Friday, January 20, 2017

Review- ZAGOR: TERROR FROM THE SEA



ZAGOR: TERROR FROM THE SEA (Epicenter, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Zagor #386-388 (cover dates September- November, 1997)

Writer: Mauro Boselli
Artist: Stefano Andreucci
Colorist: (Originally published in black and white) Not listed



Epicenter has been bringing European fan favorites to the English-speaking world over the past few years, and we are all better off for it. Zagor has been published in Europe for over 50 years but is essentially unknown to North American audiences.

Zagor is a pretty cool concept that borrows from so many places that it comes off as an original enough work. `There is a definite H.P Lovecraft influence with Dagon and it's respective cult. Andrew Cain, a puritan on a quest to kill all evil just like his ancestor, is a wafer thin doppelganger for Solomon Kane. There are other bits and pieces lovingly borrowed from other sources, and it all works when blended together.



I'm not sure when this series takes place. There are swords and firearms as well as blowtorches, although there is no electricity or telephones. There are no automobiles, as everything is horse and buggy, so my best guess would be the 19th century. It does take place in Darkwood, USA, so we know that it is after 1776 at least.

Since the series had been published for over 35 years when these issues (or albums, as the European comics are sometimes referred to) were originally published, there is little to no introduction to these characters. You are just thrust into the story and left to try and figure out who is who along the way. While all of the characters are given motives, ironically it is Zagor who seems to be the one without any real motive or explanation as to how he got to where he is.

Andrew Cain, not Solomon Kane.


Zagor is a fast paced, action packed read that is light on dialogue and heavy on fun. My friend gave me this book, and while I recommend it as a read please refer to binding issues which I've addressed in the OCD zone below.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This book is published in the GN-TPB size, meaning that it's trim size is the same as a Dark Horse Omnibus. The size has a lot of detractors, but I am not one of them. I enjoy books this size, as they are easy to handle and the material is not shrunk down so small that you cannot read it.
Linework and Color restoration: No comment on the linework, as I have no source material to compare it to. The computer recoloring of material that was originally presented in black and white is tasteful, using effects sparingly.
There are numerous typos and grammatical errors throughout this book.
Paper stock: Glossy coated stock.

It didn't look like that when I started reading it...


Binding: Sewn binding, which doesn't mean squat on a softcover. The signatures became separated from the glue piece and, as you can see here, this book was falling apart on the first read. I imagine that this is easily fixed with acid free library glue, but it is certainly a cause for concern.
Cardstock cover notes: Matte finish, resistant to scuffs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Review- ACG COLLECTED WORKS: ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN VOL. 5



ACG COLLECTED WORKS: ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN VOL. 5 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, 2013; Hardcover)

Collects Adventures Into The Unknown #21-25 (cover dates July- November, 1951)

Writers: Alan Hartwood, Charles Spain Verral and other, unidentified writers

Artists: Ken Bald, Paul Gattuso, Lin Streeter, Edvard Moritz, Charlie Sultan, Pete Riss, King Ward, Richard Brice, Art Gates, Jerry Grandenetti, Carl Kiefer, George Wilhelms, Leonard Starr, Al Camy, and Ogden Whitney



My rule of thumb when it comes to 1950s Pre-Code Horror comics is the closer that you get to the 1954 implementation of the Comics Code Authority, the better the material is. Every publisher was in direct competition with EC Comics, trying to outdo or even match what they were doing. Despite many valiant efforts no one really made it, but it's woefully ignorant to dismiss the contemporaries of EC.



Ghosts, werewolves, witches, and vampires become the focus of the series as the Horror elements are ramped up from one month to the next. This is easily the best volume in the line thus far, and I half expect Volume 6 to be even better.



#23's Shadow Of The Wolf features artwork by future newspaper strip legend Leonard Starr, who also did some work for DC around this time on Tales Of The Unexpected. ACG used the best hired guns around. The artwork as a whole really shines. The writing is decent but it's the artwork that saves the day here. I have become a big fan of Ogden Whitney due to this series.



Most of these stories tend to run into one another, as writers “borrowed” liberally from one another as well as from movies, books, and television. If something seems derivative or repetitive it is difficult to ascertain exactly where the idea originated from. Horror comics of the day were incestuous in this regard.



