Headlines   2003Review Index   March 21, 2003
Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

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Banner      The town of Santa Fe, New Mexico is nearly obliterated. Buildings are leveled, people are killed and wounded in a disaster of unprecedented proportions.  The government declares a tornado the cause of the destruction.  In reality, according to scientist-adventurer Dr. Leonard Samson, it was the world's most devastating bomb.  "A bomb that moves around and continues to blow up."  So begins Samson's quest to capture Bruce Banner, or, as he is known in his monstrous persona, "The Hulk."

      A fairly routine premise, as Hulk stories go, but Banner, a new trade paperback published by Marvel Comics, is still more than a little different.  Why?

      Because it takes the character back to his roots, back to what he is supposed to be; a monster.  It does this with good writing, and even better art work. 

      Writer Brian Azzarello reverts the Hulk to his essence.  Too many stories in decades past had made the Hulk into a big, green, snarling... well, teddy bear.  Azzarello shows us a creature of great rage and destruction which leaves chaos and death in it's wake. Then, he presents the picture of a horrified Bruce Banner, who gets to "wake up" and see the nightmare his other self has made others live through.  Powerful stuff.

      Even more powerful is the artwork of Richard Corben.  Long known for his horror illustrations, Corben proved long ago his ability to render brutal, creepy, chilling scenes, beautifully.  Few artists produce such oxymoronic work.  I mean that in a good way, really.

      The truth is, it took Richard Corben far too long to illustrate a Hulk story, as he renders the visual monster superbly.  The rage, the destruction, the unrestrained and uncontrollable force that is the ogre that Lee and Kirby created a generation ago, this is what Corben gives the readers.

      Banner is highly recommended for all but the youngest readers.  Look for it at comic shops, comic conventions and online auctions and catalogs. 

      Banner, published by Marvel Comics, 104 pages, $12.95.

      Review by Mark Allen

Solar, Man of the Atom: Alpha and Omega

Solar      Let's take a trip back to 1994, when the now-defunct Valiant Comics was still alive and kicking, producing fan-favorite material.  Much of that work, though ridiculously over-priced in the back-issue market (yes, I thought so THEN, as well), was popular for good reason; it was great comic work.  Case in point: Solar, Man of The Atom: Alpha and Omega.  This was the "revamped" origin tale of the character originally published by Gold Key Comics in the '60's and '70's.

      Phil Seleski was the man who designed the reactor at the Edgewater Advanced Fusion Energy Research Center, a distinction of which he was quite proud…until the day that the containment unit was breached, and radiation flooded the small town of Muskogee, Oklahoma.  It also seared the flesh from Seleski's bones, as he sought to shut the reactor down.  What it didn't do was kill him.  Instead, Seleski was infused with energy, and bestowed great power; power that made him seem almost…godlike.

      Writer Jim Shooter crafted a wonderful tale, with a tip of the hat to the original creators of the character, but adding a fresh "coat" of characterization.  Possessed of such awesome power, Seleski wants to help people, while the government wants him and his power contained.  Yet, underneath it all, there is something scary about Phil Seleski; like a powder keg, waiting to explode.

      Artist Barry Windsor-Smith has a realistic rendering style that fits the story very well.  While his range of character expressions could have been wider for this story (facial expressions often seem too "subdued"), his sense of anatomy and mechanical draftsmanship lend much to the tale.

      I should add that this book is NOT just for fans of super hero comics, as there are no costumes or super villains to be found; just a fun story with a science fiction flavor.

      Solar is recommended for those who enjoy action/adventure, sci-fi or superhero tales.

      Solar, Man of the Atom: Alpha and Omega, published by Valiant Comics, 80 pages, $9.95.

       Review by Mark Allen


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