GRAPHIC NOVEL and TRADE PAPERBACK (TPB) REVIEWS

by The Masked Bookwyrm


Miscellaneous (non-Superhero) - "K" (page one)
 

coverKa-Zar: The Guns of the Savage Land 1990 (SC GN) 62 pages

Written by Chuck Dixon, Timothy Truman. Pencils Gary Kwapisz. Painted by Ricardo Villagrán.
Letters: Phil Felix. Editor: Craig Anderson.

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Published by Marvel Comics

Published at over-sized tabloid dimensions.

Number of readings: 1

Review posted Oct. 2014

When a dying primitive is found wandering in the American dessert, anthropologist Wyatt Wingfoot suspects it's a clue to a subterranean prehistoric world (specifically an off-shoot of the publicly known Savage Land). So he recruits jungle lord, Ka-Zar, and his wife Shanna, the She-Devil -- erstwhile inhabitants of the Savage Land now living in London -- to join him in an expedition. But what they find when they get there is civilization has already encroached in the form of a rogue oil company and its paid mercenaries.

Guns of the Savage Land starts out well. At least it has a kind of cinematic, "big screen" feel as the story opens with the dying man in the dessert and it's a few pages before we even get to Ka-Zar and Shanna (you can practically hear some Hollywood movie score underscoring the scenes). Then a cutaway to the mercenaries in the jungle, just to foreshadow the showdown to come -- including presenting the tough guy leader of the camp who we just know will have a climactic fight with Ka-Zar. (Though the fact that he's supposd to French and a former member of the French Foreign Legion is, I think, a contradiction).

The art is supplied by Gary Kwapisz who provides the pencils, and long-time artist/inker Ricardo Villagran who's unleashed on the painted finishes. Kwapisz has a decent eye for composition, even as his figures can be a bit stiff and uninspired. While Villagran's paints can vary between lush to seeming a bit rough. The result is both parts are uneven, but combine to give this a "graphic novel" vibe.

And just as an aside, the comic, though (arguably) touching on gritty adult subject matter (Ka-Zar tries too force himself -- unsuccessfully -- on Shanna during one of his more belligerent phases) it isn't really a "mature readers" story. In recent years even mainstream comics sometimes go overboard in their "cheesecake", but there isn't any particular effort made to sex up Shanna or emphasize her physique.

But just as the appeal to the story is we've seen this kind of jungle adventure a million times before -- the downside is we've seen this type of story a zillion times before. And despite the 62 page length, it never really finds anything new or unexpected to do with it. The heroes barely arrive in the jungle before we're moving into the climactic showdown.

Where co-writers Chuck Dixon and Tim Truman try to juice it up is in the character stuff. Ka-Zar's stay in civilization hasn't done him any good, psychologically speaking, and Shanna hopes the trip will bring him back to himself -- but then realizes that might not be entirely a good thing, as he starts reverting to an arrogant Lord of the Jungle persona. She and Wyatt aren't sure if he's acting to help the local Natives or simply letting his own sense of God-hood go to his head!

Although an interesting idea, it does mean we have a book called Ka-Zar where Ka-Zar himself isn't necessarily the most endearing of characters. More problematic, the writers want to use this to inject a notion of complexity to the conflict -- but it's not like it affects the story, or alters the choices the characters make. It feels like they concocted a pretty generic, simple plot -- then decided to spray on a bit of character stuff after the fact.

Ka-Zar is a guy whose character can change a lot depending on who writes him. In the 1960s he was a rather monosyllabic primitive, then became more loquacious but still a stern jungle lord. But in his (then) most recent series he had been made much more modern and easy going. (And that's not even touching on his original, 1940s incarnation when he didn't even hang out with dinosaurs!) So one can debate how much this Ka-Zar is true to which interpretation. It's also a bit funny the way the heroes, as well as the villains, are armed with machine guns and bazookas (hence "Guns" of the Savage Land) suggesting Dixon and Truman (guys known for their macho/action movie approach to some comics) aren't entirely committed to the bucolic primitive ideal. In fact I think shortly after this Truman (and Dixon, too) went to work on Valiant's revival of Turok, Son of Stone (a similar property about guys in a prehistoric jungle) and likewise juiced it up with automatic weapons!

(There's also a certain contradiction. On hand the characters act as if preserving the Natives primitive, pre-civilization innocence is important -- yet then act as if Ka-Zar's desire to return to that jungle life is an immature unwillingness to "grow up.")

