Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men

Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Vol. 1: The Strangest Super-Heroes of AllMighty Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Vol. 1: The Strangest Super-Heroes of All by Stan Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Vol. 1: The Strangest Super-Heroes of All collects X-Men #1-10.

I've been buying these new Masterworks with the Michael Cho covers so my wife bought this for me for my birthday or Father's day or some such occasion.

Nobody mentions X-Men #1-10 when great Silver Age Marvel books are brought up so I was surprised at how good this was. Lee and Kirby worked the bugs out of the Marvel Method and the bickering family-style team by this point so this stuff is pretty slick.

A lot of formative stuff appears here: first X-Men, first Professor X, first Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, first Ka-Zar, well, that last one isn't all that important.

Stan Lee does the words while Jack Kirby does the pencils with Paul Reinman and Chic Stone on inks. The usual put upon S. Rosen and A. Simek do the lettering. Speaking of, I noticed a couple instances of characters being called by the wrong name and a 'from' instead of a 'form.' I wonder if Sam Rosen or Artie Simek was tired of Stan Lee's crap that day and let those pass.

The stories hold up pretty well, full of action and the bickering team dynamic. I'd say this reads better than the first year of Avengers or Fantastic Four. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, July 31, 2022

52 Omnibus

52 Omnibus52 Omnibus by Geoff Johns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

52 Omnibus collects all 52 issues of 52, a weekly miniseries DC did in 2006-2007.

Event comics: you hate them, right? 52 spun out of Infinite Crisis, where Superboy died and the multiverse was reborn. The idea behind 52 was a year without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but not a year without heroes.

Would DC really go a year without publishing 100 Batman comics? Shit, no! All the mainline books jumped a year so DC got to have its cake and eat it too. Anyway, I was dating a girl who was into comics at the time and she got me to get back into reading them. I sampled a few but 52 was the one I latched on to.

DC picked an interesting cast to elevate into headliners. Elongated Man is mourning his wife after the events of Identity Crisis. Adam Strange, Starfire, and Animal Man are stranded in deep space. The Question has recruited Renee Montoya for a quest unknown. Black Adam finds love and a family. Booster Gold struggles to fill Superman's shoes and still make a quick buck. Someone is kidnapping mad scientists and Will Magnus wonders who it is. Alan Scott has joined Checkmate. Nightwing is protecting Gotham while Batman finds himself and meets the new Batwoman. Lex Luthor is giving people super powers and John Henry Irons doesn't like it one bit. I think that's everybody.

While my enjoyment is slightly tainted on this reread since I know most of the main characters haven't done much since Flashpoint apart from Black Adam. Still, 52 is a wild ride and it's crazy that it all came together like it did. Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, and Keith Giffen crafted the stories and Giffen's layouts kept the ship running on time. There were easily 40 artists working on this but Keith Giffen's layouts more or less gave the series a unified feel, as did J.G. Jones' covers.

The various plot threads intersect and entangle at various points, usually involving Intergang or Nanda Parbat, although the Adam Strange/Starfire/Animal Man plot doesn't hit any of the other threads unless I've already forgotten. So much is packed into this book: Elongated Man having adventures with Dr. Fate's helmet as a guide; Black Adam finding a family and losing it; Booster Gold finally making good but not being able to tell anyone; Renee Montoya finding a new life; Animal Man and company having cosmic adventures with Lobo; Will Magnus doing something interesting for a change.

I don't remember which thread was my favorite last time I read this. This time, it has to be The Question and Renee Montoya, although I love Will Magnus getting caught up in the doings on Oolong Island. An island of mad scientists would make an awesome humor comic if comics were still allowed to be fun. The Booster/Rip Hunter/Supernova storyline was also well done. Thanks to the magic of aging, I forgot at least 75% of this so it was like reading it for the first time during great whacks of the book.

