Posted tagged ‘Gene Colan’

Review: Essential Sub-Mariner Vol.1

June 7, 2010

I’ve been waiting years for Marvel to get around to releases this book.  The Sub-Mariner is the last of their silver age super-hero titles to have gone without an affordable edition in print.  For that alone I’ve been wanting this to complete the collection, but also I always loved the character of Namor, probably the most pompous figure in comics, and a lot of fun because of that.

But sadly I think I see why Marvel was hesitant to bring these back.  As it turns out, there are exactly two types of Namor stories.

  1. Namor has a misunderstanding with the human race and nearly declares war
  2. Someone tries to claim the throne of Atlantis from Namor

Now, this collection has stories from 35 issues, granted most of these are only 12 pages long, but still, these schticks get old pretty quickly.  And it doesn’t help that there’s a fairly glaring problem with the art as well that I just can’t get past, even with greats such as Bill Everett, Gene Colan, and John Buscema at work.  

Namely, no one can seem to remember that Atlantis is actually underwater!  Why does the city have paved roads!?!  Why are robes in fashion and why don’t they float!?!  Why is Dorma’s hair perfectly styled, only to appear wet when she’s out of the water!?!  You get the idea.

There are a few decent issues here, and in small doses the stories can be fun, but as a whole, not one of Marvel’s better efforts.

Review: Captain America: Road to Reborn

May 3, 2010

Ed Brubaker treads water a bit in this volume of the ongoing series.  I suspect a lot of that is publisher interferance though, and Brubaker makes the most of the situation, but it is what it is.

The problem is a pair of scheduling debacles.  First of all there’s the slightly contrived back-to-back anniversary issues.  This volume collects issue 50 of the current series, and which point Marvel reset the numbering to its original system, giving us issue 600.  So we have an issue dedicated to the history of Bucky (the current Captain America), and one dedicated to remembering the death of the previous one.  Both are good, but both are also filler.

Scheduling problem two, Marvel decided to take the next major story arc, in which the original Captain America returns from the dead, and pull it out into its own mini-series in an attempt to boost its prominence.  This move left the series with an extra issue to be used up, so more filler it is.  This time its an unused annual Marvel had lying around that has become Cap 601.  The issue is really meant to be a tribute to Gene Colan, one of the legends of the industry.  And on that level it works, letting the Dean come back to draw a double sized issue of Cap battling vampires, elements from two of his signature comics.  And his art is as wonderful as it ever was (although he could make do with a better colorist).  However, this is also the third issue in a row that doesn’t advance the story, and enough’s enough.

I’m being pretty harsh here I realize, and none of these comics are bad issues.  But you can pretty much skip this whole book and not notice a thing, and that’s got to matter.

Review: Essential Captain Marvel Vol.1

February 24, 2009

The Essential Captain Marvel collects the first two attempts by Marvel to utilize the trademark they were able to nab from Fawcett.  

The first try, while interesting at times, is pretty much as bad as it sounds given its reason for existence.  In these issues Mar-Vell (yes that’s his name) is an alien scout for a race that may want to conquer the Earth, but who winds up sympathizing with the human race.  The first few issues by Roy Thomas work out OK with the concept (Gene Colan’s art helps a lot), but then Arnold Drake takes over and has no idea what to do with the character.  He shifts things into slightly more traditional superhero fare, but can’t quite jettison enough of the book’s origins to allow it to make any sense.  

Which brings about the character’s first revamp, thanks to Roy Thomas (again) and the amazing Gil Kane on art.  This time everything that made the character somewhat unique is discarded in favor of creating a totally a standard superhero comic.  Mar-Vell even gets saddled with perennial sidekick Rick Jones in order to make things seem even more derivative.  But there is Gil Kane so it’s not all bad.

Review: Essential Doctor Strange Vol.3

October 3, 2008

Doctor Strange is the best character in superhero comics that no one has been able to figure out what to do with, and that unfortunate tradition continues in this volume.

There are a number of reasons the Strange has proven a difficult character to work with.  First of all magic based characters have always been a problem in superhero comics (for further proof see Dr. Fate, Captain Marvel, Zatanna, the Demon, etc…).  Their abilities are too ill-defined and they don’t mesh well with the science based universes they exist in.  To compound the issue in Strange’s case he’s a character that is linked so strongly to his original portrayal under Stan Lee and Steve Ditko that no one (with the possible exception of the recent Brian K Vaughan/Marcos Martin mini-series) has been willing to modernize him.  Which is a total disservice to the character considering that he’s thus been linked to 60’s psychadelia for 40 years.

Which at last brings me to this volume that collects Strange’s late 70’s appearances.  The majority of this book is by Steve Englehart (who is a perfect match for writing the traditional Strange) and the normally great Gene Colan, who is a bit miscast here on art.  The Colan issues tend to take Strange away from the other-dimensional odysseys he usually goes on and instead pits him against foes like Dracula and Satan.  These are by far the weakest stories here.  On the other end of the spectrum you have adventures in which the Universe is destroyed, the history of America is examined, and Strange’s girlfriend Clea has an affair with Ben Franklin (yes really).

The book isn’t bad, but if you want a classic Doctor Strange book, stick with the Lee/Ditko issues.