The Midnight Comic Club Episode 10 – A Sinister Six Pack

Welcome to the tenth meeting of The Midnight Comic Club! After the extensive look at Frankenstein over the past three episodes (and a week off due to illness), we’re back with a new segment called The Sinister Sixpack wherein I grab a half dozen horror comics I’ve never read before and see how that goes.

Most of today’s entries happen to not be available in digital formats. However, if you’re interested in checking them out, I’ve provided the MyComicShop links here: Tomb Of Darkness #18, Night Force #1, Marvel Chillers #2, Secret Origins #15, Unexpected #166 and Vault Of Evil #7.

As I mentioned in the episode, the original Night Force series has been collected into a very handsome volume that I’m hoping to check out in the near future. For a less expensive taste, you could also try out the DC Comics Presents Night Force 100-Page Spectacular digitally which collects the first four installments. Finally, the Secret Origins issue featuring Deadman and Spectre can also be purchased on Comixology!

If you’re curious to read my series of Jack Kirby-related monster posts, you can check out the Unleash The Beasts archives on Marvel.com here.

I had it in my notes, but totally forgot to say that Modred would have made a delightful Amicus or Hammer horror feature in the 70s!

The Midnight Comic Club Episode 8 – Frankenstein at Marvel & DC

As we come together for the eighth meeting of the Midnight Comic Club, we celebrate the November 32, 1931 release of James Whale’s Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff by looking at how Marvel and DC have integrated the character into their universes!

Starting with Marvel, check out Menace #7, X-Men #40 and the fantastic Monster Of Frankenstein trade paperback if you’d like to learn more.  Scroll on down for some images of those books as well as plenty of others mentioned in the episode. I also mentioned the Avengers: Legion Of The Unliving trade which you can check out here.

I should probably link to the episode, so here it is!

Here’s a few more of the Marvel books I mentioned: Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, Howling Commandos Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fear Itself: Deadpool/Fearsome Four and Punisher: Frankencastle.

Moving on to DC, these are some of the books I mentioned: Showcase Presents Superman Volume 2, The Demon By Jack Kirby, Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Volume 2, The Creature Commandos, Seven Soldiers Of Victory Volume 2 (though you should also check out Volume 1 as well), Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1 and 2 and Elseworlds: Batman Volume 1.

DC Trade Post: Sensation Comics Volume 1, Mad Love & A Few Others

I found myself with another pile of trades from the library recently and figured I’d write about all four of them. Two of the experiences were great, the others? Not so much. Let’s start with the good!

sensation comics vol 1I’m a big proponent of anthologies in comics. At their best, they’re a great way to both test new talent and also give those with a lot more experience the chance to write or draw a character they don’t otherwise get to spend much time with. Sensation Comics Volume 1 does both and to great effect. This is one of DC’s digital-first books that allows creators to just go wild telling whatever kind of Wonder Woman story they want to from any of her many eras. It was nice to see the pre-New 52 costume so many times for this fan of that bygone era! Continue reading DC Trade Post: Sensation Comics Volume 1, Mad Love & A Few Others

Team Up Trade Post: Superman, Batman, Galactus & Darkseid

superman dark knight over metropolisSuperman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern & Jerry Ordway, drawn by Art Adams, Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod & Ordway
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Action Comics #653-654, Adventures of Superman #466-467 & Superman #44

While Hal Jordan might not have been my early bread and butter as a comic reader, Superman and Batman definitely were. I love both heroes, so seeing them team-up in this interesting period (1990) where they didn’t really trust each other and definitely weren’t friends was a trip, especially because I came around later and saw them team up in JLA.

The first comic in this series is a classic that brings both heroes together. It’s written by John Byrne with art by the crazy-awesome Art Adams, but I’ve read it a handful of times and the surprise is a bit gone so I skipped it (well, I flipped through it cause, daaaaaag, it’s pretty). The rest of the book builds off of the title three part story, but kicks off two issues before that to add context. Part of that context involves seeing the origin of Hank Hall, the man who would become Cyborg Superman, one of the most important characters of my childhood!

The actual “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” story had been built up to for a while in the Superman comics because a woman who worked for Lex Luthor stole his Kryponite ring and also figured out who Superman truly was (but Lex didn’t believe her and ruined her life). She gets murdered, the ring gets stolen and winds up in Gotham where Batman gets clued into it. The work the case in and out of costume and eventually, Superman entrusts Batman with the Kryptonite ring (another iconic moment that I always heard about when I started reading a few years later, but didn’t actually read until this point).