I read these books at a leisurely pace, as there is no sense of urgency when reading 60+ year old anthology series comic books. I get around to reading them when I get around to reading them, and it doesn't matter whether I read it in 2013 when this book was published or in late 2016 when I finally got around to it in my backlog rotation.
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...Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans with minimal tinkering. They remove all color from the word balloons, leaving them as bright white as the paper stock. The original printed comics had shoddy printing, and that is presented here warts and all. Off register printing and line bleed are all present, just like they were back then.
Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock.
Binding: Sewn binding. Lies mostly flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Review- BLACK-EYED KIDS VOL. 1: THE CHILDREN



BLACK-EYED KIDS VOL. 1: THE CHILDREN (Aftershock, First Printing, 2016; Softcover)

Collects Black-Eyed Kids #1-5 (cover dates April- August, 2016)

Writer: Joe Pruett
Artist: Szymon Kudranski (with cover art by Francesco Francavilla)
Colorist: Guy Major



I read the first issue via the black and white Halloween ComicFest edition a couple of months ago and was blown away by it, so much so that I grabbed this book and bumped it to the top of the reading pile.

Black Eyed Kids, or Black Eyed Children as they are referred to online, are a modern day boogeyman of sorts. For the past 20 years they have popped up all over the Internet. This comic book series takes the myth and spins into something else. Are the BEKs an ancient evil older than man? An invading alien species? Beings from another dimension which possess the bodies of children? We shall see...

Modern day comics (meaning anything made in this century) are cinematic in layout and delivery. Old comics were something in between a novel and movie, but modern comics rely on “camera angles” and “edits” for impact. For my money this style worked for this material. Horror comics benefit from less explanations, as a fear of the unknown and a lack of understanding have a tendency to add some kick to the proceedings.

The writing and artwork are top notch. While I felt that the black and white version of #1 was moodier and somewhat more effective, this was very enjoyable in color as well. Black and white is a tougher sell for a mainstream comic book audience, and a series as slick as this stands a fair chance of reaching a wider audience than the standard Horror comic crowd.

I'm in for Volume 2 whenever it arrives. I liked this so much that I read it twice before reviewing it. I never read anything twice anymore.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Nothing unusual to report here.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Matte coating with spot varnish.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review- JUDGE DREDD: THE COMPLETE CASE FILES VOL. 9



JUDGE DREDD: THE COMPLETE CASE FILES VOL. 9 (2000 AD, Second UK Printing, 2008; Softcover)

Collects the Judge Dredd stories from 2000 A.D. #424-473 (cover dates June 29, 1985- June 7, 1986)

Writers: John Wagner and Alan Grant

Artists: Steve Dillon, Carlos Esquerra, Ian Gibson, John Higgins, Cam Kennedy, Barry Kitson, Brendan McCarthy, Cliff Robinson, Ron Smith, and Brian Talbot



Curse the 2012 film Dredd!!! It was that movie that compelled me to gobble up the entire run of these books in a matter of months, leaving me still trying to catch up on reading them four years later.

Judge Dredd is the greatest black humour comic of all time. Much like Stephen Colbert, those who want to believe it as straight up commentary will do so, while the rest of us see it as the satire that it truly is. Dredd's the straight man, the absolute rule of law, might makes right testosterone-laden caricature with minimal characterization. In short, the order of the day for the 1980s. There's no need for depth or humanity here, as Dredd mirrored the material girl decade to a T.



I enjoyed the Nosferatu arc. Dredd often drifts into Horror territory, as the science fiction dystopian future is only a notch away from that anyways. Many of the arcs in this volume are lighter fare, less epic and more tongue in cheek fun than what came before. There are even some done in one stories here, like Love Story. In that one we find Dredd reaffirm his one true love: the law, going as far as to arrest a lovesick woman who wastes a judge's time, itself a criminal offense. There is another done in a few issues story where a Judge goes rogue when he falls in love. I guess that those are the most “human” stories in the book. The Warlord arc finds the '80s' fascination with martial arts on full display.

John Higgins turns in some stellar artwork on Beggar's Banquet. He of course went on to do the coloring for Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke. In many ways 2000 AD is like Saturday Night Live. New and unproven talent break out and leave here for the big time but are not afraid to come back once in a while.



