Sunday, July 23, 2017

Review- MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AVENGERS VOL. 12



MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AVENGERS VOL. 12 (Marvel, First Printing, 2012; Hardcover)

Collects Avengers #112-119, Defenders # 8-11, and material from Foom #6, 7 (cover dates June, 1973- January, 1974 and Summer-Fall, 1974 for Foom Magazine bonus material)

NOTE: Only the four page prologue, Chapter One, is reprinted from Defenders # 8. The rest of the issue has no bearing on the plotline for this crossover and is therefore unnecessary. Don't think of it as an omission of Defenders # 8, think of it as bonus material for the main story.

Writer: Steve Englehart

Artists: Bob Brown, Sal Buscema (Defenders # 8-11), and Don Heck (#112, including Inking), with Inking by Frank Bolle, Mike Esposito, and Frank McLaughlin



The Avengers entered the Bronze Age with a bang. The first few issues in this book are Steve Englehart doing his warm up exercises, finding his voice before launching the biggest crossover of it's kind at the time, The Avengers/Defenders War. This ran across four issues of Avengers and four issues of Defenders and was the brainchild of Englehart.

#113 shows a terrorist organization,The Living Bombs, a hate group that targets mutants like the Scarlet Witch and synthezoids like The Vision. To their credit they were a progressive hate group for their time, allowing women and blacks into their ranks. This was possibly the first depiction of a suicide bomber in fiction. The story is timeless, as we still deal with bigotry and suicide bombers today. The more things change, eh?

Englehart introduces Mantis in #114, setting up one of the all-time great Avengers storylines, The Celestial Madonna. I read the trade paperback of it a decade or so ago and am looking forward to reading that one in “high def” in a volume already aging to perfection in my backlog of unread books.



Back to The Avengers/Defenders War, it is more fun to read this when compared to modern crossovers, which are mapped out more carefully. There are times where it feels like not only do I not know where the story is going, but neither does Englehart. I'm not going to bother with the plot synopsis, as it is a very basic story and it can be found on any of the usual sites. My job is to tell you why you need this book, not necessarily what it's about on a page by page basis. I will say that the Hawkeye and Iron Man battle is weak, as Hawkeye is hopelessly outclassed but pulls it off somehow. Lame. There are some legendary hero versus hero throwdowns, namely Thor versus The Hulk. In just a few short months we'll see that come to life on the big screen in Thor: Ragnarok, although I'm betting that it won't be as cool as it is here in this book.

The epilogue to the battle, as well as the book, is the meta-crossover that the guys at Marvel did with their pals over at DC (Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, and Len Wein). Tom Fagan, a part of early comic fandom, convinced the town to have superheroes as a part of the parade. It became a favorite of comic creators and it inspired the first Marvel and DC crossover in 1972. There were several unofficial Rutland Halloween Parade crossovers in comics for a few years. Both universe's heroes wound up in the town of Rutland, VT, with each universe's characters having an adventure at the same time but not really interacting with one another aside from a background shot. Savvy fans were in on the joke, and with no Internet to spread the news it took a few years for people to catch wind of it.



The story in #119 is an absolute blast, one of those it can only have happened in 1973 type of stories. The Collector decides to finally collect all of The Avengers by buying a house in Rutland, VT, spending six months getting it ready to trap the team there for his collection. It's completely, utterly ridiculous, and I love it because it is played straight even though you know that Englehart was pissing his pants laughing as he wrote this.



When people talk about all-time great Avengers writers, a few names should pop up. Steve Englehart's is one of them. This book is the opening salvo of his run and belongs in your collection.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Marvel Masterworks are my poison of choice. For Masterworks of this book's vintage, rest assured that this is the definitive Blu-Ray edition of this material. No line bleed or off register printing. No mouldering pulp paper. The art and the colors look like the artists intended and are not hampered by primitive four color printing processes.
Linework and Color restoration: Think of the post-2007 Masterworks as definitive Blu-Ray editions, with painstakingly restored linework and a color palette that is 100% faithful to the source material. Those who claim that the colors are too bright or miss the “artistic choice” of so- called Ben Day dots are nuts.
Paper stock: Thick coated semi-glossy coated stock.
Binding: Rounded book casing and Smyth sewn binding allow this book to lay completely flat in one hand as Godzilla intended.



Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Spot varnish on the dustjacket, faux leather grain casewrap with dye foil stamping.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Review- CREEPSHOW




CREEPSHOW (Gallery 13, First Gallery 13 Printing, 2017; Softcover)

Original release on the top, new rerelease on the bottom.


Collects the Creepshow original graphic novel from 1982.

Original release on the left, new rerelease on the right.


Writer: Stephen King

Artist: Bernie Wrightson



I have been waiting for this book to be rereleased for years! Marvel missed their moment to reissue this back when King and then later on Romero were doing comics with them. They could have, and should have, negotiated to release this in a hardcover. Instead we get this reasonable facsimile of the original graphic novel. There are a few differences which I go into in nauseating detail below, but for now let's stick with the stories themselves.

Original release on the top, new rerelease on the bottom.

Stephen King was one of those weird kids who liked Horror comics in the early 1950s. The kind of kid whose parents would throw his comic books away, so they would hide them and read them by flashlight under their covers at night. EC were King's favorite, and Creepshow is the most earnest love letter of all time. King's love for '50s Pre-Code Horror comic books is so obvious that it's contagious. Hence this adaptation in the then-new graphic novel format.

Original release on the top, new rerelease on the bottom.


I've read these stories many times, and there isn't a word or brushstroke that doesn't hold up. I seldom use the word perfect, but these stories and this comic book are perfect. I am thrilled to get a budget-priced reader copy instead of adding endless wear and tear to my original. I know that there a lot of people out there who have been wanting a copy of this book but were reluctant to plunk down the coin that an original was commanding. Now everyone can afford a copy.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 6 out of 5.

Original release on the top, new rerelease on the bottom.


The OCD zone- This is basically a facsimile edition of the original 1982 graphic novel, presented in the same dimensions as the original book. The back cover is completely different from the original, but otherwise this book provides the same overall experience of the original graphic novel.
Linework and Color restoration: These are direct scans of the original printed book. The original was printed on glossy coated stock. The matte coated stock used for this edition, combined with scanning and Photoshop tinkering, makes things occasionally murky, particularly in The Crate. This is really a perfectly serviceable scan job. It's only when you compare it with an original printing that you can see the “problems” with it.

Original release on the top, new rerelease on the bottom. Note how some of the linework is buried by the darker color palette. 


Paper stock: Matte coated stock with no sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Matte coating with spot varnish.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review- WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN



WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN (Marvel, Eighth Printing, 2017; Softcover)

Collects Wolverine #66-72 and Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size (cover dates August, 2008- November, 2009)

Writer: Mark Millar

Artists: Steve McNiven with Inking by Dexter Vines, Mark Morales, and Jay Leisten

Colorists: Morry Hollowell, Christina Strain, Justin Ponsor, Jason Keith, Nathan Fairbairn, and Paul Mounts



I passed on this when it first came out for no real reason. Well, there is one reason. Wolverine has been mutilated beyond recognition by writers who have played carelessly with this toy over the years, leaving him broken and unrecognizable from his original version. I like the stubborn, temperamental brawler that was introduced in the works of Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne. As time went on Claremont became bored with what he considered to be a two-dimensional character and he decided to add layers to him.

All of a sudden he was a ninja, which was cool because it was the mid-80s and I was a kid. Ninjas were everywhere and they were cool. Cripes, even G.I. Joe introduced ninjas in 1984. Then he developed this worldview and wisdom that defied earlier characterizations. People grow and change, so I can overlook this one. Then his healing factor made him omnipotent. His healing factor was always cool but not without limit, as we see Logan get vaporized by a Sentinel in the Days Of Future Past arc. Then he became almost immortal thanks to Origin, becoming a couple hundred years old. We can't forget how stupid the bone claw addition was in Fatal Attractions, can we? There are more bad Wolverine stories than there are good ones, so I guess that is the reason I passed on this. I passed because I couldn't stomach the endless ret-cons and changes that have occurred since I fell in love with the character. Someone could make the best Wolverine story ever and I wouldn't notice because all of these changes have made me look the other way.

