Saturday, July 21, 2007


Earlier this week I read The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont. It has two famous pulp writers as its main characters - Walter Gibson (who wrote The Shadow under the pen name Maxwell Grant) and Lester Dent (who wrote Doc Savage under the pen name Kenneth Robeson). The two are not very friendly at the start of the book but they and their significant others get caught up in a mystery involving the death of H.R. Lovecraft and a mysterious statue in an abandoned Chinese theater that now serves as an opium den. Along the way they are accompanied by other writers like L. Ron Hubbard (who would go on to found a religion) and a famous science fiction writer who gives calls himself Otis Driftwood. Of course, there are mad escapes and danger and humor and winking nods to the pulp (and pop) culture of the time. It reminds me a bit of what Mark Frost did with Arthur Conan Doyle in The List of 7 and The 6 Messiahs, though this book is a different beast. I had a lot of fun with it.

One consequence of reading the book was that it made me miss reading comics as they come out even more than I had been. I always go back and forth on the idea of waiting for the trades or reading right now. But I've decided to stop worrying about it. I know I don't have space to keep a big pile of single issue, so I'll buy and read what I can...and if I eventually buy it again in trade format, so be it.

I put that into practice this week with two comics. First, I read All Flash #1. It heralds the return of Wally West as the Flash (after a tragedy involving Bart Allen, who had taken up the mantle when Wally and family disappeared during Infinite Crisis), as well as the return of Mark Waid as the writer of Flash. That's a great combination in my book. Waid's run on Flash in the 90s made Wally one of my favorite characters and I'm eager to see what he has in store this time around. This particular issue deals with other heroes welcoming Wally back, his pursuit of Inertia (who put into motion the events that killed Bart), and some glimpses of what is to come. There are a handful of artists on the book but the transitions work reasonably well; the last couple pages are by Daniel Acuna, who will be the artist on the series as it goes forward with #232. It will certainly be a different look for the book. Anyway, I am onboard and looking forward to more Wally West.

I also picked up Justice Society of America #7. This issue focuses on Nathan Heywood, the grandson of the Golden Age hero Commander Steel, who now has similar powers due to a fight with some Neo-Nazis. This issue reunites him with some younger members of his family and he debuts as Citizen Steel. We also get a chat between Superman and Starman about the Legion of Super-Heroes. This subplot drove the last few issues (and crossed over with Justice League of America) and I am completely fascinated by it, as it is my Legion that is appearing. It's a solid issue of the series.

And speaking of the pulps and super-heroes, news came out in the last few days about some new projects featuring old super-heroes that are now part of the public domain. One is called Superpowers and it will be done by Alex Ross and Jim Kreuger (more info here). The other is by Image and will be called the First Issue Project (more info here). Both sound like they could be cool.

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