One of my favorite old comic anthologies gets a modern (90's that is) update!
Unfortunately, it's Vertigo. . .which means (Like everything Vertigo) it's 1 part great to 2 parts crap.
WEIRD WAR TALES
I LOVE the 70's Weird War (and Weird Western) Tales! They are some of my favorite comics of all time. Unfortunately, for every piece of brilliance, there were several pieces of crap. This Vertigo revisitation to the title is the same. For every good story, there's 2 bad. Really, when you think about it, that's what can be said about Vertigo in general. Shining bits of goodness surrounded by pretentious crap. Let's take a look at what we have in this first issue. . .
THE SURVIVOR: A nice little tale set during WWI about several different ships coming across an island straight out of the Cthulu mythos. A very nice opening with fantastic Corben art. The best of this particular bunch.
ARES: I really liked the concept of this one. . .that the inner cities are just as much a war zone as any other battlefield, with their gang "armies" and "soldiers". Unfortunately, the art is weak and the story takes a turn for the worse. Great concept. . .weak execution.
THE WILLOW WARRIORS: This one goes back to feudal Japan to tell an unexpected tale of honor and peace in war. Very nicely written and beautifully drawn. I really liked this one.
TUNNEL RATS: The last story is about a horrific discovery in the tunnels beneath Vietnam that still haunts a veteran of that war. This one is a straight up horror story, but it's also a bit far fetched.
All in all the first issue had two great stories and two so-so stories. None of them were bad, so this one gets an average score.
This second issue only has 3 stories (2 fairly long and one extremely short). Let's take a look. . .
LOOKING GOOD, FEELING GREAT: I didn't really like this story about a young man who wants so much to be in the military finally snapping after multiple rejections and shooting up his town. The art was second rate and the storytelling is a bit of a mess. A perfect example of how some of these Vertigo writers can get a bit pretentious. This COULD have been a straightforward story, but the writer decided to try and have the narration come from a completely unrelated source. That and a confusing ending make this the worst of the three in this issue.
MIGHTIER: Kuper gives us an extremely short (2 pages) meditation on the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword. The full page illustration of a nuclear attack is powerful and disturbing. This was easily the best of the issue. . .and one of the best in this series.
THE ELOPEMENT: The Landsdale/Glanzman team is one of my favorites. As far as I'm concerned, there is NOBODY else who should write and draw Jonah Hex. This story plays to their strengths and takes us to the Civil War in the Andersonville POW camp for a tale of revenge from beyond the grave. Unfortunately, although the art is spot on, the story falls a bit flat. The concept is a bit of a reach and could have been better. That doesn't make it bad, just not as great as I wanted a Lansdale/Glanzman story to be.
All in all, this issue had a bad story, a great story, and a pretty good one. Another average score.
Once again, another 3 story issue.
NEW TOYS: I've asked this question before, and I'll ask it here again. . .Is Grant Morrison capable of writing a simple story? Once again, Morrison's insanity is on full display as he gives us an incomprehensible tale of. . .God, I don't even know. It's awful, though. The art by Quitely is stellar, by contrast, and the final page of this story is a horrific vision that will stick with you. Great art. . .bad story. The worst of these three.
SNIPER'S ALLEY: This tale brings us to a very recent (at that time) war zone in Sarajevo for a very nice little story about snipers who are former friends hunting each other. It reminds me of the best stories of the original Weird War Tales. The best of this issue.
RUN: This story takes us back to the trenches of WWI for a brutal look at what happens when duty to authority outweighs survival instinct. I really liked the story on this one, but Pratt's art was a little TOO impressionistic. So we have the opposite of the opener. . .Great story, bad art.
All in all, we had one awful story, one good story, and one okay story for another average score.
And here we are at the end of things. All in all not a bad series. Unfortunately, the bad taken with the good made the series average on the whole. . .
WAR AND PEAS : A pretty good story about an elderly English WWII veteran and how memories of war can still affect the lives of others. Nicely written, nicely drawn.
BAD DAY ON THE SAJO: This tale takes us to a little-visited war zone. . .Hungary in the 12th century for a battle between Christians and Mongols. The tale of spirits leading an unlikely warrior to glory is nicely written, but Winslade's art is the star of this show! It's hyper-detailed and every page is a showpiece! This is another story that reminds me a lot of the greatest stories of the original Weird War Tales. The best of this issue.
SALVATION: A tale of a Vietnam (?) veteran slowly going mad living alone in the woods. The story is another one of those pretentious pieces of crap that COULD have been a bit more straightforward. The art is brilliant, though. . .dark, moody, and twisted. So once again we have a half and half story. Bad writing, great art.
So we had 3 okay stories this time out for yet another average score. Like I said above, this mini was just average because of the Vertigo tendency to be 1 piece of good for 2 pieces of crap. That was the norm for Vertigo in general, and this mini was no exception.
WEIRD WAR TALES SPECIAL
7 stories in this 64 page special. Let's take a look at each one of them individually. . .
NOSH AND BARRY AND EDDIE AND JOE: This story about 4 Gulf War era British Special Ops veterans finding out that they were part of a secret experiment isn't nearly as good as I would expect something from a Garth Ennis/Jim Lee combo to be. It's okay, but not much better than that.
IMAGINE: This Vietnam story about finding life among the death of war is nicely drawn and pretty good. It reminds me of the original Weird War Tales.
THE ISIHLANGU: A very nice story taking place during the Zulu wars of the 1800's reminds me of the very best original Weird War Tales with its twist ending. That and the art by Alcantena (one of my favorites!) is fantastic. This is one of the two best of this bunch.
THE SPOILS OF WAR: Taking place at the end of the Trojan War, this is a nicely written tale about how sometimes what you fight for isn't what you end up winning. Unfortunately, the art isn't great, so we get a half and half here. . .good story, bad art.
MIND FIELD: And here we have the worst of the bunch. A pretentious piece of crap story that is almost unreadable that seems to be about a man losing his mind living alone in a bunker on a future battlefield. And I know there are those who think Paul Pope is some sort of comic art Messiah, but I'm not one of them. Bad art. Bad story. Just. . .bad.
SPIRIT DE CORPS: One of my favorite artists from the original 4 issue mini returns. . .and this time he gets to illustrate a GOOD story! This tale of two Vietnam vets returning a favor to spirits who saved them on the battlefield is really the best written and drawn story in this issue.
A PRAYER TO THE SUN: I really liked this story told through captions and single panel shots of wars through time from prehistoric days to modern times. . .one panel for each and just the words of a woman praying for the sun to not rise so she can spend more time with her man before he goes to war. It's pretty powerful and shows the other side of war, those who remain at home.
So all in all, 3 really good stories, 2 okay stories, and 2 bad stories in this special gives it an average score.
And there you have it. . .Vertigo's Weird War Tales.
All in all, I liked this series. It had some of my favorite artists and writers and some really great little stories. Unfortunately, it also had some God-Awful writers and artists on some really bad little stories. All things considered, the good taken with the bad, it all sort of averaged out. I would certainly suggest this mini for anyone who loves anthologies. I see they also did a Weird Western Tales mini I don't have any issues of, so now I have to go looking for it (Even though I expect the standard Vertigo recipe of 1 part good to 2 parts crap will apply).
Up next. . .
I have no idea what this series is about. I got it in a cheap batch of comics I picked up last month at a store that was closing down. All I know is that it features "Red Robin" and takes place when everybody thought Batman was dead. That and it isn't worth a damn, as far as money value goes.
DC's World's Finest 4 issue mini. Be there or be square!
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|The Amazing Spider-Man
Issue # 36