I know it might seem like a stretch to treat a 64 page oversized comic as a trade worthy of spotlight review, but its my blog and I'll do what I wanna. My enjoyment of the various stories in Image Comics' initial outing for the Next Issue Project, continuing cancelled public domain comics with modern creators...
- Samson by Erik Larson: 13 pages seems a bit long for a "40's" tale, but that wasn't exactly what was agreed to, so I can't bind them to it. Actually, I wish the story had run a bit longer, as it was a pleasant diversion resolved a bit too quickly for my taste.
- Flip Falcon in the Fourth Dimension by Joe Casey & Bill Sienkiewicz: As is often the case with these creator's efforts, by first response was "the hell?" Sadly, while I enjoyed Casey's old CBR column, my response to his scripts rarely progress past that point, as they do when I pick up work by his co-columnist, Matt Fraction. This story was such an obvious detour from the source, was so irreverent, and yet still played like a dour, straight-faced origin story for a bold new direction straight to oblivion. In short, you'll only enjoy this if the second year of the New Universe line was your cup of tea.
- The Golden Knight by Thomas Yeats: As always, easy on the eyes. In this case, I think the writing was intentionally bad, combining tounge-in-cheek humor with counter-intuitive story turns leading to a total anti-climax. Just okay.
- Yank Wilson, Superspy Q-4 by Andy Kuhn: Owes more to 60's art and 90's S.H.I.E.L.D. appearances than anything from the big war era. Cute but obvious comedy beats.
- Carlton Riggs and the Flaming Cavern by B.C. Moore: A text piece that continues the increasingly tiresome pattern of anachronistic meta snark. Everyone's trying to play it too cool for the material, emphasis on "try."
- Space Smith by Tom Scioli: Sixth verse same as the first, but the Godland artist hews closer to underground comix transgressive lampoon, with the results leaving me hopeful the "cliffhanger" might be picked-up at a later date.
- Captain Kidd, Explorer by Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca: I dislike this type of strip very much, and had to fight off the urge to skip it entirely, especially as it was coming from an unknown creative quantity. Glad I did, as this 6-pager played mostly straight, looked the most like the real thing, and read far better to boot. Easily the best story in the book up to this point, and would have remained so if not for another exceptional entry to come.
- Professor Fiend by Fred "Boris" Hembeck: I don't get it. Well, I think I get it, but I thought there was supposed to be something funny here somewhere.
- Stardust the Super Wizard by Joe Keatinge and Michael Allred: Wow. Worth the $6 for this alone. I wish "Project: Superpowers #0" were near this good, and I gave that book a nice review. The art is gorgeous and the story is poiniant and inventive. My only complaint is that it makes too much sense and is far too kind to be a suitable Stardust story. Where is the thinly veiled id monster of Fletcher Hanks? Ah well, I'll just have to console myself with this truly Fantastic Comic story, with an additional shout-out to colorist Laura Allred.
- Sub Saunders by Ashley Wood: Again, wow. Not the good kind. What pretentious dreck. Mostly written in German, with the negative version of John Byrne's old "Snowbird fighting a polar bear in a blizzard" gag. Maybe after the Stardust piece, the editor needed to lower the bar as far as possible to avoid overwhelming expectations from the next Next Issue?
In summary, too much of the first Next was wiseass from out the ass, which makes me worry about upcoming volumes. On the other hand, Larson is likely to feature into each of these, and his submission was solid. The cream came from two scripts by people I'd never heard of though, and a third from an artist-turned-writer. Maybe the best thing would be to turn this into something more akin to the try-out anthologies of modern era Marvel/DC, but paired with veteran artists? We'll see how it goes next time...