Red Circle, The Mighty Crusaders #1, written and drawn by Rich Buckler, 1982
I’ve always found the Red Circle’s stable of heroes intriguing, but they never seem to stick around long enough to get comfortable. It seems every few years there’s a new take on this bunch, be it the short lived Impact imprint of the early 90s, DC’s failed attempt the integrate in the 00s or the new Red Circle comics shortly after—these guys are well loved, but they get jerked way too much.
This 80s version of the characters is easily one of their best treatments. Rich Buckler almost single-handedly creates this book himself and it’s quite a dense, satisfying work. A ton of characters are introduced here, a ton of plots are set-up and there’s so much to keep track of and pay attention to that by the end, you’ll be happy (and surprised) for the character profiles. And it’s not all set-ups either! There’s so much to be found in this first issue—origins, villains, plots both presented and resolved… really it’s almost overwhelming for someone used to today’s 24 issue, molasses-paced storyline standards.
A great read, don’t pass this one by.
DC, The Brave and the Bold #26, written by John Rozum, drawn by Scott Hampton, 2009
Man, I love the Spectre. He’s simply one of my favourite characters, no matter which body he inhabits or who he’s haunting. I also love Scott Rozum’s writing, especially when it revolves around a Milestone character like Xombi. And Scott Hampton, damn do I ever love Scott Hampton’s art.
Luckily, all those ingredients work together and this is one tasty book. The story is a clever done-in-one with some particularly nasty ghosts and nice insights into both Spectre and Xombi’s “lives”. The art isn’t Hampton’s best work, but I still loved it. The paper is shiny, the cover is a Michael Wm. Kaluta…
Yeah, this book is certainly worth your bargain bin bucks.
Marvel, Moon Knight #11, written by Doug Moench, drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, 1981
Frenchie recalls some true (and expertly crafted) heartbreak which sends Moon Knight to New Orleans. It sounds corny but wow, Moench really surprised me with this one. A lot of people like Moon Knight because he seems like a whacky Batman. His newest series certainly capitalizes on this (and pulls it off amazingly, might I add) but what I truly love about the Moon Knight books is the supporting cast. There are people that support this whacked-out, clinically insane caped crusader, and when written right they can be just as interesting as the knight in white.
Besides impressive story, Bill Sienkiewicz draws a book not-to-be-missed. His work is still very Neal Adams-like, but the layouts and detail are second to none. Before he defined himself with his trademark sketchiness, Sienkiewicz proved he could draw in a traditional style like any of the greats. The facial expressions alone can break your heart.
Buy for the art, stay for the story.
Capital, (The New Color) Nexus #2, written by Mike Baron, drawn by Steve Rude, 1983
Mike Baron writes one weird, whacky space adventure and Steve Rude draws the heck out of it. I’m a newbie when it comes to Nexus (though I imagine not for long, after reading this awesome issue). Rude’s work is simply eye-candy; it’s impressive on every level. The characters, the designs, the layouts, the detail (or perhaps more impressively, the effectiveness of lacking in detail)… I could go on and on, but you already know his work is great. Mike Baron is the underdog here but I’ve always enjoyed his work. He’s a writer you can always count on for an enjoyably weird (yet accessible, understandable and sometimes hilarious) experience. This is no exception. Decapitated space-chimp heads, curvy-cute aliens and a story with more depth than meets the eye—Baron crafted a truly unique world and gave us a lot of nifty creations.
Buy for the art, stay for the story… again!
Marvel, The Defenders #102, written by J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Don Perlin, 1981
I love The Defenders, I love Nighthawk (the particular focus of this issue), I love J.M. DeMatteis and Don Perlin’s art is pretty good too. This issue, however, isn’t the best. First things first, DeMatteis gets real wordy here. He packs a lot of information in, but it feels like he uses too many words on each page. He paces the story well and the dialogue is decent, but this story required so much exposition it was exhausting. Basically, Nighthawk has to deal with some personal demons, mostly revolving around his tragic ex-lover Mindy. There’s a lot to it—too much, in fact.
The art is a mixed bag too. Some panels are very basic, unmemorable moments, while some look like they were torn from the manic mind of Steve Ditko. Perlin has never really thrilled me before, but there are a few moments in here that truly shine.
If you like The Defenders, Nighthawk, J.M. DeMatteis or Don Perlin, you’ll probably like this book. Or you might love it, but I didn’t.
Topps, Captain Glory #1, written by Roy Thomas, drawn by Steve Ditko, 1993
Speaking of the manic mind of Steve Ditko, here he is drawing a Jack Kirby concept in the early 90s. I hear back in the day when Topps’ line of Kirby books came out they all seemed very dated and passé. The early 90s were not kind. This book is retro happiness.
