Monday, August 9, 2010

An embarrassment of riches

THE WONDER WOMAN CHRONICLES VOL. 1 (DC,2010)
Collects Wonder Woman No. 1 and selections from All-Star Comics No. 8 and Sensation Comics Nos. 1-9 (cover dates December, 1940/ January, 1941- September, 1942).
Outstanding! This is incredibly well-written and well-drawn...heck, it's even well lettered. There is an underlying theme of bondage and dominance/submission, which is downright hilarious when you consider that kids scooped this stuff up by the truckload. It must have been so underground and so far off of 'Middle America's' radar that maybe no one noticed. I'll put it to you this way: Wonder Woman's magic lasso did not force people to tell the truth like it was portrayed to in the '70s TV show. Here it forced people to submit to whatever Wonder Woman ordered them to. Again, this made me chuckle as I read it.
I also had to laugh at the ret-cons in Wonder Woman #1, where they alter and insert different points into her origin. The Internet would be lit up with raging nerds over such a thing these days, but no one likely noticed circa 1942. Unlike Batman, Wonder Woman's primary enemy is the Nazi party, with several of these stories' publication date pre-dating America's involvement in World War II. I find it odd that Batman avoided politics in his title(s), but Wonder Woman is primarily a political title at this time.
All in all, a great read, and I am looking forward to the continuation of this line of trades. 

IRON MAN: ARMOR WARS PROLOGUE (Marvel, 2010)
Collects Iron Man Nos. 215-224 (cover dates February- November, 1987)
David Michelinie and Bob Layton (with Mark Bright) are simply amazing. I had never read any of these issues before I bought this trade, and I am kicking myself for having missed much of this era of Iron Man on a monthly basis. I bought issues 189-192 off of the spinner racks at 7-11 circa 1984, and the odd issue here and again, but for some reason or another this title never grabbed my younger self. Pity. I think the main reason why I was so put off by Iron Man as a lad was because he didn't have any powers, he had a suit. Anybody could wear a suit and be powerful, so it didn't work for me. Fast forward to 2010, and the world is a much different place. Technology is in everything. My phone could outperform 1987 desktop computers, for chrissakes! This makes Iron Man much more believable, almost realistic. I choose to use the word realistic sparingly when referring to comic books, because quite frankly, there is nothing realistic about guys gearing up and fighting each other. In reality, everyone would get their rockstar paycheck and cash out. Of course I now realize that Tony Stark's "superpower" is his intellect.
I absolutely love the whole Justin Hammer thing, as corporations are evil, right? We all say so, yet we all choose to work for the biggest fish possible. On a simpler level, I like to think of companies as evil, hiring villains like Blacklash, Blizzard, and the Beetle to tangle with their competitor's bodyguard (Iron Man). 

THE AVENGERS: STANDOFF (Marvel, 2010)
Collects Avengers Nos. 62-64, Iron Man No. 64 and Thor No. 58 (cover dates February- April, 2003)
Marvel has been reissuing the long out of print Geoff Johns Avengers trade paperbacks as hardcovers. This particular arc was never collected during that initial run. I wish that Marvel's trade paperback program was as comprehensive back then as it is now, as those 5 trades would've made more sense had I read these issues. This is good, solid stuff overall. 

Time Bomb #1 (Radical, cover date July, 2010)
Free works! So does steeply discounted introductory priced comics, like those $1.00 comics put out by DC, Dynamite, etc. This title was one of the ones featured in this year's Free Comic Book Day sampler by Radical, where they featured an 8 page preview of several upcoming titles. I likely would have not considered this title blind, but once I got a taste, I was in. I normally don't buy floppies/ single issues, but I went on one of my random guerrilla-style comic store stops, where I go and pick out 3 or 4 comic books (not trades) that I have never read before, just to see what I am missing. The presentation is nice, basically a 'prestige-format' comic. That means that it is glued into a cardstock cover instead of stapled. This title is a tremendous value, with some 50+ pages of story for $4.99 MSRP, much better than 22 or so pages for $3.99 from Marvel or DC.
I won't give anything away, but let's just say that Nazis and time machines are a can't miss scenario. The only thing missing are werewolves. There are two more issues, so let's hope that we see some form of lupine before all is said and done (kidding). I will trade-wait for the rest of the series, but am 100% on board.

NEW MUTANTS CLASSIC VOL. 5 (Marvel, 2010)
Collects New Mutants Nos. 35-40, New Mutants Special Edition and Uncanny X-Men Annual No. 9 (cover dates Annual 1985- June, 1986).
Chris Claremont, in his prime, was a writing force to be reckoned with. Character development? Ongoing subplots? Thought-provoking metaphor? Like Ragu, it's in there. These are such well-written comic books and are sadly overlooked by today's comic book fans. I didn't 'get' this series back when these issues were originally released. It was too far beyond my scope of what I wanted in a comic book at the time. Arthur Adams, the artist on the UXM Annual and the NMSE, is not my cup of tea. I didn't like his artwork back then, and I don't like his old artwork now. His current output is worlds better than this stuff.
This trade paperback also shows how much current X-Men offshoots blow. Read this and then pick any X-title published today... you'll mourn for this once-great franchise the way that I do. 