The Logan in this story doesn't contradict the Logan that I grew up on. He is older and wearier and seems resigned to his fate. He has settled down and has a family. In many ways all of us who are settled into family life are like Old Man Logan. We don't want to be bothered with all of the nonsense and just want to be with our kids. But screw with us and our kids and SNIKT- the claws are popped and we are ready to throw down in a heartbeat.

Old Man Logan deals with a timeline 50 years into the future where the villains have finally organized themselves and killed off all of the heroes. The handful of heroes who survived have gone into exile. Logan has sworn off violence, refusing to pop his claws under any circumstances. He has settled into being a farmer with his wife and children but has run out of money for rent. This is when Hawkeye shows up. Hawkeye is now nearly blind and needs Logan to help him deliver some mysterious package to the other side of the country using the old Spider-Mobile from the Gerry Conway/Ross Andru run on Amazing Spider-Man circa 1974-1975. The Spider-Mobile is one of the goofiest footnotes from the Bronze Age of comics. It's ridiculous, but the fact that Hawkeye is still relatively spry is even harder to swallow.

The general consensus is that 10 years have passed in Marvel time since Fantastic Four #1 in 1961. I believe that it would be closer to 15 years by this point (2017), but I'll go with their conservative estimate of a sliding timescale of a decade for the sake of argument. Hawkeye first appeared as a villain circa 1964. I guesstimate his age to be at least 18-20 years old in that first appearance. Add close to a decade of Marvel time, and that puts him at 28-30, possibly older depending on exactly when the villains launched their attack on the heroes since it is in a hypothetical future. Add another 50 years to that, and you have a nearly 80 year old Clint Barton. Hawkeye is far too spry in this story for me to buy that. Let's assume that Hawkeye has engaged in the intensive regular exercise that all non-augmented Avengers undergo. I've seen 70 year old guys who go out running everyday, but even they don't appear to be as hearty as ol' Hawkeye is in this series. I don't buy it.



S P O I L E R S in the following paragraph.

Another sticking point, and this is the big one, is that Mysterio tricked Logan into killing the X-Men during the villains' attack on the heroes by fooling all of his senses. Unless someone was helping Mysterio or his powers get a serious upgrade in between the present and the future where this event takes place, this is outside of Mysterio's power set. I don't buy it, either.

Complaints aside, this was a very enjoyable read. Mark Millar and Steve McNiven have always produced good stuff like the original Civil War. I enjoy Mark Millar's writing even if I don't always agree with his characterization (see Iron Man in 2006's Civil War). Steve McNiven does brilliant work (the aforementioned Civil War and Captain America, among others), and the pair's reputation was enough to push the needle to buy after a friend of mine raved nonstop about it.



If you take this on it's own, as a standalone story not necessarily rooted in continuity, it's great. If you try to fit the jigsaw puzzle piece into the big picture you're going to have force it in. Your mileage, as always, may vary. I'm just one guy with one opinion. You spends your money on it and read it, you got an opinion. It didn't make my eye twitch, if that helps.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone-
Paper stock: Fair weight semi-glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock. The cardstock is thin and it sort of curls upward once you are done reading it. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review- BUSTER BROWN



BUSTER BROWN (Create Space, Printed on February 12, 2017; Softcover)

Collects 70 Buster Brown Sunday strips from 1902-1904.

Writer and Artist: R.F. Outcault

The book's spine does not feature the title. -10% enjoyment on The OCD scale.


The Platinum Age of comics (pre-comic books newspaper strips) is woefully underrepresented in Collected Editions. Buster Brown has two reprint books from the 1970s, but neither are complete. A handful of his strips have appeared in books like Society Is Nix, but comprehensive reprints are nonexistent. This mostly forgotten character doesn't have enough clout to be reprinted today, which is a shame considering that he was an outright phenomenon in his heyday. It seems almost criminal to let historically significant works like this rot in the hands of private collectors or exist as poorly scanned images on a handful of websites on the Internet. There aren't enough people who care about the history of the artform to make any publisher take a gamble and release a collection. If I ever win the Lotto I'll do it.

