Monday, October 31, 2011

Reviews: Spider-Man- The Complete Clone Saga Epic Book 5; The Elves (Featuring Ronnie James Dio)- And Before Elf...There Were Elves; Anonymous

Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 405, 406, New Warriors Nos. 62-64, The Spectacular Spider-Man Nos. 228, 229, Spider-Man Nos. 62, 63, Spider-Man Team-Up No. 1, Spider-Man Unlimited No. 10, Venom Super Special No. 1, Web of Spider-Man Nos. 128, 129 and selections from Amazing Spider-Man Super Special No. 1, Spectacular Spider-Man Super Special No. 1, Spider-Man Super Special No. 1 and Web of Spider-Man Super Special No. 1 (cover dates June- December, 1995).
Writers: Tom DeFalco, J. M. Dematteis, Howard Mackie and others.
Artists: Sal Buscema, Bill Sienkewicz, Gil Kane and others.
This book shows a marked improvement over Volume 4 in the series. While the artwork and hand lettering are still cringe inducing, the writing is more palatable, almost enjoyable at times. I'm sorry, but this is about as glowing as I can get for most '90s Marvel Comics. The '90s were such an ugly decade for superhero comics.
I was surprised to see Gil Kane handling the pencils in Spider-Man No. 63, as I was unaware that he had even ever returned to Marvel after the '70s. His craft had deteriorated with age, but I think that much of it had to do with Tom Palmer's uneven inking. Kane needs a more heavy handed approach for his work, like what John Romita, Sr. did with him on Amazing Spider-Man in the early '70s.
This blog is typically spoiler free, but for the sake of discussion I will assume that certain outcomes are already known and are part of canon. Peter Parker is the clone and Ben Reilly is the original at this point in time. I can see how this enraged fans at the time, as it feels hollow. This was an editorial decision done to make Spider-Man single and child-free, but was far from perfect. Mary Jane is pregnant with what would become May “Mayday” Parker, a/k/a Spider-Girl in the soon to be alternate future timeline, MC2. Peter Parker steps down as Spider-Man and allows Ben Reilly, the clone whom they reveal to be the real Spider-Man, to take over the webs so he can retire and raise his child.
The clunky writing and garish '90s artwork and early computer color separations are painful to look at. Colorists went crazy with shadings and gradients during this time, which is forgivable since it was new at the time. It doesn't make it any easier for me to look at, but it is forgivable. There is the occasional good issue in here. While I am normally opposed to changing characters, especially those from the '60s, this '90s take on the Lizard is pretty badass. I guess that ol' Doc Connors regressed/ evolved further, and did so with spectacular results. He looked and behaved more like a real lizard. His tail broke off when Spider-Man grabbed him by it, much like a real lizard. He burrows into the ground to escape. Things like this are new developments for the character and his powers, and they all worked. Plus, he looked really cool.
Taken from Venom Super Special No. 1; Art by Kevin J. West.

Now here is an example of how ugly '90s artwork could be:
Taken from Web of Spider-Man No. 128; Art by Steven Butler and Randy Emberlin.
Look at how ridiculous and exaggerated the Black Cat looks. Her hair and the fur fringes on her boots and gloves would cause her to trip or otherwise prove to be a hazard. Not only does this go against every previous rendition of her, but it would prove hazardous to one who goes swinging from rooftop to rooftop. '90s fanboys (term used in the original pejorative) loved all of the “detail” from all of these useless extra lines. I am not even going into how incorrect her anatomy is.
So, after 5 volumes and 2,000 pages (give or take a hundred) we have reached the end of the Clone Saga. This is hardly the end, though. I have the first two Complete Ben Reilly Epic trade paperbacks in queue, and they have planned 6 of them. These are all 400+ page books, so the terror will last for quite some time.

The Elves (Featuring Ronnie James Dio)/ And Before Elf...There Were Elves (Niji, 2011)
Long have I wished to see this stuff get an official release after years of low quality Youtube streams. This is a collection of 12 songs recorded live in concert and live in the studio circa 1971. Whereas Elf had a honkey-tonk, boogie blues vibe on the first two albums, The Elves are a blues based, raw Rock and Roll thing. It could be the fact that they were playing live and rocking it out a bit more, but even the more subdued songs are more interesting than most of the songs on the first Elf album.
There are several covers on here. You Shook Me, an old blues standard made famous by Led Zeppelin and before them, Jeff Beck, starts things off loud and raw. The sound quality is amazing. I love the occasional noisiness of the old analog tapes used for this album. While they have been remixed and remastered, it still sounds vintage and shitty in a way that hits the sweet spots for fans of classic Rock. Their cover of The Faces' Stay With Me is a jam. Mickey Lee Soule is such a great keyboard/ organ player, especially on that song. He stayed with Dio in Elf and went on with him and most of that band to form Rainbow with Ritchie Blackmore in 1975. Four Day Creep and Buckingham Blues are in much of the same vein, with the latter having a great, raunchy groove.
I love the pre-Metal Dio stuff like Wakeup Sunshine, with it's folky sound. Driftin' is even trippier, shifting gears between blues, honkey-tonk boogie and post-psychedelic Rock. While I love the Rock, it's the ballads where Dio actually croons that hold my interest here. Smile For Me Lady, You Felt The Same Way and Simple Man are all extremely interesting. Ronnie James Dio was stretching in many different directions early on, and part of me enjoys the variety of styles presented here. Drown Me In The River, Cold Ramona and Little Queenie are all okay but not remarkable.
There is an Elves cover of The Who's Behind Blue Eyes making the rounds on Youtube, and I wonder why it was left off of here. I can only guess a lack of quality source tapes, since The Who are total money whores and wouldn't turn down royalties for anything.
The packaging is nice. It's a digipak with a lenticular cover. The primary image is above, and when you tilt it you see this one.

There is a 2 page booklet. It would have been nice to have a beefier booklet with track information, i.e. composer and recording credits. I have read online that all of these tracks were recorded in 1971, but it would be nice to have that information in the booklet as well. I know, I'm a dinosaur for caring about such things in the iTunes era. Wendy Dio and the Dio estate lavish much attention to these posthumous releases, and I hope that they keep them coming. I would really like to see those Ronnie Dio and the Prophets singles re-released. This is a worthy addition to Dio's body of work and a must for fans of his proto-Metal outfits Elf and Rainbow. 

Anonymous ( Sony, 2011)
This was the wife's pick on date night. It's okay but not my cup of tea, to be honest with you. It was a bit long for my tastes, and I am uninterested in Shakespeare. This movie is a fictitious revisionist attempt at giving credit to the true author of those plays and should be taken as entertainment and not a true story. At least I got a bag of popcorn out of it, and it helped placate the wife after making her suffer through five billion superhero flicks.

1 comment:

  1. LOL! At least Footloose had Julianne Hough to stare at!