dates April, 2013- January, 2015)

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Frank Quitely

Colorist: Peter Doherty



Brandon and Chloe are the children of the Golden Age's greatest superheroes, the Utopian and Lady Liberty. The parents are still out there fighting supervillains, leaving the biggest threat that their children face being dropped from their corporate sponsorships. Most of this new generation of heroes are more interested in raising their profile to obtain corporate sponsorships than they are in saving the world.

The main problem is that the old generation of heroes wants to help out, but they want to let the world run as it does. This isn't really a problem, but that doesn't stop the Utopian's brother Walter (Brainwave) from making it into one. The economy and world politics are floundering, and Walter believes that he has all of the answers. Anyone that says that they are never wrong and claim that they have all the answers is someone best avoided, at least in my life experience. Walter manages to reach Brandon in a drunken State and tell him exactly what he wants to hear, manipulating him and the others into doing what he wants.

Chloe is involved in a relationship with Hutch, the son of a supervillain. They keep their relationship a secret until she finds out that she's pregnant. It's at the time that she decides to move back in to her mother's house. Walter's put his plan into action as Chloe arrives there, with her and Jason end up making a run for it when things go south. Chloe and Hutch's relationship has an almost Romeo And Juliet quality to it.

Once Brainwave achieves his goal he finds that things aren't as easy to fix as he believed. Jason and Chloe are hiding in Australia raising their son, who is now of school-age. Their son has super powers and, unbeknownst to them, has been flying to the moon and back. This is when he attracts the attention of the US Government under the watchful eye of Barnabas Wolfe, resulting in the family revealing their location.

I enjoyed the 1932 origin part of the story the most. I love how these space aliens land on Earth and call Americans to them because they want to help only America. That type of faulty logic was rampant in Golden Age comics, and I love it.



The series has a certain post-superhero flavor to it in the respect that things aren't as good as they used to be. It is neither Deconstructionist nor Reconstructionist, however. It could go either way at this point, being somewhere in the middle. Millar uses doppelgangers as reference points in much the same way that Kurt Busiek did in Astro City.

Like all modern comics, the violence is a little over the top and there are adult situations which renders this unsuitable for kids. That's okay, but with a few tweaks of this formula you could actually have a fascinating all-ages comic. This is neither here nor there, just an observation.

Frank Quitely is an unusual artist. He has a subdued style that is not necessarily suited to superhero comics, yet he seems to excel at them. It's strange, but I like it well enough. Mark Millar treads his usual boards to great effect. I am sufficiently intrigued by this first arc and will continue with the next book in the series.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

Paper stock: Medium weight coated stock with a slight sheen.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Review- OUR CANCER YEAR




OUR CANCER YEAR (Running Press, Seventh Printing, 1994; Softcover)

Original Graphic Novel

Writers: Joyce Brabner and Harvey Pekar

Artist: Frank Stack



Our Cancer Year is another in a long line of Harvey Pekar's autobiographical line of comics. While it is not branded as an American Splendor comic it is very similar in feel and tone. This time he co-writes with his wife Joyce Brabner. It's more of a shared vision than your standard Harvey Pekar story starring Our Man.

Harvey is something of a worry wart who also tends to put things off. He notices a lump on his left groin but ignores it. It starts growing and after his wife continually nags him to get it checked out, he does. Harvey is diagnosed with lymphoma. While they are able to remove it all he still has to go through chemotherapy and radiation treatment. It is during this time that things get really rough for him. Harvey has always been very self-reliant, and to put himself at the mercy of others is a humbling experience. I can't imagine anyone taking something like that well. He gets really down and almost throws in the towel a number of times. Joyce tries to keep him going but the situation becomes almost as rough on her as it is for Harvey, albeit it in a different way.



This story took place in 1990-91, with the events leading up to and including Operation Desert Storm being a secondary story as well as Harvey dealing with Joyce and her overseas volunteer work. Another facet of the story is the introduction and implementation of computers into daily life. Joyce uses a very primitive Internet to communicate with her friends overseas. Harvey wants nothing to do with it until he realizes he has to use it to communicate with her while she's away on her volunteer work.



Harvey is stubborn and keeps trying to work even though he is still on the mend. When he finally does return to work he finds that his job has been filled and that he now has to learn how to use computers. I was in my late teens when the events in this book occurred. I remember the invasion of Kuwait and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. I also remember the primitive high school computers with the two tone green screen and 5 inch floppy disk drives. Computers were pretty useless and uninteresting back then. Harvey Pekar and I both discovered in the coming years that the world was about to change forever.



Our Cancer Year is a testament to stubbornness and overcoming impossible odds. Pekar continues to inspire many of us, even when he isn't trying to.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

This book is wider than your standard size modern day trade paperback.