Imagine my delight when I discovered this collection, a bargain priced print on demand reprint from Amazon's CreateSpace imprint for $9.99. Where do I sign? I was in. Two days later this expectedly low budget affair arrived at my home. I have mixed feeling about this book. It's great to own these strips, but I have 20/20 vision and had a hard time reading the dialogue in spots.



This strip stars your run of the mill well-to-do Victorian child getting into all manner of mischief with his dog, Tige. Then-contemporary fashions and slang are fascinating to me. Societal mores, such as the once acceptable spanking of children, are on full display. Buster Brown's resolutions are usually found after him being on the receiving end of his mother's hand or hairbrush. This is unintentionally funny 113 years after publication.

Buster gets in all sorts of trouble and celebrates every holiday along the way. The whimsical nature of the strip, coupled with Outcault's unintentionally creepy faces, makes for a bizarre read that bleeds charm. I love the fashions and customs of the day (i.e. tea parties, the ash man, etc.) and found a reference to the then-new vaccinations, where people still objected to them out of ignorance. Another famous cartoon strip, Raggedy Ann, was actually the symbol of the anti-vaccination movement of the early 20th century.



This book is a disservice to the genius of Outcault. The stories are great but the subpar presentation prevents me from recommending this book to anyone. I gambled 10 bucks but my advice to you is to find the scans on the Internet that these were swiped from and read them on your device or try printing them out yourself. They won't come out any worse, I promise you.
Junk Food For Thought rating: * out of 5.

The OCD zone- *While this book is wider than a standard trade paperback/ graphic novel, the artwork is shrunk down so much that it is virtually unreadable at times. I can't give a fair rating, so I won't give one at all.
Linework restoration: Awful. Imagine listening to a mp3 that is sourced from a cassette which was recorded off of a record by placing the tape recorder next to the speaker as the record played. You are dealing with this level of loss of fidelity. These strips were originally printed in color. The black and white presentation here is a murky grayscale mess. I have actually located the page where these scans were swiped from for this book. This material deserves better than this book, which any boob could have slapped together using Amazon's CreateSpace imprint.
Paper stock: Lighter weight uncoated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review- Free Comic Book Day Reviews Part Three


Free Comic Book Day Reviews Part Three

I have been lackadaisical in my reviews and did not do a Free Comic Book Day overview this year. Rather than do one at this late date, I'm just going to list two stores with each batch of Free Comic Book Day comic reviews. Please note that the comics reviewed did not necessarily come from the shop listed in this review, nor does the shop endorse these reviews.

Not all of the comics that I'll be reviewing over the three parts of my Free Comic Book Day reviews will be FCBD editions. Some are singles that I paid for on FCBD while others were offered for free as part of the FCBD festivities. I always pick something up at each shop, as those free comics aren't free to retailers and vultures are lame.

In this third and final part of my overview and review of this year's FCBD festivities I'll go over the last of the five stores that we hit on our journey across two counties as well as review for another batch of comic books.



Big Ben's Comix Oasis in Allen Park, MI, has been serving the populace for over three decades now, which is pretty crazy to think about. I remember the humble beginnings of this store as the Book Bank, when it had used books and few card tables filled with back issues and quarter boxes along with a few racks of new comics. I watched the place carry less books and more comics...move into the downtown area of Allen Park into a bigger store with still more comics...move two other times and finally into it's current incarnation, where it is arguably the largest comic book store if not in all of Michigan, then in the Metro Detroit area for certain.

My hatchlings.



Keyser Soze: Scorched Earth/ The Rift Free Comic Book Day 2017 (Red 5, cover date May, 2017)

Keyser Soze is a pretty cool concept, although you get very little about the gist of it across the 16 pages of story included here. Modern comics give the artwork plenty of room to breathe. The downside is that it takes multiple issues to hammer your point home. This is a risky game in the $3.99-4.99 age of comic books. Time is money, money is tight, and attention spans are short.

The Rift seems solid if unoriginal. A rift in time brings a WWII pilot into the modern day. It's nothing that hasn't been done a million times before. I'd read it for free from the library.