52 stars. Available with a substantial discount instocktrades.com

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Grendel Omnibus: Volume 1 - Hunter Rose

Grendel Omnibus, Vol. 1: Hunter RoseGrendel Omnibus, Vol. 1: Hunter Rose by Matt Wagner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grendel Omnibus, Vol. 1 collects Grendel: Devil by the Deed, Grendel: Black, White, and Red, Grendel: Red, White, and Black, and Grendel: Behold the Devil.

There's a Grendel Netflix series a-brewin' so I pre-ordered this untold months ago. Even though I read Grendel: Behold the Devil earlier in the year, I went ahead and read it again.

All the stories in this book are written by Matt Wagner. Matt providers the art for Devil by the Deed and Behold the Devil and a handful of the shorts. Grendel: Black, White, and Red, and Grendel: Red, White, and Black feature an all-star team of artists.

This is a gorgeous book and there aren't many like it out there. The art is all done in black, red, and gray tones, making for a striking presentation.

Devil by the Deed is a retelling of the Comico Grendel run featuring Hunter Rose. I'm told Matt is embarrassed by the Comico run's art, since he was using a manga-influenced style rather than the style he was using on Mage at the same time. Anyway, it's good stuff, although much wordier than I'd like for a comic.

The short stories by other artists in Grendel: Black, White, and Red, and Grendel: Red, White, and Black were my favorite part of the collection, each one giving a different glimpses of Hunter Rose, aka the first Grendel THAT WE KNOW OF. Behold the Devil is an exquisite book depicting Grendel going about his day to day business while a reporter tries to uncover his identity and something else is stalking him.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. It's not a masterpiece but it's a beautiful book and very well written. I've read most of this material before but still enjoyed the hell out of it. I find Grendel simultaneously cool and revolting, making for a well rounded anti-hero. I like how Matt Wagner never lets you forget that Grendel is a ruthless, murderous bastard no matter how charming he may seem.

Five out of five sword canes. Read it now so you can lord it over the people who discover Grendel through the Netflix series.

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last RoninTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin by Kevin Eastman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sixteen years ago, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had their final battle with The Foot Clan and lost. Now, the last Turtle is back and looking for payback...

I'm not the world's biggest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan, but I was into the cartoon, the movies, and the Archie books in the late 1980s/early 1990s. People were talking this up on Twitter so I nabbed it.

Aside from some garbanzo spoiling the reveal of which Turtle The Last Ronin was, I enjoyed this quite a bit. Set in a dystopian future where the Foot Clan controls New York, the last of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles connects with some old friends and gears up for the final showdown with Iroku Hiroto, grandson of the Shredder.

The writing by Tom Waltz is poignant for a book about a humanoid turtle walking around kicking ass. I haven't read any of the IDW TMNT books but felt right at home. I felt sadness at the loss of Splinter and the other three turtles and a growing anticipation for the final battle with Iroku Hiroto.

The art by Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, and Luis Antonio Delgado was moody as hell. It was obviously computer colored but the coloring suited the story very well and wasn't overdone like I find a lot of computer coloring these days.

My only gripes with the book are that I found the storytelling a little awkward in places. There were a few times I had to reread a page or two to figure out what exactly I was looking at. I also thought the final battle could have been a little longer and Iroku Hiroto could have been a little more fleshed out. Overall, it was a great book, though.

Four out of five nunchaku.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Hawk & The Dove: The Silver Age

The Hawk and the Dove: The Silver AgeThe Hawk and the Dove: The Silver Age by Steve Ditko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hawk and the Dove: The Silver Age collects Showcase #75, The Hawk and the Dove #1-6 and Teen Titans #21.

I was on a Ditko kick when I grabbed this on the cheap. Created by Steve Ditko after he left Marvel in the late '60s, Hawk and Dove are a pair of brothers. Hawk is a hot head that solves everything with violence and is fairly conservative. Dove is a peaceful liberal pacifist. Together, they fight crime and each other.

The stories are very political for comics of the time period, dealing with hippies and war protests. Hank and Don Hall are given powers by an all powerful voice and their natural abilities are amplified when they transform into Hawk and Dove. Apart from a costumed gang called The Dropouts, they mostly fight ordinary street criminals but their biggest battles are between their conflicting personalities.

