Sunday, February 21, 2010

Comics Review: STAR COMICS ALL-STAR COLLECTION, Volume 2 (Marvel Comics, 2010)

Second volume, pretty much the same as the first... in terms of generally outstripping my expectations, that is. This issue collects PLANET TERRY #3-#4, TOP DOG #4-#6, WALLY THE WIZARD #3-#4, and ROYAL ROY #3-#4, taking us through the end of 1985 and the latter stages of the Star "shakedown cruise." For the most part, the original writers and artists are still on the job, though another Harvey stalwart from the 70s and 80s, Ben Brown, bows in by both writing and drawing both stories in WALLY #4. Most of Brown's previous work on RICHIE RICH can charitably be described as uninspired, but here he turns in some first-rate work, though inkers Jon D'Agostino and Vince Colletta may have helped his cause considerably. Bob Bolling returns to WALLY with issue #3's book-length "Folkquest" and turns in the best single story of this collection, a touching tale of Wally's efforts to find his kidnapped parents and help his young Viking pal, Vikk, track down his own father. Wally shows genuine nobility of spirit throughout. By contrast, ROYAL ROY is already beginning to stagger despite the best efforts of Stan Kay, Warren Kremer, and new writer Angelo DeCesare. DeCesare's "The Curse of the Gold-Engaged Bridge" (RR #4) delivers a wretched title pun worthy of Harvey at its peak but, at bottom, is nothing more than a riff on one of my favorite Richie Rich-Mayda Munny stories, "Wedded Blitz." We learn something of Top Dog's past in TOP DOG #4 and #5 as federal agent Morrison calls upon TD to reprise his role as mental jockey of the government's "Brainstrain" computer (the usual Colossus-like beep-and-flash monstrosity that the the PC revolution was then in the process of rendering somewhat obsolete) and save America from, in turn, an embittered Treasury engraver who plans to flood the country with fake currency and a crook who intends to use the power of an "ancient Egyptian amulet" to make himself "King Invisible of America." It's good fun, but the fact that Lenny Herman resorted to two such plots back-to-back is a bit troubling, especially since the relationship between TD and his "owner" Joey Jordan still needs development. Ish #6 sags badly with a poor lead story in which nasty Mervin Megabucks hires two unfunny "mildly peeved" scientists, Frank and Stein, to hypnotize TD into becoming his dog, and offers up what may be a sinister portent for the future with some shoddy non-Kremer art in one of a pair of one-page gags. Finally, Planet Terry, Robota, and Omnus continue their search for Terry's mom and dad (I should really create a key function that prints all that in one fell swoop, since it'll be operative for the book's entire run) and make the acquaintance of Elvin, a cute, no-doubt-Ewoks-influenced character. Terry must be a bit older than he looks, since the beautiful Princess Ugly, ruler of the World of the Gorkels, appears to have the hots for him. That only happened to Richie Rich in the Christmas Wish movie, and, even then, the female rock-band groupies were talking about "someday" getting together with Richie when he had become a bit older. These may be Harvey Comics in all but branding, but at least one or two modest chances were being taken...

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