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Mad Dog

Comic books and Manga Thread

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I finished the Sandman Mystery Theatre arcs "Dr. Death", "The Night of the Butcher", "The Hourman" and "The Python." Absolutely one of the most tightly plotted series I've read with each arc being compelling reading. The relationship between Wesley and Dian has taken twists and turns that I didn't expect, but I have to say it's the development of the supporting cast that I've enjoyed the most. I love Burke. Readers have come across cops like Burke in fiction countless times, but he still feels like a living, breathing character. I also like that they're saving some of the reveals until the end and throwing in a few red herrings. Night of the Butcher finally introduced a killer that wasn't immediately connected to the characters, and all it took was a bit of mutilation. I like Guy Davis' art, but I still find him to be a bit inconsistent. The characters' weight seems to change all the time, and I often get confused between his depiction of Dodds and the coroner, Hubert Klein. I'm really enjoying the series, which is why I'm burning through it so quickly.

I also read Jim Starlin's Metamorphosis Odyssey from Epic Illustrated. I've been reading quite a few Marvel magazines lately, and I feel like they were an untapped avenue for Marvel's creators to enjoy creative freedom and explore their own original ideas instead of trying to shoehorn them into the monthly books. Very few creators took advantage of the possibilities of this new format, and there weren't a lot of successes, but Metamorphosis Odyssey was definitely a success. It was gorgeous to look at and the concept was intriguing. The execution wasn't perfect (it felt a bit rushed to me), but it was magnificent in its scope. I must admit, I immediately thought, "Wow, it's Green Arrow" when Vanth finally appeared. 

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On 8/25/2021 at 10:17 AM, Mad Dog said:

Dipping my toes into the Demon Slayer manga. Really enjoyed the first 12 chapters or so. It's kept a nice pace and got through the training phase relatively quickly. It feels fairly different for being a shonen battle manga. 

Demon Slayer is a decent series. I read it because my daughter was so heavily into it, and I was buying the volumes for her. Towards the end of the series when the popularity is exploding, you get the feeling that the mangaka is burnt out and in a desperate rush to finish the series. My favorite thing about the series was the tragic backstories. Every time they'd slay a demon, you'd find out the person's history and what led them to becoming a demon. Some of the backstories really got to me. 

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I've been going through a bunch of stuff the last few months but nothing has motivated me to do any reviews like I did with Thor. Still lots of 70s stuff. Finally started Master of Kung Fu and it's pretty great. Finally read Omega the Unknown and it was just getting really good imo when the plug was pulled. The attempt at a wrap up in Defenders was pretty crappy. Still plowing through Astro City, only 3 volumes to go. Still going through Kirby. Challengers of the Unknown is a bit slow going so far, but I really liked the first 7 issues of The Eternals. For a little non-superhero stuff, I'm reading Blazing Combat, the Warren war mag from the mid 60s. It's really good, and I will likely finally try Creepy next. Also read Life on Another Planet by Will Eisner yesterday and enjoyed it. Plan on hitting up a Spirit collection I got from eBay a while back soon. My read next "pile" includes 70s FF, more random Marvel miniseries from the 2000s (next up, Bullet Points), Joe Kubert's Enemy Ace from the 60s, the last volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the last half or so of Lee/Ditko Dr. Strange that I started many years ago. Oh yeah, i finished the Englehart/Brunner/Colon Dr. Strange run and it was quite good. Plus I'm reading the giant Fred Hembeck omnibus (digital copy) here and there. I think that covers it

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Similar to Kelly I have been reading lots but have not felt the urge to post in this thread with reviews too much. I will say overall I liked Thor a bit more than than his last batch of reviews, although I broadly agree with much of it. I just found the run very fun overall even with its obvious flaws.

Currently I am re-reading ASM from the beginning for the first time in ages and I'm not exaggerating, I think ASM is easily Marvel's best title of the 1960s and it's not close.

Similarly I am about to re-read Doom Patrol and the 1970s Conan stuff. Then I am going to tackle Tomb of Dracula.

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They really get Spiderman right almost straight out of the gate. The first 10ish issues are hit and miss but I think by the first appearance of Green Goblin it's just firing on all cylinders. 

I think Spiderman really benefits from not having any real superhero conventions. He doesn't have a defined weakness like other Silver Age heroes. Lee and Ditko use his normal life to hamper him as a hero. 

Really good early villains too as they all have reasonable origin stories. 

It's really both Lee and Ditko's best work as they just break all the rules and I agree completely stands out against its contemporaries. 

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I agree. A highlight for me in the Ditko run is ASM 25, which features the first appearance of Mary Jane Watson in a particularly clever way. I had a smile on my face the whole time (along with a great deal of sympathy for poor Betty Brant).