This feels way more like a Marvel book than a DC book. The Hall brothers spend more time bickering than fighting crime. The stories are okay, with Ditko, Steve Skeats, and Neal Adams handling the writing. The art is the cream of the crop for the time period, though. Steve Ditko does three comics, Gil Kane does four, one with Wally Wood inks, and a young up and comer named Neal Adams handles the Teen Titans issue. Silver Age DC books have a reputation for being stodgy and bland but this one is a visual feast.

And that's that. The Hawk and the Dove: The Silver Age is an overlooked gem from the late Silver Age of comics. Get it on the cheap from InstockTrades while supplies last.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3: The Goblin and the Gangsters

Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3: The Goblin and the GangstersMighty Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3: The Goblin and the Gangsters by Stan Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3: The Goblin and the Gangsters collects Amazing Spider-Man #20-28 plus Annual #2.

These Mighty Marvel Masterworks are hit or miss for me. Some of them do not age well at all. Others, like this one, are pretty damn good even after sixty years.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were in their prime during this span of issues, no matter who was doing all the heavy lifting. Spidey goes up against The Green Goblin, the Scorpion, The Beetle, The Circus of Crime, The Crime Master, the Molten Man, and a Spider-Slayer robot. He even has time to team up with Doctor Strange against Xandu, an evil wizard.

I shouldn't be as surprised as I am considering I've read quite a bit of Silver Age Marvel stuff but there is so much stuff crammed into these issues. Each one has enough material for two issues, four to six issues of a modern comic. Ditko was at the top of his game and Stan was still putting in the effort on the dialog. As I've said before, I think these early Spider-Man issues hold up better than the early Fantastic Four issues, especially when you factor in the dialog.

I think one of the reason these issues have such charm for me is because Spider-Man is still fairly new. He has some history but not enough to drag him down. Lee and Ditko are still inventing the dances that Spidey will do for decades after they leave the book. Hell, Mary Jane Watson hasn't even met Peter yet and won't for another two years!

Four out of five stars. This is one of the best runs of the Silver Age.

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Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Original Ghost Rider, Volume 1

The Original Ghost Rider, Volume 1The Original Ghost Rider, Volume 1 by Gardner Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Original Ghost Rider Volume 1 collects Ghost Rider 1-5 plus stories from Tim Holt, published by Magazine Enterprises in the late 1940s.

I was running low on Western comics and one of my guys on Twitter recommended this. I gave it a shot, not really knowing what to expect.

The Ghost Rider is US Marshal Rex Fury. After falling down The Devil's Sink, Rex Fury awakes in limbo and learns great skills from various dead Western figures, emerging to fight injustice as... The Ghost Rider!

Rex Fury and his offensive Chinese stereotype sidekick Sing Song go through standard Western adventures involving corrupt lawmen, claim jumpers, hostile Indians, and things of that nature. The stories are easily digestible at 8-10 pages apiece and somewhat goofy in the way that most comics from the 1940s are, clearly geared toward kids and not middle age guys wolfing them down one after another.

Dastardly Dick Ayers handles the art chores aside from some dynamite Frank Frazetta covers. Old Dick had some chops when he wasn't forced to draw super heroes in a Jack Kirby style. His Ghost Rider looks great and he's good Western scenery, locomotives, and horse after God damn horse. I think a lot of artists probably breathed a sigh of relief when the genre died so they wouldn't have to draw so many damn horses.

I really like the taste of the Ghost Rider I had hear. The stories harken back to the Lone Ranger stories I watched on TV before school and the Ghost Rider is a striking figure. Later stories feature horror elements so I'm definitely down with that. Sadly, this is the only volume Canton Street Press has put out to date so I'll have to settle for public domain reprints of the rest.

Marvel hi-jacked the Western Ghost Rider character when the trademark allegedly lapsed when Magazine Enterprises went out of business but I have no idea how their version compares, although they got Dick Ayers back for it. That's something, I guess.

