Comic Review: The Saga of Solomon Kane

Published: August 18th, 2009
Written by: Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, various
Art by: various
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, characters by Bram Stoker

Marvel Comics (original printing), Dark Horse (reprinted), 416 Pages

Review:

Man, this was one hell of a buy! A great value in fact! I was surprised that I found one in pretty pristine condition on eBay for about twenty bucks.

This collection is pretty special, as it is magazine sized and all in black and white. It’s also over 400 glorious pages! It reprints all of the Solomon Kane magazine format stories from the original Marvel era when they had all the Robert E. Howard publishing rights from the ’70s into the early ’90s.

I’ve read probably half of these stories before, as I own a lot of the issues these tales appeared in but it’s been a really long time and about 50-60 percent of this was new to me.

It seems like this is mostly in chronological order and it allowed for it to read much better as a broader body of work, covering the large passage of time over Kane’s many adventures.

Being that this was made by Marvel, it features some great crossovers with the Marvel version of Dracula, as well as another Robert E. Howard character, Conan. There’s even a story in here that features Frankenstein’s castle.

A lot of the stories here are adapted from Howard’s literary Solomon Kane tales. Having recently read the definitive collection of the literary work, it was really cool seeing some of the same tales brought to life with great art.

All in all, this is now one of my favorite things in my graphic novel collection. It’s a beast of a collection but it’s also something I know I’ll go back to and revisit again and again for the rest of my life.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other comic stories that were featured within the pages of the original Savage Sword of Conan magazine.

Comic Review: The Monster of Frankenstein

Published: 1973-1974
Written by: Gary Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, Doug Moench
Art by: Bob Brown, John Buscema, Val Mayerik, Don Perlin, Mike Ploog
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Marvel Comics, 533 Pages

Review:

After reading the first big collection of Marvel Comics’ The Tomb of Dracula, I wanted to check out some of their other horror titles that are based off of classic monsters. So naturally, their ’70s Frankenstein series seemed like the next one I should read.

From the start, this was a pretty cool series. It initially starts way back in the original era of Frankenstein’s Monster but it moves through time with each story arc, bringing the lovable brute into more modern times by the end.

My favorite arc within the series was near the middle and it featured the Monster meeting Dracula. Now I wasn’t 100 percent clear as to whether I was supposed to interpret the character as Marvel’s Dracula or not. I’d assume so, despite the ending making me question it. But the reason why I see him as the same character is because Frankenstein’s Monster also crosses over with the Marvel superhero universe, which links the characters and puts both of them in Marvel canon, officially.

The only real down side to this series was that it switched artists and writers a lot. Now most of the stories were good and the art was always cool but it felt like it lacked cohesion and fluidity because of this. Three writers and five main artists over just eighteen issues is a lot.

Still, if ’70s Marvel horror is your thing and you haven’t read these comics yet, you might want to pick them up at some point.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula series, as well as Werewolf by Night and The Living Mummy comics.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Penguin

Published: September 4th, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

As I’ve stated just about every time that I’ve reviewed one of these Batman Arkham “best of” collections, I love these damn things. Each one focuses on a specific villain from Batman lore and, for the most part, collect the best stories from all eras of Batman comic book history.

Now while I did enjoy most of this volume, I can’t honestly say that these are the Penguin’s greatest hits. Some of the stories here were kind of drab and just from memory I came up with about a half dozen that were better than the ones collected here.

However, I think part of the problem is that they want to cover all the eras and most of the great Penguin stories I’m thinking of are from the ’70s and ’80s.

This still does a good job at showcasing the character and giving fans a peak into how he’s evolved over the years as times change and new writers have come and gone, most of them leaving their imprint on the character.

In the end, this is worth adding to your collection if you’ve also been buying every volume. However, I wish that DC would come up with a better and beefier collection to honor the longevity and greatness of this 79 year-old character.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Vids I Dig 162: Comic Tropes: ‘Moon Knight’: Obscure Characters Get to Take Chances

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: Moon Knight has never been an A-list title. In fact, it’s a title that is regularly canceled and rebooted with a new creative team. But because it isn’t a top-seller, Marvel Comics allows it’s writers and illustrators to take more chances on it. This video goes over the changes each creative team made when they took a crack at Moon Knight.

Comic Review: Moon Knight – Epic Collection, Vol. 2: Shadows of the Moon

Published: October 21st, 2015
Written by: Doug Moench, Jack Harris, Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, Denys Cowan, Greg Larocque

Marvel Comics, 505 Pages

Review:

Man, I didn’t know if the coolness of the first Moon Knight – Epic Collection could be topped but it was topped with this immediate followup that picks things up where that volume left off.

