Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Well, That Was Better Than I Expected...

Doug: Today we thought we'd give our readers an opportunity to expound on some media you've recently enjoyed that was perhaps better than you had previously known or anticipated. One of the books that Karen and I have both been enjoying is the recently-released monster-sized (ha...) trade paperback Monster of Frankenstein.

The massive tome reprints all things Monster from the eponymous series of the early Bronze Age through the B&W mags and up to the two-parter in Marvel Team-Up.If memory serves, I was aware of the solo book but really had no interest in it. This trade has been an epiphany for me, one so strong that I feel like face palming like "what was I thinking (when I was 8 years old)??"

Karen: I was really looking forward to this collection of Frankenstein comics, not just because I am a big Frankenstein fan, but because I had only a few of these issues as a kid, and none of the Ploog ones! I've now read a little more than halfway through the collection -- into the Monsters Unleashed stories -- and I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised. The first six issues by Ploog are far superior to anything else in the book. Ploog's artwork here is is eerily beautiful and  richly atmospheric. I've always loved his work on Werewolf By Night and Ghost Rider (and anything else), but I almost feel like this is the best I have ever seen by him. He inks himself on issues 1-3 and 6 (John Verpoorten inks issues 4 and 5) and he does a wonderful job. There's a lushness to his pen work. The story is solid, a continuation of the Shelley story for the most part, with the Monster as presented in the novel: literate, thoughtful, but a vengeful creature who has killed in his never-ending hatred of his creator, who abandoned him. 

Doug: I have to confess to our readers that Karen and I had discussed (about a month ago) readying a couple reviews from the book for the days preceding Halloween. Obviously that didn't happen (no, instead busy life happened for both of us). Funny thing was, I was going to suggest the Marvel Team-Up with the Monster, which led into the conclusion that headlined Man-Wolf. To be quite honest, those stories along with the Monster's appearance in the "Celestial Madonna" epic was my only exposure to the character when I was a child.

Karen: I felt the quality of both the story and art dropped off once Ploog left, with issue 7. I never thought I'd complain about the art on a book that was picked up by John Buscema, but I don't think this was his finest work -- not bad at all, but it was, by his standards, rather pedestrian. Storywise, although Gary Friedrich stayed on for much of the run (as I said, I'm only halfway through) the shift into modern times, and the decision to have the Monster become mute, sapped a lot of the energy out of the story for me. I'll continue on with it, but so far, it is the first six issues that really gave this collection value for me. And I'm still happy I bought it, even if the rest of the book turns out to be a big blah!

Doug: I think I'm a few issues behind you (I've just finished the Dracula 2-parter in Monster of Frankenstein #s 8-9). I'm really looking forward to the reprints from the B&W magazines. As I've remarked in previous discussions, those seemed like sort of a forbidden fruit back in the day -- I never asked my mom to buy any for me at the grocery store. I don't know how she would have responded; I think I was just aware that they were much pricier than comics. I'm not sure what level of enjoyment the rest of the book will hold (I am looking forward to some of the stories inked by Syd Shores -- thanks, PFG!), but like you I am glad I own this now. As Karen says, the Ploog issues are visually magnificent. I have to concur with everything she says above and you'd have my highest recommendation for both the pictures but also the words for these stories. The books are wordy, but Gary Friedrich's dialogue is strong and the level of detail is in no way a bore. Strong, strong graphic literature.

Karen: Another thing I am happily surprised by is the new TV show Ash Vs. Evil Dead. I've now seen three episodes and each time I have had a good laugh. If you liked the Evil Dead films or Army of Darkness you should like this series. I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the Evil Dead films but I did like Army of Darkness a lot. This show takes the Ash character from those but the connection to them -the continuity - is sort of loose. It doesn't matter though; all you need to know is Ash is his usual brilliantly stupid self and has released the Deadites on Earth again. Now he has a couple of young partners helping him try to stop the end of the world. The episodes are only a half hour long, which is the perfect amount of time for this kind of goofy mayhem. I have to tip my hat to Bruce Campbell, who somehow makes Ash likable and eminently watchable. 

Doug: My wife and I have been watching NBC's Blindspot since its premiere earlier this fall. My personal jury is out on it -- it's OK, but it raises questions for me plot-wise each week. And I'm not usually one to get too deep into a script. Both of us are generally sit-back-and-be-entertained viewers, but this show has me thinking it could be better. We still enjoy reruns of the first 4-5 seasons of ABC's Castle, although I am finding the current season to be a slog. Perhaps eight is indeed enough. So neither show gets a ringing endorsement from me, unless you DVR the old Castles shown on TNT.

Karen: Surprisingly, I have been disappointed by the Supergirl TV show. I just find it too formulaic. It's so much like every other super-hero TV show we already have. Super-secret organization involved? Check. Team of friends helping the hero? Check. Freak of the week whose origin is connected back to the hero? Check. It's just too much like Flash, Agents of  SHIELD, heck, even Smallville. I was hoping we'd get something new and exciting with a female lead -- and the actress is engaging -- but so far it has done nothing for me. 

