Thor, Avengers, Hellboy and love: comic book collections read.

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THOR Volumes 3 (which I don’t think I’ve reviewed and four) show Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at their storytelling best (way better than the previous volume). We have the first one-on-one battle between Thor and the Hulk, then things slide into what’s almost one continuous story for several years. The Trial of the Gods leads into Thor’s first encounter with the Absorbing Man, then the Destroyer, which leads into a battle with Hercules, all spectacularly rendered by Kirby. It’s not all perfect — there’s a totally ridiculous plotline involving a reporter kidnapping Jane Foster. Overall, though, this is great stuff, assuming Silver Age Marvel falls into your wheelhouse.

AVENGERS: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (The Ultimate Collection) by Joe Casey and Scott Kolins takes a very different look behind the scenes of the Avengers’ Silver Age adventures. In the first of the two series we see Tony Stark struggling to get government support for the team while Captain America deals with the 21st century and then to his PTSD reaction to Zemo, the man who killed Cap’s partner Bucky (or so it seemed at the time). This runs from the team’s beginning to the replacement by Cap’s “Kookie Quartet” of Cap, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The second series covers only a few issues, from the debut of the Vision to right after the wedding of Hank and Jan, but it’s a surprisingly fertile field (I’ve written about the wedding myself). However the subplot exploring Black Panther’s decision to work as an inner-city teacher is much weaker and why would a Wakandan assassin call himself Death Tiger (there are no African tigers)? Overall, well worth the reading and better than Casey’s retelling of the team’s origin.

HELLBOY: Return of Effie Kolb by Mike Mignola and various collaborators is a collection of standalone Hellboy stories. The title one is a sequel to the classic The Crooked Man but my favorite is the weird, eerie Long Night at Goloska Station which includes the phrase “The devil came to my village disguised as a goat.”

E.C. COMICS ARCHIVES: Modern Love by various creators is a poor shadow of their classic horror stuff (though most of that doesn’t work for me either). There’s some interesting stuff like a woman working as a dime-a-dance hostess to support her mother (it segues into a crime story, something else E.C. was big on) but others are stock and a few are cringeworthy. In one, a guy tricks a girl into staying overnight with him at a hotel (separate rooms, no attempt at anything), knowing it will destroy her reputation and her engagement, leaving him free to swoop in. Yes, he gets the girl. I didn’t finish this one.

#SFWApro. Covers by Jack Kirby (top) and John Buscema (bottom).


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