Sunday, May 24, 2015

Review- BATMAN: KNIGHTFALL VOL. 2- KNIGHTQUEST


BATMAN: KNIGHTFALL VOL. 2- KNIGHTQUEST (DC, Second Printing, 2012; Softcover)

Collects Batman #501-508, Catwoman #6, 7, Detective Comics #667-675, Robin #7, and Shadow Of The Bat #19, 20, 24-28 (cover dates October, 1993- June, 1994)

Writers: Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Doug Moench, and Jo Duffy
Artists: Pencilers- Graham Nolan, Vince Giarrano, Mike Manley, Barry Kitson, Jim Balent, Bret Blevins, and Tom Grummett; Inkers- Scott Hanna, Vince Giarrano, Mike Manley, Eduardo Barreto, Dick Giordano, Bob Wiaceck, John Beatty, Josef Rubinstein, Frank McLaughlin, Robert R. Smith, and Ray Kryssing

Ahh, the '90s. I quit this hobby during the turn of that decade (as 1989 gave way to 1990), but I occasionally popped in a comic shop to see what was shaking. Whenever I peeked into various comics I was appalled by the artwork (see cover image above). The “Image” look was in vogue, and the speculators lapped this stuff up. Buried under this horrid artwork are occasionally good stories, as evidenced by this very book.

The 1990s were !!!TOTALLY EXTREME!!!, and comics always move with the order of the day. Lame old-fashioned Bruce Wayne Batman was out, and in was the new, almost amoral badass replacement Jean Paul Valley Batman. He had psychological damage due to his programming when he was Azrael, only adding to his !!!TOTALLY EXTREME!!! '90s-ness. He even redesigned the costume with !!!TOTALLY EXTREME!!! weapons. This was a new Batman for today, man. I find the macho posturing of 1990s superheroes to be amusing.


The Joker kidnapping Hollywood studio heads and making a movie, The Death Of Batman, was the best arc in the book. Pretty funny stuff there. Both Catwoman and Commissioner Gordon have realized that this is not the Batman that they knew and loved. Other memorable issues were the ones with Mr. Freeze and Clayface, although why even the cops would refer to this third Clayface as Clayface 3 struck me as being dumb. Abattoir and Gunhawk are both '90s to the core, and were enjoyable adversaries in their own way. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed many of these stories, to be honest with you. They are fun, and while the !!!TOTALLY EXTREME!!!, dark and grittiness can get tiresome I enjoyed this book in 2-3 issue doses. The artwork was mostly decent, although there is some that is painfully dated and ugly.

I drink Diet Mountain Dew by the gallon. It is the nectar of the gods.

In typical DC fashion, this book is far from being complete or comprehensive. The entire Knightquest: The Search storyline (Bruce Wayne's quest to heal his back) is omitted, resulting in Bruce Wayne reappearing completely healed “on set” in the final issue in the book with no explanation. The issues omitted are Shadow Of The Bat #21-23, Justice League Task Force #5, 6, and Legends Of The Dark Knight #59-61. Only Robin #7 from that crossover was included in this book. What a joke. (Thanks to rifft for clarifying this to me.)

I already have Volume 3 and hope to read it someday. Stay tuned!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- DC should do more of these complete runs in chunky trade paperbacks. Marvel has been doing this with their Epic-branded line, and I have been buying them all. I am a sucker for complete runs, and even if I am not very interested in the material I tend to pick them up. Think of it as a Blu-Ray box set of a complete series that you will likely never watch...only for comics that you will likely never read.
Linework and Color restoration: Very good overall. While the original color palette is faithfully maintained, it is the gradient shades that come up short. There were gradient shades in the original comics, and the blends here come up short when compared side by side with the original issues. Again, the colors are correct, and I would say that the blends are better than 90% accurate. For DC, this is good enough.
Paper stock: This being a value priced full color phonebook means that by definition it will have cheap paper. The pulp paper here is slightly thicker than the original issues and a tad heavier than what DC usually passes off on folks in their collections of classic material. I can live with it with this page count at this price point.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review- MARVEL MASTERWORKS: GOLDEN AGE SUB-MARINER VOL. 1


MARVEL MASTERWORKS: GOLDEN AGE SUB-MARINER VOL. 1 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)

Collects Sub-Mariner Comics #1-4 (cover dates Spring, 1941- Winter, 1941)
Writers: Bill Everett, Ray Gill, Paul Gustavson, Lou Glanzman, Stan Lee, Art Gates, and Basil Wolverton, and other, unidentifed writers.
Artists: Bill Everett, Paul Gustavson, Alex Schomburg (covers), Richard Isanove (covers), Harry Sahle, Alan Mandel, Mickey Spillane, Basil Wolverton, Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski, Witmer Williams, Ben Thompson, Sam Gillman, George Mandel, Mike Roy, Al Fagaly, Jimmy Thompson, and other, unidentified art assistants.

