Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TRADING POST: Ransacking Secondhand Bookstores Part 1

Whenever I hear a new secondhand bookstore is opening, I always like to be one of the first in line on opening day. That way I can scoop up all the number ones on offer, along with find any holes in my collection from their debut offerings, before anyone else beats me to it. Recently my birth town of Whakatane was home to just such an event, and here are four of the picks I grabbed.

THE SPECTRE #1 Writer John Ostrander wrote two titles in the 80's that never date. Suicide Squad and this, his run on The Spectre with artist Tom Mandrake. The mix of detective Jim Corrigan investigating the lives of the corrupt and criminal, with the dark and wildly imaginative punishments his alter-ego, God's Spirit of Vengeance inflicts upon his prey, makes for such a rich premise, each panel tears at your soul over the fact a Spectre ongoing has not been more of a constant fixture at DC.

Tom's art perfectly catches the atmosphere of the character and regardless of whether it's a skyscraper tall gangster shooting up the city, or Spectre injecting himself in order to make the drug dealers he's turned into his fingers burn, Mandrake manages to not only keep pace but tie it all together at the same time. *****

EXCALIBUR #1 Every time I finish an issue of Excalibur, by artist Alan Davis and writer Chris Claremont, I feel like declaring the work is better than any the fabled writer did on X-Men, and the first issue of their run is no exception. The humour, the quirky adventures and the interactions of the mix-matched team thrown into living together are all in fine form here, as Warwolves return to sniff out Phoenix - only to mistake Kitty for their prey. 

While I always think of Annie Lennox for some reason when I see Phoenix's 80's costume, the humour in this book really does make it seem more English than American in terms of it's adventure, with everything from Nightcrawler's Bath to the multi-dimensional basement placing it nicely alongside Dr Who, and the rest of Brit-pop's best.*****

THE THING #1 Marvel must've loved the bejeebers out of John Byrne. Here they approve the dude to write an all-new Thing series (replacing Marvel-Two-In-One), only to get a pre-Thing Yancy Street Gang debut issue from the guy, without so much as a 'Clobberin' Time!' to be found. I mean what gives? No seriously, what gives? The flashback tale on how Ben joined and left gang life does get a bit 'cheesy 80's sitcom' in parts, but Grimm hooked me into Marvel when I first discovered comics, so I'd never call it bad. Had I bought it at the time though, I'd be hoping #2 was 22 pages of punching just to make up for lost time. *****

BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL: Nomad describes the issue's creative team too.

SECRET DEFENDERS #2 Speaking of heroes I'm addicted to, I confess, I can't pass-up a comic with Darkhawk in it. It is that simple, and unfortunately so is this issue. The threat from Dreadlox and co (yes, that's right 'Dreadlox') never seems big enough for Doctor Strange to have assembled a Defenders line-up to deal with in the first place. The dialogue is awkward, the art more so and despite having Spider-Woman II in there, you just finish the book going 'I could have done better than that #%$$&^$' and coughing up hairballs from the spoonfuls of 'bad' you have stuck in your throat. *****


  1. Those Thing issues sure rocked, didn't they Dan? I must admit outside of the FF he never really rocked my boat and I only ever bought the old Marvel Two in One for who the co-star was, but Byrne really set the bar high here with this book.
    I could never get into this Secret Defenders tho, prob because of the ever-shifting ,membership and its too-similarity to the old Champions comic [at times it seemed as if it was the Champions mark 2].

  2. That Ostrander/Mandrake Spectre run has been on many critics and fans list for top-notch team. Ostrander's tales really do merit a second and third look, as does his Martian Manhunter run, both of which are criminally neglected when it comes to full-out reprinting/trade-booking.

    The Secret Defenders really are a product of that time and era, and suffer greatly for it. It could really be re-done well today, with a Jeff Parker, Cullen Bunn, Keiron, or or the like. And hey, more appearances by Darkhawk(and Sleepwalker too) is never a bad thing.

    Never read Thing's solo series, but Two-In-One was usually pretty solid in the same vein as Marvel Team-Up.

    Excalibur was a rare beauty of its time thanks to Clairemont and Davis. Definitely won't see an X-title like that anymore.

  3. Thanks guys! Karl, I think one of the things about umm Thing's solo series is people see him pretty much as a guy who hits things and not much else. I'd like to see how his days as a test pilot crossed himm over with the likes of Carol Danvers and a pre-X-Men Wolverine, play him up and show he was already a hero before those damn cosmic rays, yet keeping the plots kooky enough that they still have that Kirby feel in parts. Now that that whole royalty thing has FINALLY been resolved, that shouldn't be hard to do.

    DaleI second that Martian Manhunter was a great read, and they even sent J.J. down under for a few issues too, so that's always got to be commended. Mandrake's Image Comics series written my JMS and out now is also worth a nosey, you know, just to show true talent never ages.

    Darkhawk and Sleepwalker must be due a comeback of some form soon. With Marvel Cosmic going guardians at the moment, the mindscape and Darkhawk amulets can't be off the board for long!

  4. Hey Dan, did you ever read the 3 issue mini-series Before the Fantastic Four: Ben and Logan?
    It's got exactly what you just described, with Carol Danvers thrown in there. It's a pretty damn solid read, with some decent-looking art.
    Here's a link that describes it pretty well:

    I've got em myself.

  5. ~I was just talking about Secret Defenders, and the rather inappropriate Dreadlox, in my last video... I'll have a blog post about the series soon... But I had a much more positive reaction to it all than you did. ONE STAR??? Come on!

  6. What's your video link King?

    1. Oh...
      Uhhhh- it's about two minutes into this vid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk-cpVexZrc -I go on for a bit, as I tend to do.

    2. Nice one mate - watched the whole thing. And FYI Julia is my favourite too.

    3. Hey- rock, rock on!
      You have good taste in super-women...