Sunday, August 2, 2009

Originally posted on my myspace blog on 6/18 & 7/4/2009

UNCANNY X-MEN: MANIFEST DESTINY (Marvel, 2009; Hardcover)
Collects Uncanny X-Men Nos. 500-503, X-Men: Free Comic Book Day 2008 and selections from X-Men: Manifest Destiny Nos. 1-5.
The core UXM issues are a good read, with decent artwork. For some reason, though, I cannot stand the stubble-laden Cyclops. He has always been clean cut. Emma Frost/ the White Queen still needs to be evil again, too. The short stories from the X-Men: Manifest Destiny issues are pointless character sketches with mostly crappy artwork. 

Collects Fantastic Four Nos. 215-218, 220, 221, Marvel Team-Up (Vol. 1) Nos. 61, 62 and Marvel Two-In-One No. 50 (cover dates September, 1977- August, 1980).
Superb! The Marvel Team-Up issues are Claremont/Byrne in their prime. Every single story is a winner, especially the Blastaar/ Futurist "arc" in the main title.

Collects John Byrne’s Next Men Nos. 0-12 (cover dates February, 1992- February, 1993)
OK, so I got suckered into buying this $50 hardcover less than a year after the black and white phone books came out. This is such a great read that I simply had to have it in full color and in hardcover. This is a nice package with heavy duty paper and sewn binding.

Collects Spider-Girl Nos. 52-59 (cover dates December, 2002- June, 2003)
I got nervous when they hadn’t solicited one of these digests in a while. Once again, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, and Pat Olliffe deliver the goods. Oh, and my copy is cooler than yours because Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz both signed it at this year's Motor City Comic Con.

SUPERMEN! THE FIRST WAVE OF COMIC BOOK HEROES 1936-1941 (Fantagraphics, 2009)
Collects selections from Amazing Mystery Funnies (Vol. 2) No. 3, Big Shot Comics No. 1, Blue Bolt Comics (Vol. 1) Nos. 5, 10, Comics Magazine No. 1, Detective Picture Stories No. 5, Fantastic Comics No. 12, Jungle Comics No. 4, Mystery Men Comics No. 4, Pep Comics No. 3, Planet Comics No. 5, Science Comics No. 4, Silver Streak Comics Nos. 4, 7, Star Comics No. 5, Target Comics (Vol. 1) No. 11 and Wonderworld Comics No. 8 (cover dates May, 1936- March, 1941).
This is a totally sweet collection of public domain Golden Age superheroes. When I am in the right mood, Golden Age comics have so much charm that I can't get enough of them. The rawness of the artwork and the lack of refinement in the storytelling make this a blast to read. There are some gems in this book: The Face is a really good concept, and Project Superpowers' Death Defying 'Devil is found in his second appearance, as The Daredevil. The always brilliant Bill Everett's Sub-Zero tangles with "Professor X". The Comet also pre-dates Cyclops of the X-Men by some 25-odd years, with his visor and eye beam look and powers. It's interesting how much Marvel swiped from the various Golden Age publishers who let their copyrights lapse. There are some stories in this book that I am dumber for having read, too. Stardust, the Super Wizard being one. It's tough to follow, and the artwork is Rob Liefeld bad. Instead of feet and the number of digits, Fletcher Hanks has trouble with necks. Stardust looks like a frickin' giraffe. Spacehawk, Superhuman Enemy of Crime by Basil Wolverton is enjoyable. I've got to hand it to Fantagraphics, this is a great package. It's a softcover with heavy duty uncoated paper stock with sewn binding! Unfortunately, due to the thickness of the paper and the glue required to hold the softcover on, it does not lay flat. The restoration was done rather interestingly. Rather than scan and clean up/ recolor old comics like Marvel does, this is straight up high resolution scans. For better or worse, you see the color limitations from the old oil based inks, the line bleed, the inconsistencies, and you know what? I love it! I like seeing this stuff spit-shined and restored, but this is like getting a mp3 rip off of vinyl. It has a different tonal quality that is somehow appealing, although I wouldn't want a steady diet of it. Whatever the case, it works here. This is a first rate collection and I hope that it sells well enough for further exploration. I would also like to see character-centric collections, i.e. any of the names I dropped above.

