3 out of 5
Marvel’s 70s / 80s non-hero magazines often had a pretty pulpy, campy assortment of fantasy and horror contents. Re-presenting the concept for a 2019 crowd doesn’t mean you have to mimic that exact formula – I think it’s fine to update the tone to match the modern day, self-aware snippiness of the publisher’s current output – but you should probably at least get your contributors on the same page. Of the four entries in this anniversary celebration imprint, 3 out of the 4 are pretty good, but 2 out of the 4 are of this modern sensibility, 1 out of the 4 is rather left-field, and a different 1 out of the 4… like, tried to stick to the original 70s / 80s vibe.
Jed MacKay and artist Chris Mooneyham are the duo that stick to the classic format, using Ulysses Bloodstone on one of his demon-hunting quests to do a tried and true swords-and-sorcery tale, with olde English narration and weightily inked art. It’s a fairly straightforward story, but it did feel like it would’ve fit in an old school Marvel mag, which was cool.
On to the modern day: Sebastian Girner and Francesco Manna on Shang Chi, for a yearly training lesson: sparring with a martial arts master across rooftops. The kung fu focus could pass, but the little humorous asides are very Now. It’s an entertaining little short, though, with Manna giving us big and bold art, brightly colored by Andy Troy.
Becky Cloonan co-writes and arts, and Michael Conrad co-writes Dracula, pitting him against vampire hunters and werewolves. Pulpy enough premise, but again, modern notes give it away: the flirty repartee between Drac and a particular redhead don’t quite sell the “just before the second World War” era, but the framing inner monologue from Drac is nice. Cloonan’s artwork tends not to communicate action too well to me, so the bats versus wolves antics fall flat, but I like the setup.
Jon Adams and artist Aaron Conley close things out on a puzzling, out-of-place inclusion, turning Black Goliath into a gag strip. Adams’ script and Conley’s art rather misfire on selling the gag (regarding how BG’s powers work), though the strip’s literally only three pages, so it doesn’t affect the overall read that much.