Black Lightning Season Two kicked off on Tuesday, October 9, with an electrifying episode written by Salim Akil. My family and I were on the edge of our seats as scene after scene unfolded with crazy surprises. I had to take deep breaths during the commercial breaks and still felt exhausted by the end of the episode. I know you’re all going to think I’m a wee bit biased, but this is the best show on TV. Bar none. Great acting, writing and direction and an amazing level of dedication and talent behind the scenes. I’m so proud to be associated with this series, even distantly.
There was additional excitement for Clan Isabella that night. Our local CW station did an interview with me about why I created Black Lightning. The five-minute piece ran during their news broadcast at 7:30 pm and again at 10:30 pm. Though it proved my conjecture that I have a face for radio, I was very happy with the piece. Kudos to journalist Dan Deroos.
During one of the “what coming next” mentions of the interview, the news anchor referred to me as a “visionary.” Every one in the room burst into laughter. However, calling upon my visionary powers, I can confidently predict we will now leave my patting myself on the back and get on with this week’s reviews.
DC and Walmart had a treat waiting for me when I visited my local Medina store to pick up some Halloween candy and other supplies for that spooky holiday. Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant #1 [$4.99] presents a hundred pages of monsters and mayhem, including a brand-new Swamp Thing story by Brian Azzarello and artist Greg Capullo. The 12-page tale has eerie visuals and seems to be setting up some major developments for the DCU, but, alas, the writing is lacking in clarity. Fortunately, the rest of the giant is filled with some very cool reprints.
The Enchantress and Blue Devil team for a funny little vignette by Dan DiDio with artists Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund. Paul Dini teams with artist Dustin Nguyen for a Zatanna solo story. Superman stars in a story by Steve Niles and Dean Ormston. Writer Mikey Way and artist Mateus relate a very different Batman and the Scarecrow tale. New to me was a longer, absolutely stunning Aquaman and the Demon adventure by J. Michael Straczynski and artist Jesus Saiz; it was as chilling as its deep sea setting.
Halloween-themed reprints don’t get much more classic than “Night of the Reaper” by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Harlan Ellison and Bernie Wrightson. Then, just to top things off, we get the original (non-series) Swamp Thing story by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. If I have a complaint about this giant, it’s the lack of a text page explaining just how special these stories were.
There’s no comics shop near Casa Isabella, so my trips to Walmart to look for these new DC giants is as close as I can come to that experience. I like the giants because I think they can bring us new readers and because, just taken as they are, they are a very good value for their cost. I recommend them.
If the Swamp Thing Giant was a Halloween treat, Pre-Code Classics: Spook Tales of Suspense & Mystery Volume One [PS Artbooks; $44.99] is a trick. Granted, it’s an interesting trick, but not what I was expecting from this hardcover collection.
Some background: Spook was published by Star Publications for nine issues from January 1953 to October 1954. It began with issue #22 [January 1953], which continued the numbering of several cancelled series: Criminals on the Run, Crime Fighting Detective and Shock Detective Cases. Although the cover of #22 carries the title Spook Detective Cases, the indicia lists Spook as the title.
The cover of that first issue is by L.B. Cole. The cover was new. Every interior story is reprinted from crime comics of 1946-1950. The one exception and the only story with a supernatural element is a Sergeant Spook story from a 1946 issue of Blue Bolt. The police officer was a ghost who could only be seen by psychics like his kid sidekick Jerry.
This volume reprints Spook #22-26 [January-October 1953]. There are some new horror stories by Jay Disbrow, a reprint of a Jungle Lil adventure and another Sergeant Spook yarn. Except for those tales, the other reprints are all crime stories, some of them rewritten. The standout among these is “The Kill-Crazy Monster” with garishly fun art by Rudy Palais. It’s a reprint from Murder Incorporated #2 [March 1948].
Though disappointed by the contents, I don’t regret purchasing this book. I am fascinated by the low-rent horror comics of the 1950s, even those from the least of the comics publishers. If you share my interest in such material, you’ll want to at least read this first of two Spook volumes. I’m reading the second one at the moment and may have more to say about the title soon.
If you think math is scary, Jim McClain’s Solution Squad [$24.99] fits right into our Halloween theme this week. On the other hand, if you’re as jazzed as I am by a super-hero team that fights crime while teaching math concepts, then your only fear would probably be a pop quiz on the subject.
McClain is a teacher who creates fun and educational comics. The Solution Squad are young heroes whose names and powers are based on math concepts. They are “white hat” heroes who work well together. While the math is aimed at students in grades four through eight, the adventures and fact pages contained within this 146-page volume are fun for readers young and old.
The book starts with a brief tutorial on how to read comics. It’s informative and painless. Then we get a series of exciting stories featuring smart super-heroes, clever villains and surreptitiously teaching lessons on problem solving, prime numbers and more. There are “Who’s Who” pin-ups that relate everything a reader would need to know about the heroes, their foes and their world.
McClain, working with over a dozen terrific artists, created this series, writes the stories, letters them, designs everything that goes into this hardcover book and is its co-editor. Since I know what it takes to be a great teacher, I’m astonished McClain is able to accomplish that while producing these comics stories. He is an amazing individual and a credit to comics and his profession. Yeah, I’m gushing. He deserves it.
Jim McClain’s Solution Squad is my pick of the week. In addition to the hardcover edition, the book is also available in paperback. I recommend Solution Squad to comic-book fans, students and teachers.
I’ll be back next week with more reviews.
© 2018 Tony Isabella