Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Albion: Origins

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Albion: Origins (Titan, 2007).

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about Albion, a misfire of a series which sought to resurrect a number of classic British comic characters. In a neat bit of cross-company promotion, the good fellows over at Titan Books assembled a hardcover tie-in volume called Albion: Origins which presented some of the characters' original appearances. Featuring new artwork by Brian Bolland on its dustjacket, it's a good introduction for curious readers and a fine nostalgia property for people who've sampled this sort of material previously.

It's a little uneven, and I think the indestructible hero of Kelly's Eye gets a few pages more than he really warrants when everything else in the book is more entertaining, but it's a perfectly nice sampler. Kelly's Eye is represented by a single, 22-part serial written by Tom Tully that has him fighting a mad Seminole warlord in the Everglades. It's fun, albeit incredibly dated.

Three other stories are featured: House of Dolmann is represented by four one-off adventures and a two-parter. Victorian escapologist Janus Stark gets two one-offs and a two-parter, and the mysterious mage Cursitor Doom features in a terrific six-part story. I've read some of Doom's adventures before, renamed for some reason as "Amadeus Wolf" in the old horribly-colored Quality Comics anthology Spellbinders, and would love to see more of this gorgeous Eric Bradbury artwork.

I think it's a pretty good sampler, but personal petulance does color my overall feelings about it. I'm still hoping for second volumes of The Steel Claw and King of Crooks from Titan, but there's a feeling that this book is effectively "volume three" of Titan's look back at old characters, with nothing new on the horizon. I really hope Titan ramps up production on heritage books like this. Even with the Kelly's Eye story being the weakest of the four features, I still recommend this for all readers.

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