Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Marvel Unbound - Giant-Size Marvel

With today's Marvel Noise podcast comes the third edition of "Marvel Unbound", a new entry here on Random Thoughts Escaping, and fresh opportunity to bandy about the topic in the Marvel Noise forum's "Marvel Unbound" thread. Enjoy!

I picked up the Giant-Size Marvel trade paperback at a comic book show recently. I had flipped through it on the shelf of my local comic book shop numerous times, but couldn't justify pulling the trigger at full price. So when I saw it at the show for half-off the cover price, I figured I had little to loose. To be honest, I was buying it largely for the Giant-Size X-Men #1 issue, which I don't think I had ever read previously, but I was treated to a couple of surprising personal undiscovered gems, along with suffering through a clunker or two.

There are seven "Giant-Size" issues included in the collection with cover dates ranging from June 1974 through June 1975. The defining characteristics of a "giant-size" Marvel comic of the mid-'70s -- a part from the original comics boasting "68 Big Pages" -- appears to be the parsing of the stories into "chapters". And that breaking up of the work into multiple parts sometimes felt a bit forced in a couple of offerings here, particularly in the Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 and Giant-Size Creatures #1.

The stories captured in Giant-Size Avengers #1 and Giant-Size X-Men #1 are both foundational to their respective titles. The Roy Thomas Avengers issue features the All-Winners Squad in flashbacks and reintroduces the Whizzer to the Marvel U. This is really the first chapter in a storyline that isn't fully resolved until eight years later in the pages of Bill Mantlo's Vision and the Scarlet Witch four-issue mini-series (one of my favorites, and the trade paperback is a potential future installment of "Marvel Unbound"!). Len Wein and Dave Cockrum's X-Men offering turned out to be a solid introduction of now-iconic characters like Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus. For being the reason behind this purchase for me, it lived up to the hype.

The Giant-Size Invaders #1 and Giant-Size Creatures #1 were the least satisfying of the bunch. I have never been a huge Invaders fan despite liking Namor, and the Creatures story included here -- featuring Werewolf by Night, Tigra (as "The Were-Woman"?!), and HYDRA was tedious at best. Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4, on the other hand, with the introduction of Madrox, was a lot of fun! And so was Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 featuring Spider-Man! I had never read a Morbius story before, but have been meaning to get my hands on one since "Backwards" Dave McFall featured the character in his "Bring 'em Back" segment in episode 26 of Marvel Noise. I thought the issue was a lot of fun -- including the use of John Jameson and pulling the Daily Bugle's Joe Robertson in to move the story along, and subtle details like Jameson being on a date at a restaurant with a 666 street number was amusing.

My favorite find in this collection, though, is Giant-Size Defenders #4. Man, what a fun story! I'd forgotten how great the dynamics of this non-team team can be. By way of an Egghead beat-down, Hank Pym's Yellowjacket is cleverly drawn into the story, eventually joining Nighthawk, Doctor Strange, Hulk, and Valkyrie in their battle with the Squadron Sinister. Steve Gerber's oversized tale is wonderfully creative and thoroughly entertaining. By far the most satisfying read of the collection for me, it was a great surprise to find here!

Despite the lack of extras in this collection, the pair of foundational stories, the trio of solidly entertaining books, and even the couple of stories better left in the vault, provide an entertaining snapshot into what the House of Ideas looked like in a thirteen month period nearly 35 years ago. Giant-Size Marvel is worth your time even if you have these buried in a long box somewhere in your collection!

1 comment:

Andrew Wickliffe said...

If you want to give Werewolf by Night a try, the first Essential volume is a good place to start... there's even some beautiful Ploog art... before the Perlin.