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Adrian Jenkins "southerndudeman" RSS Feed (Ames, IA)

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Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1: The Parker Luck
Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1: The Parker Luck
by Dan Slott
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.03
73 used & new from $9.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugh, March 9, 2015
I come from a different place than a lot of the reviewers who dislike this book. While many of them compare this to Superior Spider-Man (which they loved), I absolutely deplored that stinkstorm, writing it off as gimmicky and boring after a grand total of 6 issues. Apparently, I wasn't alone - obviously many people wanted Peter Parker back as Spidey (for better or worse, and in this case, for much worse).

Before I go into the mess of this book, let me comment briefly on the physicals. I've always hated Marvel's TPBs, and this is no exception. I hate the paper. I hate the binding. They always feel supremely cheap to me. I'm sure DC has the same problem, but I only buy them in hardcover (with the exception of Spidey and the FF, I am a DC fan). Marvel, on the other hand, is generally picked up in trade, as I did for this volume (thankfully, for well under the cover price).

As for the content contained within, where do I even begin? The ridiculously contrived plot devices that get Parker back into the fray? Nope. This is Marvel, and if Marvel loves anything, it's absurd deus ex machina. Sometimes it works, often it doesn't, but you know what you're getting with Marvel. I have no problem with brain switches or anything like that.

Nope - the place to begin is the one place that Marvel has typically drummed DC - character interaction and dialogue. And here, it is ATROCIOUS. This is particularly problematic for Spider-Man (at least the Peter Parker variety), as Spidey depends so much on his alter-egos personal interactions, as well as his banter with villains. It feels like this book was attempting to conjure some of the character from the movie, which is in itself a horrible idea (you know, because those movies were every bit as atrocious as the dialogue on display here). I just found myself cringing at Parker's inanity in talking about his luck, or love, or...pretty much anything else. And if you are going to sell your comic on the return of Peter Parker, it might be a good idea to get that part of the comic right.

Make no mistake - Spider-man has been a mess for years (at least since the absurd One More Day storyline, one of those failure deus ex machina mentioned before). I think Marvel is about to get it right with what should be one of their flagship characters (having recently re-taken the movie rights from Sony), but it is all wrong here. If you want to read good Parker, do yourself a favor and wait. Or, perhaps better yet, go pick up the old Lee-Ditko omnibus (or even the Lee-Romita omnibus, although the latter is much more expensive). Heck - pick up the Roger Stern omnibus if you're desperate. But there is no good reason to read this book.

Tales of the Batman: Len Wein
Tales of the Batman: Len Wein
by Wein, Len
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $33.73
74 used & new from $27.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun and unknown era of the Batman mythos (for me, at least), March 6, 2015
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Adding to my collection of reprints, I decided to buy Len Wein's Tales of the Batman recently. It filled in a gap in my Batman knowledge - I literally knew nothing of 70s and early 80s Batman. I was pleased that this volume based itself around an author, rather than an illustrator, as I could get complete stories. And on the whole, I am immensely satisfied with my purchase.

The physicals of the volume: the volume is a relatively cheap-looking hardcover with a decent enough dust jacket. I don't like the paper at all (a cheap glossy stock), although it is pretty light, allowing one to hold the book (containing 640 pages) relatively easily in hand. Nonetheless, I would have preferred a newsprint-type of paper like that found in, e.g., the Steve Ditko Omnibi (with a cheaper cover to match, although I paid nowhere near cover price). I was concerned about the glued binding, but I found that reading was remarkably easy, and "guttering" was pretty minor.

The Batman universe is quite strange, differing vastly from Golden Age/ Silver Age Batman as well as from post-crisis Batman. But the change is not unwelcome. Batman is far more sociable in this volume - in fact, there's a good bit of Marvel in this DC title (particularly in its treatment of Catwoman and her relationship with Batman/Bruce Wayne). I thoroughly enjoy the villains in this volume. There are stories involving the Joker (who, for my money, reaches his best look here, with his elongated face and accentuated features), the Riddler, Catwoman and Ra's Al Ghul, as well as lesser known villains such as the Gentleman Ghost (one of my personal favorites!) and Firebug (TRIVIA! Did you know that Firebug is one of the bosses in the NES Sunsoft classic Batman?). I particularly like the disdain Batman shows for the criminals, often referring to minor costumed creeps as "two-bit". It's much better than the aura of respect now shown to the rogue's gallery these days, as if they are an irreplaceable part of the city (one of Scott Snyder's few missteps, IMHO).

