Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book review: Marvel Masterworks: Iron Fist Volume 1

Well, this is another kinda "accidental" purchase, as in I forgot I bid on the dang thing on eBay one late night. Color me surprised when I saw the notice saying I won something. But like yesterday's Young Marvelman Classic situation, this was a nice oversight.

Iron Fist was my introduction to to the world of martial arts, in the sense I had never read a martial arts comic (like Master of Kung Fu) or seen a chop-socky flick (like Master of the Flying Guillotine) before I picked up my copy of Marvel Premiere #15 at Gene's Superette in Amherst, Wisconsin. Even then I could tell the story had a golden age feel, but I hadn't known about Amazing Man back then.  I really enjoyed that first issue, but the problem I had was that I never got to read the rest of the origin story.

Back then, in Wisconsin, comics and magazines were distributed via this orange-yellow cube truck that hit the various grocery stores and drugstores during the week. You never knew what was going to turn up in this week's selection, and if you weren't there on a Thursday, you might never know. The next time I saw Iron Fist was in an issue of Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man (an issue that I think really should have been in the collection) and then in the first issue of his own comic, fighting Iron Man. I found that one nearly a year later at Hal's Red Owl in nearby Stevens Point. I hadn't seen hide nor hair of the Marvel Premiere title in that period. That was always the problem of being a comic book fan living in the boonies.

Anyway, this book finally allowed me to read all those missing issues. The stories hold up over the decades that have passed. The artwork is great, by such stalwarts as Gil Kane, Dick Giordano, Pat Broderick, Larry Hama, and of course, John Byrne. Byrne and Chris Claremont did their first work together in this title, just prior to their innovative run on Uncanny X-Men.

The series really shows how good comics in the seventies could be, with strong characters and concepts. The only thing I noticed is that, like a lot of the lower-tier Marvel titles, it had a virtual carousel of writers for that Marvel Premiere outing. The series luckily kept the consistency of the first few issues under Roy Thomas' watch for the entire run.

This really wasn't a series that I would've thought would get a Marvel Masterworks treatment. I kind of guess that the allure of the early Claremont/Byrne collaboration was enough to push it to the forefront. Personally, I hope they also consider giving Luke Cage, Hero for Hire/Power Man the requisite fancification; I like the two Essentials books, but sweet Christmas, Luke deserves the full-color shebang, too.

Marvel Masterworks: Iron Fist Volume 1 is a good read and a nice look back at when Marvel was really beginning to fire on all cylinders. Any Marvel fan might want to give it a go.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book review: Young Marvelman Classic Volume 1

This was not a book I was thinking I'd read. Sure, I bought it off Amazon, but I had tried to buy MARVELMAN CLASSICS vol. 1, and got sent this instead. Well, at least it's still Mick Anglo's take on the Marvel Family, post-DC copyright lawsuit win. (By the way, the seller, FunFoodandFashion on Amazon, made everything right, and will be getting my return business.)

The art and the stories in this hardcover are actually pretty good. The British comic book always seemed a tad different than their US counterpart to me. I'm thinking because they always seemed to come out every week rather than every month like we're used to - they always seemed a little hurried. Up until the sixties, they had a definite golden age minimalism about them. If you're looking at the cover and expecting that kind of artwork on the inside, I'd go buy some Rob Liefeld if I were you. Always better to be disappointed by something you know is gonna suck beforehand.

The stories in this book are no hokier than C.C. Beck's Captain Marvel tales were: Simple, straight-forward, a lot of action, and a bit of pleasant goofiness. One thing I found odd is that the stories appear to be set in a vaguely US city rather than a British one. Maybe Mick Anglo was using ideas that were in the final Marvel Family stories and kept that aspect? I don't know, and I suppose it doesn't really matter. They're solid comic book stories.

I think of the three artists in represented in this book, George Parlett has the style I like best - very stark, with fine detail. It reminds me of the comic book art in the A-Ha video "Take on Me" for some reason. The other two artists, James Bleach and Frank Daniels, aren't quite as refined, but all are very enjoyable to look at.

This book is ALL black and white on newsprint stock, with the exception of a full color section at the end that features the original covers on glossy paper. If you like comic books in general, I don't think that's going to bother you too much, if it wasn't for the price tag. I wouldn't pay the $35 cover price for these though; there are plenty on Amazon and eBay for considerably less.

This was an unexpected jaunt into an area of comic books I'm a little unfamiliar with, so I'll have to say I enjoyed Young Marvelman Classics Vol. 1. I'll be looking out for inexpensive copies of the rest of the series, and the rest of the Marvelman reprints.