Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tomb of Darkness #18 (January 1976)

My interest in 1970s-era Marvel monster reprint comics is perhaps unreasonable, since they are usually kinda terrible. They do sport outrageous covers that promise wonders that the interiors rarely deliver, so that's a point in their favor. I dunno, I like that they encapsulate the "Marvel Age" when it was at its most exciting to me personally, while still being self-contained. The hodge podge of interesting artwork from previous decades compensates for the fact that the stories are...well, often not well-thought-out to be charitable.

Tomb of Darkness #18 arrives in our hands from the year 1975, no matter what the publication date says. It leads with something very interesting, a reprint that was less than 7 years old at the time. My understanding of the so-called "7 year rule" was that there was supposedly enough turnover for reprints to be considered unseen by a lot of readers after 7 years. Yet, here we have a Roy Thomas/John Buscema story that ran in Chamber of Darkness #3 (February 1970). The splash looks like a very inadequate stat, so there is probably some alterations there. The rest of the story is fine from an art standpoint, but is a bit lacking as an actual story. There are some of Thomas' trademark ideas, and it is somewhat self-aware of its deficiencies, but I would call it a more forgettable tale from one of my favorite writers.

(Quick aside: Chamber of Darkness and Tomb of Darkness are not part of the same numbering, though it seems like they should be. Chamber became Monsters on the Prowl, while Tomb continues from the title Beware.)

Next to the plate is a Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers story about the Sphinx being an alien robot named Shagg. Yes, really! It is delightfully over-the-top, with both Paris and New York getting absolutely leveled over the course of 7 pages. What makes it even more wonderful is the utterly preposterous wrap-up of the story, which honestly must be seen to be believed. And remember: "Cosmo-Gamma Electro-Magnetic Waves! That's the answer!"

The third and final story is...well, it may be one of the oddest stories I have ever encountered for a mystery book. It's just so tame, and doesn't even really seem to fit the theme until the very end. I don't want to say that much about it in case someone cares about being spoiled, but gosh, what an anomaly. Checking out the date, it appears to be from the very early days of the Comics Code, and maybe that explains it. Certainly, I can't think of a more sanitized horror comics story.

I know I tend to be hard on these old comic books sometimes, especially viewing them through the prism of being an adult in the 21st century. But the truth is, they entertain me more than almost anything else, huge flaws and all. That's priceless, and it's why I keep doing these reviews.

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