Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Search Of... Junk Food For Thought

ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN VOL. 9 (Marvel, 2009)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 186-210, Amazing Spider-Man Annual Nos. 13, 14 and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual No. 1. (cover dates November, 1978- November, 1980).
Sometimes one forgets how good something was! I owned all of these as floppies back in the '80s when they were cheap-o back issues and/or quarter box fodder, but they were all sold when my Mom died (see my first blog post for that story). ASM Annual No. 13 is fantastic, and I must have read it dozens of times circa 1983. My friend had 189 when I was a kid, and it was my first exposure to both John Byrne's artwork and the Man-Wolf. I have never been the same. My Mom bought me ASM 195 at Farmer Jack, and 196 up north that summer at a store near my Grandpa's cottage. In 196, there is a scene where Aunt May's house in Forest Hills has been ransacked. That summer up north, my sister and I were roaming around the countryside and found an old abandoned house. The door was kicked open so we decided to look inside, and it was completely destroyed. Chunks of plaster were on the floor, items strewn about, and my then 6 year old mind thought of that panel. Looking back, it's amazing how my Mom allowed my sister and I to roam around unsupervised. No cell phones, no GPS, just "be back by dark". I used to wander with a piece of chalk. My Grandpa taught me to mark the trees with it, and then I would be able to find my way back. By the end of that summer, every single tree likely had chalk markings! Back to the comic books! Keith Pollard's artwork is great, and I wish that he would return to Marvel. A neophyte John Romita, Jr. shows immense potential in Issue 210. Marv Wolfman, Denny O'Neil, Bill Mantlo, and Roger Stern all turn in solid stuff too. Lots of classic villains (Mysterio, Kingpin, Dr. octopus), soon-to-be classics (Black Cat) and some never to be seen again (Fusion). This phone book is just chock full of good stories.



JLA VOL. 15: THE TENTH CIRCLE (DC Comics, 2004)
Collects JLA Nos. 94-99 (cover dates Early May- Late July, 2004)
Wow! I had heard rumblings about the Chris Claremont/ John Byrne "reunion" arc over at DC, but never bothered looking into it until May. After a quick search of the Trade Paperback List, I discovered that a trade already existed! Man, this is some good stuff! Claremont's writing is flawless, Byrne turns in some of his best-ever artwork, Jerry Ordway's inks are a perfect complement to Byrne's pencils, David Baron makes excellent use of computer coloring (which, like CGI, is a hit or miss artform), and Tom Orzechowski's hand lettering is as pleasing to they eye as ever. In fact, if I could get a Word font for his and Artie Simek's 1970-on lettering, I would be ecstatic. Seriously people, I hate to gush, but this is as good as it gets. I would love to Claremont and Byrne work together again in any capacity, and would read whatever they did. Westerns, Jungle, I would take any genre, no matter how uninteresting it may be to me. Those two are like Lennon and McCartney: the fans love what they do together, but it is Hell for the creators involved. Why does the creative dynamic have to be like that? Creative people seemed to be wired differently than normal folk.




MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN VOL. 13: ANIMAL ATTACK! (Marvel, 2009)
Collects Marvel Adventures Spider-Man Nos. 49-52 (cover dates May- August, 2009)
Once again, this series is decent and entertaining, but since I have made a resolution to drop all non-main Marvel Universe continuity titles this gets the axe.















CAPTAIN BRITAIN VOL. 3: THE LION AND THE SPIDER (Marvel UK, 2009)
Collects selections from Hulk Comic Weekly Nos. 1, 3-30, Marvel Team-Up (Vol. 1) Nos. 65, 66 and Super Spider-Man & Captain Britain Weekly Nos. 239-247 (cover dates September 7, 1977- September 26, 1979).
This is an uneven collection by all counts; story, artwork, and restoration. The SSMCBW stories range in quality from scans to washed out artwork, with the stories ranging from passable to laughable. The material from Hulk Comic is the best in the book, where Captain Britain essentially takes a back seat to strip headliner the Black Knight. The team of writer Steve Parkhouse and artist Paul Neary turn in a huge arc that could only be British. Very Dungeons and Dragons-esque, all medieval type stuff with gorgeously detailed black and white artwork, and worth the price of admission alone.



