Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review- ALL-STAR BATMAN VOL. 1: MY OWN WORST ENEMY



ALL-STAR BATMAN VOL. 1: MY OWN WORST ENEMY (DC, First Printing, 2017; Hardcover)

Collects All Star Batman #1-5 (cover dates October, 2016- February, 2017)

Writer: Scott Snyder

Artists: John Romita Jr. and Danny Miki (My Own Worst Enemy main story) and Declan Shalvey (The Cursed Wheel back-up story)

Colorists: Dean White (My Own Worst Enemy main story) and Jordie Bellaire (The Cursed Wheel back-up story)

My son checked this out from the library and wanted to read it with me. I liked Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing run and am a huge fan of John Romita, Jr., plus I get to read comics with my son. It's a can't lose scenario!

Two-Face has Batman on the run against the clock, with the KGBeast (now known as The Beast) hot on their tail. JRJr really shines in the bonecrushing fist fight sequences. I still can't get over John Romita Jr. defecting to DC after decades with Marvel. I wonder if it was money or if it was simply boredom. He has handled every single Marvel property at one time or another and might have just felt that it was time to move on.



My only dislike about the My Own Worst Enemy story is the ret-con aspect of the flashback. I'm not sure if that facet really added anything to the overall story, even with the end result of it coming full circle. It likely flew in the face of some continuity established somewhere since 1939 and it did the story a disservice by tying it to the “then” instead of the “now”.

The Cursed Wheel was awesome, a story about a demented serial killer that Batman's new partner Duke manages to stop because he was able to piece together the clues faster than Batman. It is a dark story done at a PG-13 level. It was incredible.

This whole book was fantastic. I will freely admit that I have a double standard when it comes to DC. Their continuity doesn't have to make any sense to me since they have rebooted and ret-conned things so many times that I am not even sure if they have a definitive continuity. With that in mind I am free to read and enjoy anything that they release as it's own thing, with no thought or concern as to where it fits into the puzzle that makes up the big picture. Marvel's continuity was once as tight as a drum and I have never forgiven them for running it off of the rails.



My 10 year old son's take: I think that it was great. It was brilliant. The art was well drawn, the storyline was good. I liked that it all revolved around Two-Face. I disliked the little bit of swearing. (Note: The swearing was mostly in @#$%$% form.) It was the best Batman comic I've ever read. It was really well done.

This is so good that I am considering buying it. It's not like I will ever have to time to read it again, but it's so good that I would like to think that I'll be able to someday.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Library books are fascinating science experiments in the workmanship of the materials used to make these books. I'll be lucky to find enough time to read all of my books once, so I am not sure why I would consider buying more.
Paper stock: Good weight coated glossy stock.
Binding: Perfect binding.
Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: The dustjacket is in a Brodart sleeve and taped to the hardback. Difficult to evaluate on these library books. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review- ALL STAR COMICS ARCHIVES VOL. 5



ALL STAR COMICS ARCHIVES VOL. 5 (DC, First Printing, 1999; Hardcover)

Collects All Star Comics #19-23 (cover dates Winter, 1943- Winter, 1944)

Writers: Gardner Fox and Sheldon Mayer (co-plotter) with Jack Kirby (some Sandman rewrites)

Artists: Joe Gallagher, Stan Aschmeier, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Bernard Baily, Joe Gallagher, Sheldon Moldoff, Joe Kubert, Cliff Young, Steve Brodie, and Frank Harry



The novelty of reading scarce and expensive old comics has long since worn off for me after nearly fifteen years into the golden age of collected editions. We fans have been spoiled rotten by the embarrassment of riches shoveled at us in all directions in any number of formats. Since the novelty is gone, we are left with two avenues with which to judge these works. One is reading these comics in a purely academic sense, weighing their historical significance against other comics of the day. The other is how does it read through modern eyes in 2017. Modern meaning my middle-aged eyes, for what it's worth, but eyes that have still never read these comic books before.

With that in mind we jump in to this sixth volume in the line (there was a Vol. 0). The award winning formula of the day is still intact. The team starts each issue with a meeting and are suddenly presented with a challenge or mystery of some sort which requires the team to split up in order to tackle the problem more efficiently. This formula is used in every issue. While this might seem tedious or monotonous to a modern day fan, bear in mind that these comics were read primarily by children and that many people didn't buy every single issue of every title back then.



