I was delighted to discover via the Blimey! blog that British comics are getting the TPB treatment. I ordered two earlier this year, which shows the diversity of the genre over there—
BLACK MAX (created by Ken Mennell and Erik Bradbury, then developed by Frank Pepper and Alfonso Font) is a WW I strip I read occasionally as a kid (my Aunt May used to send me comics after I moved to the U.S., but not consistently). While I usually skipped over war strips, this one had a great concept: Baron and air ace Maximilian von Klorr turns the bats that infest his estate into giants under his command, able to fly in darkness, smoke or fog, more maneuverable and deadly than anything else in the air. Pilot Tim Wilson discovers the reason so many planes have disappeared, but can he convince his superiors before Black Max eliminates him. A very lively series; I look forward to Vol. 2.
FRAN OF THE FLOODS by Alan Davidson and Phil Gascoine came out in the girls’ magazine Jinty (Britain had a much stronger line of girls’ comics than the US has managed). When the sun starts burning hotter, it triggers a massive rain and the U.K. floods. Cut off from her family (are they even alive?) Fran Scott sets out to the Scottish highlands where she hopes her sister is still alive. But can she make it past floods, feral dogs, slaver gangs, plague and the self-proclaimed king of Glasgow? This one’s a complete story and wraps up a little easily (the sun cools off again so the flooding ends), but it’s pretty good.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Winter In America by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Gerry Angullan and Leinil Francis Yu ponders the question of Captain America’s role in the age of Trump? In the aftermath of Cap conquering the world as leader of Hydra, America’s falling apart, white rural folks are rebelling against the government and a scheming Russian plans to take exploit the situation. Can Cap turn things around when nobody still trusts him? Much like Coates’ Black Panther, this is hobbled by Coates having to deal with fallout from previous plotlines (the Hydra big event) which I would just as soon everyone forget happened; still enough potential I’ll read subsequent volumes (I go into more detail about it at Atomic Junkshop)
BATMAN: Bride or Burglar? by Tom King and multiple artists has Selina and Bruce struggling to keep their relationship together despite Poison Ivy taking over the world, Bruce spending years in another dimension with Wonder Woman and the couple’s commitment issues. I’m still not a fan of King’s run, but the relationship is the best thing he’s done.
THE QUALITY COMPANION by Mike Kooiman and Jim Amashis an exhaustive look at the Golden Age comics company now best known for giving us Plastic Man and the Spirit, and to a lesser extent Blackhawk and the Freedom Fighters.
Unlike some publishers, Everett “Busy” Arnold was a good businessman and had a good eye for art; Quality stood out from the pack because of artists like Jack Cole on Plastic Man, Will Eisner on the Spirit (Eisner also created a number of Quality characters), and Lou Fine and Reed Crandall on others. Rights to the characters passed to DC later (there’s some good discussion of the copyright complications) which introduced them to many fans and writers (James Robinson of Starman grew up seeing the Ray, Phantom Lady and others in Bronze Age reprint stories, which got him hooked). This includes a history of the company, a list of creators, and an encyclopedic guide to the heroes, from A-listers to the so-bad-he’s-legend Red Bee (his greatest weapon was a trained bee) and even more forgotten characters (the Ghost of Flanders, a WW I vet who fought crime from under the Unknown Soldier memorial). Like the MLJ Companion, this has several sample stories included, so you can see Crandall, Fine and Cole’s work and judge for yourself.
#SFWApro. Cover by Alfonso Font, Plastic Man by Jack Cole, all rights to images remain with current holders.