Lee and Ditko use the fundamental tropes of situational comedy so well here. Misunderstandings, coincidences that aren't forced, narrative pacing and structure that keep the reader's attention and never letting it go ... brilliant stuff.

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Lee does a really good job with Spiderman when he shows up in other books of kind of making him obnoxious which he would come across to other heroes. 

I also like the relationship he has with the Human Torch. The love/hate sort lf rivalry they have is really special and I am sad it's kind of lost in modern comics. 

I will add that I think The Thing is the best character Stan Lee wrote. Once they got him figured out and he kind of became that cool degenerate uncle he really became a great character. 

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There is a great homage by Hickman in modern FF towards the great relationship between Johnny Storm and Spidey when he makes a special appearance as the guest of honour at Franklin Richards' birthday party. I think it's FF #574. I read it last year. Really good story.

Spider-Man: Blue is a great mini-series by Jeph Loeb which I re-read recently.

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There is a modern homage to the Spidey/Torch relationship that recreates a lot of the funny/awesome moments and takes off on the way the whole relationship works.  I am not overly a fan of Spidey or Johnny Storm, but when you put them together they are amazing beyond belief.

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I wasn't overly thrilled with the Sandman Mystery Theatre "Phantom of the Fair" arc. For the first time in the series, it felt like there was too much story in the arc. Sandman Mystery Theatre is such a tightly plotted book, and so well paced, that I almost always feel compelled to read an arc in a single sitting, but this arc dragged. It couldn't figure out what it wanted to be. At first, you had Wesley brooding over the future, and the spectre of war, against the backdrop of the World's Fair. Then suddenly it was about Wesley confronting his own prejudices and homophobia. Personally, I couldn't understand how Wesley could be homophobic given everything we've learned about him thus far. My bigger problem, however, was how the two themes were meant to be connected. Utopia ideals vs. man's basic nature? Another murder, another direct connection to the titular character. At least this murder prompted Wesley to behave in new ways. I don't like the way Wesley and Dian's relationship has been thrown on the backburner. Dian has a job now and has found some purpose in her life, all Wesley and Dian do is engage in endless rounds of foreplay (okay, people had sex in the 1930s, I get it!) I did like the clumsy fight scene at the end of the arc. I like the fact that Wesley is perhaps the most nonathletic superhero, ever. I guess Dian being involved more in the crimefighting side of things is a welcome development, but their relationship hasn't felt right to me since she ran off to England. There are an increasing number of cameos from other Golden Age heroes. Ted Knight did not seem like the Ted Knight I know from James Robinson's Star Man. I dug the Jim Corrigan appearance, though. Another thing that threw me off about this arc was the overhaul of the cover designs. They are trying to make the covers look like the covers to an old pulp magazine or movie poster, but they would have looked much better if they'd been painted or done with pencil art. 

Another series I wrapped up was Earth X. I'm not a huge fan of dystopian future storytelling these days (perhaps because we're living in one right now), but the series grew on me towards the end. I'm not in a rush to read the sequels, but the art was nice and there was some intrigue, which is all I really hope for from a comic. 
 

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I read the final chapter of Berserk that Kentaro Miura worked on before passing away. It's still uncertain whether the series will continue, but if that is the last chapter then it ends with the most incredible cliffhanger. The artwork was as sublime as ever. I don't know how much work his assistants did to finish it, but we'll never see Miura's like again. There's an exhibition of his work happening this month that I may have to drag myself along to. 

I've been going through a bit of a rut with Sandman Mystery Theatre. I've never read a single issue of Blackhawk, so I wasn't sure what I should make of the Janos Prohaska depiction. To me, the most interesting thing about that arc was Burke's reaction to the murders. Then I really didn't like the Return of the Scarlet Ghost arc until the last issue where Wagner and Seagle drastically upped the ante. The Crone was better. The relationship between Wesley and Dian has grown bleak, but I found that storyline more interesting than the murder mystery. I guess one of the difficult parts of this series was coming up with murder mysteries. I'm not really a fan of how they used comics and then radio as the backdrop for the murders. It seems over-the-top to me that there would be a spree of murders in either industry. I realize that the writers want to tap into everything that was shaping society in the late 30s, but it's a tad contrived at times. 

I read Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld over the past few weeks. It's a comic I always seem mentioned as an underrated title. The first issue was rushed and felt like a comic for a toy line, but once it settled into a groove, it was a highly enjoyable max-series. The most outstanding thing about it is Ernie Colon's artwork. I'd probably recommend it on that basis alone.