This was a double dip. I had the original hardcover release which was done during the time when Marvel didn't have their remastering techniques perfected yet. Always one to enjoy his comics in the finest “fidelity”, I scooped up this softcover version as it blows away the original hardcover release. Since this was a double dip, it was also a reread, although it I only read the hardcover once in either 2005 or 2006. I honestly didn't remember much about these stories so it was essentially a fresh read.

Bill Everett was and is a genius, and he lived an interesting life to boot. A hard drinking three packs a day smoker, tall-tale telling character, he created or co-created a number of characters, notably Namor The Sub-Mariner and Daredevil. Golden Age Sub-Mariner is a badass. I love the might makes right mentality of Golden Age Comics. He usually fights Nazis in these stories, made all the more remarkable since these issues were all released prior to the United States entering World War II.


Paul Gustavson's The Angel is the recurring back-up feature, and he gets a full 20 pages per issue. (Comic books were 64 pages back then.) He doesn't have any super powers, being closer to pulp heroes of the 1930s while looking like Superman. His exploits probably ape other things that I am unfamiliar with. These are still great reads, high on fun and low on common sense. Lots of whodunit and Horror-tinged action.

There are a handful of other text stories and one page gag strips (one by Basil Wolverton ) rounding out the issues. I really enjoyed these comics. Golden Age material is an acquired taste, but if you can accept the limitations of the era and the fact that these tales don't adhere to any rules because they made them up as they went along then you will dig this stuff. I love the old fashions, cars, architecture, and slang. And in the end the good guys always win, making this the most escapist read you can get here in 2015.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I really like these softcover Masterworks, as they are slightly wider than a standard trade paperback and lay flat in one hand like a big fat periodical, which is wonderful.
I really wish that Marvel would reconsider their plans to nix this line of books.
Linework and Color restoration: As good as it is going to get. The linework and color palette are faithful to the original comic books.
Paper stock: Decent weight matte finish coated stock. I love it.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination.
 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review- THE FADE OUT: ACT ONE


THE FADE OUT: ACT ONE (Image, 2015; Softcover)

Collects The Fade Out #1-4 (cover dates August, 2014- January, 2015)
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser

Ed Brubaker remains the brightest spot in modern comics. He has decided to take Noir to it's logical extreme, experimenting with every conceivable facet of it. This time it comes in the form of The Fade Out, with the reader being transported back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, back when the rules and laws of normal society didn't apply because of money. The more things change, right? A studio tries to cover up the murder of an actress, moving the body to make it look like a suicide while leaving screenwriter Charlie Parish in a predicament since he was sleeping one off in the other room.

This is where the real problem for this title starts. Brubaker is a brilliant writer. Everything that he has ever done has pushed beyond what he has done before. The Fade Out seems to take various elements of what has worked splendidly for him in the past and are presented here without anything different or new. This isn't a knock as much as it is an observation. Think of it in terms of albums by The Rolling Stones. Whereas Fatale was his Sticky Fingers, The Fade Out is more of his It's Only Rock 'N' Roll. Highly polished bits and pieces of what worked before, presented in a cohesive and enjoyable package. The trick now is whether this is Brubaker catching his breath, reiterating what he does best before making another leap or whether he is entering a holding pattern. Will the next arc be his Black And Blue? Let's hope not.

Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser are a great pair, with Phillips' art and Breitweiser's color becoming more polished and refined. Phillips especially has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years.

I may sound a bit harsh, but part of this is Brubaker's own fault for being so inventive with every outing. If this were Joe Blow, who turned in competent yet average work time and again, I would be satisfied and give full approval. Brubaker is a victim of his own success, though, as I expect to be blown away. The twists and turns are all present here, but I haven't felt the gut punch yet. I am not giving up hope, though. This is only Act One. And this is still better than 99% of what is currently on the stands.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Image makes the nicest trade paperbacks these days. Solid.
Paper stock: Thick matte coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Dull matte finish. It doesn't feel as chalky as many books with this type of coating do.