Andy’s Read Pile: Quick Hits on Some Recent Readings!

GhostAndy

IMG_4731There are some times when I’m writing these comic related reviews that I really question my existence. I mean, is anyone out there really reading these? Or am I vainly throwing comic book related bottles into the bottomless ocean that is the worldwide web, never to be seen from again?

Perhaps it’s my writing style or the format of these reviews which is turning people off? Or maybe it’s just my ever present paranoia and lack of self worth which is causing these delusions to manifest?

Not sure, but luckily the formatting issue is something within my control. Therefore on today’s read pile, instead of spending the entire article talking about just one comic book I read recently, I’m going to talk about several, as a way to inject some diversity. Additionally, since as some of my podcast co hosts have mentioned, since I can be a bit verbose, I’m going limit each of the entries to no more than 500 words. That will be a challenge, trust me, but hey experiments are supposed to make you think outside the box! 

So without further ado, here are a couple books I’ve been reading recently that you might wanna check out.

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Doom Patrol: The Silver Age Volume 1

by: Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, Bruno Premiani, & Bob Brown

 

Synopsis:

Tales from the early days of the original Doom Patrol team of Robot Man, Elasta Girl, Negative Man, and The Chief. These original stories from My Greatest Adventure which eventually became The Doom Patrol comic proper with issue #86 showcase a team who although looked on as heroes by the general populace are also simultaneously looked on as freaks given their strange appearance and powers.

Early issues have them tackling a variety of monster/sci-fi related threats before becoming more about their continuing battles against their arch enemies in the Brotherhood of Evil!

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Overall Thoughts:

The Summer of Doom Patrol CONTINUES! Spurred on by my love of the recent DC Streaming Service show, I continue to devour everything Doom Patrol related that I can get my hands on, and reading again these Silver Age adventures of the DP has been my late night comic before hitting the sack for the past couple of weeks.

Sure, they are Silver Age stories, so there is a inherent simplistic storytelling to them like anything from this era, but I don’t mind that. They make for easy reading which is still weird enough not to cross over that line into camp.

Honestly, it reads more like a Marvel comic from this same period than a DC one, mainly thanks to Arnold Drake spending some time fleshing out the characters and trying to give them some pathos as “misfits”. There are stories that the Doom Patrol was Drake’s attempt to make a Fantastic Four type book, and if that’s the case, then it worked. Even in these early issues there’s some soap opera style pathos to Robot Man being stuck in his iron shell or Negative Man commenting that although people cheer for them when they do heroic acts, they will never be truly accepted by them.

I will say the strangest part of this book given the more modern stories, is the early love triangle between the Patrol’s members. Elasta Girl is portrayed as an attractive young lady with no physical deformities other than she can grow and shrink, and that makes her prime fodder as the romantic interest for her two fellow male teammates. Especially Negative Man, with whom she seems to have a mutual attraction. Honestly, I felt it was tacked on and wished they would have found some other way to add dramatic tension between the members, like being each others support group, they did with later versions.

Anyways, the first several issues are relatively slow, but the series gains a lot of focus once the Brotherhood of Evil is introduced as foils for the team. Plus who doesn’t want to root for a bunch of baddies that consist of a brain in a jar and a talking machine gun toting gorilla!

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Fans of the TV series will especially like those issues as well as the show put in a lot of Easter Egg call backs to those particular issues, like Mr. Nobody’s clunky giant robot and losing his place on the team to a monkey.

Andy’s Read Pile Grade: B

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The Black Incal

by: Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

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Synopsis:

In some obscure futuristic time, private investigator, John Difool, has stumbled upon something of incredible value to the universe: The Light Incal. This crystal of immense power is sought after by some of the most influential organizations and people of this age, including the Bergs (aliens that look like pterodactyl type birds), The Technopriests who worship the opposite force in the Dark Incal, various rebel groups, and even the chiefs of state.

After surviving various attacks on his life, John eventually makes contact with the Incal and bonds with it through its enlightenment. However, things are seemingly going to get worse for John, as the Metabaron, a notorious warrior/hitman, has been blackmailed into hunting John and returning the Incal to those in control.

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Overall Thoughts:

Originally, I was going to do this book as a full read pile in its own right, spurred into reading it by long time GotS fan, Sunny, who suggested it after I wrote my article on Metabarons. However for as great as the artwork is in this book, and it is truly some of the very best by the legendary Moebius, I found myself not really digging the vibe that Jodorowsky was laying down.

The plot is very much a space age version of Film Noir stories in the vein of Raymond Chandler, with a scruffy nobody of a private detective, finding a MacGuffin, which then ties him into some vast far reaching conspiracy that reaches all the way to the most powerful people on the planet. It’s like the Maltese Falcon meets Star Wars, and in that regard, I feel like I’ve read better. Blade Runner is one I can think of right off the top of my head.

