Wednesday, April 30, 2014

THE TOWER KING

THE TOWER KING (Hibernia, 2014;Periodical)
Collects The Tower King stories from The Eagle Nos. 1-24 (cover dates March 27- September 4, 1982)
Writer: Alan Hebden
Artist: Jose Ortiz

The solar power satellite converted solar energy into microwaves which were recoverted into electricity and powered the Earth in the future of the late 1980s. The microwaves disrupted the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in the planet being thrust into the stone age after a nuclear meltdown occurred. No electricity, no radio waves, only steam power remained as society rapidly collapsed. It was in this chaos that Mick Tempest rallied the remnants of civilization (or civilisation at the British spelled it in this book) in The Tower of London and became The Tower King.
While the whole post-apocalyptic scenario has been done to death and was fresh on everyone's mind at the time of original publication, it would be even more disastrous if something like this occurred today. The future is now and we live in a technology based society, for better and sometimes worse.
 I enjoyed the Tube Rats, the somewhat mutated humans who live in the London Underground subway system and come to the surface to forage for food. There are lots of cool societies, like the Wreckers and the worshipers of the Electric Temple, among others. A meteor ends up destroying the satellite and the power returns. The series is wrapped up rather hastily, like editorial gave them the heave ho, time to pull the plug. I am grateful that we at least have a resolution this saga.
British comics were dialogue heavy and used caption boxes sparingly, which is now par for the course for all comic books. If you compare this to US comics of 1982 then it is totally different in tone and presentation. Being a weekly serial means that the pacing is tight and fast, with little to no time to catch your breath. The violence is of course more over the top than American comics of the time as well since the Dan Dare Corporation was not beholden to the Comics Code Authority.
  Every time that I stumble upon things like this or Heros The Spartan, the more fascinated I become by British comics. These are often only available as incredibly expensive imports, and their barrier to entry only seems to fuel my fascination. If it is obscure and expensive it must be good, right? If it were cheap and readily available then nobody would want it. Someday some pharmaceutical company will create a medication to treat my OCD. Until then, the search for the obscure and the joy of discovery will continue.
If you hurry you may be able to grab one of the last remaining copies here.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This is not a trade paperback or collected edition in the traditional sense of the word. It is a saddle-stitched (read: stapled) quasi-periodical roughly the same size as Marvel oversized hardcover or a DC Deluxe Edition hardcover. If this is ever re-released as a proper hardcover with sewn binding I would gladly double dip. The material is certainly worthy of such deluxe presentation.
The cover is a thicker paper stock than the interior. The book has all of the features and layouts of a regular collected edition. My guess is that this was done in this format due to costs. Hibernia is essentially a fan made labor of love with tiny print runs. I ordered two of these hand numbered books (one for my friend and one for myself so that we could carpool shipping costs), my copy being #174 of 200. It cost $30.04 for two copies shipped from Ireland, which is not bad, I just wish that it was a true collected edition.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: None. The issue covers are not even included.
Linework/ restoration rating: 5 out of 5. These are obviously cleaned up scans of the original issues. Everything looks great. I suspect that the handful of pages that look a little dark or murky were originally printed that way.
Paper rating: 4 out of 5. Decent weight uncoated stock.
Binding rating: 2 out of 5. Saddle-stitched (read: STAPLED) periodical. No spine so it cannot be proudly displayed on your bookshelf.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios, 2014)
Holy crow. This might just beat out The Avengers as the most satisfying comic book movie adaptation ever made. Normally my eye twitches with a sharp stabbing pain behind it as I watch these films, battling to retain control of myself. I almost always want to stand up and shout at the screen Wrong! Wrong! How can you idiots greenlight this crap! Does no one on staff actually read comic books? So on and so forth. My only gripes with this movie are the Chevrolet product placement and one or two edits. Seriously, that's all that I have! This movie fricking rocks.
I have been using this product. It has helped my writing tremendously. 