Many of the stories are multi-issue, which is welcome to me. I love some of the artistry on display here (and, for my money, the Catwoman of that day is still my favorite of all of them, with her hair falling from under her mask, and her ridiculous green cape). The storytelling is solid; I'm not as much of a fan of Len Wein as others, but I do enjoy his tales here. This is a marked improvement both from the ridiculous sci-fi nonsense of Silver Age Batman, as well as the inspired-by-the-show-but-not-nearly-as-good goofiness of Batman in the late 60s. Batman isn't the broody, one-trick pony often portrayed today. He is a human being, and an interesting one. Characters still explain every single thing in their minds here, but that small flaw doesn't detract much from the volume as a whole.

All in all, for the prices these days, I think this is solid value, and I would recommend it highly.

Yakuza 4 - Playstation 3
Yakuza 4 - Playstation 3
Price: $41.99
49 used & new from $13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar sequel to a stellar game, February 4, 2015
with the release on PS+ of Yakuza 4 for free, I thought I would finally get around to reviewing this gem of a game. Unlike many, I did not get into this series on the ground floor. Rather, I took a flyer on Yakuza 3 when I saw it for peanuts at a local K-Mart (peanuts being...ten bucks). I was floored at how good the game was. Although many people described it as a Japanese GTA, this was nonsense. Yakuza was a throwback to the beat 'em up gems of the 90s, where you fought waves and waves of enemies before meeting up with a boss who usually ate a ton of your quarters.

Yakuza 4 is much of the same, only bigger and better. Rather than the single character of Kiryu Kazuma. we are introduced to three additional characters (Akiyama, Saejima, and Tanimura), each with different fighting styles, strengths and weaknesses. The characters really DO fight differently, and while you might be able to plow your way through on lower difficulties, you'll need some finesse on the higher ones.

The game is mostly open world, with freedom of movement between missions, while accepting missions will restrict your actions. In that sense, it is similar to GTA. Fighting is mostly hand-to-hand (there are pistols and other guns, but they are rare, and often unavailable on missions). Fights come in two varieties: standard thug fights (which can be encountered during free time, or during missions), and boss fights, which typically end story missions. For thug fights, you're usually surrounded by 3-5 thugs which you have to knock out in various ways. In addition to standard kicks and punches, you have a variety of "heat actions" (think of limit breaks) at your disposal which will do massive damage, as well as add killer cut scenes (and this is from someone who is not generally a fan of cut scenes). The thugs can usually be dispatched with whatever tactics you wish.

However, the bosses are a different story. These fights are almost like heavyweight pro wrestling matches, with ebb and flow dictated by your performance in battle. Bosses are almost always unique characters, and like you, they have fighting styles and their own heat actions. They can dodge, parry, counter, and in general, make your life into a mess. Bosses fight differently, and you'll have to use the best tactics to tackle each one. Sometimes, bosses will enter QTEs - if you do well in these events, you will often counter their actions. If you do poorly, you are taking serious pain. And sometimes, bosses just go cheap. For example, one boss will become invincible, spinning around like a dervish while wielding a deadly knife. Better stay out of the way.

The story is solid. It might play a little soap operatically, but given the dreck that often accompanies Japanese games, this is stellar by comparison. The voices are completely Japanese, though, so you'll need to read subtitles. You can skip cut scenes if you want. I don't recommend it, but it does nothing to hurt the action portion of the game, so if that's your interest, have at it. But don't let the story scare you off from the rest of the game.

In addition to the main questline, as it were, are numerous minigames and side stories. For my money, the minigames range from delightful (a coliseum, a VR trainer, karaoke) to so-so (batting cages, hostesses) to way too Japanese for me to like (shogi, mahjong, pachinko). But you are free to choose which ones you would like to play. Outside of some annoying trophies (7 pairs in mahjong, 3000 balls in pachinko), you don't need to play them much. The side stories are a mixed bag. They almost always end in the same manner (you fight some street level thugs), but some of their twists and turns are good. Each character has 15 side missions. If you do manage to beat the first 59 of them, the last mission is a fantastic boss battle against the recurring Amon character of the series, which is much harder and more satisfying than anything else in the game.