This was an uneven yet entertaining read. Like I said, little in the way of character development but lots of action. I am okay with this, as it is better than a dumb comic which pretends to be smart. This is a smart comic that pretends to be dumb.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- There is gutter loss on the double page spreads. Some word balloons are swallowed up in there, resulting in you trying to pry the book a little to try and read what is written.
This book is wider than a standard trade paperback. The material is still reprinted smaller than the original publications, as UK comics were larger than US comics.
Linework restoration: Everything looks clean, although the handful of pages that were originally in color look like they were scanned from the original issues and look murky.
Paper stock: Thick uncoated stock. The paper has a coarse feeling to it which I find to be unpleasant to the touch.
Binding: Sewn binding.
Cardstock cover notes: This book has that dull matte frosted feeling coating which scuffs if you breathe on it too hard.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review- DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES



DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (Boom, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Dawn Of The Planet of the Apes #1-6 (cover dates November, 2014- April, 2015)

Writer: Michael Moreci
Artists: Dan McDaid with Inking by Adam Gorham
Colorist: Jason Wordie



This mini-series takes place two years after the Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes movie. It shares the name of the second film in the re-rebooted Apes franchise, but it's more of a bridge between the two films.

The story centers around a family of three at the end of the old world. Power systems are failing and people are reduced to an almost Mad Max, post-apocalyptic roving band of marauders cliché. Further complicating matters is that Rita has contracted the simian flu. Malcom wants to leave their home and travel to Austin, where there are rumors of a cure. I won't go into certain plot points here because they would spoil the story.

Koba's ambition to usurp control of the apes from Caesar is already apparent, as he conspired with Pope to go behind Caesar's back and leave the ape city to investigate. Koba is ruthless, as anyone who saw Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes knows. The rest of the gaps of the hows and whys of the second film are all set up here. I just wish that this series came out before the film.

I have no idea what is next for Boom's Apes series. They seem to have devolved into silly crossovers with Star Trek, Tarzan, and now Green Lantern, all of which I am boycotting because crossovers suck. They don't seem to be putting out any new material otherwise. They did announce a line of Archives which are going to reprint Marvel's black and white magazine by storyline rather than order of publication. I am excited to see them finally reprinted, and I hope that they publish them in the original magazine dimensions like Dark Horse and Dynamite have done with the Warren Magazines (Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella).



With another Apes film due next summer I'm hopeful for more new, non-crossover comics. BOOM has done right by the property thus far.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Unlike most Chinese made books, this one does not have that sweet toxic smell. I was kind of disappointed, to be honest with you. Huffing toxic Chinese made books is my favorite past time.
Paper stock: Thick glossy coated stock.
Binding: Sewn binding in a softcover. I'm not sure how much more durable sewn binding is on a glued softcover, as it isn't attached to cloth, but it sure makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside anyhow.
Cardstock cover notes: Matte coating on a thick cardstock cover. Unlike many “frosted” matte coatings, this does not scuff easily. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review- ACG COLLECTED WORKS: ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN VOL. 4



ACG COLLECTED WORKS: ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN VOL. 4 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, 2013; Hardcover)

Collects Adventures Into The Unknown #16-20 (cover dates February-June, 1951)



Writers: Richard Hughes and other unidentified writers

Artists: Ogden Whitney, Ken Bald, Lin Streeter, Emil Gershwin, Richard Case, Charlie Sultan, Al Camy, Paul Gattuso, Edvard Moritz, Bob Jenney, John Belfi, George Wilhelms, Paul Cooper, Richard Brice, Frank Siminski, Art Gates, W.G. Hargis, and John Rosenberger



This series gets better with each volume. The supernatural elements are continually ramped up as the competition from other publishers increased. These stories are more intense than any found in the first three volumes of this series. I suspect that this will only increase as we inch closer to the 1954 Senate sub-committee hearings which killed Horror comics off for a decade.



The recurring Spirit Of Frankenstein feature continues in #16, previously appearing in this series in #5, 8-10, and 12. The robot Frankenstein is basically a superhero type fighting other monstrosities by this point. Think of it in this regard as a precursor to Marvel's Bronze Age Horror comics like Werewolf By Night and Monster Of Frankenstein. There are no further appearances in this book, so I wonder if this is the end of the line. We shall see.

