Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 12.15.2010 – Strange Tales II #3

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

281
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 5.0%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
By Terry Moore, Harvey Pekar, Toby Cypress, Kate Beaton, Nick Gurewitch, Edu Medeiros, Alex Robinson, Benjamin Marra, Tim Hamilton, Ty Templeton and more.
Cover by Ivan Brunetti

Size: pages
Price: 4.99

There's an unspoken boundary in the world of comics. It's the line between "super hero" comics and "indie" comics, or also known as "underground" comics or "alternative" comics.  It's like this weird line of demarcation that both sides draw and then mass groups of people become vicious in their defense of it. Fans of super hero comics tend to stick to what they know, the same established corporate characters for years and years, blind to the idea that any other form of comic exists.  Across the room sit the high and mighty indie comics folk.  Too busy looking down on "Capes and tights" and patting themselves on the back to realize that we're all fans of the same thing, comics.  Whether it's super hero comic or odd alternative comic, the use of visual storytelling is the same.

We both know that I was over-generalizing just now, but sometimes it sure feels like that, doesn't it? What I find terribly ironic in the world of comics is that even the most ardent and fiercely independent alternative comic creator probably knows a ton about a Marvel or DC character or two.  Sure there may be exceptions here and there of a creator who somehow was never touched by the super hero genre, but for the majority (and mainly American) of comic creators working today were raised in a world where the likes of Spider-Man and Superman and Batman were part of the cultural tapestry of America.  For the past 40 years or so, you couldn't avoid them even if you tried.  So it comes as no surprise when I read about or hear of a very talented indie comic creator talk about his or her affection for The Avengers, or Daredevil, or M.O.D.O.K., because right or wrong, we were all raised on these fantastical characters. I think that the tapping into that cultural impact with some very talented comic creators is what makes the Strange Tales anthology so special.  By taking comic creators who never in a million years would get their hands on Marvel characters and letting them just have fun, they in turn created some of the most enjoyable Marvel based stories I've read in a long time. 

The first series was so great that when I heard they were doing another volume I hoped that they weren't going to well too much.  That maybe once was enough and let's not overdo a good thing.  But then Strange Tales II #1 came out, and it was fantastic.  Issue #2 followed suit, and now here we are with Strange Tales II #3, which may have been the best issue yet of this wonderfully wacky anthology. With the previous volume, and these past 2 issues, it's been a mixed bag.  Some stories clicked with me, while others simply didn't.  The thing is with these alternative comic creators, you get a wide range of art and storytelling styles.  Some challenge you more than others, some just don't resonate with you, while other just sing that wonderful gospel that is comics.  Strange Tales II #3 was different for me though, as it hit on the right chord for every story, by every creator.  There wasn't one story in this issue that I dismissed or shrugged off as not being for me, which is pretty amazing.  Simply put, each story set out to do it's own thing within the Marvel Universe and knocked it out of the park.

The format of Strange Tales II #3 is simple and the same as the previous issues.  Take a handful of alternative/indie creators and let them loose.  Some stories are 6 to 8 pages, some are 2 pages, some are 4 pages long.  There is no formula, just however long they needed.  Now, I can't really get into a review for each and every story, so you'll have to bear with me as highlight the ones that I really enjoyed over the others:

– I was delighted to see the issue begin with a Thor story by none other than Terry Moore.  If you listened to the Pick of the Week Podcast last week, I'm sure you can imagine I was hysterical by the third page.  Moore was able to lend his adept cartooning skills here in telling  comedic tale of the Thunder God, that even without the meta reference still stands on it's own

– A few months back, a sketch of Galactus by James Stokoe (of Orc Stain fame) made the rounds on the comics Internet and now we see what the inspiration for that was, a magnificent tale of the Silver Surfer with art that is just ungodly good.

– With this issue, I discovered and adored the art by T. Cypress as he tells a simple and inspiring story of Luke Cage as Power Man in a nod towards the comics of our youth.