In addition to this, there are various challenges, both in game and outside of it, which yield permanent rewards within the game. The game has a satisfying NG+ mode, although I find replayability to be pretty suspect if you complete everything in one playthrough (and, if you are hunting trophies, you will need a total of three playthroughs for all of them). But I will never complain about a game adding NG+, and this one is incredibly solid.

All in all, what else can I say? Despite a couple of missteps (mostly with the lack of Western analogues to some minigames), this game is virtually flawless, and is one of the best games on the system. I highly recommend it, particularly if you are a PS+ member. Enjoy!

The EC Archives: Shock Suspenstories Volume 1 (v. 1)
The EC Archives: Shock Suspenstories Volume 1 (v. 1)
by Al Feldstein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $35.81
49 used & new from $29.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth a buy, even at cover price, but there are some flaws..., January 26, 2015
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I have to confess: I've avoided the EC Archives for some time. The build-up of the reviews, I feared, had heightened expectations, and the cover prices of these archives often outstrip greatly archives from, e.g., Marvel or DC (I know - quality determines price and all that - the laws of economics don't apply to Amazon). Fearing disappointment from what might have been a bunch of fanboy navel-gazing, I put off purchasing these books.

However, recently, I found a copy of this book for a very reasonable price (over 50% off the cover), and took a chance with both it and Crime Suspenstories, voulme 1. And I'm happy I did. I don't like this volume as much as the latter (as I'll explain below), but it was well-worth the price of admission.

Apparently, at the insistence of fans, EC comics (the publisher of the famous Tales from the Crypt, as well as many other fine lines) created a sort of potpourri comic to appeal to fans across multiple genres. Rather than a single issue being devoted to crime, or horror, etc., Shock Suspenstories would have 4 stories across 4 different genres. Initially, those genres were crime, war, horror and sci-fi, although war slowly morphed into the eponymous Shock Suspenstory, which focused more on morality issues facing the America of the 50s. While I don't know of their acclaim at the time of their drawing, the artists of this comic are now regarded highly among comic artists of any day and age. There are 6 total issues in this volume, comprising 24 total stories of 6-8 pages.

First, a note on the physicals - they are absolutely, positively astounding. Purists may poo poo the modern coloring techniques, as is their right. However, for a reader whose first exposure to these gems is through this book, you absolutely cannot go wrong. It looks astounding.

Before purchasing this volume, I knew that the war stories would morph over time, and initially, I was happy about that. I have never been a fan of war stories, despite numerous efforts to get interested. Apparently, I looked in the wrong place. The single war story here (a second story tangentially concerns Korea, but is really a morality play) is fantastic, with a twist that I literally did not see coming.

The crime and horror comics could probably double as one another in a pinch. While there are a couple of horror tales that are horror tales alone, most could jump back and forth easily (a fact not lost on EC, BTW - their Crime Suspenstories volume often has Haunt of Fear titles). And I love both of them. Here, the stories and their twists are more predictable, but still perfectly sound. I particularly liked the opening tale of the volume, which would have made a great Tales from the Crypt episode itself.

The morality tales which take the place of the war tales are solid. Nothing spectacular, and at times, pretty unbelievable (I found the story about the parade particularly hard to believe), but still good to read. Each story ends with a note from the author, which is not ambiguous in the least regarding his feelings. I thoroughly enjoyed the story attached to the cover of the volume, BTW.

The lone deduction I give because of the Sci-Fi stories. These are, without a doubt, inferior to the other offerings. Often, they read like a lousier version of the "pew!pew!" raygun pulp sci-fi that has been all but forgotten. Tastes vary, I'll grant, but with one or two exceptions, I found these stories were better simply as a means of looking at the pictures.

Thus, this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed 19 or 20 of the 24 stories present, which garners a natural 4-star rating. Enjoy!

Superman Chronicles, Vol. 2
Superman Chronicles, Vol. 2
by Jerry Siegel
Edition: Paperback
28 used & new from $25.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shop around!, January 21, 2015
The current prices for these Chronicles are absurd. At this moment, you could cobble together a similar collection in the superior DC Archives for a fraction of the costs seen here.

