Thursday, October 21, 2010

Junk Food For Thought

IRON MAN: IRON MONGER (Marvel, 2010)
Collects Iron Man Nos. 193-200 (cover dates April- November, 1985)
Denny O'Neil is an exceptionally good comic book writer. This stuff holds up very well a quarter century after it's original publication. The only issue in this book that I bought off of the stands was #197 because it was a Secret Wars II tie-in. I really feel like I missed the boat not buying this title on a regular basis back in the day, but I can make up for it by reading these issues today.
It was a treat to see a D-lister like Doctor Demonicus (from the Shogun Warriors series from the '70s) and his giant, "mutated" green lizard (read: Godzilla, mutated just enough to avoid getting sued). All in all, this was a great read with decent artwork by various artists in a nice hardcover package complete with sewn binding.

AREA 10 (Vertigo/ DC, 2010) 
This is a graphic novel in the TRUE sense of the word, meaning that it is a comic book originally published in book format, hence the term graphic novel. People often mistakenly refer to trade paperbacks as 'graphic novels'. Watchmen and Walking Dead are great graphic novels. No, they are trade paperbacks. They compile comic books that were originally published in a single magazine format, and then reprinted/ compiled into a book format. There is a big difference, and it drives me nuts when people throw the term graphic novel around like that.
The format of this book is odd but neat. It's a hardcover smaller than a standard comic book but larger than a digest, in black and white on heavy pulp paper, 176 pages of story. Something like this could well be the comic book format of the future if all monthly comics were to stop being published.
The story by Christos N. Gage is very good, and while it is labeled as a Crime comic, it is in truth a hybrid between that genre and Horror. An edge of your seat page turner, there is only one scene towards the end that made them lose me. *S-P-O-I-L-E-R A-L-E-R-T* There is no way that the guy would take a drill to his head in order to fight the killer. No way. The rest of this book was pretty believable, but that part lost me. *END SPOILER* Recommended reading for fans of the genres listed above, this will also be available in softcover next year for the more budget conscious reader.

Swamp Thing Nos. 91-96 (DC, cover dates January- June, 1990)
The very first Direct Market retailer, or "real" comic book store that I ever went to was the Book Bin in Lincoln Park, MI. They were getting out of the comic business after 30 or so years, and were blowing out their stock for next to nothing. Even though the store had been picked over with a fine tooth comb, there were still plenty of cheap reads to be had. A quick history lesson for the 'civilians' out there. The Direct Market more or less got it's start because retailers wanted to be able to get pristine copies from the distributor to sell as back issues later on. They ordered many extra copies for this very reason. The Book Bin was in on this game for many, many years. The first time that I went in there was 1983, and there were already rows of back issues. I also recall playing the Tron video game there circa 1983 to the tune of Hungry Like the Wolf on the radio in the store. Why I remember that, I couldn't tell you. In any case, I got all of these issues for $1.00. The line of trades that DC was putting out ended with issue 81, and I was curious how things had turned out. These are decent, but the quality definitely ebbs in the writing department. Alfredo P. Alcala inks the title, and the artwork is still decent, but the story just seems to meander along. Still, this was a dollar well spent.

Collects Superman Nos. 14, 15 and material from Action Comics Nos. 44-47 (cover dates January- April, 1942).
Golden Age Superman rocks! I don't like to throw the word 'great' around often, or use it lightly, because when something is GREAT that to me means that it is something superior, the best, etc. The Superman and Action Comics issues collected in this book are, in fact, GREAT. Great writing by Jerry Siegel, great artwork by Leo Nowak, Paul Cassidy and John Sikela, great villains in Krazinski (a composer who lulls audiences asleep with his music while his gang robs them), The Lightning Master, The Domino, Lex Luthor...everything is just great.
I hate to sound like I am gushing, but really, this stuff just hits all of the sweet spots for this era. The stories still hold up in a very charming, dated way. I truly appreciate the Chronicles line of trades because I have never read this stuff before, and I cannot afford yet another line of $50 hardcovers.
Many of the things that made Superman seem so sucky to me when I was 10-11 years old are becoming more and more apparent. His super hearing, telescopic vision, x-ray vision, invulnerability, super-duper speed, etc., are all becoming more pronounced during this era than they were in the earlier issues. I loved these stories in spite of this corniness. I also loved the way that he keeps gaining more and more powers, such as the ability to modify his voice to sound like other people. He catches bullets in nearly every story, ditto his nonsensical smashing through walls. I'm not kidding, there could be a window five feet away and this lunkhead will choose to smash through the wall, damaging property.
In Concerts of Doom (from Superman No. 14), Krazinski loses Superman in a car chase. Being the heroic guy that he is, Superman breaks into the Auto License Bureau, where he illegally obtains Krazinski's address from his license plate number. Hilarious. In  The Invention Thief  (same issue), a young inventor is swindled out of his creation by a savvy businessman. This honest entrepreneur is portrayed to be the villain here, when it was in truth the fault of the inventor for not securing the proper patents or hiring a lawyer himself. Superman, ever the bully, refuses to put out a fire that was raging in the businessman's mansion until he signs over the rights to the invention back to that dimwit creator. The knucklehead probably traded his invention for a sack of magic beans after this story...who knows? In Saboteurs of Napkan (from Superman No. 15), Superman single-handedly defeats the Napkanese (read: Japanese) plot to overthrow the United States. Superman in Oxnalia, also from the same issue, finds Superman fighting the Oxnalians (read: Germans) who are under the command of Razkal (Hitler). Superman utters famous phrases like 'Up...Up...and Away", as well as lesser known ones like 'Papa Spank'.
All in all, an entertaining and sometimes hilarious read that you can't go wrong with, clocking in at 168 pages for a list price of 15 bucks.