For novice readers, on one hand the story stands alone reasonably well. As I say, the plot evokes familiar jungle adventure archetypes. And though it draws upon the surrounding Marvel Universe, it does so unobtrusively. Wyatt Wingfoot is a long time supporting character who has hung out with the Fantastic Four and dated the She-Hulk (explaining the picture of the green woman on his desk) but it's unimportant to the story: if you know that, great, if you don't, it doesn't matter.

Though when it comes to Ka-Zar himself it's a little trickier, at least at first where you might find yourself wondering why, if he's so unhappy in civilization, he's living there. But it does get explained as we go.

Though in that sense the book seems to serve as that oft-used idea in comics: the re-setting the bar. Stories whose primary purpose is simply to over-haul an existing character (and then another story comes along whose main purpose is simply to negate those changes). The plot less important than how it affects the mythology. Ka-Zar used to have his own adventures, long before being paired with Shanna, then the two shared a comic for a while, but it was cancelled a few years before. By this point Ka-Zar had basically lost his jungle home. So this story can be seen as simply Dixon and Truman's attempt to re-boot the property, returning him to his roots, even making it once more a "lost" jungle by virtue of being an off-shoot of the Savage Land (which, by this point, might as well have its own airport).

That doesn't necessarily hurt the story being told in these pages, but it does make you wonder if that's why the plot can seem a bit generic.

The result leaves me on the fence. Certainly an okay page turner, and with some attempt at character exploration (even if it feels a tad undeveloped). But despite starting out seeming a bit like a grand Hollywood movie, by the end can feel like, well, a fairly run-of-the-mill comic book adventure.

Cover price: $__USA.


coverKelly Green: The Go-Between 1982 (SC GN) 52 pages

Written by Leonard Starr. Illustrated by Stan Drake.

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)

Published by Dargaud International

Additional notes: intro by Mike Greg.

Suggested for mature readers

Published at over-sized tabloid dimensions.

Number of readings: 1

Review posted Aug, 2011

The Go-Between was the first of, I believe, four noir/mystery graphic novels about Kelly Green (I review another one lower on this page).

Kelly is the wife of a police detective who is widowed on the first page, and soon finds herself drawn into a world of crime and mystery. I had initially assumed Kelly would become a private detective -- y'know, hanging up a shingle and all. But though she is bitter and suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her husband's death, she doesn't directly set out to investigate it. Instead, she is approached with an offer to act as a go-between -- to deliver some money and pick up a package. It's a legally dubious enterprise, but Kelly needs money and rationalizes it that her part in it is, technically, legal. As she explains at one point, she's neither a crook, yet doesn't trust cops (believing crooked cops were responsible for her husband's death) making her the perfect neutral party -- perhaps suggesting the intended gimmick of the series: a heroine who walks the line between criminals and cops.

So although Kelly gets embroiled in a mystery, it's not like her initial plan is to solve it, or anything more high minded than to collect her fee. But a few twists, double crosses, and murders later, she does solve it...and uncovers her husband's murderer, to boot. Unlike some modern series, which might stretch out that mystery throughout many adventures, this works as a stand alone read, where all the threads are tied up by the end.

Green's creators Starr and Drake were veterans of American newspaper strips (individually working on Little Orphan Annie, The Heart of Juliet Jones, and many others) apparently looking for a chance to break out of the clean cut conservatism of American newspaper comics. And so they brought Kelly Green to the French market (I believe the stories were first published in French, despite being made by Americans, then "translated" back into English for the English-language editions). European comics were much more willing to indulge in "adult" material than most (mainstream) American comics at the time...which, for that matter, were largely dominated by super heroes anyway, and a series that owed more to dime novels and film noir movies might not have found many sympathetic publishers (though around the time, American Eclipse was testing similiar waters with their even more R-rated Detectives, Inc).

Not that Kelly Green is porn or anything. Oh, it's certainly going for the racy and risque at times, with Kelly appearing in her underwear a few times, or flashing cleavage, getting involved in risque situations, like going undercover as a go-go dancer. But even here, Kelly just dresses in a bikini top and some, um, cheeky cut-off shorts, while her fellow dancers don't strip past pasties and G-strings. In the whole story, there is only one panel of nudity -- and it's done in long shot. Drake and Starr are certainly indulging in titillation, sometimes gratuitously so (in one sequence Kelly starts to pull off her top, to the point where the bottoms of her breasts are exposed, then stops, distracted, and in the next panel is shown puzzling a clue...with her shirt still hoisted up enough to expose the bottom arc of her breast). But it's all generally more PG-13 than R.

