Sunday, June 26, 2016

Review- THE X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION VOL. 1: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM



THE X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION VOL. 1: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM (Marvel, First Printing, 2014; Softcover)

Collects X-Men #1-23 (cover dates September, 1963- August, 1966)

Writers: Stan Lee and Roy Thomas
Artists: Penciling by Jack Kirby, Werner Roth, and Alex Toth, with Inking by Dick Ayers, Chic Stone, Paul Reinman, Vince Colletta, and Joe Sinnott



This is not only the third time that I have read these issues, but the third time that I have bought this material as well. Allow me to explain. I owned the first three hardcover Marvel Masterworks many moons ago but sold them when the hardcover Omnibus came out, as the Omnibus boasted vastly superior linework and color restoration. The Omnibus fell out of print, and when I saw how much it was going for I dumped it a year or so ago and picked this book up. As long as I have the material with the finest restoration I am fine. Plus, I honestly enjoy the paper stock in this Epic over the one found in the Omnibus.

One of the creepiest Stan Lee plotlines ever. Professor X's crush on the teenage Jean Grey (Marvel Girl). This was thankfully dropped and never referred to again as far as I know. I quit buying new X-Men comics a few years ago. 


OCD upgradeitis/ eBay flipping exploits aside, I enjoyed this material more the third time through. The X-Men were always the red-headed stepchild of Marvel's Silver Age. Neither Stan Lee nor Jack Kirby seemed to give this series much thought out of the gate. Compare these issues to anything else that these two were doing during the same cover month and you will see what I mean.



Kirby's successor was Werner Roth. I disliked Werner Roth's artwork until a couple of years ago, when I read his 1950's Atlas output. I still feel like his style is not as energetic as Kirby's, nor as nuanced as Ditko's, because he draws superheroes that look like regular people. If you read this as a book about normal teenagers who happen to be mutant superheroes his artwork makes more sense. He is a solid artist that was ill-suited to Silver Age superhero comics.



Stan Lee and Jack Kirby lay down the entire foundation for the series here. Professor Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters. Cerebro, Professor X's mutant-detecting device. Magneto as well as the Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants. Future Avengers Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. The Blob. The Juggernaut. The Sentinels and the first wave of anti-mutant hysteria that Roy Thomas and later Chris Claremont would use to great dramatic effect. It's all here, even if it isn't spit-shined or ready for prime time yet. Like I said, neither Lee nor Kirby nor Thomas nor Roth made this series seem like it was their priority. It falls short of every other book that Marvel was publishing during this time. Reading this for the third time was the charm, though, as I finally got what made it special to a small group of fans back then. It was those fans who would become the creators who would go on to make this one of Marvel's most popular titles a decade or so later.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

If you enjoy Magneto in the movies, thank Jack Kirby. 


The OCD zone- When I returned to comic books in 2003 after a thirteen year hiatus I discovered the Essential line, which were 500 page black and white phone books. At the time I wished that they were in color. The Epic line is an answer to my prayers. Five hundred page chunks of classic comic books at a reasonable price.
Linework and Color restoration: The absolute best version of this material, using the same files found in the Omnibus and softcover Marvel Masterworks. Excellent linework and a color palette that is faithful to the original comics.
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. This paper is my favorite paper used out of any collected editions from any company.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review- CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 3: LOOSE NUKE



CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 3: LOOSE NUKE (Marvel, First Printing 2014; Softcover)

Collects Captain America #11-15 (cover dates November, 2013- March, 2014)

Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Carlos Pacheco, Klaus Janson, Mariano Taibo, and Nick Klein
Colorists: Dean White, Rachelle Rosenberg, Rain Beredo, and Val Staples

While I read and enjoyed the first two volumes in this series, the never-ending barrage of comics released each week made it impossible to keep up with everything, so I dropped this title. My local library has a ton of collected editions, so I grabbed Vols. 3-5 of this series when I saw them. The price was right.

Remender is a good writer, and while this isn't as good as Brubaker's run on the title (what is?), it was still very enjoyable. Fast paced and action packed, Remender manages to pack enough of the suspense and intrigue which were the hallmark of Brubaker's run into his run.



Cap is back after spending twelve years in Dimension Z. He was gone from Earth only a few moments, but twelve years of his life were spent there. Nuke is on a rampage, and Cap barely has a second to catch his breath before the son of Nick Fury pushes him into action. A new heavy, The Iron Nail, is revealed in this arc.

The artwork is all decent, the writing is good, and there is no unnecessary swearing. This would even be worth paying money to read.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone-
Paper stock: Good weight coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Review- SETTING THE STANDARD: COMICS BY ALEX TOTH 1952-1954



SETTING THE STANDARD: COMICS BY ALEX TOTH 1952-1954 (Fantagraphics, First Printing, August, 2011; Softcover)

Collects selections from Best Romance #5, Joe Yank #5, 6, 8, 10, New Romances #10, 11, 14, 16-20, Today's Romance #6, Battlefront #5, My Real Love #5, Out Of The Shadows #5, 6, 10-12, Adventures Into Darkness #5, 8, 9, The Unseen #5, 6, Crime Files #5, Intimate Love #19, 21, 22, 26, Fantastic Worlds #5, 6, This Is War #5, 6, 9, Lost Worlds #5, 6, Jet Fighters #5, 7, Popular Romance #22-27, Who Is Next? #5, Exciting War #8, Thrilling Romances #22-24, and The Unseen #12, 13 (cover dates February, 1952- March, 1954)

Writers: Kim Aamodt and other, unidentified writers
Artists: Alex Toth with Inking by Sy Barry, John Celardo, Mike Peppe, Mike Sekowsky, and Mike Esposito)



The genius of Alex Toth may be lost on younger fans, as he was one of those artists whose voice was so different than his peers that those who followed in his footsteps stripmined his brilliance to the point where it became the norm. When you compare his Standard Comics output to his contemporaries he is head and shoulders above everyone aside from the stable of artists over at EC.



That said, the stories in and of themselves are unremarkable at best and banal at worst. Most of the writing is average or worse for the era, with the occasional story standing out. I enjoy this era of comic books, but if you are a fan of modern decompression style comic books then this book might be a chore for you to read. Toth did a lot of war and romance comics, and those are heavily featured in this book. I am not a big fan of either genre but Toth's artwork made them palatable. His Pre-Code Horror work is collected here as well.



His Horror and Sci-Fi stuff really pop, but to be honest none of the stories in this book are what I'd call great. This book is still a worthwhile addition to any serious comic fan's library. This is over 400 pages, so it is dense and will take a while to plow through it but it is worth it.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.25 out of 5.



The OCD zone- This book is larger and wider than a standard trade paperback, which is great because Golden Age comics were wider than modern comics. The material is presented in it's original size here.
Linework and Color restoration: High resolution scans, cleaned up and presented in a warts and all fashion. Some fans like the line bleed and off register printing found in collections like this, others prefer full blown “frame up” restoration. Your mileage may vary.
Paper stock: Heavy duty uncoated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback. The binding feels a bit wonky to me, as the weight of the book block feels like it is trying to pull itself out of the cover. Handle this one with care, folks.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick cardstock cover with high quality matte lamination embellished with spot varnish.