Saturday, 25 June 2011

Eagle Comic : 12th June, 1982


Ahhh. 1982. The Eagle Comic. I remember it well. I remember getting Issue 1 because I was going to visit somebody in hospital, and my parents wanted something to keep me occupied. I remember Dan Dare's car switching number plates in that first episode. I remember Doomlord being pretty cool and all of the other photo strips being a bit crap, and I remember dropping the comic before too long, partly because some of the photo strips were a bit crap and mostly because it wasn't Marvel.

However, I came across a stock of these recently in a long neglected corner of Northampton, and I have to admit, I do have a faint twinge of nostalgia for them. I remember how modern that logo seemed at the time, and how cool the Dan Dare strip was (obviously I didn't know the original)

Reading through this issue as an adult, there's a lot more that you notice. Look, the footy strip is written by Tom Tully (he did lots of Roy of The Rovers and Billy's Boots), Dan Dare is credited to Mills and Wagner, whilst there's a couple of Alan Grant credits in there.

But that's not why I bought this issue. There's one short story that I saw on the interweb a few years ago that I distinctly remembered from my callow youth, a grisly tale of a comics dealer ripping off a punter. It was the first time I ever saw the interior of a comics shop (it is Forbidden Planet in Denmark St), and, oh look, it's written by Alan Moore.

In reverse On The Ration style, I, like our titular Collector, made sure that I paid a fair price for it. And it's the best 50p I've spent in a long time. Read it here, and let me know if I made the right decision.

Friday, 24 June 2011

DC Versus Marvel Comics



At last - a proper On The Ration bargain! This book is currently out of print, and the cheapest you can find it on Amazon is about £9 (including p&p). I picked up my copy a few weeks ago from eBay for £1.99 plus £1.30 p&p. I think I got it so cheap as nobody else bid - probably because the seller listed it as just "graphic novel" rather than giving the title of the book anywhere in the listing.

Anyway... was it worth £3.29?

Not really. Considering the unlimited potential of crossing over the two biggest comics universes and pitting their greatest heroes against one another, this was actually woefully bad. Then again, it was released in the 90s, the absolute nadir of comic book publishing.

Where do I begin? The utter bollocks plot involving two giant Shogun Warrior style mystic/extraterrestrial sibling badguys, a glowing cardboard box in an alleyway, and a half-hearted rehash of Marvel's Contest Of The Champions mini series from the early 80s?

Or how about the lazy writing (obviously by committee, despite the credits going to just two writers, Ron Marz and the usually reliable Peter David) which imagines we'll all be happy enough just to see Superman and the Hulk or Wolverine and Lobo on the same page... we won't need any actual characterisation, action (beyond the obvious punch-ups), plot twists, drama or humour? (The best example of this is the opening 3 page confrontation between Spider-Man and the Joker - potentially the two funniest characters in comics - which doesn't even raise a titter.) Added to that, in many cases these aren't even the classic versions of the characters - Spider-Man is the Ben Reilly clone and Green Lantern is the even-more-rubbish-than-Hal-Jordan Kyle Rayner.

Or what about the phoned-in artwork by Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini (though to be fair, given this is the 90s, I suppose that could have been much worse)? Don't even start me on the hair... why did everybody have such ridiculous hairdos in 90s comics? Superman has a mullet, Wonder Woman looks like Medusa, Thor looks like a WWE wrestler, and Wolverine... god, Wolverine looks like his fingers have been stuck permanently in an electrical socket.

Needless to say, this book will be going straight back on eBay. If I had any sense, I'd tell you it was brilliant and direct you to the link. Instead, I'll say that if you do want to see the great superheroes of two different universes go head to head, check out the far superior JLA / Avengers book by Kurt Busiek and George Perez. That's out of print too (since Marvel and DC don't seem to be getting on too well at the moment), and while it's hardly a classic, it is a hell of a lot more interesting than the waste of paper and ink I've just reviewed.


