I Just Finished – Secret Empire #10

This was a terrible let-down. The series was mildly interesting, but, ultimately, the problem with the Hydra Cap story is not that it made Cap a fascist, it’s that it was the setup for a thinly veiled anti-Trump rant. A poor successor to the real Secret Empire story, and a cheap excuse for Big Damn Deaths of the Year. It’s odd, because I understand Nick Spencer is not particularly leftist, but the “stand and fight fascism” mantra that permeates the final battle, laced with all the talk about how “we let this happen,” and how half the people supported Hydra Cap, can’t really come off as anything else but a blatant partisan statement.

Steve Engelhart’s first “Secret Empire” storyline, 40 years gone, was not an anti-Nixon rant or an anti-Republican rant, much as Englehart probably disapproved of both. That story was about secrecy and lack of transparency in government as a concept. A much subtler, much less divisive tale. The original was also groundbreaking, and this new one is not. There’s nothing wrong with not being groundbreaking, assuming that you’re not pushing your product as an earth-shaking “event” series.

Definitely, in the end, not worth the interruptions of good storylines in many other comics this summer. I found most of those tie-ins very disappointing as well.

Heroes we can believe in? Superheroes – Capes, Cowls and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor

pPBS3-16400338dtI got this book as a Christmas gift. It’s a beautiful work, developed as a companion to the PBS film (which I’ve not seen) Superheroes – A Never-Ending Battle. It’s chock-full of gorgeous shots of comic covers, comic artists at work, rough sketches and unfinished pages of famous characters, and photos of many of the actors who brought superheroes to life on screens big and small. It does a wonderful job of chronicling the genesis of a genre, starting with the pulp magazines which date back to the turn of the 20th Century, and including insights on the industry and the people who made it that I’ve never come across before. That says something, because I have read a lot about comics history. Continue reading

REVIEW – Steve Englehart’s Max August in The Plain Man

Steve Englehart
’s work is special to me.  I discovered him (indirectly) at the tender age of nine at the school book fair.  I went to a small private school with about a dozen other kids in my fourth grade class.  You’d think our book fairs would have been less spectacular than the ones in public school, but they were a hundred times more magical.  Perhaps it was the library, a parlor in an Eighteenth Century mansion and one of my favorite places on earth when I was little.  (I visited recently and saw that it had been gutted and turned into another classroom.  How traumatic to see your childhood refuge come to such a fate!)  Perhaps it was the lack of hovering adults, which my public school book fairs had possessed in abundance, telling me the books I wanted were too old for me, too focused on the sciences, too whatever. Whatever it was, the small, private school book fair was an event to me, and it was there, in 1974, that I found a Marvel Comics calendar featuring pictures of most of their now-iconic characters.  I had just started reading comic books, and I knew none of these colorful personages save Spider-Man, who after all had his own cartoon still running on weekday mornings.   Continue reading