Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hey Kids, Comics (Collections) - Dark Horse Edition

There are an incredible number of hardcover comic book reprint volumes coming out. There are just two...

Boris Karloff Tales Of Mystery Vol. 2 collects issues #5 through #10 of the Gold Key series. I'm thrilled to see so much silver and golden age material being reprinted, but looking through this book, I'm reminded why Boris Karloff never landed high on my "collecting" list. As chillers go, these stories are about as frightening as the cheese aisle at Ralph's supermarket, and most of the art is competent, middle-of-the-road and bland. There's art by Alex Toth and "the Wally Wood studio" in this book, and while nice, even those feel like they went through the blander-izer before seeing print.

And the stories. Jeepers, it's like they weren't even trying! In one short piece, a shambling guy wearing a bear skin (!) shuffles into a village and freaks everybody out. The villagers get mad and "bear skin" skulks off, to be found by a little boy who discovers it's not a man under the bear-skin, it's a weird fish-guy! Fish guy jumps in a lake and "it's not until Spring thaw" that the villagers find a crashed spaceship on the mountainside. He was an alien! Wow! And all that in four pages!

On the the other hand, Dark Horse's Conan Vol. 1 reprints the first 11 issues of Roy Thomas/Barry Smith's Marvel version of Conan the Barbarian, and these are pretty great. It took Thomas and Smith a couple issues to find their sea legs, but they hit their stride fast and these are really good comics. Even better, they are exceptionally well written. Maybe it took being freed from the superhero world, but I think these are among Roy Thomas' best stories, and he wrote quite a few good ones. And the best is yet to come, in Volume 2, where this comic makes a quantum leap in quality with some true classics.