Seeing several scenes from the comics come to life on the screen was incredible. Scenes such as the Batroc boat hijacking from the Roger Stern and John Byrne run and countless scenes from the Ed Bruabker run. Things that once lived only in my imagination brought to life.
Everything is perfect. On the action scale this is an “amps to 11” affair. If you have not yet seen this film, then you may want to exit this review right now, because I am going to be fairly liberal with the SPOILERS from here on out. Cap fights Batroc The Leaper! Arnim Zola lives! Stephen Strange (a/k/a Doctor Strange) is mentioned! Sharon Carter, Agent 13 is revealed! Hydra! Fucking Hydra!!! Cut off one head and two more shall take its place! The Winter Soldier is done to perfection! The Falcon is awesome! Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are in the first of the two post-credits scenes! Christ, what more could anybody want out of one film? Dissing this movie because it has too much action is like not liking a song because it rocks too much or not linking an orgasm because it lasts too long. There is something really, really wrong with you if this movie doesn't rock your socks off.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review- Ronnie James Dio/ This Is Your Life

Ronnie James Dio/ This Is Your Life (Rhino, 2014)
This is a veritable who's who of elder statesmen of Heavy Metal paying tribute to one of the greatest vocalists that has ever lived. In the spirit of this album, I will pay my own tribute to Ronnie before beginning my critique. I heard a few things here or there, but it was not until the early months of 1985 that I really got into Dio with the song The Last In Line. Indeed, as corny as it sounds now, it was Dio and that album that showed me possibilities and thoughts of the world beyond my bedroom window at that age. For example, it was the song Mystery that first made me think about racism. I remained a Dio fan throughout the many ups and downs, from his solo career to Black Sabbath to Heaven And Hell, from arenas to clubs to theatres and back. From time to time I think about the many times that I saw him in concert and then frown that it can never happen again. It's like I lost a friend.
Anthrax nails Neon Knights. Tenacious D do a heartfelt take on The Last In Line. Jack Black was one of the few who truly praised Ronnie at a time when everyone else considered him a has been. Props to Jack Black for that. The Scorpions do an incredible version of Rainbow's The Temple Of The King. Rob Halford teams up with various Dio-band alumni for Man On The Silver Mountain. Metallica do several Rainbow songs on the Ronnie Rising Medley. Metallica never mentioned Dio when Ronnie was alive, not once, and their inclusion bothers me for that reason. While they do an okay take on my beloved Kill The King they strike me as opportunists. This is only my opinion, of course. They claim to genuinely love Dio. Who knows.
All proceeds from the sales of this album go to the Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.



Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review- THE VAULT OF HORROR ANNUAL VOL. 6

THE VAULT OF HORROR ANNUAL VOL. 6 (Gemstone, 1999; Softcover)
Collects The Vault of Horror Nos. 37-40 (cover dates July, 1954- January, 1955)
Writers: Carl Wessler and Johnny Craig
Artists: Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Al Williamson, Angelo Torres (inker), Graham Ingels, Bernie Krigstein, Reed Crandall, and Joe Orlando.

An air of desperation and agitation hang over these final issues, as the witch hunt led by Dr. Frederick Wertham which resulted in a Congressional subcommittee inquiry into comics boils to a fever pitch. EC was the biggest target, with the publisher being blackballed by distributors due to the recently imposed Comics Code Authority which all but banned their best titles. They knew the end was near and upped the ante, defiantly going out with a bang.
The Vault Keeper reintroduces a seldom used character who became a fixture in these last few issues, his co-hostess Drusilla. She has the requisite Goth/dead chick thing going on. It should be noted that this predates The Munsters and The Addams Family television series, although the latter was around as a New Yorker strip nearly two decades before EC.
Godlike artwork by Reed Crandall. 
 I loved Bernie Krigstein's artwork on #38's The Catacombs. His style, panel composition, and use of shadows is highly effective. I have picked up the Fantagraphics collection of his work, Messages In A Bottle: Comic Stories By B. Krigstein, and that story is also included there recolored with water colors by famed EC colorist Marie Severin. Issue 39's Deadly Beloved! is a genuinely creepy story that benefits from Johnny Craig's fine artwork. Reed Crandall's Top Billing, also from #39, is another winner.
An example of Johnny Craig's artwork from Deadly Beloved!
As I have stated ad nauseam in all of my reviews for EC Comics, these remain the gold standard for comic books, or as the hipsters call them, the graphic panel sequential narrative artform. Whatever you call them, or however you read them (originals, '70s reprints, '90s Gemstone reprints, EC Library sets, EC Archives, or the artist-centric Fantagraphics collections), the important thing is that you read them. Everyone owes it to themselves to read this stuff.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- If you do not know what an EC Annual is, then pull up a chair and I'll give you the skinny on these great books. Gemstone overprinted their single issue reprints in the '90s with an eye toward selling their own back issues. They re-purposed this overstock by gluing 5 entire issues into a cardstock cover. While this is not technically a trade paperback (it has no ISBN), it is squarebound and has the title on the spine. Close enough for Rock and Roll in my book.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: None.
Linework restoration rating: 5 out of 5. William Gaines kept the original artwork, or filmed it, and so what you have here are superb presentations of this material with no line dropouts.
Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. The color palette is entirely faithful to the original issues with the exceptions of the covers. Marie Severin recolored them all for the EC Library sets, and those same versions are found here.
Paper rating: 3.5 out of 5. The comics themselves are printed on the mando pulp paper of the day, while the covers are presented on the original slick cover stock. Some folks prefer this comic book feeling paper. I prefer paper with a little more heft. Your mileage may vary.
Binding rating: 4.5 out of 5. The glued binding is over 15 years old and has nary a creak when you flip through it.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 4 out of 5. There isn't much in the way of coating, but this book has a nice thick cardstock cover with a fair amount of flex to it.

http://www.instocktrades.com/search/ec

 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review- THE FLASH CHRONICLES VOL. 3 TP

THE FLASH CHRONICLES VOL. 3 (DC, 2012; Softcover)
Collects The Flash Nos. 113-118 (cover dates July, 1960- February, 1961)
Writer: John Broome
Artist: Pencils by Carmine Infantino, Inks by Joe Giella or Murphy Anderson

Aside from the Super Friends cartoon series, I don't know much about The Flash. I didn't read any Flash comics as a kid, and aside from these Chronicles trade paperbacks, I haven't read many as an adult, so this is all new to me. I read this to my 7 year old son and he really enjoyed these as well. I wish that modern DC Comics were appropriate for my son but they are not. And yes, I know that they have all ages lines, but my son knows that those aren't “the real ones” as he motions to the “real” comics across the aisle.
The zany faux science of Silver Age DC is on display here, with things being fun so long as you don't overthink them. While I enjoyed every story, the ones with Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang were my favorites. I really enjoyed Carmine Infantino's artwork here.
In an era where pretty much all superhero comics are dark and gritty and “realistic” it was refreshing to read lighthearted escapist fun comic books like this. I know, I know, cynical fanboys (term used in the original pejorative) would call me a nostalgic obsessive, but riddle me this then: If these corny old comics suck so bad then why do folks keep coming back to them? Why are these the reference points?
 I look forward to giving this book to my son when I double dip and buy The Flash Omnibus Vol. 1 this fall. I just hope that DC doesn't screw the book up like they usually do.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- These Chronicles books are an inexpensive way to acclimate oneself to historically significant DC Comics. Unfortunately they seem to have dwindled to a trickle, with the line seemingly dead in the water.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: None.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5. The interiors of each issue look great, while the covers are spotty. The original color palette is maintained for the most part.
Paper rating: 3.75 out of 5. Pros- This lightweight uncoated stock mando paper closely replicates the paper found in the original comic books. It is cheap and helps keep costs down. Cons- This paper closely replicates the paper found in the original comic books and will yellow in time. The earliest Batman Chronicles books have already started to yellow on the top, so I have little to no reason to believe that this paper won't. Another con is that the MSRP of this book is no different than books of similar page counts with better paper.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Thick waxlike lamination, a marked improvement over the screen printed spot varnished chalky feeling atrocity that was Volume 2.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/DC/FLASH-CHRONICLES-TP-VOL-03/MAY120293

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review- SPIDER-MAN: THE NEXT CHAPTER VOL. 3

SPIDER-MAN: THE NEXT CHAPTER VOL. 3 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 13-19, Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2000, Peter Parker, Spider-Man Nos. 13-19, and Spider-Woman No. 9 (cover dates January- July, 2000)
Writers: John Byrne and Howard Mackie with Gregory Wright and A.A. Ward
Artists: Pencilers- John Byrne, Lee Weeks, Graham Nolan, John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, Erik Larsen, and Andy Kuhn; Inkers- Al Milgrom, Robert Campanella, Dan Green, Randy Elliot, Scott Hanna, Klaus Janson, John Romita, Sr., John Beatty, and Harry Candelario

Spider-Man is my all time favorite character when done right, like he is here in this book. This was from an era of legitimate character development for Peter Parker. He finally had his “real job”, he was married to Mary Jane, they had a place of their own...and then all of these things are undone in a spectacular fashion to restore the previous status quo. The main difference between the way that they did it then and the way that they do it now is that the new normal didn't disregard the old. They built layers on top of the old, whereas nowadays they seem to either jettison or outright disregard what happened before.

