Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review- BLACK-EYED KIDS VOL. 2: THE ADULTS



BLACK-EYED KIDS VOL. 2: THE ADULTS (Aftershock, First Printing, 2017; Softcover)

Collects Black-Eyed Kids #6-10 (cover dates September, 2016- January, 2017)

Writer: Joe Pruett

Artist: Szymon Kudranski

Colorist: Guy Major



The second arc in the series continues along it's thankfully humorless path. There isn't much in the way of clearing up the mystery of what these Black Eyed Kids are or where they originated from, only that they are some sort of ancient or even alien evil.



This is a quick read with nice pacing and clear, concise storytelling. The artwork is gritty when necessary and slick when it's not. The coloring seems flat even though it is not, and the palette seems to give this an air of flat coloring due to Major's use of a limited color palette. This is intentional and done to give the art a more solid feel.



I'm still unsure if there will be a payoff or if this is just a fun ride, but either way I'll be back for Volume 3.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- There is an exclusive eight page black and white bonus story in this book. All variant covers are included as extras.
Paper stock: Good weight glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Matte finish which can be scuffed with even reasonable handling. Spot varnish on select portions of the cover. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review- STAR WARS- THE ORIGINAL TOPPS TRADING CARD SERIES VOLUME 1



STAR WARS- THE ORIGINAL TOPPS TRADING CARD SERIES VOLUME 1 (Abrams Comicarts, Third Printing, 2015; Hardcover)



Trading cards were very important to kids in prehistoric world of no cable television or home video. Kids like me, who was 4-5 years old when these cards were released. These Topps cards were the only game in town to remember and relive the Star Wars movies in the comfort of your own home. I didn't see the first movie until late spring 1978, so the cards and comics were how I first learned about this movie, building my anticipation to a fever pitch...and I was not disappointed when I finally saw the movie.

One of my favorites from the blue set when I was a kid.


Even many months after it's release the movie was a big deal. I remember my mom taking us to see it at the show and standing in a line that wrapped around the block of the two-screen movie house. No multiple screens or showings back then. We got in line for a one o'clock show and finally got up to the window for the 3:30 showing. I have never seen anything like that for a movie since then.

I stuck this sticker on the door to the upstairs of my mom's house. She never said a word about it, nor did she ever remove it. It was there until I moved out of her house.


It is impossible to overstate how huge of an event that this movie was to those who were too young to experience it. It was a cultural atom bomb on par with Elvis' swiveling hips and The Beatles performing on The Ed Sullivan Show. Star Wars, Kiss, and Queen...1977-78 were the zenith of Western Civilization, a cultural golden age that we'll likely never see again.

I really enjoyed this picture as a kid. I'm not sure why.


I had several packs of the blue set as a kid, while the red set was not sold on my end of town. I was unaware of their existence until 1984, and my mind was blown when I discovered this “lost” set. I had several packs of the yellow set, maybe two of the green, and only one pack of the orange set as a kid. My family was poor and my mom would occasionally buy me a pack of cards here and there. I treasured them, spending countless hours flipping through them and learning how to read partially by memorizing the back of the cards.

The Wonder Bread cards were awesome.


It was a blast to go through and relive the excitement of collecting these cards. The cards are all scanned, front and back. In 1987 I was able to get complete sets for under $10 each. Sealed wax packs of the Topps cards were $1 each. I opened them and tried a stick of the then-10 year old gum. It crumbled to dust when it hit my tongue.

The Wonder Bread cards are included, which is a great bonus. I remember my brother taking every loaf of Wonder Bread off of the shelf looking for the missing cards to complete his set. I had most if not all of them back then.

These are the four bonus cards, seen here laying on the dustjacket.


There are four bonus cards included for reasons I cannot ascertain. In an age of nearly limitless hard drive storage and images being a right click away it may sound silly to young people to pay for pieces of cardboard with an image printed on them. But these cards were and are a treasure. My son collects card games like Magic and Pokemon, so trading cards aren't dead, they have just changed into games that kids trade. The days of Topps issuing mass market pop culture cards found in every convenience and drugstore in the country might be gone, but their place as an indispensable part of the original Star Wars experience and popular culture as a whole is secure.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This book is a small, chunky book.
Paper stock: Thick coated stock with a slight sheen.



Binding: Sewn binding. The binding is very tight, requiring two hands to keep it open at all times. This is the result of the book block being glued square to the casing. On the plus side, there is no way that this book will ever fall apart. The denizens of 2148 will delight in this book, as it will surely outlast me.



Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: The dustjacket has a waxpaper feel to it, similar to the wrappers of the original cards. The image on the front of the paper casewrap is the stick of gum found in every pack of cards. The back cover of the hardback shows the stick of gum broken. The casewrap has a matte coating.



