As I have done since I was but a lad, instead of getting interested in sporting events, I am actively avoiding them by hiding out in the library. Only now I’m an adult and it’s the library I’ve built in my home.
Anyway, the review pile’s starting to get a little out of control again, so I thought I’d try and catch up by doing a bunch of capsule reviews. All kinds of things– Golden Age comics, Bronze Age comics, indies, manga. Join me, won’t you?
Silvertongue 30xx #2 by Nando Sarmiento and Chris Mullins.
The blurb: The Chippewa Vendetta – Part 2! Silvertongue, our favorite space-time district attorney, finds that his case got a bit tougher than he thought –encountering what he least expected: aliens from the future, (or “ghosts”, as they call them). Will he and his team arrive to a guilty verdict? Will he survive the hazardous, unexpected, intellectual alien attack? There’s only one way to find out, in this epic conclusion to The Chippewa Vendetta.
What I Thought: Oddly enough, last year around this time Nando Sarmiento sent me his wonderfully nasty book Silvertongue, about a fast-talking space lawyer that looked like a sort of cute manga but actually read much more like a gonzo humor strip out of Heavy Metal. Well, here it is Super Bowl weekend again and by God here’s Nando with the next volume of Silvertongue.
Everything I liked about the first one is back in this second volume, the kineticism and the humor, but I think the guys have learned a lot since the last time out. This volume feels more polished, the structure’s a little more layered and subtle, but it’s still just as much fun.
It’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed it a great deal. I’m told that Sarmiento and Mullins completely redid volume one as well, so as to make it more cohesive and a better fit with volume two. Both at Comixology for a very reasonable amount. The official website is here.
SHOWCASE PRESENTS BATMAN Volume Six by Frank Robbins, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Irv Novick, Bob Brown, others.
The blurb: In this new, value-priced collection of tales from the early 1970s, Batman returns to his roots as the Dark Knight Detective, operating on his own in the shadows of Gotham City. With Robin away in college, Batman faces new foes and old including Two-Face, Man-Bat and Ra’s al Ghul. This collection features stories by the renowned GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW team of writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams, who brought a new sense of purpose to comics’ greatest detective.
Collects BATMAN #229-244 and stories from DETECTIVE COMICS #408-426.
What I Thought: Honestly? I felt like I was coming home. Of all the versions of Batman that have appeared in comics over the last seventy-five-plus years, this one is MY Batman. Not the best version of him– that’s either the Archie Goodwin run on Detective or the Englehart/Rogers run a couple of years later, depending on what day you ask me– but certainly, this is when he really hit a groove. This collection is full of classics that are very familiar to most Batman fans… the return of Two-Face, the introductions of Talia and Ra’s Al Ghul, “A Vow From the Grave,” and so on– but what I love about it is that it also has all the wonky Frank Robbins stuff as well… including the times when he did the art along with the story. At the time youthful me was horrified, but forty years later I’m a little calmer and I can appreciate it on its own terms. It’s definitely different than the smooth, lithe Batman we were getting from Adams and Giordano and the rest of the gang, but it works much better than I remember. Probably because I have had the intervening four decades to get used to the idea that Batman can be depicted in a number of different styles.
I bought a great many of these when they came out, and still have quite a few of the single issues, but the truth is I’ll probably never get them out of the boxes unless I decide to sell them. I’m happy as a clam with just this book. Some folks feel that the stories really need color but I am not one of them. I’m enjoying seeing the art in black-and-white, you can really see what Dick Giordano was bringing to the party.
It’s not quite my desert island Batman book– that would still be a tossup between this one and this one— but it certainly would be my second or third choice if I was allowed to bring more than one. Anyway, it’s a great snapshot of my favorite era of Bat-history and reprints a lot of stuff that hasn’t been seen elsewhere– “Batman for A Night,” “Secret of the Slaying Statues,” all sorts of wonderfully oddball one-offs. Well worth it.
TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT by Andrez Bergen.
The blurb: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat is a noir-style comic that takes place in the dystopian future. The series offers unique art and adds to an already diverse style of content that Project-Nerd Publishing will debut with its early slate of titles. Bergen here also does the art — in his trademark collage/digitally-manipulated experimental photomontage style that’s garnered very good reviews for Trista & Holt.
