Saturday, May 24, 2014

On the Shelf: One Shadow era ends, and another begins?

Dynamite Entertainment ended their monthly The Shadow after issue 25, released earlier this month. Maybe it's just as well, as writer Chris Roberson's story arcs became less and less interesting as time went on. However, taking the place of the ongoing monthly is a new miniseries written & drawn by Howard Chaykin, whose last run with the Dark Avenger marked the pulp legend's return to DC in 1987.

This time, instead of moving the story into the present, as Chaykin did 27 years ago, "Midnight in Moscow" is set in the winter of 1949-50, and has the Shadow contemplating---gulp---retirement. Once again, Chaykin has taken the Shadow out of his classic milieu, and it is the 2nd time Dynamite has tried it. I just can't get into this one at all. Call me old, jaded, and cynical, but trying to transpose the Shadow into modern times, or close to it, loses something in the translation.

Rating: D.

One of my all-time favorite cartoons is, if you follow Saturday Morning Archives, Super Friends. In 1976, with the original series in reruns, DC added a comics version, which lasted 5 years and 47 issues. I got back into collecting in time to purchase the last 12 issues of the series, but trying to find those same books today can be a little pricey.

After two trade paperback collections were released a number of years back, DC has gone back into the vaults to add Super Friends to their Showcase Presents series of reprint volumes. Had they chosen to reprint in full color again, as they did in the earlier TPB releases, it would be more expensive than it is. That's just a fact of business. The Alex Toth cover is, itself, a reprint, first used as the title card for the 1973 TV series, then for a Limited Collector's Edition reprint volume that used a framing sequence by Toth to set up some Justice League of America (1st series) reprints. I think that tabloid-size volume served as a back-door pilot for the Super Friends comic book, if memory serves. Anyway, this affords a chance to read the stories you may have missed back in the day, complete with the television screen-shaped panels used in the books. It was, after all, originally part of DC's ill fated TV Comics line, which also included adaptations of Isis & Welcome Back, Kotter. The first 24 issues are collected here, in order, and including a Wonder Twins origin tale first published in issue 14, the first issue I actually owned for a time. DC, I think, is hoping enough folks will buy into this so they can do a volume 2 and complete the series, once and for all. With the series having marked 40 years last year, it's certainly appropriate.

Rating: A-.

Let's get back to Free Comic Book Day from earlier this month.

England's legendary 2000 AD returns in a magazine-size volume that features popular favorites such as Judges Dredd & Anderson (in separate tales). If you didn't follow the series initially, you are expected to jump right in without prompting. Dredd headlines due to his being the best known character. 2 movies will do that. Rating: B-.

Ted Naifeh's young witch, Courtney Crumrin, returns to duel with a rival who's about her age, but doesn't have the experience. Didn't like the way this one ended. Rating: C.

50's hero Captain Midnight teams with a forgotten Dell Comics hero of the 60's, Brain Boy, as part of Dark Horse's summer event, Project: Black Sky, which also includes two alumni from the company's short-lived 90's line, Comics' Greatest World. X & Ghost were recently revived, and DH now wants to get back to being a major player with their first major event in years. Looks like fun, but I'll wait for the TPB. Rating: B.

The Bleeding Cool website has spawned a magazine of the same name that's more hype than substance. Then again, Marvel used to do a similar book back in the 80's that lasted a good long time. Today's kids want to read the story and look at the panels. But then, isn't that always the way it was? Diamond's monthly Previews catalogue spins off a regular size 1-shot that asks the question, "What's @ Comic Shops?". This is a primer for new readers, basically, to educate them on the comics business. Good idea.

Both books get a B.

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