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Fear Itself #3

Oh dear.  I’m starting to feel like a fool for getting all excited about this latest Marvel event series now.  Matt Fraction’s writing is perfectly okay and Stuart Immonen’s art is great, but most of the action seems to be taking place in other titles and this series is starting to look like not much more than an advert for those titles.  In this issue, one of my favourite Marvel heroes is turned into one of ‘the Worthy’ – the seven heralds of some big villain called ‘The Serpent’ – but this all happens over the course of four pages – two of which are a double-page spread – and this part of the story looks like it continues in Fear Itself: Spider-Man #3 (even though it’s not Spider-Man who turns into one of the Worthy and it’s not someone you would immediately associate with Spider-Man).  Similarly, two of my favourite Marvel villains have been transformed into members of the Worthy, both of those transformations have taken place in tie-in comics and one of those villains hasn’t appeared in this series at all (I don’t think) apart from in the adverts for the tie-ins that appear on the last couple of pages of each issue.
Something big does actually does happen in this comic – a major Marvel hero dies, I think – but it all happened rather quickly and I think it probably would have had more impact if it had happened in that character’s own comic, rather than here.  Plus it’s not like that character hasn’t died and come back from the dead before, so it was hard to get too excited about it.
This has an RRP of $3.99 and I didn’t get my copy ‘on the ration’ at all.  I bought it in my local comic shop – The Grinning Demon in Maidstone – and paid full price for it.  I don’t know exactly what that price was, as I also bought a lot of other comics and graphic novels that were heavily discounted – including two new / sealed hardcover Marvel Masterworks books for £10.00 each – and didn’t get a receipt, but I reckon it was at least £3.00.  However, the bloke who runs the Grinning Demon is always very friendly and accommodating, so I don’t regret buying it there at all – I do kind of regret buying it, I just don’t regret buying it there – and I will probably buy the rest of the series there, too, because I’m a completist idiot who is still stupid enough to think that this series will pick up again and allow me to catch up with everything that has been going on at Marvel over the last year or so.  

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Jonah Hex: No Way Back HC

This Jonah Hex original graphic novel is written by current Jonah Hex writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and illustrated by Jonah Hex co-creator Tony DeZuniga.  The story is the sort of thing that we’ve seen a million times before in Jonah Hex comics – Hex defending a town full of cowardly, unarmed innocents from bandits – but here he is also briefly reunited with his mother, who abandoned him to his cruel father as a child, and discovers that he has a half-brother who is a priest.  It’s a decent story, and just as good as an average issue of the current Jonah Hex series.  Unfortunately, Tony DeZuniga’s art has seen much better days.  I’m not going to complain about it too much, as DeZuniga is about 70 years old now and I love to see the old guys getting work - plus it’s not like the art was terrible, just a bit messy and hurried-looking - but it did drag the story down a bit, in my opinion.  Still, while this book is no classic, I enjoyed reading it while I was reading it and didn’t pay much for it at all.
This hardcover edition has a recommended retail price of £14.99 / $19.99.  You can get it from online for nearer £10.00 but I got my copy as part of a pretty great eBay win, which included this book, the first six trade paperbacks collecting the current JH series, all eighteen issues of that Hex series from the 1980s, where JH got sent to the future, plus eight more JH comics, for £25.00 (including postage).  Bingo!       

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Ant-Man & Wasp - Small World



I really liked Marvel's reinvention of Ant-Man as sexist scumbag Eric O'Grady in Robert Kirkman's Irredeemable Ant-Man, so I was pleased to see the character given a new mini-series, teamed with the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, who's now (rather confusingly) calling himself Wasp in memory of his dead wife.

Hack/Slash creator Tim Seeley provides both script and art. I've never read Hack/Slash, but from its title I imagined it to be one of those shallow, flashy, ultra-violent Image books of the 90s, so Seeley's work here is far more traditional than I expected. His art is solid, if unspectacular, and his script, while containing flashes of wit and innovation, isn't quite as enjoyable as Kirkman's. (Bizarrely, I don't rate Kirkman as a writer, he has a tendency to overwrite and use gobfulls of unnecessary exposition - but Ant-Man was the best title I've seen from him.) The problem with a character like Eric O'Grady is that he's only really entertaining as a scumbag - redeem him too much and he's just another generic shrinking superhero. But storytelling is all about developing character, making characters grow through changes. Thank god for Stan Lee's "illusion of change" ethos... you can take Eric so far as a good guy, but his efforts towards self-improvement must ultimately fail. Pairing him with Hank Pym makes for an interesting contrast, since Pym's redemption (from alcoholic wife-beater) has been a continuing theme of his adventures in recent years. Will Hank improve Eric... or will Eric drag Hank down? I reckon Seeley could have made more of this, the story he does give us is fun, but ultimately inconsequential. Maybe I was expecting too much.

