Category Archives: Sunday Review

Please Don’t Hate Me As I Scrutinize The Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and The Inhumans

Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 5
Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 5

Many of your know that I’ve been reading Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s epic run of Fantastic Four #1-102 by way of the Marvel Masterworks series. I finished it a few weeks ago and although I had a few problems with the early stories I have come to realize that Stan and Jack were just getting the Marvel Universe off and running and the characters themselves had yet to come into their own. The best of the FF was came in Volume Five where the team met The Inhumans, The Black Panther and Galactus and his herald, The Silver Surfer. The latter half of the run where – again, while great – had a few bumps in the road. The stories seemed forced with too much bickering between Johnny Storm, The Human Torch and Ben Grimm, The Thing. Sue Storm (Invisible Girl) was still the lady-in-waiting even though she was married to Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). Always the clod, Reed treated his three extended family members like has-beens. Going into the run I had always disliked The Thing for his self-loathing, but I have now come to have no respect for Reed. Empty promises and lies to Ben, giving no credit for Johnny for saving Earth from Galactus and being a terrible husband to Sue. Even in the pages of Fantastic Four in comic shops right today, Reed is a liar and self-absorbed. And that will always be his problem – not trusting in his fellow team members or family. Shame on him. It also didn’t help that one of the Fantastic Fours greatest adversary Namor, The Sub-Mariner, did not appear between #33 and #102.

But it was Fantastic Four #98, May 1970, that had me the most dumbfounded. This issue celebrates the Apollo 11 moon landing from July 1969 (you must forego any continuity to real world time). With all his brilliance; with all his scientific know-how; with all his “I must help and save the human race”, it seems that Reed has never bothered to share his achievements with the US government or more specifically, NASA! We as readers know that the Fantastic Four had already traveled to the moon on more than one occasion to visit The Watcher. We also know that the Earth has been visited by alien species (the Kree and The Skrulls) and the Human Torch and The Thing has traveled half way across the cosmos on separate occasions! But noooooo, Reed has some sort or Prime Directive with his own planet and thus gives no tech or guidance to the astronaut crew. The ending makes it seem that Neil Armstrong is the first man on the moon, however we know Reed was first — in April 1963 (oh and the human villain The Red Ghost was also on the moon.

Marvel Masterworks Silver Surfer Volume 1
Marvel Masterworks Silver Surfer Volume 1

But now that my FF is done I went ahead and picked up Stan and Jack’s other creation in Masterwork form – The Silver Surfer Volumes 1-2 (this time with pencils by John Buscema). Collected here is the full run of #1-18 from August 1986 – September 1970. It was not a lighthearted read by any stretch. The premise is a sequel to The Galactus Trilogy (Fantastic Four #48-50, March – May 1966) and deals with the Surfer’s exile on Earth. Most of all it’s a prison story. The Silver Surfer is confined to Earth and some space above our planet, but how far out is never told. It is here that we learn more about the man Norrin Radd. Every comic is that of despair. He longs for space travel and to see his beloved Shalla-Bal from his home planet of Zenn-La. The Silver Surfer, is good-hearted and forgiving even though he keeps running into diabolical humans, monsters, witches, and super villains like Doctor Doom who have it in for him. He even fights with Thor, Human Torch, and Spider-Man for no real good reason. It’s upsetting to see that the Silver Surfer’s faith in humanity fades with every turn of the page. In the pages of #17 it looks like Mephisto may finally get his way with him. Transporting Shalla-Bal to Earth, he and makes a deal with the Surfer that if he destroys Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. he will be free and be with his woman forever more. However Mephisto places Shalla-Bal in S.H.I.EL.D. HQ in hopes that the Silver Surfer will kill her too by mistake, and thus go bat-shit crazy and destroy the Earth leaving Mephisto ruler of a dead world. The plan is thwarted but Mephisto may have gotten closer to his master plan without even realizing it. In #18 we meet the Silver Surfer in mid-fight with The Inhumans! How he got there we do not know, but it’s good to see Jack Kirby back on the pencils. At the end, our “hero” is so enraged at the human race that he vows to finally take matters in his own hands. This is what Mephisto wanted all along. Unfortunately the series abruptly ends and we are left with perhaps the biggest cliffhanger the Marvel Bullpen has ever created. As you know the Silver Surfer would calm down and become a hero here on Earth (with The Defenders) and in the vastness of space thanks to the 1982 one-shot by John Byrne and Stan Lee.

