Thursday, June 05, 2014

The return of Return of the Gods ( What ? )

I´m sorry to disappoint all readers that want to know who that sexbomb from our last post is but since it´s Terry Hooper´s birthday Tomorrow I wanted to review the latest comic I got from BLACK TOWER COMICS, the graphic novel RETURN OF THE GODS - TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES.

Now some longtime readers might think that I finally lost it. First he already wrote a post on RETURN OF THE GODS when he thought he had already written one but in reality he hadn´t - and now he writes another one because he has forgotten he already did. Subzero´s gone bonkers !

But that´s not true ( or if it is it doesn´t have anything to do with this post ) while I already wrote a lengthy review of the 197 page paperback ( or rather 198 page paperback since you always have at least 2 pages but that´s what you get when you just take the specs from Lulu ) in this post Today´s topic is the new and improved 332 page edition of the epic saga.


Now the use of the word " epic " is no hyperbole on my part. If the old paperback could be compared to CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS the new version is more like WATCHMEN. The story is the same as before ( and you can go to the old post to read all about it ) but what the new 130 plus pages ( !!! ) add is sheer scope. One of the things I lamented in my last review is that you don´t get a lot of background on all this heroes who are unknown to anybody but the most avid scholars of british superheroes.

Well, ask and you shall receive, because one part of the added pages is more background on the various heroes that appear and also some who don´t appear but play a part in the bigger tapestry of the history.

And speaking about tapestries : another big part of the added pages is a large prologue ( I think it´s 90 pages before we are at page one of the previous version ) with a Watcher like observer who acts as a guide.

In fact there are various characters in the new version of RETURN OF THE GODS that provide greatly appreciated exposition for the reader. It´s a sad fact that in most comics by the big two continuity as well as caption boxes have gone the way of the dinosaurs but here both are used to the advantage of the comic. I have always felt that you get more invested in characters when you know more about them and this version proves it.

Like a complicated mosaic that is assembled one stone at a time, little bits and pieces are added to the bigger picture and while not everything might be super important it enhances the fact that it is all connected somewhere. I don´t want to spoil too much but let me just say that after reading this comic you might have a better understanding how the Black Tower universe - in lack of a better name for it - works. That´s one thing Marvel used to be very good at, this idea of an interconnected universe where heroes that live in the same town would meet. Nowadays you have the feeling that every series is their own universe and even the same characters act and talk different depending in which book they appear.

But let´s get back to the expanded edition of RETURN OF THE GODS.

I´m not sure if all the added material is new material - I think I have seen parts of it in Black Tower´s Adventure series - what I DO know is that it makes it a more pleasurable reading experience since the reader is not so much thrust into things. Instead a slowly increasing feeling of danger and doom begins to build towards impending disaster on every front. And speaking about more pleasurable reading experiences this new edition reads much better than the previous version but not only because the expanded page count allows for a grander scale of things. No, while the biggest chunk of the work is still the old stuff all the speech balloons and the lettering is much bigger which makes it easier to read in that regard.

Now you may ask yourself  why should anybody go to all the trouble of not only adding over 130 pages but also rework almost 200 pages of old material - in some cases the art was also polished up - for a new edition when you have just finished a nearly 200 pages book. Let´s call it a book.

I wrote in my last review that it was a paperback and while you may technically call it that it´s not your regularly sized US standard comic but in the album format. So I´ll call it a book - especially when it has been expanded to over 330 pages. Well, according to Terry Hooper, the first version was just a paperback reprinting the parts that had previously appeared in the pages of BLACK TOWER ADVENTURE but the nucleus of the story which was first called THE ULTIMATE GAME and later evolved into THE COSMIC FULCRUM has been in his head much longer and so his subconscious mind was sowing the seeds for that way ahead without him realizing it. From his interview with Frank Barrell about this new version :

After Return was published I was rummaging through an old box looking for an old reference image and found a thick wad of A3 pages – about 45 pages in total that were the build - up to the original strip - I thought those pages had been lost years ago. I read through it and realised the pages actually explained a few things and was paced for the big event. 

That put me in a rather odd position.

I had a week or so to decide whether or not I wanted to leave Return as it was or to tidy up the old pages and make it more complete. I also realised that there would have to be new  pages drawn to bridge the various story links. Then I thought that this was a chance to once and for all explain everything that had been going on in Black Tower strips since 1984 and explain the incorporation of the old Golden Age characters and their origins. It also helps to set up The Green Skies book in late 2013.

I figured the final book would total 250 - 260 pages so when I finished it and found over 300 I was a little taken aback.

I´m not going to copy the whole interview - which is a really interesting read and has more preview pages of which I have included some in this post - but as the sole writer, peciler, inker, letterer, editor and everything else on RETURN OF THE GODS ( except maybe some of the art from the classic UK comics characters ) Terry Hooper has achieved a herculean task only comparable to such fine works like George Perez incredible art on the Justice League / Avengers crossover or Kurt Busiek´s writing on Avengers Forever. I know, some people might say it would be easier for him since he is the writer of all the Black Tower comics but I think that alone is a feat not many people can pull off. This book is clearly a labor of love.

A love for super heroes, a love for gods and the mythical battles between them and mere mortals but also - and foremost - a love for comics. And not only for the adult, brainy comics that you read when you are a much older and jaded reader but much more for the silly, goofy but incredibly amazing fantasy yarns you read as a wide eyed kid. You can see it by the characters Terry includes in the book even if it is only for a few pages like in the example of THE IRON WARRIOR - at least that´s who I think it is.