This installment all takes place within the original Moon Knight comic title, so it is much more fluid and less chaotic feeling than the previous book, which jumped around from multiple comic book titles, covering the earliest Moon Knight stories before he had his own series.

The vast majority of this is written by Doug Moench with the art handled by Bill Sienkiewicz. They were really the dream team for early Moon Knight and frankly, this is still my favorite era for the character in regards to story, tone and the incredible art by Sienkiewicz.

In fact, over these fifteen or twenty issues, you really see Sienkiewicz’s art evolve. He has the same sort of style but it develops more character and its own uniqueness that is very much Sienkiewicz.

Moon Knight was one hell of a dark comic for the time, being born out of the heyday of Marvel’s horror era of the ’70s and moving it forward into the ’80s.

My only real complaint about Moon Knight, as a character, is that his regular life was too complex in the earliest stories. Apart from the Moon Knight persona, he had three other identities. It’s kind of tedious and I think it created more problems than it needed to with narrative flow.

Regardless of that, this series, especially in this era, comes alive when our hero is in full Moon Knight garb, fighting some sort of monster or occult themed villain. And since this has a lot of that, it’s pretty f’n awesome.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Moon Knight – Epic Collection volumes, as well as other late ’70s/early ’80s Marvel comics focused on street level crime, magic or horror.

Comic Review: Batman, Issue #386 – First Appearance of Black Mask

Published: August 7th, 1985
Written by: Doug Moench
Art by: Tom Mandrake, Adrienne Roy

DC Comics, 24 Pages

Review:

While I’m a fan of Doug Moench’s writing, especially on Batman, as well as being a fan of the Black Mask character, I had never read his first appearance, which also serves as his origin story.

Recently, I bought the comic, graded and slabbed to add to my collection, but I wasn’t able to read it due to it being near mint and inaccessible in its sealed case. So I bought the issue digitally, so I could at least enjoy the story inside.

While I know the gist of Black Mask’s origin, I was glad to see it fleshed out. While his backstory is pretty unique, it’s also overly complex and it’s kind of strange.

This shows how he has ties to Bruce Wayne and in some ways, Black Mask’s childhood association reminded me of Hush’s even though this came out nearly two decades before Hush’s debut. And Black Mask also doesn’t know that Bruce Wayne is Batman.

The story here is a multi-part arc, which is continued in Detective Comics before bouncing back to the following issue of Batman.

I didn’t read the whole arc, as I mostly just wanted to read his debut issue. Plus, all of this will most likely be collected in Black Mask’s Batman Arkham collection, which is slated to be released in a few months. And since I plan to buy that and review it, I’ll read the whole story there.

In the meantime, this was a pretty impactful debut, enhanced by the art of Tom Mandrake and Adrienne Roy.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories by Doug Moench.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Killer Croc

Published: June 28th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 291 Pages

Review:

Killer Croc is a Batman villain that I have dug since I first read a story with him in it in the late ’80s. I’m glad that he has had staying power and is now pretty close to being an B+ level villain in the Batman and larger DC mythos.

This collection, like the other Batman Arkham villain compilations features a dozen or so stories focused on this specific character, all from different eras with a slew of different writers and artists.

But in the case of this book, that kind of hurts the overall compilation.

Now most of the writing is good with stories by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Tim Seeley and others. It’s the big style variance in art that damages the overall presentation.

The problem is that most of the stories featured here are from the ’90s. At the time, DC Comics had a lot of artists that experimented with a lot of different art styles. Most of the stuff here looks like ’90s indie stuff that is trying way too hard to be edgy and extreme. A lot of it comes off like massive eye sores and the strong contrast in style from chapter to chapter is kind of jarring. But this is a compilation and these things happen when you’re wedging a dozen or so stories into the same book.

However, this collection also brings to light one of my biggest gripes about the Killer Croc character and that’s that everyone draws him differently. Sometimes he’s just a jacked dude with scaly skin and other times he’s the size of the Hulk with an actual crocodile looking head, snout and all. I’ve never been a fan of his inconsistent look and some of these artists go too wild with it.

Being mostly a product of the ’90s we also get some over the top violence in one story in particular, which sees Killer Croc literally chomp a woman in half. While that stuff doesn’t bother me, it seemed out of place in the book and just reminded me of a time when DC Comics seemed like they were trying too hard to fit within what they thought were the times.

I did enjoy this collection, despite my gripes about it. They could only work with what they had in their library but I can’t believe that some of these are considered the best Killer Croc tales. Maybe someone needs to step up and do the character some justice, treat him with care and give us something with more meat.

