Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Junk Food For Thought: The Next Generation

YOU SHALL DIE BY YOUR OWN EVIL CREATION!: MORE COMICS OF FLETCHER HANKS (Fantagraphics, 2009)
Collects selections from Daring Mystery Comics Nos. 4, 5, Fantastic Comics Nos. 1-6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, Fight Comics Nos. 1, 3-9, Jungle Comics Nos. 1, 2, 4-6, 8, 11-14 and Planet Comics Nos. 2 (cover dates December, 1939- February, 1941).
Over the course of these two books, I have become completely enamored with the writing and artwork of Fletcher Hanks' so bad-that-it's-great comic books. These are so ridiculous and over the top that you can't help but love them. I have now read the man's complete works, and am a better human being for having done so. Also, the paper in this book smells fantastic. Take that, iPad!

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE VOL. 7: THE MIST AND THE PHANTOM OF THE FAIR (DC, 2009)
Collects Sandman Mystery Theatre Nos. 37-44 (cover dates April- November, 1996)
This is one great series, for adults at least. I wouldn't let my son anywhere near this series! I find myself thinking (in a Stan Marsh voice) "Dude, this is pretty f**ked up right here", with some of the crazy goings on in this title. I love the whodunits, and find myself trying to figure out who it is as each act unfolds. Sometimes I guess it immediately, other times I miss the mark completely. I cannot get enough of the mystery/ detective/ crime/ noir hybrid that is this title.
SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE: SLEEP OF REASON (DC, 2007)
Collects Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason Nos. 1-5 (cover dates February- June, 2007)
After 7 trades/ 44 extremely satisfying issues of Sandman Mystery Theatre, this was a shock to the system. The overall quality here is far lower than the core series, likely due to the fact that it is a different creative team. This seems like Marvel's Death's Head 3.0 from a few years ago, being a feeble attempt at rebooting/ re-imagining a title, and like that trade, should be avoided.
MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL. 11 (Marvel, 2009)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 100-109 (cover dates September, 1971- June, 1972)
Marvel Masterworks are my poison of choice, with the finest restoration, paper, and binding in this day and age. To have comics that I once owned the floppies to presented in a deluxe, high-end format like this makes them seem far more important. I found Issue 103 in a quarter box circa 1983, and it was among my earliest exposure to Gil Kane's godlike artwork. I owned 101 and 102 as well, with 101 featuring the first appearance of my beloved Morbius, the Living Vampire (scroll through earlier blogs for more on that). Lots of people bag on this era of Spider-Man, and I fail to see why. You get writing from either Stan Lee or Roy Thomas, both among the greatest comic book writers of all-time, and artwork by Gil Kane and/or John Romita, Sr., who are among the greatest comic book artists of all-time. Honestly, these are comic books at their finest, and while there isn't much here that went down in Marvel history as an important event, these are solid reads with great artwork. Isn't that what one really wants from comic books?
ASTONISHING X-MEN VOL. 5: GHOST BOX (Marvel, 2009)
Collects Astonishing X-Men (Vol. 3) Nos. 25-30 and Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes Nos. 1, 2 (cover dates September, 2008- August, 2009).
My OCD is a strange thing indeed. For instance, it dictates that I buy everything in hardcover whenever available. The strange thing is that this was solicited in hardcover first, but my OCD forced me to pass on it, knowing that Vol. 5 of the softcovers would be out. Aside from the original periodical single issue publication, this series was issued in a series of 4 softcover trade paperbacks, then reissued again as 2 oversized hardcovers, which were re-issued AGAIN as an omnibus (oversized deluxe hardcover edition). I stuck with my softcovers, and, wanting a matching set, decided to see the format through. Strange, eh? You know what? These books also have STORIES inside them, so format be damned, this was a terrific read. I do not like the fact that Ellis writes the X-Men as means-to-an-end, we killed someone, oh well characters. That bugs me. I still dislike The White Queen (a/k/a Emma Frost) as an X-Man. I SO want to see this be the mother of all set-ups where she reveals that she has been evil all along, and deliver a fatal blow to the team. I have been waiting for this to happen since Grant Morrison's run earlier last decade. Please, someone fix this!! The 2 issue Ghost Boxes mini-series was pointless DC Universe-style nonsense. I am uninterested in other, 'what if' type dimensions.
THE GREEN LANTERN CHRONICLES VOL. 2 (DC, 2009)
Collects Green Lantern Nos. 4-9 (cover dates February- December, 1961)
Silver Age Green Lantern has a zany, fun flavor to it, with all of the lovable faulty science and far-out space adventures that one could possibly want. Couple that with superb artwork by Gil Kane and you have a winner. Many of the mainstays of Green Lantern are introduced during this time period (i.e. Sinestro, the Green Lantern Corps). I am still a GL neophyte, with this being only the second book that I have read. I hear that last year's Blackest Night mini-series was really good. I will wait for Chronicles Vol. 280 to find out!

