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The ’70s Revisited: Planet of Vampires

70s_revisited

planet_of_vampires_0001The Long Road Home!

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Pat Broderick
Inks: Frank McLaughlin
Editor: Jeff Rovin
Published by: Atlas Comics (Seaboard Periodicals)
Cover Date: February 1975
Cover Price: 25 cents

I can’t remember where I got this issue. It’s most likely from a 25-cent bin, though also possible that I grabbed it from a dollar bin for the novelty of its age and all. Whatever the case, this thing is from 1975–42 years ago. It pre-dates Claremont on X-Men, and even pre-dates me existing.

I normally don’t care (much) for stuff before the 1980s as any kind of preferred choice in reading, comics-wise…and this issue doesn’t change my mind. That said, this is a #1, with an interesting logo suggesting an interesting concept, and I forced myself to read the thing all the way through!

Basically, we’re introduced to a group of 6 astronauts, part of some mission sent out a number of years ago to Mars, that’s just now returning to Earth. While they were "out there," they heard back about war breaking out, before losing contact with Earth. They stalled awhile, hoping for positive news, but when their resources got to a critical level–if they didn’t head back, they wouldn’t make it at all–they headed back, hoping for the best. After a "rough landing," they encounter a couple different groups of people and are ‘taken in’ by one group, apparently more civilized, after being attacked by "savages." Ushered into a dome, they learn that this is one of the last bastions of civilized society, and the dome is to protect them from incursions from the savage outsiders. War had indeed happened, and led to a huge division in the populace! Our protagonists–allowed to explore–walk in on something they weren’t supposed to see, which reveals a horrible truth, and suggests the "savages" are the population inside the dome, not outside. In righting the apparent wrong, the astronauts ally themselves with the so-called savages, and begin to make an escape from the "vampires" of the dome.

This title’s concept led me to expect/assume this would be about astronauts arriving on some foreign planet inhabited by your typical vampires–the bite-your-neck-and-suck-your-blood sort. Having that flipped–humans returning to Earth to find a group of people who mechanically harvest the blood they need to survive from another group–provides a different take on the notion of a ‘vampire’. There’s also something to the whole thing that puts me in mind of Planet of the Apes, if only loosely so.

This story’s set in 2010…at the issue’s time of publication, that was 35 years in the future. As I read this and as of this writing, 2010 is eight years in the past! To re-time it, it’d be like my now reading a new story set in 2053.

I find it interesting to read something like this–both for the alternate future notion rooted in its time, as well as being work by Larry Hama that predates GI Joe by the better part of a decade.

The art isn’t anything overly special…it conveys the story as needed, getting things across and moving the reader along. Nothing much really stands out, at least to me–this is a comic, and non-superhero at that. The work is consistent enough, but all the characters kinda blend together to a degree, at least on a single reading.

As a whole, this issue felt like something out of the 1970s, as it is. The issue, the concept, the story, etc. The issue makes for an interesting sorta time-capsule of sorts, for comics of the time, as well as concerns of the time in society in general (that fear of nuclear war wiping out most life on Earth).

I’d thought this Atlas Comics line to be an imprint of Marvel at the time, figuring it was just an imprint I wasn’t familiar with, given Marvel‘s history with the name. A bit of quick internet research turned up the fact that this is from a whole different entity…albeit an entity that did have some top names associated with it! None of the titles lasted very long, though, which likely explains my lack of familiarity with this.

I don’t think I care enough to try to hunt down the remaining several issues to see where this title started to go…but it was still an interesting read by itself for the present.

If you find this in a bargain bin, it’s worth a quarter, and maybe even going as high as $1 or so. If nothing else, even for more, you’ll get a lengthier reading experience out of this than you will most contemporary comics!

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I’m pretty sure this would fit right in with Sci-Fi January…check out The Crapbox of Son Of Cthulhu for a bunch of great stuff, currently with the Sci-Fi January theme!