Zombies were becoming a recurring theme in Horror comic books by 1951. 


I found #17's Beast From The Beyond to be a fascinating read, as it felt very familiar. That's because it is an adaptation (authorized or not...) of John W. Campbell's 1938 pulp novella, Who Goes There? Science Fiction fans know the movies which were adapted from that story, The Thing From Another World and John Carpenter's godlike The Thing. This version is closer to the original story (much like Carpenter's movie) than the 1951 film which would hit theatres shortly after this issue hit the stands.



#19's The Hands Of Horror is great, a tale of a pair of artists and ambition gone wrong. It's a great story with the ironic twist ending that EC had already made their hallmark. Let's just say that all of the publishers of the day liberally borrowed from one another and from various other sources (books, movies, etc.).



All of the stories in this book have good writing and above average artwork. I am really enjoying these books, even if the restoration leaves a lot to be desired at times.
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...Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans with minimal tinkering. They remove all color from the word balloons, leaving them as bright white as the paper stock. The original printed comics had shoddy printing, and that is presented here warts and all. Off register printing and line bleed are all present, just like they were back then. This one even has one panel where a child wrote on it in pencil. I chuckled when I saw that.
The scan quality seems to vary from one issue to the next. Issues 16 and 18 look abysmal, like they were either scanned at an incredibly low resolution or sourced from microfiche. It's a blurry, nearly unreadable mess. My friend has the Dark Horse Archive with these issues and it blows this one out of the water, as it boasts a full blown restoration job.
Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock.
Binding: Sewn binding. Lies mostly flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Review- Halloween ComicFest 2016 offerings




Spidey #1: Halloween ComicFest 2016 Edition (Marvel, cover date December, 2016)

Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist: Nick Bradshow
Colorist: Jim Campbell

This is a reprint of the latest in a long line of all-ages reboot/ retellings of the earliest days of Spider-Man, designed to get kids into comic books. The fact of the matter is that awareness of these characters is at an all-time high, and everyone realizes that the source material is the comic books. Getting kids into comic books should be simple. A character like Spider-Man should be an easy sell to kids, and yet they continually try to peddle a pandering, “kiddie” version when kids (like my son) know that this isn't the “real” Spider-Man and aren't interested. This title will be cancelled within 18 issues.

This latest mash-up of movie and comic continuity falls flat on its face. In the Ultimate Spider-Man re-imagining 16 years ago they created a lot of contradictory continuity to the main Marvel Universe. Continuity which was co-opted by the movies and accepted as canon by the civilians. This re-imagining does nothing to set this right. It's entertaining to a degree, but I will never understand why Marvel can't sell a regular Spider-Man comic book to kids.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.



Harrow County #1: Halloween ComicFest 2016 Edition (Dark Horse, cover date October, 2016)

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Tyler Crook with Owen Gieni (Tales Of Harrow County one-page back-up feature)

Everyone has been raving about this series, nearly calling it the second coming or Horror. After reading this, I'm not sure that this lives up to the hype, but it is intriguing enough to read more issues. My OCD homeskillet Ferjo Byroy has all four trades and has offered to loan them to me. I may have to take him up on it.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.



Tomie: Halloween ComicFest 2016 Edition (Viz Media, cover date December, 2016)

Writer and Artist: Junji Ito

I am largely ignorant of Manga, more so in terms of the Manga sub-genre of Horror. While I dislike the right to left method of reading Manga, this was a decent enough read that it overcame this limitation. It's still not my cup of tea but if you are into Manga or Horror then this should be right up your alley.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.



Black Eyed Kids #1 Black & White Halloween Special (Aftershock, cover date October, 2016)

Writer: Joe Pruett
Artist: Szymon Kudranski

Okay, now this is the real deal. A Horror comic filled with suspense and highly effective artwork. I did a quick peek of the artwork online after reading this, and I feel that Szymon Kudranski's artwork works better in black and white than in color. The color version seems to strip his artwork of it's moodiness. In any case this was a terrific read that makes me want to pick it up and read more.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.



