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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Marvel Fanfare #41 [1988] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre
Marvel Fanfare #41 [1988]

As I mentioned before, MARVEL FANFARE was an odd mixed bag for its 60 issues. #41 is a pretty decent issue, featuring in the lead a full length Doctor Strange story written by Walter Simonson and drawn by Dave Gibbons. I'm assuming this was done as an inventory story for the regular book, but it's kind of lucky it wasn't used there as the painted colour would have looked pretty muddy on Marvel's regular newsprint comics of the time, but works on the high-gloss FANFARE paper.

Anyway, anyone who read WATCHMEN knows that Gibbons has a strong visual affinity for the Ditko work of the 1960s, and of course Simonson has pretty good bona fides in the field of capturing the more cosmic and epic aspects of 1960s Marvel, so it works out to a good combination for a slight fill-in.

The 20-page story "...Perchance to Dream" has Doc sensing an invader in his Sanctum Sanctorum. The invader vanishes when confronted, so Doc uses his magic to trace the intruder back to a mystic city. While there he confronts various perils, including images of Nightmare and Eternity, before realizing that the whole city is built on an immense being of such power that it can manifest these things while still sleeping, and it's now waking up.

A good premise for a fill-in, as it gives a lot of room for Gibbons to play with the visuals, both visiting some of the classic Doctor Strange imagery (no Dormammu, though...) and some new stuff. There are some very strong visuals on the dreaming giant. You tend to forget just how strong an artist Gibbons is, and it's a bit of a shame that his only major work as an artist since WATCHMEN seems to be that GIVE ME LIBERTY stuff, which I don't much like. Other than that you have to be satisfied with scattered bits like this and every now and again a cover.

Two pin-up sections round out the issue. Mike Machlan, who usually inks, provides pencils of what I guess are some of his favourite silver age Marvel scenes and concepts (Avengers #2, FF #5, a generic Steranko-style SHIELD image, etc), inked by a variety of people (including John Romita on the page of Spider-man and his supporting cast). Not bad looking. Bill Reinhold provides some more generic pin-ups, which are decent, and his Iron Man is very nice, with the armour wired up to various tech doo-dads. Editor Al Milgrom also provides his usual illustrated intro to the issue, as well as an illustrated plea for letters.

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