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planet_of_vampires_0001_blogtrailer

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X-Men: Grand Design #1 [Review]

xmen_grand_design_0001X-Men: Grand Design

Cartoonist: Ed Piskor
Editor: Chris Robinson
X-Men Group Editor: Mark Paniccia
Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
President: Dan Buckley
Executive Producer: Alan Fine
X-Men Created by: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $5.99

I crab about Marvel comics all costing $3.99+ and virtually always put back even curiosities once I “confirm” that they’re $3.99+ for the issue held in-hand. I’m down on much of what Marvel has published for the last few years at least, and have had extremely mixed feelings on what stuff I have picked up.

This issue is $5.99.

And I barely thought anything of it. The issue FEELS thick, and heavy, and quite possibly THE single best value in a single issue that I have come across from Marvel in a long, long time.

It took me three sittings to get through this issue. Granted, I had other stuff going on, but I also hadn’t mentally “budgeted” a long time to stay put and read, used to even the extra-sized issues being pretty quick reads.

I’m not actually sure what I expected from this issue. I think initially I thought it was going to be a book that was text-only; when I realized it was actually a comic after all, I decided to give it a shot. What I got out of it is that whatever the length of the finished product, it’s like this detailed “history” of the X-Men, in comic format–using new art and narrative but covering existing material.

The page design includes coloring to make these glossy, higher-quality-paper pages look like old newsprint; the coloring to the story/art itself lends to that effect, giving this the appearance of a classic 1960s comic book or such. While there’s a little bit of “panel creativity” and “white space,” by and large the page layouts are tight and dense, modular classic panels–squares and rectangles with actual borders and gutters in a way that seems to have been largely jettisoned in “modern” comics. The dense visuals share space with dense text–plenty of caption boxes, speech balloons, and thought bubbles; the art is there, the art shows plenty, but there are no full or double-page splashes. The art serves the narrative, rather than some limited text serving up an excuse for big, flashy art.

Story-wise, I didn’t really feel like there was anything “new” or “fancy” or such here. Nothing particularly stood out, nothing was singularly memorable. But then, I was not expecting such. What the story is, what the writing is, is basically a straight-forward narrative, in chronological order, from the beginning of Marvel Comics into the 1960s and the beginning of the original X-Men issues. Things that were revealed in flashbacks a few issues in or 30-something YEARS’ worth of issues in, it’s here in order, unfolding as events unfolded–NOT in the order that details were doled out to readers as the actual issues were published. And this is presented as a tale from Uatu, the Watcher…giving a good context to things now being told in order.

In many ways, I’m sure a lot of people would consider this a boring read, and a re-tread, and probably a few other negative connotations to stuff. Me? I thoroughly enjoyed this. Part review, part history lesson, part summary, and part condensed revisitation of classic stories. I totally appreciate comics in general and the nature of them; the occasional “new reveal” or such, new flashbacks revealing previously-unknown information, the introduction of a character from someone’s past who just happened to not have been mentioned or relevant til “now” in the story that sheds new and different light on past events. But there’s something cool and refreshing about just following a single, one-directioned narrative pulling in everything–from information we got in X-Men #1, to stuff brought up/shown into 2009, 45-some years after X-Men #1.

X-Men: Grand Design (sample 2 pages' layout)

Pages seem to have 5-9 panels each, some more…making for plenty of room to cram a LOT of story into small space. No half, full, or double-page splashes to “cheat” or anything!

For my $5.99, three “sittings” to read, and sheer amount of time spent to read this whole thing, this is the best value in time-to-money I’ve found in years. As I got to the end of the issue, I wondered if this was monthly, or if I’d have to wait up to TWO months for the next issue…but then saw the next issue is supposedly in a mere two weeks.

At $5.99 an issue, and biweekly, and I’m very much looking forward to the next issue? Anyone reading much of my writing of late ought to realize that alone should speak to the quality I see in this. Again–this will not be for everyone. That said…I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who is or was a fan of the X-Men, particularly the 1960s “early days” OF the X-Men.

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