Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review- SPIDER-MAN: THE NEXT CHAPTER VOL. 3

SPIDER-MAN: THE NEXT CHAPTER VOL. 3 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 13-19, Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2000, Peter Parker, Spider-Man Nos. 13-19, and Spider-Woman No. 9 (cover dates January- July, 2000)
Writers: John Byrne and Howard Mackie with Gregory Wright and A.A. Ward
Artists: Pencilers- John Byrne, Lee Weeks, Graham Nolan, John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, Erik Larsen, and Andy Kuhn; Inkers- Al Milgrom, Robert Campanella, Dan Green, Randy Elliot, Scott Hanna, Klaus Janson, John Romita, Sr., John Beatty, and Harry Candelario

Spider-Man is my all time favorite character when done right, like he is here in this book. This was from an era of legitimate character development for Peter Parker. He finally had his “real job”, he was married to Mary Jane, they had a place of their own...and then all of these things are undone in a spectacular fashion to restore the previous status quo. The main difference between the way that they did it then and the way that they do it now is that the new normal didn't disregard the old. They built layers on top of the old, whereas nowadays they seem to either jettison or outright disregard what happened before.

The once thought to be resolved subplot of Mary Jane's stalker/kidnapper is resurrected here, and in all honesty, it is not resolved by the end of this book. This would be fine if there were a volume 4 in this line, but as of this writing the only option that I have to find out what happens with that is A) Internet synopsis (boring) or B) hunting down back issues which are not cheap due to the low print runs during that era (undesirable).
Artwork by John Byrne.
The new Rocket Racer is a bore, ditto the new Spider-Woman and the new new Spider-Woman. There are some loose ends tied up from the tail end of the original series numbering (seen in Spider-Hunt and The Gathering Of Five collections) with Madame Web turning up again. We get to see yet another Spider-Man/ Hulk battle. Those never get old, and I say this without a whiff of irony or sarcasm. John Romita, Jr.'s art is a treat.
Artwork by John Romita, Jr. 
We also see Spidey face Doctor Doom, Venom, Sandman, Electro, and the second Kraven the Hunter. The Doctor Doom story is a two-parter that finds Spider-Man going to Latveria pursuing a lead on the whereabouts of Mary Jane. The world at large believes her to be dead in an airplane explosion while Peter believes that she is alive. Venom is seeking revenge against the Sinister Six for embarrassing him by not admitting him into their ranks. John Romita, Jr.'s take on this Venom/Carnage hybrid is much creepier and far cooler than the Venom of the '90s.
Lee Weeks is an incredible artist. Why did he not earn the role as regular artist on this title? He could have been the artist to define the look of the character for the Millennials. He did several issues a few years ago but I want more more more!
Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2000 has a continuity gaffe. It is mentioned that Peter Parker and Harry Osborn were friends in high school, which is of course impossible since they did not meet until Peter started college.
Artwork by Lee Weeks. 
 Amazing Spider-Man #18 boasts the artwork team of John Byrne with inks by none other than the definitive Spider-Man artist, John Romita, Sr. While it is true that Ditko was the innovator who created the costume and set the stage, it was Romita who refined and spit shined the appearance of the character. I remember getting into an argument in a comic shop in the late '80s with some guy about Spider-Man artists. This is what we had to do in the stone ages, argue face to face with people we randomly encountered in comic shops. This oldster was proclaiming his love for Ditko, bashing every other artist who ever penciled the series. I leapt in, defending Romita Senior. I told him at that time that while Ditko pioneered the character's look and initial development it was John Romita, Sr. who defined the contemporary Spider-Man that we all know and love. On a completely unrelated note I could not get a date during this era. Girls were probably too intimidated by my knowledge of comics. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Artwork by John Byrne AND John Romita, Sr...together! You put your chocolate in my peanut butter. No, you put your peanut butter in my chocolate. GENIUS.
The next issue of ASM, #19, has horribly jarring artwork by fan favorite Erik Larsen. I say fan favorite because a lot of folks like his art. I am not one of those folks. Compare his artwork to Byrne or especially Romita and he looks like a bumbling amateur. It would be like having Weezer take the stage after Led Zeppelin.
This book was a blast to read and it has mostly excellent artwork. Lots of fun, lots of action, stuff happens in every issue. My only complaint is that there isn't a follow up volume for me to buy. I need to know what happens next without breaking the bank on back issues. Marvel should make two more chunky books, plugging the gap between this run and when their trade paperback program started in the early 2000s.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I really, really like these chunky trade paperbacks.
The opening page of the book has a typo. It lists this as The Next Chapter Volume Two. Whoops. Still better than DC style goof ups, where they forget to include issues that were solicited to be included in the book.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: All sixteen covers minus trade dress. (4 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Everything looks great.
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Glossy coated stock paper. It is a little thin but is really nice.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Thick waxlike lamination.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Marvel/SPIDER-MAN-NEXT-CHAPTER-TP-VOL-03/MAY120745

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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.

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