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Job Wanted
Edited by Michael Hutchison
Published by Shooting Star Comics; $5.95 USD

A thick, black and white anthology evolving from fanzing.com, you have to balance the low price with the beginner's level of quality on display in most of the stories. "Rogue" boasts interesting artwork from Philipp Neundorf, a sort of old-west Sienkiewicz approach in evidence, but some of the effects obviously intended to mask awkward figure work. "Night Route" has the best art of the book, by Kurt Belcher, who possesses some of the same charms I saw in Firebreather artist Andy Kuhn's work -- a moody but sharply drawn style that appears influenced by Mike Mignola (as influences go, you could do worse). Not a whole lot else grabbed me here, but it's always worthwhile to check out the efforts of new talents, and again, the price is hard to beat given good reproduction and a cardstock cover. Grade: 3/5


Star Trek: The Key Collection
Published by Checker Book Publishing; $22.95 USD

Star Trek comics have almost always been mediocre to awful, but none were worse than Gold Key's original licensed version of the franchise. Ironically, decades later, the very things that made them so hard to swallow in their original era now make them classics of retro kitsch. The creators of the comics had clearly never seen an episode of the series, so we are treated to hilarious misinterpretations of series props -- the Tricorder is now a TV/Radio device with word balloons coming out of it as the crew uses it to communicate with the ship; rocket blasts roar from the twin nacelles of the Enterprise, as it dips and dives over the cities of the planets the ship visits. At least one of the artists here didn't even have access, apparently, to what the inside of the ship looked like, and so Kirk and Spock are seen occupying a claustrophobic, Wally Wood-style sci-fi submarine filled with shadowy gadgets and gears and gigantic TV/computers. Checker wisely doesn't try to disguise the source of these comics, instead embracing the fact that these comics are reproduced from decent scans of the original issues, cleaned up and somehow evoking even more strongly this bygone, freako chapter in comics history. They also splurged on a nice, glossy paper stock -- this is a sturdy, handsome re-issue. Essential for Trek fans who've never seen 'em, and good fun for most everyone else. Grade: 4/5


Return of the Elephant
By Paul Hornschemeier
Published by AdHouse Books; $6.00

Forlorn Funnies creator Paul Hornschemeier checks in with a summer one-shot of almost laconic economy. I'm giving too much away to say this is a bit of a mystery play, but I'm a bad man like that. I've spoiled nothing, though, as this two-man stageplay unfolds in its own time, one domino at a time (just to mix a metaphor or two). There's a kind of war going on in the cheery goodwill evident in the dialogue between the two men onstage here, and like all wars, at its heart is mere, unavoidable commerce. Strange stuff, even for Hornschemeier, but worthy of study and possibly much deeper than even a second read might at first suggest. Grade: 4/5 (Also read Chris Allen's review)


Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers
Edited by Sean Howe
Published by Pantheon Books; $24.95 USD

Pantheon adds another comics-related book to its growing library, and it's an interesting collection of essays, writers writing about comics. An eye-pleasing pop art aesthetic wraps itself around the various dissertations, the best of which is Jonathan Lethem discussing Jack Kirby's hold on his early years; other pieces (varying in quality, of course, but almost all of them readable and entertaining) look at the rivalry between Marvel and DC, the heartbreaking betrayal of Terra in the 1980s Teen Titans series, and a nice Myla Goldberg essay focusing on Renee French and Chris Ware. The end result is a sort of upscale, hardcover Comics Journal, although most pieces don't rise to the intelligence of the Journal's best work. Perhaps best of all, in this season of disposable reading material, each piece is relatively concise and easy to digest, making it great summer reading for the comics-literate. I suppose there's even an outside chance it may convince a non-comics reader or two to check out what the medium has to offer, but...nah, never happen. Grade: 4/5


B. Krigstein Comics
Edited by Greg Sadowski
Published by Fantagraphics Books; $49.95 USD

A big slab of comics that serves as a near-ideal companion volume to Sadowski's landmark B. Krigstein biography of a couple of years ago. Over two dozen Krigstein stories are presented, restored and in many cases re-coloured by EC stalwart Marie Severin. I don't feel the chronological presentation places the stories in the best possible light, and the exclusion of "Master Race" (which was included in the biography) is a serious flaw in a collection this otherwise essential. There are also some glaring Photoshop oddities in some of the restored colouring, just to bitch some more about a book that nonetheless includes some truly astonishing work from the finest artist ever to work in American comics. It's vital to note that the restoration of the linework is justa bout flawless, and the choice of matte paper stock serves the artwork extraordinarily well. "The Monster From the Fourth Dimension" is reproduced in stunning black and white, and is my favourite piece here. Second best is "Key Chain," a seminal piece of comic art history that has inspired and informed much of the present day visual language of the best in comics art. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Alan David Doane



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