Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Volumes One of The Bumper Book of Solar Wind and Thor Visionaries: Walt Simonson

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. Today: reviews of The Bumper Book of Solar Wind vol. 1 (Omnivistascope/Lulu, 2008) and Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson vol. 1 (Marvel, 2001).

The British small press scene is a pretty interesting one, with lots of very talented young creators working away in relative obscurity. It's a market that I don't know very much about, and that's entirely my fault: when I was very interested a few years back, I used neither credit cards nor PayPal, and now that I use both, I'm trying to limit the number of single issue comics in the house for cost, space and storage reasons. But when the complete run of Solar Wind and its companion homage anthologies Big War Comic and Sunny for Girls were announced in low-price bookshelf editions, I ran out of excuses.

I'll look at the second collection in a month or so. This first one compiles the first five issues of Solar Wind, with work by the likes of Al Ewing, Matt Timson, Paul Scott, who edited the work, along with several others, and it is a real treat. I read the first third of it over lunch and was laughing so hard that a lady at the next table said "That must be a funny book!" It sure is. Solar Wind is a tribute to British newspaper comics of the 70s, with a smart-aleck editor, awful advertisements for stamp collecting kits, and a whole pile of over-the top comics. So the lunch in question, at the nearby "Loafing Leprechaun" faux-Irish pub, with British soccer on television and Led Zeppelin's "D'yer'maker" in the background, was a good setting!

Even better, after the first issue, each Solar Wind is a "merger" issue, so Solar Wind absorbs some other, non-existant other comics, taking on some girls' comics (Zoe Biddle, Wheelchair Ballerina is the greatest thing ever), war comics, crunching hard-man action comics and horror comics. The humor ranges from playful and loving to mean-spirited and over-the-top, and it all works very well indeed. None of the strips run for more than four pages, so those rare jokes that fall flat don't linger for long, and they're more than matched by the very successful ones. It's triumphantly silly, a real winner from start to finish, and very highly recommended, especially at less than eleven bucks! Don't be stubborn and miss out on this like I did!

Read more about the Omnivistascope small press world, from which Solar Wind emerged, at their web site!

I featured this book on my old Weekly Comics Hype in March of last year. A reread has prompted the following observations:

1. It's so nice to be able to read old comics in a vacuum. There are occasional references to other Marvel comics, but what you get in this book are twelve chapters of absolute awesome, with no backstory needed. If you know that Thor is a superhero take on the Norse god of thunder, then you're good to go.

2. Simonson's pacing is very odd in places. There's a sequence in the early pages where the warrior Volstagg is relating a tale, but several days seem to pass in the "meanwhile" of the main story before he finishes.

3. "The Last Viking" story is just amazing. Much has been written about Simonson's run on Thor, but I think this brilliant story, full to bursting with heart and life, is often overlooked.

4. Is this the best American superhero book of the 1980s? It's certainly close. Unless I'm overlooking one, it's either this or Levitz/Giffen Legion.

5. There are now five volumes of Simonson Thor in Marvel's Visionaries line. The second and third are still pretty hard to come by, but a couple of months ago, the company promised that new editions would be in print soon.

(Originally posted May 13, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

No comments: