Review: Fantastic Four/Inhumans

Fantastic Four/Inhumans
Fantastic Four/Inhumans by Carlos Pacheco
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think this book would’ve been a lot better without the addition of the four issues of Fantastic Four. The Inhumans don’t really play that big of a role in that story (which features the birth of Reed and Sue Richards’ daughter Valeria).

The four issues of the Inhumans limited series were much better, especially art-wise, with Lucas and Ladronn’s very European artwork. To me, it was very reminiscent of Jean Giraud or Barry Windsor-Smith. The story was more interesting, but I’m betting your average comic book reader won’t enjoy it, since there’s a lot of text to read and it’s considerably more compressed than most modern story arcs.

The Inhumans is a difficult title to write or even read some days, considering when they’re based around Earth, stories are pretty much limited to Attilan or some interaction with the FF, and anything else is on a grand cosmic scale (which the limited series reprinted here approaches). And with current Marvel continuity thrusting the Inhumans into modern Earth society (in the Inhumanity crossover), thing will probably get more confusing than ever.

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Review: Twelve

Twelve by J. Michael Straczynski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was extremely happy to see this series collected and given the Marvel hardcover treatment. I personally think this is Marvel’s best limited series from the past decade, at least out of those that were intended to be limited. This one almost went the Sonic Disruptors/All Winners Squad: Band of Heroes route and didn’t get finished, which would’ve been a damned shame.

The Twelve is the story of ten World War II-era mystery men, one mystery woman, and a robot who ended up in suspended animation during the fall of Berlin, only to be discovered and awoken in the present day. The tale follows the group’s attempts to try and get back into society, in a world that has drastically changed in sixty-five years.

Most of these characters only appeared once or twice in the old Timely/Marvel golden age comics, so anyone outside of a comic book expert has a blank slate to experience. I think the character with the most page time before this series was Electro, the robot who plays a pivotal role in several subplots in the story.

The art is by Chris Weston, who is never afraid to make people look like, well, people. I enjoyed his work on Grant Morrison’s The Filth series, and he shines here. J. Michael Straczynski, one of the pop sensations of the current crop of comic book writers, provides a masterful script that has pretty much everything a comic book reader would want.

I would really like to see these characters brought into the Marvel NOW Universe, since they’ve all gone back into stagnation since the series ended. I suppose that’s a pipe dream, since unless the character’s slinging a shield today, the Golden Age is a long forgotten memory for the average comic book fan. Again, it’s a damned shame, since The Twelve are great characters – fully-realized and believable.

I would give this volume, or the two trade paperbacks that it is also available as, my highest recommendation.

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Review: The Golden Age Doctor Fate Archives, Vol. 1

The Golden Age Doctor Fate Archives, Vol. 1
The Golden Age Doctor Fate Archives, Vol. 1 by Gardner F. Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, The Golden Age Doctor Fate Archives is one of those books that show the highs and lows of a character. This hardcover reprints ALL of the good Doctor’s solo adventures from More Fun Comics. And there are some very good stories here; but there are a lot of really mediocre ones, too, as well as a couple that are just complete crap. Which is about par for the course for any comic book feature from the forties right up until the present.

The majority of the artwork is done by Howard Sherman, who starts out illustrating Gardner Fox’s near-Lovecraftian stories with an eerie quality that’s only matched by Bernard Bailey’s work on the Spectre. However, they lost a lot when Fate started wearing that odd half-helmet. He went from a master of the mystic arts to your standard superhero in tights. John Chester Kozlek and Stan Aschmeier did the art on the last six-to-eight stories.

The later stories have Dr. Fate becoming a real doctor, losing his cape, and being able to be stopped by any bad guy with a tie and the opportunity to strangle him with it; Fate’s only real weakness was his lungs, and boy, were they weak! He got sprayed in the face with water once and almost died! Super-strong, invulnerable to bullets and fire, access to a clairvoyant orb, and can fly (when he remembers he can), but a wet handkerchief can put an end to him. It wasn’t a good day for the character that would become Earth Two’s greatest sorcerer.

And his villains were something else entirely. He did have Mr. Who, who many Doctor Fate fans might remember from the reprint in DC’s Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains series in the seventies, or the character’s appearance in the latter years of All-Star Squadron. I have to admit that the character made a lot more appearances than I thought he did, but he was pretty boring as they go; Mr. Who could change his size and, in at least one adventure, his Solution Z allowed his body to adapt to anything he needed (i.e., when he needed to escape, his body became thin enough to slide through the crack in a door). Fate’s two other…well, I hate to use the term “nemeses” here, since it’s so embarrassing…were the Frog and the Clock. The Frog was a gangster with a head that looked a tad like a frog’s. The Clock had a roundish head, a flat face, and a thin mustache that pointed down and to the sides so his face read about 8:20. Somehow, both of these cretins managed to get at least a temporary edge over a super-strong mystical hero.

Doctor Fate’s girlfriend, Inza, was a co-star in about three-quarters of his stories. She’d either tag along because “it was safer” or Fate would trundle her along for no reason. She led him into a good percentage of his cases, so she was apparently nice to have around for that bit. Gardner Fox (or the letterer) could not remember her name though; she’s called Inza, Inza Cramer, Inza Kramer, Inza Carmer and even Inza Saunders over the course of the series.

All in all, it’s a fun read. You naturally have got to be an old school comic book fan to really enjoy it, and you’ve got to be keen on golden age comics as well. If you grew up in the seventies, reading the voluminous reprints that DC (and Marvel) put out from that era, I think you’ll enjoy this Archive Edition a lot. Just don’t expect modern-quality artwork in any of the stories. It was a different time, with different standards.

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Review: The Best of the Rejection Collection: 293 Cartoons That Were Too Dumb, Too Dark, or Too Naughty for The New Yorker

The Best of the Rejection Collection: 293 Cartoons That Were Too Dumb, Too Dark, or Too Naughty for The New Yorker
The Best of the Rejection Collection: 293 Cartoons That Were Too Dumb, Too Dark, or Too Naughty for The New Yorker by Matthew Diffee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great collection of New Yorker cartoons and some great cartoonists. This one has some of my favorites, including P.C. Vey and Milt Gross (two of my favorites from National Lampoon). The interview sections are incredibly funny, particularly when editor Sam Mankoff answers the questions the cartoonists as asked to leave for him. Definitely a fun read, and currently free for people in Kindle Unlimited.

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Review: Sharcano

Sharcano by Jose Prendes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yeah, I know …”Sharcano”? WTH? I debated dropping a star for trying to cash in on Shark Week/Sharknado, but decided that I liked the book enough not to penalize it for some asshat marketing scheme.

It’s actually a fairly good book in terms of an action tale – it’d make a good SyFy mini-series, though I’m sure they’d screw it up by adding wrestlers or NASCAR or something stupid like that. The characters are cardboard, but the story is fun and makes no sense whatsoever. It’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of book. But it is surprisingly well-written and definitely entertaining.

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