Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Beneath the Junk Food For Thought

Slayer/ World Painted Blood
This is the best sounding Slayer album, period. The production is crisp and punchy without being overly compressed. The guitars are razor sharp, the drums sound natural. These are some of the best songs that Slayer has done since Seasons In the Abyss. 2006's Christ Illusion was OK, but ten minutes after you popped it out you couldn't remember a single song. Not so here. The running time is around 40 minutes, and I am liking the fact that bands are making shorter albums. It seems like bands were making 80 minute albums when CDs came out because they could, without ever thinking if they should. Slayer still rules after all these years. 8.5/ 10

THE X-MEN OMNIBUS VOL. 1 (Marvel, 2009; Hardcover)
Collects The X-Men Nos. 1-31 (cover dates September, 1963- April, 1967; Hardcover)
This was the red-headed step-child of Marvel circa 1963. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby seemed to toss this batch of also-rans off with only the occasional flair of brilliance that they are usually associated with. They did give us Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Juggernaut, and the Sentinels here, though. It was not until Roy Thomas came aboard that the X-Men really seemed like teenagers, and had problems like typical teenagers (i.e. crushes, unrequited love, feelings of alienation, etc.). This is when the title started picking up steam. Werner Roth's artwork was serviceable for the era but unremarkable by today's standards. I had the first three Masterworks but sold them off to get the Omnibus. I usually avoid the double-dip, but the lackluster restoration and unfaithful coloring in those old Masterworks prompted me to buy this. I am glad that I did, because this has nicer paper, sewn binding, is over-sized, and features the letters pages. I hope that they collect the next three Masterworks in Omnibus format, because Vol. 6's brilliant Roy Thomas/ Neal Adams collaboration is marred by the glued mousetrap binding found in that book.

Collects Swamp Thing (Vol. 1) Nos. 1-13 and a selection from House of Secrets No. 92 (cover dates July, 1971- December, 1974).
I first encountered the first 10 issues of this series in a digest called Secret of the Swamp Thing a few years ago in the Graphic Novel section at John King Books North in Ferndale, MI. At the time, someone was dumping off mass quantities of trades, and I was scooping them up super cheap and loving it. I was absolutely blown away by Bernie Wrightson's artwork, and have always been a fan of Len Wein's melodramatic writing. When DC solicited this hardcover collection of this, I had to jump at it. The book itself is a disappointment. Fans accustomed to high quality DC Archives and Marvel Masterworks will be sorely disappointed by the tight gutters*, glued binding, and inferior paper. The paper is OK, and worlds better than the garbage that they used in Jack Kirby's The Demon, but is still not up to snuff. *Gutters are the white borders on the inside of the book which fall into, well, the

gutter of the book. A few minutes of re-sizing the pages so that the white borders were visible would have been nice, DC. Instead, you have the image on both sides of the page sinking down into the gutter, requiring you to almost pry the book apart to see the full artwork. I have provided pictures of my book below, so you be the judge. To me, it is unacceptable; to a casual buyer, maybe it is. Sewn binding would have greatly reduced this problem, especially towards the very front and very back of the book. I also included a picture of the glue clump that protrudes from the bottom of the ornamental cloth on the bottom of the book. All in all this is top shelf material in an inferior format. This would have made a great DC Archive. Using better materials and the higher than average Archive page count, they could have charged $65-70 and I would have been happy. Instead, we got this. Oh well, it's great material that you owe it to yourself to read in spite of this particular format's shortcomings.

SECRET WARS II OMNIBUS (Marvel, 2009; Hardcover)
Collects Alpha Flight (Vol. 1) No. 28, Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 268, 273, 274, Avengers Nos. 260, 261, 265, 266, Captain America No. 306, Cloak and Dagger (Vol. 2) No. 4, Daredevil No. 223, Dazzler No. 40, Defenders No. 152, Doctor Strange No. 74, Fantastic Four Nos. 282, 285, 288, 316-319, Incredible Hulk No. 312, Iron Man (Vol. 1) No. 197, New Mutants (Vol. 1) Nos. 30, 36, 37, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man No. 111, Power Man and Iron Fist No. 121, Power Pack No. 18, Quasar No. 8, Secret Wars II Nos. 1-9, The Thing No. 30, Thor No. 363, Uncanny X-Men Nos. 196, 202, 203 and Web of Spider-Man No. 6 (cover dates July, 1985- March, 1990).
I have many fond memories of this series and the crossover issues contained herein. This was the first big Marvel crossover in terms of there being a million different issues that tied into a bigger series. I fell hook, line and sinker for the first few months, buying crap like Doctor Strange and the New Mutants that I didn't care one whit for at the time. As the months progressed, that stopped though. I was exposed to some really good reads too, like Daredevil #223, Incredible Hulk #312, and Captain America #308, all of which I read multiple times that summer. The core mini-series was okay, nostalgia aside. Jim Shooter's writing has many dated slang and pop culture references which are forgivable, and is mostly solid. He makes some corny jokes but also doles out some thought-provoking plots. I dug on Al Milgrom's art circa 1984 on Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, but once you remove those rose-colored glasses you realize that he sucks. Sorry, Al, but you do. One of the 'DVD-style' bonuses in the back of the book are Sal Buscema's unused pencils for Issue 1. It doesn't say why he bailed, but he never did the series, and that is unfortunate. Sal Buscema has a workman-like chug, but delivers solid storytelling and decent action sequences. I have to wonder 'what if'. The Fantastic Four issues (316-319) with Steve Englehart (writer) and Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott (artists) are great, in spite of the fact that Ms. Marvel is, for some reason, a female Thing here. The Quasar issue sucks, and I consider it nothing more than a bonus, as it really doesn't tie in with what is going on in the rest of the book. I am thrilled to death to see something that I loved as a child preserved in a deluxe, high-quality format like this. Nice paper, sewn binding, the only problem is the typos in the table of contents. Why would they list the wrong issues in the wrong spots? That's silly, especially when the indicia has the correct issues listed. A minor quibble, especially in light of the fact that this is a monster 1,188 book.

Collects Luke Cage, Hero For Hire Nos. 1-16 and Luke Cage, Power Man Nos. 17-27 (cover dates June, 1972- October, 1975).
I haven't had this much fun reading '70s jive-fool smack talkin', bravado-tinged dialogue in ages. This title changed hands between all of the usual '70s workhorses, so for economy of space I'll let you surf the Internet if you're really dying to know who wrote or drew the issue (or you could click on the cover image, as most of the notables are listed there). I had never read this title but was always interested, and when I saw it in the $5 box at the Motor City Con in May I jumped at it. I would re-buy this material in color and in hardcover in a heartbeat.

Collects Sandman Mystery Theatre Nos. 5-12 (cover dates August, 1993- March, 1994)
Another satisfying installment in this series. I really enjoy the tone and pacing of this book.

Collects Sandman Mystery Theatre Nos. 13-16 (cover dates April- July, 1994)
Further proof that the best comics of the '90s didn't come from Marvel.

Collects Sandman Mystery Theatre Nos. 17-20 (cover dates August- November, 1994)
I don't like the paper that they use in these trades. Other than that, this is really good stuff. I really have a thing for the 1930s, even though any time that I get romantic about it I have to stop immediately. Being an Atheist, they would have likely lynched me. Also, it seems like the 'good old days', but the reality of it is that unless you were a white male, it obviously wasn't. Women and minorities were second class citizens, unable to secure jobs with equal pay, etc. So I have mixed emotions about it. I guess I just made too many trips to Greenfield Village as a child.

Collects Sandman Mystery Theatre Nos. 21-28 (cover dates December, 1994- July, 1995)
This is such a great series that focuses on the ugly side of the 'good old days'. I really want to get the Golden Age Sandman DC Archives. I am bummed that I have to stop my marathon, as I haven't picked up Vols. 6 and 7 yet.

Collects Excalibur (Vol. 1) Nos. 42-50 (cover dates October, 1991- May, 1992)
Exceptionally good stuff by Alan Davis (duh). This is one of those runs that I have never read until now that makes me wonder how much more great stuff I missed during my sabbatical from comic books in the 1990s.

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