Three issues doesn't make for a particularly chunky trade paperback, so Marvel have backed the main strip up with five reprints of the original Ant-Man / Wasp adventures from Tales to Astonish #44 - 48. I always think I've read all the original Stan Lee Marvel books in one reprint or another, yet I'd never seen these strips before. Obviously, they're nowhere near the best of the Lee/Kirby or Lee/Ditko stuff. Partly that's because Lee provides plot only (scripts are by H.E. Huntley, aka Ernie Hart) and while Kirby does layouts on the first two stories, the rest of the art is by the king of scratchy pens, Don Heck. I found myself enjoying them despite this. There are some wonderfully loopy ideas in these old stories. For example, Ant-Man can't fly, so he devises a huge catapult to rocket him across town to the scene of a crime, then radios ahead to his ant buddies to get together and create a soft, cushiony landing spot. There's a kooky 60s villain called Trago, a mad jazz musician who Ant-Man can only defeat by climbing inside his trumpet. And best of all, in his first battle with the Porcupine, Ant-Man is almost defeated when the villain drops him in a bath-tub full of water and the sides are too slippery for him to climb out. Plus, there's all that typically sexist Mad Men style guff Stan always dropped into the Reed & Sue dialogue of early Fantastic Four...

"Wasp, don't you hear me? Oh, she's looking at the diamond! Just like a woman! Tell me, Jan, what do females find so fascinating about jewellery?"

"If only you'd buy me some, Big Daddy, I'd be happy to explain it to you!"

Ant-Man & Waspis pretty good value at £7.69 on Amazon (or a penny less from the Book Depository). Neither strip is a classic of its era, but there's enough fun to be had to make them worth the price... or less, if you can find it cheaper.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Sensational She-Hulk by John Byrne Volume #1



When David Addison turned to the camera in Moonlighting and spoke directly to the viewers at home, I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. Admittedly, I was fourteen at the time, but the idea that a fictional character might know they were a fictional character - and enjoy that conceit (rather than being terrified by it, as Buddy Baker was in Grant Morrison's Animal Man)... well, that just blew me away. Post-modern self-referencing irony became my favourite kind of tricksy literary device and I followed it wherever it cropped up - from Moonlighting to Blazing Saddles to It's Gary Shandling's Show... to John Byrne's Sensational She-Hulk.

Byrne was at the height of his fame in 1989 when he returned to Marvel after successfully revamping the post-Crisis Superman. He could probably have cherry-picked any character to work on at that point, so his decision to launch a brand new She-Hulk #1 (after the original title fizzled out years earlier) came completely from left field. His decision to position the title as an action-comedy - a fourth-wall busting action comedy at that - proved an even bigger surprise. But fair play to him, it was also a stroke of genius and the eight issues he produced before falling out with editorial and quitting the book were some of my favourite comics of this era. (His later return to the title a few years later was also fun... but never quite matched what had gone before.)

The big question, as with any reprint collection of comics I haven't read for 20+ years, is how does Sensational She-Hulk stand up today? And the answer is... better than expected. There's no denying Byrne was having heaps of fun with this book. The Marvel Universe is his plaything, and he's especially interested in the cheesier characters in the toybox. The opening story kicks off with the Circus of Crime, Mysterio and former Defenders baddies The Headmen who only want She-Hulk for her body... so they can use it as the vessel for their crazy colleague Chondu whose current torso is a batwinged, chicken-footed, tentacle-armed monstrosity. Spider-Man guest stars and heads do roll.

Next up are Stilt Man, former Howard The Duck baddie Doctor Bong (in an amusing story that rips the piss out of Saturday morning cartoons), Razorback, the characters from short-lived 80s truck-driving comic US1, and best of all, classic teddy-bear-like Marvel Monster Xemnu, The Living Titan. Xemnu is one of my favourite Marvel villains - he's just sooooo cute!

But much as I enjoyed seeing these crazy characters - treated with admirable respect, for all their comedic value - the real draw remains the fourth wall stuff. When She-Hulk is being attacked by the Toad Men in issue #2, Byrne cuts away to a subplot. On returning to the battle, we find both Shulky and her enemies sat around looking bored. "Oh good, you're back," she says to the reader - and then the battle continues. In issue #4, desperate to escape one of the crazy Saturday morning cartoon worlds of Dr. Bong, She-Hulk tears her way through the comic page and runs through a two page spread spoofing one of those huge Mile High Comics ads that used to feature in every Marvel title of the era. And when She-Hulk's clothing is shredded in a battle with Stilt Man, a supporting character asks why her underwear always remains intact. She-Hulk turns down the back of her chemise to reveal an "Approved by the Comics Code" badge stitched into the fabric. Even 20 years later, I'm still a sucker for post-modern gags like these, and while I rarely laughed out loud while reading this book, I did a hell of a lot of smiling... and any comic that makes me smile is a success.

