Wednesday, October 07, 2009
A couple of years ago, I reviewed Marvel's Nick Fury: Agent of Shield - Scorpio trade paperback. A collection of the first six issues of that Silver Age series, I touted the art and story by then-newcomer, now-comics-legend Jim Steranko. I should also have mentioned his prequel work in Marvel's companion trade; a collection of Shield stories from the long-running magazine Strange Tales, simply entitled Nick Fury: Agent of Shield.
This book collects some of Steranko's first comic work, and demonstrates his amazing adaptability as an artist, taking the pencil roughs of the legendary Jack Kirby, and giving them an added flare, influenced by modern art and advertising styles. Highly-entertaining stories about espionage, and would-be world-dominators, up against the premiere spy force, S.H.I.E.L.D., along with Steranko's art and story-telling prowess, make this book a great way to spend a few hours.
Nick Fury, Agent of Shield, published by Marvel Comics, 248 pages, $19.95.
Recommended for everyone.
Review by Mark Allen
I think Steve Rude has what deserves to be a winner on his hands. I say "what deserves to be," because not everything that deserves to make it in the comics industry hits a home run. All kinds of reasons for that, really, but I won't talk about them here.
Instead, let's talk about Steve Rude's The Moth, and see if this column can do it's part in helping a fine comic find a lasting audience.
Jack Mahoney was raised in the circus, saved from himself by a ringmaster who wanted to see a juvenile delinquent reach his potential as an acrobat. Now, using his gymnastic skill to make it as a costumed crime-fighter-type, he strikes terror into the hearts of wrong-doers as "The Moth."
Ok, so maybe he just kicks them around, a little.
The Moth certainly has what would seem to be the makings of a hit, beginning with clever writing and interesting characterization. I mean, really, where do you find more interesting characters than in a circus, where the hero resides? There is also the promise of interesting storylines to come (Wait until you find out what Jack does with the money he earns as the Moth). Combine that with slam-bang action, intrigue, and plain ol' fun, and all you have left is the art; and what wonderful art it is!
Steve Rude has a smooth, seamless style that hints to readers that he grew up on Hannah-Barberra cartoons. Clean, bold lines, vibrantly proclaiming originality of style, Rude "The Dude" treats fans to something they only see from him. Refreshing, yes? My only complaint? We don't see enough of his work, today.
The Moth is recommended for any and all readers who like intelligently written stories with great action and art. Trust me: this is not just another super hero book. Do yourself (and Steve) a favor and check it out. Find it at comic shops, online catalogs, or at www.steverude.com
The Moth, published by Dark Horse Comics, 28 pages, $2.99.
Review by Mark Allen
In 1920, The Kinema Comic [book] was published each Wednesday in London, and featured a silent movie comedian like Fatty Arbuckle, Snub Pollard or Mabel Normand.
Mabel was the then "queen of comedy" and the 'female [Charlie] Chaplin". She also modeled for artist James Montgomery Flagg and became one of artist Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girls".
If you are scratching your head and have little or no interest in history, this review may regrettably hold no interest for you. It is your loss.
First published in 1921, Mabel Normand has been republished with a new cover by artist Kim Deitch. Inside are single-page slapstick adventures that will remind today's readers of a Sunday comic strip with some differences.
Comic strips were relatively new in the 1920s, and still experimenting with the techniques that we take for granted today. Mabel's strip seems clumsy because a caption on the bottom of each panel explains what you've just read in the art and dialog above it. It takes a moment or two to train yourself to read the caption first.
In addition, the dominant slapstick style of humor of Mabel's day is out of favor now. Even her self-respect, innocence, optimism, and gentleness seem out-dated in today's sex-drenched, hedonistic culture of gross disrespect for, well, everything.
Mabel Normand is also different because of its art. If you like artist Harry Peter's work on the first run of the Wonder Woman comic book, you'll enjoy the similar work of this uncredited, 'big-foot' artist. His style is simple and uncluttered, visually imaginative, energetic and full of the fashions, appliances, buildings and culture of the 1920s. Hurrah!!
But if you are uninterested in excellent art, the early history and style of silent movies and comic strips, and a style that embraces human dignity, you'll want to pass on this delightful bite of comics history.
Mabel Normand/$4.95 & 30 pgs. from Fantagraphics/writer and artist unknown/available at comics shops and at www.fantagraphics.com.
Review by Michael Vance
What do the first issue of a comic book series, Killer Stunts, and the first five minutes of a television show or movie have in common? They both must grip the interest of its audience or all is lost.
This title from a new publisher is about a young, charismatic daredevil who jumps over things with his motor-cycle for the movies and always walks away unscathed. That's because Billy Andrews is already dead.
On the surface, he seems a clean-cut young man, partially because of the minimalist, clean-cut art and lack of profanity and blood. Hurrah!
Indeed, in style only, Killer Stunts may remind one of the old TV show Johnny Danger. Dialogue is believable, and the plot is crisp, well paced, and interesting.
Billy is also much desired as a new member of The League of Immortals despite the fact that he doesn't want to join. Another nice plot twist! Hurrah for the creative team again!
All of this is dressed in a deceptively simple, uncluttered art style reminiscent of the best Saturday morning cartoons when there was such a thing.
Although one plot twist is a bit long-in-the-tooth (hint), the first issue of Killer Stunts is a gripping introduction to a new series, and is recommended for all but the youngest reader.
Killer Stunts Incorporated #1 (of 4)/$2.95 & 22 pgs. from Pulp Mag Press/story: Alan Scott; Art: David Hahn/available at comics shops and www.killerstunts.com.
Review by Michael Vance