This book is steeped pretty heavily in the world of Superman books of this era, much of which is covered in the Man Of Steel trades (which I, of course, adore). I don’t know how easy it would be for a new reader to just jump right in and read these issues, BUT I’m guessing that the dynamic between Batman and Superman in this comic is a lot closer to what’s going on in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice than the Super Friends we later came to know and love.

darkseid vs galactus the hunger Darkseid Vs. Galactus: The Hunger (DC & Marvel)
Written & drawn by John Byrne

Of the three books in this post, Darkseid vs Galactus: The Hunger is actually the one I read as a kid. The mid 90s were actually a really great time to see characters from Marvel and DC crossover, first with the DC Vs Marvel series and then the All Access books and one-offs like this one. At the time, I knew the basics of Galactus and the Fantastic Four and probably knew a bit about Darkseid, Apokolips and the New Gods, but zero clue that these were all Jack Kirby creations coming together.

Though over-written in the grand tradition of both Kirby and Byrne, this super-fun book finds the World Devourer trying to turn Apokolips into his latest snack thanks to Silver Surfer discovering the world of awfulness and sorrow.

There’s a twist at the end of this book that blew me away as a kid and stuck with me ever since. In fact, it was the ONLY thing I remembered about this book that I first read 21 years ago. Again, it’s both reflective of Kirby’s work as well as Byrne’s writing of the mid 90s, so I’m not sure how accessible it is, but if you have even the remotest interest in Kirby’s worlds and always wondered what would happen if they collided, track this book down!

Jack Kirby Trade Post: In The Days Of The Mob

in the days of the mob Jack Kirby: In The Days Of The Mob (DC)
Written & drawn by Jack Kirby
Collects In The Days Of The Mob #1 & material for #2

I was a few weeks behind in celebrating Jack Kirby’s birthday, but I still got a solid dose of The King’s amazing work in recently called In The Days Of The Mob.

Back when Kirby first made the jump from Marvel to DC, one of the first assignments he got at the Distinguished Competition was actually a magazine called In The Days Of the Mob which had a very low print run and only last a single issue. Doesn’t sound like the most robust collection, right? Well, Kirby historians got together to include cleaned up versions of the published issue as well as the stories he created for the second issue that had never been seen before! The first issue, which has an almost sepia look to it features several one-offs while the black-and-white second has more interconnected characters.

I went in to this book completely blind aside from the fact that it was a crime book created by the man who would go on to create other books I’ve developed a love for in recent years like his Fourth World stuff, The Losers, OMAC The Demon and more. To give a little bit more context, the comic actually takes the storytelling style I associate more with EC or Warren horror stuff where there’s a group of stories being told by one particular narrator. In this case, it’s Warden Fry (or Frye, depending on which issue you’re looking at) who basically watches over Hell, which is a big jail. This gives Kirby the ability to play with awesome brimstone imagery before going into the more real world-based recountings of mobster stories from the 30s featuring real life figure like Ma Barker and Al Capone. in the days of the mob Jack Kirby spread

Unlike a lot of the other Kirby books I mentioned above, I fell in love with the art and words at the same time. I thought this fantastical framework was such a clever way of getting into these stories and the art, which you can see above, is just wonderful.  While I never stopped loving the artwork, I will say that the stories got a little boring by the end of the second issue. A lot of this is well-trod territory by now which takes some of the wind out of the sails, but you really can’t go wrong looking at Jack Kirby drawing more graphic crime comics than he’d ever done before. I will say that, if you want a Ma Barker story, you’re much better off reading the one in this than watching the awful Bloody Mama.

As you might expect, I’ll be holding on to this one as part of my growing Jack Kirby library if for no other reason than to look at those gorgeous panels and pages.

Digital Trade Post: Marvel Masterworks Thor Vol. 1

marvel masterworks  thor 1 Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor, Vol. 1 (Marvel)
Written by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber, drawn by Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Al Hartley & Joe Sinnott
Collects Journey Into Mystery #83-90

I’ve had a Comixology account for a few years now, but I didn’t do much with it until this year. Part of that has to do with the fact that I started using my (now broken) Kindle Fire a lot more and partly because I discovered they do a lot of great sales. One such sale offered the very first Thor stories collected in the Marvel Masterworks format for something like $5.

