September 2, 2010

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Spider-Man, Hulk, & Iron Man

Written by Paul Tobin
Illustrated by Alvin Lee and Terry Pallot
Marvel

I've verbally (and here and there on Twitter) sung the praises of the late Marvel Adventures line, but I'm not sure I've shared any reviews here on Panel Patter. Let's correct that now, shall we?

Marvel Adventures is a series of comics that look backward to a time when folks like Peter Parker and Tony Stark were appropriate for anyone to read. There's no blood and guts, no horrible people, and no heroes who are little better than the foes they fight.

This does not mean that there's no life in these books. Far from it, in fact. They are exactly what they say they are, all ages. A child can have fun reading this, and the adult that reads it to them will enjoy the book just as much. They're "hoo-ha" comics, to put it in Tom DeFalco's words.

Plus, some of them, such as this combination, are just so silly they make the unlikely pairings in Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One look logical. Take Mr. Tobin's pairing of three Marvel movie stars, the Hulk and his more successful friends, Iron Man and Spider-Man. The three of them just hang out together, in Spidey's case, quite literally. Why are they together? Who knows? Who cares?

Hercules shows up to ask the boys to babysit, with hilarious results. Some rather strange rock creatures get us into extreme sports, and Kang buys out Lay's potato chips, with possible world-changing results. The premises are there mostly to see Spidey crack wise, Hulk to be funny in his limited understanding of the world, and Tony's straight man caught between the two while also trying to save the world.

I love seeing Stark portrayed this way, incidentally. He's part Felix Unger, part Bud Abbott, and part Bert, running around in an iron suit. Tobin's characterization is inspired, even if it would never work in the "real" Marvel Universe.

The final story shows that these stories can also teach a lesson while entertaining. Klaw, the master of sound, decides to try his hand at making his most horrible construct yet--country music. Our heroes aren't sure about his motives, but their quick judgment (interrupted by Hulk trying to buy a truck) could make matters worse. The point of the story is clear, but it isn't preachy at all.

To go along with Tobin's sharp, silly, and witty writing, artists Lee and Pallot do a great job drawing this book. In fact, I'd argue the art here is better than on a lot of the mainstream books from the same time period. The Hulk is huge, but still within proportion. Peter is wiry but you can see his brawn, and Iron Man looks sleek enough to function. Plus, people have muscles in the right places, to boot!

There are a lot of Marvel Adventures books out there. If you've never tried one but you're a fan of old-school comics, grab one as soon as you can, either this one or any of the others in the line. They're cheap enough that you won't be out much if you don't like it, but I have a funny feeling you'll dig them. I know I do!