As far as content goes, this is great stuff, particularly if you're a fan of the Golden Age. But as a product, it is woefully inadequate when compared to its other options. This may change over time, but at this moment, you could by 4-5 brand new volumes of the Superman Archives (which are hardcover, with vastly superior paper quality) for the same price as a new Chronicle here. In this day and age, it's just not worth it to purchase this. So take this review as it is intended - a grade of the available product when compared to similar competitive options.

Buyer beware.

Superman - Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52) (Superman - Action Comics Volumes (The New 52))
Superman - Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52) (Superman - Action Comics Volumes (The New 52))
Price: $12.91

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid new beginning for the Man of Steel, January 12, 2015
I have a love-hate relationship with Grant Morrison. While his talent is unquestioned, his decision-making (particularly in regards to established characters) often leaves me scratching my head. I loved his work in All-Star Superman, but then there was his Crime Bible storyline of 52. Doom Patrol is magnificent, but then there is the atrocity of Final Crisis.

So it was with trepidation that I subscribed to his run on Action Comics in the New 52. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This is Superman as I've wanted to see him for some time. It's not always perfect, but it's satisfying in a way that overpowered, Boy Scout Superman isn't. Of course, if you continue reading, it falls apart spectacularly (as only a Grant Morrison tale can), but volume 1 is well worth your time.

First and foremost, while Superman is mostly invulnerable, he can be harmed. People might remember that in the Golden Age, Superman was vulnerable to artillery fire, as well as poison gas. In fact, artillery fire could pierce his skin. Of course, this would change over time, as Siegel would write himself into dilemmas that could only be avoided by amping up the juice (see, e.g., Superman's confrontations with Luthor, who often outwits him, but loses because Superman just becomes...more powerful, suddenly). It is similar with this Man of Steel, He feels pain, which is great. Tank fire actually hurts this guy, so he is vulnerable to the humans who aren't so ready to see an overpowered hero become their protector.

Another problem is Superman's code of ethics. Again, developed over time, it often served to make Superman somewhat square. But early on, Superman was anything but a Boy Scout. He evaded the cops, he killed people, and he was often just a jerk, so long as it forwarded his end. While Morrison hasn't gone back to this version completely, this Superman seems more...human than he has in a long time. The anger is there. There is willful destruction. It makes him interesting.

Finally, what would Superman be without his arch nemesis, Lex Luthor? And again, Morrison creates a compelling Luthor. I really like the cold, scientific Luthor whose brilliance is more at home in a Nazi Germany than, say, a university. Of course, Morrison runs with this, making commentary on the military and other morally-questionable research facilities, but stripping that away, it just makes for a cracking good enemy. Luthor hates Superman not because his petty schemes are foiled, but rather because he can't understand and control him. The idea isn't original (Bruce Timm used it often in his animated series, e.g.), but it reads well.

Unfortunately, all of this would fall apart later. Morrison would betray his own vision of Superman, turning him into the invulnerable, over-powered, overly-brilliant Man of Tomorrow that bores everyone to tears (assuming they can read some of his confused garble involving the Legion, or Mr. Mxyzptlk, but these early issues read in a very satisfying fashion. This is what a reboot should be - it sets the stage for future issues, while standing alone just fine.

Steve Ditko Omnibus Hc Vol 02
Steve Ditko Omnibus Hc Vol 02
by Steve Ditko
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $41.11
44 used & new from $28.60

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, January 9, 2015
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After a buying blitz which saw me purchase DC's Action Heroes archives (volumes 1 and 2), a couple of the Fantagraphics Charlton collections, The Amazing Spider-Man omnibus, and the Ditko Omnibus volume 1, it was time to mostly round out my collection of Ditko with this collection (unless, of course, we get a Doctor Strange Omnibus because of the new movie). I had thoroughly enjoyed Ditko volume 1 (at least for the highly discounted price at which I found it), and was eagerly anticipating this volume. Unfortunately, I come away quite disappointed.

Where do I begin? Well, first of all, the physicals of this book are exactly like its predecessor. I like the cover. The binding is way too tight (it's actually worse than volume 1, IMHO - I struggle to read panels, particularly for the Legion of Superheroes tales). The pages are classic newsprint-type, but the coloring is quite nice. The page count was reduced for this volume - it holds less than 400 pages. At $59.99, this book would be a grave disappointment. However, I picked it up for significantly less (although it was higher-priced than volume 1). But I don't understand why the two volumes weren't put together for what would have been a normal-sized omnibus of around 800 page. Those often had covers of seventy-five dollars, and held better paper. At the very least, Ditko's Creeper stuff should have been included, instead of being segregated to a different volume. But whatever - for my price of under twenty dollars, I wasn't complaining.

