tisdag 15 maj 2012

Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Vol 1

Roy Thomas loves comics. He also loves the comics he grew up reading, and he tries to spread knowledge about them and comics in general through his excellent Alter Ego magazine, published by TwoMorrows Publishing. He's also revisited and revived many of his old favorites – like The Invaders for Marvel, and All-Star Squadron for DC, and now DC has relaunched the first year-and-a-half's worth of stories in a 500+ pages Showcase volume.

Thomas is pretty much a legend after having created just oodles and oodles of comic book successes, so I'm sure he and his reputation will survive a bad review from me – which is a good thing, because I think his writing absolutely kills this volume.

It's not like the Bob Kanigher writing killing Showcase volumes like The Losers or The Haunted Tank, by constantly rehashing plots again and again until I as a reader am utterly exhausted by it (and wondering how he could get away with it, until I remember that he had brilliant artists like Russ Heath and Joe Kubert – who by the way contributes a bunch of very nice covers in this volume – hiding all that sloppy, clichéd writing behind their beautiful artwork); on the contrary, Thomas keeps throwing plot development after plot development at the reader, keeping up a constant barrage of story ideas and villains at the reader.

Instead, the problem seems to be that he learned his writer's trade from Stan Lee and added his own didactic touch to it (he was originally a teacher). The character's lines are way too frequently dragged down by all the exposition Thomas crams their balloons with, about what has occurred before, what is happening now, who the character is, etc. A lot of it is meant to be characterization but since it's mainly a lot of clichéd phrases, the result is that the character comes across as an incredibly self-absorbes bore fond of pointing out the bleedin' obvious. The dialogues often become nighunreadable to me, and I also get quite tired of the "Good thing I remembered to…"-type thought balloons sprinkled throughout the volume.

Too much of the dialogue comes across as leaden,
weighed down by all the exposition it has to carry.

Which is a crying shame, because if it hadn't been for that, I'd probably have enjoyed the romping action and the constant effort to create a working continuity for DC's venerable old heroes. (In fact, right now, writing this review, I get to thinking of Grant Morrison, who actually is not so far from a Roy Thomas himself with his obvious love of the heroes he writes about – only with a modern writer's sensibilities, thankfully.)

Also, the art is excellent, mostly. The first couple of chapters are pencilled by Rich Buckler and look pretty good (which they should if he, as it seems to me, cribbed a lot of his figures from Neal Adams), and after Adrian Gonzales takes over, it still looks great even though he isn't quite as adept at conveying movement in his figures.

And the main reason that the art looks so consistently great is… Jerry Ordway.

Some very nice superhero art by Adrian Gonzalez and Jerry Ordway.

Ordway is one of the best inkers I know of. He made George Pérez's (somewhat fidgety) pencils look gorgeous in Crisis on Infinite Worlds, and he makes most of All-Star Squadron (a couple of stories aren't inked by him) look absolutely great. I was so sorry to see him start doing pencils, not because he sucked at it, but because he enhanced the pencils of anybody he applied his magic pen or brush to. It's a crisp, strong line with plenty of powerful blacks and also plenty of sensitive feathering, resulting in beautiful renderings of faces and figures. I'm happy that the cheap Showcase volumes aren't in color, allowing me to enjoy Ordway's inks without any colors obscuring them.

Anyway, I can't really recommend this book as I found it to be too much of a chore to wade through Thomas's prose, but if that doesn't faze you, you're in for some rollicking adventures and some great artwork. Best of luck to you.

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