Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review- EVOLUTIONARY WAR OMNIBUS


EVOLUTIONARY WAR OMNIBUS (Marvel, First Printing, 2011; Hardcover)

Collects Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22, Avengers Annual #17, Fantastic Four Annual #21, New Mutants Annual #4, Punisher Annual #1, Silver Surfer Annual #1, Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #8, Web of Spider-Man Annual #4, West Coast Avengers Annual #3, X-Factor Annual #3, and X-Men Annual #12 (cover dates Annual 1988)

Writers: Louise Simonson, Mike Baron, Steve Englehart, Tom DeFalco, David Michelinie, Steve Gerber, Gerry Conway, Walter Simonson, and Mark Gruenwald

Artists: Pencilers- Terry Shoemaker, Mark Texeira, Joe Staton, June Brigman, Mark Bagley, Kieron Dwyer, Arthur Adams, Cynthia Martin, Al Milgrom, Mark Bright, Paris Cullins, and Ron Lim; Inkers- Al Milgrom, Scott Williams, Josef Rubinstein, Bob McLeod, Mike Esposito, Joe Sinnott, Bob Wiacek, Cynthia Martin, Gerry Talaoc, Chris Ivy, Keith Williams, Mike Gustovich, Valerie Gustovich, Tony DeZuniga, and Jim Sinclair.

File this one under “Things aren't as good as they used to be...and they probably never were.” I eagerly scooped this book up when it came out, apparently oblivious to my memory of reading it when it was originally published. I hated this crossover at the time of original publication. I knew at age 15 that this was nothing more than a cash grab and a scam, refusing to buy the issues that were not a part of my regular titles. The fact that the story was incomplete unless you bought every single double-sized (and double-priced!) issue was an insult to me then and it is even more so to me now. Of course the point of comic companies is to make as much money as possible, but to insult the fans by forcing them to do stuff like this turned me off back then...much like it has today. I buy nothing that Marvel publishes today. If not for collected editions of vintage material they would see none of my money.


The main story is pretty feeble. The High Evolutionary has returned, deciding to fulfill humanity's potential by accelerating their evolution to it's maximum. This story is dragged into places where it doesn't belong. Incorporating The Punisher into this crossover was a bit of a stretch. To be honest most of these stories don't make a lot of sense, or they simply have the High Evolutionary shoe-horned in there for crossover branding purposes. The Amazing Spider-Man Annual with Speedball and Daredevil was fun, in a corny kind of way. The X-Men Annual was underwhelming, then and now. Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #8 shows Gerry Conway returning to what was one of the most gaping holes in a plotline from his 1970s run: How a mere college professor could clone a human. Conway's ret-cone only serves to further muddy the waters on the clusterfuck that would soon be known as The Clone Saga a few years later.


If not for the back-up stories in each Annual which chronicled the origin of the High Evolutionary (collected together in the back of the book), I would have ranked this much, much lower. The origin story was highly entertaining, especially when the High Evolutionary was battling Baron Gregory Russoff (the ancestor of Jack Russell, a.k.a. Werewolf By Night).

 
This isn't a high point in the history of the Marvel Universe, nor is this the best work of any of the creators involved. I will still take this over what passes as Marvel Comics these days. At least everyone is acting true to character and the writers tell a story which serve the characters and not themselves. Not every comic has to wow or shock you, folks.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- While I have grown to dislike the size of most Omniboo, this book hits the 400-500 page sweet spot.
There are numerous omissions in this book. If a back-up story didn't belong as a part of the crossover then it was omitted from the issue.
Linework and Color restoration: Very good overall, certainly better than the material warrants.
Paper stock: Beautiful thick coated stock with a slight sheen. I loved the paper that Marvel used in their Omniboo during this era.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding, book lays completely flat from the first page to the last.
Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination on the dustjacket, faux leather grain casewrap with dye foil stamping. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reviews- VELVET VOL. 2: THE SECRET LIVES OF DEAD MEN and REVIVAL VOL. 5: GATHERING OF WATERS


VELVET VOL. 2: THE SECRET LIVES OF DEAD MEN (Image, First Printing, May, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Velvet #6-10 (cover dates July, 2014- April, 2015)
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser

Take some Dramamine before beginning to read this book, as the numbers of twists and turns may make you ill. Velvet Templeton is or is not nuts, is or is not innocent, and is or is not close to nailing this shut, depending on which twist you're at. Beautifully written, drawn, and colored, I recommend this to everyone. Good stuff that proves that not all modern comics suck...just the vast majority of them.

Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.


The OCD zone- Image makes nice books.
Paper stock: Beautiful thick matte coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination.