Thor’s not a characters I have a ton of experience with and that’s exactly why I went with his origins. I’ve found that, just by being a longtime comic fan — 22 years now — I have seen a lot of the big superhero origins over and over again. Plus, many of the stories that followed were referenced and pulled from in later years which means that actually going back to the source material can be a little boring because you know what’s happening almost beat for beat.

That was not the case with the first Thor Masterworks, thankfully. Like I said, I’m not overly familiar with the character’s many years of comics that came after his introduction in 1962. I do have a stack of Thor comics from the 70s and 80s that I tried reading through, but got really sick of what felt like an inevitable reveal that Loki was behind whatever troubles his half brother were going through at the time. Most of my experience with the character comes from his appearances in Avengers.

Anyway, these issues are actually pretty fun because I had very little idea what was going to happen in them. Sure, they’re quintessentially Silver Age-y and Loki pops up twice, but that’s to be expected. Thor also throws down with stony aliens (one of which is Korg from Planet Hulk!), travels through time, fights mobsters and topples despotic dictators.

I was surprised by several elements of the Thor mythology found in these early days. First off, when Don Blake taps the walking stick he only seems to turn into Thor physically. Sure, in that form he has more knowledge of Asgard and whatnot, but he never seemed like a different person, which is how I understood this relationship previously. I also thought it was charming how specific the rules are for Thor’s abilities. If he’s separated from Mjolnir for more than 60 seconds, he turns back into Don. There is also a very specific correlation between how many times the hammer taps the ground and what it can do. One turns him back into Blake, two creates a storm, three  stops the storm and four makes lightning.

The complete lack of other Marvel superheroes was also surprising. One of the things you always hear about this era of Marvel comics is how connected they are, but, if memory serves, this book had none of that. Finally, I was surprised with how big of a jerk Jane Foster is. Whenever she’s on the page, she’s either pining for Thor or calling her boss, Don Blake lame. Ouch.

One thing I was specifically excited about when it came to this book was seeing Jack Kirby draw some of the weird and wild elements of this book, especially after enjoying his DC work like the Fourth World books, The Demon, The Losers and OMAC. But, this is a very different Kirby. You can see what he would grow into, but these aren’t the big, bold figures you might be expecting if you’re going in reverse chronological order like I am. Also, you can really tell when someone else is pencilling. That last issue in the collection by Al Hartley looks pretty bad.

As far as digital reading experiences, I’ve got to say that this one was pretty great. For one thing, these Masterworks volumes are recolored, so they look great on a digital screen. Also, thanks to the fairly standard rectangular pane;s of these issues, they are easy to read when going through panel mode even on a phone, which is how I read most of this book. I really started reading this book when my son was in the NICU after being born almost two months early and then next to my little girl while she fell asleep so it was basically the perfect reading experience given those circumstances: fan, light stories that helped build a shared fictional universe I’m quite fond of. My only complaint? It’s a much bigger pain trying to find a page in digital format than it is just by flipping through. Laying down those four Mjolnir rules was not the funnest thing in the world.

Revisiting The Incredibles (2004)

the incredibles poster My folks came in for a visit this weekend and after watching a few of Lu’s favorite movies, my dad put on Pixar’s The Incredibles. After the difficulty I’ve had showing my daughter Wall-E and Cars, I thought this might be a lost cause, but she was into it, so we wound up watching the whole, nearly two hour movie. I’d seen this flick maybe once before when it came out in 2004 and have fond memories of playing the video game with my wife when we were newlyweds, but aside from that, only remembered the basics: after being retired by the government, a superhero comes out of retirement to face an evil guy on an island. He can’t handle it on his own, so his superpowered wife and kids come to help save the day.

The first thing to hit me while watching this movie is how freaking dark it is. The script gets into some really heavy areas like Mr. Incredible getting sued by a guy he saved who was trying to commit suicide. The deaths of dozens of other heroes at the hands of the movie’s villain as a way of testing his killer robot also get mentioned several times. These deaths or near-deaths might not hit as hard as Nemo’s mom in Finding Nemo or Carl’s wife in Up, but there are a heckuva lot more of them.

