Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Defenders and Dororo

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. This time, reviews of Essential Defenders volume four (Marvel, 2008) and Dororo volume two (Vertical, 2008).

This is very iffy stuff. This is late-seventies Defenders, scripted almost entirely by Ed Hannigan, who's got some pretty good ideas, but his artists are really conspiring against him. Most of the art here is provided by the period's agonizing superhero bores Herb Trimpe and Don Perlin, both of whom have studied the right playbooks, but don't know what to do with them. You can see, for instance, that Trimpe knows that a good Kirby pose involves someone pointing in shock just beyond the camera, but he doesn't know how to make the frame energetic or involving in any way. There's a nice sequence of stories where the Sub-Mariner and Black Panther get aggravated with each other, leading to war between Atlantis and Wakanda, and there's a huge storyline about a war in another dimension against a foe called "The Unnameable," so called because you instantly fall under its control upon learning its name. Another big skirmish in Asgard sees some pretender to Hela's throne bring up a big, army-crushing, locomotive mountain which just rumbles across the battlefield.

But with art as uninspiring and dull as this, and with enough boring Earth-based subplots to counter the wild ideas, this really did become a slog. The superhero Nighthawk literally spends almost three years fighting a tax evasion complaint, and the embarassingly dumb villain the Mandrill, with his army of gun-toting chicks in bathing suits, shows up every three issues or so. It was kind of nice to fill in the holes of the old collection of these I had in middle school, but this is about as far from "essential" as the law will allow. Recommended only for 70s Marvel fans.

Now, this on the other hand: you know, I've mentioned Dororo before (follow the Tezuka tag below), and I had a long day at work and can't do this justice right now. These are damn good comics, full of wild medieval swordsplay, bizarre technology and freaktastic demons, done by one of the medium's real geniuses about forty years ago, and it kicks the crap out of practically anything else you can buy today. It's admittedly slight, with no greater goal than to entertain, but wow, it does that in spades. There's only one more volume of this to come, and I'm going to miss it.

(Originally posted August 26, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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