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Friday, December 22, 2006

What If? Classic Volume 1, published by Marvel Comics, 216 pages, $24.99

When Marvel Comics launched their first What If? comics series in 1977, I was a very young fan. I remember the astonishing scene on the cover of that first issue staring me in the face; "What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four?" Already familiar with the first confrontation between Spidey and the F.F. from reprints of the very first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, I was ecstatic at what I was about to delve into - a retelling of a classic tale, that decides to go in a completely different direction and satisfy the questions to which many of us didn't even realize we wanted answers.

The rest, as they say, is history. History, however, has never been more fun than it is in the first volume of Marvel's What If? Classic. Within it's pages are tales that thrill the reader, tickle the imagination and show off some impressive work by creators who helped write a very important chapter in comics history. Among those notable figures of such sensational sequential savvy are Roy Thomas, Jim Shooter, Herb Trimpe, Jim Craig, Pablo Marcos, Gil Kane, Klaus Janson, Frank Robbins and George Tuska, all very talented and long-admired industry veterans.

By now, I hope you're getting the idea. This tome would be worth the price of admission if it were run-of-the-mill superhero fare. But, with concepts like a world without the classic Avengers (and the consequent birth of the Armored Avengers), a post W.W. II world WITH the Invaders, a Fantastic Four with wildly different super powers and the afore-mentioned Spider-Man/F.F. tale, this book is a must for Marvel fans, or any fans of good ol' knock-down, drag-out superhero action! Even those who aren't strict comics fans, but are familiar with Marvel's heavily optioned-out properties could find this collection entertaining.

What If? Classic is recommended for all readers, and can be found at comics shops, some bookstores, and online comics retailers and auctions.

Review by Mark Allen

The Troubled With Girls/$17.95 & 161 pgs., Checker Publishing

The Trouble With Girls is that it's too much and too little.

Lester Girls is a square-jawed super-spy who hates his job. This man's man dodges every attempt to kill him, always captures his man (and woman), indulges himself on the higher and faster side of plush, but wants nothing more than to live as a average "Joe" in a small town in a bungalow with a mousy wife.

This collection of the first seven issues of Girls' comic book title suffers from too much of the shtick just noted. It is repeated in every issue as if there is no other element of the super-spy sub-genre to parody.

What recommends the writing on Girls, however, is the fun the writers are having satirizing a subgenre they obviously love is easily translated to readers.

The Trouble With Girls is there is also too little attention paid to detail in the art. The artist has minor problems with perspective, and an occasional lack of variety in line width flattens the art, weakens the illusion of depth, and weakens suspension of disbelief.

What recommends the art on Girls, however, is that it is in no way poor or even that most dreaded word for artists, average. It's visual pacing is energetic, never boring, its characters physically distinct and engaging, and the majority of readers may not even notice the rough patches.

Art: Tim Hamilton, Words: Will Jacob and Gerard Jones. Sold at comics and book stores & at

Michael Vance

MINIVIEW: Small Press Extra, TruFan Pub.] "Small Press" means self-published, and Small Press Extra is a "review-zine" about self-published magazines. Are you interested in the highly energetic but creatively uneven world of self-expression in comics? It doesn't get much better than this little magazine. For more info, please email