At this point The Justice Society Of America is Hawkman, Johnny Thunder (and his Thunderbolt), The Spectre, Sandman (the second, crappier version), Star Man, The Atom, Doctor Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite, and their secretary, Wonder Woman. Yes, that's right, the second most powerful member of the team is left behind to take notes. Societal mores being what they were, I guess that this appealed to the kids of the 1940s.



#20 finds the team fighting their first true super villain, The Monster. While they have fought costumed foes before, this is the first one with augmented abilities. The story in #21 would have done nothing but create multiple divergent timelines rather than solve the problem that the team faced. I wonder how the DC continuity experts have worked that one out. The Psycho-Pirate proved to be a worthwhile nemesis in issue 23.



This was a moderately entertaining read. The stories have no plot twists and the endings are telegraphed a mile away, but these were aimed at children over 70 years ago. It's easy to criticize the lack of sophistication in the writing or artwork here in 2017. This stuff is still important and worthy of your attention. If it weren't for The Justice Society Of America we would never have gotten The Justice League of America for Stan Lee to rip off with The Avengers.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- The following are omitted from this book:
On Silver Wings, a half page text story from #19.
Fuller Phun And Archibald Club one page gag strip from #20.
Fat And Slat one page gag strip from #21 and 22.
Who's Who In Whoville one page gag strip from #23.
Pervia Problem, one page text story from #23.
Why were these omitted? DC's collected editions department has little method to their madness.
Linework and Color restoration: Off-white matte coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. It's a little tight but loosens as you read it.




Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Thick laminated dustjacket. Casewrap has faux leather grain with foil stamping. 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review- GREEN LANTERN: SECTOR 2814 VOL. 2



GREEN LANTERN: SECTOR 2814 VOL. 2 (DC, First Printing, 2013; Softcover)

Collects Green Lantern #182, 183, 185-193 (main stories only) (cover dates November, 1984- October, 1985)

Writer: Len Wein (#182, 183, 185, 186), Paul Kupperberg (#187), and Steve Englehart (#188-193)

Artists: Dave Gibbons (Penciler, #182, 183, 185, 186), Bill Willingham (Penciler, #187), and Joe Staton (#188-193) with Inking by Mark Farmer, Mike DeCarlo, Rich Rankin, and Bruce Patterson



1984 and 1985 are “my” golden age of comics. I turned 11 and 12 in those years and many of my fondest comic memories come from that time. I was a Marvelite back then and I wouldn't have been caught dead reading anything from the Distinguished Competition. Everyone, and by everyone I mean my two comic reading friends and I, knew that DC sucked. More fool me. This is every bit as good as anything that Marvel was producing during this time period.



Indeed, Marvel alumni Len Wein and Steve Englehart capably handle this long running story of Hal Jordan quitting the Green Lantern Corps and him wrestling with his new life as a civilian while the new Green Lantern, John Stewart, learns the ropes. Stewart is from Detroit, which is awesome because no Marvel superhero was from Detroit back in 1984-85. I would have loved that as a kid.

Dave Gibbons' brilliant art is replicated as closely as possible by his replacement art team, Joe Staton and Bruce Patterson. Only my brand loyalty of the day kept me away from this comic. In all honesty I could barely afford the comics that I read at that time, so it's probably for the best that I was unwilling to read anything else.



My only gripe is the awful resolution to the Predator nemesis. Seriously? This is hackneyed, stoned '70s-style plot twisting at it's worst. I expected better from Englehart. He picks up and carries on well enough afterward, so I am looking forward to finally reading the third and final volume in this line of trades.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- #184 was omitted because it was a reprint of Issue 59. The back-up stories are collected in a separate line of trades. DC's collected editions department has never made much sense to me.
Linework and Color restoration: The linework is excellent. At first glance it appears that some lines are dropped but a closer inspection against the original comic books reveals that what often appears to be thicker lines is really a gnashing of the plates and that there were thinner lines.
While the original color palette is faithfully maintained across the three issues that I did comparisons with it is the gradient shades used to soften the blends that stick out to my eye. Is it that big of a deal? The color blend is correct, only the method DC used at this time is not authentic to the era. The gradients give an airbrushed appearance to the edge of the blend, whereas when these are recolored “by hand” on a computer you get more authentic looking blends. Your OCD mileage may vary, I just list this (and in all honesty do this blog) to inform fellow fans on the good, the bad, and the ugly of collected editions.
Paper stock: Bright white glossy stock. Not optimal for material with flat coloring but I prefer it to the cheap paper which DC used to pass off on books of vintage material. They have since phased this paper out.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review- WOLVERINE- OLD MAN LOGAN VOL. 2: BORDERTOWN