Byrne's art has never been better (except, possibly, for the Terry Austin days), though some of the outfits and hairstyles are hilariously 80s. His drawing are big and bold and colourful and fun. When his work is this good, there's hardly anyone I'd rather have drawing the Marvel Universe.

The Sensational She-Hulk By John Byrne - Volume 1has a retail price of £18, which is pretty steep for 8 issues, but you can find it for about £12 if you shop around, which isn't too bad. I'll get back to reviewing proper On The Ration bargains next time... but considering how much I enjoyed reading these comics again, I still consider this one good value. Whether you'll feel the same will depend on your tolerance for John Byrne, clever-clever 4th-wall busting satire, and dumb villains. If that combination sounds at all appealing, then get out there and find an affordable copy of this book asap!


Monday, 13 June 2011

Captain America - The Captain



OK, this is a pretty expensive book - my copy cost me around twenty quid, though you can probably pick it up for about £18 if you shop around the Amazon marketplace. Now, given the rather lukewarm review I gave an earlier Captain America collection from the same era, Scourge Of The Underworld, you might wonder why I'd spend that much again? Well, two reasons really. One, I remember really enjoying this story when I first read it as a kid; and two, it isn't actually that expensive when you consider it collects twenty comics, two of them double-sized... even me, with my Grade B mathematics GCSE from 1986, can work out this comes to less than a quid an issue (well, if you count the double-sized issues as two each)... and less than a quid an issue is, as far as I'm concerned, an On The Ration price.

That said... was it worth the money?

I'd have to go with 'yes' this time... for me at least... though your own mileage may vary. The story begins when a government body called The Commission decide to call Steve Rogers to order. "Your days of running around being a hero of the people are over," they tell him. "We paid for the creation of Captain America - you work for us. Toe the line, winghead, do what we tell you, or we'll find someone else to sling that old indestructible shield."

Now Steve being Steve doesn't take too kindly to this kind of ultimatum. Captain America, he argues, is bigger than politics. He is a symbol of all the good stuff America stands for - not the grubby reality of political compromise. But rather than kick up a fuss, he hands in his shield, stops wearing the red, white and blue... and goes off to find his future.

Meanwhile, the Commission draft in another hero to fill his shoes. John Walker, aka the Super-Patriot, a good old Southern boy who's more accustomed to following orders... and a man who may not be playing with the full deck. He's Guy Gardner without the comedy value. Naturally, Walker finds it tough to live up to his new role and things go rapidly downhill when his identity is exposed and he suffers tragedy at the hands of a group of far right hatemongers called the Watchdogs.

Meanwhile, Steve Rogers is struggling to adopt a new costumed identity - The Captain - and take down the villainous Serpent Society's plans to turn the whole of Washington into snakes. Steve's mission is further hindered by squabbling sidekicks (Nomad and D-Man) and his lack of shield, plus the betrayal of his old friend Tony Stark who's gone rogue during this period of Marvel history in the original Armour Wars saga.

The two storylines converge in the inevitable face-off between the two Captains, wherein the identity of the villain behind The Commission is revealed... and there are absolutely no surprises here. Along the way we get to see Steve Rogers battle a serpentine Ronald Reagan, witness John Walker's vicious vengeance against the former friends who exposed his identity, and watch Serpent Squad member Diamondback attempt to go straight for the love of a (too) good (to be true) man.

Captain America: The Captaintook me ages to read. As a trade paperback it's longer than many Essentials collections, but with the added benefit of full colour which is particularly appreciated when Kieron Dwyer arrives as regular artist. Dwyer draws every issue from #339 - 350 (following a more traditionally illustrated opening from Tom Morgan) and his art here has a wonderfully fluid nature that reminds me of early John Byrne (no surprise, considering Byrne is Dwyer's step-father). Mark Gruenwald's script is overwritten by today's standards, but that's par for the course when re-reading comics from the 80s. I didn't notice the strong political leanings of Gruenwald's storyline when I was a kid. It's obvious he paints Rogers as the democrat hero, and Walker as the bigoted, headstrong republican who could never fill those big red boots. It's obviously written in reaction to a decade under the heel of the Reagan administration - turning Big Ron into a forked-tongued reptile isn't the most subtle of political allegories - but it made me wonder if such partisan political satire would be allowed by Marvel today?


