Friday, December 6, 2013

Blazing Combat


This is truly a golden age for people who love great comic books.....Dark Horse, Marvel, and Fantagraphics (Not so much with DC, unfortunately...) are re-issuing classic comics with such alarming frequency that I've started trying to find buyers for my organs, before they get too old and stale. Which brings us to today's Crabby Review, Fantagraphic's BLAZING COMBAT....

 I'd heard about the legendary Warren run of BLAZING COMBAT occasionally while growing up, but aside from one brief exposure as a child, this is the first chance I've ever gotten to actually see for myself what all the hype was about. (That first exposure came around age 8, when my Aunt Bobby bought me a copy of Comix! A History of Comic Books In America, which I read and reread for over a decade, until it was falling apart. It's a phenomenal book, and I can't recommend it enough. Oh, back on topic, it contained Landscape, from BLAZING COMBAT #2, written by Archie Goodwin and illustrated by Joe Orlando. This was mind-blowing stuff for an eight year old, and I never forgot that story.) This wonderful collection contains the contents of issues one through four of BLAZING COMBAT, with 28 stories (27 of which were written by Archie Goodwin), and two short illustrated "Combat Quiz" featurettes. 

 For the most part, Goodwin's stories hold up well. I was surprised by the anti-war message that flows through the stories, and the book is rounded out by interviews with Archie Goodwin and Publisher Jim Warren, both of whom discuss how that anti-war sentiment was what ultimately doomed the book. The main selling point, however, has got to be the art, which is handled by a staggering array of legendary creators, including Angelo Torres, George Evans, Gray Morrow, Reed Crandall, John Severin, Alex Toth, Gene Colan, Wallace Wood, and Russ Heath. All of the artists are at the top of their game, and the wonderful paper stock Fantagraphics uses shows each line and brushstroke off to it's fullest effect. (None of that high-gloss paper stock here, thank goodness....) I was especially impressed by the work of Russ Heath, Gray Morrow, and John Severin, whose detail and storytelling ability put 99% of today's artists to shame. (That's my "Old Man Comment of the Day.")

 There has been considerable bitching done online about how Frank Frazetta's four cover paintings are reproduced as thumbnail-sized panels, but I really couldn't summon up too much hate about that....it's a small thing, considering how great the rest of the volume is, and what a true labor of love this must have been for the Fantagraphics team. (People who really need to see those covers reproduced full size will want the paperback edition, which I'm told gives them a full page each.)

 Not only is this a great, enjoyable book, but it's also an important piece of comic book history, and is not to be missed.