Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reviews: Hawkman; Neil Young- A Treasure; Whocares

HAWKMAN (DC, 1989; softcover)

Collects the Hawkman stories from The Brave and the Bold Nos. 34-36, 42-44 (cover dates March, 1961- November, 1962)

I love DC's Chronicles line of trade paperbacks. Aside from the stray issue of Batman as a small child, this is how I got started on Batman comic books. Then the Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Flash ones came out. I bought them all because I like to see how characters got their start, and they collect everything in chronological order by publication date. I ended up ditching the Green Lantern line for the Omnibus and the Wonder Woman line for the Archives (all gathering dust in my backlog, to be reviewed in 2012/2013). Along the way I wondered about DC's "other" iconic character, Hawkman. I thought that he was cool in the SuperFriends cartoon as a kid and was thinking that I would pick up a Chronicles trade paperback if they ever released one. One day I was out gallivanting around various comic book stores and stumbled across this old school trade, with Hawkman's earliest appearances and clocking in at 160 pages...just like a Chronicles trade! I was ecstatic.

The comparisons end there, though, because for starters this trade is a ripoff compared to my beloved Chronicles trades. While the paper is a nicer stock, the cover price on this book is $20, which is more than the current line (priced at $15-18). Even more appalling is the fact that they priced this book at the higher price over 20 years ago! Chronicles trades feature all of the covers in their correct place before each story, but not this book. DC has never had any rhyme or reason when it comes to cover placement in their trades. Some have them in the back of the book, some don't feature them at all. Here we get them 2 per page, 4 covers in all. The problem is that this book reprints 6 issues. The icing on the cake is that one of the 4 covers featured is to issue 45, which is not even reprinted in this book!

I love the faulty science and the charm of Silver Age comic books. DC was zany and borderline ridiculous during this era, especially when compared to their fledgling competitor, Marvel Comics. (Several issues in this book actually pre-date Fantastic Four #1, the start of the Marvel Age of Comics.) Gardner Fox writes this relaunch of his former Golden Age creation, and while I have the Golden Age Hawkman Archive, I have not read it yet. He really expands upon the character in a logical manner, first supplying Hawkman's origin and then the origin of his home planet Thanagar. Joe Kubert handles the artwork, and his artwork is serviceable for the era but is not really my cup of tea. He is sub-par when you compare him to the other heavyweights of this era, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby.

I had fun reading this but will not pursue either of the Hawkman Archives from this era for the usual reasons: Money, space, and time. I don't have enough of any of the above.

Neil Young International Harvesters/ A Treasure (Reprise, 2011)

Neil Young has made a career out of committing career suicide. Whether thumbing his nose up at fans coming to hear him play the hits in the early '70s by playing a set of unreleased songs or abandoning his signature sound in the early '80s, he has always done exactly what he wants. This live album, recorded in 1984 and 1985, is almost pure country. When you compare it to what was going on in popular music at the time, it is apparent how out of step with current music this line-up was. I think that is what I like the most about it, that he wasn't trying to play catch up or fit into popular music of the day in the way that many of his contemporaries were. Some of the songs are not my cup of tea, but two really hit the sweet spot for me: Their cover of Buffalo Springfield's Flying on the Ground Is Wrong is stellar, possibly even better than the original (which Young wrote anyways) and Grey Riders, a more "traditional" Neil Young rocker. The album has many worthwhile moments and is a nice addition in the "Archives" series of releases.

Whocares (Armoury/ E.A.R. Music, 2011)

Whocares started out as some sort of Rock charity thing...I really don't know and don't care what and why. What I do care about, though, is that this is one of the most super supergroups that I have ever heard. Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) on vocals. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell) on guitar. Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica) on bass. Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden) on drums. Jon Lord (retired, formerly of Deep Purple) on organ. This EP only has 2 songs on it, and I can only hope that they find time to make a full album. Iommi's guitar solo on Out of My Mind is classic, razor sharp stuff. It sounds like something he would've recorded 30+ years ago, just fantastic. It's nice to hear Iommi and Gillan collaborate again. I am one of the dozen or so people who think that Born Again is a great Black Sabbath album, and while neither of these songs are anywhere near as good as that classic, it's nice to hear them together again. Gillan's vocals still sound as strong as they did way back when. I have my doubts that we'll see this group tour due to the member's other band commitments, but stranger things have happened.

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