Friday, May 01, 2009

Supermen! and Impact redux?

I lambaste quite a few comics from the current wave so I think I should also mention a few that seem to hit the right spots for me. Or, at least closer to the mark.

Such as John Byrne's Angel: Blood in the Trenches. Wasn't too long ago that based on a movie we saw that kinda missed the mark, I mentioned to my brother that a vampire story set during WWI in the trenches of No Man's Land could be a very interesting tale. It could even be done from the enemy's perspective. Turns out that Byrne seemed to be thinking along the same wavelengths and we get a comic set in the Buffy-verse of what the long-lived Angel was up to during the days of WWI. There are a few other nods to the continuity such as the inclusion of one of Wesley's ancestors and a demon that had appeared on television.

Byrne's art style has changed over the years. His line is more organic, his people more individualistic and natural. He's also loosened up the lines in some of the comics to make way for the more elaborate colorings of the day. Strangely enough, this has lead me to being not really as satisfied with his superhero work as the characters look more like caricatures, not as solid and iconic but strangely more stiff looking.

However, it works perfectly here. Shot directly from the pencils, there's detail and texture and line variety and capturing the grittiness of war as well as your 70's Kubert tales. The b/w quality is works wonderfully, showing off what his pencils and line can really do. Not exactly pleased with the idea of coloring the blood though, maybe if it was a deeper, darker red. Otherwise, I'd love to have the book all in b/w and drop the price on the cover (printing in color is a huge expense). Likewise, Byrne is suited well for telling horror stories such as this, perfectly at home with the macabre and bizarre.

Star Trek: Crew is also interesting. Each issue is a done-in-one tale much as his Assignment: Earth mini. The art doesn't work as well for me here, but he does manage to remain faithful to the general look and style of the original Star Trek series without actually looking anachronistic.

Sometimes books are so long between issues and series, that I forget it's even on my pull list. Thus, I am surprised when it appears in my bag. Such is the case of the usually excellent Black Coat which came out with a one-shot. It tries to promote itself on the basis of being only $2 and yet in color, but that's a bit wasted on me since it was in my bag automatically. But, it's an enjoyable series of a masked hero during the Revolutionary War where the war was a little stranger than you might realize.

Marvel's 70th Anniversary books are a bit of hit and miss. A definite hit was Sub-Mariner Comics. The two main stories set in the days of WWII are enjoyable and better written and drawn than almost all of Marvel's other books. Roy Thomas manages to actually tell a tale that doesn't get bogged down in meta-continuity while Mark Schultz is the one that gives us a little nod to a classic comic strip and the creator behind it as we meet an aviatrix by the name of Jenny Keaton (Flying Jenny by Russell Keaton). The artwork on that story by the ever wonderful Al Williamson who really should be doing more, even if it's just small stories like this. The only thing to mar it really is the reprint of Namor's origin. Couldn't we have gotten a story that hadn't been reprinted a dozen times already? Heck, 90% of it was a reprint when it first appeared in Marvel Comics #1.

For those fans of golden-age comics or whose interest might have been piqued by Dynamite's Project: Superpowers, Fantagraphics has published Supermen! The book looks at various heroes that came out between 1936 (Dr. Mystic) thru 1941. Heroes from various companies including Silver Streak, Daredevil vs. Claw, Blue Bolt, the Face, Skyman, the Flame, the Clock, Rex Dexter, the Comet, Stardust, Fantomah, among others with creators ranging from Shuster and Siegel, Simon & Kirby, Will Everett, Jack Cole, Lou Fine, Fletcher Hanks.

It isn't too surprising that there are no Timely or National/American (DC) characters, but with the inclusion of the Comet from MLJ, have to wonder why not an early Fawcett character or Quality. Standard is also completely ignored which seems very strange. Meanwhile the Centaur entries are among the least notable of characters available. Seriously, TWO stories of Dirk the Demon as opposed to Amazing Man by Everett, Iron Skull by Burgos and other luminaries as the Ferret, Fantom of the Fair, the Arrow, the Shark, etc? There's no Ace, Holyoke, Dell, Harvey, Hillman or Prize Publications either. Standard just struck me as being obvious because of the company's sheer size and variety of output compared to Columbia which is more than well represented.

Also notably missing are the patriotic heroes other than Skyman. Especially true if you read the notes delineating the history behind the characters and creators of each story, giving a nice progression of the history of the time. However, the way it ends talking about how the War would change things is more than a little misleading. Most of the super-patriots debuted BEFORE Pearl Harbor and many were fighting Nazi stand-ins and defending the Chinese from the Japanese (which makes for interesting reading when you move from the days of WWII to the Red Menace days half a decade later).

The other mis-step is the foreward which is just wasted space, not really talking about the book, the characters or time other than to say that it wasn't all pure and pearly white as our reminisces of any "golden-age" tend to make them.

Other than that, just ignore what's not there and enjoy it for what is: some great reprints in full color of some of the enjoyable heroes of the day.

Impact redux?

Sometime ago it was announced that the Archie heroes were being folded into the DCU continuity, in the pages of The Brave and the Bold written by J. Michael Straczynski. There have been a few snags and changes along the way. As B& B is an anthology series, don't really know why he felt that he couldn't really do it proper there and instead it is announced as a mini titled Red Circle. More details are found at an interview at Newsarama.

See, my problem is, while the structure of the mini sounds nice, these aren't the original Archie characters anymore than Impact was or the Heroes Reborn was really the Marvel characters. These are all NEW characters using the names of the originals and a bit of their modus operandi but nothing else. It might as well be a new take on Minute Man or Steel the Indestructible Man as the Shield. It's like not drawing any distinction between the Silver Age Hawkman and the Golden-Age Hawkman. Looks mostly the same, has the same name and alter ego, must be the same character. At least Simon & Kirby obviously created a whole new character with their Shield and not claim they were just updating the original charachters.

They start with the Hangman whose original story is dependent on another hero debuting first, the Comet. Take WWII out of the Shield, you lose a big part of what makes the character significant, his context. He was the first of the super-patriot super heroes, now he's just a copycat. Why go through the trouble of getting the rights when you're obviously not interested in what makes them great characters, their actual stories and history? All that richness and texture that could be brought in, completely gone with a writer's pen.

1 comment:

Chuck Wells said...

That's what I thought too. Why eeven talk about reviving the Red Circle heroes, and then turn around and just reboot them....again.

Egotism is the only thing that I can come up with to explain this. I believe that the new Shield cover was the first one that they released, and it at least looked like they were bringing back the "real" Shield, but the Inferno cover pretty much tipped their hand. Hangman I can live with, but the Web struck me the same as Inferno.

I could stand to see something decent done with the MLJ characters, but this is going to be nothing but Impact Comics 2.1 ala JMS.