Marvel Masterworks Inhumans Volume 1
Marvel Masterworks Inhumans Volume 1

Speaking of The Inhumans, that is where I turn to next in my extended Fantastic Four/Lee & Kirby family of Marvel Masterworks. But I’m a bit perplexed as to why Silver Surfer #17 (September 1970) is not included in The Inhumans Volume 1. After all this Two Volume Masterworks series collects all the Inhuman back up stories from Thor and Amazing Adventures. It would have been easy to add in SS #17 and place it in between Marvel Super-Heroes #15 (July 1968) and Amazing Adventures #1 (August 1970). Yes, it is more of a Surfer story then Inhuman, but it would have given context to just where Black Bolt & Co. have been with their ongoing fight with Maximus. It should be pointed out that on September 18, 2013, Marvel will release a more comprehensive Inhumans collection with Inhumans: The Origin Of The Inhumans TP, Fantastic Four (1961) #36, #38, #41-47, #54, #62-65 and Annual #5, plus portions of #48, #50, #52 and #55-61; and material from Thor (1966) #146-152, $39.99. A Volume 2 would start with the aforementioned Marvel Super-Heroes #15. We’ll have to wait and see if Silver Surfer #17 gets included.

Sunday Review: The James Bond Omnibus Volume 004

Bond is back… Twice!

Skyfall comes to the States this weekend and by all accounts it is considered to be one of the best Bonds ever. Two out of three for Daniel Craig isn’t so bad. I thought Quantum Of Solace was pretty lame.

By the time this review is posted I hope to have seen the movie. I plan on taking my 12-year-old Patrick. It will be his first Bond adventure on the big screen. We’ve sat down and watched a few movies together but there is nothing like watching Bond in the theater. I can still remember my dad taking me to For Your Eyes Only which is considered one of the better movies of the franchise. The ski chase, hockey fight and the mounian climb still gets my blood pumping. And how can you not love Bond kicking Locke’s car over the cliff? Exhilarating!

But as my first sentence suggests Bond is back twice: Skyfall and the The James Bond Omnibus Volume 004 from Titan Books. If you are not familiar, this is the reprint of the comic strip which ran on and off from 1958-1983. A total of 52 story arcs were published and includes all the major works by Bond creator Ian Fleming.

This Volume 004, as it is appropriately, titled collects the following with art by Yaroslav Horak and original scripts by Jim Lawrence that ran in the Daily Express:

Title Writer Date Serial no.
Trouble Spot Jim Lawrence December 28, 1971 – June 10, 1972 1810–1951
Isle Of Condors Jim Lawrence June 12, 1972 – October 21, 1972 1952–2065
The League Of Vampires Jim Lawrence October 25, 1972 – February 28, 1973 2066–2172
Die With My Boots On Jim Lawrence March 1, 1973 – June 18, 1973 2173–2256
The Girl Machine Jim Lawrence June 19, 1973 – December 3, 1973 2257–2407
Beware Of Butterflies Jim Lawrence December 4, 1973 – May 11, 1974 2408–2541
The Nevsky Nude Jim Lawrence May 13, 1974 – September 21, 1974 2542–2655
The Phoenix Project Jim Lawrence September 23, 1974 – February 18, 1975 2656–2780
The Black Ruby Caper Jim Lawrence February 19, 1975 – July 15, 1975 2781–2897

As for the book itself, it is Volume 004 and I fully expect there will be three more rounding out to a Volume 7 or 007. Sadly, there is no introduction, extra features or bios of Horak and Lawrence. There is however, this disclaimer:

Much of his comic strip source material used by Titan Books in this edition is exceedingly rare. As such, we hope that readers can appreciate that the quality of reproduction achievable can vary.

I attest that the reproduction is excellent and and reader will be happy with the outcome.

