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Strange Tales II (Stranges Tales) Hardcover – April 6, 2011
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From the Author
Gene Luen Yang: Ever since I bought Spectacular Spider-man #86 in the fifth grade and hugged it tightly to my chest while watching Spider-man and his Amazing Friends, I've dreamed of drawing for Marvel Comics. As I grew older, however, my own deficiencies as a draftsman became more and more apparent and I quickly realized that my dream would have to go unfulfilled. But then, those crazy folks at Marvel decided to publish an anthology called Strange Tales where they would ask indie cartoonists to take a crack at their characters. And they asked me! ME! Not only did I get to draw a four-pager starring my favorite Marvel superhero, but I also got to share pages with comics luminaries like Dash Shaw, Jhonen Vasquez, Kate Beaton, and Jeff Lemire! When I got my paycheck with Spider-man printed in the corner, it was sooo cool that I almost didn't cash it. Almost.
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This being volume 2, compared to volume 1 this volume is not as humorous or witty, but still has occasional moments of interest. I personally enjoyed the Thor story by Tony Millionaire and the various pieces by Kupperman as being the best of what might be found here.
In general I liked volume 1 substantially more than volume 2, but I still found this to be an interesting purchase, though I will say that I enjoy alternative comics for the mere sake of reading something that gives superheroes a new spin. But this being an alternative comic anthology, I was prepared to accept the good with the bad.
"Meanwhile... in the park!!" by Johnen V is really very silly - a heartbroken Wolverine gorging on hot dogs, an encounter with the Sentinels, silly... Nicholas Gurewitch does a funny two-pager about Magento offering his services to Galactus (nice art - stupid gag). This is followed by the best stories in the whole book, two Love And Rockets-style tales by Gilbert Hernandez, with his patented Archie-like take on adult themes: this time we get Iron Man teaming up with Toro, the sidekick of the original Human Torch (remember the Invaders?) taking on the Leader, followed by a weird little tale of the Space Phantom trying unsuccessfully to crash the girls' beach party. Great girl politics, and a nice revival of one of the weirder Marvel characters form 50 years ago (he originally appeared in Avengers #2. Nice X-Men adventure by Jeffrey Brown showing the X-Men taking on the Sentinels, even as Scott and Jean have relationship problems. Weird. Mr Sheldon, whoever he is, does a very cool Ghost Rider-with-friendly-muttonchops that is pure Lemmy. "I'm the rebel son of Satan, Hell nor Heaven ain't my friend". Nice Spiderman adventure with Paul Maybury, "Little Lies", where Peter demonstrates one of the lesser-told aspects of Spider-man's life - how he explains away all of the cuts and bruises he gets fighting Vermin, Sandman, Doc Ock, etc. Beautifully-drawn, a real treat. The ever-weird Tony Millionaire takes on Thor, explaining how he lost his hammer, lost his powers, and had to resort to selling Thor Brand Pickled Herring at the crumbling Coney Island amusement park to wandering Danes. Of course, he can easily get it back by taking on Mud-O and Can Man. Nice. A weird "Wolverine and Power Pack" adventure by Maya and Sam that results in Logan going to Japan to learn to control his animal nature. Then Farel Darymple tells the "You Won't Feel A Thing" tale which is, as he describes it, "a ridiculous retelling of the firs encounter between the stoic Silver Surfer and one very stressed-out Spidey." Between the panel we see the message "I copied this entire page from John Buscema and `How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way'. I apologize if anyone finds it offensive. There is no disrespect intended. Please don't be mad." Beautiful drawings, boring story. Modok is back finally in "Crisis - In The Lair Of Modok" by Jon Vermilyer, that shows a crazy Ant Man flying up Modok's nose. It's pretty gnarly... Terry Moore tells a silly story of a young Thor and "How Mjolnir Got Its Strap." Ho hum. James Stokoe tells a cool (and well-drawen story) about a bunch of Skrulls playing poker with the Silver Surfer as their planet gets devoured by Galactus. Cool art!! A story by Benjamin Marra that involves US Agent being hired to do a hit is sheer insanity.
Government agent: It's a terrorist who's been genetically spliced with the DNA of a velociraptor!! And if that weren't enough, he has a nuclear warhead strapped to his back!! We call him the Terror-saur!!
US Agent: Sounds like a real nerd.
US Agent is some sort of Captain America mercenary who's a heartless killer. Nice. Tim Hamilton does a cool Machine Man story, as he takes on a Michael Morbius (The Living Vampire) who's allied himself with Baphomet. Great story, great art. Kate Beaton tells another funny, "cute" story about Rogue absorbing the powers of a kitten when she smashes Professor X's favorite vase (why would Professor X have a favorite vase anyway?). "Oh Rogue! How can I stay mad at youuu...?" The Left Hand of Boom" is a cool story by Dean Haspiel (great art!) of Woodgod, the Sentinels, Alicia Masters and the Thing. And a game of stickball. T Cypress shows what happens when some comic book fans call Luke Cage's Heroes-For-Hire hotline (1-555-HERO). Cool! Badass!! Michael Deforge shows young mutants getting in trouble, also quite grisly. "Fantastic... Before" is a well-drawn story about a young Reed Richards, pre-Sue Richards, chasing girls with his buddy Ben Grimm. Eduardo Medeiros tells a funny tale of Spidey, with the Juggernaut calling up to Aunt May to find out if Spiderman can come out to play. Harvey Pekar gets the last story, "Harvey Pekar Meets The Thing", a well-drawn and textured tale of New York, showing the Thing catching up to Harvey, having a conversation on the side of the street about employment, job security, Jewish neighborhoods (who knew that The Thing's Jewish?!?!) and other mundane matters. Very nice indeed.
I wonder what it would take to get Michael Allred onto one of these crazy adventures!
This book, while it's pretty good, is not as good as the first Strange Tales; check that one out first.
The collection features some of the best artists of the indie comics world: Kevin Huizenga, Dean Haspiel, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Jeff Lemire, Jeffrey Brown, Paul Hornschemeier, Nick Bertozzi, and Alex Robinson. Yet despite such talent, the stories are boring, unfunny and uninteresting.
The only ones I thought were ok were Kate Beaton's 2 page strips on Spiderman's enemy Kraven going to the prom and Thor going to the carnival and trying his luck on a strength machine (see cover image) and it go wrong. Nicholas Gurewitch has a great short strip about Galactus hiring Magneto has his new herald and then using him as a fridge magnet for his kid's report card.
But that was it for me. The rest of the book was a chore to get through and while the thought of a book of funny shorts featuring famous Marvel heroes is quite appealing, the end result in this book is quite disappointing. "Strange Tales 2" is a miss.