Bin There, Found That: Week 4

A column article, Bin There Found That by: Chris Wunderlich

It was the weekend of my birthday and I was visiting Toronto’s fabled Kensington Market. I happened upon a comic shop that had taken over what was once a very, very small apartment. There was a room full of unorganized back issues and the nice girl at the counter told me they were all on sale—ten for $1.

“Remember to breathe. I can only carry so much and I only have a few hours.”

I found out that day that one’s fingers can go ice cold and numb, even in a warm room. Flipping through long-boxes counts as exercise--$27 later and I have a lot to read.

DC Comics Hawkworld #1-3, written and drawn by Timothy Truman, 1989

 

I came across the first issue of Hawkworld a long time ago, but figured I’d wait until I completed the set to dig in. I’m glad I did, reading this in one sitting seems like the way to go.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from Hawkworld. I knew it was a bold re-imagining of Hawkman (and woman), sort of a “year one” envisioning of the Silver Age Thanagarian police officer. No Egyptian stuff. While that’s true, there is a lot more here than I expected.

Instead of recollecting past Hawkman issues, this series reminded me more of a Dune/Brazil/Blade Runner mash-up. Right from the get-go Truman puts the world at the center of the story. Katar Hol is our Hawkman here, but Thanagar is the real star. The dreary, alien immigrant infested underground, the glorious, pristine upper-class towers—there’s ball gowns and armoured hawk uniforms and it’s all very beautiful. Truman’s designs steal the show at every opportunity and even with a very interesting story, I found simply being engrossed in Thanagar the most enjoyable part of these books.

At first I feared that I wouldn’t have the patience to read through three prestige format books from the 80s all in one sitting. My worries were gone by the middle of the first book. Truman keeps the story brisk and thrilling. My only complaint is the traditional mid-story lull. The second book takes a few turns I certainly did not expect to see. It works, but it’s kind of strange.

Pick this series up, plain and simple. It’s a landmark for a reason and each and every scene is crafted with care. Tim Truman knew exactly what he was doing.

 

Marvel Comics The Immortal Iron Fist #19, 20, 27, written by Dwayne Swierczynski, drawn by Travel Foreman, Russ Heath, David Lapham and Timothy Green II, 2008

 

I collected the entire Fraction/Brubaker run of The Immortal Iron Fist (and absolutely adored it) but stopped when Swierczynski took over. I was young and foolish, okay? That’s the only reason I can think of. I’m super glad I found these issues!

If you liked what FractBaker did with Iron Fist, you’ll love what Swierczynski does. Danny Rand is in big trouble, being hunted by an “Iron Fist killer” and slowly losing his company. How can he defeat a monster whose very existence spells his ultimate demise? All with a little help from his friends.

That’s where this series shines. The Immortal Weapons, Luke Cage, Misty Knight—it’s all in the supporting cast and Swierczynski has a firm grasp on each and every character. And the lore! Instead of breaking away from FractBaker’s deep study into past Iron Fists, this run embraces the concept. With flashbacks, multiple artists and a direction that shows care for what’s come before, I’m very happy to report that I loved every minute of these issues.

The art, however, is wildly uneven. I like Travel Foreman, I really do, but he’s very hit and miss here. Some panels scream detailed action with extremely thin lines and careful inking. Other times the pages seem rushed, the action unclear and the inks seem like they are attempting to compensate for the lack of detail. My thoughts are he felt inclined (whether editorially mandated are not) to cohere to the David Aja style that dominated the earlier issues. It’s a shame, I know he can do better.  However, the few pages we get from other artists (that’s Russ Heath, David Lapham and Timothy Green II for those who didn’t read the credits) are all superb and a refreshing change. I like the variety we get—it’s an Immortal Iron Fist staple!

If you liked the first sixteen issues of this series, chances are you’ll like these issues as well. I’d recommend trying them even if you’re completely new to the book. Honestly, I’ll be digging extra deep to find the rest of Swierczynski’s issues for cheap.

 

DC Comics L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #1, written by Kieth Giffen and Alan Grant, drawn by Barry Kitson, 1989

I pick up L.E.G.I.O.N. whenever I can find it cheap and I finally came across # 1! I’m more familiar with later issues, so finally seeing where the book starts was a real treat. It’s a strange start though.

Issue 1 begins with the team already, mostly formed. I should’ve known—these characters all really come together in Invasion (which I don’t have yet). Still, I’m familiar with the cast and story, so I wasn’t as thrown off as I imagine some readers might’ve been. We get enough exposition to catch us up, but despite the big 1 on the cover, this isn’t where it all began.

