Andy’s Read Pile: Summer Vacation Reading

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So for those of you playing at home, according to Spacebook, I’m still at the beach on my summer vacation for the week. And yes, indeed, that is where I am, sitting on the couch, drinking the first of a couple more beers for the evening, nursing a semi rough sunburn on my shoulders from a day of boogie boarding, preparing for one final day of fun in the sun tomorrow before it’s back to the daily grind.

So seeing that I can’t hit the sack until I made a post for today, I’d write a quick blog about another book in my comic read pile. However, instead of writing the blog about a book I’ve recently read since I just technically just did that yesterday with The Adventures of Blake & Mortimer, I’d thought I’d list some books I brought with me and let my loyal readers pick which final book I should read while I’m on the beach for the remainder of this week. So here’s 3 choices (and no…none of them is the Phantom…I swear to God I am getting to that…honest…scout’s honor!)

1) Avengers/Invaders by Alex Ross & Jim Kreuger


I feel like I was one of the only people in the world that gave a damn about the Invaders comic that Marvel released in the mid 70s. Written by Roy Thomas, the series told a retconned version of Marvel history chronicling the exploits of the Avengers of the Golden Age: Cap, Bucky, Namor, the Original Human Torch and his mutant sidekick, Toro. They were joined at various points by other Golden Age characters that Roy Thomas snagged off history’s scrap bin and re-purposed like Miss Marvel, Union Jack, Spitfire, and the superhero with by far the worst name in history, The Whizzer.

I mainly got into this book because of my fascination with movie serials from the 30s and 40s, and because at the time, most of these books could be found in 25 cent long boxes at some of the comic shops I went to as a kid. So I got a ton of books, 8 to 10 issues at a pop for the price of 1 or 2 regular news stand issues. And I really did like those books a lot. So much so that years later, after my son was born premature and I spend a lot of nights at the hospital with him, I took along my trades of the Invaders and read them to him. Simple little melodramas about characters like the Blue Bullet or Baron Blood or the Golem, but it scratched an itch. Probably the same for Roy Thomas who often loved saving some of those forgotten heroes and giving them new life.

In any case Avengers/Invaders was a joint publishing project done between Marvel and Dynamite Comics, who has made a lot of their bread and butter with breathing new life into older pulpy superheroes, like they did with the Shadow, Green Hornet and with the series Masks

Maybe that’s why I’ve stayed away from this book for a while now, because Masks was so awful when I wanted it to be so good. It’s like I couldn’t take it if this series was bad as well, and that somehow tarnished those good memories of those Invader comics when I was a kid. It does happen right after Marvel’s Original Civil War which ended with Captain America being assassinated. And I really don’t have great memories of Civil War or the years immediately following that, so that’s also leading me to think this book could really suck and I’d have to deal with that fallout.

However, I believe at some point, modern Marvel heroes have to go back in time and adopt Golden Age personas so that they don’t ruin the time line, and that includes good ol’ Spidey so that could be some fun. The Alex Ross art work could also be neat too, even if he only does the covers. I do think Mr. Ross excels when he gets to do Golden Age stuff, really gets to ape NormanRockwell then.

2) Devil Dinosaur 1-9 by Jack Kirby


What else can be said about Jack “the King” Kirby?!? Even if I didn’t gush all over about this giant that would easily be on the Mt. Rushmore of Comics if ever they took chisel to stone and carved one, what I can say is there are tons of Kirby comics I’ve personally loved over the years. They include the first 100 issues of Fantastic Four, his work on the first 8 issues of the Avengers, and his incredible run on the Mighty Thor, which I still sometimes think rivals Simonson for the greatest Thor run in print. Oh yeah, and the guy invented one of my top five favorite comic book characters of all time, Machine Man!

However I must admit, it’s the creation of “My robotic brain needs beer” that actually stopped me from picking up some of Kirby’s other lesser known creations, such as this title or Kamandi (which I’m saving for a future read pile on our podcast). It’s because despite Machine Man having a insanely great design and dramatic look about him, the stories Kirby wrote about X-51 were…how to say this nicely…ummm…less than stellar? No…that’s not it. Not so great? No…that’s not it either. Meandering to the point of being unreadable? Yeah..that’s at least in the ballpark. Long story short, Jack Kirby’s issues of Machine Man could have really benefited from a co plotter or an aggressive editor or something has they are sorely lacking in cohesive storytelling at times.

And so badly did I want that series to be great and how disappointed I was when it wasn’t basically turned me off of wanting to read any other Kirby outside of his original run on Marvel. So books like Devil Dinosaur, New Gods, OMAC, and others suffered.

But finally after several years that awful chalky taste is leaving my mouth and I feel like I can dip a toe back into the Kirby pool once again and test some of those more obscure treats. It was in this spirit that I picked up the trade of the complete 9 issues of Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy while patronizing my own excellent local comic store, Phantom of the Attic in Monroeville for 2018’s Free Comic Book Day.
I will have to say of all the books on this list, I’m secretly hoping this the one that gets picked. So much so, that even if it doesn’t I still will probably do a Read Pile review on this book before the end of the year. I know that’s sort of cheating when it comes to this poll, that the losers might end up winning anyways, but hey, at least I’m up front about it!

3) Ex Machina: Book One by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris


Now we come to the book that I know the least about actually. The only things I know for certain are the following: it was written by Brian K. Vaughan and…it was…written by Brian K. Vaughan. I mean I guess there’s not a lot more to say then.

As a devotee and huge fan boy of his Saga series, I’m definitely willing to go out on a limb for this particular writer and buy a book just based on his street cred. Helping that however is the fact that during our Podcast review of Saga Volume 1, my fellow Ghostie, Chad Smith, name dropped this book when talking about other really awesome BKV stories that don’t happen to be Y: The Last Man. So I was intrigued when my wife found this trade at a comic shop in Greenwich Village during our last trip to New York City and said that we should get it.

You see it doesn’t hurt that the Mrs. is also a huge fan of Saga and has been asking about other BKV works. So in buying this book, even if I’m not a huge fan, there’s at least going to be a second person that will at least read it, therefore getting a little more bang for our comic book buck. That is unless she too gets roped up into Y: The Last Man as her second BKV title, and ignores this one.

However, I find that hard to believe as Entertainment Weekly was pretty high on this story about “realistic” super powers i.e. what would happen in the real world if people actually had super powers. I mean, I think that’s what this book is about, hence the Ex Machina title, a play on the God in the Machine phrase to explain using an omnipotent force to clean up any unresolved conflicts and thereby ending whatever story the author is trying to tell. Yes a cheap ploy, but an effective one, and so that title also has be intrigued. Is the Hero the “Ex Machina”, here to solve the world’s problems efficently? Hmmm…perhaps I’ll just have to read and find out…

And so that’s it, folks! Three books for me to read. You make the call. Vote on both the website below and on Facebook and Twitter over the next week and I’ll provide the results in an upcoming blog. Thanks for making my summer vacation even easier by making my decisions for me! I sincerely owe every single one of you a cookie.

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