Paper stock: Fair weight matte stock.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Review- VENOM: THE ENEMY WITHIN




VENOM: THE ENEMY WITHIN (Marvel, First Printing, 2013; Softcover)

Collects Venom: Funeral Pyre #1-3, Venom: The Madness #1-3, Venom: The Enemy Within #1-3, and Incredible Hulk & Venom #1 (cover dates August, 1993- April, 1994)

Writers: Carl Potts, Ann Nocenti, Bruce Jones, and Peter David

Artists: Pencils- Tom Lyle, Kelley Jones (also Inker), Bob McLeod (also Inker), and Jim Craig; Inkers- Al Milgrom, Josef Rubinstein, John Beatty, Harry Candelario, Scott Hanna, Keith Williams, Bill Anderson, and Dan Day



Ah, the '90s. It was one of the worst periods in the history of comics, particularly for Marvel and DC. The artwork was especially wretched, a bunch of people emulating the garish Image-influence from hacks like Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and Marc Silvestri, among others. Think of it like '90s Rock. Everyone tried to be Nirvana and wound up being Bush. Lame. I am showing my age here, though. To the 12 year olds of 1993 this is the golden age of comics, so your mileage may vary depending on your age in 1993-1994.



This book is a collection of assorted Venom mini-series and one-shots. Venom: Funeral Pyre features The Punisher. It's typical extreme 90's stuff but is entertaining enough. The Punisher was overamped and his power level was routinely exaggerated throughout the '90s.

Venom: The Madness features artwork by Kelley Jones. I've never understood the appeal of his artwork. It's dark and moody but it is so anatomically exaggerated that I can enjoy it. Venom fights the Juggernaut, and while the fight is cool the artwork is so horrendous that it detracts from the experience.



Venom: The Enemy Within is where things get cooking. Bruce Jones writes an excellent script and Bob McLeod brings it to life. My beloved Morbius The Living Vampire is featured in this mini series with an absurd plot about a cult which assembles in the Library Of Rhan. The Demogoblin also appears to do battle with the goblins that the cult releases upon San Francisco. It's a bunch of silly faux-occult stuff that basically plays as a superhero/ monster mash-up.



Incredible Hulk & Venom one shot is super cheesy and lame. It's everything that is wrong with 90s comic books. I liked Venom when he was introduced as a villain, as his first few battles with Spider-Man felt fresh and new. His popularity ultimately made Marvel do a WWF turncoat, making him into a “Lethal Protector” anti-hero which was all too common in the '90s. To the kids of the '90s (and beyond) this stuff is considered classic. It's middle of the road comics with some generally awful artwork to this old man, though.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

Linework and Color restoration: I am not wasting a second of my life comparing this to the originals, which were undoubtedly godawful ugly too. Everything looks clean and tight.

Paper stock: Matte coated stock of sufficient thickness and weight. This is the same stock found in the softcover Marvel Masterworks and Epic lines of books. It's my favorite paper stock used in collected editions today because it feels like something of quality while retaining an authentic comic book look and feel.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review- BLACK-EYED KIDS VOL. 3: SONS AND DAUGHTERS




BLACK-EYED KIDS VOL. 3: SONS AND DAUGHTERS (Aftershock, First Printing, 2016*; Softcover)

*Book actually released in 2018. Indicia states October 2016. It looks like a lot of copy and pasting from Vol. 1.

Collects Black-Eyed Kids #11-15 (cover dates February- December, 2017)

Writer: Joe Pruett

Artists: Szymon Kudranski

Colorist: Guy Major



The way that they were talking during the solicits made it seem like this was the end of the series. With that in mind I expected some sort of resolution. While we get a lot of background on the BEKs, we get neither a definitive answer to their origins nor do we get the reason of what this series has been building up to. Instead we get an End Of Season One blurb at the end of the book. Fair enough.



There is still a lot of good Horror fun to be had along the way. We finally discover what Meredith and Gus have meant to this group of BEKs and why they have been allowed to live...so far, at least.



I'm still enjoying this series, so I will be back if and whenever it is relaunched. It's been a fun ride and aside from the endless sea of blues used in the color palette I can't find any fault with the series. It's a good classic style Horrror comic brought into the 21st century.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

This book was originally announced as Vol. 3: Past Lives, for those interested in that sort of trivia.

Paper stock: Glossy coated stock.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Matte finish with spot varnish.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review- SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES ANNUAL VOL. 2




SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES ANNUAL VOL. 2 (Gemstone, 1994; Softcover)

Collects Shock SuspenStories #6-10 (cover dates February/March, 1952- December, 1952/ January, 1953)

Writers: Bill Gaines (co-plotter), Al Feldstein (co-plotter and script), and Ray Bradbury

Artists: Al Feldstein, Jack Kamen, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Graham Ingels, and Wally Wood



Shock SuspenStories was an EC sampler series, giving readers an idea of what the entire EC line was doing. Each issue has a Crime SuspenStory, a Shock SuspenStory, a Science-Fiction SuspenStory, and a Horror SuspenStory.