WOLVERINE- OLD MAN LOGAN VOL. 2: BORDERTOWN (Marvel, Second Printing, 2017; Softcover)

Collects Old Man Logan #5-8 and Uncanny X-Men #205 (cover dates May, 1986- September, 2016)

Writers: Jeff Lemire and Chris Claremont (Uncanny X-Men #205)

Artists: Andrea Sorrentino and Barry Windsor-Smith (Uncanny X-Men #205)

Colorists: Marcelo Maiolo and Barry Windsor-Smith (Uncanny X-Men #205)



Old Man Logan's quest to keep his future from happening is making it apparent that this has either become a divergent timeline or that he arrived in a different timeline to begin with. The date where the heroes were killed by a united villain front has come and gone. Logan encounters his wife from his timeline, Maureen, only she's still a child. What could have been creepy was instead quickly turned into another of Logan's personal tragedies.



Old Man Logan heads to the great white north to get away from it all, only to be hunted by Lady Deathstrike and The Reavers. It's kind of weird to see how important Deathstrike has become to the Wolverine mythos. Old Man Shaw moment: I was buying those issues of Alpha Flight and Uncanny X-Men when she was introduced and didn't think that she was anything special as a 12-going-on-13 year old kid.

Logan also encounters the teenage Jean Grey/Marvel Girl/Phoenix from yet another alternate timeline since, like Wolverine, she is dead in this current continuity. This sentence shows why modern Marvel sucks. Wolverine is dead (for now), and Jean Grey is also dead (also for now, since she is returning judging by the current cycle of December solicits), so alternate timeline versions are brought in, both from different points in their life (Jean Grey from an alternate past where she is a teenager, and Logan from 50 years in the future of his timeline). It's the cheesiest aspects of Silver Age DC and beneath the dignity of the House Of Ideas.

I am enjoying this series in spite of that criticism. I read this title almost as it's own universe. This is 1980s Wolverine, only decades older fed up with it all. I am also decades older from the halcyon days of the 1980s and equally fed up with it all. This is the superhero version of Grumpy Old Men. Both Old Man Logan and I feel out of touch with the modern world through no fault of our own. The world has a way of changing around you. Like Old Man Logan, I am not prepared to give up on life without a fight. Screw with me and I'll pop my claws too, metaphorically speaking of course since I don't have claws.

The padding factor of Volume 1 in this line of trades continues, with Uncanny X-Men #205 added to bolster the page count. At least this issue is related to the events in this arc, with the first encounter of Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike. I can reread '80s X-Men a thousand times. Indeed, I have.



So far so good with this series. I will continue on my journey with this title. Will Old Man Logan find the peace which has eluded him his whole life? Will I ever quit buying comic books? Old Man Logan and Old Man Shaw are both too stubborn to know when to quit, so the answer is likely no to both questions, but let's find out together.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I am surprised that this book received a second printing, as Marvel typically allows material to go out of print so that it can be repurposed in Omnibus hardcovers and, once those go out of print, fat Complete Collection trades.
Paper stock: Fair weight 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.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Review- AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION BOOK 2



AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION BOOK 2 (Marvel, First Printing, 2014; Softcover)

Collects Avengers #242-254 and Avengers Annual #13 (cover dates April, 1984- April, 1985)

Writer: Roger Stern

Artists: Al Milgrom, Joe Rubinstein, Joe Sinnott, Bob Hall, Jack Abel, Brett Breeding, Joe Delbeato, Kim DeMulder, Steve Ditko, Brian Garvey, Carmine Infantino, and John Byrne



Roger Stern's brilliant run on the title kicks into high gear with his long gestating Absolute Vision storyline. The events in the previous book (Absolute Vision Book 1) saw Starfox connecting the comatose Vision to ISAAC, the computer mind which controls his homeworld (Saturn's moon of Titan). ISAAC (Internal Synaptic Anti+/Anionic Computer) has been communicating with The Vision, opening up parts of his synthezoid mind which he had never before utilized, resulting in the chaos which slowly progresses as this year's worth of comics unfolds.

This book starts out where most of The Avengers have been whisked away to the mysterious Battleworld by The Beyonder to fight the original Secret Wars. All 12 issues of that series take place in between 242 and 243. Like every title Marvel published in 1984, the heroes return with many changes apparent. The reasons why are not revealed until the end of that mini-series, so every title had little bits and pieces revealed alongside the main series. While most of The Avengers are gone The Vision assumes role of chairman and cobbles together an ad hoc team of Avengers.



