Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Misc. Comics Graded

[Continued from last November as, sadly, I have turned up a lot more mildewed comics in my collection. These are eulogies for the comics already tossed out.]

Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #18 ("Half of Everything", Feb. 1970). Grade: B-. Ditko leads the pack in three stories about Graves, an occult expert who either narrates ghost stories or investigates them personally. Only "Night of the Poltergeists" (the one where Graves is a main character) is much different from Marvel's ghost stories from the '50s.
Scooby Doo...Where Are You? #13 ("The Miniature Haunt", 1972). Grade: B. A mystery that's a lot different from the show, with Scooby thinking in thought balloons and the bad guy pulling a gun on the kids in the end. Growing up, I enjoyed more the back-up feature, "Batty and the Green Grumble," about a bat and a green bee that try to commit crimes against humans, but wind up doing good deeds instead.
Marvel Super-Heroes Featuring the Hulk and Sub-Mariner #36 ("The Stage Is Set", May 1973). Grade: B. Kirby's layouts are virtually invisible under Everett's sub-par art, but it's really just impossible to take the Boomerang's first costume seriously. Much better is the Sub-Mariner's feature. Only the Sub-Mariner can rant and rage for 10 pages and stay interesting (Colan's art helps) -- especially when he thinks Dorma has left him to marry Krang.
Monsters on the Prowl #27 ("SSerpo! The Creature Who Crushed the Earth", Nov. 1973). Grade: B. Great Jack Kirby monster art, plus a back-up feature about an alien who plans to take over the world through singing, which actually reads less silly than it sounds.
Daffy Duck #94 ("Inferior Decorator", June 1975). Grade: C-. Daffy thinks the police are after him, so he moves in with the burglar who really robbed a store. Not bad, but the back-up features about an Arabian Nights parody and Daffy trying to make Elmer Fudd think he's crazy are very weak.
Invincible Iron Man #75 ("Slave to the Power Imperious", June 1975). Grade: C+. A story with this many supervillains -- the Mad Thinker, Modok, Yellow Claw, and newbies Black Lama and Firebrand -- should be better than this. But there are things in this story that just don't make sense, Modok is treated like an idiot, and guest-artist Jones turns in some of the absolute worst artwork I've ever seen in a comic book.
Invincible Iron Man #93 ("Kraken Kills", Dec. 1976). Grade: B+. Herb Trimpe's art only looks good with a great inker, and he's got one here in Jack Abel. Gerry Conway has given Tony some new supporting cast members, Mr. Klein and Chrissy, who just don't cut it. More interesting is Commander Kraken, a third-rate villain who had previously fought the Sub-Mariner and the Cat, but has been given an upgrade here. Kirby cover here and on the next issue!
Invincible Iron Man #94 ("Frenzy at Fifty Fathoms", Jan. 1977). Grade: C. Conway reached too far, trying to turn Kraken into an arch-nemesis for Tony. Kraken figuring out Tony's secret ID when so many others couldn't is just plain silly, as is much of the rest of the plot here about Kraken arming a mind-controlled army.
Invincible Iron Man #129 ("Dread Night of the Dreadnought", Dec. 1979). Grade: A-. The real plot development is Tony out-maneuvering SHIELD's attempt to buy out his company, but it makes Nick Fury look like a bad guy. And there's a big build-up to a fight between Iron Man and a Dreadnought robot, but the fight is over pretty fast. Sal Buscema's layouts are thankfully almost unrecognizable under the hands of some strong (and unidentified) inkers. All of the supporting cast is already in place for Micheline's stellar stint on Iron Man.
Avengers #137 ("We Do Seek Out New Avengers", July 1975). Grade: B-. Moondragon and the Beast join the team, courtesy of Englehart, and get some good Tuska/Colleta art before the Stranger attacks. Almost unforgivable is that the Stranger's floating mines are powerful enough to knock out Thor, but do no visible damage to the Wasp? Off the Wasp goes to the hospital again...
Avengers #138 "Stranger in a Strange Man", Aug. 1975). Grade: A-. The Stranger's secret is a shocker, and everyone gets a chance to help defeat who he really is -- the Toad! This was my favorite comic book for a couple of years, growing up.
Avengers #139 ("Prescription: Violence", Sept. 1975). Grade: B. After years, Englehart finally wraps up a Thomas sub-plot about how the Whirlwind has been hiding out as Hank and Jan's chaffeur this whole time. Hank is treated like he is annoying, but Moondragon is the character who's already annoying.
Mighty Thor Starring in Marvel Spectacular #16 ("Abandoned on Earth", Aug. 1975). Grade: A-. I for one like Colleta's inks on top of Kirby's pencils. The Enchanters are defeated and, embarrassingly for them (and humorously for us), turned over to the NYPD. But Odin, bad parent that he is, has a hissy fit about Thor wanting to stay on Earth and strips him of his godly powers. A weaker, bt still power Thor just happens to run in to the Circus of Crime (do they ever stay in jail?). The "Tales of Asgard" back-up feature is always a treat, especially when Volstagg is around.