HAUNT VOL. 1 (Image, 2010)
Collects Haunt Nos. 1-5 (cover dates October, 2009- February, 2010)
My friend loaned me the floppy of Issue 1, and I liked it well enough to pick up this trade paperback. While I was sad to see writer/ co-creator Robert Kirkman axe The Astounding Wolf-Man, this is a nice consolation prize. Inker/ co-creator Todd McFarlane is finally back where he belongs: behind the boards! While the day-to-day business of running a comic book company is surely something he must love, the fans just want to see him draw. McFarlane is pretty much the only one of the original Image guys whose work that I enjoy. Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, etc.? No thanks.
While the "hero" of the series, Haunt, reminds me of Spider-Man enemy Carnage in appearance and powers, the premise of this series is different enough for me to give it a fair shake. Super violent and super fun, this is definitely not intended for children. I am on board for Vol. 2, and will come along for the ride as long as the quality is maintained at this level. 

CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN (Marvel, 2010)
Collects Captain America Reborn Nos. 1-6 and Captain America Reborn Prelude (cover dates September, 2009- March, 2010).
The life of a trade waiter is one without surprises. No matter how hard one tries to avoid spoilers, if you go on any comic site you are bound to get snippets of information. While the bulk of a story arc will be unrevealed, you'll get the gist of key events before the issues are collected in hardcover (or trade paperback). This was very enjoyable in spite of the fact that I sort of knew the outcome going in. The Red Skull still rocks, and I hope to ________ (deity of your choice) that they don't mess him up in the forthcoming Cap movie.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: TWO AMERICAS (Marvel, 2010)
Collects Captain America Nos. 602-605 and Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield? (cover dates February- June, 2010).
Ed Brubaker continues to kick out the jams and further cements his run on the title in the upper echelon. How could anyone not like this title? Do they not like comic books? I don't know what else one could ask for. 

Driver For The Dead #1 (Radical, cover date July, 2010)
I picked this up for the same reasons as the aforementioned Time Bomb. This title has the same high quality presentation as Time Bomb, with superb writing by John Heffernan and artwork by Leonardo Manco. The coloring by Jerry Choo and Kinsun Loh has a nice muted appearance that makes every panel look like a painting. I will wait for the trade paperback for the rest of this series but recommend picking this up in whatever format you prefer. 

GOLDEN AGE MARVEL COMICS OMNIBUS VOL. 1 (Marvel, 2009)
Collects Marvel Comics No. 1 and Marvel Mystery Comics Nos. 2-12 (cover dates October, 1939- October, 1940).
I rarely double dip for the sake of an upgrade, but this was the exception to the rule. The 12 issues that this hardcover comprises were collected in 3 Masterworks hardcovers. Volume 1 had the poorest reproduction ever for a Masterwork, being almost as bad as an IDW G.I. Joe Classic trade. Volume 2 had glued mousetrap binding. So, when they announced this book, I sold my masterworks on eBay and pooled that money into buying this book. Let me tell you, the upgrade was absolutely worth it. The first four issues were remastered from microfiche for the Masterwork. Here, they actually spent a small fortune tracking down the original issues and scanned them to work from for the restoration. The difference is night and day. If the issues from Vol. 2 were remastered or not, I can't say. Possibly. Vol. 3 looked perfect when it came out, so there is no upgrade for issues 9-12. The extras in this book are breathtaking, with so much behind the scenes stuff and essays on the history of these issues. Combine that with the nice paper and sewn binding, and you have every reason to upgrade (or buy it for the first time if you are so inclined).
Issues 1-4 were the first Golden Age comic books that I ever read, only 5-6 years ago. In that time, between the Masterworks and other companies' reprint efforts, I have amassed a sizable collection of books that I previously would have never been able to own or read. Truly, this is an embarrassment of riches. Golden Age stories can either bleed charm or be a chore to read, depending on my mood or how tired I am. I am as interested in the historical significance of these issues as I am the characters.
The characters! Bill Everett's Sub-Mariner is the star of the show, in my opinion. Great stuff, truly groundbreaking. Aquaman was ripped off from ol' Namor. My second favorite character in these issues is Carl Burgos' Human Torch. I like how he was originally an android who caught on fire whenever exposed to oxygen, and then wound up being able to control his flame, and later still became human. I'm not kidding, they sort of just stopped mentioning that he was an artificial man. The Angel, by Paul Gustavson, is highly entertaining. He has Superman's red and blue caped image down pat, and somehow begins flying later on. Continuity sort of exists in these early comic books, but in more of a movie or radio serial format. Details are omitted, things are swept under the rug and forgotten about, and I am sure that no one was any the wiser. Ka-Zar, a holdover from the pulp era and a blatant rip-off of Tarzan of the Apes, is fun. The Masked Raider, your prerequisite Lone Ranger ripoff, is just plain dull at worst, and plain silly at best. I guess that a 10 year old kid crica 1939-1940 would hear stories of the Old West from their grandparents or whatnot, so they were still relevant. To me, cowboys and Native Americans are painfully dull. The other recurring feature in this anthology title is Electro, the Marvel of the Age! This 'Iron-Man', as he is routinely called, is a red, yellow, and green robot controlled by Professor Zog, and an obvious precursor to Iron Man. Good stuff, with faulty science and 'futuristic' technology that seems primitive by today's standards. The rest of the features are largely forgettable.
Since I owned all of these issues in the Masterworks, this was a pure re-reading. I've got to tell you, this stuff can be quite a chore at times the second time around. I picked this book up and put it back down several times. It took me three and a half months to get through the 840-odd pages. The trick is to read no more than 2 or 3 stories in a row, as I believe that this can cause mental retardation in small children and nausea/ headaches in everyone else. Kidding aside, this is fun and charming in its own way and well worth owning.

1 comment:

  1. LOL nice dig at the Classic GI Joe trades. I loved the Micheline/Layton era as a kid but have held off buying this trade since I technically "own" the issues on the GitCorp Iron Man dvd.

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