Thursday, July 31, 2014


FANTASTIC FOUR: CRUSADERS & TITANS (Marvel, 2013; Softcover)

Collects Fantastic Four Nos. 164-176 (cover dates November, 1975- November, 1976)
Writer: Roy Thomas with Bill Mantlo
Artists: Rich Buckler, John Buscema, and George Perez with inking by Vince Colletta and Joe Sinnott

Marvel are the unquestioned masters of the double dip. The OCD completist faithful have been tricked into buying and rebuying the same material again and again and again. Take this book, for example. Solicited in May of 2013, it was released simultaneously with Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four Vol. 15, which ended with issue 163. Fears over the health of the Masterworks line led many to believe that the appearance of this here book signaled the end of the line, and that it would continue in softcover form with collections like this. So I bit and bought it as an insurance policy, just in case a Vol. 16 never materialized.

The bastards at Marvel then not only solicited a Vol. 16 roughly six months after this book was released, but they included all but one of the issues in this book (omitting 176) while including three more issues. Those issues themselves were a double dip from The Thing: Liberty Legion Marvel Premiere Classic hardcover released in 2011. So for shelf consistency as well as superior restoration, I have dumped both this book as well as The Thing: Liberty Legion on eBay in order to buy Vol. 16 in September. And let's not forget both of those Fantastic Four Visionaries: George Perez books from way back...
Tales of buying and rebuying aside, there are actually stories inside these books! You can read AND enjoy them. Who knew? I read this to my seven year old son and he absolutely loved this.

You have the Crusader (later Quasar, formerly Marvel Boy) and another battle with the Hulk which resulted in Ben Grimm losing his powers as the Thing. Power Man becomes a member of the team while Mister Fantastic constructed a Thing exoskeleton for Ben Grimm to wear. Power Man's (Luke Cage as the kids call him) stint lasted all of three issues. I could imagine them milking an entire crossover out of that today, complete with sidebar mini-series, one-shots, and prequel and aftermath specials.

When Galactus comes a' calling to devour Counter Earth, the High Evolutionary sets plans into motion to enlist the aid of the Fantastic Four. The outcome of this epic battle is the reintroduction of...ahhh, but that would be telling. Read it for yourself, folks!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I think that I have said enough in the first two paragraphs.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Baxter Building Bulletins from #176. (1 page)
Fantastic Four Visionaries: George Perez Vol. 1 TPB cover. (1 page)
#167 original cover art. (1 page)
#167 cover original color guide. (1 page)
#172, page 4 original art. (1 page)
#176, page 2 original art. (1 page)
Impossible Man TPB cover. (fully rendered version of the covers of #176) (1 page)
Front and back cover to this collection minus trade dress (fully rendered versions of the covers of #168 and 173). (2 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.25 out of 5. While there is some slight pixelation in a few spots as well as the occasionally washed out linework, this is a serviceable restoration job. Most folks would not notice, let alone care about, about the deficiencies here.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. The dull matte coated stock paper that Marvel uses in their collections of vintage material rules.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. I love the thick waxlike lamination that Marvel uses on their books. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review- Dio/ Live In London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993

Dio/ Live In London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993 (Eagle Rock, 2014)

This was a difficult era for Dio. While the Strange Highways album was released in Europe in 1993 it didn't see a Stateside release until February of 1994. I caught Dio at the Detroit stop at the State Theatre on June 2, 1994. There were less than 1,000 people there, with both the mezzanine and the balcony roped off. I felt bad for Dio. He was so out of step with what was going on in America at the time. Everyone had turned their backs on Metal, which I could never understand. If you like something, you like it. All of a sudden nobody ever liked Metal.

The set that I caught in Detroit was similar to the one on this double live album, which was recorded on December 12, 1993. Children Of The Sea wasn't played in Detroit but everything else here was, albeit in a different order. Live In London is 18 songs across two discs (17 if you don't count Drum Solo as a real song) and is great. This was the reconstituted Dio band, which he resurrected after the short-lived reunion with Black Sabbath in 1991-1992. Vinny Appice, who left Dio in 1989 but rejoined him in Sabbath, was in tow. Jeff Pilson from Dokken stepped in as bassist. Tracy G was the new guitarist and was a member of WWIII, which was the band that Appice left Dio for in the first place. His style was pretty aggressive for Dio but I enjoyed his tenure for what it was.

These posthumous live albums are great. While I saw Dio live many times, it saddens me that I'll never get to see him in concert again. I welcome any and all future live albums. I would also welcome a comprehensive box set with all of the assorted non-LP tracks and live B-sides.

Like at any Dio concert, the man was a professional who never seemed to have an off night. This album could have been recorded at any stop and would probably have been just as good as he was for this performance.

Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5. 

Monday, July 28, 2014


Collects Chamber of Chills Nos. 8-13 (cover dates May- October, 1952)

Writers: Bob Powell, Howard Nostrand, and other unidentified writers
Artists: Lee Elias, Vic Donahue, Bob Powell, Howard Nostrand, Al Avison, Tom Hickey, Manny Stallman, John Giunta, Rudy Palais, John Belfi, Warren Kremer, Abe Simon, Moe Marcus, and other unidentified artists.

I adore 1950s Pre-Code Horror comics. While Harvey Comics were not quite as good as my beloved EC Comics they are still solid reads and belong in the library of Horror comic fans the world over. Without these comic books we would likely have no Stephen King, no John Carpenter, no Alice Cooper, no Glenn Danzig or Misfits. 
Headless Horror from issue 8 predates the “found footage” fad by nearly fifty years. Vic Donahue's artwork on The Face Of Horror (#10) is incredibly effective. The Dead Sleep Lightly and Devil's Due round out what I consider to be the most consistently satisfying issue in this book, #10.
 Truth be told, I doubt that many of these stories will scare modern Horror fans on a steady diet of Saw-inspired snuff porn. For those reared or schooled in what could be called “classical” Horror, however, it doesn't get much better than 1950s Pre-Code Horror. These tales all fall in normal parameters for the era and genre. No real surprises here, just plenty of enjoyable old school Horror comics that gave ninnies like Frederic Wertham fuel for his witch hunt. I am beyond grateful that PS Artbooks has resurrected the corpses of these long gone and buried classics.

Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- These are some beautifully produced books. Restoration issues aside, I am thrilled to see these books resurrected in relatively affordable deluxe editions.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Foreword by Michael T. Gilbert. (4 pages)
Macabre Maestros featuring artist Lee Elias. (6 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 3.75 out of 5. These are scans of original comic books, which means that all of the imperfections of the four color printing process are present. Line bleed, off register printing, and yellowing due to age abound. The only major attempt at color correction has been removing the yellowing from the word balloons, which are as white as the paper stock. A fair number of the pages are of mediocre to poor quality, possibly JPEG sourced low resolution scans, likely 300dpi. Some pages look fuzzy and out of focus, others look acceptable. Most are good enough that I am willing to overlook the yellowing.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Thick uncoated stock. It has that wonderful aroma that Chinese made books tend to have. Out of all of the Archives lines available from all of the publishers, PS Artbooks smell the best. I seriously sit there and huff these things as I read them. The toxic stew of broken asbestos tiles, lead paint chips, mercury from recalled thermometers, and the blood, sweat and tears of the Chinese children working the sweatshop printing presses give these book their delectable scent.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding with seven stitches per signature. The book block is rounded in the casing, enabling this book to lay perfectly flat as God intended.
Hardback cover coating rating: 4.75 out of 5. The issue cover images are spot varnished with screen printing while the rest of the casewrap has a dull matte finish which is sufficiently resistant to scuffing when handled with reasonable care.