Tuesday, November 5, 2013

1984: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Part 2)

A scene from Rex Havoc
Today's post is part 2 in a multi-part series about 1984/1994. Find the previous part here.

Issues 5 through 8 of 1984 continues many of the themes of the first 4 issues of the magazine, while also taking it in new directions (sometimes good, sometimes bad). It should be noted that as a whole these next 4 issues are nowhere as controversial or offensive as the first 4 issues, with no story even close to the racism of issue 3's "The Harvest" (although racism would return later on to the pages of the magazine), and no plagiarism scandals either. The nudity and sex, as well as a general misogynist attitude is present as usual however. That said, in general I'd say the quality of these 4 issues is slightly down in comparison to the first 4.

I'll begin with the continuing series, which start to gain a larger presence in these issues. The Rex Havoc series, which premiered in issue 4, continues with several entries in these next 4 issues. The first story in the series, from issue 4, was terrific, and the first story here, issue 5's "The Spud from another World!" is a good one, parodying the movie "The Thing From Another World". By issue 6 however, the drawn out nature of the stories (which are generally around 20 pages each) becomes quite apparent and the series continues to dip precipitously in its final appearance later on (which will be in my next entry). Speaking of disappointing series, Idi Amin has two additional stories here. They are much like those from the first 4 issues; gorgeous artwork but an aimless story with idiotic dialogue. The series ends with Idi and Dogmeat finding a man even crazier than Idi, with multiple personalities, and Dogmeat runs off, being unable to take it anymore. I felt like doing the same as this series drew to a close! I'll miss the beautiful Esteban Maroto artwork, but not the story. Unfortunately Maroto goes on quite a long hiatus from 1984 after this, possibly as mentioned in the previous article because many of these stories may not have been intended for the magazine in the first place and they ran out of them.

On the other hand, Richard Corben and Jan Strnad provide 4 more fine installments of Mutant World. While its never the most in depth and thought provoking series, this series continues to be a blast to read and has typical quality color artwork from Corben. Unfortunately the final segment would be the last interior comic art Corben ever did for Warren. While I've never been a fan of Rudy Nebres' art style, Twilight's End, for which he provides the art and Jim Stenstrum provides the story is a fairly good one, with a rather apocalyptic and unexpected ending in its final part. Certain Warren series, particularly in the latter years could go on a bit too long, but they did a good job here in keeping the series relatively short and to the point.

The final part of Mutant World

Issue 7 premieres "Ghita of Alizarr", with story and art by Frank Thorne. Thorne had worked on Red Sonja for Marvel and produced the similar Ghita for Warren, albeit with an increased level of nudity and sex. While the sexual themes of the series can be a bit over the top at times (Ghita is a whore and is raped by a reanimated corpse in the first story, for starters), it is generally an entertaining series and a fine addition to the Warren line, appearing in the majority of the remaining issues of 1984/1994. Thorne's artwork is also quite good and a nice contrast to the styles of the Warren regulars.

Also beginning in this run, with issue 8 is "Herma", with art by Jose Gonzalez and story by Bill Dubay. This series was originally published in the publication Cunado El Comic es Arte: Pepe Gonzalez, which came out in Spain the same year as this issue of 1984, although the art had actually been done around 5 years earlier. For this appearance, the color was removed, the panels re sized and Dubay almost certainly rewrote the script. A rather light-hearted comedic series, that similar to Twilight's End is thankfully kept short enough such that it ends before it really goes down in quality. Gonzalez's artwork here is absolutely gorgeous and rereading these stories, this is easily the sexiest artwork to ever appear in a Warren magazine. I'm generally partial to Esteban Maroto's women, but Gonzalez outdoes even him here (and Maroto appears to have swiped several panels from both this initial story and the stories that appear in future issues). Along with the story "Lullaby", mentioned in the previous entry, and some of the latter Vampirella stories, this is the best Jose Gonzalez artwork you'll see in a Warren magazine.

If there's a highlight to these issues, aside from Mutant World, its the Alex Nino stories, of which there are 6 here. Nino's art is ultimately the best thing to come out of the 1984/1994 series as a whole, and he does a good job in all of the stories here. "Teleport 2010" and "Painter's Mountain" are 2 very strong efforts happily lacking the sex-antics that perpetuate throughout much of 1984's stories. "Timothy Sternbach & the Multi-Colored Sunrise!", "Once Upon a Holocaust" and "Zincor and the Fempire" are good efforts as well though, with really only "Liaison Aboard a Skylab" being a weak story where the sex-antics (among aliens in this case) are a bit over the top.

Issue 5's "I Wonder Who's Squeezing Her Now" is unique for having no science fiction or supernatural related themes in any fashion, rather focusing on how a man's life falls apart when his wife starts having an affair and he decides to do the same. The story was originally intended for the never realized magazine "POW" and sat on the shelves for several years before seeing print in 1984. It featured the last Wally Wood art to appear in a Warren magazine, as well as the first work from Ernie Colon to appear in a Warren magazine since Warren's dark ages.
Frank Thorne's Ghita of Alizarr
Frank Thorne's Ghita of Alizarr

Among the remaining stories, issue 7's "Freeze A Jolly Good Fellow!" is the highlight, with an unexpected yet funny ending. Issue 5's "The Box" was another interesting story, although criticized a bit in the letter pages. Many of the remaining stand-alone stories come off as filler, and uninteresting filler at that. Issue 6's "The Warhawks" lampoons DC's The Blackhawks, yet is way too long and drawn out. "Issue 8's "Madmen and Messiahs", featuring a future where Ted Kennedy is a crazed President and his own nephew fights against him in a revolution is quite ridiculous. Other stories like "Luke the Nuke Brings It In!" "Kaiser Warduke and the Indispensable Jasper Gemstone" come off as boring drivel, there's little to get interested in with these stories.

Overall, there's definitely some interesting aspects to these issues, even with the controversy and general quality down a bit in comparison to the first 4 issues. We'll see both areas heading in different directions as we enter the next phase of issues, to be covered in my next entry.