Thursday, 23 December 2010

Stan Lee's 'New Comics' (BOOM! Studios)

Stan Lee inevitably looms large over modern comics, since he along with a host of talented artists including luminaries such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko among many others, re-invigorated superhero comics in the early 1960's with a new way of telling superhero stories with a tonally different style to what went before.

I can't help but look upon Stan Lee with a mix of awe and wonder, all mixed in with a healthy dose of skepticism due to controversies that are attached to him (the disputed credit for seminal works associated with him; the failures of some of his businesses; his subsequent legal wranglings following those business failures). The man seems to be an incredible salesman, so much so that it is hard to be truly objective about his talents: good or ill.

So it was that I come to a new set of comics from BOOM! Studios; 3 superhero comics based on Stan Lee's own concepts, but handed over to other creators. Well, given that I like small nascent comic book universes, I had to check them out. And I am glad I did.

I don't really care for Lee's hyperbolic writing style that I feel was his 60's trademark; I much preferred work by those who followed him such as Roy Thomas, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman to name a few. So I was glad he was not directly writing these books, but if he had a hand in their creation, then good for him, since conceptually they are are not too bad, and in execution so far I have found them to be enjoyable.

So my doubts of Lee allayed, what do we have? Soldier Zero (top image) kicked off quite neatly, taking a paralysed veteran and offering a new life with a suit of alien armour. The acquired-symbiotic armour premise has shades of many other comic book characters (Hero Zero; X-O Manowar; Darkhawk; Venom; etc), but it still felt like a good hook for the book and the first two issues have been an enjoyable read. The book offers a straightforward set-up pitching our hero as a defender against a looming alien threat.

The Traveler (middle) is all about mystery: who the titular hero is; what he is up to; and who is he working against. Consequently there is more than a little head-scratching from the introduction to the series, but again an entertaining comic book for me. The primary theme is time travel, a theme that main writer Mark Waid is very familiar with through many of his stories and concepts.

Rounding out this line of Stan Lee inspired comic books is Starborn (bottom). In this title we have our hero, who aspires to be writer and has dreamed up a whole-cloth conceptual sci-fi/space opera setting for his stories. Except that they may not be stories, and he may not be who he thinks he is. Of course he isn't, he is a superhero - he just hasn't realised it yet.

None of the character concepts feels entirely original, and even outside of comics there are plenty of tropes from sci-fi used (symbiotic armour; the layered reality of films like the Matrix for the Starborn premise and so on). Yet I enjoyed them, and there is pay-off for readers following all 3 titles. So for anyone looking for some new comics to try, without masses of convoluted past history, then I'd recommend these.

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