Four out of five stars. There's a Ghost Rider shaped hole in my life now.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Batman: Thrillkiller

Batman: ThrillkillerBatman: Thrillkiller by Howard Chaykin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In swinging 1961, Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson fight crime in their thrillseeking way as Batgirl and Robin! Will Barbara's father, Commissioner Gordon, or ace cop Bruce Wayne, deduce their identities before they get in over their heads?

This Elseworlds Batman book has been on my radar for years. My wife nabbed it for me for my birthday last week.

Dan Brereton's painted art always has a more dynamic, lively feel than the art of some other comics painters. His character designs for Batgirl, Robin, Bianca Steeplechase aka The Joker, and later Batman are all dynamite, fresh but still reminiscent of the source material. He also paints one hell of a sexy Batgirl.

A lot of Elseworlds don't stray far enough from the source material for my taste but this one has everything off kilter. Barbara Gordon is a bored millionaire fighting crime for kicks with her acrobat boyfriend, Dick Grayson. Bruce Wayne's parents lost Wayne Manor and the unknown cave beneath it during the Great Depression and Bruce is a detective on the GCPD, avenging his parents in that way. The Joker is a maniacal woman named Bianca Steeplechase. Babs and Dick are sticking it to the corrupt police force when they get snared into something much bigger.

Not everyone gets out alive. It's a great couple of noir tales, illustrated in Brereton's moody style. Howard Chaykin knows how to weave a gritty detective yarn, super heroes or not. As a bonus, the sequel, Thrillkiller '62 is included, building off the events of the previous volume. Without giving too much away, Thrillerkiller '63 is long overdue! I want more of this off kilter world!

Four out of five stars. Go buy it!

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Sunday, July 10, 2022

Phantom Starkiller #1

Phantom Starkiller #1Phantom Starkiller #1 by Peter Goral
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Phantom Starkiller, the cosmic ghoul warrior, is looking for a power crystal when he finds a young girl with mysterious powers. Will he bring her back to his master, Count Draco?

A couple of my guys were reading this on Twitter so I gave it a shot. It was awesome!

This is clearly a Star Wars homage but it's a heavy metal fueled homage featuring the bad guys. Phantom Starkiller is an undead assassin and one bad mother fucker, cutting down people, aliens, and droids alike with his electro-blade on the way to his goals.

I sprang for the Legendary edition, black and white with splashes of color on occasional pages, at 11 x 17. It's a gorgeous book with artwork in a bronze age style. Like I said, it wears the Star Wars influence on its sleeve and clubs people over the head with it.

Five out of five stars. I'm going to have to review Count Draco as soon as someone adds it to the database.

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Rai: Deluxe Edition

Rai by Dan Abnett: Deluxe EditionRai by Dan Abnett: Deluxe Edition by Dan Abnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rai by Dan Abnett: Deluxe Edition collects Fallen World #1-5 and Rai #1-10.

Okay, I liked the original Valiant run but I was never into Rai. A friend of mine on Twitter recommended this so I grabbed it on the cheap from Instocktrades.com.

So apparently before the series began, Rai killed an AI called Father and the New Japan satellite crashed into Earth, killing lots of people. Only Father is still alive and Rai needs to kill him with the help of Raijin, the Rai prototype. The two go on an adventure across post-apocalyptic 4001 AD, destroying The Offspring, Father's backups.

Let's get the thing I disliked out of way right off the bat. There is no resolution in this volume. One of the big bads is revealed and one of the heroes is reborn but there's no payoff beyond that.

Other than that, this was a pretty bad ass adventure story, part cyberpunk, part Mad Max. There are also some of those pesky moral dilemmas Star Trek always wrestles with. Lots of bad guys get cut down with swords. The story was gripping and Juan Jose Ryp is a great artist. The coloring was a little overdone for my taste but that's true for most comics these days.

I expect the relationship between Rai and Raijin will play a pivotal role in the climax of the story, whenever that may be. Since I only read trades and omnibuses, it may have already happened.

I'm giving this a four pending the resolution of the saga. This one is safe from a trip to Half Price Books for now.

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