Sunday, July 12, 2009

You've Lost That Loving Feeling...

It's tough these days for a fan of the Silver/Bronze Age. Contemporary comics, while they may be prettier to look at -- the art is certainly more complex, and the color palette available boggles the mind -- don't have the overall substance that those stories of yore brought to the reader each month. While there are a few modern books I enjoy, I often find that it is those stories with sort of an "old school" feel that make me smile -- and for the prices the publishers want these days, it would take a little effort to smile! Current trends of decompressed storytelling, anatomically incorrect art, and meandering plots just leave me cold. So, what I'd like to do here is spend a few minutes recommending some books from the past 15-18 years that can bring you back to those good times.

Superman/Batman: Absolute Power. Jeph Loeb, Carlos Pacheco, and Jesus Merino

Reprinting Superman/Batman #14-18. Published 2005 and MSRP $12.99

A lot of people knock Jeph Loeb, and I would never say that modern knocking of him isn't justified -- one need only look upon the trainwreck that was Marvel's Ultimates, Volume III to see what this man wrought on Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Yuck! However, I have largely enjoyed much of his writing on Superman/Batman and this volume is perhaps my favorite in the series of trade paperbacks. It certainly doesn't hurt that the art by Carlos Pacheco is every bit as good as his masterpiece that was Avengers Forever. The back cover tells the gist of the story:

"The Earth wakes up one day to a brand-new world order -- one in which Superman and Batman rule with an iron fist. Humankind has a choice: obey or die. How did things get this way? And is anyone left who can stop them?"

Loeb pens a really fun tale. It's what back in the day would have been called an "imaginary story"; perhaps in the language of today it's an Elseworlds story. The synopsis above is the thread that runs through most of the book, but what a tour de force of DC history this book is! From the Legion of Super-Villains to Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, from the Mike Grell-era Legion to Kamandi, from Sgt. Rock to the Haunted Tank and then on to the Adult Legion, Loeb romps through the 1970's in a really fun, fast-paced story. I highly recommend this as a wonderful nostalgia trip!

The Adventures of Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty. Fabien Nicieza, Kevin Maguire, Kevin West, Steve Carr, Terry Austin.

Four-issue prestige-format series, published in 1991-92; has not been collected in tpb format.

Can anyone out there tell me, with all of the CRAP that gets collected into a trade paperback, why this story still languishes in four prestige issues?? This book is wonderful!! I can't recall very many times in the past 20 years when I have enjoyed a book this much. First of all, I love Kevin Maguire's art -- I have since the Justice League's post-Crisis days. And Maguire's style fits Fabian Nicieza's story to a T. However, Maguire moves to "storyteller" credit in issues 3 and 4 as Kevin West and Steve Carr take over the penciling. Inks throughout are by Terry Austin, who gives the book a consistent look. Much of the appearance that modern readers would associate with today's Ultimate Captain America is here -- the pronounced chain mail and the helmet most notably.

If you are at all familiar with the serialized movie adventures of 1940's action heroes like Flash Gordon, you'll really take to this tale. Each book ends with a cliffhanger, and all of the intrigue of WWII, Hitler, and of course the Red Skull are here. Great stuff, and I'd imagine that through either the back issue bin or eBay, you won't have to pay much over the $5 cover price. Check it out!!

JLA: Liberty and Justice. Paul Dini and Alex Ross.

One-Shot, Treasury-sized. DC Comics, November 2003. MSRP $9.95 at the time of publication.

The dedication of this volume, one of many books in the Paul Dini/Alex Ross collaborations that began with Superman: Peace on Earth, is to 1970's Justice League of America artist Dick Dillin. This couldn't be more appropriate, as Dini and Ross weave a tale of the JLA of that era. This is a younger JLA; Aquaman has both hands, Barry Allen is the Flash, and there is no gray on Hal Jordan's temples. As such, it's a JLA bereft of some of the post-Crisis baggage and it is better for it. This story follows the original seven, but includes enough cameos and guest appearances to satisfy any fan of Bronze Age DC Comics. The basics of the story are found on the book's back cover:

"In JLA: Liberty and Justice, the League confronts a threat from space, but a much different menace from those they have faced before. This new danger arrives on our planet in the form of an alien disease -- a cellular composition unlike anything on Earth, deadly to all who come in contact with it. The virus spreads quickly, setting off a chain reaction of global fear and panic. Soon the Justice League themselves are under suspicion -- are they ultimately responsible for this alien danger? Before long, paranoia, distrust, and an ensuing wave of hysteria threaten to rip the world apart."

Great stuff --fast-paced writing, and Alex Ross' art is never hard on the eye. Appearances by Green Arrow, Hawkman, the Atom, Black Canary, and Plastic Man (among other cameos) really make this a fun read!


Anonymous said...

The Nicieza's story is great!


Doug said...

Roger --

I couldn't agree with you more! I am not a huge Fabian Nicieza fan, but I cannot imagine that he's written stories that are more fun than this 4-part Cap/Bucky/Red Skull tale!



nick said...

I agree- the Cap story needs to be in a trade paperback. It brought me back to the Ameridroid story- around issue 220ish - which also showed Cap being the star in the old movie serial because the actual star was shot.
Overall- comics these days have good pictures- but give me a story from the late 70's -early 80's when the stories were cool and I'd be much happier- been reading since the 70's-

Chris PV said...

I've had the last issue of the Cap storyline in my collection for ten years, and finally found the first three. It's just fantastic.

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