MARVEL MASTERWORKS: GOLDEN AGE MARVEL COMICS VOL. 5 (Marvel, 2010; Hardcover)
Collects Marvel Mystery Comics Nos. 17-20 (cover dates March- June, 1941)
This is the cream of the Timely Comics crop. All of the greats are helming their original creations since they haven't been drafted by Uncle Sam to serve in World War II yet. The Nazis are recurring antagonists across the strips, which is interesting considering that all of these issues were published well before we entered World War II. Every 64-page issue was divided up among the following strips:
The Angel by Paul Gustavson- The Angel is the pulp hero throwback of the title, and has the best continuity out of all of the strips in the title. This feels like an old movie serial cliffhanger, with each issue ending with a seeming disaster that our hero could not possibly survive. The Angel is arguably the most violent of the characters here, engaging in rough and tumble fisticuffs at the drop of a hat.
The Vision by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby- The concept is pure cheese, but what delicious cheese it is! The Vision enters our dimension through smoke? And decides to fight evil?? No further explanation is ever given, and honestly, none is needed. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are great, and this bursts with all of the energy that you would expect from the pair.
The Sub-Mariner by Bill Everett- The cream of the Timely crop, Everett's Prince Namor is a hot headed, egotistical prick...a characteristic that is employed to this day. Everett's artwork is a joy, and I am looking forward to the upcoming Bill Everett Archives from Fantagraphics Books.
The Human Torch by Carl Burgos- I am not as enamored with the Torch and Toro as I was once was. I own, and have read, all of the Golden Age Marvel Masterworks, so I am well versed in their exploits. Burgos is a less capable storyteller than his peers, and his artwork is often crude by comparison. I enjoy them, but like the other strips much more. The thing that grinds my nerves is that Burgos established the Torch as an android early on and then ret-conned him into being a human. I am sorry, but I have a real hard time with this.
Ka-Zar the Great by Ben Thompson- Fast paced and far out jungle fun. There is always some unkown section that the Lord of the Jungle doesn't know about, with giants and Lizard-People or whatnot. Too funny.
Electro, The Marvel of the Age by Steve Dahlman- This “Iron-Man” is a ridiculous and often tedious read. The lettering (by Dahlman?) is horrible, with huge swaths of ugly lettering obscuring the artwork, not that this is a huge problem. Dahlman has not gone down in history as one of the greats of the Golden Age for a reason. Professor Zog is becoming more combative, no longer being content with merely controlling the robot by remote. Now he uses a gun and caps criminals.
Terry Vance, the Schoolboy Sleuth by Ray Gill and Bill Oksner- A product of the time, this is an okay read. Some of these concepts could be retooled for modern comics, but not this one. It has its charms for sure.
Kudos to Marvel for preserving these issues, as they originals are too obscure and too expensive for any but the most affluent collectors to afford to read. While these Golden Age Masterworks are pricey ($64.99 MSRP), they are far cheaper than a beater reader copy of even one issue, which would be several hundred dollars.
The OCD zone- The paper, the binding, the color and linework restoration are all wonderful. Two thumbs up. I would give it more, but I only have two thumbs.
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