3 out of 5
While I think this material mostly hovers between not great and good, in terms of how much stuff it brings together – and considerations like covers, and character bios, and some extra text material – it’s a pretty respectable collection, providing the fan-favorite Legion of Monsters mini-series, some Elsa Bloodstone odds and ends, and John Warner’s original mess of Bloodstone tales (and Steve Gerber’s much better conclusion…) from Marvel Premiere, and the back-ups in Rampaging Hulk.
I wasn’t too keen on Legion, but it has an appreciable sense of energy and kookiness that makes it an easy read. The shorts brought in that further feature Elsa Bloodstone aren’t must-reads, excepting Chris Yost’s / Joh James’ entry from the Marvel Assistant-sized Spectacular that helps to bridge something that’s sorely missing from the overall set: a connection from Elsa to the Bloodstone line, beyond her name. Elsa’s other series appearance, prior to Legion of Monsters, is missing here, so that context is super useful, and Yost – just like Gerber, some decades prior – seemed to have a better grasp on Bloodstone than his creator, Warner, and does a good job of summarizing and revitalizing things in this short. The Marvel Heartbreakers short is grrl-power-as-scripted-by-men pretty dumb, but Faith Erin Hicks’ offhand, day-in-the-life entry is fun, and from the also fun (and spectacular) Girl Comics vol. 2.
And then on to Marvel Presents, and the “origin” of Ulysses Bloodstone, which I put in quotes because John Warner seemed to have all these crazy ideas that never made their way to the page, and had to re-explain himself in an afterword to that comic, which is included here. It doesn’t really help the clunkily told story and rushed art in those issues, though.
When the series moved to the black and white Rampaging Hulk, it became much more entertaining. Warner still had a way of scripting that read like he was leaving all of the important bits off of the page – and it seems he might just be a better not-comic writer, as a fictional text piece written as one of the Bloodstone characters (from Hulk #3, and, again, appreciably included here) actually seems to properly communicate his complex aether-energies concepts regarding Bloodstone, and properly explain his weirdass shotgun rocket weapon – but it all occurs at this ridiculous pace where the nonsense just keeps happening without any sense of logic, or perhaps the logic of a child feverishly rattling off his pretend fantasies. And the art – whether because artists were allotted more time and / or had fewer pages to work with, or perhaps Warner had gotten better at scripting between now and then – is stuffed with pretty bombastic action and kooky characters / creatures.
Still, it must mean something when another writer steps in for the conclusion – Steve Gerber – and makes more sense out of the story than its creator, resummarizing things in a concise fashion when, likely, realizing that readers (as suggested by letters pages – not included here) were pretty dern confused about things. Gerbs manages to compact all the mess of Premiere on to a couple of pages, and expands on some Warner story elements in a much more cohesive way. There’s also a sense of Gerber wit at play, with some possible meta commentary on the ridiculousness of the Bloodstone character…
Overall, I’d say this collection is more worthwhile as a catch-up on Ulysses Bloodstone, for whatever that’s worth; the Elsa stuff feels like it was added in just to pad it out and maybe catch some more readers, who were fans of that series.