In the Limelight

If you are seeking gifts for the comic book lovers in your life, the Gemstone staff would like to offer some interesting suggestions of trades and graphic novels that they might enjoy. In this case, the selections come from our Vice-President of Publishing J.C. Vaughn.

As always, any list such as this is inherently opinion and should only be taken as such. I proceed from the supposition that perennials such as Frank Miller’s Ronin, Dark Knight, or Daredevil collections, Walter Simonson’s Thor, Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!, Jim Shooter’s Marvel Superheroes: Secret Wars or many others are indeed perennials for a reason. With that said, however, you can’t give the same people the same books in perpetuity or it’ll get weird, so here’s this year’s list…

Planet of the Apes Omnibus
BOOM! Studios; $39.99

When the comics collected in this omnibus were running as individual issues, I wrote “Writer Daryl Gregory and artist Carlos Magno could put us on their payroll and we still couldn’t like this comic any more than we already do. Tightly plotted, relentlessly paced, brilliantly illustrated, accessible to new readers, and a balm for longtime POTA fans to the extent that while reading it one forgets there was ever a Tim Burton movie. It’s that awesome. If you are an Apes fan and you’re not reading, there’s something wrong with you. And if you’re just a fan of great, non-superhero comics, the same goes.”

Not only does that review (it was for Planet of the Apes #8, to be specific) still stand, it’s even more true of this collected edition. Gregory and Magno’s pacing (the final issues are illustrated by the talented Diego Barreto) is masterful.

Set more than 1,000 years before Taylor arrives in the first movie of the original film series, it begins in an era of relative peace. A few panels into the story and that hard-won equilibrium between apes and humans is shattered and it quickly becomes a tale pondering the question “How bad will things get before it’s bad enough?”

Over the period in which it was produced, it was one of the best rides in comics – not licensed comics, not media tie-ins, just comics, period. Every single issue was a page turner, and an imaginative, well executed, and entertaining experience. It has been accessible for new fans and a rewarding journey for longtime POTA fans who have always craved further exploration of the original continuity.

Treasures Retold: The Lost Art of Alex Toth
IDW Publishing; $49.99

Dean Mullaney, Bruce Canwell, and Lorraine Turner, through The Library of American Comics (LOAC) imprint at IDW Publishing, have put together an exciting and insightful new companion volume to their Eisner Award-winning Alex Toth: Genius trilogy (Genius Illustrated, Genius Isolated, Genius Animated).

Like Hemingway’s work was with words, Toth’s art is deceptively simple. The history of comics is littered with lesser artists who looked at his work, said “Oh, I can do that!” and failed miserably. Yet the medium is also replete with stellar talents whose art was at some stage affected by the work of this master.

This new collection contains seldom-seen or even forgotten stories and art from Toth, ranging from the 1950s on up, and includes comics, animation storyboards, presentation pieces, and more. The title, Treasures Retold: The Lost Art of Alex Toth, is a bit of an understatement. The book is a superb mix of material, and it continues the investigation into the person behind the art as well.

With this new volume, the Genius trilogy, and Bravo For Adventure (which effectively was another companion to the Genius books), LOAC has delved well below the surface of Alex Toth, and yet they keep on finding new insights to share with their readers. Here’s to hoping they find more!

Corto Maltese: The Early Years
IDW Publishing; $19.99

The captivating, almost laconic and by now familiar style that Hugo Pratt imbued in his Corto Maltese adventures is not entirely developed in this story. Not only is it shorter than the other graphic novels in this wonderful series, but Corto Maltese himself isn’t really the main character as things start off. Instead, it’s Rasputin. This is the story of their first meeting, and it’s set at the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Novelist Jack London, then a war correspondent, also features in the story.

While the action and pacing are indeed a bit different, the title character does indeed reveal bits of himself to the reader, making this a very welcome addition to the series. This volume also has some great additional art to soak in as well.

And like all of the books in this series, sure, it’s better if you’ve read them all, but each of them is highly accessible to new readers.

Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother
Titan Comics; $24.99

The serialized comic book adventures of Ms. Tree, private investigator Michael Tree, first appeared in the pages of Eclipse Magazine in 1981. It’s been a long road since then, taking the tough-as-nails leading lady through Aardvark-Vanaheim, Renegade Press, First Comics, and DC Comics, movie options, and a 2008 novel from Hard Case Crime. Now, at long last, someone’s collecting all of her comic book adventures.

Written by Max Allan Collins (Road To Perdition) and illustrated by Terry Beatty (Rex Morgan, M.D.), Ms. Tree is cut from the same cloth as Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. Spillane and Collins were close friends in real life, and Ms. Tree is more than a tough guy’s tough girl. She’s her own woman. She is sharp, insightful, hard-nosed, somewhat caustic, and when called for, very deadly.

It’s odd (at least to me) for a retrospective collection to start with the DC Comics stories, since they were the last produced, but they do represent some of the creators’ best work on the character, so it sort of makes since. Regardless of that, this book is a compelling read for those of us who love the character and a great, thoroughly accessible introduction for new readers. Bravo to Titan for this new collection and the books that will follow!

Star Slammers: The Complete Collection
IDW Publishing; $50

The only one on my list that isn’t a 2019 release. Why? Because it’s still that good! The marketing cliché is “It doesn’t get any better than this!” But in the case of Star Slammers: The Complete Collection, it’s not just a cliché, it’s an evaluation that’s hard to discount.

Writer-artist Walter Simonson may be better known for his lengthy runs on Marvel’s Thor and DC’s Orion or for his legitimately legendary collaboration on Manhunter with Archie Goodwin, but even with relatively few installments over the past 32 years his creator-owned Star Slammers still commands a lot of attention.

Now we have a single volume to show why.

Star Slammers: The Complete Collection includes the story from Marvel Graphic Novel #6, the subsequent miniseries published by Malibu’s Bravura imprint and Dark Horse, and Simonson’s first, art school version of the property, which has never been published before in collected form.

Action, adventure, nobility, treachery, relationships, dreams, shoot-outs and actual science fiction combine at Simonson’s behest to make for a rockin’ good time. First printing copies this edition have a bound in signature plate, each signed by Simonson.

The original graphic novel and the Malibu/Dark Horse miniseries have been beautifully recolored, and the production values of this collection are stellar. What, we ask you, is not to love about it?

J.C. Vaughn is Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing. He’s also the creator of Vampire, PA, Zombie-Proof and other comics. He loves this stuff.

Editor’s note: And of course we hope you’ll consider our books for your holiday gift-giving needs as well, including The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #49, The Overstreet Price Guide to Batman, The Overstreet Price Guide to Star Wars Collectibles, The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Tabletop Games, The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Horror, The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Concert Posters, The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Video Games, The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Movie Posters, The Overstreet Guide To Cosplay, The Overstreet Guide To Grading Comics, The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Comic & Animation Art, and The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Comics.