Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mighty Marvel Mediocrity Edition, with Power Man, Iron Fist and Captain Britain

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death.

Oh, the things I buy when I find a sale. Honestly, when I was young, my taste in Marvel books ran towards the odder, like The Defenders and Ghost Rider - inasmuch as any title with Don Perlin's workhorse art could be described as even slightly "odd" - and I never actually read a single issue of Power Man and Iron Fist before now, and so I was curious what it might be like. I didn't miss much. Most of the book is written by Mary Jo Duffy, and she keeps things moving at a pretty brisk pace, with a good supporting cast and subplots that keep your interest, but in the end, these stories are toothless and uninspiring, and to label them as "essential" is not in any way accurate. Recommended for under-twelves.

The first thing that struck me when looking at this collection is how godawful the coloring is. There exists a subset of superhero nerd which cannot stand looking at black and white funnybooks, ignoring the simple fact that work designed and balanced for blacks, whites and grays always looks hideous when color is applied to it. It is for these numbskulls that Alan Davis's artwork, which was the best thing about this material, is butchered.

The next thing that struck me was how primitive the early episodes looked and felt. This fault is shared between the lettering by Jenny O'Connor, which put me in mind of a high schooler's efforts, and the actual words the poor soul had to stick in them. Alan Moore hadn't yet learned to edit himself at all yet, and the result is garishly overwordy, a poor imitation of Roy Thomas and Chris Claremont, with characters agonizingly relating not merely complete sentences but giant novels of soul-searching in thought bubbles.

The story is an interlocking series of tales from an epic called "Jaspers' Warp," told across two years (1981-83?) of Marvel UK's various reprint anthologies in episodes of 8-10 pages each. The book does not include the opening six or seven episodes, which were scripted by a guy named Dave Thorpe, nor does it include a "story so far" explanation. To be fair, after about forty pages of barely readable schlock, around the time Steve Potter shows up to make the lettering look better, Moore settles down and what looks to be a good story gets going. But no sooner does the threat get serious and I was looking forward to watching our hero and his gang struggle against Jim Jaspers' government getting out of control does the story suddenly jump forward in time, Jaspers already victorious. What's left is typical convoluted Marvel storytelling, with cosmic entities manipulating the action and reality-warping superpowerful creatures exchanging blows on scales unimaginable to mere mortals, like our quickly-sidelined heroes. It's nothing that hadn't already been done before and better in any number of Marvel books in the sixties and seventies. Okay, "Captain Airbase-One" is funny, and a cute foreshadowing of the third League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume, but otherwise this is recommended only to Alan Moore completists who've already read everything else they can find by the writer.

(Originally posted March 20, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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