100 Days, 100 Comics #29: ‘Strange Tales’ #1

Strange Tales #1There is so much realism being pumped into mainstream comics artwork these days to get books to look like action movies that this book felt like a summer trip to the swimming pool. There are so many great creators and points I want to hit in an overview of what’s going on here, I’ll have to bullet them off. There’s just no way around that:

• Paul Pope’s Inhumans story was middle of the road and amusing in substance was an injection of Mountain Dew to the brain when it came to watching him draw Jack Kirby character designs. And the weight of the ink in his lines moves like an episode of Soul Train.

• Junko Mizuno’s Spider-Man short reads like a Silver Age Jimmy Olsen story drawn by Bratz creators. The designs and artwork were enlightened, but it felt more like a conceptual experiment than a fully formed story.

• Dash Shaw’s Doctor Strange story was a celebratory anthem of Steve Ditko and Jim Steranko’s mad surrealist brilliance, but it looked unmistakably like a Dash Shaw story.

• No one can infantilize established characters quite so well as James Kochalka, who also draws the most hilarious Hulk punches out there.

• Johnny Ryan writing about the Punisher making a kid do his homework is the best thing to happen to the character since Frank Castle teamed up with Archie.

• Michael Kupperman’s Namor was good for a momentary, “Hey, you totally get him!” moment, but that was about it.

• Peter Bagge’s individual panels have more activity and flow than 90% of pamphlet comics pages. Some of them made me feel dizzy, and I savored every moment.

• Bertozzi’s MODOK got me nodding about how weird that character is, but the story lacked a sense of setting, which left it feeling a little unfinished for me. Then again, that kind of reinforced the theme of his disembodied oddness, so that may be a strength.

• Nicholas Gurewitch’s two pages caught me off guard because I didn’t even know his was in here, but they alone justified most of the $5 cover price.

• I’ll be darned if Jason can’t can’t any genre of story and turn it into the formal comic equivalent of a sestina.

All in all, it was a great read — sort of like getting an issue of Mad Magazine that’s completely about Marvel Comics characters.

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