As most readers of this blog will know, Panini UK publish several 76 page comics every month which reprint various recent Marvel titles. What's not so well known, because they're not so well advertised, is that Panini also occasionally publish books that reprint older, classic tales from Marvel's early days, with around 200 pages each.
The two latest books are out now. Both are softback, digest-size (130mm x 200mm) full colour editions with excellent printing, featuring some great material. Thor: In the Shadow of Mangog reprints Thor Nos.189 to 198 (June 1971 to April 1972). Stories by Stan Lee and Gerry Conway with fantastic artwork by John Buscema (and a cover by John Romita). Captain America: The Coming of the Falcon reprints Captain America Nos.111 to 119 (March to November 1969). Classic end-of-sixties material by Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, Jack Kirby, John Romita, John Buscema, and Gene Colan.
Those credits are almost a who's who of Silver Age Marvel. Both books feature material from an interesting period of the company's history. The initial surge of the 'Marvel Age of Comics' was winding down and the comics were coasting a bit, - except for the dynamic and creative Steranko pages of course, which are worth the price of the book alone. However, even the other material (especially the superb John Buscema Thor pages) has a freshness and excitement often lacking in contemporary superhero comics.
What these stories display is the fine skill of keeping a story lively whilst advancing the plot. Admittedly the plots are paper thin, and quite childlike at times, but they still feel more substantial than today's 'decompressed' storytelling techniques of extended dialogue sequences. It's also just... well, nice, that there's no sadistic violence and gore in these old stories. If, like me, you prefer comics as an hour or two of light escapism from the depressing real world, then these books are for you.
Both books should be available in bookstores now, at £6.99 each. You'll find them cheaper to buy online though. However, if you want to order them from your local Waterstones or Smiths, heres the ISBN...
THOR: In the Shadow of Mangog
CAPTAIN AMERICA: The Coming of the Falcon