Issue 6's Under Cover! is a subversive tale about the Ku Klux Klan in all but name, pointing out how its membership were really well-respected members of the community. Sugar 'N Spice 'N... has one of those grand EC twist-ending Horror stories, borrowing from one of the greatest fables of all time.



#7 starts out with Beauty And The Beach!, a Jack Kamen eye candy feast. Kamen has a knack for drawing beautiful people doing horrible things to one another. Every story in #7 and 8 are winners. #9's Came The Dawn! is one of my all-time favorite EC stories. I don't go into great details with the whys of these tales because it would be like telling you the punchline to a joke. You need to read these comic books for yourself.



The Sacrifice kicks off issue 10, and it is a sordid tale of murder, love triangles, and double-crosses. Jack Kamen once again delivers a flawless portrayal of the ugliness of the human condition wrapped up in a pretty package.



While it is extremely difficult for me to name a favorite EC title, SS is certainly near the top of the pile. These comics hold up very well with repeated readings, and it is crazy to think that these were originally published 65 years ago.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

Gemstone overprinted their single issue reprints in the '90s with an eye toward selling their own back issues. They later repurposed this overstock by trimming and gluing 5 entire issues into a cardstock cover. While this is not technically a trade paperback since it has no ISBN, it is squarebound and has the title on the spine. Close enough for Rock and Roll in my book. The EC Annuals are the most economical and efficient way of getting your EC collection while offering the most authentic reading experience this side of the original comics.

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 print quality. The only drawback is that the covers to each issue are recolored. Marie Severin redid them for the EC Library sets and those same versions are used here.

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.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback. I am impressed by the quality of the glue used in these Annuals, as many Marvel trades of this vintage have fallen apart.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review- CRIME DOES NOT PAY ARCHIVES VOL. 5




CRIME DOES NOT PAY ARCHIVES VOL. 5 (Dark Horse, First Printing, 2013; Hardcover)

Collects Crime Does Not Pay #38-41 (cover dates March- September, 1945)

Writers: Dick Wood with one story by Milt. J. Kramer

Artists: Charles Biro, Al Fagaly, Dick Briefer, Jack Alderman, C.L. Hartman, Norman Maurer, Rudy Palais, Robert Q. Sale (as Bob Q. Siege), and other unidentified artists



The quality of the stories and artwork have rebounded nicely after the dullness that was Volume 4. The gist of this series is that it is a “true crime” anthology style that depicts crime from different eras and countries, with an emphasis on crime of the 1920s and 1930s.

Mister Crime is the host, and he is essentially the devil on the shoulder of these would be criminals as they embark on their life of crime. In #41 we see his counterpoint, the “angel on the shoulder” of the criminal, Officer Common Sense. Neither one of them are visible to the characters and they break the fourth wall in regard to the fact that they are speaking to the reader.



While this series was lurid for the time, in all fairness they do not glorify crime. The criminal is always shown getting killed by police, sitting in an electric chair, or ending up in prison. There is an over the top, sensationalist angle played up for kicks, though.

The Dick Briefer Who Dunnit? recurring strip has run out of steam. I was thankful to see Robert Q. Sale take it over in #40. Issue #39's King Killer Of The Mountain is one of the better tales in this book. The quality increases across the board with #41, and I am looking forward to reading Volume 6. I know from reading Blackjacked And Pistol-Whipped: A Crime Does Not Pay Sampler that the series' best days are ahead of it.



Sadly, Dark Horse pulled the plug on this line after Volume 10. They cancelled the already fully restored and ready to go Volume 11 as well as the already solicited Volume 12. Dark Horse has recently revived their Creepy and Eerie Archives, so I am hopeful that they will revive this line of books as well. I have no interest in the Gwandanaland print on demand books found on Amazon which complete the run. Dark Horse could even up the price $10-15 to make up for the low print run if that is what it would take to finish up this line of books.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

The Dark Horse Archives line of books are narrower than the original comic books.

Linework and Color restoration: Solid “frame up” restoration done off of scans of the original comics.

Paper stock: Thick uncoated stock. It has a creamy off-white color, being close to Mint condition pulp paper in appearance while being of sufficient thickness that it feels like 'Archival' quality paper. It also has the sweet, delectable smell that only Chinese made books have.

Binding: Sewn binding which is stiff and does not lay flat. This book is light and small enough where it is not an issue.

Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Nice faux leather casewrap with die foil stamping. Dustjacket has a decent lamination.