Monday, July 27, 2015

Review- SWAMP THING VOL. 6: THE SUREEN


SWAMP THING VOL. 6: THE SUREEN (DC, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Swamp Thing #28-34 and 12 pages from Aquaman #31 (cover dates April- October, 2014)
Writers: Charles Soule with Jeff Parker
Artists: Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina with Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons
Colorists: Matthew Wilson with Rain Beredo

Wow, this flies in the face of modern comic book logic. Rather than have one arc stretched beyond it's logical conclusion to pad out a trade paperback, this book has several arcs under one roof. Lots of reading here, with the amount of story crammed into issue nearing pre-decompression levels. I like it.

Swamp Thing has killed The Parliament Of Trees, becoming the sole member of The Green. He is all and all is he...except for the two that he spared and made human, The Wolf and The Lady Weeds. These two are the last people he should have around him, but Swamp Thing, who is all plants, cannot see this forest for the trees.

The Sureen, a cult that serve The Green, arrive at the Swamp Thing's makeshift headquarters in a rotting plantation house. They offer him gifts, such as the ability to jump into a human being and be human again for a little while. They ask for a gift first, though: the hallucinogenic fruit produced by his body (as seen in the Alan Moore run). Like The Wolf and The Lady Weeds, not everything here is quite what it seems. Lots of political commentary about GMOs and Monsanto follow, and I always enjoy contemporary issues given wafer thin metaphors. Comics should be timely and timeless.

Capucine's origin is revealed and she gets plenty of “screen time” with a good dose of character development to boot. There is a lot of story crammed between these two covers, a real bang for your buck feeling going on here. Many times I read a modern book and it feels like a lot of empty calories, totally unsatisfying. This book was like a five course meal with an extra slice of cake after dessert.

The Aquaman issue is presented here in abridged form, with only the pages pertaining to Swamp Thing presented here. Since it is not advertised as collecting the entire issue I find this approach to be acceptable, especially when you consider that DC has already given you seven issues of Swamp Thing in this book at a MSRP of $16.99.


While the continuity for The New 52 is different than the Swamp Thing that I knew before, it is not so radically different from Alan Moore's reinterpretation that it feels alien or wrong to me. I will stick around with this title as long as it's good. Or has it been cancelled already? It's hard to keep all of these cancellations and reboots straight anymore.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I like how DC lists the creators for each issue at the “chapter break” page after the cover for the respective issue. This is something that tends to bother me about modern comics and their collected edition counterparts, since creator credits tend to be on a text recap page in the beginning of each issue which is omitted from the trades. While all collected editions list the creators in the table of contents it is not an issue to me unless there are multiple creative teams. Marvel always lists the issue number along with the cover in these books (since it has been industry standard for modern material since the early 2000s), something DC does not do. If they put the issue number along with the credits they would beat Marvel in this regard, at least pertaining to books with multiple creative times like this one has.
Paper stock: Glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Review- POSTAL VOL. 1


POSTAL VOL. 1 (Image, First Printing, June, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Postal #1-4 (cover dates February- May, 2015)
Writers: Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill
Artist: Isaac Goodhart
Colorist: Betsy Gonia

Flawed from the outset, Postal is a premise that my suspension of disbelief cannot buy since it is set in 2015. If they had set this series 20 or more years in the past it might have worked, but the notion of a town that has cellphone jammers and other means to keep the outside world out makes no sense in our dystopian Google Earth future of the present. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the very beginning as to why this series doesn't work.

Mark Shiffron is an employee of the United States Postal Service who delivers the mail for the entire town of Eden, Wyoming. The only Postal employee for an entire city, according to the back cover of the book. Whenever he comes across a mutilated letter it is also his job to transcribe it. Okay, right there they lost me. No one at the Post Office transcribes letters for anyone. If a letter comes in mutilated it is thrown into what is affectionately referred to as a “body bag”, which is one of those We Care plastic bags that has a disclaimer/apology on the back. Letters are automated and machine accidents happen on occasion. The Post Office handles way too much mail for something as time consuming as transcribing every single piece that gets damaged, and if it did do such a thing it wouldn't fall on the carrier to do it. It would be the job of someone else. But that's just it. There is supposedly no one else working there. No window clerks. No mail handlers sorting the mail or packages. Just one lone carrier.