The once thought to be resolved subplot of Mary Jane's stalker/kidnapper is resurrected here, and in all honesty, it is not resolved by the end of this book. This would be fine if there were a volume 4 in this line, but as of this writing the only option that I have to find out what happens with that is A) Internet synopsis (boring) or B) hunting down back issues which are not cheap due to the low print runs during that era (undesirable).
Artwork by John Byrne.
The new Rocket Racer is a bore, ditto the new Spider-Woman and the new new Spider-Woman. There are some loose ends tied up from the tail end of the original series numbering (seen in Spider-Hunt and The Gathering Of Five collections) with Madame Web turning up again. We get to see yet another Spider-Man/ Hulk battle. Those never get old, and I say this without a whiff of irony or sarcasm. John Romita, Jr.'s art is a treat.
Artwork by John Romita, Jr. 
We also see Spidey face Doctor Doom, Venom, Sandman, Electro, and the second Kraven the Hunter. The Doctor Doom story is a two-parter that finds Spider-Man going to Latveria pursuing a lead on the whereabouts of Mary Jane. The world at large believes her to be dead in an airplane explosion while Peter believes that she is alive. Venom is seeking revenge against the Sinister Six for embarrassing him by not admitting him into their ranks. John Romita, Jr.'s take on this Venom/Carnage hybrid is much creepier and far cooler than the Venom of the '90s.
Lee Weeks is an incredible artist. Why did he not earn the role as regular artist on this title? He could have been the artist to define the look of the character for the Millennials. He did several issues a few years ago but I want more more more!
Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2000 has a continuity gaffe. It is mentioned that Peter Parker and Harry Osborn were friends in high school, which is of course impossible since they did not meet until Peter started college.
Artwork by Lee Weeks. 
 Amazing Spider-Man #18 boasts the artwork team of John Byrne with inks by none other than the definitive Spider-Man artist, John Romita, Sr. While it is true that Ditko was the innovator who created the costume and set the stage, it was Romita who refined and spit shined the appearance of the character. I remember getting into an argument in a comic shop in the late '80s with some guy about Spider-Man artists. This is what we had to do in the stone ages, argue face to face with people we randomly encountered in comic shops. This oldster was proclaiming his love for Ditko, bashing every other artist who ever penciled the series. I leapt in, defending Romita Senior. I told him at that time that while Ditko pioneered the character's look and initial development it was John Romita, Sr. who defined the contemporary Spider-Man that we all know and love. On a completely unrelated note I could not get a date during this era. Girls were probably too intimidated by my knowledge of comics. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Artwork by John Byrne AND John Romita, Sr...together! You put your chocolate in my peanut butter. No, you put your peanut butter in my chocolate. GENIUS.
The next issue of ASM, #19, has horribly jarring artwork by fan favorite Erik Larsen. I say fan favorite because a lot of folks like his art. I am not one of those folks. Compare his artwork to Byrne or especially Romita and he looks like a bumbling amateur. It would be like having Weezer take the stage after Led Zeppelin.
This book was a blast to read and it has mostly excellent artwork. Lots of fun, lots of action, stuff happens in every issue. My only complaint is that there isn't a follow up volume for me to buy. I need to know what happens next without breaking the bank on back issues. Marvel should make two more chunky books, plugging the gap between this run and when their trade paperback program started in the early 2000s.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I really, really like these chunky trade paperbacks.
The opening page of the book has a typo. It lists this as The Next Chapter Volume Two. Whoops. Still better than DC style goof ups, where they forget to include issues that were solicited to be included in the book.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: All sixteen covers minus trade dress. (4 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Everything looks great.
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Glossy coated stock paper. It is a little thin but is really nice.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Thick waxlike lamination.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Marvel/SPIDER-MAN-NEXT-CHAPTER-TP-VOL-03/MAY120745

 
 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review- DITKO MONSTERS: KONGA! HC

DITKO MONSTERS: KONGA! (Yoe Books/ IDW, 2013; Hardcover)
Collects Konga Nos. 1, 3-15 and Konga's Revenge No. 2 (cover dates June, 1960- November, 1963)
Writer: Joe Gill
Artist: Steve Ditko

This is the sister volume to Ditko Monsters: Gorgo! Instead of this being a book about a reasonable facsimile of Godzilla with artwork by Steve Ditko, this one is a reasonable facsimile of King Kong with artwork by Steve Ditko. Ditko's artistic idiosyncrasies, such as the eyes and hands, are here. In short, if you are a fan of Ditko or of Silver Age post-code monster comics then this should be right up your alley.
 One of the things about the writing in this series that I enjoyed was the real sense of continuity from one issue to the next. Most Silver Age comics that were not done by Marvel had little to no real continuity going on. Each issue was almost a reset of the main premise. Not so here. Konga has a lingering fondness for the humans who accidentally mutated him into the giant that he is.