There’s also Elastigirl/Helen’s fear that her husband Mr. Incredible/Bob is cheating on her, something their kids, at least older daughter Violet, pick up on. As it turns out, Bob’s been playing hero for what he thinks is a super secret branch of the government trying to build some kind of powerful attack robot, but there’s definitely some romantic tension between him and go-between Mirage. Anyway, as it turns out, Mr. Incredible’s actually just one of a number of heroes brought in by the villain Syndrome to test his killer robots against. Each hero either defeats the robot, offering more data to build a better one, or gets killed in the process. When he’s got it right where he wants it, Syndrome wants to release it on a big city and then swoop in to save it, using a remote to shut it down and look like a hero.

All in all it’s a well put together film with strong family ties and various characters offering emotional relationships to form with the audience. You might not be the middle aged person wanting to relive the glory days, but maybe you’re the repressed youngster who wants to let lose or the teenager who wants to figure out the world or the one trying to hold the family together. Add in healthy doses of superhero fun — from the look at Edna’s costume-testing system to seeing each Incredible use their powers — and there’s a lot to love about this movie. As a long time James Bond fan, I also appreciated the many Bond villain nods that came from seeing Syndrome’s various villainous lairs.

And yet, I don’t know if I love The Incredibles. After watching with my wife and parents, they were totally into it and I was the one voice of dissent, noting the similarities to existing comic book teams, characters and stories. It was a silly discussion to kick off with non-comic fans because I couldn’t possibly make them understand where I’m coming from without laying down lots of evidence that they probably wouldn’t care about anyway. The best I could do was saying to my dad, “What would you think if another band put together a great pop record that actually borrowed a lot of hooks from The Beatles.” It’s not the best analogy and I’m probably confusing terminology, but it works to an extent.

The main problem I have with the film comes from the power sets and how they relate to the Fantastic Four. Sure, Mr. Incredible isn’t rocky, but otherwise he’s The Thing. They also swapped out Human Torch for the Flash, but the main aspect that bothers me comes with Violet’s powers. Sure, it makes sense that the shy teenager can turn invisible, but why does she also have force field powers? Those aren’t organically linked abilities, but were put together for the character Sue Storm by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s not like having super speed and the ability to vibrate through things because you can shake your molecules. Those both come from the ability to move quickly. Invisibility and force field projection aren’t related making Violet’s powers a direct lift from Invisible Woman/Girl.

To a lesser extent, you’ve also got elements of Watchmen in there as well with the government outlawing superheroes, a theme that had been played with throughout comic book history. I guess what bums me out about The Incredibles is that it could have been more original. Writer/director Brad Bird could have done a lot more to make a completely new story, but by compounding various elements that comic book fans are already familiar with, it kind of bogs things down. Sure, I’d compare any original superhero fiction to my internal library of comic knowledge, but this one hit off so many notes from things I’ve read and seen before that it can somehow overshadow the general feeling of fun that came from the film.

Incredibles poster 2At the moment, I’m feeling more positive about the movie. Seeing Mrs. Incredible use her stretch-y powers on screen was a real treat, the kind of thing I haven’t seen so much done with since the old school Plastic Man cartoon. I also really enjoyed how the Incredibles used their powers together. There’s a more seamless nature to the way husband and wife play off of one another’s abilities — which not only refers to their past as heroes, but also the bonds that form through marriage — while the kids need a little more coaching as they learn how to use their own abilities to stay alive. Combining powers has always been a favorite aspect of team comic books for me, so I enjoyed scenes where Mrs. Incredible turned into a boat and Dash kicked them towards shore at super speed or Violet made a ball and Dash ran them around hamster-style.

If I could just forget about all the comics I’ve read, I’d be fully in love with The Incredibles. Since that’s not happening without a head injury at this point, I guess I’ll remain on the fence with this one.

Rejuvenation Trade Post: Eternals & Flash Rebirth

I was looking through unpublished blog posts and realized I had a nearly complete review of Neil Gaiman’s Eternals book and Geoff Johns’ Flash: Rebirth. I cleaned some things up and updated a few references, but otherwise this review from January 2012 was in pretty good shape.