For readers unfamiliar with L.E.G.I.O.N., these characters might be mysteries. Vril Dox, the self-righteous, unfriendly, jerk leader of the team has popped up in other books, but the rest of the cast only have loose ties to the rest of the DCU. Trust me though; this series has one of the better rosters out there. Read more issues of L.E.G.I.O.N. and you’ll quickly find out it’s all about the character interaction. Plot is all well and good, but the team dynamics are at the forefront and it’s terrific. Those seeds are planted here and point to great things to come.

Barry Kitson’s art here is great too, if not underdeveloped. It’s got a Kevin Maguire (the series main cover artist) feel but is distinct enough to stand out on its own. Kitson’s work has only gotten better over the years, but he started out strong.  I’m especially fond of how large and detailed he draws the characters, while still maintaining interesting and detailed backgrounds. Great facial expressions too!

Pick this book up but don’t expect it to hook you right away. It’s one of the slower series to come out of the 80s, but again, it’s all about the character dynamics. There’s often more soap opera drama than sci fi action, but it’s never cheesy and always compelling. And hey, it’s a first issue; it’ll be worth thousands someday, right? Right!?

 

Valiant (Acclaim Comics) Eternal Warrior #41, written by John Ostrander, drawn by Stefano Raffaele, 1995

I recently wrote that John Ostrander’s version of Eternal Warrior was my favourite. I obviously like his work.

So what makes this series so special? The same thing that seems to make every Eternal Warrior series special, Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior himself. Ostrander knows this and writes a heck of a good series for him.

Gilad is a warrior. He always has been and he always will be. This makes his every decision very interesting. He wants peace and he’s willing to fight for it. He wants to protect the innocent, so he fights. He wants to end war, take out the bad guys and see justice done—right, right, more fighting. The point is he’s seen so much violence that to him every conflict can be solved in battle. Here he’s involved in a modern-day “rebels vs. corrupt government” scenario and his solution is “kill the top guys, give them a common enemy.” Gilad knows he can do this and the solution seems simple to him. He’s the Eternal Warrior and if he wants to take out leaders of war and make himself a feared shadow of death, he knows how. Chances are he’s done it before.

Ostrander’s in his comfort zone here writing about morality, complex politics and the corruption of mankind. The story moves along at a beautifully sharp yet involved pace and we get a nice huge chunk of story without an excess amount of words or pages. There’s a nice balance between flashbacks and current events and the story manages to be topical without being preachy. Classic Ostrander!

Stefano Raffaele’s art suits the story but is quite ugly. That’s not to say it’s horrible, but his characters all bulge with 90s muscles, the proportions don’t always seem right and there are certain actions that seem way off. His storytelling is good though and the panels flow nicely between pages. This is like early 90s Valiant house-style with a heavy dose of mid-90s overkill.

I highly recommend this issue and the rest of Ostrander’s run on the series. It’s great stuff, even if the art hasn’t aged all that well.

 

DC Comics The Ray #12, written by Priest, drawn by Manny Clarke, 1995

I love Priest(aka Christopher Priest, aka James Owsley)’s The Ray, but I have to be honest, this particular issue isn’t very good.

The first problem is the art. Manny Clarke is a fill-in artist for Howard Porter and his work is too … “extreme” for this title. His characters are huge and it seems as if his panels cannot be contained within the page. Every action, from visiting the video store to paying rent is rendered as if it were the most exciting thing on paper. Clarke’s style is very “early Image” and looks very much like an under-detailed version of Jim Lee. You have to remember it was 1995 and that was the thing to do. If I had a clear sense of what was happening at all times this dated style could be forgiven, but this book is just a strain on the eyes.

Then there’s the story. The Ray is usually a pretty neat Spiderman-esque tale complete with the troubles of young adulthood, daddy issues, girl problems and super villains, but here it’s too much all at once. Nothing gets proper treatment. The Ray’s odd fling with Black Canary is wrapped up in half a page, his qualms with his father, the original Ray are touched on but not explored and most of the issue is spent on a seemingly pointless battle with new villain Mystek. We also get bookending scenes of constant threat Death Masque, but they make no sense given what is written and how poorly everything is drawn.

Snappy, humour filled dialogue? Great Howard Porter art? Interesting subject matter, important themes and pitch-perfect character work? Nope, none of that here. Don’t let it deter you though, most issues of this series are actually amazing. Pass this one, but buy the rest of The Ray!

 

 

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