The Walking Dead #163 Cover A (Image, cover date February, 2017)

Unless you have just woken up from a coma, you know about The Walking Dead. It's as culturally pervasive as superheroes. I read the first eleven issues years ago and failed to see what the hype was all about, as I disliked Kirkman's decompressed style of writing.

Credit where credit is due: This issue is great. Worlds better than the earlier issues, both in writing and artwork. I have reassessed my opinion of The Walking Dead and now can see why everyone is gaga* over it.

*I was reluctant to use the word gaga, as Lady Gaga kind of ruined the word for me. But then I thought about how Lady Gaga admits that she stole the word from Queen's Radio Gaga, which is where I stole it from before she came around, so I will retain my homage to Queen and keep using the word.



Vampirella #0 (Vol. 4) (Dynamite, cover date, February, 2017)

I'm not a huge Vampirella fan (even though I own all 15 Archives), but this was some good stuff! I'm not hip to her continuity or story beyond the fourth Archive (where I stalled on my marathon) so I can't say what is what, but as far as picking up this comic book, reading it, and deciding if I liked it, this worked.



Free Comic Book Day 2017: General (Dark Horse, cover date, May, 2017)

Why on Earth would Dark Horse title this book General in the indicia?

The Avatar sequel is like Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy, promised and repeatedly delayed for so long that it has become a joke. Not only that, but expectations will be heaped so high on it that it can't help but disappoint. Nobody is going to care by the time that it comes out. That said, the comic is pretty good and beautifully illustrated. I like Avatar, I just think that it's James Cameron's white whale.

Briggs Land is not my cup of tea. Your mileage may vary.



Z2 Comics- Free Comic Book Day 2017 (Z2, cover date, May, 2017)

The Ballad Of Franklin Bonisteel (Or “The Shreveport Kid”) has a completely unique and fresh feel to it, even if the concept goes over well tread ground. I'll keep my eyes open for this one. The back-up feature, Murder Ballads, isn't awful but it isn't anything I would pick up, either.



Tex Patagonia FCBD Color Edition (Epicenter, cover date May, 2017)

While comic books are an American invention (comic books, not the comic strip), our friends across the pond have been exploring and blazing their own trail with fascinating results. European culture is of course different from American culture, so it should come as no surprise that their comic writers and artists approach the artform completely different than we do.

Epicenter has been bringing us colorized English language translations of European favorites. This is every bit as good as their other offerings, Magic Wind and Zagor, also both popular overseas but completely unknown in North America.

Tex is set in the 19th century. There is a similar thread with Magic Wind in that he is an outsider of a different race who becomes equal to the indigenous population through a test or event. If you enjoy stories set in the Old West or Mexico then this is for you. European comics have a clear, brisk layout without sacrificing character development. American comics have aped this format over the past 15 years but haven't quite figured it out yet. Tex is definitely worth checking out.


































Crossed + One Hundred #1-3 (Avatar Press, cover dates November, 2014- February, 2015)

I was a huge Crossed fan, reading it for quite a while until I got bored with it. Then I heard that Alan Moore was writing a new series set 100 years into the future of the original outbreak. The thing with comic books is that there are so many being fired at you from every publisher, week after week, that it is impossible to keep up with it all. I snagged these three issues out of a dollar box at a local comic store.

Without going into the plot or providing a synopsis (which is what most “reviews” really are: book reports), I'll get to the meat of the problem with this series, at least as far as the first three issues are concerned. There is zero sense of urgency. At no point in time do the Crossed pose a threat for more than two pages in any of these issues. It's your typical, boring post-apocalyptic scenario, with civilization rebuilding itself in the aftermath of a catastrophe. I expected better from Alan Moore. I expected more from Alan Moore.

None of the characters are the least bit engaging. I cared so little for any of them that I kept waiting for the Crossed to kill any or all of them off so that I wouldn't have to trudge through their story any more. Alan Moore has all of the characters speak in the newly evolved slang, which was neat for about five pages but quickly became grating.


I have no resolution for this arc, and I don't even care to go online and find a synopsis for closure. I simply don't care. Imagine a conversation with someone boring, where your mind trails off but they keep on rambling. That's what Crossed + One Hundred is. The fact that Alan Moore is attached to it only adds insult to injury. Oh well. At least I'm only out three bucks.