The irony is here I'm focusing on the titillation factor, and that's heavily promoted in the introduction by Mike Greg, but as I say, though sometimes gratuitous, it ain't porn, and indeed, I thought I read somewhere that Drake and Starr ended up a victim of their own indulgences. That after seeing Kelly as a chance to rebel against the staid conservatism of the newspaper syndicates...they came to feel equally pressured to throw in gratuitous underwear shots even when the story didn't require them!

Interestingly, though, it's in more than the visuals that the two seek to prove their "maturity". The story itself indulges in subject matter not found in most comics at the time -- though perfectly in keeping with crime novels and movies. There's even homosexuals in the story. And though I won't say GLADD would necessarily put the comic on its recommended reading list, given the time period, I don't think homosexuals would find much to be offended by, either.

The overall result comes across a bit like a gritty 1970s crime movie -- there's murder and the like, but it's generally low key, following the plot, the mystery, as it unfolds more than indulging in a lot of action scenes and car chases.

Despite the "adult" subject matter, of lingerie, gay clubs, and infidelity, there is arguably a certain comic book-y superficiality to it. Kelly's personality is a little nebulous -- although, to be fair, I think that's partly the point. Kelly is supposed to be a bit hard (in an awkwardly inserted expository sequence, we learn she grew up troubled in foster homes) but it's not always clear if her reactions to certain things are a result of emotional coldness...or just writing that doesn't quite bring out the emotions. Likewise, there's a scene where Kelly talks to an aging millionaire whose young trophy wife was recently murdered, and though he remarks that he misses her...throughout most of the scene he's flippant and cracking wise, so you assume he's supposed to be a bit of a callous S.O.B. -- except then Kelly later remarks that she liked him. So obviously the scene was meant to be read differently than I perceived it.

At the same time, Starr and Drake's newspaper strip background does them in good stead here -- because there's a rapid fire pacing to the story. As mentioned, it's more about talk and mystery than about action and adventure, yet it rarely loses your interest because the scenes are tight and carry you along from scene to scene, in much the way a newspaper strip has to keep your attention from instalment to instalment (you could well imagine the story serialised a few panels at a time in daily segments). This can also result in a few juxtaposition problems, where the time/space relationship between different scenes can be a bit unclear. There are also a few gaffs toward the end, as if they maybe lost track of earlier scenes (at one point toward the end referring to a gay bar as "Sonny's Place", when "Sonny's Place" was the go-go bar next door...Sonny merely liked to frequent the gay bar). But errors like that are little more than glorified typos and don't necessarily reflect a problem with the basic logic/mystery.

And when we get to the end, the story does even justify a few earlier points that maybe seemed a bit contrived.

A big appeal to the story is Drake's art. It's of a hyper-realist style that perfectly suits the "movie" feel of the story, and the low-key suspense. No one leaps over cars or punches anyone through a wall. People stand and move like people stand and move against meticulously realized environments ranging from New York night clubs to Florida river banks. His Kelly Green is pretty, and his men reflect a nice variety of facial features that give the various characters true individuality and idiosyncracy (many probably photo-referenced). The story is also peopled by a range of characters, from realist, to quirky "characters" like a trio of colourful ex-hoods who provide a support network for Kelly out of loyalty to her dead husband who treated them fair even when arresting them. Drake's storytelling composition is understated, yet effective, keeping scenes lively even when just essentially talking head scenes. He also does some nice, noir-tinged, moody panels of characters in silhouette.

At least -- I think Drake does the art and Starr the writing (that's what I inferred from things I'd read). But both men are writer/artists -- and both with sufficiently similiar art styles on their own that I can't say for sure (the art may, in fact, be a collaborative effort).

Ultimately, The Go-Between isn't breaking any ground, but nicely evokes a kind of 1970s crime drama vibe (you can easily "hear" a funky jazz sound track in the background) or an Elmore Leonard novel...with the added appeal of a heroine who periodically strips to her underwear, flashes some cleavage...and more.