Incredible Hulk #190 ("The Man Who Came Down a Rainbow", Aug. 1975). Grade: A+. Absolutely beautiful artwork by Marie Severin makes you wish she had done a lot more superhero comics! Glorian, apprentice to the Shaper of Worlds, offers the Hulk his own personal paradise, until the Toad Men show up to take him away.
Incredible Hulk #191 ("Triumph of the Toad", Sept. 1975). Grade: C+. What a difference trading Severin for Staton made! The same characters that looked fantastic last issue look silly now, particularly the Toad Men (some of whom have hair? Wha?). The Shaper of Worlds is now so dense he doesn't notice the big bomb strapped to the Hulk's back? The only highlight is the last page, with the Toad King begging the Shaper for his dreams, while the Hulk rejects them for reality.
Incredible Hulk #212 ("Crushed by...the Constrictor", June 1977). Grade: C+. The Constrictor is really not up to the task of challenging the Hulk, and having a street-level assassin talk like, "Never before have I been thwarted thus," doesn't make him any better. There's a SHIELD-related sub-plot that goes nowhere. Betty Ross is sexed up to see if that generates more reader interest in her, but the real sub-plot of interest here is Bruce's landlady, April Sommers, a pretty woman and potential love interest who is curious about Bruce's secret past, but chooses not to press him on it.
Incredible Hulk #217 ("Circus of Lost Souls", Nov. 1977). Grade: A. It's amazing how many ways you can use the Circus of Crime without getting sick of them. This is a touching story of the circus freaks who escape from the Circus of Crime and the Hulk's efforts to return one of them (a what? A sea witch? An Atlantean? The story isn't clear) to the ocean before it's too late.
Incredible Hulk #228 ("Bad Moon on the Rise", Oct. 1978). Grade: B+. The theme is psychologically manipulating the Hulk, both for good intentions and bad. Moonstone (more powerful in her debut here than she would ever be later) would have made a good foil for Doc Sampson, if he had ever rated having an arch-nemesis.
Incredible Hulk #236 ("Kill or Be Killed", June 1979). Grade: A-. Stern pulls out all the stops in giving Machine Man a fighting chance against the Hulk, but the lackluster artwork of Sal Buscema is the main hindrance here.
Spidey Super Stories #12 ("The Law of the Claw", Sept. 1975). Grade: B+. There's a fairly satisfying team-up between Spidey and the Cat vs. the Owl, an amusing story with a villain called the Tickler, and a too-long story about Spidey trying to beat a biker gang on a treasure hunt.
Spidey Super Stories #19 ("Deadly Is the Doctor Called Doom", Oct. 1976). Grade: C+. The Dr. Doom story is just silly. The re-telling of Spidey's battle with the Silver Surfer from SS's own comic book is at least as good as the original (sadly), but the best story is the least ambitious back-up, with a mysterious Prankster in school.
Marvel Double Feature Featuring Captain America and Iron Man #13 ("Back from the Dead", Dec. 1975). Grade: B. The Red Skull has Cap trapped again and taunts him by making him fight robots in an arena, including one that looks like Bucky. Pretty good, though it's hard to believe a robot would have fooled Cap so long. Not as good is the Iron Man story where he and SHIELD agent/nerdy accountant Jasper Sitwell team-up against the Grey Gargoyle. GG is not a good match for Iron Man; even though GG's power is supposedly science-based, turning people to stone with his touch is more like magic, particularly here where GG impossibly turns Tony's repulsor rays to stone.
Howard the Duck #1 ("Howard the Barbarian", January 1976). Grade: A. Imaginative, Conan-esque fantasy parody. The inclusion of Spider-Man somehow works (probably because, by 1976, he'd already teamed up with everyone else!) and cements Howard's place in the Marvel universe. Howard's suicidal tendencies, following his origin, may be believable, but less forgivable is how quickly the manslaughter he commits in self-defense is written off.
Howard the Duck #2 ("Cry Turnip", March 1976). Grade: B+. There is a complex message here, but I don't approve of it -- Gerber and guest-author Starlin mock the superhero genre by having an artist who believes in heroes tortured into not believing in them anymore by a mind-controlling turnip from outer space. Could have been a lot funnier if it was not so dark.
Howard the Duck #3 ("Four Feathers of Death", May 1976). Grade: A. Pretty dated parody of the Kung Fu craze and, more specificaly, Marvel's own character Shang-Chi. Not hilarious, but still a satisfying story.
Howard the Duck #4 ("The Sleep...of the Just", July 1976). Grade: A+. More a character study of a frustrated artist, Gerber really gets into the story of Paul Sane, the sleepwalking vigilante Winky-Man. Worth reading for the line, "Something winky this way comes" alone.

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