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Douglas Wolk

Marvel Unlimited Edition: The Steranko Effect

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The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it's disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it's also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.

Jim Steranko's reputation as one of the great American comic book artists rests almost entirely on the comparatively tiny body of work he drew for Marvel between 1966 and 1970: nine complete comic books, eighteen "Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." episodes that each occupied half of an issue of Strange Tales, and a pair of seven-page stories from anthologies, as well as a handful of covers. All of his Marvel stories can now be read on the Unlimited app... except for Nick Fury #5, for whatever reason. If you've never gotten to sample Steranko's psychedelic delights, here are three excellent starting points.

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Marvel Unlimited Edition: After Steve Gerber

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The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it’s disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it’s also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.

Steve Gerber died in 2008, but his work is still casting a shadow over contemporary comics -- it's a good bet that Guardians of the Galaxy and The Defenders wouldn't be what they are now without him, for instance, and the biting, off-kilter tone of his writing has found its way into the central stream of superhero comics. Here are a couple of ingenious variations on projects he co-created, as well as a posthumously published jewel.

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Seconds: Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Story About Second Chances Sets Up His Own Second Act [Review]

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Bryan Lee O'Malley's first graphic novel since he concluded the Scott Pilgrim series in 2010, Seconds is a book about second thoughts, second chances and second helpings. It's also the book in which O'Malley is setting up his second act as a cartoonist. The first Scott Pilgrim book came out almost exactly ten years ago; six volumes and a movie later, that franchise has defined O'Malley's public image. That kind of early, extended success can be a trap for an artist, especially when it's with a project as self-consciously game-changing as Scott Pilgrim. The bigger the audience, the more it demands more of the same.

Seconds is unmistakably the work of O'Malley's singular voice: it's a romantic comedy with magical elements and some witty fourth-wall breaking, drawn in a manga-derived style with big-headed chibi characters. But it's also a very different sort of book than he's drawn before: not a bildungsroman like Scott Pilgrim (or his earlier Lost at Sea), but a fable about a woman who's pretty much got her life together already, trying to undo her mature errors. It's virtuosic in a lot of ways, but one of its many charms is how casual and low-key it seems.

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Marvel Unlimited Edition: (G)Roots Of The Guardians Of The Galaxy

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The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it’s disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it’s also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.

Two spin-offs of Guardians of the Galaxy launch in recent weeks: The Legendary Star-Lord and the already-surprise-hit Rocket Raccoon. Marvel Unlimited's got a fairly thorough, if not quite complete, selection of most of the Guardians' previous appearances, especially the ones in the Annihilation/Annihilation: Conquest/Annihilators sequence. But their prehistory is worth digging into, too, and there's some choice proto-Guardians material in the archive.

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Let’s Get Nuts: A Contemporary Review Of Prince’s ‘Batman’ Soundtrack Album

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In the summer of 1989, primed by "Kiss" and "Alphabet St." and "Sign 'O' the Times" to expect brilliance from the first taste of new Prince music, I raced out to buy "Batdance," the first single to be released from his soundtrack to Tim Burton's Batman. It seemed like a great idea at the time.

I remember my feeling of dazed disappointment the first time I heard "Batdance" lurch to an end. "Batdance" isn't even a song, as such, but a cluster of unrelated chunks of underdone rhythm tracks, ineptly pasted together with chopped-up samples of film dialogue, a couple of lines flown in from other songs, Prince singing the hook from Neal Hefti's '60s Batman theme, and (in its album mix) a very aggressive guitar solo that has almost nothing to do with what's going on around it. Prince and Batman together? How could that not be awesome? What just went wrong here?

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Oh Snap! The Godlike Genius of ‘The Wicked + The Divine’

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The mark of a great pop song is not just that it's a pleasure to hear and hear again, but that it rewards struggling with it. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have been conflating pop music and comics since they first collaborated on Phonogram ten years ago; Gillen's described the central conceit of their new series The Wicked + The Divine as "gods as pop stars, and pop stars as gods." That's a good way of describing the story itself -- but the comic is also about presenting Gillen and McKelvie as pop stars, and as pop mechanics. It's the product of a decade spent working out what makes comics click, and how to make them speak to a mass audience.

I've been fortunate enough to read the first two issues of The Wicked + The Divine; they're marvelous, a little bit maddening, and thoroughly worth wrestling with.

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Marvel Unlimited Edition: Ego The Living Planet

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The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it’s disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it’s also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.

Ego the Living Planet is one of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's trippier creations: introduced in 1966 in Thor #132, he is literally a planet who is also a dude. With a face. (His first appearance was one of the photo-collages that Kirby was occasionally doing in those days; the gaunt, bearded face that Kirby pasted onto a planet shape was significantly different from most of the characters he designed.) Understandably, it's a little bit hard to do much with a planet-sized character who has to interact with humans, but nearly every artist who's gotten to work with Ego over the years has clearly relished the chance to draw his massive, scowling visage.

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Marvel Unlimited Edition: ‘Spider-Man’ Minus Spider-Man

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The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it’s disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it’s also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.

In this week's edition: Replacing Peter Parker with Otto Octavius for 31 issues was a neat demonstration of how strong Spider-Man's supporting cast is -- and The Superior Foes of Spider-Man has removed its title character from the equation altogether and gotten a terrific series out of it. Even before the big mind-swap, though, there was a little tradition of Spider-Man comics without Spider-Man in them. (He doesn't appear in Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 or #676, for instance, both among 2011's best done-in-one issues of the series.) Here are some of the most entertaining examples on Marvel Unlimited.

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Marvel Unlimited Edition: Fin Fang Foom

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The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it's disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it's also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.

In today's edition: Who needs Godzilla when you've got Fin Fang Foom? One of the most ridiculous of the many monsters Stan Lee and Jack Kirby dreamed up in the pre-Fantastic Four era, the giant green (or maybe orange) dragon was first revived in 1974, and has shown up on a fairly regular basis over the past couple of decades. Sometimes (as in Kurt Busiek and Sean Chen's Iron Man) he's taken very seriously; sometimes (as in Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's nextwave) he's not. Here are some of his most entertaining appearances in the Unlimited archives.

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Don’t Ask! Just Buy It! – June 27, 2012: Toss Them Up and Let Them Hit You on the Head

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Reading Comics author Douglas Wolk runs down the hottest comics and graphic novels coming out this week.

KEY:
% Spectacle
* Cash
^ History

^ % LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL. 3: CENTURY #3 2009
Wow, it

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