My favorite issues are the ones where Konga fights the giant squid, the one with the Atlas (Marvel) Comics flavored Ditko space aliens, and the one where he enjoys playing in the snow and causes an avalanche. Every issue is enjoyable but these are the standouts for me. #15's The Evil Eye is pure Ditko. Everything that a Ditko fan could possibly want is in that one issue. The tension, the paranoia...much like Ragu, it's in there.
I found this book to be way more enjoyable than Gorgo in spite of the fact that the scenarios are similar. Konga is a more sympathetic monster. He merely wants to eat and be left alone. Foolish humans seek to enslave, destroy, or exploit him, and that is when things go wrong. The stories run the gamut of typical Cold War fears. While this is an enjoyable read I found it best to be read in moderation. Any more than two issues in a row and I was nodding off. That is not a knock on the quality of these comics, merely commentary on these dense, text heavy reads. Everything in moderation.
LOVE those Ditko space aliens!
 Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This being an artist centric collection means that only the Ditko penciled covers are included. The covers for #4-11, The Return Of Konga 1962 one-shot, and Konga's Revenge #2. All of the covers are collected in the front of the book rather than before the individual issues.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Konga! Introduction by Craig Yoe (8 pages).
The Clash! Konga and Gorgo: No degrees of separation. (2 pages)
King Cohen: Author Tom Weaver interviews the writer-producer of the Konga movie, Herman Cohen (2 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5. High resolution scans. These are really cleaned up. The drawback to this method is that you can see all of the imperfections of the original comics. Line bleed, off register printing, and other such anomalies are present throughout the book. Many fans actually prefer this to the frame up restoration found in some lines of Archives-type books. Your mileage may vary. It's all subjective. Both methods have drawbacks and advantages.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. This book has some stupid thick paper. It is quite possibly the thickest paper ever used in a collected edition.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, 8 stitches per signature. While the book lays mostly flat, the binding sounds a bit creaky at times. There are one or two spots where you can see the crash (cloth) between the signatures. The liner paper came unglued from the crash but everything is overall solid and should last a lifetime so long as you don't handle your books like the Samsonite gorilla handles luggage.
Hardback casewrap rating: 5 out of 5. Beautifully designed casewrap with artistic flourishes which, while unnecessary, add a feeling of luxury to the proceedings. Highly durable and scuff resistant, Craig Yoe gets top honors in book design in my opinion. His books are not only books of art but are works of art themselves.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/IDW/STEVE-DITKO-MONSTERS-HC-VOL-02-KONGA/FEB130373

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review- FERALS VOL. 3

FERALS VOL. 3 (Avatar Press, 2014; Softcover)
Collects Ferals Nos. 13-18 (cover dates February- November, 2013)
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Gabriel Andrade
Colorists:Digikore Studios

Dale Chesnutt is knee deep in it now, as the battle between the Fathers and the wolves has spilled enough blood that it has caught the attention of the FBI and the Army. Viggo and Adolph pull the Fathers into a compound for a desperate last stand. Using the females to infect males with the sexually transmitted “feral condition”, the Fathers play their Trojan horse gambit and bring about the “Wolfpacalypse”.
I have always been a sucker for the lupine set. Ferals is the best werewolf comic since my beloved Werewolf By Night. This being an Avatar Press book means that it has all of the graphic violence, gore, sex, and nudity that the more discerning comic reader could want. All ages reading this is most certainly not. For those of you who like it over the top with the amps turned up to11, this is Horror comics done right. This title is on hiatus for now but will be back. Bring it!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Avatar Press releases a maddening number of variants, and they do not list the issues where they are from on them in the book. Praise be www.comicbookdb.com for their invaluable assistance in helping me identify the covers. Not all of the variants are included. #13-18 slashed edition variants and #18 Gore variant are omitted, but in all fairness the slashed edition variants feature the same artwork as the regular edition, recolored with slash marks across it.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: #14 Gore variant (1 page)
#15 Gore variant (1 page)
#16 Gore variant (1 page)
#17 Gore variant (1 page)
#6 Gore variant (1 page)
#13 Gore variant (1 page)
#4 Gore variant (1 page)
#13 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#14 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#15 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#16 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#17 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#18 wraparound variant (2 pages)
#5 Gore variant (1 page)
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Excellent weight glossy coated stock paper.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Nice thick waxlike lamination.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Avatar-Press/FERALS-TP-VOL-03-%28MR%29/DEC130906

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review- SPIDER-MAN: THE NEXT CHAPTER VOL. 2

SPIDER-MAN: THE NEXT CHAPTER VOL. 2 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 7-12, Peter Parker, Spider-Man Annual '99, and Peter Parker, Spider-Man Nos. 7-12 (cover dates July- December, 1999).
Writers: John Byrne, Howard Mackie, J.M. DeMatteis, and Tom Brevoort
Artists: Pencilers- John Byrne, John Romita, Jr., Al Rio, Liam Sharp, Sean Phillips, and Geof Isherwood; Inkers- Scott Hanna, Dan Schaeter, Liam Sharp, Ray Kryssing, John Byrne, John Beatty, Rodney Ramos, and Sean Phillips.

Wow. This book serves as a textbook example why modern Spider-Man comics suck so bad. Real artwork. No bloated endless crossovers. The Sinister Six reassembled in one issue. I can imagine that one being done in even one trade nowadays. Then having the battle stretched out across a mini-series, one-shot, and an Annual.
Things start out slow. Amazing Spider-Man #7-8 are a Mysterio two-parter which feel more like a Silver Age DC comic than a Marvel one. At least they have John Byrne artwork. Byrne is one of my all-time favorite artists, and was my absolute favorite as a kid in the '80s. While this era is not his strongest, he still turned in good work when paired with a strong inker like Scott Hanna. 
Next up is Peter Parker, Spider-Man #7-8, which is another two-parter, this one about vampires and the mob. Blade The Vampire Hunter (not Slayer- he was called Hunter at this time,) tries to stop them from opening a chest. I'm going to spoil the shit out of this one, folks, because inside that chest was my beloved Morbius The Living Vampire! John Romita, Jr. rules, and here he really, really rules. His artwork is incredible, and his take on the character is easily as good as Gil Kane's or Paul Gulacy's. Why on Earth can't Marvel let him draw a Horror series? I guess that that point is moot since he has left for DC after 36 years of service. 
Peter Parker, Spider-Man Annual '99 is a middle of the road tale featuring a radically different, Alan Moore Swamp Thing-esque take on the Man-Thing and the Scriers. There was some Photoshop work in that issue that must have been impressive to the technologically oppressed neanderthals of 1999. My phone could probably do that stuff now, though.
Things begin building. Doctor Octopus and Venom return, even if Spider-Man doesn't directly deal with them...yet. Subplots begin piling on top of one another. Peter Parker's name appears on a list of survivors of the accident that made Doctor Octopus into, well, Doctor Octopus. In this tweaked and revised reboot era, it is that same accident which gave Spider-Man his powers via a spider bite. There are one or two continuity discrepancies, such as this and the fact that Spider-Man has claimed to never have seen a vampire before. Electro's redesigned costume is another part of this new, temporary alteration to the continuity. That said, pretty much everything else that occurs falls in line with what happened before. This gentle reboot pales in comparison to what would occur shortly after this over in Ultimate Spider-Man, but that is a different conversation altogether. 
John Romita, Jr. rules! Look kids, no Photoshop!
While this is building, things take a side trip into a, wait for it, crossover. The Eigth Day “only” runs across three other titles, though. I find crossovers to be insulting. Expecting, nay, demanding “kids” (I would like to think that kids still read comics, at least) to spend their allowance on other comics is a rub. I remember doing this for Secret Wars II in 1985, buying crap like Daredevil and Doctor Strange that I had no interest in at the time. Part 3 is collected in this book. There is a text recap page for parts 1 and 2 and another for part 4.
The book is capped off by a two issue double-sized extravaganza which runs across both titles. The return of The Sinister Six! This time with a twist, though, as they are going against Doctor Octopus. Joining the Sandman, Mysterio, the Vulture, Kraven The Hunter (II- Junior), Electro (in his horrid blue and white redesigned costume), and Venom. 
I found John Byrne's take on the Vulture to be different yet pleasing.
These comics were so much more enjoyable than modern Spider-Man. It is not nostalgia talking; indeed, I read the first 7 or 8 issues of each title when I found them at a garage sale several years ago. I am simply comparing them to what is going on nowadays. This is the beauty of collected editions and back issues. Even if something is crapped up beyond redemption you can always go back discover “new” things to take it's place.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I really like these thick chunky trade paperbacks. Consider this a proto-Epic line book. Marvel had been playing around with it around this time and finally went all in.
The covers to the three crossover issues not collected here are provided along with the text recap pages.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: All 13 issues minus the trade dress. (3 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Everything looks great.
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback. Decent weight glossy coated stock, ideal for this type of computer-assisted colored material.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Thick waxlike lamination makes me sleep soundly at night.
http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Marvel/SPIDER-MAN-NEXT-CHAPTER-TP-VOL-02/NOV110664

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review- THE ENEMY ACE ARCHIVES VOL. 2

THE ENEMY ACE ARCHIVES VOL. 2 (DC, 2006; Hardcover)
Collects the Enemy Ace stories from Star Spangled War Stories Nos. 143-145, 147-150, 152, 158, 181-183, 200 (cover dates March, 1969- July, 1976)
Writers: Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert (#200)
Artists: Joe Kubert, Neal Adams (#144), Russ Heath (#152), and Frank Thorne (#181-183)

The tone of this series changes drastically in these issues. While the heroic portrayal of the “Hammer of Hell”, Baron Hans Von Hammer, was always interesting because he was the enemy of our country, it is even more interesting that the hippie anti-war sentiments crept into a series set during World War I. While those sentiments were very much of the time they don't age well 40 years later in a series set 100 years in the past. 
Artwork by Neal Adams.
Fortunately those shortcomings are more than made up for with the top shelf artists who grace these pages. The late, legendary Joe Kubert; god among men Neal Adams; the brilliant photo realistic artwork of Russ Heath; and Frank Thorne's cinematic, widescreen “camera angles”. While these guys are all great, there is an overall sense of DC not knowing what to do with the character, hence the on again, off again publication, with the character ultimately becoming relegated to a back up strip.
The Hangman returns in #145. Rather than make this some story about his sister wearing his guise in order to get revenge on Von Hammer we get a return of the man himself. This seems like a missed opportunity to keep the realistic, grounded feel of the series. Also, his black wolf hunting companion in the forest gets less “screen time” this time out. I enjoyed that in the issues collected in Volume 1.
Star Spangled War Stories #148 is a steaming pile of crap. The Hammer of Hell gets a dog. A dog which he takes in his red tri-wing Fokker in dogfights in the air. A dog who falls out of the plane and dies. A dog who a man who has killed dozens of enemies mourns like none other. Just terrible. 
Artwork by Russ Heath.
There are more than enough stories for a Volume 3, but I seriously doubt that it will ever happen. Maybe I should pick up Showcase Presents Enemy Ace Vol. 1 for further reading.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The covers for Star Spangled War Stories #152, 181-183, and 200 are not included. I guess the collected editions editor who mapped this book out wasn't very good at darts.
DC forgot to include the story from Detective Comics #404, which was published during this time frame. It is included in the Showcase Presents Enemy Ace Vol. 1 black and white phonebook, however.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Foreword by Robert Klein and Michael Uslan (2 pages).
Creator biographies. (2 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 3 out of 5. Things are passable to dreadful, depending on the issue. While there is a discernible attempt to maintain the original color palette, it is done with half-assed lazy “airbrush” gradients which are the result of allowing the computer to fill in the shape rather than doing it “by hand” on computer. Since DC has an aversion to upgrading the restoration on anything, this is as good as it will ever get. 
Whenever I see completely half-assed color restoration like this it makes me think of that Timmy O'Toole episode of The Simpsons, and the half-assed fix that Groundskeeper Willie does. 
 
THAT'LL do it!
Star Spangled War Stories #147 has murky linework reconstruction.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Creamy off white dull matte finish coated stock. This paper is the ultimate, as it looks vintage but feels high end.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, six stitches per signature. The book block is rounded along with the casing, allowing this book to lay completely flat as Godzilla intended.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/DC/ENEMY-ACE-ARCHIVES-VOL-2-HC/JUN060187