ISAAC is steering The Vision through all of this, advising him to form a second Avengers team to better respond to emergencies, meeting with the President Reagan with the intent of giving The Avengers a cabinet position, and directing him in the construction of a mysterious machine. The Vision decided that he has the knowledge to run the world better than anyone and eliminate all of the world's problems. In the process he alienates his wife, The Scarlet Witch, and almost causes nuclear war.

Backing up a bit, it is fascinating to watch The Vision become slowly unraveled under the pressures of leadership and trying to solve all of the world's problems. The Avengers have many battles while all of this is unfolding, fighting The Dire Wraiths from ROM and an adventure with The Eternals which resulted in a battle with Maelstrom.



This brings us to #249, one of two issues in this book which I bought at the time of release. It was a scorching hot August day in 1984 when my mom sent me to 7-11 to buy her a pack of cigarettes and told me I could buy myself a comic book. This was back in the days when an 11 year old kid could go to the store and say that the cigarettes were for were for your mom and they would sell them to you. Cripes. #249 was the comic that I picked because it had The Avengers and the Fantastic Four in it. Wow!

The contrast of a freak blizzard in the comics and a super hot August afternoon stuck with me through the years. I wasn't reading this title or Thor at the time, but Stern's writing was clear enough that I picked up enough to be blown away. There are a million things going on in this issue, and I read it probably a dozen times that first week. This issue continued in Thor #350, a comic which I still have never read! I know that there is no good reason. It's the Walt Simonson run, which I have read part of, but I am not interested in the inferior recoloring currently available in collected editions and will wait for the material to be properly remastered when the Marvel Masterworks line gets there. Maybe I'll just go and snag a back issue for cheap.

The other issue which I picked up off the spinner rack at 7-11 at the time of release was #252 back in November of 1984. It was one of those days where I had scraped together 60 cents and was spinning the rack around looking for something to read. The cover blurb Who is strong enough to smash Hercules? Hint: There's two of them! reeled me in. Until recently I felt that cover blurbs had lost their zing until my 11 year old son showed me a newer comic he has and read the blurb like it was the coolest thing ever. While the blurb seemed silly to me, I got it. It was important to him, just like this one was to me. There's no way that whatever comic he was referring to is anywhere near as badass as The Avengers battling the Blood Brothers though!



The book ends with the two-part Absolute Vision climax. It all works. Roger Stern strung the threads throughout a year long story without it being dull for a minute. Less capable writers have tried aping this type of thing and milking it for longer, fumbling the ball at the last minute.



The only drawback to this run is Al Milgrom's workmanlike artwork. I enjoyed his art immensely as a kid, but as an adult I have to adjust to it. He is good when paired with a heavy handed inker like Joe Sinnott, but pair him with an inferior inker and the results are pedestrian. Once you dig into the book and the spirit of the era it becomes less jarring. The Annual had an interesting art pair: Steve Ditko with inking by John Byrne. Ditko was past his prime here but was still doing decent work. Byrne added polish where necessary and infused his strengths here and there.

There is no reason to not own this material, folks. Stern is on the Mount Rushmore of great Avengers writers, alongside Roy Thomas, Kurt Busiek, and Steve Englehart. “My” era on this title as a regular reader began in earnest with #258, which will be reviewed when I reread it with adult eyes in The Legacy Of Thanos trade paperback, which I will move into queue shortly.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I am a sucker for trades that clock in over 400 pages and use this paper stock. I will buy almost anything old which is collected in this format.
Linework and Color restoration: Everything looks good except for the most part. 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?
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 and is my favorite paper stock used in collected editions today.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminatied cardstock cover.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Review- WOLVERINE- OLD MAN LOGAN VOL. 1: BERSERKER



WOLVERINE- OLD MAN LOGAN VOL. 1: BERSERKER (Marvel, Second Printing, 2017; Softcover)

Collects Old Man Logan #1-4 and Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size (cover dates November, 2009- June, 2016)

Writers: Jeff Lamire and Mark Millar (Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size)

Artists: Andrea Sorrentino and Steve McNiven with Mark Morales and Dexter Vines (Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size)

Colorists: Marcel Miolo and Morray Jay Hollowell (Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size)



The PARENTAL ADVISORY box on the back cover should be enough to tell you that this is not all ages reading. With that in mind, I had to let go of my nostalgic yearnings for the Wolverine of my youth and think of this as that same Wolverine a few decades on. When put in that context, with both of us three decades worse for the wear but as stubborn as ever, I was able to enjoy this book for the violent fun that it is.

