Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby – Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #1

In the spring of 1982, I was 8 years old, turning 9 that October. For me, it was a real golden age as a young comic book fan. There were so many great titles at that time, and my allowance money was enough to keep me in funnybook heaven week after week. I had enjoyed Green Lantern in the GL/GA series (this was the Itty era) and later as it reverted to a solo title. I also enjoyed he JLA and B&B appearances. I wouldn’t say that he was ever my favourite character, but I liked him and the Guardians of the Universe angle allowed for almost limitless possibilities.

At that time, of course, I had no idea who Brian Bolland was – but when I saw this cover on the racks, I just had to have it. It is freaking gorgeous. It still stands out in my mind as one of the most iconic covers of the era. Of course, it was also a #1 and I was always very excited about getting in on the ground floor.

This was really my first introduction to the Corps. I was aware that it existed but I never really understood the size of the undertaking. The first few pages, featuring the gathering of every GL in the universe, were mind blowing. We also get a very quick recap of Hal Jordan’s origin as a GL, after he tells another GL of Abin Sur’s demise. To me, this was a form of mythology – the universe seemed boundless and the dedication of the Corps was impressive to say the least.

I did a quick re-read recently, and this Mike Barr tale holds up quite well. There is actually quite a bit of carnage for a pre-Crisis story, which I found to be surprising. The plot gets a bit fuzzy in places and the sentimentality (which resonated with me at the time) seems a bit forced at times, but that may have to do with cynicism than anything else.

The real treat here is the artwork by the Joe Staton/Frank McLaughlin team. Staton is near the top of the ranks of all-time underappreciated artists. He infuses so much energy in his pencils that they almost leap off the page. He should have become a superstar – but I guess nice guys rarely finish first. I am also a bit fan of McLaughlin as an inker – he work well with all sorts of artists – I am never surprised to see his name in the credits of a book that I’ve enjoyed.

What a great book this was! What a treasure it was to come across as an 8-year old. They simply do not make ‘em like this anymore.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Essential Moon Knight

When I was a kid, I bought a few copies of Moon Knight off the racks (probably enticed by the covers – especially that painted Earl Norem cover), but never truly became a fan of the characters. Things just seemed too complicated – the multiple personalities, the guy with the tea bag etc… I used to hear people talk about how Moon Knight was just a Batman rip-off, but I never really got that. Sure they are some similarities (work at night, rich) – but that also applies to about 99% of heroes. Don’t forget, Batman piloted his own chopper.

The Essentials series gives me the chance to take a second look at a character I’ve glossed over at a very reasonable price. This volume starts off rather slowly with the initial Werewolf By Night issues – nothing special there. The early solo MK stories (in the Hulk Magazine) are pretty hit and miss, as Doug Moench doesn’t quite seem to have a good feel for where he plans on taking his creation just yet. The team-ups with Spidey and The Thing are pretty standard late 70s Marvel fare – pretty good fun, but nothing groundbreaking.

As far as I am concerned, things improved significantly with the launch of the regular series – the Sienkiewicz art really began to take off, very moody but still great with the action. Moench’s writing improved as he began to steer away from using hard boiled pseudo-Spillaine dialogue for MK that he used in the earlier issue. MK’s supporting cast is also fleshed out a bit more – although in including Gena’s kids seemed like overkill. There’s some really good stuff here. It ain’t Watchmen, but it’s pretty solid compared to some of the books Marvel was putting out in 1980. It also works very nicely in the black and white format. Gene Colan fans take note that the master did a very nice job on one fo the Hulk back-up stories. I love the fact that these books have hidden gems like that. I look forward to the second volume.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Quick Comic Reviews

Eternals #1
Marvels has tried and tried to make a success of the Eternals, one of the most ambitious concepts to come from the brain of the King. Upon seeing this book on the rack – I was not so sure how the team of Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr would mesh. I’ve got to report that I was very happily surprised. A very strong start – I’m in for the whole miniseries. Grade: A

All-Star Superman #4
Nope – this one just didn’t do much for me. I love Jimmy Olsen and can certain appreciate someone trying to revisit some of his Silver Age charm, but this one just fell flat on its face. I think that all of the ironic ‘references’ to the 60s Olsen got in the way of the storytelling. Of course, there are worse books out there but this was a real disappointment after such a long wait. Grade: B-

Marvel Westerns #2: Kid Colt & Arizona Annie
Fun, fun, fun! What’s not to about a mixing the Old West with Skrulls? The Philadelphia Philly story also demonstrated a good mixture of humour and action – it was like watching an old episode of Maverick. This was such a fine issue – I really wish Marvel would consider making some sort of regular series with a rotating cast of characters, like Astro City. Not too thrilled with the reprints here – as they are all in the Rawhide Kid Masterworks. Grade: A-

Moon Knight #3
This series is starting to pick up some speed. I wasn’t so sure where they were heading with the whole ‘depressed Marc Spector’ angle – but we are now officially getting somewhere. I want to be patient with books, but this story was unraveling so slowly that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maintain focus here. I am now officially in the groove, and you can count me in for at least another 5 issue. I thought the whole ‘How come you never told me?’ conversation with Frenchie was a bit ham-fisted. Grade: B+

Detective Comics #821
The last time I bought a copy of Detective Comics (some time in the last year or two), I was truly saddened to see how far this iconic title had fallen. I caught wind of the fact that Paul Dini was hopping aboard for some single-issue stories so I thought I’d check it out. This was good stuff – actual detective work once again. I liked the J H Williams art – but I am not a fan of that ‘punch effect’ he uses. Grade: A-

Atom #1
I haven’t a clue what happened to Ray Palmer – and don’t really care at this point – but I am a sucker for any hero who shrinks. This wasn’t a bad debut – but the overall tone is a bit unfocused and the initial shrinking scene was nothing new. There is some potential here, though – so I may stick around for a couple of issues. I am hoping they keep some of the ‘science’ motif that made the 60s series so great. Byrne is the wrong choice here. 25 years ago with Terry Austin inks, perhaps – but not today, we need a cleaner, more dynamic line here. Grade: B-