THE FILTH (DC, 2004)
Collects The Filth Nos. 1-13 (cover dates August, 2002- October, 2003)
Can't say that I am much of a Grant Morrison fan, but the cover of the first issue (pictured below) was in one of those features in Wizard Magazine where they ask an artist to pick their 10 favorite covers. I thought that it was a compelling image, did a quick search online, and then went out and bought the book. It was, at times, enjoyable, repulsive, violent, fun, perverse, thought provoking, intelligent, and retarded. Chris Weston and Gary Erskine's artwork is top notch, and the visuals often make up for the writing. The coloring by Hi-Fi Design is also fantastic. Digital coloring is difficult to do right, because so many colorists feel that because you have a million different colors that you have to use them all. Less can be more. I think that I need to read this a few more times for it to truly sink in. Think of it as a vastly inferior Watchmen.





























DRAGON’S CLAWS (Marvel UK, 2008)
Collects Death’s Head (Vol. 1) No. 2 and Dragon’s Claws Nos. 1-10 (cover dates June, 1988- April, 1989).
I bought the first issue or two of this series as an import in the late '80s but dropped it because it was so expensive. I always wondered what happened with the characters, and spotted this book on Amazon.co.uk and ordered it from their US counterpart. Simon Furman and Geoff Senior turn in an often derivative but always entertaining Madmax/Rollerball hybrid with a uniquely British flavOur. These comics were worlds more violent than their Marvel US counterparts of the time. I enjoyed the team of Furman and Senior on the later issues of Transformers as well. British writers and artists all tend to have a certain, almost pessimistic view, of the future and of authority that always seems interesting to me. I hope that these two can someday relaunch this series and tie up the handful of loose ends that weren't resolved in Issue 10.








BIGFOOT (IDW, 2005)
Collects Bigfoot Nos. 1-4 (cover dates February- May, 2005)
Less a comic book than flipbook storyboard for a movie, this is an insanely fast-paced read written by Steve Niles and Rob Zombie with artwork by comics veteran Richard Corben. Lots of violent, bloody fun here, this would make a good movie. There are entire segments that make Bendis seem like a Victorian wordsmith, though. I used to watch the show In Search Of... with Leonard Nimoy as a kid, and have always been a sucker for Bigfoot, UFOs, the Lochness Monster, etc.










CLOAK AND DAGGER: CHILD OF DARKNESS, CHILD OF LIGHT (Marvel, 2009; Hardcover)
Collects Cloak and Dagger Nos. 1-4 (cover dates October, 1983- January, 1984)
Bill Mantlo is one of those unsung greats. I have always liked his writing, especially on Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man in the late '70s and mid '80s and the Rocket Raccoon mini-series from 1985. Wizard recently did a piece on him, and it was nice to see a mainstream publication shine a light on him and his accomplishments. It's really unfortunate about his health nowadays, and I hope that the royalties that he receives from collected editions like this help to pay his medical bills. Cloak and Dagger are an interesting concept and a terrific read. Rick Leonardi's artwork is good, too. I never cared for him 'back in the day' but appreciate him now. The Marvel Premiere Classic format is wonderful for the presenting mini-series like this in a nice package with nice paper and sewn binding in hardcover. I'd like to see Marvel release more Cloak and Dagger in this format.







NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: SCORPIO (Marvel, 2000)
Collects Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nos. 1-3, 5 (cover dates June- October, 1968)
This is one of those older Marvel trades, with lackluster restoration and coloring that is unfaithful to the original issues. Still, this was in the cheapie box at the Motor City Con in May, and I couldn't resist. Someday I will upgrade to the Masterworks, but my wallet cannot support yet another run of high end hardcovers for the time being. Jim Steranko was an amazing artist and decent writer for the era. His page layouts were revolutionary, and it is unfortunate that younger readers do not get the full impact of his brilliance. The only other artist that did as much for page layouts in the '60s was Neal Adams. All in all, this is a highly entertaining read and is worth the Masterworks cabbage if you can afford it. I hope to get them in the not-too distant future.




CREEPY ARCHIVES VOL. 3 (Dark Horse, 2009; Hardcover)
Collects Creepy Nos. 11-15 (cover dates October, 1966- June, 1967)
I am thrilled to see this line continue, with Vol. 4 already in my possession (pun intended), Vol. 5 solicited, and Vol. 6 recently announced for February. Woo hoo! All of the usual EC greats contribute to this series, but Steve Ditko's black and white artwork really shines here. Once all of the dust settles and the entire run has been collected in hardcover, it would be nice if Dark Horse collected these in phone book format for the more budget conscious comic book fan and the masses in general.



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