I'm a sucker for buying collections of old 70s Marvel horror comics - which is strange, because when I get round to reading them, they often prove a huge disappointment. I grew up watching the old Universal monster movies on late night TV, so have a curious affection for Frankenstein's monster, Dracula and the Wolfman - I desperately want the Marvel versions to live up to my memories of those old films. Chances are the films would prove just as disappointing if I watched them again today... but nostalgia's funny that way.
Anyway, when I saw a reasonably cheap copy of this collection - in which contemporary creators bring modern storytelling styles to characters like the Monster of Frankenstein, Dracula and his daughter Lilith, the Man-Thing, Satana and Werewolf By Night (along with some "classic" reprints), I had to give it a go. It's not a complete success, but there was enough here to make it worth the £7.50 I shelled out.
Both new and old offer a mixed bag of delights and disappointments, but that's usually the case with anthologies. Of the new, the best strip is Ted McKeever's zombie love story starring Simon Garth. It's the least Marvel / most indie story here. Former Moon Knight writer Charlie Huston provides a creepy Poe-ish Man-Thing tale that shines thanks to Klaus Janson artwork (looking even more lush in the large hardback format). There's also stunning David Finch art on the Dracula & Lilith face-off, making CB Cebulski's script stand out more than it might otherwise. Mike Carey tries to inject a little depth into his Werewolf By Night adventure, but he's hampered by the shiny-porn-star art of Greg Land. Jonathan Hickman's Living Mummy strip is the weirdest thing here - written and drawn in the style of Hickman's Nightly News, it didn't quite work for me. The weakest offerings are a rather too superhero-y take on Satana by Robin Furth and Kalman Andrasofszky (eat that, spellcheck!) and Brendan Cahill's Morbius strip which feels a little like a watered down Buffy plot with gaudy painted art by Michael Gaydos. Skottie Young also provides an atmospheric ode to Frankenstein's monster, though this is overshadowed by the first of the 70s reprints by Doug Moench and Val Mayerik (doing his best Bernie Wrightson impression) in which Frankenstein finds acceptance and then betrayal at a costume party. It's by far the most affecting story in the book.
The rest of the reprints don't quite live up to that one, and the selection seems a little random. There's the origin of Manphibian, notably only for the corny name and overcrowded Dave Cockrum art. There's a rare 70s horror team-up which gives this anthology its Legion of Monsters title, from Marvel Premiere 28. It's by Bill Mantlo and Frank Robbins and it's a wasted opportunity. Finally there's three appearance from Scott Edelman's Scarecrow, including a bizarre team-up with the Thing. You have to wonder what Edelman was smoking when he wrote these strips... but the scripts do contain flashes of esoteric wit.
I bought the Legion Of Monsters HChardcover (no trade paperback appears to have been released) from an Amazon Marketplace seller for £4.70, plus £2.80 p&p. The copy I received looks like it was been chewed by the seller's dog (or perhaps his werewolf) but as it's no longer in print, new copies are going for around £30, and even the cheapest second hand ones are currently £12.49, I think I got a semi-bargain.