Monday, August 18, 2014


IT RHYMES WITH LUST (Dark Horse, 2007; Softcover)
Collects It Rhymes With Lust Graphic Novel (originally published in 1950)
Writers: Arnold Drake and Leslie Waller (Credited in original book as Drake Waller)
Artists: Matt Baker with Ray Osrin

The term “Graphic Novel” is bandied about with reckless abandon. Pretty much anything with words and pictures that is printed in a squarebound book gets called a graphic novel these days. Watchmen, The Walking Dead, and Saga? Those are not graphic novels, they are trade paperbacks, which are books that compile material previously published in single issue periodical magazine format. True graphic novels are material originally published in the book format. It has become ubiquitous as a marketing term and accepted as part of the lexicon. Like the term fanboy as a term of endearment, I refuse to call trade paperbacks graphic novels.

I like to dip my toe into comic book and comic strip history. There are many historians out there, all with their own opinions and theories and facts, and I have read many of their blogs and articles. Some argue that the comic book or strip can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt. Others point to America, as the comic book, as a magazine, started here. Like many folks, I point to late 19th century England for the roots of this artform. I have also tried to ascertain what the first true graphic novel is. Many people point to Will Eisner, Jim Sternako, Harvey Kurtzman, or others, all valid claims. So let's just say that this book was way, way ahead of the curve and call it good.
Fans of Crime/Noir and Pre-Code Golden Age comics need to grab this book ASAP. This is a hard-edged, adult take on corruption and a femme fatale by the name of Rust Masson. She basically owns the town, controlling the mine, both newspapers, and has politicians in her pocket. Rust uses her womanly ways to get what she wants and never takes no for an answer. This was an absolute blast to read, and Matt Baker's legendary “good girl” art is easy on the eyes.

Arnold Drake did some writing for Marvel in the 1960s, but I was never overly impressed with it, ditto his artwork. I had always considered him to be merely serviceable and nothing more. This book has completely changed my opinion. He has done excellent work, he was just not really cut out for superhero work. The further that I dig back I understand why Stan Lee hired some of these pinch-hitters during the 1960s.
If you like Crime/Noir, Golden Age comics, or well thought out, fully formed characters, then It Rhymes With Lust is for you.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This “facsimile edition” is roughly the same size as the original book, so it is a paperback (or digest) sized book.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Afterword by Arnold Drake from 2006. (5 pages)
Creator biographies. (3 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Things look great, with the zip-a-tone faithfully recreated.
Paper rating: 4 out of 5. Thick uncoated pulp-ish paper. Since this is a facsimile edition this appropriate, even though I woke up in the middle of the night because I thought that I heard the paper disintegrate.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Dull matte coating that seems to be impervious to scuffing. 

Friday, August 15, 2014


COFFIN HILL VOL. 1: FOREST OF THE NIGHT (Vertigo/ DC, First Printing, 2014; Softcover)
Collects Coffin Hill Nos. 1-7 (cover dates December, 2013- June, 2014)
Writer: Caitlin Kittredge
Artists: Inaki Miranda with Stephen Sadowski and Mark Farmer
Colorist: Eva De La Cruz

While I have essentially written off most modern day Marvel and DC Comics, I cannot write off modern comics as a whole. Comics must live, lest this artform become an exercise in nostalgia, something I am not yet prepared to do. Truth be told there are plenty of intelligently written, sophisticated comic books being made today...just not many well written superhero comics. 
Coffin Hill is one of those old-fashioned New England witch stories rooted in modern times and told with a modern storytelling sensibility. There is an ancient evil in the woods brought over from “the old world”, and it has poisoned the lives of everything and everyone in the town. A fun read this is not. What it is is a well written and highly polished concept. While I admittedly miss pen, brush, and bristol board using artists there is no denying what Photoshop can do for artwork. This is some slick artwork and coloring.

Solid, entertaining stuff. I am intrigued enough to buy Volume 2 whenever it comes out.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- The MSRP on this book is $9.99. You can't lose!
DVD-style Extras included in this book: #1 variant cover by Gene Ha. (1 page)
Promo images by Inaki Miranda. (2 pages)
Character design sketches. (6 pages)
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Fair weight glossy coated stock.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Nice thick waxlike lamination. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


SWAMP THING BY BRIAN K. VAUGHN VOL. 1 (Vertigo/ DC, 2014; Softcover)
Collects Swamp Thing Nos. 1-9, the Swamp Thing “handbook” pages from Vertigo Secret Files & Origins, and the Swamp Thing story from Vertigo: Winter's Edge No. 3 (cover dates January, 2000- January, 2001)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artists: Roger Peterson, Joe Rubinstein, Rick Magyar, Cliff Chiang, Rodney Ramos, Mark Lipka, Steve Lieber, Paul Pope, and Guy Davis
Colorist: Alex Sinclair

Brian K. Vaughn is a fan favorite these days, with Saga basically being a license for Image to print money. DC was smart in releasing this previously uncollected run in trade paperback to cash in on the success of that series. Before his brilliant Y: The Last Man, before Ex Machina, Vaughn did this radically different Swamp Thing series for DC's Mature Readers imprint, Vertigo.

Those looking for the further adventures of the Swamp Thing (Alec Holland) and Abigail Arcane Holland will be disappointed. While they are in this series, they only occasionally appear, with the main focus being on their daughter Tefe Holland. Tefe is the human child of Alec and Abigail who can tap into The Green. She is seeking out purpose in this world, so she sets out to find The Tree of Knowledge.

Like all so-called Mature Readers series, there are themes not appropriate for all ages, such as sexual violence and swearing. These things could have undermined the craft and value of Vaughn's writing, but he pulls it off and makes it seem like a part of the story and not sensationalist or fanboy* pandering trash.
*Term used in the original pejorative.

While Vaughn's writing is the star of the show, writing alone doesn't make comics great. You have to have great artwork, too. Roger Peterson is serviceable if unremarkable. His art is just decent enough to keep this from sinking but isn't much to my liking. Your mileage may vary. Having said that, I am on board for Volume 2, out now.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Nothing unusual to report.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: None.
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. Good weight glossy coated stock, worlds better than the recycled toilet paper that DC used to pass off in their Vertigo trades.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Nice thick waxlike lamination, should hold up well over time with repeated reading.