Sunday, May 13, 2012

Book review: Thing/Liberty Legion Hardcover

Nothing like a good review after a rambling rant, is there? And here we go with one of the most unlikely reprint volumes I've ever seen. The Thing: Liberty Legion is part of the new Marvel Premiere hardcover series, in which Marvel Comics' been trying to squeeze more moolah out of readers by reprinting stories they've already reprinted several times. And they got me to do it with this particular book.

While the stories contained in this book are some of the most unlikely that I thought I'd ever see reprinted, they're also some of my favorites. One of my Top Five comic book characters of all time (and for the record, the top five, in order are the original Vigilante, the Thing, the Flash, Cliff Steele and the Shade) along with some of Marvel's golden age greats. Nope, no way I'd want to buy that. Not.

I believe I've mentioned before that Marvel Comics' golden age stable of characters was not the best, and rarely rose to the level of DC Comics' oeuvre of the time. And both were outshone by most of Quality Comics' and Lev Gleason Publications' books of the time. But as usual, Roy Thomas used his encyclopedia knowledge of the golden age and his yen for reviving old characters to great effect in the tales in this book.

The book begins with the very first adventure of the Liberty Legion, which encompassed The Invaders #5-6 and Marvel Premiere #29-30. The Red Skull captures the Invaders (Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch and Toro) and brainwashes the heroes into fighting for the Axis Powers. The Skull doesn't think enough of Cap's sidekick Bucky to even bring him along. Tired of being marginalized as the helpless kid sidekick, Bucky breaks into a radio broadcast and brings together several other heroes: The Patriot, Red Raven, Miss America, the unfortunately-named Whizzer, the Thin Man, the Blue Diamond and the recalcitrant Jack Frost. With this group of second-stringers, Bucky frees the Invaders from the mind control and the Liberty Legion is formed to fight threats on the wartime homefront.

The next tale is a three-parter that ran in Fantastic Four Annual #11, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1 and Marvel Two-in-One #20. The story was reprinted in a couple of Marvel Essentials volumes, but this is the first time (to my knowledge) that it was reprinted in full-color. The Fantastic Four go back in time to repair the damage caused when a vibranium cylinder accidentally is sent back to World War II, which helped the Nazis win the war. They meet up with the Invaders and recover half the cylinder. The enigmatic Watcher's appearance tells Ben Grimm that all is still not well, so he takes a trip back himself, meeting up with the Liberty Legion and various Nazi-themed super-villains.

This particular tale takes place during that brief story cycle in 1976-1977 when Ben Grimm had lost his super-powers and was forced to wear an exo-skeleton that looked exactly like his old form as the Thing.

There's some excellent artwork in this volume, provided by Frank Robbins, John and Sal Buscema and the incredibly underrated Don Heck. Roy Thomas scripted the entire shebang with a lot of great characterization and attention to detail that he's been known for throughout Marvel's silver age.

It is definitely not for everyone, but I think most folks would find The Thing: Liberty Legion to be a fun read. The excellent full-color reproduction is a definite plus as well. I find it to be a great addition to my graphic novel library.


by Rich Meyer

If you name a comic book character from the last 70 years, you'll probably find a question about them - from Thor and the X-Men, to Superman and Batman, to Little Lulu and the Pink Panther. There are questions about almost every genre of comic book - superhero, funny animal, teen, horror, war, humor. 

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