Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Classics - Amazing Adventures #34

This comic had me worried.

By the mid-'70s, Amazing Adventures had been turned over (as of issue #18) to the adventures of Killraven, Warrior of the Worlds.

It was a clever reworking of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, as the Martians returned to attack the Earth in modern times (2001) - and they were successful! The Martians conquered the Earth, and little opposition was left.

Killraven was a fighter who managed to escape the pits and made his way across a transformed America, aided by a small band of Freemen (or Mud Brothers).

After the first three issues, the comic was written by Don McGregor, whose style broke many of the usual comic book rules. Instead of concentrating on minimal dialogue and captions, McGregor filled the panels with florid descriptions, thoughtful musings and carefully crafted essays.

It really made his work stand out, and many fans (like me) tracked down everything he worked on. With this title, he was crafting a new world, breathing life into original characters, and it was all very adult and challenging, while staying true to its action / adventure roots.

He was perfectly matched with artist P. Craig Russell, a unique artist who was equally at home with pastoral scenes, futuristic vistas and action sequences. He really brought the characters and the strange, altered world of the future to life.

Together they really made you care about the characters - and that's why I was worried. It was announced ahead of time that a character would die in this issue - and what agony, wondering who it would be!

This issue is cover dated January 1976, and at the time I wasn't paying attention to the fan press (such as it was), so there was no knowing who might be the target. It was a tribute to the creative team that they made us care so much! I remember my friend Jeff and I worrying about who would die.

Of course, we knew Killraven wasn't in danger - his name's in the title. We were most afraid that the victim would be Old Skull, a sweet (if somewhat dim) character who provided a lot of the comedy relief.

After a long wait (the series was published bi-monthly), the issue finally arrived and we witnessed the attack on Killraven's "Nuclear Family" by Skar, a merciless killing machine.

I won't spoil what happens, but the issue was an amazing accomplishment by both writer and artist - a shining example of what comic can be in the hands of a top-notch creative team.

There's a reason why Killraven keeps showing up in modern-day comics, even though his title was canceled late in 1976.

It's because we remember how good it was.

Grade: A+


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