Eternals (Marvel)
Written by Neil Gaiman, drawn by John Romita Jr.
Collects Eternals #1-7

Man, expectations can be a real bummer. If you had handed me this Eternals book and not told me who wrote it, I think I might have maybe walked away liking it a bit more than I did, but knowing that one of my all time, all around favorite writers wrote this story leaves me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. On the other hand, the artist, John Romita Jr. is not one that I tend to like and yet I thought he killed it in these issues.

Okay, to get into a little more detail, these seven issues tell the story of a group of god-like beings called the Eternals who were planted on Earth by even more godlike beings the Celestials to make sure Earth was still cool when they come back later. They’re basically super powered house sitters, but ones that were originally created by Jack Kirby  five years after his New Gods books had been cancelled by DC, hence the HUGE similarities). Anyway, for some reason, the Eternals don’t remember they’re Eternals and are just living regular human lives. And…that’s about it. Yes, there’s also some stuff about trying to stop a sleeping Celestial from waking up, but the majority of these issues involves the speedster of the group, Mercury, living life as–I shit you not–Mark Curry. I guess that’s not as bad as Ike Harris, better known as Ikaris. Yeah, that happened.

The problem with this story is that I just don’t care about anyone in it. Am I supposed to care about Curry? If so, why? Because he’s a med student? Yeah, that sucks I guess, but do I need to watch him bumble around with his identity for five out of seven issues? No, not really. It’s funny, I just read somewhere that this series was originally planned as six issues, but was bumped up to seven to fit the action. I do not see that in the finished product. It seems to me like things could have been sped up to make them more interesting. Part of the reason I wound up not being invested is because I knew that these people living normal lives really were big time super powered beings. There’s nothing to lose. You’re going to regain your memories and go live your awesome life where you don’t really have to worry about anything and get to fight monsters or whatever. That’s WAY better than slaving away in a hospital or BSing your way through a party planning business you don’t really know anything about, right?

But, like I said, this is my favorite JRJR art. That boxy, Frank Miller-esque style he seems to like so much just doesn’t work for me. I remember pages of World War Hulk with Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor where it looked like his armor was made out of one of those ugly metal desks. I also couldn’t get into the boxy Iron Man he drew in his issue of Captain America: Fallen Son. But, for whatever reason, his Iron Man looks rad to me in this book as do the rest of the characters. Maybe the fact that these guys were created by the king of boxy characters–and the King of comics all around, really–put me in a different mindset, or maybe he was doing something else with his character design and placement at the time, but I really liked what he was laying down on the pages. I just wish I cared more about what was going on.

Flash Rebirth (DC Comics)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ethan Van Sciver
Collects Flash Rebirth #1-6

This was another reading experience where my expectations came into play heavily but from a different angle. I had read most or all of Flash: Rebirth in single issue form, but that was over a pretty large expanse of time either because of my lackadaisical reading patterns or the book’s lateness (I’m fairly certain these six issues didn’t all come out consecutively, but honestly don’t remember for sure). I remembered a few plot points from the first reading but was left with memories of confusion for the most part. Though a lot of that got cleared up this time around, it does feel like the life of Barry Allen was made a lot more confusing than it needed to be.

Allow me to explain. This book–much like Green Lantern: Rebirth–is intended to explain the return of a Silver Age Justice Leaguer, this time Barry Allen, the Flash who gave his life to save the lives of everyone in the universe back in Crisis On Infinite Earths. Considering my age — Barry died in the real world when I was two — I have never cared about Barry Allen. Wally West was my Flash and I’ve been around long enough to remember his more hound-dog ways in Justice League Europe and then the awesome runs by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns that really fleshed him and his supporting cast out as characters. So, when Barry came back in Final Crisis, I really didn’t care that much. What’s so special about this character who was only ever interesting when he died? Well, not much, but one of the cool things about this book is that it actually asks that very question through the voice of the villain Professor Zoom. Even with all the continuity tampering that goes on (Zoom killed Barry’s mom when he was a kid which is now part of his childhood) and power explanation (Barry actually creates the Speed Force by running), the real point of the story is for Barry to prove his worth to the reader. Whether that succeeds or fails depends on the reader and whether they can make it through the aforementioned confusion zones (which definitely distracted me from the point the first time I read the story).

