Jun 3, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 99: Adventure Comics #435, September-October 1974

Coincidentally, this issue's Spectre story is also written by Michael Fleisher. I hadn't realized this until I took the comic out to read it and opened to the first page. I like it when coincidence like that occurs.

The artwork in the first story ("The Man Who Stalked the Spectre") is by Jim Aparo, and is, unsurprisingly, really amazing. The off-kilter angles, the supremely-expressive faces, the dynamism of both characters and backgrounds. I'm slightly reminded of Ditko's frenetically-moving panel constructions, but this is more refined, less jumbled, perhaps. The motion of Aparo's panels is less roller coaster and more ghost train.

The story, set in New York (which is a bit of a rarity in the DCU) is pretty run of the mill, and honestly seems like it is taking place in a non-Gotham/Metropolis/Central City version of the DCU. There's a single reference to Superman, but this is only to accuse a reporter of looking like Clark Kent (which he really does). In fact, it's hard to say what might distinguish the story as being a "Spectre" story instead of simply a story about a vengeance-seeking ghost. We see the action from the focal viewpoint of the Kent-esque reporter, and in doing so get none of Jim Corrigan's internal thoughts on being the Spectre, which might have elevated the story from ghost story to Spectre story. It's an interesting choice to make, for sure, but in some ways moves us into the sort of frame of reference that has worked really well for Kurt Busiek in Astro City, but is less-successful in this particular tale.

The second feature, an Aquaman story, is really bad. Black Manta is poaching from farms surrounding Atlantis. Aquaman beats him up and then turns him back over to his flunkies, warning them never to come back. Aside from the Mike Grell art, which was really actually lackluster, there's little to recommend this story.

Sometimes comics that are old are just that - old. Not all of them can be nostalgic celebrations of the earlier eras of the superhero. Some of them are simply mediocre comics that happened between some really good ones. I get the inkling that more were mediocre than not, and that we see the older stuff through rose-coloured glasses sometimes. I've had a similar conversation about Barry Allen and Hal Jordan as Flash and Green Lantern, and how so many people revere them, but that they really only achieve any kind of iconicity after they've died and been replaced. We get swept up in the reverence that their replacements have for them and are tricked into thinking that we had that reverence too. Wally West will always be a better Flash than Barry Allen. Anyone watching the current series knows they're actually telling Wally's story, not Barry's. Barry functions to inspire the character of Wally, but it is Wally that makes the Flash into a top-level hero. Much of Barry's career was relatively mediocre.

Inflammatory words if ever there were any. See you tomorrow for day 100. Now I have to figure out what special comic is going to get the treatment.

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