I do think The Incal succeeds with some of it’s political and religious satire, which can be pretty scathing at times, like the factory where they cut up corpses for body parts which they then sell to rich people. But overall, other than again that gorgeous gorgeous Moebius art, I just wasn’t very impressed. Maybe I’m not a Jodorowsky fan, given how I reacted to both this and Metabarons. I won’t lie in the fact that before reading his stuff, I really wanted to be given what a fascinating man the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary painted him to be.

Now I could be completely selling this series short because I only am basing my opinion on reading the first part aka “The Black Incal”, but I’m saying that I probably won’t read any further as there was nothing really here to grip me.  Either I’m missing some deep intellectual truth that this series is supposedly throwing out or the simple fact is that this story has been told before, and better in my opinion, so there’s no use fighting over it.

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Andy’s Read Pile Grade: C

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Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe

by: Tim Seeley & Freddie Williams III

Synopsis:

Upon saving Eternia from a totalitarian regime his evil robotic doppelgänger, Faker, set up while pretending he was the Most Powerful Man in the Universe, Prince Adam finds himself wrestling with fallout from having to reveal his identity as He-man, and whether or not he defines his inner character as either Adam or He-man.

While this is happening, Damien Wayne and his group of resistance fighters arrives on Eternia from the Injustice version of Earth in hopes of recruiting He-man’s unique magic based strength to fight against their version of Superman who has also set up a totalitarian regime.

Things get even more complicated when Darkseid shows up on Eternia and attempts to take over in He-man’s absence, and Skeletor ends up gaining the powers of a recently deceased Shazam. 

In the end though, it’s a winner take all slugfest between two of the most powerful strongmen in existence as Supes and He-man square off for supremacy.

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Overall Thoughts:

Back in the early days of our podcast, Stew and I did a versus segment on who would win in a fight Supes or He-man, and as the resident MOTU nut, I took He-man.

I was soundly defeated in that argument (as I often am in Versus segments), and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. That’s why I was so excited to read this series, which painted Supes as the all powerful douchebag we all know he is capable of being, where as He-man is more the underdog who still believes in hope and thus hasn’t been corrupted yet by absolute power.

As a result, Tim Seeley does craft a solid tale about the importance of maintaining your humility and humanity even while others might treat you as a god, framed as the reason why He-man needs the Prince Adam persona just as much as Supes needs Clark Kent.

Also drawing the obvious parallels between He-man’s and Shazam’s character is a slam dunk as they are obvious challengers to the type of power Supes can muster, but with He-man I feel like you get more of a barbaric warrior style character whose battle acumen is more of a match for the Man of Steel.

I do downgrade this book a bit because I thought all the stuff with Skeletor and Darkseid invasion which I thought was a bit meandering and caused the book to loose focus a bit from the main emotional drive of human gods duking it out over the proper use of power.

Plus if you’ve read my review of He-man/Thundercats (which this series is pretty much a direct sequel of), you’ll remember I was somewhat hot & cold on Freddie Williams’ art work, thinking it was terrific at times, overly stylized at others.

Still though, not a bad crossover all things considered.

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Andy’s Read Pile Grade: B

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Black Panther Epic Collection: Panther’s Rage

by: Don McGregor, Richard Buckler, & Billy Graham

 

Synopsis:

After spending years in America as a part of the Avengers, Black Panther returns to his home country of Wakanda to find it in the grips of a near civil war as the devious central Wakandian chieftain, Killmonger, has assembled an army in his attempt to stage a coupe and take over the country.

Black Panther must struggle not only against the recently super powered Killmonger and a group of other super villains he has assembled to his cause, but also political issues within his own inner council some of whom think he has lost touch with the traditions and values of his own country.

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Overall Thoughts:

This was one of the books I mentioned that I put on my summer “TO DO” list as worthy of a re-read given the recent explosion of interest in Black Panther as well as the fact that I hadn’t read the story in nearly 10 years. I’ll admit that I haven’t gotten through all the issues of the run just yet (it’s from Jungle Action #6-24), but I can say it’s every bit as good as I remember.

Although it’s somewhat dated given the references to “jive talk” and “Shaft”, overall this series a perfect place to start for any Black Panther fan that wants to learn about the history of the character. I mean this was not only the first series that headlined Black Panther as the central character, but it was also one of the first few 10+ issue story arcs at Marvel Comics.

Not only that but, as I’ve said multiple times, writer Don McGregor, resisted editorial mandates to include outside guest characters in the book like the Avengers after sales started to slump out of respect for the vision/story he was trying to craft. You gotta respect that artistic discipline, and it pays off with the type of engaging multi layered story that has more in common with modern comics than it does with it’s Bronze Age counterparts.

Plus, the art. Oh god, that wonderful art! Really some top notch stuff from Richard Buckler & Billy Graham who tag teamed on the title. Just incredible use of splash pages, unique panel design and layout, and design choice make for a real visual treat as well as a written one. I mean…look at this splash page from Jungle Action #8! Tell me that doesn’t get you jazzed to read more!

That’s Klaus Jansen on inks as well. Just Remarkable stuff!

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Andy’s Read Pile Grade: A-


 

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