However, the material within is significantly inferior to that of volume 1. For starters, the volume claims to be "starring the Hawk and the Dove", much like volume 1 starred Shade. However, Shade had 9 full issues included in that volume. By comparison, Hawk and Dove only have 3 issues (and only two of their original series). Say what you want about concept, etc. - that's only around sixty pages of material. It's like saying that a guest actor is the lead of a show or movie. By comparison, over 100 pages are devoted to Starman, and another 100+ are devoted to the Legion of Superheroes.

I think Hawk and Dove could have really led to interesting comics, but the stories here are pretty bad. It would have been nice to see Hawk and Dove come to realizations that each method has its value in its place, and see more cooperation. Nope - both only serve to annoy the reader with their blind devotion to their character. Hawk is a war pig, and Dove is a peacenik. My guess is that Ditko hoped to use their father as a mouthpiece for his views and whatnot, but again - with so few issues here, you really have nothing but speculation as to its direction.

After that major disappointment really sets in. The gems of volume 1 were the one-off stories from House of Mystery and Weird War. By comparison, these issues of famously-long-running comics are pretty bland and tasteless. The Legion of Superheroes stories are particularly boring - the only thing saving them is the 80s mentality of heroines with breast implants who wear very little. The art is pretty good in that regard, but pretty forgettable otherwise. Starman is one of my faves in the Golden Age - the version here is pretty bland as well.

There are a couple of high points, but they take up precious few pages. There is a story running across Man-Bat and Etrigan which is fun to read. There is a great Specter story near the end of the volume (I've never been a fan of the Specter, but this tale makes me wonder why a Gaiman-type has never made a Sandman-like tale about him - his power is immense and could be used in very interesting ways). There's a funny Desaad story to close out the volume. But other than that, I say take a pass on this volume. For hardcore Ditko fans only, and even they will be disappointed.

Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus - Volume 1
Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus - Volume 1
by Stan Lee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $67.40
23 used & new from $50.08

5.0 out of 5 stars The best Spidey of all, December 26, 2014
Let me confess something: in 2014, I deplore Spider-Man and Marvel. I have never seen a character so thoroughly torpedoed into irrelevance the way that Peter Parker and Spider-Man have been. Between JMS's completely ridiculous sagas, to the ridiculous events and aftermath of Civil War, to the worst comic series I've arguably ever read ("One More Day"), to the ruined Sam Raimi vision and atrocious current Sony offerings, to know what? I'm just going to stop here. Spider-Man has been a waste of space for over a decade now, and it ain't getting any better.

But in the mid eighties? I absolutely loved the webhead. At the time, the current run had Spider-Man tackling villains like Sin-Eater and the Hobgoblin, and while they may not rank up with the greats of this era (particularly the Hobgoblin, who seemed like a cheap copy of the great Green Goblin in the eyes of this then-ten-year old). Peter's human interactions had a sense of realism that was utterly lost over time. And he was just interesting.

But running concurrently was a series that, to me, was even more interesting still. I don't remember its exact title - I just remember the topline saying, "Collector's Item Classic". And in these pages was the Spider-Man of the 60s. I didn't know it at the time - I just thought it was another aspect of Spider-Man, showing him when he was young. But the stories were fantastic. Collecting titles in both the Ditko and Romita run, each week brought out a classic villain. The Vulture. The Rhino. Doctor Octopus. The Scorpion. The Lizard. and of course, the chairman of the board, the Green Goblin. While I liked the current run, I absolutely LOVED these stories of a high school age Parker, as he tackled foes as well as relationships. For me, this WAS my childhood in regards to comics.

