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Saturday, February 15, 2014

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS by Joe Kubert (editor)

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS (2013) is a collection of the six-issue anthology published in 2012-2013, edited by Joe Kubert and almost completed before his death in 2012. Each issue includes work from Kubert (both solo and with various collaborators), Sam Glanzman and Brian Buniak.

Sam Glanzman's contributions are a return to his USS Stevens war stories, a staple of the 1970s DC war comics (also mostly edited by Kubert). Glanzman served aboard the naval destroyer in the Pacific during World War II, and used both his own experiences and those he heard from others in a series of back-up features that primarily ran from 1970 to 1977, plus a few subsequent stories in a pair of graphic novels published as A SAILOR'S STORY and short stories in SAVAGE TALES. For this series he did a series of 10-page stories telling a variety of events, from the oddball to the comedic to the tragic, as well as looking at some of the major events of the war. Beautifully rendered work as always, drawing on memories still vivid after over a half-century, and a nice reminder of a major but mostly unappreciated milestone in comics history. Hopefully someday these pages will serve as the conclusion to a full collection of Glanzman's WWII stories. In addition to the six stories, there's also a feature where Kubert comments on Glanzman and shows a few of the actual illustrations Glanzman drew while serving on the USS Stevens in the 1940s.

Brian Buniak is represented in every issue with a serialized adventure of Angel and The Ape, reviving the short lived 1960s feature. I thought the concept was cute enough for a single story, with a sort of 1980s era MAD/CRACKED look to the work, but it wasn't really strong enough to sustain a six part story. The two-page spread of classic chicken-fat in-jokes, slapstick and non sequiturs is pretty cute, with some interesting cameos (pay close attention if you missed it, Mike Sterling...).

Other than those two features in every issue, Joe Kubert himself provided the rest of the material in each issue.

His first story, as seen on the cover, features Hawkman and is set in Africa. It has some really good artwork, evoking both his earlier work on that character and his well-regarded 1970s work on Tarzan but The story is a little bit preachy and disjointed, though.

The major Kubert work is the long-lost series THE REDEEMER, which was scheduled and widely advertised and previewed back in 1983, but never actually published.  This book has some concept artwork and what would have been the first three issues of that series, as well as some preliminary artwork for the future issues, which is as far as Kubert got before realizing he couldn't fit a monthly book with the other demands of his schedule. The concept is a history spanning story of redemption and reincarnation, giving Kubert a vehicle to draw a variety of settings, a science-fiction future and the American west of the 19th century in the two stories he got to and planned stories of Roman gladiators, cavemen and pirates among those planned. It's all a little strange, but an entertaining concept, and good to finally have some closure three decades after seeing those ads for the book.

The other serialized Kubert contribution to the book is "Spit", a series of vignettes about an orphan boy who ends up aboard a whaling ship around 1850, inspired by, as Kubert explains, his childhood fascination with MOBY DICK.  This is probably my favourite Kubert art of the book, mostly drawn in the pencilled style he used for a few of his later major works like YOSSEL and DONG XOAI. His passion for the subject matter really comes though in the art, and I just wish there was more room to flesh out the story.

Kubert also does a short ghost story "The Biker", which I enjoyed, especially the horror elements drawn in that pencil style. Paul Levitz writes what is sort of a Sgt. Rock story for Kubert to draw, and it was far better than I was expecting, and Kubert co-writes a few short stories for other artists that are an interesting change of pace.

Overall it's a nice thick collection with a wide variety of material at a great price, well worth picking up for a sample of one of the greatest comic book artists.

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