Monday, February 12, 2018

Review- IMAGE FIRSTS COMPENDIUM VOL. 1




IMAGE FIRSTS COMPENDIUM VOL. 1 (Image, First Printing, January, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Wytches #1, Outcast #1, Nailbiter #1, Southern Bastards #1, The Fade Out #1, The Wicked + The Divine #1, Low #1, Shutter #1, and C.O.W.L. #1 (cover dates April-October, 2014)

Writers: Scott Snyder, Robert Kirkman, Joshua Williamson, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Kieron Gillen, Rick Remender, Joe Keatinge, Kyle Higgins, and Alec Siegel

Artists: Jock, Paul Azaceta, Mike Henderson, Jason Latour, Sean Phillips, James McKelvie, Greg Tocchini, Leila Del Luca, and Rod Reis

Colorists: Matt Hollingsworth, Bettie Breitweiser, Adam Guzowski, Jason Latour, rico., Matt Wilson, Greg Tocchini, Owen Gieni, and Rod Reis



Image Comics has done one of the best brand turnarounds in the history of comics. A dozen years ago this company was an also-ran, home to a few moribund properties and endless failed concepts. That changed around the turn of this decade. Comics were enjoying renewed attention due to the glut of movies and creators were looking to pimp their “IP” to get it optioned for movies or television. Creator owned comics are where the new ideas are these days.

This book collects the first issue of nine different titles. There was a second volume the following year, but I don't have that one. I'll review each first issue collected in this book in pellet review format.

Wytches makes a great first impression but falls short. I checked out the first trade from the library and couldn't even be bothered to finish it. The first issue is a strong hook but the subsequent ones couldn't sustain my interest, even for free. 3

Outcast is an interesting Exorcist riff recycled enough times where it might fool youngsters. It's interesting enough as its own thing and might be worth checking out. 4

Nailbiter is a solid concept that I would pick up if I were still buying boatloads of books all the time. 4

Southern Bastards is worthy, a real deal concept that seems like it would go over great as a Netflix series. 4.5

The Fade Out- Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips can do no wrong. This is another one of their five star concepts. I read the first trade some time ago but need to go back and finish reading the series. There is so much going on in comics that things get lost in the shuffle, even when they shouldn't. 5

The Wicked + The Divine is a spit shined Cadillac firing on all cylinders. It's available only as a digitial checkout from the library. While I am loath to reading comic books on a screen, I am even more loath to spending money on still more comic books these days. 5

Low is complete and utter garbage. 0

Shutter is a forgettable concept told in an unconvincing manner. 0.5

C.O.W.L. is regurgitated pretentious crap, a “smart” post-superhero dystopian sort of thing that should be avoided at all costs. Buying comics like this shows the terrorists that they can win or something like that. -1

So there you have it. While I buy very few new comics series these days I have to take a peek at newer stuff once in a while. I'll never be a “all new comics suck” kind of guy, but I am also not a seeker in the respect of being like the fans who jump from new thing to new thing. I can't do it all. Lord knows that I've tried.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 2.78 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

Paper stock: Semi-glossy coated stock. Closer to matte but it has a slight sheen.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Review- MARVEL MASTERWORKS: GOLDEN AGE ALL-WINNERS VOL. 4



MARVEL MASTERWORKS: GOLDEN AGE ALL-WINNERS VOL. 4 (Marvel, First Printing, 2011; Hardcover)

Collects All-Winners Comics #15-19, 21, Vol. 2 # 1 (cover dates Spring, 1945- August, 1948)

Writers: Bill Finger, Otto Binder, William Woolfolk, and other unidentified writers

Artists: Alex Schomburg (covers), Mort Lawrence, Art Seymour, Al Bellman, Vince Alascia, George Klein, Al Avison, Clem Weisbecker, Mike Sekowsky, Maurice Gutwirth, Syd Shores, Allen Bellman, Mort Leav, Carl Burgos, Al Gabriele, Bob Powell, Louis Ferstadt, Carl Pfeufer, and other unidentified artists



Superheroes weren't selling very well after World War II. With the wind taken out of their sales, these comics come off as also rans, plodding along with writing and artwork that was vastly inferior to the earlier issues in this series.



By the time that we reach #17 there is a massive uptick in quality. Gone are the rush jobs done by the second tier comic book journeymen of the day, in is the more refined artwork by the likes of Al Avison, George Klein, and others. The writing in that issue is also head and shoulders above the previous two collected in this volume. Issue 18 is even better than #17.