Cover price: $__USA.


coverKelly Green: One, Two, Three...Die! 1983 (SC GN) 48 pages

Written by Leonard Starr. Illustrated by Stan Drake.

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)

Published by Dargaud International

Suggested for mature readers

Published at over-sized tabloid dimensions.

Number of readings: 1

Review posted Sept, 2011

This is the second of, I think, four Kelly Green graphic novels written and illustrated by American comic strip veterans Leonard Starr and Stan Drake (though first published in Europe before being re-translated into English) -- the first is reviewed above^. Though mystery-suspense stories, Kelly is an atypical heroine in that she's not a detective, per se. She actually makes a living as a "go-between" -- a person who acts as an intermediary in shady arrangements, such as delivering money to kidnappers (not something you would necessarily think was a profession in too much demand!) So her involvement in mysteries is almost more accidental, she ends up solving them as much by chance as any deliberate intention.

In the case of One, Two, Three...Die! she becomes embroiled in a series of murders when someone seems to be targeting the siblings of her next door neighbour. At first Kelly is more there just to offer support, and to call upon some of her reformed underworld friends (that we met in the first graphic novel) to help protect the girl, rather than trying to "solve" the mystery. But it's an interesting gimmick/formula -- allowing Kelly to walk the line between being a proactive detective heroine...and more just an everywoman caught up in dangerous situations.

Like with the previous story, there's a sort of deliberate low-keyness to the proceedings, in plot and visuals. There's murders and a car bombing, but it can feel a bit "little" in scope. And the suspects are fairly few. Yet with that said, even though I sort of guessed where it was headed, they still managed to throw a twist or two at me.

The story can seem to wander about a bit, with non-sequitur sequences and sub-plots (near the beginning Kelly is sent on a go-between assignment to pay ransom for a kidnapped dog), yet it's cleverly enough plotted that sometimes seeming irrelevant bits turns out do play back into the main plot, directly or indirectly. There's a mix of tones: drama, suspense, and even comedy, sometimes more than one at a time (the sequence with Kelly trying to recover the dog is juxtaposed with some comedic golfers). The dialogue can be a bit obvious and heavy handed at times -- reflecting its comic book/strip nature. But other times can be nicely realist and plausible. And it is, after all, a comic book.

Stan Drake's almost photo-realistic art is a huge appeal here, nicely capturing faces, and body language, set against well defined environments. And his faces -- well, his male faces -- are often nicely quirky and individualistic (his women tend to be more conventionally pretty). The art suits the tone of the script which is meant to be fairly down-to-earth and realistic -- as though you're watching a detective movie, with real actors, rather than a comic book adventure.

The Kelly Green stories were done with "mature" subject matter (supposedly part of the impetus was Drake and Starr wanted to break out of the restrictions placed on them by American newspaper syndication). Yet it's not particularly gratuitous. There's only really a few uses of four letter words. A panel or two of nudity. Unlike some creators, you can believe Drake and Starr are letting the story dictate any "mature" content more than the other way around. Indeed, the Kelly Green stories often get written about for their raciness (the first volume featured an introduction that seemed to harp on the sexiness exclusively). Yet in some ways, this is even less sexploitive than the first. Oh, there's aspects of it here and there, but Kelly herself actually seems to spend less time dressing and/or undressing than she did in the first volume. There is a scene in which she indulges in basically "pity sex" (off the page, of course) which isn't something more staid detective heroines like Ms. Tree or V.I. Warshawksi and others would do, and can certainly be viewed as male fantasy (what -- she's a hot babe who will sleep with guys basically just out of the goodness of her heart??? Wow!)

If there's a main flaw with Kelly Green...it's Kelly herself, who though a perfectly serviceable heroine, can seem a bit vague and ill-defined, some scenes presenting her as a kind of girl next door everywoman, others suggesting she can be hard and flinty. Even the "pity sex" idea is something where you aren't sure if it was just an indulgence on the part of the creators, or genuinely reflecting her character (in the previous volume, we were rather perfunctorily told Kelly had, when younger, lived a rather wild and promiscuous life...so, in that sense, the scene doesn't maybe seem as contrived as it might...particularly as even Kelly herself, afterwards, seems to think it might not have been the best course of action to take).

Like the first volume, One, Two, Three...Die! satisfies as a mystery/suspense story, a page turner, buoyed by great art, a snappy pace (despite being fairly talky) and with just enough bikini and lingerie shots to distinguish it from more staid mystery series featuring a female lead.