Collects The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones Nos. 1-12 and Raiders of the Lost Ark Nos. 1-3 (cover dates September, 1981- December, 1983)
This collects the Marvel run, and the core title was a decent read. The Raiders of the Lost Ark adaptation sucked, though, with what must have been the worst art of John Buscema's career. Klaus Janson is a terrible inker, and I'm sure that he didn't help things any. I bought Issue 7 off of the stands back in '83.

Collects Batman Nos. 12, 13 and selections from Detective Comics Nos. 66-70 and World’s Finest Comics No. 7 (cover dates August- December, 1942).
Batman was the best comic around during this time period. The stories and artwork are more sophisticated than anything over at Timely (Marvel as they came to called later on). Early Batman villains are cool, too. The Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face...these are all great. A fun, economical read.

Collects Avengers: The Initiative Nos. 14-19 (cover dates August, 2008- January, 2009)
This was pretty enjoyable. Dan Slott is a solid writer and has a pretty good grasp on the Marvel Universe. It's a shame that it took this many issues for this series to find its footing. I am dropping the title as I really dislike the whole Initiative angle and am no longer an Avengers completist.

X-FACTOR: SECRET INVASION (Marvel, 2009)Collects X-Factor (Vol. 3) Nos. 33-38 and She-Hulk No. 31 (cover dates September, 2008- February, 2009).
Good stuff by Peter David and company. The artwork is done by a rotating crew and is inconsistent but competent. I appreciate the fact that this series takes place in Detroit. Marvel should let Peter David take tour of the 'real' Detroit. I'm sure he could write some insane stories if he saw what the residents see.

Collects Avengers Nos. 181-187 (cover dates March- September, 1979)
Absolute brilliance by David Micheline and John Byrne! Art of the highest order. Five stars. 10 out of 10. Someone needs to hand this trade to Bendis and say "Here, read this. This is how you write comic books. He would have stretched this out to like 3 or 4 trades worth of issues. This is the third time that I have bought this material in trade. First was the black and white "Backpack Marvel"* trade Knights of Wundagore. (*Backpack Marvels was a short-lived black and white softcover format, smaller than a standard trade, yet larger than a digest. They were released circa 2000 and vanished with 4 titles released.) Then was the full color hackjob Yesterday Quest trade, which omitted entire issues, covers, splash and recap pages, etc. Horrible. Some of those '90s Marvel trades really, really sucked. This one is first class all the way, though, with several DVD style extras in the back. Of particular interest is the alternate page of Avengers 182, which is way cooler than the one that was used. Boring nostalgic rambling: On one of our trips to my grandparent's cottage circa summer 1979, my brother picked up #187 at the IGA. He later gave it to me, and the cover has always stuck in my head as being super cool. I still have that comic book to this day.

Collects Death: The High Cost of Living Nos. 1-3 and Death Talks About Life (cover dates March- May, 1993, 1994).
Wow, this was the tenth printing of this book!?! This is an enjoyable Sandman tie-in that you don't have to know much about Sandman (like I don't) to understand what is going on. Not a fan of Chris Bachalo's pencils, but they are better here than they are in his more recent Marvel stuff.

Collects Captain Britain and MI13 Nos. 1-4 (cover dates July- October, 2008) and Marvel Team-Up (Vol. 1) Nos. 65, 66 (cover dates February- March, 1978).
This series has a decent concept but it was undermined from the get-go by it being spun out of a crossover. I have always enjoyed Captain Britain because he was a lovable buffoon, but that charm is nowhere to be found here. Still, it is nice to see the Black Knight (a/k/a Dane Whitman) back in action. This was all in all a solid read, but it has already gotten the axe, so I won't get too attached to it. The classic MTU stories from the '70s are prime Claremont/ Byrne and are worth the price of admission alone.

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