Unlike DC's Justice Society Of America over in All-Star Comics, the All Winners Squad didn't really work together as a team until #19. This issue aped the JSA formula so well that had they employed it earlier they might have saved the title. There was no #20, and #21 occurred because the title took over the numbering from another title. 

Don't worry, kids! Those gorillas which Bucky is gunning down turned out to be wearing bullet proof vests later...not that Bucky knew it at the time. No PETA in the 1940s.

This was a common practice back among magazine publishers then, as they had to pay to file a new magazine title with the Post Office. Ditching titles while keeping numbering was common through the 1960s. This makes the relaunched #1 in 1948 even more curious. Was it a last ditch effort to save the series? An oversight? We can only guess now, as nearly everyone who worked on these comics is dead and gone. Record keeping wasn't much of a consideration in the comic world back then.

The Human Torch gives The Gay Blade a what-for in 1948.

#21 sees the All Winners Squad battle Future Man, a menace from the year One Million AD. He gives the team a run for their money. The relaunched #1 from 1948 was the best issue out of all four volumes in this line of books. We finally get to see the Blonde Phantom! I would love to read more of her exploits. Alas, Marvel has mothballed all plans for this Golden Age line of Masterworks, citing the unwelcome combination of soft sales and high restoration costs. I hope that they reverse that decision one day, as there is a lot of material that deserves to be restored and rereleased.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.



The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

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 miss the “artistic choice” of so- called Ben Day dots are nuts.

Paper stock: Thick 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 casewrap with dye foil stamping.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Review- THE NEW AMERICAN SPLENDOR ANTHOLOGY



THE NEW AMERICAN SPLENDOR ANTHOLOGY (Ballantine Books, 2010 Printing- original compilation published in 1991; Softcover)

Collects selections from American Splendor #3-15, Flamed-Out Funnies #1, Comix Book #4, Snarf #6, Strip AIDS U.S.A, Aargh!, Ed The Happy Clown, Real Stuff #1, Colin Upton's Big Thing #1, and three previously unpublished stories (cover dates 1978-1991)

Writer: Harvey Pekar

Artists: Drew Friedman, Robert Crumb, Frank Stack, Val Mayerik, James Sherman, Gerry Shamray, Joe Zabel, Gary Dumm, Rebecca Huntington, Ed Wesolowski, Paul Mavrides, Alison Bechdal, Laura Darnell Dumm, William Fogg, Alan Moore, Carole “Paczki” Sobocinski, Spain Rodriguez, Mark “M. A.” Zingarelli, Bill Knapp, Kevin Brown, Greg Budgett, J. R. Statts, Willy Murphy, Robert Armstrong, L. B. Armstrong, Chester Brown, Jim Woodring, and Colin Upton



Some folks turn to alcohol or drugs when things go south. I turn to reading a Harvey Pekar book. It was during a long, brutally cold snap earlier this month when I decided to bask in Pekar's philosophies on life. Pekar seldom gives you the answers, but his work seems to point the reader in the right direction. Indeed, Pekar's self doubts keep him from finding the answers himself.

Pekar gives you real slices of life stories from the man on the street angle. There aren't too many regular Joe, working man on the street types anymore. Everyone acts like they are too good for everything, too smart, or too rich. The reality of the situation is that those folks are acting the fool, and Pekar is in on the joke.



I checked out the American Splendor movie from 2003 from the library just after I finished this book, and I'm glad that I did. I like to read the source material before seeing a film. Half of this book wound up in the film. Toby and the Revenge Of The Nerds segment, Pekar's numerous visits on The David Letterman Show, and a few other small bits that are reprinted here come to life in that film. The movie is of course fantastic.



There are a lot of one page gags and asides that Pekar did for other comics that do not feature Our Man (the name of Harvey Pekar in comic book form). Most of them are forgettable. This is a less personal take on Our Man than in the other Pekar books that I've read so far but it is still essential reading.



The artwork is a mixed bag, and most of it is not my cup of tea. I really enjoyed Drew Friedman's artwork a lot, and there is a helping of Crumb which doesn't hurt things either.

I'll continue my Pekar marathon whenever I hit a bump in life. Stay tuned.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.

This book is wider than a standard modern day trade paperback.

Linework restoration: I have no original copies nor any source material to compare, so no comment. One of the stories looks murky, like it was sourced from a printed copy rather than film/photostats like the rest of the material. It's night and day.