Cover price: $__USA.


Killraven

Killraven collections are reviewed one page over here -- simply so they can all be on the same page!


King of Crooks 2005 (HC) 112 pages
a.k.a. The Spider: King of Crooks

coverWritten by Ted Cowan, Jerry Siegel. Illustrated by Reg Bunn.
black and white. Letters: unbilled.

Reprinting: various The Spider instalments from the anthology comic, Lion (1965-1966, 1968)

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by Titan Books

Reviewed March 5, 2010

Additional notes: released at over-sized dimensions; various intros and commentaries about the Spider, the creators, and British comics -- including a Spider publication checklist.

As DC/Wildstorm prepared to publish Albion, the Alan Moore conceived mini-series referencing a lot of now-obscure old British comic book characters, Britain's Titan Books clearly anticipated a revived interest in the old series. At least, I assume it was more than a coincidence -- one of Titans books was even called Albion Origins.

And this book, meanwhile, carries an ad for the Albion mini-series.

King of Crooks -- or The Spider: King of Crooks (more on the title confusion in a moment) -- is an entire volume devoted to one of the more fondly recalled characters that arose in the brief boom period of British Silver Age comics. Fondly recalled, in part, because he was sort of an atypical protagonist -- being as he was a super villain! The Spider was a megalomaniacal villain, complete with super scientific gadgets, whose initial goal was to create an army of criminals and become the "uncrowned king" of crimedom. Such a goal not only put him at odds with the law -- represented by two detectives, Gilmore and Trask -- but also rival criminals. It's ironic the Spider should be one of the best recalled of the British comics...because it's actually set in America (and seems to reflect a dubious grasp of American geography, with alligator infested swamps just a few hours outside of New York!)

I hadn't particularly liked Albion -- but it did instill in me a curiosity about these old British characters. While Albion Origins left me somewhat ambivalent, many of the series and characters not perhaps terrible, but having failed to weather the passage of time. The Spider, though not a complete success either, works a little better.

This volume contains various accompanying commentaries and editorials, many harping on how weird and radical an idea it was for featuring as its "hero" a villain...and is probably a reflection of the fact that British comics didn't have to answer to the same Comics Code authority that American comics did (though the Spider talks a mean game more than he actually does anything -- in these stories he threatens to kill, even tries to kill -- but never does kill anyone).

At the same time, there are some interesting antecedents. The reason the book is called The Spider: King of Crooks inside, but is only titled King of Crooks on the actual cover, is presumably because of copyright reasons -- being as there already is a "Spider". Not just Spider-Man, but literally "The Spider", a pulp era American adventure hero who has had a limited number of comic book incarnations (including this one here). And though utilizing the same name might not seem like more than a coincidence, the actual title logo used by the British Spider seems suspiciously similar to his American forbearer.

As well, just a couple of years before this Spider premiered, American DC Comics introduced into its House of Mystery comic the Eclipso series -- a regular feature in which the title character was the villain. The reason this is interesting is because one of the curious things about The Spider is his physical appearance. Although there is no explicit reference indicating the Spider is anything but human (no origin was ever given for him, apparently) he is drawn with pointy eyebrows and big pointy ears -- odd given everyone else in the series looks human. But...Eclipso had similar pointy characteristics. Admittedly, in the days prior to the internet, it's possible the British creators were unfamiliar with Eclipso, so it might be a coincidence (or they both might have been imitating a third character).

Another -- albeit slight -- inspiration for The Spider might have been Modesty Blaise, the British newspaper strip about a female James Bond-type that premiered a couple of years before. Though Modesty was a hero -- her background was that she was the retired/reformed head of a criminal empire, and, like the Spider, tended to dress in black.

Anyway, enough of the background.

British comics tended to resemble newspaper strips more than the American monthly comic. So the Spider's adventures were serialized in two to three page chapters -- a format that tended to keep the tempo up and the thrills frequent, but maybe didn't allow much room -- or encouragement -- for character development. This collection reprints four separate Spider adventures.

The first story arc introduces the Spider, as he sets about recruiting a couple of henchmen, while also battling the police. The second arc -- "The Return of the Spider" -- establishes the recurring gimmick of him battling another crook, here a master of illusion whom the Spider takes exception to when he steals a gold shipment the Spider had planned to rob.