I also found it odd that none of his Suicide Squad stuff was here, as some of those stories really build up the character in interesting ways.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Clayface

Published: August 15th, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 318 Pages

Review:

I’ve read a bunch of these Batman Arkham collections and I’m glad DC Comics is still putting one out a few times per year. If you remember those old collections like The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told or The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, these are similar and are always focused on one character: a Batman villain.

Now I say that these are focused on one villain but this installment is a bit different, as it features Clayface, which there have been multiple versions of over the years and all of them are pretty unique.

What I really loved about this is that it gives us the first appearances of every Clayface in regular Batman canon. Hell, it even gives us the story of the Mud Pack, which was a villain team comprised of multiple Clayfaces.

The Clayface that most people are familiar with is the original, Basil Karlo. He was the one featured in Batman: The Animated Series in the ’90s and has monopolized Clayface’s comic book appearances since.

However, I loved seeing all the different versions here. My favorite story and now my favorite Clayface is the third version a.k.a. Preston Payne. I knew of him but never got to read his debut until now. His look and armored suit were badass and his story was fantastic thanks to the great Len Wein. As much as I like Karlo, I’d love to see Payne make a real comeback.

Overall, this was a pretty cool collection. Most of these are stories I’ve never read but they also gave me better clarity on the bizarre history of the Clayface moniker.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections, as well as Clayface-centric stories.

Comic Review: Moon Knight – Epic Collection, Vol. 1: Bad Moon Rising

Published: October 1st, 2014
Written by: Doug Moench, Steven Grant, David Anthony Kraft, Bill Mantlo
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Zeck, Keith Pollard, Don Perlin, Jim Mooney, Keith Giffen, Jim Craig, Gene Colan

Marvel Comics, 482 Pages

Review:

I’ve always liked Moon Knight but I’ve never read his earliest stories. Being that a Moon Knight television show was just announced, I figured I’d go back and give his first few appearances a read.

He first appeared in a small arc in Werewolf by Night. This collection starts with that story and while its enjoyable in a ’70s Marvel horror pulp kind of way, the Moon Knight character still feels undeveloped.

The rest of this collection does a better job of expanding on him, as well as his trusty sidekick Frenchie.

As this rolls on, it gets more interesting but it doesn’t really find it’s groove until you get to the few issues collected here that were the start of the first ongoing Moon Knight series.

A lot of this is really great to look at and admire, especially the portions where the art was done by Bill Sienkiewicz. Plus, you really see his style evolve just in this short sample size.

This collection is also full of a lot of Moon Knight’s earliest appearances in other titles. There are stories with the old Defenders team, Spider-Man and The Thing.

I’d say that this was a pretty fun comic and it’s neat seeing Moon Knight in his earliest stages but I wouldn’t say that this is a must read. Moon Knight really didn’t hit its stride until his own series was rolling for about a year. But I think I’ll jump into those stories next, as they’re collected in a volume that follows this one.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the Moon Knight – Epic Collection volumes that follow, as well as other late ’70s Marvel comics focused on street level crime.

Comic Review: Batman: Knightfall, Book III

Published: 1993-1994
Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Art by: various

DC Comics, 645 Pages

Review:

Well, I should start this by saying that Knightfall, Book III was much better than Book II but it still wasn’t on the level of the vastly superior Book I.

Azrael is still Batman at the start of the story but Bruce Wayne comes back to claim the title and eventually outwits Azrael, exposing him as a total wackadoo. This surprisingly happens in the first third of this thick collection of issues. But I was fine with that, as Azrael’s horribly designed ’90s extreme cliche of a costume was hurting my eyes and my logical brain.

The second third of this book follows the aftermath of the massive Knightfall storyline while the last third of the book is a storyline called Prodigal.

I really liked the aftermath and Prodigal stuff, as even though Batman takes the mantle back, he then leaves and gives the reigns over to Dick Grayson, the original Robin and current Nightwing. Seeing Grayson as Batman with Tim Drake still as Robin was a neat experiment and was fun to read for fans of both of those characters.

There is a pretty large story involving Two-Face within the larger Prodigal crossover event and that was the highlight of this collection for me. But we also get good bits with Killer Croc, who hadn’t been seen since Bane broke both of his arms, and the Ventriloquist. I also enjoyed the Catwoman stuff.

Knightfall, Book III really salvages the gigantic epic after Book II kind of shit the bed. And in the end, I’m glad that I committed to reading the nearly 2000 pages of the Knightfall saga.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other books in the Knightfall saga, as well as pretty much any Batman story from the ’90s.