Friday, June 8, 2012

Review- MARVEL MASTERWORKS: ATLAS ERA BATTLEFIELD VOL. 1

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: ATLAS ERA BATTLEFIELD VOL. 1 (Marvel, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects Battlefield Nos. 1-11 (cover dates April, 1952- May, 1953)
Writers: Hank Chapman, Don Rico, Carl Wessler, and others.
Artists: Russ Heath, Paul Reinman, Joe Maneely, Werner Roth, Robert Q. Sale, George Tuska, Joe Sinnott, Sol Brodsky, Al Hartley, Mac Pakula, Dave Berg, Ogden Whitney, Norman Steinberg, Vern Henkel, Syd Shores, Gene Colan, Ed Robbins, Jay Scott Pike, Mike Sekowsky, Bill Everett, Sam Kweskin, Ed Moline, John Forte, Dick Ayers, and others.
I had no interest in war comics growing up, unless you count G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero as a war comic. That was always a hybrid war/science fiction comic book in my opinion, but I digress. The concept always seemed like they would be a dry, boring read. When the EC Archives were rolling out on a regular basis, I eagerly scooped them all up, including Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat. Those were my first experiences with the genre, and I was absolutely blown away. Those were, in truth, anti-war comics published during the Korean War, but are still war comics nonetheless. 
Battlefield takes place almost exclusively during the Korean War for at least the first 8 or 9 issues. The first six issues are outstanding, being dark, morose looks at war with no happy endings. The amount of story crammed into these 4-7 page stories is incredible. They manage to give each character an identity and a voice, so that when their fate befalls them, you actually care. The tone of the stories change in the later issues, with more happy endings. They are still excellent, but the gritty war stories in the earlier issues will appeal more to modern comic book fans. 
The artwork in these '50s comic books is great. Russ Heath is in my top 5 artists of all time. His art is so photo realistic that if he were working today I'd swear that he was using Photoshop. He was that good. City of Slaves features artwork by an unknown-to-me artist, Sam Kweskin. I cannot recall experiencing his work before, and it is incredible. Werner Roth's '50s Atlas output is stellar. How his craft deteriorated so much by the '60s is a mystery to me. Here, he is a master. His '60s X-Men stuff was subpar at best. There are so many great artists gracing these pages that I could sit here and gush all day, but I'd rather you check this book out and experience it for yourself. 
The OCD zone- I have a confession to make. I love Marvel Masterworks. The state of the art restoration, the heavy duty coated stock paper, the sewn binding, the fact that these books lay perfectly flat from the first page to the last...all of these things make my OCD glow. I breathe a deep sigh of relief laying in bed at night, knowing that these books are gloriously restored documents for the ages that will outlast me. I almost envy the people of 2112 when they discover this stuff.

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DC has made strides in fixing the problem of their books not laying flat. Join the cause page if you want make sure that DC keeps up the recent good work on their hardcovers. Don't do it for me, do it for the children. Won't somebody please think of the children??

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