And I finally finished Five Years Later through to the last issue written by the Bierbaums. What a complete and utter non-investment. I remember the first time I read Five Years Later it was after I had read all of the classic runs on Legion of Super-Heroes, and I really enjoyed the first dozen issues before Giffen stepped back from the series. This but this time round it felt inconsequential. I got absolutely nothing out of it, and a lot of the time it was just plain confusing. My opinion of post-Crisis reboots is starting to nosedive. 

Today I read Conan the Barbarian #100, which some of you may know is the conclusion to the Belit saga. It wasn't as moving as it might have been if the readers didn't know what was going to happen in advance, but it was beautifully rendered by Buscema and Chan, and a monumental chapter in the series given that Conan spent so many issues with the Black Corsairs. I've been reading Conan and Jonah Hex at the same time, so I've had these duel narratives of Conan and Belit and Jonah and Mei Ling play out simultaneously. I prefer the way Fleisher handled Jonah and Mei Ling to the way Thomas wrote Conan and Belit, but I'm yet to see how Thomas handles the aftermath. 

Curse you DC for cancelling Jonah Hex in 1985! Actually, apparently it escaped cancellation three times. That's unfortunate because I honestly think Fleisher's run is one of the best comic book runs ever. 

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I don't think I've posted much about manga in this thread but I am a big fan of horror and so I should recommend the work of Junji Ito. Uzumaki is I think a masterpiece and I'm about to read his latest collection, Sensor.

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Big day for me as I finished up Jonah Hex, Sandman Mystery Theatre, and Roy Thomas' original run on Conan the Barbarian.

Jonah Hex remained a high quality book until the end, though it takes a dip toward the end when the book goes bi-monthly and Fleisher is busy at work on the Hex series. The last three issues are drawn and colored by the Gray Morrow. The artwork is gorgeous and the people are beautiful, but Morrow's style doesn't fit the gritty image of the series. The Crisis tie-in is awful, and yet it isn't the most frustrating part of the conclusion. Throughout the series, one of the most important aspects of the story was the women in Jonah's life, and yet we never find out what happens to Adrian or Emmylou, and even Mei Ling is treated shabbily. I suspect Fleisher felt that he could always return Jonah to the West and continue telling these stories, and indeed a few years later, Fleisher wrote one last Jonah story in Secret Origins which confirms that Jonah made it back to the West. It also sets up some lore about some tragedy befalling Jonah's son. I don't know if another writer followed up on that. I'm currently weighing up whether to read any of the later Jonah runs. Fleisher ended up penning over 100 Jonah stories. It was a brilliant run. Aside from the unresolved plot points, the only part I didn't like was when Jonah was abducted and taken to China, and even then I liked the story on the boat ride back. I'm gonna miss that ugly mug.

Sandman Mystery Theatre ended strongly. I was pleased that Seagle resolved the things that had been nagging at me about Wesley & Dian's relationship. The final issue is really beautiful. It's almost as perfect as the ending to Casablanca. It's amazing how Seagle was able to wrap up so many plot points within a single issue. There were more stories the creators could have told, but they were fighting an uphill battle with sales. Having Wesley pull the plug on his own comic was brilliant. Personally, I thought the middle of the series was when the book was firing on all cylinders, but the book maintained its integrity until the end, which is rare with comic book runs. 

Roy Thomas was also able to exit Conan on a high, penning the 10th anniversary issue where Conan finally deals with his grief over Belit's death. Conan had spent a couple of years wandering about having adventures in the wake of her death. Occasionally, there would be references to her, but we never saw Conan grieve over her. This actually bugged me a bit as I wanted to see how a barbarian would react to these types of circumstances. I didn't expect him to have an arguments with God like Jonah did, but I wanted to see how his brooding would play out. Thankfully, Roy handled it beautifully and signed off with one of his best stories. Not sure where I'll go next with Conan. There is so much content I haven't read yet. 
 

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I have read all of the published Conan material by Howard and his literary successors; I plan to read the comic adaptations more thoroughly as I've only dabbled with them over the years. Am interested to see if I have a positive view of the initial run of Marvel by Thomas et al. which I have never read in full. 

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I should add, it's been years since I've read it but I have yet to read a manga to match Lone Wolf and Cub. Am curious if others here disagree.

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I don't think the art in Lone Wolf and Cub compares to a work like Vagabond. I haven't read Lone Wolf and Cub to the end so I can't comment on the story. The best manga I've read is Berserk. 

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15 hours ago, ohtani's jacket said:

I don't think the art in Lone Wolf and Cub compares to a work like Vagabond. I haven't read Lone Wolf and Cub to the end so I can't comment on the story. The best manga I've read is Berserk. 

I do mean to read Berserk but have been a bit hesitant because it's going to take effort to acquire the whole run.

I think Lone Wolf and Cub has a fine art style which suits its story, which I adore.

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