Saturday, September 19, 2009

Strange Tales - A Real Review

Like many of you, I really like Jim’s reviews. It’s obvious that Jim takes the time to think about the books and write what’s good, and bad, about them. Which is why it’s so surprising when Jim gets a review wrong. Let me clarify that, Jim’s wrong plenty of times on any given day, but to be so over-the-top wrong on a comic review is strange. So, I’m here today to set the record straight on Strange Tales which Jim destroyed a couple of weeks ago.

Strange Tales is an anthology title in which Marvel turned a bunch of indie creators loose upon the Marvel U. Like all anthology titles, the stories are all very short and range in length from one to eight pages. And honestly, that’s the perfect length for these stories. This book is a lark. It’s humorous takes on many of your favorite characters.

Paul Pope and Peter Bagge are the biggest “name” creators in the book, and had the longest stories. Paul Pope presented a story about Lockjaw of Inhumans fame which was full of great Pope art and sensibilities. Bagge didn’t actually contribute new material, instead Marvel included a Hulk story that was shelved years ago. It’s still quite good.

After that there’s She Hulk written by John Leavitt and Molly Crabapple, Spiderman by Junko Mizuno, Dr Strange by Dash Shaw, Hulk by James Kolchalka, Punisher by Johnny Ryan, Modok story by Nick Bertozzi, Spiderman by Jason, and a couple of one page shots by The Perry Bible Fellowship.

That’s a lot of different creators with a bunch of wildly different styles, both written and artistically. That diversity is a big part of the appeal of this book. Obviously Paul Pope is a superstar and I knew his material would be good, but I wasn't as familiar with Nick Bertozzi or Dash Shaw. That same diversity can be very jarring. Kolchalka's cartoons are shocking when compared next to Crabapple's intricate line work.

What people (Jim) fail to understand about books like these is that they aren’t meant to be a Mad Magazine, or even Not Brand Ecch! version of Marvel superheroes. It’s about seeing the heroes filtered through a eyes of a non-superhero comic creator. It’s obvious each creator brings a certain level of love and knowledge of the base material but isn't interested in men in tights beating each other up. These creators are more interested in what happens after the fighting.

Whether it's Modok growing old with a female AIM operative, or Dr. Strange drinking coffee in a diner to stay awake and avoid Nightmare, these are stories about the moments inbetween the panels. It's never laugh out loud funny, but it isn't meant to be. It's Marvel comics done the indie way.

Imagine your Mother creating… wait, scratch that… imagine the literate, well read, non comic reading guy in the next office over writing a Spiderman story and you have an idea of what you have here. If you liked “Bizarro Comics” and “Bizarro World” that DC did a couple of years ago then you will like this.

For reference, Jim’s original review can be found here

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