So if you are going to see James Bond for the 23rd time at the movies or your first, pick up these collections and read him again for the first time.

The James Bond Omnibus Volume 004
Based on the character created by Ian Fleming
Written by Jim Lawrence
Art by Yaroslav Horak
Softcover, Black and White newspaper strip
288 pages, $19.99, October 2012, Titan Books
A copy was supplied to me by Titan Books

Recommended reading:
The James Bond Omnibus Volume 001
The James Bond Omnibus Volume 002
The James Bond Omnibus Volume 003

Sunday Review: Showcase Presents The Spectre Volume 1

It’s that spooky time of year so here’s a review of one of the more ominous characters in the DC Universe.

Going into this collection of Silver and Bronze Age Spectre stories it would be helpful for you to know that the title character is from the Golden Age and started in More Fun Comics #52-101 (1940-45) and was a member of the Justice Society Of America in All-Star Comics #3-23 (1940-45). Created by Jerry Siegel (Superman) and Bernard Bailey (Hourman), The Spectre was a hardboiled detective named Jim Corrigan. Corrigan was murdered and was brought back to life in the form of the Spirit of Vengeance from an entity named The Voice. Seemingly omnipotent, The Spectre was the embodiment of revenge and retribution in a cold hearted manner that didn’t take sides. If you did wrong, he would be the judge, jury and executioner.

But this Showcase Presents The Spectre Volume 1is about his return to the DCU in 1966. By this time in history several Golden Age characters had made their return either as a new updated incarnation like Barry Allen’s The Flash or reappear from the alternate Earth-2 like Barry’s counterpart Jay Garrick. Here, in Showcase #60, we are introduced to Jim Corrigan who is still a detective, but has been without his Spectre alter ego since 1945 (thus his adventures take place on Earth-2). This doesn’t seem to bother Corrigan all that much, but is shocked when The Spectre does show his face and explain his whereabouts. This model of the character has vastly superior powers and abilities, but is a bit more carefree at times – this will change.

Like most Golden Age to Silver Age revivals, The Spectre had to “try-out” before getting his own book. He did so in Showcase #60, #61 and #64 in 1966 and then in The Brave And The Bold #72 teaming up with The Flash (Barry Allen) on Earth-1 and #75 (Batman) in 1967-68 with the writer and art credits going to Garnder Fox, Murphy Anderson, Carmine Infantino, and Bob Haney. He finally headlined his own series in late 1967 but it only lasted 10 issues. A young Neal Adams worked in issues #2-5 and during this time the comics were slowly transformed into more of a horror anthology then a superhero book. In issue #9 we see the Spectre stripped of many of his powers by The Voice and must atone for his sin of killing an innocent man by witnessing the perils of the guilty criminals that walks among us every day. The epilogue of this storyline was completed in Justice League of America #83 and sadly that comic is not reprinted here. A gross error by DC.

The Spectre would get revived again in the Bronze Age, in 1974, in the pages of Adventure Comics. This time as a much more cruel and violent figure. Michael Fleisher wrote this version and it is said that he was influenced by the mugging that he had to endure himself. Frustrated by his ordeal, Fleisher turned his anger and contempt to his pen and thus The Spectre. It shows in spades. This is some of the most graphic comics that a costumed superhero has ever been a part of. In the first story alone in Adventure Comics #431, the Spectre is looking down the barrel of a machine gun and disarms the perpetrator by not only melting the gun but melting the man’s hands and then his entire body! The next story we find a criminal die by way of giant scissors! The rest you’ll have to read for yourself. But I should point out that again this Showcase Presents does not include the full run. Fliesher’s Spectre ran in Adventure Comics from the aforementioned #431 to #440. It was cut short by DC editorial and the final three stories along with the original Adventure Comics were published in Wrath Of The Spectre #1-4 (1988). These comics also contained new commentary from Peter Sanderson who not only gives great insight on the mindset of Fliesher but also the challenges artist Jim Aparo had to deal with. A complete trade paperback of the series was published in 2005.