This carrier is supposed to cover 2,198 stops, the entire town, by himself? Are they all PO boxes? If they were PO boxes they would be the job of a box clerk. Also, if they were PO boxes, why does he deliver the letter to the house of the person whose letter was mutilated? If this a walking or driving route there is no way that he can cover all 2,198 stops by himself. A walking route is usually 400-500 stops, more in areas with lower volume (those are usually 600-700 stops). A mounted route might be in the 600-800 stop range for an eight hour assignment. There is simply no way that a carrier could deliver the entire city himself, unless it was NDCBU cluster boxes, and even that sounds too high to me. Shiffron is shown with a satchel full of mail at one point, making this a park and loop walking route. So there is no way that one carrier can do an entire town in one eight hour day. 


The town of Eden was founded on a dark premise, one which I cannot buy in our brave new world where you can see your house online via a satellite in space. If you like your concepts with holes big enough to drive a semi truck through then Postal is for you. I would think that a writer would research the job that they are writing about and basing their entire concept on, but hey, what do I know? Needless to say I won't be buying Volume 2 of this series.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 2 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Image makes nice books.
Paper stock: Glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review- HARVEY HORRORS COLLECTED WORKS: CHAMBER OF CHILLS VOL. 4


HARVEY HORRORS COLLECTED WORKS: CHAMBER OF CHILLS VOL. 4 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, 2012; Hardcover)
Note: Book actually released in 2013

Collects Chamber of Chills Magazine #20-26 (originally published by Harvey Comics, cover dates November, 1953- December, 1954)

Writers: Howard Nostrand, Bob Powell (both unconfirmed but strongly suspected) and other, unidentified writers.
Artists: Joe Certa, Manny Stallman, John Giunta, Howard Nostrand, Bob Powell, Lee Elias (covers), Jack Sparling, Mort Meskin, George Roussos, Al Avison, and possibly other unidentified art assistants.

Dreams can come true! Ten years ago it was nothing more than a pipe dream that I would own these Pre-Code Horror comics in deluxe hardcovers. Now I have a room full of them! This fourth and final volume in PS Artbook's Chamber Of Chills line shows the title going full steam ahead with no real change from any of the earlier issues. That's fine by me, because they are all fun reads.


The writing and artwork are all great, with work by many forgotten greats. The Internet and collected editions have given some of these guys a second life and they have finally gotten their due, albeit too late for most (if not all) of them to enjoy while they were alive.

The stories all run the typical Horror gamut of the era (voodoo, black magic, zombies, vampires, etc.) and for the most part attempt to ape the EC ironic shock twist ending with varying degrees of success. While nothing can compare to EC, Harvey was one of the few who had art talent that could go toe to toe with some of the EC guys. Some of the more interesting stories are ones that veer away from the formula (there is a Sci-Fi story and even a war story with Horror accents).


There is a lot of overlap in this book. Seven of these stories have been reprinted in various Yoe Books after I bought this. I will be doing more research before buying more of those, as I see no value in rebuying material with similar restoration. One of those seven was also reprinted in Fanatagraphics' Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics Of The 1950s, which was an excellent precursor to these PS Artbooks. Fantagraphics really dropped the ball not diving deeper into the well of public domain comics. Pete Crowther and company over at PS Artbooks saw the opportunity and seized it, and now the fans of this material own dozens of books. There is overlap within this series as well, as the bulk of #25 is from issue 9 of this series and #26 is the bulk of #5. Those stories were collected in Volumes 1 and 2 of this series. That feels like a ripoff to me. I can see collecting the cover and the material not found in those issues, but to get the same stories again seems like a waste.


That aside, this was a terrific read and I am proud to have this book in my library. While I tend to aggressively prune my library to keep it at a svelte 1,100 books, complete Pre-Code Horror comics will remain in my collection until I die. I will revisit this material again someday and enjoy it every bit as much as I did this time, something that cannot always be said for modern comics, which have a good for one read only feel to them.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I enjoy huffing these Chinese made books. PS Artbooks smell the best. Whenever I crack one open I sit there and snort it every so many pages...oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans of varying quality with minimal tinkering. Mostly decent but occasionally murky.
Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock. Given the yellowed nature of the scans an off-white would have worked better.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. Lays flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish.