Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: Marvel Masterworks- The Avengers Vol. 10; Robocop Vol. 1- Revolution

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AVENGERS VOL. 10 (Marvel, 2010; Hardcover)

Collects Avengers Nos. 89-100 (cover dates June, 1971- June, 1972)

Like the Mobile Fidelity Gold CDs/ Half-speed Master LPs, the Marvel Masterworks line is the best of the best, with the finest materials and craftsmanship available. I had the old Kree-Skrull War trade, but why settle for the shoddy equivalent of a 16-bit '80s CD when the deluxe 24-bit remaster is available?

The Kree-Skrull War was, and still is, a high mark in the annals of comic book storytelling. This was the longest running story 'arc' of its time, lasting 9 whole issues. Nowadays, this would take 9 trade paperbacks to tell this much story. Sure, Roy Thomas (Writer) has to back peddle to tie up some loose ends along the way, but that's just the way that things were done back then. They may have had ideas of how they wanted stories to go, but they didn't structure 6 issue arcs for each story idea and then fill it in with padding. They started with one issue, and if the story seemed to run over, it spilt into the next issue, so on and so forth.

Sal and John Buscema, along with Barry Windsor-Smith, handle some of the artwork, but the real star of the show is the god-among-men, Neal Adams. Adams pushed the medium to the limit on all counts. Panel layouts, colors, photo realistic artwork...these issues are a joy to behold. I have included several of my favorite images/ sequences from this book for you to drool over.

Here we see Ant-Man trying to reactivate the android Vision by going inside of his body. LOTS of trippy, psychedlic-tinged Adams artwork in that issue.

I love this shit!

Adams was a master of shading and angles. While know-it-nothings on the Internet who champion, say, Jim Lee might state that Triton's hand is too big, they miss the big picture. Triton's hand is coming TOWARDS you, thus giving the illusion of movement. He is pulling himself up out of the water. The water dripping off of him and spilling on the docks cements this intention. I'd like to see Jim Lee do anything remotely this kick-ass. Adams conveys more story information in one panel than many artist do in one page.

Adams used the highly limited four-color printing process and was able to do ingenious things with it. Here we see him add depth perception to 2-D pages by coloring the character at the forefront in a slightly different shade than those in the rear of the panel. Pure genius.

Adams' images have a sort of kinetic energy. You can sort of see the movement. Many modern day comic artists may be technically "better" (i.e. composition of a panel), but their images are static, statue-like poses. Adams' characters move.

Neal Adams could knock out action sequences so convincing that you could hear and feel bones crunch. Take this cover for Issue 96, for example. You see the anger on the Vision's face, the trembling of his left fist as it's about to smash down immediately after the right cross, the Skrull's twitching, clutching hands showing his agony from this violent pummeling. Again, look at how much information is conveyed on the cover alone. Stunning.

Note the size of the Vision's fist in relation to his body. Smarmy community college art students would state how the Vision's arm looks too long. From a storytelling perspective, it gives the impression of the fist coming towards the Skrull. There is more to great comic book art than simply drawing a pretty picture. It is an artform largely lost on today's artistes looking for a movie option for their "graphic novel".

Sorry to be so image heavy, but if any book deserves it, it's this one. Recommended reading to any serious comic book fan. Seriously people, read this and then tell me that Bendis is a good Avengers writer. Please.

ROBOCOP VOL. 1: REVOLUTION (Dynamite, 2010; softcover)

Collects Robocop Nos. 1-4 (cover dates January- May, 2010)

This was an enjoyable read, but Dynamite seems to have dropped the ball with this series. They published 6 issues, but only included 4 here. They announced a Robocop Omnibus that would collect the Marvel and Dark Horse material, but never followed through with it. It was never even officially solicited. It's a bummer, and Robocop deserves a statue here in Detroit.

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