Strangely enough with the abrupt cancellation of The Spectre in Adventure Comics, just a few months later he made one more appearance with Batman in The Brave And The Bold #116. The Spectre and Corrigan were back to their old, superhero team-up, ways from the 1960’s. The Spectre was not seen again until the 1980’s. In-between teaming up with Superman (DC Comics Presents #29 and The Brave And The Bold #180 and #199 (both with Batman), he was featured in the back-ups of Ghosts #97-99 with the Doctor Thirteen hot on his trail.

The Spectre, of course, went on to guest star in several other comics and eventually got his own title a few more times, Volume 2 #1-31 by Doug Moench and Volume 3 #1-64 by John Ostrander. And who can forget Hal Jordan becoming the Spectre for 27 issues (Volume 4)? Since then Spectre has had a role in several large events including Day Of vengeance and Blackest Night and more recently has been seen in the New 52 thanks to a small mishap by the Phantom Stranger (Phantom Stranger #0).

At 592 pages, it is the third largest Showcase Presents that DC has published. The others are Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, 648 pages and Booster Gold, 624. I point this out because I feel that DC could have made room for Justice League of America #83 and the previously unpublished Wrath Of The Spectre comics. But if DC editorial didn’t want that big of a book then they could have split this one volume into two – Volume 1 (Silver Age) and Volume 2 (Bronze Age) and priced them both at $9.99. I think both would have sold well.

Despite the short comings I do recommend this book. The writing is top shelf and the art by Adams and Aparo is beautiful. And if you’re like me and want some good, scary and horrific comics to read Halloween night, skip right to the Adventure Comics run on page 368, you’ll never look at your hands the same way again!

Showcase Presents Library of Classics: The Spectre Volume 1
Spectre created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily
Written by Gardner Fox, Michael Fleisher and Others
Art by Murphy Anderson, Neal Adams, Jim Aparo and Others
Cover by Jim Aparo
Collects Showcase #60, 61 and 64, The Brave And The Bold #72, 75, 116, 180 and 199, The Spectre #1-10, Adventure Comics #431-440, DC Comics Presents #29 and Ghosts #97-99
592 pages, $19.99, April 2012, DC Comics

Recommended reading:
The Golden Age Spectre Archives Volume 1
Wrath of the Spectre

Sunday Review: The Walking Dead Magazine #1

Everywhere you go these days you see The Walking Dead. You name it and Robert Kirkman’s comic book masterpiece has been published or created into every form imaginable: monthly comic, trade paperback, hardcover, deluxe hardcover, omnibus, digital, a weekly reprint, board game, video game, even action figures. All the franchise needs is a Ben and Jerry’s flavor!

Just when you though all that Dead was enough Titan Publishing (Star Trek Magazine, Star Wars Insider) gives us The Walking Dead Magazine. When I first heard that Kirkman & Co. were going to do it, I rolled my eyes. I really thought we had become over saturated with it all. But this weekend my copy arrived in the mail and boy was I wrong. This is a great magazine!

Now I’m a guy that likes to get his information in the digital format. I subscribe to several blogs and podcasts and I’m very satisfied with the content that I get. But I’m also a comic book guy. So that means sometimes I like to hold real paper in my hands. I still get the Sunday paper and I pick up other mags like Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair. It’s good to have the words with the visuals to get the whole story. The Walking Dead Magazine is no different.

This inaugural issue is loaded:

  • Interviews with creators Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, Chris Hardwick (AMC’s Talking Dead), and Glen Mazzara (Executive Producer).
  • Features include a wrap of the first 100 comic books, a Season 3 preview, a report from Comic-Con international, a look at the Walking Dead novels, and all the variant covers of issue #100.
  • Other content includes: a contest of Walking Dead swag, a trivia Q&A and an insider look at the TV show.
  • …and so much more!!!

Now for a revelation: I was late to the Walking Dead party. I didn’t start reading the comic until issue 50, although I spoiled myself with what was going on in the series thanks to blogs and podcasts. I did watch the TV show from the start and I’m excited that tonight is the season 3 premiere. It’s no surprise that season 2 was a bit lackluster, but I’m confident that from now on it’ll be a full on assault from both the dead and the Governor.