Doug: I'll agree -- I've tried to come back to Supergirl but just haven't felt like investing the commitment. I totally agree that Melissa Benoist is quite charming in the lead role, but the show didn't seem to take many risks... what I've seen of it that is. I am hoping that today William will be along to state some of the criticisms he holds of the show and did not divulge when we ran this as a topic a couple of weeks ago.

Doug: So there you have it, kids. Today let's get some thoughts on media with which you've recently engaged that surpassed your expectations, and some that fell short and/or left you cold.


J.A. Morris said...

Earlier this year, I picked up Marvel Masterworks Ms. Marvel vol 1. I had low expectations but they were exceeded. No, the stories aren't exactly classic tales. But it's got art from both Buscema brothers, Keith Pollard, Jim Mooney, Joe Sinnott and Tom Palmer. These artists draw some great fight scenes throughout the book. Chris Claremont wrote the bulk of the book, so you plenty of his "Claremontisms" in the dialog and narration. You know, things like "No quarter asked, none given." And Ms. Marvel is a good character. The stories get better when they ditch the business about Carol Danvers and Ms. Marvel being two entities inhabiting one body.

Much better than I expected.

Same goes for the Iron Fist and Power Man and Iron Fist Epic Collections that came out last summer.

In other media, I had middling expectations for the recently released Peanuts movie and I thought it was very good.

Edo Bosnar said...

Since you both mentioned Frankenstein's Monster, it reminded me of the two volumes of Essential Marvel Horror that I read last year. I picked up both of those at half-price from a comic shop over here, but honestly wasn't expecting much. However, I actually find quite a bit of the material contained in those two volumes quite good: a bunch of the Son of Satan stories, as well as most of the Brother Voodoo and Living Mummy stuff.
Also, to keep riffing off of your topics, since Doug mentioned Castle, I have to say that was a pleasant surprise for me - I've really enjoyed most of the episodes I've watched; meanwhile, Karen's mention of Bruce Campbell reminded me of another show I really liked while it was still being shown here: Burn Notice, with Campbell playing one of the regular supporting characters.

A few things I recently read that fall into my personal "better than expected" category include Captain America: Forever Allies - I know I've praised it before here several times recently, but I think it bears mention here again, just because I had real reservations about this, because I was never really fond of the Bucky-as-Cap idea and only bought it because 1) I found a cheap used copy, and 2) it was written by Roger Stern. Well, Stern didn't disappoint.
Another is Iron Man: Armor Wars - I bought the Panini edition some time back, just because it was cheap, and didn't have any expectations. But when I read it recently I found myself really enjoying it for the most part. It also has me wishing that Panini would publish the Prelude to Armor Wars and even Armor Wars II story, because now I'm curious about those as well.

Garett said...

Thanks for the Frankenstein review! I'd like to check out Ploog's art on this.

I'm just about finished MOON KNIGHT: SHADOWS OF THE MOON, the Epic collection of Moon Knight 5-23. It's fantastic, as good as I remember it. The art by Sienkiewicz is powerful and dynamic and a delight. He usually inks himself, but when inked by Klaus Janson the results are still pleasing, and even the issues inked by Steve Mitchell are good. Frank Giacoia inks just one issue, and it's the least of the lot as he doesn't mesh well with Sienkiewicz-- not terrible, just average. One issue is drawn by Vicente Alcazar, but otherwise it's Sienkiewicz, and Sienkiewicz at his superhero best! His earlier work was a bit too Neal Adams-ey, and his later work gets experimental fine art-ey, and I can still appreciate both these periods, but this Moon Knight art is the sweet spot of superhero goodness and rockin' art! The stories by Doug Moench are also up to snuff, with action and character development. Fun to revisit Moon Knight's trio of alter egos, and supporting cast of Marlene, Crawley, Gena and her boys, and Frenchie. The colors and reproduction look great. Thumbs up!!

I read through the Byrne/Claremont issues in IRON FIST: THE FURY OF IRON FIST Epic Collection. Great stuff! I haven't been as impressed with John Byrne as I get older, but this art rocks! Inked mostly by Frank Chiaramonte and Dan Adkins, who do a fine job. The stories, dialogue, and characters are all enjoyable-- cool series that I only saw a bit of as a kid, so this was a treat.

One more unusual one: Martin Short's autobiography, I MUST SAY from 2014. I'm about halfway through it and it's a bright and enjoyable read, filled with stories of Short's time growing up in Canada, then performing in musical theatre and connecting with future stars of SCTV and SNL fame. Short is a good storyteller and comes from a lively family, but also had early tragedies. It's interesting to hear how he was a Frank Sinatra fan putting on variety shows in his room when other kids were out doing the cooler hippie thing in the '60s.

I went out to see SPECTRE, the latest James Bond, and found it just ok. I missed the twinkle in Sean Connery's eye and the fun he seemed to be having. Daniel Craig is all right, but I found myself underwhelmed overall.