We get a rich mythos, old-school fish-out-of-water story, decent Ditko art and the capable scripting of Roy Thomas. The concepts behind this book were worth reviving and the execution is quite good, I only wish they had reached a larger audience and expanded.
A cool book if you’re into Kirby or Ditko. And you are, right?
DC, Shazam! The World’s Mightiest Mortal #27, written by E. Nelson Bridwell, drawn by Kurt Shaffenberger, 1977
I’ve never seen the Shazam television show, but apparently this “DC TV Comic” series was meant to promote it. It was also out to educate and entertain, and I’m proud to report it succeeds on both fronts!
Let’s be honest, Captain Marvel works best when he’s lighthearted, fun and slightly cartoonish. Jeff Smith, Mike Kunkel, Art Baltazar & Franco and even now Grant Morrison all seem to get what he’s about. Unless inspired by comics such as this one, I’m not sure I want to read any other Shazam books.
Turns out Sivana has found out a way to summon American history’s greatest criminals to do his dirty deeds for him. How does Billy Batson counteract this villainous plot? With the help of Kid Eternity, he summons America’s greatest heroes! It sounds corny, but boy is it a ball. Before this book I didn’t even know who Capt. Walter Butler, Simon Girty or the Harpe brothers were (and I’m Canadian so give me a break). Yes, I was educated by a 1977 kids comic and I’m proud of it. The art is perfectly cartoony, the plot is paced just right and most importantly—it’s fun!
Captain Marvel, Kid Eternity, Benjamin Franklin, Deborah Sampson Gannett, Ethan Allen, Daniel Boone, Benedict Arnold…
Marvel (Epic), Groo # 95, written by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, drawn by Sergio Aragones, 1992
Groo is awesome. Even when you’re not flat out laughing, Aragones keeps you entertained. Just go read it and be happy.
Vertigo, The Vinyl Underground #1, written by Si Spencer, drawn by Simon Gane, 2007
But don’t read this one, it won’t make you happy. Have you ever met someone who’s trying so hard to be cool that they come off as just plain annoying? This book is filled with those people. In fact, every sentence of this book comes across as “isn’t this edgy and hip and cool and underground”? The leader character is a (and yes I’m quoting) “poker ace, soul DJ and amateur sleuth”. Supporting characters are even broader strokes of awful clichés. This book seems to have taken everything good about Young Liars and Phonogram and made a mess of it. The art by Simon Gane is nice, though. Very Phillip Bond… and it’s inked by Cameron Stewart!
Don’t buy, not even for the decent art.
Marvel, Captain Marvel #5, written by Arnold Drake, drawn by Don Heck, 1968
I was over the moon when I found a stack 60s Captain Marvel’s for only $2 each. I bought every single one, you can bet on that. And I regret nothing! This book is rad, retro, classic Marvel.
Arnold Drake was a pretty neat writer back in the day, never crafting anything all that different but always doing a pretty good job. His scripting is nice, his plots are good, everything is paced right—oh and he created the Doom Patrol, so he’s good in my books. Here we get a fairly standard tale about corrupt commanders and spacemen fighting monsters. It’s good fun all around.
Oh, and Don Heck draws the heck (puns always intended) out of this book. He’s a classic artist that never seems to get the fanfare he deserves. Go pick up this book (if you’re lucky enough to find it)!
Marvel, Terror Inc. #5, written by D.G Chichester, drawn by Jorge Zaffino, 1992
D.G. Chichester is a fine writer. I appreciated all the work he did on the Shadowline imprint for Marvel, but this here… this isn’t a book I can appreciate. And I wanted to, believe me. David Lapham and Patrick Zircher’s revamp of Terror Inc. a few years back was terrific. I love the character, I love the concept—I did not love this book, however.
The biggest problem is the art. Jorge Zaffino tries to pull off a Klaus Janson and instead pulls off a… I don’t even know. I can’t tell what’s going on in any of the panels. I can’t tell which character is which, where the story takes place or what action is happening. This could be one of the most poorly drawn comics I own.
Not having any idea about what’s happening tends to put a damper on the writing, and with no visual cues this book suffers. The story isn’t all that bad, but when you can’t follow it from panel to panel it’s more frustrating than anything. Something happens in these pages, I’m sure of it, but who was involved and what might’ve taken place I cannot tell you.
Do not buy this book; try the newer Terror Inc. series from the MAX imprint, or some of D.G. Chichester’s better books like St. George and Doctor Zero. I’ll tell you about those someday.