I think it does a good job of showing the specific way in which Barry Allen can and should work in the DCU: while Wally is the more freewheeling guy (even as a dad), Barry is the straight-laced cop who spends his non-tights days trying to solve cold cases. Was that actually followed through on with the comics that followed? No idea. Was Wally given equal footing? I don’t believe so. Does any of this matter anymore considering the New 52? No, probably not.

The basic question every time I finish a trade is whether I’ll keep it or put it up for trade on my Sequential Swap page. I’ll be keeping this one, at least for now. I have an idea to get my hands on Geoff Johns’ run of Flash which I only read bits and pieces of and I think this might make for an interesting end cap to that collection if I do decide to keep it. I also love the art. Van Sciver’s level detail is amazing and gets me excited to read comics, even ones with big text blocks or huge dialog balloons explaining things like the Speed Force. Finally, this story reminds me of the ones that I occasionally read and loved from the Waid’s run like Terminal Velocity that brought a bunch of different speedsters together. I always liked the legacy/family aspect of the Flash with Wally, Jay, Impulse, Jesse Quick, Max Mercury and even Barry’s ghost coming together to pitch in when necessary. This story not only did that but also brought Max back from the Speed Force, so I dig it.

Casting Internets

My buddy Brett White offered an excellent companion piece to his CBR piece about why Orson Scott Card shouldn’t be writing Superman about the real comics community. He’s right and it’s important to remember that the negative side of the internet is most often the very vocal minority.

Here’s another piece about the OSC/DC debacle from The Carnival Of The Random that explains why this is not a freedom of speech or legal issue, but a moral one.

We need more movies that utilize hyper details models instead of bad CGI. These Star Wars folks know where it’s at.

I’ve been a fan of Ashton Kutcher’s since That 70s Show, but haven’t followed him much since the series ended. It was fun catching up in this lengthy Tom Chiarella article on Esquire.

So many of Script’s 7 Deadly Dialogue Sins drive me bonkers. Worth a read for all writers.

hackers

Hackers changed my brain when it came to computers. Chris Sims’ Wired piece “What We Supposedly Learned About Technology From 1995’s Hackers” is hilarious and dead on. I can’t wait for ones about The Net and Sneakers. Damn, now I want to watch Hackers and Sneakers again…

I’m a huge fan of Todd Philips’ Old School starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, so I’m pretty jazzed for their upcoming movie The Internship.

Greg Pak writes very enjoyable comics, so I’m curious to see what his first DC work Superman/Batman with Jae Lee will be like. (via USA Today)

I would very much like to see a Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake show. Anyone want to buy me tickets to the show at Yankee Stadium? (via Rolling Stone)

kirby argo

I’m gonna end with the Jack Kirby artwork that’s tied to Argo as seen on Buzzfeed. Hope that film winds up on Netflix Instant soon.

Jack Kirby Trade Post: Silver Star & The Demon

silver star jack kirbySilver Star (Pacific Comics/Image Comics)
Written & drawn by Jack Kirby
Collects Silver Star #1-6

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me tweet about a stack of books I want to finally finish in this new year. Some I started in the waning months of 2012 while others, like the two reviewed in this post, have been in the works for longer. I actually got my first copy of Image’s reprinting of Jack Kirby’s Pacific Comics miniseries Silver Star while working at Wizard. I had yet to really discover Kirby’s genius at that point and wound up swapping it or passing it along to someone else. After reading the Fourth World stuff, though, I was converted. In a strange bit of timing, I actually finalized a swap for the volume on January 19th, 2011 and finished reading it on that same day in 2013. Weird, right?

Speaking of weird, that word perfectly describes Silver Star. Man, this is one wacky book. The basic plot, as much as there is one directly expressed in the story, is that a doctor introduced his “genetic package” to some pregnant women (this is not a euphemism, by the way) who eventually had babies referred to as Homo-Geneticus, essentially super humans. Silver Star, the lead, discovered his abilities while fighting in Vietnam (called Viet Nam throughout the story). He can basically control atoms and also traverse various dimensions or something. Some of the H-Gs have the same powers while others utilize them to be super strong, grow to immense sizes or become indestructible. Darius Drumm, the bad guy, has the same basic abilities as Star, but, well he’s bad, the product of a crazy abusive father who was a quasi-religious leader.