What I Thought: I had nice things to say about Mr. Bergen’s Magpie a few weeks ago, but lamented that you couldn’t really get it outside of Australia. So he was quick to let me know about this new project that IS available through Project-Nerd Publishing. This is a dark, urban-dystopia story that’s about as far away from the antic Magpie in tone and approach as it’s possible to get. The story… well, I don’t know that I enjoyed it so much as admired its craft. It’s very well-done, but not exactly uplifting.
That’s not to say it isn’t good, because it is. And the art, the odd blend of photomontage and collage techniques Bergen uses for this, really knocked me out. I kept getting lost because I was stopping to admire the art just as art.
So it’s definitely worth the time I spent on it. My only real caveat, and I feel bad even bringing it up because I know the economics of small-press, is that five dollars seems a little steep for twenty pages of story and a cover, though there are a couple of text pieces and this is a little more densely constructed than your average Marvel or DC book. I’m not sure this works as a serialized comics piece anyway– it’s adapting Bergen’s novel, and I daresay it’s probably something I’d have liked better in prose, perhaps something like a large format art book, profusely illustrated; the way the late Byron Preiss did with books like The Illustrated Harlan Ellison or Delany and Chaykin’s Empire.
Again, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat is a really well-done book. But… I had mixed feelings about it. As far as this particular reviewer is concerned, well, I wish Mr. Bergen all luck with the book, but if I’m brutally honest about it, at the end of the day… if he had to choose one project to make available here, I’d have rather had more Magpie.
SUPERMAN: THE WAR YEARS, 1938-1945
BATMAN: THE WAR YEARS, 1939-1945
WONDER WOMAN: THE WAR YEARS, 1941-1945 all edited by Roy Thomas.
The blurbs: Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman! The Man of Steel is one of the most recognized characters in pop culture. Though he may not be from this planet, his dedication to protecting its people is inspiring. Superman: The War Years 1938-1945 shows how his introduction at the start of World War II lifted the spirits of a weary country and brought people the hero they so desperately needed.
…For more than 75 years, through countless comics, television, and movies, Batman has been a symbol of strength and perseverance. He was created in 1939, on the brink of World War II — a volatile time, when we needed a hero most. Who better to come to the rescue than the Caped Crusader? For the first time, Batman: The War Years 1939-1945 details The Dark Knight’s involvement in the war and his fight against some very real villains.
….Wonder Woman, warrior princess of the Amazons, is among the most famous heroes of all time. From her introduction in 1941, she has been a shining example of feminism and the strength of womankind. But what was her role during the wartime of her creation? Wonder Woman: The War Years 1941-1945 details how she used her super speed, strength, and Golden Lasso of Truth during World War II to bring peace and justice to a turbulent world.
What I Thought: I loved all three of these books. Look, if most of us are honest we’re not really Golden Age completists at heart. What I always wanted was more of a sampler, a greatest-hits collection. That’s what these are, the best of the early years of DC’s big three. World War II is the hook that the enterprise is hanging on, but really it’s just three best-of collections from those times interwoven with lots of interesting, conversational essays from Roy Thomas — a guy that was born to edit these collections. I don’t know why or how these got remaindered so quick but they are now available at deep, deep discounts off retail from most online dealers…. I’ve paid more for a DC Annual than I did for one of these, honest to God. I suppose the fact that these all went to the discount table so quickly says something about a lack of interest in history or whatever, but to be truthful I was too busy gloating over what a deal I got. My good fortune, because otherwise I’d never have been able to afford all three.
The stories themselves are a nice mix of classics and cherry-picked wartime sagas, with hardly any of the typical racist depictions of Japanese soldiers. Which is an editorial choice I approve of. Certainly there’s a place for talking about comics’ ugly history and its shameful stereotyped depiction of race back in the forties, but a collection like one of these isn’t that place.
Anyway. Worth it just for the savings. Get yourself a set before they’re all gone.
Well, that’s roughly half of the pile, but I think that’s enough for today. Back next week with the rest. See you then.