You can’t go wrong with this new magazine. It’s a great mix of the Image comic and the TV show, which is what I was hoping for. Too many periodicals just focus on the live action and not the original material. It’ll be a nice addition to all the online sources that cover the Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead Magazine
Toby Weidmann, Editor
$9.99, November/October 2012
Published quarterly by Titan Magazines
A copy was supplied to me by Titan Magazines

Recommended reading:
The Walking Dead Omnibus

Sunday Review: Economix

Thank God the Republican and Democrat National Conventions are over. Now the real fun begins sorting out the half-truths from both sides of the aisle. There’s been so much negative advertising I’m almost ready to not vote. Oh and can my so-called friends on Facebook stop with the Obama/Romney/Love/Hate posts. I’m pretty sure I know who I’m voting for and I could care less for another SomeeCards pic.

But I digress. The issues do matter and as Obama fights for a second term and Romney (who went to high school less than 2 miles from my Mac) tries to tear down as much positivity he can, there’s one topic that is the standout for 2012: the Economy. Yeah, that’s a huge 7-letter word. Dare I say that the vast majority do not understand what the hell it is, what it means, or how to fix it. All we hear about everyday is the Unemployment number, The Stock Market index and the price at the Gas Pump.

Where to turn? Thankfully there’s a new book out that everyone in America should read. It’s called Economix: How Our Economy Works (And Doesn’t Work) In Words And Pictures by Michael Goodwin and illustrations by Dan E. Burr.  It’s unlike anything you’ve read before and I can guarantee that it’ll be up for an Eisner Award next summer.

In its simplest form, Economix is a history textbook. Starting back in the 1600’s, Goodwin explains, in plain English, just what an economy is, including all the different forms throughout the years, how the political system influences it and how war is a major player in spending and power. Taking a que from the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid books, Dan E. Barr’s art is full of brilliant cartoonish renderings of people, places and things. Funny when depicting government lunacy and poignant troubles in the world like 9/11 all the  while being informative. Goodwin and Barr have all the major players including Adam Smith, Lenin, Stalin, Alan Greenspan and just about every U.S. President. But like I said, that’s being simplistic.

At the heart it’s a wake up call to all Americans and to a wide extent people worldwide. I thought I knew Econ 101 from what I learned in college and reading in the Wall Street Journal from time to time, but boy have I been blind. There’ more to the economy the balancing the budget or raising taxes. Those are concepts we can all understand because it hits us in our wallets. Or does it? For example many laws enacted by Congress do not take effect for years down the road, thus the other political party (or President ) has several attempts to repeal laws. And what about business, the backbone of America? We all would like to build something from nothing, have it grow so our kids can prosper and afford to go to college so they can succeed. There’s no doubt that business runs our country. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, tough. Companies are taxed and contribute heavily in charitable donations. Conversely, small businesses employ and contribute their share, too. Washington depends on business to do well and business depends on Washington to let them work with minimal restrictions. That’s the cycle and for the most part it works. The trouble is that not all do their fair share. Businesses both big, medium and small cheat; government spends unwisely and a whopping 42% of American pay no income tax what-so-ever! Think of where the good ‘ol USA would be today if we just all followed the rules.

Goodwin keeps it level and doesn’t stray to far to the right or left. After his intense studying of the subject he does give ideas on what America can do to improve. And after you read it you will, too. Here are mine:

Let’s face it, Economics is tough and a single person can’t do much on the federal scale, but we can do our part locally.

  • Volunteer – anywhere and anything. It can be a Little League or the school PTO.
  • Get involved at your church or synagogue. No shortage of To-Do lists there.
  • Do more for your local library. We’re all book nerds, right? Here’s your chance to show it.
  • Be active in local county and city politics.

That’s just a start, of course. The bottom line is that you are better ff when you are informed. Big business and Washington may run our lives from a far, but that doesn’t mean that have to run it from our front porch.

Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work), in Words and Pictures
By Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr, foreword by David Bach, introduction by Joel Bakan
304 pages, $19.99, September 2012, Abrams ComicArts

Recommended reading:
Kings in Disguise: A Novel by Dan E. Burr