Monday, January 23, 2017

Pulp Heroes, Pulp Horrors

BPRD: Hell on Earth Volume 2: Gods and Monsters (2011-2012/ Collected 2012): written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi; illustrated by Guy Davis and Tyler Crook: Another day in the battle between the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and the unleashed forces of Hell. Good times! Some stuff happens. We see the effects of the ongoing invasion of Earth. A new character is introduced. An old character meets a shocking, though perhaps not final, fate. Some cool-looking monsters rampage around. It's all part of a larger story, and would work best read in sequence with that story. Lightly recommended.


Lobster Johnson 1: The Iron Prometheus (2007-2008/ Collected 2008): written by Mike Mignola; illustrated by Jason Armstrong: Set in the 1930's of writer-artist Mike Mignola's sprawling Hellboy Universe (Earth-Hellboy?), the Lobster Johnson series is an homage to the American pulp magazine heroes of the 1930's. It's part of Hellboy continuity, which means the reader knows Johnson's fate. So it goes. Johnson possesses traits of pulp heroes The Spider, The Shadow, and Doc Savage, while wearing a costume that's part standard superhero, part-Green Hornet.

The Iron Prometheus was the first of the Lobster Johnson miniseries. It's pulpy fun, with the mysterious, masked Lobster Johnson battling Nazis and monsters and an ancient evil to secure a super-weapon with magical properties. Mignola's tendency to underwrite was well underway here -- for a five-issue story, The Iron Prometheus is awfully thin at times. As written, it's 40 pages of story spread out over more than a hundred. We get characterization for a supporting character, but none really for Johnson's associates, much less Johnson himself. And one of the late sequences is almost completely opaque when it comes to clearly portraying what happened. It's fun, but almost too minimalist to be successfully pulpy. Lightly recommended.


Doc Savage: The Silver Pyramid (1987-88/ Collected 2009): written by Dennis O'Neil; illustrated by Andy and Adam Kubert: DC Comics' late 1980's revival of the Doc Savage pulp hero series as a comic book was intermittently successful -- indeed, successful enough that, while short-lived, it's probably no worse than the second-best comic-book Doc Savage, just after Marvel's 8-issue B&W Doc Savage comics magazine of the 1970's.

Writer Denny O'Neil scripted DC's beloved Shadow comics revival of the 1970's. He's tapped here as well, to uneven but mostly successful effect. There's a lot of stuff to get in -- the story spans 40 years -- and O'Neil keeps things moving along while also supplying a fairly dense plot, as the Savage novels often did. There's super-science, lost civilizations, Nazis, and new members of Doc's rollicking band of associates. It was successful enough to launch an ongoing series that lasted 20 issues -- not bad for a Doc Savage revival series. Actually, that's the longest lived Doc Savage comic series since the 1940's!

The Kubert Brothers -- artistic sons of legendary DC artist and mentor Joe Kubert -- are very young here. It shows sometimes as they have trouble maintaining consistent faces for some characters. And they're still too similar to their great father. But overall, the art works. They've already got fair command of action and of opening up the pages to one- and two-page compositions. Their interpretations of Doc's two most popular aides, Monk and Ham, are dreadful, but I don't think they designed them on their own. But they are terrible. Oh, well. Recommended.

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