Logan wakes up in 2015, “a few years before things went bad”, a reference to the events in the original Old Man Logan arc where the villains all come together and kill nearly every hero. He is bound and determined to stop the events as they happened in his future timeline. Logan is older and wearier, less prone to anger but also less tolerant of bullshit. I can relate.



Logan has made a list of people he needs to kill in order to stop the seemingly alternate future timeline that he came from from happening. First on the kill list is Black Butcher, a minor leaguer who crossed Logan and his son in his future. Bruce Banner, a/k/a The Hulk, is next on the list. Logan finds The Hulk, only it's the fake Amadeus Cho Hulk. Then we see the fake female Hawkeye before he encounters the then-old man Captain America before stumbling upon some X-Men and a Sentinel.



I'm not crazy about all of these doppelganger heroes, as it smacks of the cheesiest aspects of Silver Age DC. Your mileage may vary, but this old man says get off of my lawn, you damn kids with your teenage Asian Hulk and female Hawkeyes! Back in my day the Hulk was Bruce Banner and Hawkeye was Clint Barton, and that was how we liked it!

My only real gripe about this book is the padding out of the page count/ price point by reprinting Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size here when it was already reprinted before in the original Old Man Logan trade. It's not like including it in this collection again provides valuable insight into this arc. It's a double dip, plain and simple, and the worst kind. Padding a page count for a price point.

I'm still on board with this series, with Volume 3 moseying on up to the front of the backlog reading pile.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I was surprised to see that this is a second printing. Marvel often times lets books fall out of print while quietly reprinting others like this one.
Paper stock: Coated stock with a slight sheen. The paper seems a bit on the thin side compared to what Marvel used to out in their trades of contemporary material.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock coating. The curling factor that was plaguing the newer Marvel trades seems to have been rectified. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review- Dragonslayer #1 and 2



Dragonslayer #1 and 2 (Marvel, cover dates October- November, 1981)

Writer: Denny O'Neil

Artists: Marie Severin and John Tartaglione

Like the movie, these comic books are an unremarkable footnote that few people remember. It's odd, considering that Disney and Industrial Light and Magic (George Lucas' special effects company) were involved. I remember it though, because in the summer of 1981, while visiting my aunt one day, she gave my sister and I each 50 cents to buy something at Lawson's. Lawson's is a long defunct convenience store chain that could be found throughout Michigan and Ohio, later becoming Dairy Mart and then Circle K. Today they have a radically reduced presence here in the Detroit area. There was a Lawson's a few blocks from her house, back in the days when it was okay to let an 8 year old kid roam around unsupervised.

This was the architectural style of the Lawson's store that I went to, although this picture looks like it is from the 1960s. I could not find any pictures of the actual location nor of the company logo circa 1981. Fun fact: Lawson's Frozen Coke mix was superior to the 7-11 Slurpee of the day.  


I picked #1 off of the spinner rack because the cover was awesome. Conventional wisdom says not to judge a book by its cover. In comic books the cover is the hook. All of those comics on that spinner rack with my having money enough for only one. Yes, the cover was the most important part of the comic circa 1981.

The story itself isn't very original, a retread of so many concepts that it would take some time to ascertain exactly what was lifted from where. There is a lot of Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars at play here. Dungeons And Dragons was also popular, and popular culture of the day such as Heavy Metal reflected this trend.



What is notable about this two issue limited series are the creators involved. Denny O'Neil deftly handles the adaptation, driving the point home and condensing 90 minutes of story across 44 pages of story. Marie Severin is an industry legend with a career that spanned decades. Both have been involved in some of the finest comic books ever made, and I got a real kick out of seeing them on this. 8 year old me enjoyed this comic but didn't have a clue who they were.



This was originally released as Marvel Super Special #20, which was a magazine size title printed on superior paper stock and subsequently split across two standard comic books (reviewed here) before being reissued as a full color paperback. The paperback-sized book split the panels across 157 pages of story. I used to own it but the binding on the copy I had was failing and I got rid of it. You can get copies of that book on eBay for cheap, or you can get the single issues out of .50 or dollar boxes like I did with these two issues.



I still have my original copy of #1 from 1981 but it is missing the back cover and is held together with Scotch tape. I read it so many times as an 8 year old kid that it fell apart. And I never got to read #2 until I was an adult. I did see the movie on cable years ago and it was okay. Unremarkable and honestly a bit boring.

Rereading these comic books was a pleasant way to spend an evening. If you want to read this title I can almost guarantee that they are waiting in a dollar box near you.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.


The OCD zone- There is no OCD zone on original single issues.