Collected here are the first 38 issues of Spider-Man, together with his initial appearance in Amazing Fantasy (which I had never actually read until I picked up this volume), as well as some odds and ends (annuals, and appearances in other comics), and man, does it ever hit the spot. While I didn't collect all of these stories in childhood, I certainly remember a lot of them. It's amazing how on fire creators Ditko and Lee were in this awesome run. I have been fortunate to collect some initial runs of famous characters in other formats (most notably in the DC Archives), and none of them (whether Golden or Silver Age) hold a candle to this burst of inspiration. I mean, within the first 10 issues, we've already been introduced to Spider-Man, the Chameleon, the Vulture, Doctor Octopus, the Sandman, and the Lizard, with an appearance from Doctor Doom, multiple appearances from the Human Torch and the Fantastic Four, as well as the supporting characters of J. Jonah Jameson, Flash Thompson, Betty Brandt, Curt Connors, and numerous others I'm sure I'm forgetting. This is in TEN ISSUES! I dare you to find another comic that was able to introduce so many lasting characters so early on. Even with two series, the Batman couldn't do this. Mind you, this doesn't even scratch the surface of what would be introduced later (the Green Goblin, Electro, the Sinister Six) - it's just mind-boggling that so much could be created so quickly.

I really like the direction that Lee and Ditko take Parker in these early issues. In fact, Ditko's hand is all over Parker's development, and part of me wishes that Lee and Ditko could have worked together for a little while longer (not that the next run of Lee and Romita is anything to sneeze at). Although Parker is unliked (and unlikable, honestly), he certainly has his own back. This isn't a namby pamby Clark Kent here. Parker gives as good as he takes. If Flash is giving him the business for being puny, Parker is giving him the business for being an idiot. In fact, I think Parker actually gets the better of poor Flash in these issues.

Parker's transformation into the hero Spider-Man is just that - transformation, and this makes the comic all the more sweet. This is true Silver Age stuff, the kind of thing DC never understood. At one point, Flash is kidnapped by Doctor Doom, who thinks he's Spider-Man. Doom threatens to kill Flash if the Fantastic Four don't surrender. Parker initially is thrilled at the idea of his nemesis dying, saying point blank that this gets Flash out of his hair for good. But then, he realizes that a hero would never do this. Ditko represents this beautifully in his art - the character shown is half teenage, immature Parker, and half hero Spider-Man. It's clear that Ditko was in for the long play here, and he is helped immensely by Stan Lee's words and dialogue (Ditko has never been my favorite writer, though he is an excellent plotter).

The comic never lets up. Even filler is interesting. This isn't Batman wrangling up some underworld thugs. While such vermin appear, they usually are a means to a much greater end. For example, some thugs try to steal a "human brain". However, their bungling causes the robot to go haywire, and Spidey is left cleaning up the mess. There are a couple of duds here (I thought the Enforcers storyline was pretty bad, particularly considering its importance to the grand scheme), but they are few and far between.

Initially, I was pretty excited that this book included the letter pages from the original run (at least, I think they're from the original run). However, it got remarkably old after a time, and I ended up skipping them from about issue 5 onward. However, there are some other cool features (I love that they collect Spidey's rogues gallery in an early issue, and there are a couple of essays, as well as some unreleased and unused art - I actually like Ditko's cover for Amazing Fantasy 15 over the chosen one). And I still love to this day that curmudgeonly Ditko refused to be photographed.

Finally, the physicals of the volume. I'm not in love with them, but they don't offend. The binding is strong enough, and the pages are sewn, allowing the book to open flat from the outset (this is important for a book of 1000+ pages). The paper is razor thin, and curls easily, particularly at the corners. However, it's light enough to sit in your lap. The paper is also glossy, which isn't my favorite way to read classic comics, but the reproductions are nice enough. I don't have enough memory of the coloring of the reprints from the 80s (and I obviously haven't seen the originals), but I wasn't offended by the coloring here. In short, it's not top-of-the-line, but it's not offensive, and at the discounted prices found here (my wife bought this for me, for Christmas, for under fifty-five dollars), it's a fantastic buy.

It makes me genuinely sad to wax nostalgic for the Spider-Man of old. Thankfully, these Omnibi allow me to collect all my favorites. Perhaps I was just fortunately to be a kid during such great Spider-Man runs. But in any case, if you have any interest whatsoever, I highly recommend picking this up (it's pretty highly discounted these days, due to an inferior, but still perfectly workable, second printing in China).

Barry Windsor-Smith Conan Archives Volume 1
Barry Windsor-Smith Conan Archives Volume 1
by Roy Thomas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $38.48
22 used & new from $23.25

3.0 out of 5 stars Middling, but possibly worth it at a discounted price, December 21, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was pretty high on purchasing the Conan archives. I remember reading Conan as a child (though quite a time after the publication of these particular issues), and have always liked Conan in general. But I have to admit - I come away disappointed at this product.

