Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Make Mine Monsters Unleashed!!

Remember last week, when I was praising those Warren mags. Well in the horror genre, Marvel started to out-Warren Warren. This happened right around 1973 when the Marvel black and white magazines were finding their groove and Jim Warren's stinginess was forcing more reprints and lesser talents to appear in his mags. Monsters Unleashed is a good, if imperfect, example of Marvel's foray into the non-Code sanctioned world of horror. It may be less well know than Tales of the Zombie or the vampire stuff, but it's a consistently strong series. Let's take a look at a few issues.

Monsters Unleashed #4 is a good place to start, with a nice Frank Brunner Wolfman cover. This issue is a solid blend of old and new. The Marvel take on the Frankenstein Monster story pops up here with a decent Gary Frierich story involving a brain transplant gone wrong (don't the always). The art is by Syd Shores and John Buscema. I know that Shores dies around this time, so I'm wondering if he died while working on this project. There are also solid tales from the Gerber/Marcos and Claremont/Perlin teams. For some strange reason, the Gullivar of Mars strip continues here - great news for Dave Cockrum fans. The real highlights for me, however, are the two Atlas reprints - with glorious artwork by Colan and Krigstein. A great all around issue.

Monsters Unleashed #7 is more of the same, but not quite as strong. I'm not in love with the cover - more T&A than terror and a very generic much monster. Doug Moench does much of the scripting here, and while I do like much of his work - he seems to have too much on his plate during his early Marvel mag days and it shows with some dull stories. The Frankenstein story is the better of the two, as Mayerik's looks superb in black and white. Unfortunately, there's only one reprint here, and it's a post-Code story so it's a little tame. It does feature some very nice Al Williamson artwork, though. For some reason, my favourite item here is the 1 pager dedicated to sightings of the 'Burning Man'. He's kind of like a mythical human torch. Does anyone know about this mythical creature? My Google attempts just lead me to desert raves.

By the final issue, Monsters Unleashed #11, we've had a real change of tone to this book. Long gone are the solid, short stories more suited to an anthology book. Also absent are the wonderful Atlas-era reprints. What's left is an overly long Moench written Gabriel story. This brings the mag even more in step with the Marvel universe in general and it feels like an inventory burn. The other two stories aren't much better. Everything seems to be a bit bloated and verbose - I guess that's not surprising on a Don McGregor edited title. The saving grace here is the opening page of Dave Cockrum Creature From the Black Lagoon illustrations. Man, I miss Dave!

While far from perfect, these are still relatively inexpensive and worth checking out as there's a lot of gold in these old Marvel mags!

No comments: