Posted tagged ‘Silver Age’

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: Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol.1

February 26, 2010

Oh Aquaman, the #1 punching bag in comicdom.  But before he lost his famous orange shirt….and his son….and his hand….and became a zombie, he was one of DC’s big 7.  And that’s where the first Showcase Presents volume of his stories takes the reader.

These stories mark the start of the silver age interpretation of the character, in which his origin is altered making him a half Atlantian.  The stories are fairly typical for silver age DC.  Hokey, full of crazy monsters, black and white morality, and people without personalities.  Aquaman and Aqualad certainly don’t have any, and Quisp is only mischievious because he tells the reader so.  

Then there are the incredibly formulaic plots.  In each story Aquaman runs across a pirate/evil sea captain/alien fish monster, discovers their evil plan to take over the world/hijack some ships/recover a sunken treasure chest, gets captured and is kept from water for 59 minutes, then gets rescued by Aqualad (who first appears here)/his water sprite friend/his pet octopus.  Yet the sheer craziness of these stories manage to make them a lot of fun, especially thanks to the art of Nick Cardy and Ramona Fradon.  Granted they still draw undersea cities as if they people who lived there walked through them instead of swam, but then so does pretty much everyone else.

So, Aquaman is pretty good silver age fun, but probably only in small doses.  This volume collects over 500 pages of comics and it took me 2 months to finish between other books because I just couldn’t handle that much Aquaman at once, despite actually being someone who enjoys the character.

Review: Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol.1

January 25, 2009

The Challengers of the Unknown is one of DC’s best, failed comics.  The concept is pretty straight forward, 4 adventures have a near death experience and decide they are living on borrowed time (which they never get tired of saying).  Thus they decide to live the rest of their lives risking death and routinely saving the Earth from alien menaces and evil scientists.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is the book Jack Kirby was working on just prior to the Fantastic Four, three out of four team members are nearly identical (if you must know Ace Morgan and the Invisible Woman are the odd ones out).  So if you ever wondered what the FF would be like without super powers, this is that book.

The stories themselves are nothing that special, lots of women in distress, lots of three part McGuffin quests, but every now and then something odd sneaks in.  I particularly liked the two issues with Multi-Man, a villain who gleefully commits suicide in order to be reborn with a new power set.  And the premise of the comic makes this one out shine a lot of DC’s other silver age comics for me.  The plots really are identical, but just the fact that you’ve got a professional wrestler doing the same sorts of things as Superman at the time elevates it a bit.

However, the Challengers never really caught on, and that’s hardly surprising given that you can look back at them as an inferior version of the FF.  It’s a shame though, given the chance (Darwyn Cooke did his best to save Ace Morgan in the New Frontier) there’s some potential in these characters for further adventures.

Review: Showcase Presents the Flash Vol.2

September 14, 2008

In terms of history, the Flash is one of the most important out there.  The first appearance of the Barry Allen Flash (contained in vol. 1) marks the start of the silver age by introducing the first superhero since the introduction of the comics code all but destroyed the medium.  Now in the second collection there’s the Flash of Two Worlds, which introduces the concept of DC’s multiverse, sets up the reintroduction of the golden age heroes, and inspires more stories than anything else DC ever produced.

Now unlike a lot of the other DC comics from this era, the Flash is actually pretty good on its own merits.  Carmine Infantino made his name as an artist on this book, and the skill and imagination at play are a wonder.  The villains form what is maybe the third best rogue’s gallery out there next to Spider-Man and Batman’s (this collection features the first appearances of Professor Zoom, the Top, Abra Kadabra, and Head Wave).  And for what it’s worth Barry Allen and Wally “Kid Flash” West, don’t come across as quite so unbareably two-dimensional as the rest of DC’s characters from that era.

But the book does still wear it’s age on it’s sleeve.  The writing uses far too many captions.  The Flash is rediculously overpowered (he has control over all his molecules, turns invisible regularly, and at one point reaches warp-7).  There’s also the cosmic-treadmill, which for some reason managed to stick around as part of the lore.

But overall, this is the best of DC’s silver age superhero books and is a required part of any serious comic collection.