Doug said...

Solicited for February:



One of the most groundbreaking Marvel Comics of all is collected for the first time! Born to be the world's most fearsome fighter, Shang-Chi's life takes a major turn when he discovers the truth about his father, the villainous Fu Manchu! So begins the epic story of the Master of Kung Fu! On a quest to end the reign of his pernicious patriarch, Shang-Chi pits his deadly hands and furious feet against incredible foes like Tiger-Claw, Razor-Fist, the mysterious Midnight -- and even the macabre Man-Thing! But will his mastery of martial arts be enough in a throwdown with the Amazing Spider-Man? Collecting SPECIAL MARVEL EDITION #15-16, MASTER OF KUNG FU (1974) #17-37, GIANT-SIZE MASTER OF KUNG FU #1-4, GIANT-SIZE SPIDER-MAN #2 and material from IRON MAN ANNUAL #4.

696 pages, $125.

Anonymous said...

Cool, I love MOKF! As far as being surprised by stuff, I'm pretty goood at predicting what I'll like and what I won't like, but every now and then I'm pleasantly surprised by something. Lately I've been checking out the Spenser books by Robert B. Parker; I liked the TV show years ago, but I was kinda surpised at how good the books are...I've only read the first two, but I'm definitely going to read more.

I also recently watched (or re-watched) season one of Starsky & Hutch; I was a little worried about whether it would hold up after all these years, or if I'd just be rolling my eyes at how corny everything was, but it holds up pretty well. I'd forgotten about the humourous aspect of the show (the humour is admittedly kinda goofy, but at least it's there). So, that was a nice nostalgic surprise.

As for disappointments, I can't really think of any offhand. You both mentioned Supergirl, and I agree it has been kind of flailing since the start, but I thought last night's episode was the best so far; Cat Grant actually seemed human instead of a "Devil Wears Prada" caricature, we got to see some family issues with Kara and Alex and their mom (played by Helen Slater, of course), and we got a mystery about what happened to their dad (Dean Cain); my prediction...he'll turn out to be still alive, held somewhere by the DEO. So maybe the show just needs a little time to find its groove. I'll keep watching...if it gets really good, I don't want to have to scramble to catch up!

Mike Wilson

J.A. Morris said...

Forgot to thank Karen and Doug earlier for reviewing the Marvel Frankenstein reprint book. This has been on my "maybe" list for a while, I think I'll have to read it after seeing your take on the tpb.

Martinex1 said...

I recently picked up some back issues of the Marvel series Exiles from a 50 cent bin. The story of time traveling/ dimension spanning Marvel characters pulled randomly together and forced into teamwork on various missions was surprisingly compelling. It had overall great plotting in the early issues and good characterization. The use of oddities like Mimic and Blink was nice and overall the art was clear and expressive. Not perfect but a nice surprise.

I read good reviews of the latest Squadron Sinister comic. I picked up the first issue (and despite the nice floating head/ roll call layout on the cover), I really disliked it. The first few pages were so violent and brutal that it just turned me off. It was "shocking" but not in any way I like.

Like Garett I saw the new Bond film. The first scene ( pre credits) is really action packed and had a sense of mystery, humor, and coolness about it. But the rest of the movie dragged and seemed mundane. It was just a bit off.

That Frankenstein Monster collection sounds really good. Good to hear.

pfgavigan said...


I don't really think that I'm disappointed in it, but I have been drifting away from Doctor Who lately. I think the show is good, but have been watching it pretty steadily since it's revival and, perhaps, I need some time away from it.

I remember buying and enjoying The Monster of Frankenstein when it came out, but even then thinking it lost a lot of steam once the adaptation of the original novel was complete. Once it slipped into the rotating creators cycle I pretty much lost interest.

Shame the concept of the limited series didn't exist in comics at the time.

By the by, I had several concepts for guest blogs in various stages of completion. Everything has been put aside as I shall now devote my extremely limited spare time towards the completion of a very special gift for everyone but especially Karen. I got the last thing I needed today via the Inter-Library Loan and I hope to have it done before Christmas.



Redartz said...

Thanks, Karen and Doug, for the heads-ups on the Frankenstein book and the MoKF book. Have never read either series, obviously I've missed out...

PFG- greatly anticipating whatever treat you have in store!

Can't think of anything that has been a disappointment recently. We (my ever patient wife and I ) have started catching "Supergirl", and have enjoyed it overall. Largely due to Melissa Benoit, as Karen and Doug both noted. Still find "Flash" to be the best heroic show currently, and loving "Gotham".

Many of you may be aware that Archie Comics recently re-booted their headlining titles to number one's, with a new look and approach. I was pretty skeptical, but tried the new "Archie" and Jughead". Turns out they were pretty good, actually; especially Jughead (by Chip Zdarsky, writer of the amusing "Howard the Duck" series currently out, and artist Erica Henderson of "Squirrel Girl" fame). Seems odd to spend more on Archie titles at the local brick-and-mortar than on Marvel or DC...

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