Collects Excalibur Nos. 83-90 and material from X-Men Prime (cover dates November, 1994- October, 1995).
Warren Ellis' writing is solid and holds up for the most part, while the artwork ranges from passable to laughably bad. The '90s had some of the ugliest artwork, ever. The then-revolutionary Malibu digital color enhancements look dated, but that is forgivable. I just appreciate modern coloring techniques even more now, and it's truly amazing to think how far technology has come in such a short period of time. This is a nice collection and a good read.
Collects Excalibur Nos. 91-95, Starjammers Nos. 1-4 and X-Man No. 12 (cover dates October, 1995- March, 1996)
Wow, what a decline in quality from Volume 1! Things go south fast in all areas, writing, artwork...even the lettering and colors, for crying out loud. X-Man is THE worst concept ever introduced in the world of comics, and the other retardedly named characters, like Threnody, are equally dumb. Needless to say that I will not be picking up Vol. 3.
BLACK TERROR VOL. 2 (Dynamite, 2010)
Collects Black Terror Nos. 5-9 (cover dates November, 2009- March, 2010)
I was ready to chuck this whole line for a minute there. I was blue about the ever expanding hardcover and trade paperback lines from the various publishers, blue about my limited funds for all of these books, blue about the sheer glut of comic books out there. I almost allowed this to kill this line for me. I sat down and read this, with my mind already made up that I was done with it, and you know what? This was a fine read. I suppose that I will be sticking with the Project Superpowers line for a while longer. They only put out trades a few times a year, so I'll try and figure out some other corner to cut.

CROSSED VOL. 1 (Avatar, 2010)
Collects Crossed Nos. 0-9 (September, 2008- February, 2010)
Wow, this was truly stunning. I don't mean stunning in the adjective sense of the word, but stunning in the verb sense of the word. If this book doesn't offend, shock, or repulse you on a consistent basis, then you are a very, very sick person. Crossed crosses every single line of decency with the exception of child pornography, but there is a sequel currently being published, so give them time. Garth Ennis' writing is whacked, but it's really the beautiful artwork by Jacen Burrows that takes the cake. It's so clean and polished that it invites you to stare and linger even when you don't want to. If this ever gets made into a movie, it'll be NC-17 at least. I am disappointed in myself for enjoying a depraved work as this so much. It haunts you, even weeks after reading it. I want to read it again and again. If Saw seems too 'Disney' for your tastes, then give Crossed a will be sorry!
Collects Sandman Mystery Theatre Nos. 45-52 (cover dates December, 1996- July, 1997)
I am happy to see this line of trades continue. 2, maybe 3 more, and we'll have the entire series compiled in trade paperback format. Good reads one and all.
IRON MAN: ARMOR WARS II (Marvel, 2010)
Collects Iron Man Nos. 258-266 (cover dates July, 1990- March, 1991)
Really well done comic books by John Byrne (writer) and John Romita, Jr. (penciler). These issues still hold up 20 years after they were originally published. I think that when the Essential Iron Man line of black and white phone books hits the late 1970s then I will start picking them up. Everything that I have read from 1979-on (via trade paperback) has been extremely enjoyable.


  1. SMT vol. 8 was the first volume I didn't love. The art for the Blackhawk story was pretty bad, and I just never got that involved in either story like I did with the earlier ones.

    Armor Wars II i read when the floppies came out, and while I enjoyed it a lot, the ending never sat right with me. I mean, you build up the whole thing and then at the end it's "Ok villain, time to see who you really are...oh, never seen you before *building falls on guy*" Just seemed extremely anti-climactic.

  2. Yeah, SMT Vol. 8 wasn't AS good as previous volumes...maybe there is a reason why the title was canceled.

  3. If you'd said that it went downhill for Raab's run in trades - I'd agree with you. But you didn't.