Reading Marvel Masterworks Golden Age All-Winners Volume 3 [$59.99] revealed a personal truth to me. It's this: even when the stories and art are not of high quality, I just flat-out get a kick out of holding a half-dozen World War II-era comics in my hand and knowing they are mine, mine, mine. The four issues in this collection were published before I-who-walked-with-dinosaurs was born. Difficult as this is to imagine, these comic books are even older than I am.
This hardcover collection reprints All-Winners Comics #9-14 (Summer, 1943 to Winter, 1944). The stars of the issues are the Human Torch, Captain America, and Sub-Mariner. The supporting players are the Destroyer and the Whizzer. The introduction is by Roy Thomas, the writer and editor of countless great comics and one of comicdom's leading historians. He does a nice job filling us in on what was happening in the world and at Marvel when these issues were being published and also providing commentary on the artists who worked on them.
All-Winners Comics #9 is the best and most fun issue in the volume. The Human Torch and Toro battle a mad scientist and his gorilla saboteurs. Captain America and Bucky fight to stop Nazis from blowing up the Panama Canal with aerial torpedoes in a story that eerily foreshadows a certain sidekick's future. On something of a whim, the Sub-Mariner decides to visit British commandoes who are operating on the Nazi-held island of Crete. In the secondary tales, the Destroyer risks his life to get an Allied agent and some mysterious papers out of Europe - the reader never learns what's in those papers - and the Whizzer deals with American-based saboteurs spiking the explosive used in a new artillery shell. These aren't classic stories, but they're fun.
The Human Torch has quite the rogues gallery in his other adventures: the Vulture, Herr Hawk, the Wisp, and a mysterious masked strangler who preys on women working in defense plants. The Torch is absent from the last issue in the volume, crowded out by the shrinking page counts of the times.
The other Captain America stories made me wince with their of-the-era racism. His foes included Kioto the Mad Jap, the Yellow Fire Monster, and Monstro the Mad Jap. Two different "Mad Japs" in five issues. That's excessive. Easier to take are the Captain's battle with the Red Skull to preserve our "Four Freedoms" and his run-in with a scientist's lethal man/plant hybrids.
The globe-trotting (globe-swimming) Sub-Mariner has the time of his life battling the Japanese and the Nazis in Berlin, Tokyo, in the air, on land, on the seas, under the seas, and so forth. He even finds time to manhandle unpatriotic waterfront gangsters and a sly jewel thief. It's fun to watch a super-hero who so clearly enjoys his work.
Second-banana Destroyer appears in three other tales in this volume with the most interesting showing a bedridden Adolf Hitler sickened by his own evil. The Whizzer appears four more times, including an odd effort in which a military school cadet turns to crime when his criminal father is gunned down by the police. The super-speedster forgives the youngster's attempted murder of a man during a mugging and an attempted bank robbery because he knows the cadet is a good boy at heart. Me, I'd be skeptical.
The book also includes text stories I didn't read and one of Allen Bellman's delightful "Let's Play Detective" shorts. I even figured out who the killer was, adding to my enjoyment.
The results on the continuation of the Tony Polls are not yet in as I put together today's column. At this writing, they aren't quite what I had hoped for, but they're close enough to what I had hoped for that I have posted new questions.
The new questions concern the recent universe-wide storylines at DC and Marvel...and a matter of real-world concern. I was a bit hesitant to post the last question, if only due to past tampering with the voting on such questions by non-TOT readers from the right wing. The purpose of these poll questions is for me to get an idea where my readers stand on various matters. Stuffing the ballot box defeats that purpose. Indeed, it's the tactic of craven cowards who clearly lack faith in the strength of the positions they support. Simply put, if you don't read my column, you shouldn't be voting on these questions in the first place.
If you are a TOT reader, you can cast your votes at:
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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