Redartz: Over the years, from time to time, I've mentioned several comics that hold a high position in my status list. Today we're going to take a brief look at several of those favorites; consider each one a hearty recommendation! Each one is a potential source of discussion' additionally for this 'round table' everyone is encouraged to describe/ recommend / flaunt a choice book or books that you think everyone else would enjoy.
Each mini review will also feature a page from the tale to give you a little sample, just to tantalize. So here we go, in no particular order:
Batman / Spirit, by Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke
. This teamup of two of my favorite characters would be a natural for my 'best 'list. Even more so when rendered by the wonderful Darwyn Cooke. His retro style perfectly captures the classic feel of the classic villains abounding herein. And abound they do; many of both Batman's and the Spirit's most famous foes are involved. Loeb's story is very entertaining, and winds around a fascinating crossover between Jim Gordon, Commissioner Dolan, P'Gell and Pamela Isley. Not going to spoil it for you, but it's a hoot. And, the interplay between the two main protagonists is likewise hilarious. Any fan of either Bruce Wayne or Denny Colt will love this.
Spirit Jam, by Will Eisner and just about everybody...
Will Eisner's most famous creation gets two appearances today, and he certainly deserves it. This phenomenal tale appears in Kitchen Sink Comix' "Will Eisner's The Spirit" issue 30, from 1981. Most of this series presented reprints of Eisner's revered work, both of the Spirit and occasionally of other subjects. But this special issue brought together an unbelievable team of creators; too lengthy to go into ; but you can get an idea from the cover. Suffice it to say that the representative page here was done by Frank Miller and Terry Austin.
As for the story, it involves an untold Spirit adventure, wrapped in a framing sequence tying in the very creation of the story itself! As in Batman/Spirit, many of the Spririt's rogues gallery are included. The story abounds in adventure, humor, and a bit of the risque as well. It's great fun, and a big kick trying to identify the various artists' work from page to page (if you need to cheat, there's a breakdown on the letters page).
This book can be had for a comparative pittance, but it's worth it's weight in gold (or perhaps golden age books?).
Jonny Quest #2, by William Messner-Loebs, Wendy Pini and Joe Staton.
The first two reviews were pretty light-hearted; this book is one of the most heartrending comics I've ever read. It gives us both the story of how Jonny's mother died, and also how Race Bannon came to join the Quest family. As you would expect, Race keeps the requisite amount of excitement topped off, but the real focus here is the drama. Bill Messner-Loebs truly masters this ; with the most sensitive portrayal of Benton Quest you'll ever see anywhere. The level of characterization in this issue is off the charts, and it's impossible to read without a tear or two. But fear not, Loebs finishes the tale off with an optimistic air, and it's a most satisfying read.
Artwise, it's nice to see Wendy Pini's take on the Quest group, and Joe Staton's inks are perfect for her pencils.
Comico's "Jonny Quest" series was quite good in it's entirety, but this issue is the capper. A masterpiece of comics at their most human.
Sensational Spider-Man Annual 1, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca.
This book came out in 2007 as part of the ongoing "Back in Black" storyline in Spider-man, following immediately on the heels of the events of "Civil War". I did enjoy "Civil War", not so much the soon-to-follow "One More Day" story. But regardless, this book, while being a part of that controversial arc, is actually a loving tribute to the classic Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) of the Silver and Bronze age. In "To Have and to Hold", Matt Fraction tells the story of an investigator trying to get hold of Peter through his then-wife Mary Jane. But MJ isn't about to betray her Pete, and proceeds to relate story after story of their past relationship. We are treated to some very nice moments with characters we've known and loved for years, and it's a gem.
Artist Salvador Larroca does a phenomenal job with the visuals, giving each flashback sequence a sense of the original artists. The page I've shown here channels John Romita Sr.,; he also does a very nice Ross Andru.
This is one of those Annuals that can stand alone on it's own merits, as a testament to the classic Spider-Man of the past. And it's portrayal of Mary Jane shows why she's still my favorite match for Peter.
Sugar and Spike 25, by Sheldon Mayer.
I could have picked almost any issue of this series, but chose this one with it's charming Halloween cover as appropriate to the upcoming holiday. Anyone who has followed this blog probably knows of my fondness for Sheldon Mayer's two tempestuous tots. These stories are warmhearted, fun, amusing, cute, and an absolute pleasure to read. There were generally a couple multi-page stories in each issue, with a short or two included as well. Then there were the '"Pint-Size Pin-Ups" pages, with reader-submitted outfits for the kids. These pages were often cut out, which means of course that finding intact copies of an issue of "Sugar and Spike" can be challenging. But it's worth the effort. These are comics that children can read, but that adults can enjoy equally (if not more). It may be some testament to the book that while I've been parting with many comics in recent years, reducing the size of my collection, I still search out issues of "S & S" in hopes of someday completing the run. Partly because the only reprinted collection available had the first 10 issues, the next 90 are available only as originals. And the search continues, to which I can only add "Glx Sptzl Glaah"...
Okay, there you have five books that keep me a comics reader. Feel free to share your thoughts on them, and to spill the beans about any particular comics that will always have a special spot in your heart!