Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Originally posted on my myspace blog on 11/2 & 11/25/ 2008

We are truly living in the Golden Age of collected editions. I gaze at my bookshelves in awe of the wonders that have been released over the last several years. EC Archives, Creepy Archives, Golden and Atlas Age Masterworks, Werewolf By Night (OK, Essentials are not impressive, but at least I have all of the issues now)…these are things that I could only dream of owning/reading just a few short years ago. There is no way that I could ever afford to buy these issues, let alone read them, otherwise. Truly amazing. With everything, there comes a price, though. My allowance can only support so many books, so I find myself pruning newer titles. Minis are mostly out, i.e. Spider-Man With Great Power, Wolverine First Class, etc. This serves several purposes: 1. It frees up my cash flow so that it may be dedicated to better material, 2. these are usually ret-cons that only serve to tick me off, and then I pretend that these never happened and 3. these are always ignored in canon anyways! Most of these egotistical Hollywood writers won't acknowledge the work of one of their peers, so there you have it. Plus, without the vote from my wallet, Marvel will hopefully see the error of their ways and stop flooding the market with these pointless cash grabs. Everyone wins!
Collects Incredible Hulk Nos. 314-319, Incredible Hulk Annual No. 14 and Marvel Fanfare No. 29 (cover dates December, 1985- November, 1986).
This is Byrne at the top of his game, with solid stories and plenty of action. I always wondered what his run on this title was like when as he left my beloved Alpha Flight in 1985 to do this title. Now I know.

SPIDER-MAN: BRAND NEW DAY VOL. 1 (Marvel, 2008; Hardcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 546-551, Spider-Man Swing Shift and selections from Venom Super Special No. 1 (cover dates February- April, 2008, VSS August, 1995).
Wow! These are THE best new Spider-Man stories that I have read since I returned to comics in 2002-03. Plenty of old-school flavor here courtesy of Dan Slott, Steve McNiven, Salvador Larroca and company. They show Tom Brevoort's pitch for BND, where he states that Peter Parker is supposed to be 25. That is incorrect, as it has been calculated that he is actually 27 in Marvel time. Maybe Mephisto made him younger in One More Day.

Collects Superman (Vol. 1) Nos. 8, 9 and selections from Action Comics Nos. 32-36, World's Best Comics No. 1 (cover dates January- May, 1941).
I love the Chronicles line of trades! Where else can you get 192 pages of full color Golden Age goodness on pulp paper for $15? Sure, this stuff has been available as DC Archives for years, but my bookshelf and wallet cannot support yet another line of $50 hardcovers. Since I am not a DC fan per se', these trades are right up my alley. This batch of issues are from when National Periodicals/ DC Comics were head and shoulders above the competition. These stories offer a quaint snapshot of this bygone era and are just plain old-fashioned fun! No real super-villains in this volume, just a bunch of random gangsters and whatnot. The rampant sexism from earlier issues has been toned down, but Superman's 'might makes right' mentality is still in place. He does many non-heroic things, like threaten people, etc. I love the fashions, slang, and cars, and have to keep reminding myself every time that I read one of these books that these were the styles of the time and not just retro props.

HALLOWEEN VOL. 1: NIGHTDANCE (Devil's Due, 2008)
Collects Halloween: Nightdance Nos. 1-4 (cover dates February- May, 2008)
Really good stuff from Devil's Due Publishing. I am a big fan of these movies (ok, there were a few stinkers in the bunch), and this is pretty faithful. The TPB (trade paperback for you civilians) contains many worthwhile extras: all of the variant covers are reprinted inside, and there is an original text story in the back of the book that is quite good.

Collects Wonder Woman (Vol. 2) Nos. 106-112 (cover dates February- August, 1996)
A great writer can make any character seem interesting. John Byrne was in cash-cow mode here (writer/penciler/ inker/ letterer), and as such, the quality of his artwork was not up to his '80s prime. Still, there is a fluidity to his storytelling that made this a blast to read, and below par Byrne is still better than firing on all cylinders Bendis.

Collects Tales From The Crypt Nos. 29-34 (cover dates April/May, 1952- February/ March, 1953)
EC Comics are the best comic books ever made. To think that this stuff pre-dates The Twilight Zone, most Hitchcock, etc., just goes to show how much this influenced others.

PSI-FORCE CLASSIC VOL. 1 (Marvel, 2008)
Collects Psi-Force Nos. 1-9 (cover dates November, 1986- July, 1987)
Like all of the New Universe titles, I bought this off of the stands circa '86-'87. There were 4 different creative teams involved in the first 9 issues alone. To their credit, there is only one plotline inconsistency in the series (which may have occurred off panel). The things that I liked about this series back in the '80s was that it was set in real time (i.e. a month occurred between issues), the characters didn't have superhero names or costumes (a real novelty for a mainstream Marvel Comic at the time), and they didn't even really fight supervillains or do 'heroic' things. Unfortunately, this series doesn't hold up very well, with its slang and pop culture references being painfully dated, and the dialogue and narrative being overly wordy. The artwork is strictly second and third tier, being "scratchy", as that fad had begun inching its way into comics at the time.

Collects Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Nos. 88-99 (cover dates September, 1970- August, 1971)
Simply put, this is as good as it gets. Brilliant writing by Stan Lee with superb artwork by Gil Kane, John Romita, Sr., and Jim Mooney. I owned Nos. 96-98 at one time, and they rank among my all-time favorite comic books. Green Goblin + Harry's drug abuse + Gil Kane's artwork = one of the best arcs of the '70s.

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