REVIVAL VOL. 5: GATHERING OF WATERS (Image, First Printing, May, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Revival #24-29 (cover dates October, 2014- April, 2015)
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Mike Norton
Colorist: Mark Englert

Talk talk talk development. Talk talk talk event. Talk talk talk about the development and then talk talk talk about the event. This “Rural Noir” usually satisfies me but this time it served to only annoy me. Modern comics rely on a “cinematic”, dialogue driven method of writing. I prefer older comics because the third party captions gave it a more literary feel. Modern comics all try to mimic modern day television or movies, which I mostly dislike. Comic books are, to me, the ultimate form of expression because they can combine the emotional weight of text with the impact of images. Leaning too far in either direction robs the medium of it's true potential. I get why modern comic books are written this way. You are dealing with people who can't look up from their phones to cross the street since attention spans are at an all time low. The worst part of all of this is that they make a lot of nothing happen over a lot of pages to pad out a trade paperback. The energy and spontaneity that I crave is absent from this title.

I've given this title two or so years of my life, and I am done. It is good but not good enough to hold my interest without any resolution. Development after development occur, and there has yet to be a definite arc resolution. Some folks may like this kind of thing but we haven't even hit a plateau yet. One of two things can happen. Either the suspense will build and the payoff will bowl you over, or the expectations for a huge payoff are going to be heaped so high that it can do nothing but disappoint. Either way, I won't be finding out.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Image makes nice books.
Paper stock: Coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Matte coating, very resistant to scuffing. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review- BATMAN: PREY


BATMAN: PREY (DC, First Printing, 2012; Softcover)

Collects Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15, 137-141 (cover dates September, 1990- May, 2001)

Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Penciler- Paul Gulacy; Inkers- Terry Austin (#11-15) and Jimmy Palmiotti (#137-141)

I am a casual Batman fan, cherry picking random collections based on creative teams or the era of original issue publication. The team of Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy was too great of a draw to resist. I normally despise ret-cons, as they usually mean one of two things: One, that the character(s) involved is/are so screwed up in their current incarnation that there is no other way to tell a cohesive story about said character(s), and/or Two, that the creative team involved is so lazy and unimaginative that there is no other way that they could tell a story using an established hero or villain. Batman seems to be the victim of endless retellings and reinterpretations of his early exploits, which serve to only further muddy the waters of continuity.

That said, these were enjoyable reads. Batman has more “dark” and “mature” themes applied to him than any other mainstream superhero, and given his origins as a derivative pulp character I can go with the Noir angle, but only to a point. Moench is a fine writer and Gulacy is a fine artist. Gulacy is paired with a pair of top notch inkers in Terry Austin and Jimmy Palmiotti. The art is easy on the eyes even if the paper in this book is shit.

The arc found in the first five issues collected in this book is a reinterpretation of Batman's first encounter with Doctor Hugo Strange which occurred in Detective Comics #36 way back in 1939 (the cover date was February, 1940, but the issue would have been on the stands in the final days of the 1930s). Since everything is better when it is made darker and grittier, Hugo Strange is made even kookier than he was in his first appearance, on down to a fetish with a manikin with a Batman costume...because, you know, story.


The second arc collected here is the sequel, this time with the Scarecrow in tow. I am a sucker for the Scarecrow, as scarecrows are cool as Hell. Catwoman is also featured prominently in this arc, but the ret-con factor totally ruins this for me. Like I said before, Moench is a fine writer, but is he really so bored with these characters that all's he can do is pretend that Batman doesn't know Catwoman? We have seen so many reboots, reinterpretations and ret-cons that none of these stories mean anything now. Cue douchebag fanboy whining, where they say Who cares one whit about continuity so long as we get a good story. If that's the case then nothing shown in any story matters. Sorry kids, but continuity matters because otherwise reading any story becomes a waste of your time. It matters or it doesn't...and if it doesn't then I don't care.

I loathe how Batman's narrative is done in a semi-cursive, semi-printed fashion. It is difficult to read in the murky gray boxes, made even murkier by the shitty paper that DC passes off on people in their collected editions. This was an at times entertaining read, although the aforementioned paper and lettering issues annoyed me. DC's collected editions department remains a joke.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This being DC, there are of course omissions. They could have included the covers for the three previous trade paperback releases, but instead we get one blank page and three pages of ads for other books in the back. Marvel also advertises other books in their collections, but they do it on the inside covers of these books. DC's inside covers are blank.
Linework and Color restoration: Irrelevant, since the grade of paper used makes things a murky washed out mess of it.
Paper stock: What year is this? Why are DC fans content to accept subpar paper in their collected editions? This is some seriously crappy paper. It is worse than the paper used in the original 2001 issues and makes the computer colors look washed out and muted. This cheap paper is garbage and doesn't lower the cost of the book one bit.

DC lists their “Sustainable Forestry Initiative” in the indicia like they are environmentally responsible. Please. Your entire business model is based on killing trees. Acting like you are responsible by using the SFI logo is laughable. You sell dead trees. The blood of mother Earth is on your hands!
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination. At least DC did that right. It was probably a mistake.