The concept behind "Strange Tales" -- independent creators being given free rein to do stories involving corporate-owned characters -- isn't a new one, but it's a good one. The first issue of this three-issue mini contains over a dozen different features. There's a little bit of something for everyone. Stories range from fun, silly little romps through some part of the Marvel universe to trippy stories to one-off gags. The key word is "fun" and the book is packed with it.
The most talked about inclusion in "Strange Tales" is Peter Bagge's "The Incorrigible Hulk," a planned one-shot from years ago that was shelved, seemingly forever, but has been divided into three parts with one part appearing in each issue of this series. The introductory part is both odd and entertaining, as Bruce Banner encounters his match in a female scientist, while the Hulk ties one off and gets a tattoo. To match this, James Kochalka has a wonderful Hulk story where he fights some multi-colored clones that can't quite measure up.
Paul Pope's Inhumans story spotlights Lockjaw, revealing that he may just be the most powerful Inhuman in the Royal Family as the group takes on numerous threats in quick succession. It's a light story that is exactly the sort that you want in anthology like this, full of energy, conveying a sense that the artist is enjoying himself immensely. Everything in this book gets that idea across and that makes the book that much more fun to read. There is no sense of doing it for the money or to advance a career - everyone is doing it for the sheer enjoyment.
One of the first stories previewed, Dash Shaw's Dr. Strange story, is just as entertaining as the previews promised. He channels that Steve Ditko weirdness and turns the volume up to 11, creating four pages of the best Dr. Strange comics I've ever seen. Jason does a very minimalist, simple Spider-Man story about Peter wanting to get into a bar fight because Flash did, and it plays out so perfectly.
My favorite story here, though, is Nick Bertozzi's "...And Call My Lover MODOK!" a delightful four-page story that spans decades in the life of MODOK, one page per decade as he struggles to make advancements in his quest to rule the world or kill everyone or whatever it is that MODOK wants, and balance that with his girlfriend's wants. It's simple, poignant, and very funny.
There's so much quality in "Strange Tales" #1 that there's too much to discuss in a review like this. Trust me when I say that there is something in this comic that will please everyone, but the five dollar price tag may turn some off, but, for over a dozen features spread over 47 pages, it's well worth it.