Paper stock: Matte stock with no coating.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review- ROY THOMAS PRESENTS: THE HEAP VOL. 1



ROY THOMAS PRESENTS: THE HEAP VOL. 1 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, 2012; Hardcover)

Collects The Heap stories from Air Fighters Comics Vol. 1 #3, 9, Vol. 2 #10, Airboy Comics Vol. 3 #4, 9-12; Vol. 4 #1-12, Vol. 5 #1-4 a/k/a #3, 9, 22, 27, 32-51 (cover dates December, 1942- May, 1948)

Writers: Harry Stein, Bill Woolfolk, Patricia Highsmith, Dick Wood, and other unidentified writers

Artists: Mort Leav, Dan Barry, John Belfi, Carmine Infantino, Arthur Peddy, Bernard Sachs, Frank Bolle, Leonard Starr, Ernest Schroeder, and possibly other unidentified artists



Decades before Swamp Thing and Man-Thing came the original comic book swamp monster, The Heap. As Roy Thomas explains in one of his famous encyclopedic Archive introductions, The Heap itself was possibly influenced by Theodore Sturgeon's 1940 short story from the pulps called It. Golden Age comic books liberally borrowed ideas from pulps and literature, so it's not much of a stretch to assume that the concept was lifted, either intentionally or subconsciously.



The origin of the character come from the Sky Wolf strip in Air Fighters Comics, where a World War I German fighter ace, Baron Emmelmann is shot down over a Polish swamp. Due to the Baron's immense will to live, he somehow merges with the vegetation, drawing nourishment from the oxygen as a plant would. As the decades pass this shambling mockery of life begins feeding on sheep and cows. He/it ambles into the middle of a storyline where Sky Wolf, the World War II fighter pilot, shoots down Nazi pilot Von Tundra. In a bizarre twist, The Heap recognizes the Germans and becomes fond of anything with German markings.



The character goes through a few incarnations before settling on his plant-like appearance, which was completely ripped off for Marvel's Man-Thing character. It is his fifth appearance where he gets spun off into his own strip. Here he meets a boy named Rickie Wood who makes a model plane of a German fighter. The Heap sees the markings and befriends the boy because of this. Like Swamp Thing and Man-Thing after him, The Heap is a semi-mindless creature. I found the character's fascination with German things to be curious, seeing as how it was being published during World War II.



The Heap follows Rickie on a series of misadventures, often saving the day in spite of himself due to his fascination with Rickie's remote controlled model German airplane. The scenarios get more ridiculous and less plausible with each passing issue. They remain a fun read but it gets to be groan inducing at times. This is easy for me to say here 70 years later. Audiences are more sophisticated today, and this comic easily stands up to anything published at the time. Indeed, this is a rather bizarre character for the era, predating Horror comics by a fair clip.



The strip then banks left, where we see Ceres and Mars have a wager whether or not The Heap is a creature of peace or of war. I sat there scratching my head wondering why they went this route, but to be honest with you this is when the series started getting even more interesting. The artwork also became more sophisticated, with the team of Frank Bolle and Leonard Starr turning in beautiful work.



The first four stories were a tough read. When The Heap became fascinated with Rickie Wood the tone changed and The Heap went on different kinds of adventures. The third shift is when things really kicked into high gear. The Heap is a great read, and the entire series has been collected across three volumes. I am looking forward to reading them.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.



The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.

I enjoy huffing these Chinese made books. PS Artbooks smell the best. Whenever I crack one open I sit there and snort it...Oh yeah, that's the stuff.

This book has the ever delectable sweet, sweet toxic Chinese printing press smell, likely the result of paper sourced from virgin Amazon rainforests and ink which is a concoction of lead paint chips, broken and pulped asbestos tiles, mercury from recalled thermometers, and the final magical ingredient: the blood, sweat, and tears of the children working the sweatshop printing presses. If loving these books is wrong then I don't want to be right!

Linework and Color restoration: Like any PS Artbook, the quality varies issue by issue. This looks decent for a scan and print collection.

The raw scan presentation has the benefit of the feeling of reading the original comic book. The drawback, which is a huge one subjectively speaking, is that all of the shortcomings of the primitive four color printings presses are apparent. Line bleed, off register printing, and other anomalies are all present. It's a warts and all approach. Your mileage may vary and it all boils down to your preference.

Paper stock: Bright white matte stock.

Binding: Sewn binding.