Now I know what some of you might be thinking. I´m not interested in british comics or british super heroes so is there something for me in it ?

Of course there is. Yes, if you have a knowledge of british comics you will probably enjoy this comic more. And I´m saying " probably " because I have no proof of that. I´m the first to admit that I don´t know much about british comics or british super heroes and the bit I do know comes from reading issues of the german KOBRA comics and the things I have read in the Black Tower comics. Which could be totally made up. That´s right, Terry Hooper could be faking all this historical references and like Bendis´ THE SENTRY all the backstory could be a lie. Now Terry would never do such a thing but it would be possible. How would I know ?

Now what I do know is that it is like a certain wrestler said : it doesn´t matter. Even leaving all that aside it still is a fun read that will captivate you for quite some time. Yes, it´s a much better read now but it is also a much longer one - which is a good thing with most comics Today being over far too quickly in comparison to what you paid for them. I wanted to make this review earlier but I just couldn´t because it took me two entire days to read the thing. This comic has the size of a phone book ( well, at least The Yellow Pages ) and while I could have probably read it all in one sitting I´m glad I took the time that was necessary to read it properly. If I had read it in one day I wouldn´t have done anything else that day not even eat or go to the toilet. And my brain would have probably exploded.

Because while I already read a big part of it there are so much big concepts and ideas crammed into that it can only be a british comic. If you have read my earlier review you know that this comic really has everything : super heroes, normal heroes, new gods, old Lovecraftian ( is that even a word ? ) gods, time travel, parallel worlds, magic, monsters, vampires, even pigs in space become terrifying reality with the horrific Boarmen from outer space that invade earth while the bulk of its heroes are away to fight the elder gods from outside our plane of existence.

Add to that all the new stuff that explains and expands the entire story with new characters who try to influence the outcome, benefit from the whole situation or who are condemned to sit helplessly on the sidelines and you have a comic that has everything you would ever want in a comic.

Yes, it´s not by any " hot " creators but in this comic the dead don´t get revived after a few months to start with a new number 1 and the death toll among the heroes is rather high. Nevertheless it´s not all gloom and doom although I fear that there is much worse to come in the following GREEN SKIES brouhaha. And while some people may not give it a try because it´s in black and white I think they are missing out. With 330 pages of pure high octane comic " punch in the face action " for only 19 bucks you won´t find a more fulfilling read for a quiet, long weekend.

So, this comic gets a big recommendation from me especially since this weekend is Whitsuntide so with Sunday and Monday being a holiday you might want to read a good comic that´s just fun. I know that the last few months even checking out the previews of Marvel or DC gives me a big headache with all the crap that happens in the books and if you had the same experience and you want a break from it all you might try this one. 

You can get RETURN OF THE GODS - TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES on this Lulu page ( I´m posting the link so you don´t order the 198 page version by accident ) and you can find more of Terry´s books following this link or through the links on my blogroll or on Terry´s ComicBits Online blog. Also, if you want to find out more about Terry Hooper, here are the links to Terry Hooper on Lambiek and Terry Hooper´s DeviantArt page .

So this was my review for RETURN OF THE GODS and for all readers who are missing the pictures of hot babes I have to apologize. I thought about doing my casting for a Justice League movie last month because Christina Hendricks was on that list ( she and Janet Jackson who both celebrated their birthday in May ) but then I got caught up in all the little details to prepare it and that took me too long. The thing is that I had posted my casting choices on my old blog and a lot of the pictures would not have been safe to post here ( with that I mean naked breasts ) so I redid a lot of the pictures. Sometimes being a perfectionist is a curse not a gift.

Of course now that I have finished that I´m not so sure if I should post it because when you look at it realistically it was just an excuse to post lots of pictures of hot actresses on the blog and I know there´s always a part of my readership who has problems with that. So unless there´s a huge demand for that I will have to postpone my JLA casting - at least until somebody else from that list ( Pamela Anderson ) celebrates her birthday.

( Big Barda picture courtesy of Michael Dooney on DeviantArt )

I wanted to concentrate more on comic related content anyway. With Erlangen approaching soon - and me needing more time to regenerate from work lately - I haven´t had much time to post and I´m not sure if I can manage to do another post before Erlangen. Which is another reason why I wanted to do this post now in case it´s the last one for a while.  

Since one group of antagonists in RETURN OF THE GODS are some old gods like in the stories of Howard Phillips Lovecraft Todays video is the one hour and a half documentary FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN about the force behind some of the most influential horror writings in the 20th century.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best

Tomorrow is basically today. With a few changes.


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Good Lord! Where do I send the bribe money?!! As I read this I suddenly realised that I must be insane. A fantastic write-up and I'm glad you took the time to read the entire book when you could have been searching for ample Boob Windows!

SUBZERO said...

Well, I consider the comic itself you sent me as bribe money. To tell the truth, I was running out of reading material ( not counting the big hardcovers I still have to read ) because I have to save my money for Erlangen so RETURN OF THE GODS came at just the right time. It made my weekend.

And speaking about Erlangen I´ll see if I can find some german comics to return the favor.

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Hi. THANKS! By the way, I ought to point out that there was no script for Return. I only script write for others and draw straight onto blank paper -its why I was shocked when certain characters died -I never knew it was coming!
Hang Cool!