EX MACHINA VOL. 8: DIRTY TRICKS (DC, 2009)
Collects Ex Machina Nos. 35-39 and Ex Machina Special No. 3 (cover dates October, 2007- January, 2009).
This series never disappoints, and I am sad that it will end with issue 50. I suppose that it is better to have a finite ending and leave a quality body of work rather than let it meander and fizzle out.
G.I. JOE CLASSIC VOL. 6 (IDW, 2009)
Collects G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero Nos. 51-60 (cover dates September, 1986- June, 1987)
I bought every one of these issues off of the stands the day that they came out. I haven't read these issues since then, so this was a blast to go back and re-read them. I was surprised at how many issues I could remember the plot to all of these years later. Larry Hama breathed life into what were, quite literally, plastic characters and made most of this stuff seem believable. Serpentor, well, not so much. I can't believe that they didn't reprint the story from G.I. Joe Yearbook #3 that was the conclusion to Issue 56. My only other gripe is that the restoration is poor, with low resolution scanning resulting in fuzzy black lines on the borders and word balloons. They went to the trouble of re-coloring the issues to match the original color palette but couldn't be bothered with high resolution scans? My $50 scanner could have done a better job. Oh well, these are good reads in spite of that.
EERIE ARCHIVES VOL. 2 (Dark Horse, 2009; Hardcover)
Collects Eerie Nos. 6-10 (cover dates November, 1966- July, 1967)
Another finely produced hardcover with many finely rendered tales by some of the all-time greats, such as Steve Ditko, Joe Orlando, Neal Adams, Dan Adkins, Archie Goodwin, Frank Frazetta and Gene Colan, among many others. The stories probably seem dated and formulaic to modern day readers but bleed lovable Gothic Horror charm in my opinion. Volumes 3 and 4 have been solicited, and Dark Horse has recently announced that there will be 25 volumes of Creepy and 23 Volumes of Eerie. That scares my wallet more than these stories do!The cover of this book (pictured above, taken from Eerie #8) is one of the many great Frank Frazetta paintings that graced the covers of this series and it's sister title, Creepy. I first encountered this image 20 odd years ago, when I picked up Nazareth's Expect No Mercy album on cassette, the cover image being the reason that I selected that album over several of their other available titles. This was 1989 or 1990, and there was no Internet as such. In fact, if you didn't hear a song on the radio or know anyone who owned the album, the only way that you got to hear it was to buy it. Oh, the stone age! In any case, Frazetta's artwork also prompted me to buy Molly Hatchet's debut album way back when too, but that one sucked. More recently, the cover to Eerie #7 appeared as the artwork to the cover of Wolfmother's debut album. OK, comic book and music history lesson's done.
G.I. JOE CLASSIC VOL. 7 (IDW, 2010)
Collects G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero Nos. 61-70 (cover dates July, 1987- April, 1988)
Like the issues contained in Volume 6 of this series of trade paperbacks, I bought each and every issue off of the stands the day that they came out. And like Volume 6, this has restoration issues, although not as bad as Volume 6. A little more time and TLC in the handling and scanning of this material would be greatly appreciated. Also like Volume 6 is the fun factor involved in these stories. These are just terrific reads, all warm and fuzzy with the glow of nostalgia. Another problem is that when they restored some of the lettering, they put the wrong letters in place, messing up the words as they were originally published (i.e. P instead of F).I recently read online that Larry Hama will be picking up the original Marvel series continuity with Issue 155 and 1/2, since it ended with Issue 155. I hope that IDW collects the rest of the run up to that point. I know that they are planning at least 9 Volumes, so here's to hoping for 15! I hope that they collect the G.I. Joe Yearbooks too, at least the portions that weren't reprint and recap stuff. There were some beautiful Michael Golden covers if I recall correctly. Again, go down to your local comic shop or bookstore and buy this so that I can get the complete run in this format. Thanks!

How To Train Your Dragon
I took my 3 year old son to see this, and he loved it. There were a few scenes that were a little scary for him, but none that could scar him for life as badly as Bambi scarred me as a 3 or 4 year old. I like the fact that this movie didn't rely on pop culture references or double entendres to be entertaining for adults. The story was decent in its own right. CGI animation is seamless these days, drawing you in completely without seeming like it's artificial. For the record, we saw it in traditional 2-D, but it must have been pretty cool in 3-D. I didn't think that my little boy was ready for a 3-D experience yet. The lead character, Hiccup is very similar to John Cusak, and one of the other kids is a hairsbreadth-away-from-a-lawsuit Jack Black clone. All in all, not a bad way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Slash
Slash's first true solo album is more a collection of collaborations with the respective artists whom he teams up with to handle the vocal duties on each track. By The Sword sounds like a leftover from the latest Wolfmother album, which is a good thing. I was surprised that I liked the Fergi collaboration, as I have a general disdain for most modern diva-type/ cheeseball Disney Channel pop "stars". This album rocks pretty hard for the most part and is what you would want and expect from Slash. I'm still pining away for a true Guns N' Roses reunion myself, but I'll take what I can get.

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