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Headlines   2004 Review Index   June 22, 2004
Suspended Animation

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

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Valor

Photo courtesy of Mile High Comics     Mortal combat in the ancient Roman arenas! The brave exploits of the Knights of the Round Table! Exciting tales of Richard the Lion Heart's Crusades! All this and more can be found in the Valor hardback reprint editions, published by Russ Cochran. If I sound like a pitch man, you'll just have to forgive me. It's rare, however, to read an anthology comic that is as entertaining as Valor. And we're talking about work done 50 years ago, to boot. See my 2002 review of Impact comics for a little background on E.C.

     These later E.C. stories, published after the magazine had taken it's much-touted "New Direction," never cease to amaze me with their characters, rendering, and general entertainment value. Where professional-level comic work is concerned, they are not, as is implied by some E.C. fans, inferior to the company's earlier work, in my opinion. With comic legends such as artists Bernard Krigstein, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, and more, they are as visually pleasing as they are from a literary standpoint. Williamson and Wood in particular had ultra-realistic styles which were well-served their particular genres. In many cases, the black and white format somehow seems to add something to the amazingly detailed artwork. Combine this with the original letters pages, and some in-depth interviews with creators, and you have a veritable comics gem. One that could introduce new or young readers to the bold, rich history of comics.

     Honestly, something like this makes me wish there was a law that required every comics fan to read a quota of classic Golden Age work. But, lacking that, I'll just continue to produce these occasional "throw back" reviews, as I discover this material, myself.

     Valor is recommended for all lovers of comics, action heroes, history, drama, or the grand, sweeping epic, as it contains all of these elements, and more. Find it at comic shops, bookstores, online auctions or comic conventions. Prices may vary.

     Review by Mark Allen


Felix the Cat: House of 1,000 Ha Ha's!

     This is not your grandpa's Felix. That edgy cat with a magic bag of tricks began as an animated cartoon in 1923, and then moved to comic books and strips. That Felix appealed to adults and kids.

     This cat is for kids.

     That doesn't make this Felix bad. If fact, this cat is cool for six-year-old youngsters. Felix the cat and cast act like men, so believable dialog, plot, and setting are thrown out. That 'throwing out' makes Felix fantasy, and Felix fantasy is delightful. Acting like men, the simple, thick-lined art suspends disbelief by a visual internal logic. That visual logic is the simple style of a coloring book.

     So what makes Felix cool?

     Felix is recommended for pre-literate and young kids for nice art and story and because he is fun.

     Felix the Cat: House of 1,000 Ha Ha's!/22 pgs., $2.50, Felix Comics/ various artists and writers/sold at www.felixthecat.com & comics shops.

     Review by Michael Vance


Styx Taxi: Pastrami for the Dead #1

     The Styx Taxi line serves the dead, offering them "a chance to make things right before moving on". The cabbies in this issue do so while competing for twelve hours of freedom on Earth for themselves. They are also dead.

     The premise is intriguing. So, are the art and words solid entertainment? Dialog and characterizations are believable, but there are some clumsy scene transitions that make readers work to suspend disbelief. A smattering of unnecessary profanity also makes this title inappropriate for young children. 

     Its reality-based art is also blemished.  Some pages are visually cluttered and some are not, creating visual inconsistency.  In addition, the artist hasn't learned that varying line-widths create depth; foregrounds need a heavier line than backgrounds.

     So, is it thumbs up or down for Styx Taxi? Hey! I'll have a thumb out someday for a ride with a friendly cabbie, so I'll let you decide.

     Styx Taxi: Pastrami for the Dead #1/$2.50, 24 pgs., FWDbooks/ Steven Goldman, words; Jeremy Arambulo, art/available at comics shops and http://brosgoldman.tripod.com/buystyx.html.

     Review by Michael Vance


 

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