Nostalgia Corner Presents: A Look at the Marvel Color Books

For years, I have loved the collaboration of 2 of the great names in comics: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.  They have worked together on so many great titles such as BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN, BATMAN: HAUNTED KNIGHT, BATMAN: DARK VICTORY, and CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME…  These are obviously for DC Comics but they have also made books together with Marvel Comics that I like to call the “color books.”  No, it doesn’t mean that you can get some crayons or markers and stay between the lines.  The premise is that they take classic heroes and well-known stories and fill in the details of the events.  Confusing?  I’ll explain with each title in a bit.  With Marvel, Loeb and Sale have done such titles as DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, SPIDER-MAN: BLUE, HULK: GREY, and the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE.  These are some of the most well-known and best stories about these characters that have ever been written.

Loeb’s words and Sale’s art are a beautiful match.  The art reminds me a bit of memories and it makes the books feel like you’re seeing the stories the way the characters remember it.  I have been a fan of Tim Sale’s since I came across it well over a decade ago.  There is a simple-complexity in his art that lets you focus on the panel but not pull you out of the story.

I’ll start with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE because, well, it hasn’t been released yet.  Only the “0” issue had been released back in 2008 as a preview issue of the series before the actual run.  It was to be based on a time when Cap and Bucky were fighting ze Nazis in WWII before he became a cap-sicle.  The book was listed as being “worked on” and it seemed like it was going well until suddenly…it was canceled.  There was no real reason as to why Marvel scrapped it but I think it may have been when comic sales and Captain America especially was in a lull.  The film IRON MAN was releasing in the same year and this is when Marvel Studios blew up.  Fast forward some years later and now Cap is everywhere.  So this series will be released in September 2015 and we shall see how it happens.

This is my second favorite out of these books.  It’s about Matt Murdock in the red Daredevil costume, swinging around New York and reminiscing about Karen Page.  She was one of his great loves and had such strong feelings for her.  In his memories, it was back to when he was in the classic yellow outfit, still a little green but making a name for himself.  It’s a sweet story and shows a side of how Matt was struggling with having feelings for Karen, being a hero, and also being a civilian.

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This is a great story but when it was released, I didn’t know how it fit in with these books.  It was the only one that wasn’t a story about tough emotions and focused on Bruce telling Doc Samson how he felt right after the gamma bomb incident.  The only part that was superb was when they threw Iron Man in the mix but in the original suit or maybe the second because it was a gold color.  There were no gadgets and just Hulk and Iron Man going toe-to-toe.  I don’t dislike the book in the slightest but it is probably my least favorite.

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And now to my favorite book in the “series” and maybe my favorite Spider-Man story ever.  This is a beautifully written and illustrated story about how once a year Peter Parker/Spider-Man feels “blue” in his sadness.  It’s the day that the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy and Peter’s heart still has a void for the girl.  While rummaging through some things in the attic, he finds a tape recorder and begins to tell the story between defeating Norman Osbourne/Green Goblin and right before Gwen died.  This isn’t just some sappy kissing book but a very heartfelt telling about the details between the lines in the existing comics.  I won’t go into too much detail because I think it’s too good to spoil.

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The bottom line is that these are some of the best books that Marvel has to offer.  Classic heroes in classic stories that hold up as if they were written last month.  These books are well-written and have beautiful artwork that makes them real page-turners.  I can highly recommend the Marvel Color books without hesitation.

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Nostalgia Corner Presents: A Review of the Runaways, Vol. 1

Maybe it’s just me but I’m not in love in with Brian K. Vaughn’s latest series, Saga.  The surreal tale of a mother and a father on different sides of a galactic war fighting to be left alone and for their life of their child should be compelling but the book seems almost silly in its inclusion of gonzo sex scenes and bizarre twelve-breasted characters.  Brian K. Vaughn has done much better stuff such as Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and Runaways.

The story opens on six children, ranging in age from eleven to sixteen, who are keeping themselves company while their parents have their annual meeting about the charitable foundation they run.  When the six discover a secret passageway that leads them to the meeting room, they see their parents dressed in outlandish costumes making a human sacrifice of a young girl.  Stunned at what they see, they dig deeper into their parents’ secret lives discovering not only things about their felonious guardians but about themselves.  Hunted by their parents and just beginning to learn about their powers, they are also unaware that one of the six is actually a traitor.

This book does almost everything right.  Every character feels fully fleshed out, a difficult task when you have so many central characters (and both of each’s parents) and have to quickly introduce them all.  The series even finds time to plant seeds of stories that will be told in the next volume such as tipping Karolina Dean’s sexuality.  At only eighteen issues, the storytelling is tight and to the point but still manages to include different threats and subplots which keep you reading.  With the women outnumbering the men on the team 2:1, Runaways has also been praised for its strong central female characters.

The artwork is very clean and easy to follow.  The artist fully renders each character with no artistic shorthand but still in a cartoony enough way to pop on the page.  The colorists also deserve praise for their contribution, Brian Reber for the first twelve and Christina Strain for the last six.

With its quick wit, solid plot, beautiful art and heartwarming interpersonal relationships, Runaways creates a credible, interesting origin story for its characters.  Steeped in teenage angst and girl power, this book never comes off as trite or naïve due to the strength of the writing.  Much like Fables, it’s a book I enjoy and it’d also be on the top of my list to recommend to any female comics reader.

Final rating (out of 5):

Star 5



Writer:  Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Adrian Alphona