First, the physicals: the book itself is quite nice. It opens flat for the most part. I'm not a fan of the glossy paper - I wish they had used something closer to the paper found in the DC Archives, but it's hardly offensive. The images are clear and the colors are bright. I realize that a lot of people complain about the coloring, and that is their right. However, as I never read the original issues, I don't really care that much.

Now, onto the material. These stories are...boring. I'm just not interested in this Conan. Maybe the writer was finding his way (I know he wrote for a long, LONG time on this series), but I just don't feel it. Conan is some dude in a loin cloth swinging a sword. That's about it. Sure, he'll wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow...someday. But today? He's losing battles when it's convenient, and winning the rest of the time. Most stories feel like a single, repeated plot coupon to get Conan into trouble, and then get him out of it. It's just not interesting.

The main draw of this (and its subsequent) volume is the art of Barry Windsor Smith. Well, for this comic, the art starts off pretty rough. It gets a LOT better by the end, I'll grant - I really enjoyed the images of the later issues here. But in any case, it never saved the perfunctory sword-and-sorcery storylines that just got more and more tired as the proceedings progressed.

Had I purchased this for fifty bucks, I would have been grievously disappointed. I didn't, so I'm not. But caveat emptor. Maybe this is good if you're a fan of the artist, but reading some of the other reviews lambasting the coloring, I think everyone should be on watch.

C.O.W.L. Volume 1: Principles of Power
C.O.W.L. Volume 1: Principles of Power
by Kyle Higgins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.16
67 used & new from $3.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The first days are the hardest days..., December 21, 2014
I am a devoted subscriber to C.O.W.L., so my experience with this paperback is purely the "looksee" in the comic store variety. Most of this review will focus on content, although I will open with some physical particulars.

I've generally liked Image paperbacks, and these are nice enough. I don't think anyone will be wowed, but putting together price AND quality, I find these to be much better value than Marvel, and generally better than DC. I don't remember seeing the letter pages in here, which is good reason to buy the issues - some of the letters they publish are hilarious. However, as this is a review of material within, rather than without, I'll say no more on this.

C.O.W.L. is a great union story masquerading as a superhero tale, which has both strengths and weaknesses. When it gets into the politics and chicanery of sixties Chicago, it is at its strongest. People might complain that the setting is pretty generic, but I rather enjoy it. The interplay between politician and union is good stuff, and while the realism might be a bit gritty, it's well-received by this reader.

Many reviewers have compared this to Mad Men and Watchmen. Both comparisons are thin and flawed. The Mad Men comparison holds simply because this is a period piece. That's it. In that way, one could compare this to, say, Downton Abbey. I find both equally ridiculous.

The Watchmen comparison is even more tenuous. I've read Watchmen at least five times through in my life. It is the only comic I own both in issues as well as hardcover. And again, literally the ONLY reason this could be compared to Watchmen is because superheroes do ordinary things with ordinary people. Again, not much of a comparison. In particularly, if you are looking for anything like Watchmen here, you will be gravely disappointed. This is a story about public sector labor relations, with superheroes taking the place of cops.

And while the concept is interesting, there are some flaws. The biggest one to me is the fact that everyone literally treats superheroes AS police. There is no awe, no respect, no FEAR here. The politicians feel absolutely no threat in strong-arming super humans who could easily destroy the city. I would like to see more super in the heroes, and more recognition of that super from the general populace.

Another issue I have is that the characters are hard to tell apart. The thing about costumed heroes is that their costume is their identity to the reader/viewer. These heroes are too disconnected. Identities of superheroes are only interesting once you know the superhero. If you are interested in Bruce Wayne, it's not because he's a billionaire playboy heading a large company in a large city. Otherwise, we'd see "Donald Trump - the graphic novel" (memo to everyone - do NOT make this comic happen). I'd like to see the superheroes take the stage more often.

But as the song goes, the first days are indeed the hardest. Something is building here, and it's worth your time. And the art fits perfectly with the mood of the work, providing a synergy often lacking in comics. Understand what you're getting, but if the description piques your curiosity, I recommend satiating it with a purchase. And if you like this volume, do yourself the further favor of reading individual issues.

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