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review- SPIDER-MAN BY TODD McFARLANE OMNIBUS



SPIDER-MAN BY TODD McFARLANE OMNIBUS (Marvel, First Printing, 2016; Hardcover)

Collects Spider-Man #1-14, 16 and X-Force #4 (cover dates August, 1990- November, 1991)

Writer and Artist: Todd McFarlane with Writing by Fabien Nicieza and Rob Liefeld (X-Force #4), artwork by Rob Liefeld (X-Force #4) and additional Inking by Rick Maygar, Scott Williams, and Jim Lee



Todd McFarlane's adjective-less Spider-Man series, released during the summer of 1990, was, for all intents and purposes, the opening bell for the speculator bubble of the 1990s. We all know what happened, we all know why it happened, and we all see aspects of it being repeated by the industry today.

McFarlane was a breath of fresh air when he exploded on the scene in Amazing Spider-Man back in November of 1987*. I was a first day buyer back then and was immediately taken aback by this bold new take on the character. His version was like a creepier version of Steve Ditko's Spider-Man. He had been in the business for a few years already but he was new to me .

*Comic cover dates were four months ahead when purchased in Direct Market, or comic specialty shops as we called them back then. Cover dates were three months ahead on newsstands like 7-11. By the time that this adjective-less series hit the stands cover dates had been adjusted to being two months ahead for the DM, three for newsstands.

This was among the first Marvel series to be structured in arcs, with each issue being Part _ of _ of said story title. This was done so that it could be repackaged into books for the emerging trade paperback market for mainstream bookstores. As strange as it may sound here in 2017, there was a time when Marvel did not think of the collected edition when making their comic books. The full bleed artwork was also a new thing at the time.

This dark take on the character was fascinating because it simply hadn't been done before. The Horror elements are brought to the fore in this series. While McFarlane would like to make this out to be a more adult take on the character, his sexual double entendres are adolescent and embarrassing to read as an adult. This being the dawn of the '90s, !!!totally extreme!!! thinking was the order of the day. To be fair, the action sequences are a blast. McFarlane's exaggerated anatomy and almost cartoony depictions of people give his art a unique look which would be aped by numerous artists and become a cliché. Credit where credit is due, he did this stuff first and he did it the best. Motion lines, excessive detail, and unrealistic anatomy would dominate most of the 1990s because of him.



The first arc of five issues has been repackaged numerous times as Torment. This is the Lizard as his most brutal. The endless DOOM DOOM DOOM DOOM DOOM sound effect jungle drum beats got old fast, especially since this wasn't the first time that I've read this material. My son wanted to read this book with me but bailed after five issues. He seemed bored with this, which kind of surprised me. I figured that the fast pace of McFarlane's stories would be right up his alley but I was wrong.

The second arc, Masques, has also been repackaged multiple times. I had the old original UK trade years ago but dumped it because I predicted this book once Marvel rereleased these arcs in Premiere Classic hardcovers. It may have taken several years for this to become reality but I have nothing but time and no shortage of stuff to read. McFarlane's take on the Hobgoblin and Ghost Rider both leave me cold.



The cover to the first issue of the third arc (Perceptions, also repackaged like Masques) is one of those boring, 'iconic' type of covers that have little to do with the interior and would plague comics in the early 2000s. Awful and lazy. The arc itself is very good, with Spider-Man teaming up with Wolverine to take on the Wendigo. Subtlety is something completely lost on McFarlane, and he drills his opinion of the then-emerging 24/7 news cycle into you. I'm old enough to remember when news was about reporting a story instead of creating one. The sensationalism spotlighted here seems downright tame when compared to clickbait garbage reporting that passes as news today.

My beloved Morbius The Living Vampire was the surprise villain in the fourth arc of the series, Sub-City. The writing in this one is pretty weak but there's plenty of action and Morbius so who cares. The book closes out with the godawful sideways X-Force crossover, Sabotage. X-Force sucks and Rob Liefeld sucks. Both are the epitome of everything wrong with mainstream 1990s comics, and I cannot spit enough venom at either one.



This being Marvel, there is an exhaustively researched section of DVD-style extras in the back. All variants and industry magazine covers, as well introductions and covers from previous editions of the various collections are included. This run means a lot to fans 10 or more years younger than I am. It's not the best era as far as I'm concerned but it's a fun enough read and serves as an object lesson why dark and gritty Spider-Man doesn't really work. For the younger set this is one of the defining runs for the character.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is pretty “thin” for an Omnibus, clocking in at 16 issues and a another two issue's worth of extras. It's heft is little more than an oversized hardcover from a decade ago.
Linework and Color restoration: The restoration in this book is decent.
Paper stock: Fair weight semi-glossy coated stock.
Binding: Sewn Binding.



Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Dustjacket has the same lamination found on all Marvel Omnibus dustjackets. The hardback has paper casewrap with the image printed on it.



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.