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Marvel Masterworks: Captain Marvel - Volume 1 Paperback – March 19, 2013
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Gene Colan does well with Frank Giacoia, but Paul Reinman's inks on Marvel Superheroes #13 are brutal. Luckily, this book has many un-inked pages from that very issue in the back, to show how good Colan's pencils were. Vince Colleta takes over inking on Captain Marvel #1 and works fairly well. Colan & Colleta's high points are issue #3, & #4 with Sub-Mariner. Then with CM #5, Don Heck and John Tartaglione take over the art chores, & it is a shock!! It may be some of the sloppiest art seen inside a Marvel comic during 1968. Not only that, but the Metazoid villain is a horrible creation, & is never drawn the same way. Issue #5 & #6 are the worst issues in the Captain Matvel franchise. Things improve a little in CM #7 with a great cover & the re-introduction of Quasimodo (from FF Annual #5). Thankfully, in CM #8, Vince Colleta returns on inks, & in combination with Don Heck creates very strong art. Perhaps there were complaints about previous issues. Especially striking are the outer space battle scenes between the Aakon and the Kree. CM #9 features a Colan cover, & another issue of the slicker Heck/Colleta team. The storyline is hobbled by Mar-Vell re-fighting the same giant robot he defeated in the previous issue. At this point, Arnold Drake is writing, and Stan Lee was probably barely editing--or he would have noticed the similarity between issue #9 and #8.
So why am I giving this up and down collection 4 stars? In 1967, Stan Lee & Gene Colan could take just a name of another golden age superhero & turn it into the first pure sci-fi hero at Marvel Comics. The fact that it worked at all is quite remarkable. These issues also serve as a bridge between the Fantastic Four sci-fi stories (featuring the Kree, Ronan, the Sentry & the Skrulls) and the later epic Kree-Skrull War in The Avengers comic. In hindsight, one can say: if only they'd had just one writer (Roy or Stan) on the series, instead of four different writers. If only they'd kept Gene Colan on the art, or given Don Heck a great inker--like they finally did in CM #16 with Syd Shores. If Stan or anyone had had a consistent vision, this would have been a classic comic, much like the Silver Surfer. As it stands, early Captain Marvel is a bit of a curiosity. But is still essential for understanding Silver Age Marvel Comics history.
Sadly, I never got to buy the original Captain Marvels or Silver Surfers back then because the places I bought my comics from never received them, heck I was lucky if the stores/newsstands I bought my comics from received the same titles I collected two months in a row! If I managed to get three issues in a row I was in heaven! As time passed, I grew up, stores devoted to comics opened up, I began to attend local comics shows. I always kept a look out for those old Captain Marvels, and Silver Surfers, but try as I may I never found more that a few issues of each title.
Now with the release of the Marvel Masterworks series I finally get to own and read all those comics I wanted to buy all those years ago, but never could. Was it worth the wait? YES! Even after all this time these stories still entertain, despite some of the flawed logic and faulty science used by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas in the first couple of stories. The classic Gene Colon artwork on the early issues is a joy to behold, and reading these stories is almost like going home and meeting an old friend. Younger readers might find the stories lame or dated, but if you're a comics collector over the age of 40 you'll love this collection of classic Marvels in an affordable package. These are classic comics with vintage Silver Age artwork and none of the weird mutated hybrid manga/american style artwork that predominates much of today's comics.
Older readers/collectors will love this stuff, and today's generation will probably hate it. That's OK, the younger generation has dozens of New 52 and Civil War/X-Men/New Avengers reprints they can buy. For collectors like me, we have the Marvel Masterworks, and DC Archives that we can buy. As long as Marvel and DC keep producing that stuff, that's as long as I'll keep buying and most importantly - enjoying it.