The PopCult Bookshelf 

This week the PopCult Bookshelf plays catch up, with four capsule reviews of books that came out earlier this year.

Adventure Time: Playing With Fire
images (25)By Danielle Corsetto, Zack Sterling and Meredith Maclaren
Kaboom! Studios
ISBN 978-1-60886-325-9

This is the first original graphic novel in Kaboom!’s successful “Adventure Time” series. Written by web cartoonist Danielle Corsetto and drawn by Zack Sterling (“Bravest Warriors”), the main story in this volume is a terriffic adventure with

A sample page from "Playing With Fire."

A sample page from “Playing With Fire.”

Finn and his new girlfriend, Flame Princess. It’s a cute little tale that fits perfectly into the “Adventure Time” continuity, right before recent developments with Flame Princess on the cartoon show. The backup strip is a delightfully surreal wordless adventure starring BMO, written and drawn by Meredith Maclaren.

The book seems aimed at the manga market. It’s about 160 pages in black and white. Perfect for fans of “Adventure Time” and a good introduction for people who haven’t been exposed to the show yet.

Mars Attacks IDW
mars-attacks-idw-coverWritten and drawn by various creators
IDW Publishing

This volume collects the five one-shot comic books that IDW released earlier this year where “Mars Attacks!” crossed over with other IDW comic book characters. I previously reviewed the “Popeye” issue, written by Martin Powell and drawn by Terry Beatty, and raved about how wonderful it was. In the remaining adventures, written and drawn by various people, Mars Attacks KISS; they encounter the Ghostbusters; cross paths with Transformers and find themselves in the middle of a conflict between zombies and robots.

Image2 (1)

Yes, Virgina, Mars does Attack KISS in this book.

The stories are remarkably fun and manage to stay true to both the “Mars Attacks!” concept and the other universes with which they interact. Bonus pinups in the back of the book collect the alternate covers for the one-shots which depict covers for imaginary crossovers where Mars Attacks Miss Fury (drawn by J. Bone), Opus (drawn by Berkeley Breathed), Star Slammers (drawn by Walt Simonson), Chew (drawn by Rob Guillory), Mad Man (drawn by Mike and Laura Allred) and several others including Judge Dredd, a bonus cover which was so popular there is now a mini-series based on it. This is a first rate collection of comics that were just done for the sheer fun of it and it’s quite enjoyable.

The Love and Rockets Companion 30 Years (and Counting)
love and rockets companionEdited by Marc Sobel and Kristy Valenti
Fantagraphics Books
ISBN 978-1-60699-759-2

“The Love and Rockets Companion” is exactly that–a companion to the groundbreaking comic book series by Los Bros Hernandez, Gilbert, Jaime and sometimes Mario. This is a great book for devout fans of the series, but it could be utterly meaningless to people who aren’t fans and it might even border on too much information for new fans.

The dust jacket, unfolded.

The dust jacket, unfolded.

A look inside (image courtesy of Fantagraphics Books)

A look inside (image courtesy of Fantagraphics Books)

The main body of the book is a series of interviews with the Hernandez brothers and their publisher, Gary Groth. One interview dates back to 1989; another from 1995 is conducted by Neil Gaiman while new interviews with the brothers and Groth round out this section. There’s also over twenty pages of timelines tracing the various storylines and over seventy pages of character guides. The rest of the book’s 366 pages are filled out with letter columns, lists of the brothers favorite influences and a checklist of works published so far. The package is very attractive, with a small yet thick softcover book and a full color dust jacket that folds out with a color poster of the characters from “Love and Rockets” on one side and family trees of the characters on the other. Just in case you choose to frame the dust jacket poster, all the publishing information is printed on a sticker which can be peeled off. Again, this is great for the die-hard fan, but it might be too much for the casual fan.

Crisis On Infinite Earths, Volume 6
Crisis-on-Multiple-Earths-Vol.-6-TP-DC-Comics-218x300Written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas
Drawn by George Perez, Don Heck, Adrian Gonzales and others
Published by DC Comics
ISBN 978-1-4012-3822-3

This is the sixth volume reprinting the annual Justice League of America crossover team-ups with their Earth 2 counterparts, the Justice Society of America. This book collects the crossovers from 1981 and 1982, eight separate comic books. In 1981, the annual crossover took up three issues of the Justice League’s own comic while in 1982, the crossover took up three issues of the Justice League book and two issues of All Star Squadron, which starred the Justice Society.


One of the books collected here.

The old “Earth One/Earth Two” scheme, for those of you who don’t know, was a way for DC Comics to explain why they had two sets of Superheroes, many with the same name, who were from different generations. Earth One was the Silver Age Earth, where the first superheroes came to being in the late 1950s, while Earth Two was where the Golden Age superhero adventures too place starting in 1938…in a parallel universe.

As an old-school comic nerd, I loved these stories. I got a real kick out of seeing the modern day heroes team up with their Golden Age counterparts. By the time of these stories, the annual team-up between the two always had some extra guest star or gimmick. In 1981, the JLA and JSA teamed to fight the Secret Society of Super-Villians. The 1982 team-up was the 20th annual team-up and due to the nature of the All-Star Squadron book, it also had to involve time travel, and it included two other alternate Earths, Earth Three, where the major superheroes were evil, and Earth Prime, where there were no superheroes.

The under-appreciated art of Don Heck

The under-appreciated art of Don Heck

The stories are fun, but convoluted. The writing, by Conway and Thomas was the usual superhero melodrama, very well-executed. The art on the 1981 team up was mostly by George Perez and is up to his high standards. The five-part story that makes up most of this collection alternates between chapters drawn by the much-maligned Don Heck and the team of Adrain Gonzales and Jerry Ordway. What’s remarkable, looking back over thirty years later, is how well Don Heck’s artwork holds up. The man was continually trashed in the fan press at the time, but his craft as displayed in this book is impressive as hell. He could tell a story better than most professionals working in comics today.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 6 is a great reminder of how good comics used to be. It’s great for old-school fans.