Haunted Mansion #1: Halloween ComicFest 2016 Edition (Marvel, cover date December, 2016)

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Jorge Coelho
Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu

I rode this ride when my family went to the Disney magic Kingdom near Orlando, FL three years ago. This is a fun read that I wouldn't hesitate to check out from the library and read for free.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review- THE GREEN LANTERN OMNIBUS VOL. 2



THE GREEN LANTERN OMNIBUS VOL. 2 (DC, First Printing, 2011; Hardcover)

Collects Green Lantern #22-45 (cover dates July, 1963- June, 1966)

Writers: Gardner Fox and John Broome
Artists: Gil Kane with Inking by Murphy Anderson, Frank Giacoia, Joe Giella, and Sid Greene



Comic books are a wonderful escape from reality. It doesn't get any more escapist than the absolute good versus evil, white hat versus black hat mentality of Silver Age DC. DC were behind the times. Cross town rivals Marvel Comics were steeped in the zeitgeist, reflecting the changes of the day with their more sophisticated output.



The stories are formulaic and often predictable, but this is said from my armchair fifty years later. Audiences are more sophisticated today, for better and often worse. The artwork is the real draw here though. Gil Kane is a god. His artwork matures here, becoming more refined with each passing month, until he reaches his true voice that fans of his Marvel Comics work know and love. I will go as far as saying that no one except for Kirby was doing it as good as Gil Kane in 1966. *Guards face from rocks and tomatoes*



I enjoyed every single issue in this book, but I will list the ones that really grabbed me. I loved the battle with The Shark in #24. I loved the fight that he and Green Lantern had in the Wein/Gibbons run in the 1980s, and it was great to read his first appearance and his rematch with Green Lantern in #28. We see Gil Kane break the fourth wall in issue 29 for no real reason. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did this over at Marvel a handful of times, so we'll just chalk it up to goofy Silver Age fun and move along.



#35's battle with The Golden Mask was a blast to read. Kane's action sequences really moved by this point. Folks like to throw words like dynamic around to describe Jack Kirby's artwork during this time. Kane was one of Kirby's few peers in 1966, and dare I say that he even gave the King a run for his money. Kane of course lacked Kirby's wild imagination, but for bone-crushing action Kane is right on the money.

Not everything here is timeless fun. Overly sensitive readers will find the portrayal of Hal Jordan/ Green Lantern's friend and confidant, Thomas Kalmaku (or Pieface as he is called) to be, shall we say...not as culturally sensitive as he is portrayed today. It's not a horribly racist caricature, but calling “his Eskimo friend” Pieface isn't something that would fly today.



Aside from that, this is brilliant stuff that was just what the doctor ordered for me. I welcomed the escape from reality that this book provided. DC is going to be reissuing this book as well as the first Omnibus in a hernia-inducing single volume titled Green Lantern: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1, so if you missed out on this one or hate the tight binding (see The OCD zone for more information) on this book I strongly recommend that you grab it. I'm done with endless double dips and upgrades, so I'm sticking with this glued abomination.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- DC's earliest entries into the Omnibus market were filled with missteps. To be fair, so were Marvel's. DC has since rectified the complaints in binding that I have below, so please understand that the complaints are about THIS BOOK, not about their Omnibus program as it currently stands, which is fine aside from not remastering their material.
Linework and Color restoration: The linework is excellent, as DC took very good care of their film. The color palette, while faithfully maintained here, is plagued by awful gradient blends instead of the more abrupt blends found in the original comics. If DC recolored their comics “by hand” on computer they could have rectified this.
Paper stock: Thick matte coated stock. I like the paper used in this book a lot.
Binding: Rage inducing glued mousetrap binding. It is so tight that this book should be kept away from small children. I wouldn't let my son near this book alone because it is a two fisted read. If you let it go it shuts fast. SNAP! He could break his finger or hand that way. This is some serious glue though. This book will never fall apart.



This book inspired me to make a video many moons ago. Bleeding Cool posted it, and it is the reason that many people discovered this here blog. I don't take myself too seriously, but this video is pretty bad. It makes me laugh.

Front cover. You can barely see it but Green Lanrern's power battery is stamped onto the front cover. DC's cheap feeling boards make me a sad panda.



Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: DC's matte boards feel so cheap. No foil stamping, nothing. The dustjacket has a thick lamination.