The reason it took me two years and several attempts to read this book from front to back, though, is because it’s kind of a mess. Not on the art side of things, of course, Kirby still kills it drawing everything from rocks that turn into dragons and scenes from Viet Nam to gigantic carousels and a group of new costumes. (I will say that I prefer the issues inked and lettered by Mike Royer over the latter ones by D. Bruce Berry who just doesn’t match the thick lines or deep blacks I associate with Kirby’s artwork.) The problem is how much the story jumps around. Star and his fellow H-Gs can teleport, which seems like as much of a power as a way to rush the story along. It’s not uncommon to see the focus characters and setting switch from one panel in the middle of the page to the next. At its base, the story is just plain old hard to follow.

At the end of the day, Silver Star just doesn’t feel like a complete story and I’m guessing that’s because it was originally a screenplay. The full treatment and additional materials are actually reprinted in the back of this collection, though I haven’t made time to read more than the intro just yet. Reading Silver Star is kind of like talking to someone whose been having the conversation with you in their head for about 30 longer than its been going on in real life. They’re going on and on like you’ve got some basic knowledge that you don’t while you’re just trying to keep up with everything being thrown at you. I’m all for taking off at a sprint and letting the reader eventually catch up, but there has to be a time at some point in the story for that to actually happen. I didn’t see that with Silver Star.  Still, I’m going to keep this one in my collection this time if for no other reason than to stare at Kirby completely unleashed in all his creative glory.

jack kirby demon omnibusJack Kirby’s The Demon (DC)
Written & drawn by Jack Kirby
Collects The Demon #1-16

The Demon doesn’t suffer from that same stream of conscious type storytelling that Silver Star does, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easier read. I’ve been starting and stopping this one for most of 2012 if not longer. I hate to say it, but I found the first half of this book to be pretty boring. Much of that feeling comes from my existing biases and experiences, things that I would not have had if I was reading this book when it came out. For instance, I hate the character of Morgan La Fey thanks to John Byrne’s run on Wonder Woman. I don’t really remember why, but every time that character shows up in a DC comic, I let out an audible “Ugh.” I also wasn’t super interested in watching Etrigan face off against random witches and monsters. I think this was partially because they weren’t super interesting (aside from visually) but also because I wasn’t really sure what the Demon could do and not do. I know this was a book created in a more fly by the seat of your pants days, but I could not understand why this supposedly super powerful demon was having trouble fighting a witch.

And then, at around the halfway point, Kirby essnetially decided to just make the book “The Demon versus Universal Monsters.” The Demon faces off against a wolfman, the Phantom of the Opera (in a THREE PARTER), Frankenstein’s monster and the like. At first I was bored by these stories too, especially because I just watched a lot of these movies this year, but then I thought about it and posed the following question to myself: Would you like to read a Kirby adaptation of the Phantom of the Opera? When the answer was a clear “yes” I accepted what I was given and enjoyed it all the more.

What also helped me start liking this book is that it’s not really like any other Demon comic or guest appearance I’ve read. Instead of running around the DCU and popping up wherever something weird is going on, Jason Blood actually lives in Gotham and has a pretty swank apartment filled with all kinds of awesome things for Kirby to draw (I stared at a desk in one panel as much as I did a double page spread of Blood’s armory). But he’s also got a supporting cast in the mystic Randu, regular guy Harry who loves a good one-liner as much as he loves a party and Blood’s love interest Glenda. I actually found myself enjoying the non-Demon moments of this book more than the others because I’ve seen a lot of what goes on on the page in various forms before.

The problem I seem to have every time I open a Jack Kirby book is that reading some of these comics is like watching a beautiful film by Akira Kurosawa, but with the cast of your average Disney live action show doing voiceovers. It looks amazing, but the dialog leaves much to be desired. I think these are the kinds of things that could have been easier overlooked in a monthly format, but reading through issue after issue just makes Kirby’s lack of grace with the written word all the more clear.

And that’s really what it is, a lack of grace. Kirby’s not a terrible dialog writer — there are some great conversations and jokes in these pages — but he lacks subtlety and it often reads like he didn’t give the words as much thought as the beautiful artwork. And, again, like above and every other thing I’ve seen from The King from the 70s and on, Jack can draw. He can draw expressions as well as witches with horrid faces. His style is just so damn cool and intricate that I can’t help by stare deep into some of these pages. And that’s where some of the frustration comes, it looks so good you want the words to match that level of quality.