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Saturday, December 22, 2007

More S.A. "Classics"


Tarzan & Carson of Venus: The LoveKing (Oct. 1998)

Aah-ee-aah-ee-aah-ee-aah!!!

This isn't the first or sixtieth time that Tarzan or Carson of Venus or John Carter of Mars fought to rescue his mate. The novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs were never about plot. Burroughs wrote about two-fisted, hard-bodied, larger-than-life men and women in exotic, barbaric locations populated by fantastic races of humanoid creatures.

No one has done it better.

Two of Burroughs' most famous heroes do it better again in Tarzan & Carson of Venus: The Love King.

The art is a punch in the face, and the action never pauses to take an insightful breath in this rollicking adventure on the planet Venus.

I'll let you guess who wins.

Tarzan & Carson of Venus: The LoveKing #'s 1 & 2 (of 4), 22 pgs & $2.95 ea. from Dark Horse Comics, written by Darko Macan, illustrated by Igor Kordey, sold in comics shops and by mail.

This comic book is highly recommended.

-- Michael Vance


Girlfrenzy (Oct. 1998)

DC Cornics has issued seven issues (all #1's) of Girlfrenzy. Each features female characters from various DC comic books. Some have been prominent for years; others are candidates for stardom.

Girlfrenzy is a mixed bag. The newest character is "The Secret" in her first appearance, and is a prelude to a mini-series, JLA: World Wirld Without Grownups. She has less time in the story than Robin, Superboy and Impluse.

One character, "Tomorrow Woman", is already dead. This issue is an addendum to JLA #5, the only story in which she ever appeared and can be read independently.

One character is a villain, the current version of "The Mist". Daughter of the Golden Age villain, she is also the mother of the current Starman's child.

The appearance of Black Hand, an old Green Lantern villain, is a nice touch.

Batgirl's story takes place before her crippling by the Joker. The story is more violent than typical stories from that era of Batgirl's life. Her later career as Oracle is reflected in "Ravens", a group to appear in Birds of Prey where Batgirl as Oracle teams up with Black Canary. The mercenary Cheshire is the best known of the Ravens.

The Donna Troy issue is set in the time when she was Troia, but is still related to current Wonder Woman stories.

Lois Lane is a far cry from the insipid character of the 1960's and takes place soon after Superman's return to his original powers and costume. It is set in the Artic, but is really a reworking of H.G. Wells' novel, "Island of Dr. Moreau."

Other unexpected "guest stars" include Sarge Steel in Lois Lane, Captain Marvel in Donna Troy and Mary Marvel in Mist.

I liked all of these even though the art varies in quality. Some issues get a B or B+, but I give the package an overall A.

-- Dr. Jon Suter


Classic Revivals: Rampaging Hulk, Thor and The Invaders (Oct. 1998)
Those who collect first issues of comic books should possibly consider three "new" titles from Marvel Comics. All are revivals of former titles and familiar characters.

Rampaging Hulk harkens back to the Hulk's earliest career. This version is set "six years ago" rather than in the mid-1960s when the stories would have taken place in Marvel's original continuity.

This slippery approach to chronology is irksome for long-time readers. Be that as it may, Glenn Greenberg's script and Rick Leonardi's art are better than those of some predecessors. Some of the figures are awkwardly posed, but the overall effect is good, probably because of colorist Tom Smith's vivid greens. Give this a B and hope for improvement.

The revival of Thor includes some revamping. The first issue ends with the seeming death of Thor at the hands of the Destroyer, one of his most powerful foes. His narrow escapes from Hela the Death Goddess in the second issue comes as no surprise.

The major change, such as it is, comes at the end of the second issue when Thor gains a new human body and identity, that of a policeman recently slain in the line of duty. The policeman has no memory of his previous life but retains Thor's memories. Whether writer Dan Jurgens can avoid repetition of the Don Blake identity of Thor's first human counterpart remains to be seen. B-orA-.

By far, Marvel's most interesting "new" title is The Invaders in Marvel Universe. Roger Stern's script reworks Marvel's history of World War II by allowing Baron Strucker to have partial knowledge of the future and to use that knowledge to enhance the power of the villainous Hydra.

Stern's script is equal to any by earlier writer Roy Thomas. He utilizes obscure parts of Marvel history skillfully. Steve Epting's art is a delight. Give this an A or A-.

-- Dr. Jon Suter


The Clowns (Oct. 1998)

Bravo!

Ruggiero Leoncavalio's opera, "I Paglincci" debuted in 1892 as a simple story of adultery and revenge played not only on the stage of life, but on an Italian stage before a horrified peasant audience. It became a classic.

The comic book adaptation, The Clowns hit the newsstands in 1998 and will play to an indifferent comics audience obsessed with men and women in spandex underwear. It will be a forgotten classic.

Hopefully, that is a flawed prediction because this is flawless storytelling. Exceptional art (reminiscent of EC Comics artist John Severin's best work) is married to outstanding word in pure, unadulterated brilliance. If only Superman had been cast as the clown Canio........

The Clowns is what "For Adults Only" should be about, and is highly recommended.

Michael Vance

The Clowns, $2.95, 32 pgs. from Dark Horse Comics, art by P. Craig Russell and Gelen Showman, translated by Marc Andreyko, sold in comics shops and by mail.

Tales from Riverdale Digest #s20-23/$2.49 and 80 pages each from Archie Comics


Some hardcore comics fans complain that some publishers hurt the market by saturating it with multiple titles featuring the X-Men, Superman, Spider-man, and Batman, therefore making it difficult for other titles to find a niche and flourish.

They don’t know saturation.

A quick count reveals that there are at least sixteen regularly published titles featuring the Archie ensemble of Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Reggie. That’s not counting anthologies and graphic novels featuring the Fabulous Five as well. But one’s man’s saturation is just another man’s success, for these titles would not be published if they didn’t sell.

Hey! Here’s another one!

Tales from Riverdale differs only slightly from other Archie titles because of the ‘minor’ features inside. These include stories of Sabrina, when she was younger than the teenage witch, Madhouse sections (Madhouse was an old Mad Magazine imitation published years ago), and stories on very minor characters in the Archie pantheon of ‘second bananas’.

Does that mean that Riverdale is not worth the price of admission?

Nope. Overall, the quality of art and story in all of the Archie titles is excellent. The only real surprise is how the team of Archie creators can consistently come up with new ideas, which they do in every issue.

It has been a long, long time since Archie has been the character that sells the titles. These books all feature an ensemble cast that is unexcelled in the field of comic books.

True, they are for younger readers (hurrah! Titles for young readers are desperately needed; without them, there are few older ones), and not everyone’s cup of tea, but how many cups of dark and violent X-Men or Batman can one drink?

Various artists and writers/sold at lots of locations and at www.archiecomics.com.

Recommended.

Michael Vance