Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Marvel Comics Volume 1

We're going to go quite a ways back in time today, to the Golden Age of Comics and the very beginnings of the company that would become known as Marvel Comics. No, we're not going to assassinate Stan Lee. At least not today. We're going to look at the very first Marvel Comics' series, which oddly enough was called Marvel Comics, which has been reprinted in Marvel's Marvel Masterworks hardcover series.

The first volume of the Marvel Masterworks Golden Age Marvel Comics series features the pivotal Marvel Comics #1 and Marvel Mystery Comics #2-4. This collection marks the first time all four of those somewhat pivotal issues have been reprinted. Marvel Comics #1 marked the first appearance of the original Human Torch, the second appearance of the Sub-Mariner (who's first appearance was in a mostly uncirculated movie promo comic), as well as Marvel's first caped hero, the original Angel.

If you are not a fan of Golden Age comics, the artwork will probably a big shock to you, as it is very primitive. Until Joe Simon and Jack Kirby came along the next year with Captain America, Marvel Comics, which was then known as Timely Publications, was not the bastion of quality comics as it would later be known as in the sixties. Carl Burgos and Paul Gustavson were adequate artists for the times, but didn't have a real style to their story telling. Bill Everett, the creator of the Sub-Mariner, did have a distinct style but the reproduction back then (and in this volume) made it hard for it to stand out.

That's the big problem with this volume: The same care and diligence that DC Comics used on their high-end reprint line, the DC Archives, is not apparent here. The art in every issue reprinted is blotchy and hard to see; there doesn't seem to have been a uniform attempt to find the best source material, and that source material wasn't handled properly in any event. The artwork on the Sub-Mariner feature in issue #1 is reproduced so darkly and murkily as to be nearly illegible. I personally managed to find my copy of this volume on the cheap (under $15), but if I had paid the full $49.99 cover price, I think I would have felt pretty cheated.

Beyond the production issues, the volume does reprint four comics and some original characters that really haven't had a proper reprinting ever before. The Angel is your standard caped crime-fighter of the Batman vein, though he ran around without wearing a mask or cowl. Also featured were a stereotypical western hero, the Masked Raider, an aviator known as American Ace, and the first four stories of Ka-Zar the Great, which was the basis for Marvel's jungle hero of the early 1970s. The robot Elektro also makes his first appearance in this comic, though after a very short stint he wouldn't be seen again until the publication of The Twelve back in 2007.

I'm not rushing out to search for any of the other volumes in this series quite yet. Unless I can get one from a library to see if the reproduction values have improved, I think Marvel Masterworks Golden Age Marvel Comics Volume 1 will hold a proper but probably dusty spot on my bookshelf.


by Rich Meyer

The second volume of The Trivia Quiz Book series features another 301 questions and answers about a variety of topics: Sports, books, music, commercials, geography, history, advertising and many more. 
This is an excellent trivial foray for all, from the guy who just fell off the turnip truck or the seasoned veteran who's been spouting off answers for decades.

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