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Punisher Max: Kingpin TPB

While I am not a massive Punisher fan, I do find the character quite appealing, on some very basic level, when he’s done right.  I really liked Garth Ennis’s Punisher Max run, but wasn’t so keen on his Marvel Knights Punisher run, which had its moments but mostly seemed a bit immature.  I think I prefer the Punisher when he is shooting the shit out of the Mafia, people traffickers, etc., rather than when he’s played for laughs and up against cartoonish villains.  This book, written by Jason ‘Scalped’ Aaron, had swearing in it and lots of violence but it reminded me more of the Marvel Knights Punisher than it did the Marvel Max Punisher – and not just because it was drawn by Steve Dillon. 
The five issues reprinted in this volume (Punisher Max 1-5) document the rise of the Marvel Max version of the Kingpin, and the Punisher himself ends up seeming like a supporting character in a Kingpin comic, rather than the other way around.  I like the Kingpin as a villain but, as a Daredevil fan, I have probably read more than enough Kingpin stories already and didn’t really need to read a retelling of his origin in a punisher comic – the next volume introduces the Marvel Max version of Bullseye! – particularly as this version of the Kingpin is pretty similar to the regular Marvel Universe Kingpin.  The weakest point in the book was probably the Punisher’s protracted battle with a pretty lame hitman called the Mennonite, who is as tough as nails but basically just an olde-worlde bloke with a hammer, and it seemed odd to me that the Kingpin would send a hitman who doesn’t even carry a gun after the Punisher.  Overall, though, this was a decent read and it kept me entertained while I was reading it, even if it wasn’t particularly memorable stuff (I finished reading this about a week ago and am really struggling to find things to say about it now, but I doubt I would have been able to say much more if I’d reviewed it right away).  I’ll probably pick up a copy the next volume, mainly because I have a certain amount of faith in Jason Aaron’s writing ability and would like to see if his shot at the Punisher improves, but I will definitely be trying to get it ‘on the ration’.
This volume has a recommended retail price of £14.99 / $19.99, which isn’t exactly a bargain price for a book that only collects five comics, but I got my copy from the Book Depository, during their recent 10% off sale, for £8.43.  (Note 1: Obviously, it was 10% off their already low prices, not 10% off the RRP – at the moment they’ve got it for £9.89.)  (Note 2: I promise I will try not review any more books written by Jason Aaron until at least November, which is when both the next volume of Scalped comes out and the next volume of Punisher Max comes out in softcover, as I have reviewed rather a lot of his books recently.)       

Monday, 6 June 2011

Scalped Volumes 6 & 7

Reports of the theft of Scalped Vol.6 from my local library appear to have been exaggerated and my assumption that it would be months before they got a copy of Vol.7 in appears to have been unjustified, as they managed to get me copies of both of these books mere weeks after I finished reading Vol.5.  That means that I did not need to buy these two books, as I said I would at the end of my review of Scalped Vol. 5, but I’m going to buy them all anyway because I now think that this is a series I will want to keep and read over and over again.  I can’t believe that I was so indifferent about the first two volumes now!
In Scalped Vol.6: The Gnawing, which collects Scalped issues 30 to 34 by series writer Jason Aaron and regular artist R.M. Guéra, reservation chief / crime lord Lincoln Red Crow has to smooth things over with his Asian-American business partners following the events of Scalped Vol.4, but makes things much worse before he makes them better, and our drug-addled ‘hero’, undercover FBI agent Dashiell ‘Dash’ Bad Horse, finally gets his revenge on Diesel Engine.  This is a particularly brutal volume, in which Dash goes even further over the line he crossed several volumes ago, but it’s gripping stuff and I loved the explanation for the title on the first story page!
 
In Scalped Vol.7: Rez Blues, which collects Scalped issues 35 to 42 by Aaron, Guéra and guest artists artists Danijel Zezelj and Davide Furnò, Chief Red Crow’s top enforcer, Shunka, confronts his sexuality, we get to meet Dash’s dad, Wade, who has rather a lot in common with his son, and both Dash and his lover, Red Crow’s estranged daughter Carol, clean up their acts, both for very different reasons.  It’s not as brutal as Vol.6 but it’s twice as sleazy, also surprisingly touching, and it follows in the tradition of previous volumes by being even better than the volume that preceded it.