– The humor and simplicity of the 2 pages by Michael Deforge, combining Spider-Man and the X-Men in a Peanuts-esque strip story with a a little dose of realistic humor had me cracking up

– I never would have thought of Alex Robinson when it came to the Fantastic Four, but to read his take on the dating life of Reed Richards pre-Cosmic Rays brought his own personal touch of evocative storytelling to already loved characters.  And the four panels of the Fantastic Four in costume at the end? Oh yes, more of that please!

– The pleasant surprise of the humor combined with an art style that fit perfectly was found within the Spider-Man/Juggernaut/The Thing story by Eduardo Medeiros was one of the stories I re-read immediately after finishing.

– And finally, the book ends with one of the comic book legends, Harvey Pekar, who wrote this story of Harvey Pekar meeting up with The Thing, before he passed away over the summer, goes to show that even the most alternative of comic creators had an appreciation for the super heroes.

A good anthology, in my opinion, should accomplish several things. First it should showcase and highlight comic talent.  Talent that you know and are happy to see, and talent that you may not know of, but after reading you decide you want to seek out more of their work.  In addition to that, it should entertain in a limited space available with an economy of pages and yet still feel satisfying.  Strange Tales II #3 was an absolute success based on that criteria.  Not only was I able to enjoy creators I already knew like Terry Moore and Alex Robinson, but it allowed me to discover new talent like Eduardo Medeiros and T.Cypress.  On top of all that, the amount of enjoyment I got from these stories made the $4.99 price tag a distant memory. I got every dollars worth of entertainment and enjoyment out of this issue, especially considering my own personal appreciation for Marvel Comics and their characters.  But that shouldn't stop anyone else from sampling this fine work.  Because at the end of the day, these wonderful creators made some good comics.  And in the end, that's all that really matters.  Good comics.  

 

Ron Richards
"Thor get lonely sometimes"
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Nice! I think this was my Pick as well. 

  2. Good timing with the Thor story in this eh? 🙂

    I thought this was very good, although there were some stories that weren’t perfect. Jame Stokoe’s Silver Surfer story is gorgeous (look at that Galactus!) but the story is pretty ‘meh’ in general. The Left Hand of Boom and the Machine Man stories were also pretty boring to read as well. But all the other one’s really stood out; especially the two Kate Beaton stories in here.

    My POTW was for Green Lantern #60 for being a lot of fun to read with a shocking twist. 

  3. Man you had me at “Harvey Pekar metting the Thing”, now I’m definitely buying this book.

  4. Ugh. 
    Instead the Superman Secret Origin Deluxe HC was my POTW.

    Matthew

  5. Agree! The two Uatu stories and the Heroes for Hire were just kind of “eh” for me, but everything else was just right on. Worth every penny and made up for the wishy washy feelings I had towards issue #2.

  6. great pick, ron

    side note for anyway with a Borders near them, on their website they have a 50% a single item coupon running till tomorrow if u have or sign up for their free rewards card

    i picked up wednesday comics for $25 and it made me happy 🙂

  7. i really really really want to check this series out. None of my Local shops can get it or order it (apparently Marvel stuff is really tough to special order) Do you know if it will be released in trade?

  8. @wallythegreenmonster  The first volume was, so presumably the second will as well.

  9. @wallythegreenmonster  Stabge Tales II HC will be released in April 6th, 2011 according to Amazon.  Also the first volume is still available from there as well if you have trouble getting it from LCS. 

    Matthew


  10. it’s ‘demarcation’ *wags finger*

    This series has been a revelation so far, can’t wait to check this out. I’m reading The Best of American Splendor right now, and just discovering the joys of that miserable old bastard, Pekar. 

  11. I’m buying this for the Thor story alone!

  12. loved this. Really want that Orc Stain book now. This was my pick as well.

  13. US Agent : silver age tale with grim gritty 80’s sensibilities.

  14. Bought all 3 issues in one go; I’m quite excited =)

  15. So what’s the explanation behind the Thor speak? Did one of you guys read it early, and that’s where it came from on last week’s podcast?

  16. @j206  Nope. It’s a very bizarre coincidence.

  17. Wow. Yes, VERY bizarre.

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