The art by Reg Bunn is, in a word, stunning. Bunn comes from the school of British (and European) comics artists that tended to go for hyper realism, so the figures are well rendered, the backgrounds elaborate, spacious and authentic, with a good eye for perspective. In black and white and on oversized pages, the visuals are quite enthralling. The fact that, in the accompanying biographical notes, it's mentioned Bunn spent a time so poor he was literally begging in the streets, says depressing things about unrecognized talent (though once he was "discovered" he worked steady and prolifically until his death). While Ted Cowan's writing is perfectly okay for the time, but as mentioned, there's no depth, not emotion. Neither the Spider's henchmen, nor the cops hunting him, really emerge with much personality. Even the Spider is as memorable for his physical appearance, and idiosyncratic gadgets (including his webs) as for his character. Indeed, so little care is given to fleshing things out that, as mentioned, apparently there was never any explanation offered for his alien appearance or his weird exclamations like "By Agnark!" or "By the webs of Juba!"

And the plots can seem a bit stretched. "The Return of the Spider" does get a bit repetitious, particularly as a lot of the chapter cliffhangers basically resolve the same way -- as the Spider, or the cops, are threatened by a menace that, then, a page later, is "revealed" to be an illusion!

I was appreciating the Spider more than I had some of the strips in Albion Origins, but that was maybe more for the art.

But with the third story arc, "The Spider vs. Dr. Mysterioso" the scripting chores are handed over to American writer Jerry Siegel (co-creator of Superman!) And funnily enough, there seems an improvement. Maybe it's because Siegel brings an even pulpier, American style vibe to the series. Ironically, despite coming from the super hero-centric US comics, Siegel actually plays up The Spider as a more sinister, amoral figure than even Cowan did, and the writing is more bombastic. As well, Siegel avoids the repetition factor simply by making the story arc....less of a story arc. For one thing, he's using three pages per instalment (rather than Cowan's two -- which also allows Bunn to indulge in bigger panels), and his story arc is actually comprised of a bunch of mini-stories that overlap simply because of the cliff hanger format which has one story segue into the next. The Dr. Mysterioso of the title is in the first few chapters, gets defeated by the Spider and arrested by the police...and then doesn't reappear until toward the end. The result is a faster paced saga, and tighter stories.

Siegel also boosts the Spider's number of henchmen, so he does seem to have a gang rather than just a couple of sidekicks! Granted, the characterization is still minor, but even then, cops Trask and Gilmore emerge as a little more like protagonists.

The collection then jumps ahead a few years for an eight page adventure ("The Spider vs. The Red Baron") from a later stage of the Spider's career. By this point, the "king of crooks" had morphed into a fighter for law and order. Although I get the impression some fans of the character preferred the villain era, I suspect the shift may've been because wrapping a series around a villain is too limiting. But what's intriguing is that they retain his existing personality. So although the Spider is now battling villainy simply for the sake of battling villainy, he remains an arrogant, vainglorious, bombastic personality. When one of his henchmen bursts in announcing he's seen something "fantastic", the Spider sneers "that's an adjective that would only describe something as phenomenal as myself". Ironically, he's maybe a more intriguing, off-beat personality as a hero than he ever was as a villain! The art is still credited to Bunn, but it doesn't entirely look like it. Not that the art is bad, just his style has changed a bit (it put me a bit in mind of US artist Al McWilliams). On one hand there's maybe a more dynamic use of composition and close ups, but some of the storytelling is bit more confused, where it's not always clear what's going on (admittedly, maybe a fault of the story as much as the art).

Titan was presumably hoping to release a series of sequential Spider collections (as they've been doing for Dan Dare) but so far no follow up volume has come. As such, they might have been better to have released a "best of" collection, simply cherry picking a few adventures from his career. As mentioned, the Siegel story is a little more exciting, a little more fun, and more stories like that might have made the collection better. Still, at least by including the later Spider-as-hero story, we do get a sense of the different directions the series took.

Ultimately, the King of Crooks boasts brisk pacing, nice visuals and is a decent page turner, but maybe not much more. Reflecting its time period, the characterization is minimal, the plots bare bones, and the logic sometimes tenuous (as the Spider triumphs...simply by having a convenient device on hand not previously mentioned!). Enjoyable, but slight.

Cover price: $19.95 USA



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