This is a really good series, full of strong characters, and if I owned copies of all seven of the volumes published so far I could quite happily sit down and re-read them all right now.  The wait for Vol.8, which doesn’t come out until November, is going to be a long one.

Cost:  Scalped Vol.6 has a recommended retail price of £10.99 and Scalped Vol.7 has a recommended retail price of £14.99.  I got them both out of my local library and all I paid was a 25p (per book) reservation fee, but, as I said, I will be buying copies of all the available volumes as soon as I see them at the right price (I have already managed to pick up a copy of Vol.1 on eBay for £3.50 but volumes 2 and 3 seem to be out of print and harder to find at the moment, which I hope is just a temporary situation).

Friday, 3 June 2011

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Volumes 1, 2 & 3

Between them, these three trade paperbacks collect Fantastic Four issues 570 to 582, written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Dale Eaglesham (issues 570 to 572 and 575 to 578) and Neil Edwards (issues 573 to 574 and 579 to 582).  That’s just thirteen issues spread over three trade paperbacks – five issues in volume one and four each in volumes two and three – and that is my biggest complaint about these books.  Any trade paperback collecting just four issues of an ongoing series feels rather unnecessary to me, and had I bought these in hardcover format – believe it or not, Marvel do release hardcover books that only collect four comics these days – I would have felt like a fool, particularly as none of these books tell a complete story.  All three books combined don’t even tell a complete story, as they are merely the first three chapters in Hickman’s larger plan for the FF.  Luckily, though, I didn’t pay too much for these and they were decent books, so I don’t feel ripped-off, but I probably would have been better off waiting for the inevitable FF by Jonathan Hickman Omnibus, as these comics will no doubt read better in one big collection and I’m pretty sure I will need to read them all again when the softcover edition of the next volume comes out to remind myself what happened.  Not that I understood everything that happened in these volumes.
Like Grant Morrison before him, Hickman writes comics that are full of big ideas and aren’t necessarily that reader-friendly, but thankfully Hickman’s comics are a bit more accessible than Morrison’s, which I have only recently started to appreciate.  In volume one, the best of these three books, Reed Richards joins a council of Reed Richards from alternate Earths and attempts to solve everything, Johnny and Ben take a break on Nu-World (which has gotten more interesting since it first appeared in Mark Millar’s ultimately-poor run on the FF), and Franklin and Valeria Richards are visited by a future version of Franklin, who arrives with a warning which kicks off Hickman’s larger storyline.  Part of Franklin’s warning is: ‘There will be a war between the four cities’, and in volume 2, we are introduced to the four cities – one city in each of the four issues reprinted in the book.  At the very end of volume two, the war between the cities kicks off, and then in volume three things get really confusing, when Reed Richards' dad fights an alternate version of himself with the help of college-age versions of Reed Richards, Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom.  And that is one of the least confusing parts of the book, because I barely understood what was going on with Nu-World at all, or with the future versions of Franklin and Valeria in the final issue reprinted here.

These were pretty good comics but I didn’t enjoy them quite as much as I thought I would – I read the first three issues reprinted in volume one when they first came out and was really impressed but they were probably still my favourite issues – mainly because I have a low tolerance for this sort of thing – i.e. non-linear stories full of big sci-fi ideas.  While I have recently begun to appreciate some of Grant Morrison’s comics, I don’t always understand them and I only occasionally enjoy reading them, and I recently stopped watching Doctor Who because I was finding most episodes a bit tedious and confusing.  In short, I like my fiction a bit more down to Earth – even if that fiction is about people with super-powers – but I must say that this sort of storytelling suits the FF and it’s great to see Hickman doing something different with them and implementing some big changes, rather than telling the same old stories over and over again.  I think Stan and Jack would approve, I will almost certainly buy the next volume (which will hopefully reprint more than four comics), and it would have been worth buying these books just to see the Dragon Man wearing reading glasses, which was the highlight for me.  Oh, and the art was pretty good, too.

Cost: These books have a combined recommended retail price of £34.97, which isn’t exactly a bargain price for thirteen comics, but I bought them from the Book Depository during their recent 10%-off sale – which has been extended until June 5th – for a more reasonable £19.19 (using money I got selling off comics I no longer wanted on eBay, which is where most of the money I spend on new comics comes from).