Hardback cover notes: Matte casewrap with spot varnish. No dustjacket. Images printed directly onto the casewrap. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Review- AVENGERS: THE LEGACY OF THANOS



AVENGERS: THE LEGACY OF THANOS (Marvel, First Printing, 2014; Softcover)

Collects Avengers #255-261, Avengers Annual #14, and Fantastic Four Annual #19 (cover dates May- November, 1985)

Writers: Roger Stern and John Byrne

Artists: John Buscema, John Byrne, Glynis Oliver, Tom Palmer, Kyle Baker, and Joe Sinnott



Oh man! This is where it got real for me. While I discovered The Avengers via my older brother's comics with #187 and picked up select issues as far back as #196, #258 was when I became a monthly buyer. This issue was a crossover with Amazing Spider-Man #270, that issue being the second part of an epic battle with Firelord. I turned 12 that summer, and the cliffhanger of ASM 269 and 270 was just too much for me. Now we had to pick up an Avengers issue too? Cynical 44 year old me hates crossovers, and yet small crossovers like this helped hook young me in an organic way. My son is 11 and he is dabbling in comics and I see various series sucking him in in the same way. God help the boy. I caution him against the crossover trick, and yet here he is buying umpteen DC Metal crossover issues, but I digress.



#259 was my introduction to the Skrulls and also served as my introduction to The Avengers as a galactic powerhouse. Unbeknownst to 12 year old me was the fact that this arc was a nod to early '70s Avengers Kree-Skrull War. There was no Internet to look this stuff up on in 1985, and we were better off in some ways. Comics existed in the now and the now only. There were no trades of vintage material kept in print. No movies or video games with these characters. Whatever version of the characters that were on the spinner rack at 7-11 were the only ones that mattered. I think that there is something to be said for that.



As much as I grumble about crossovers, #260 and 261 were both Secret Wars II crossover issues and I loved them. Little did 12 year old me realize that I was helping show the industry that crossovers and endless tie-in issues work. They would soon become the status quo before almost killing off everything. Over the past decade Marvel began pumping them out one after another, and here we are on the cusp of yet another bubble burst. Those who don't learn from history and all that.



The summer Annual crossover with the Fantastic Four remains a fond childhood memory. I must have read those two comics a dozen times each when they were released in August of 1985. 

Roger Stern is Avengers royalty and can do no wrong. He, along with Roy Thomas, Steve Engelhart, and Kurt Busiek have written the finest comics to bear the title Earth's Mightiest Heroes. This is top shelf stuff that should be in every library in the country, public and private.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.

Linework and Color restoration: Everything looks good. Linework and color palette are faithful to the original comics. Books like this pose a question. As good as this looks, will the inevitable Marvel Masterworks really look any better? I'll let you know when I buy them whenever they are released. Why, god, why?

Paper stock: Matte coated stock of sufficient thickness and weight. This is the same stock found in the softcover Marvel Masterworks and Epic line books. It's my favorite paper stock used in collected editions today.

Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.


Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Review- WOLVERINE- OLD MAN LOGAN VOL. 5: PAST LIVES



WOLVERINE- OLD MAN LOGAN VOL. 5: PAST LIVES (Marvel, First Printing, 2017; Softcover)

Collects Old Man Logan #19-24 (cover dates May- July, 2017)

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Filipe Andrade, Andrea Sorrentino (covers), and Eric Nguyen

Colorist: Jordan Boyd and Andres Jose Mossa



Lemire seems to enjoy his time displacement and time shifts. Indeed, it has been the hallmark of his entire run on this title. Old Man Logan is a man not only out of time but of his own timeline.



This time out Old Man Logan makes a deal with Asmodeus to get back to his future to correct a mistake that he left behind. This is one of those “deals with the devil” kind of things. Logan is given an amulet which will get him from point a to b. Unfortunately for Logan, Asmodeus flings him through his entire past, where we get a sort of greatest hits of Logan's life as he has to relive battles with the Hulk and Wendigo, the Weapon X program, Madripoor, etc. The spell lasts only four days, giving this a sense of urgency.

The end of this arc is the main problem with modern day comic writers. They try to wrap up their run in such a way as to make it almost seem like the end of the series. While the Bronze Age method of leaving endless loose plotlines dangling for the new guy to wrap up before heading on their journey isn't necessarily any better, it did give the reader a true sense of continuity. One could use this book as a jumping off point for the series.



Lemire wraps up his 24 issue run with a bow. The artwork is not to my liking here at all. Your mileage may vary. I'll be interested to see what happens in Volume 6, due out this month.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Thin coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback. This book is on the thin side and feels like a fat periodical.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock.