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‘The Atlas Comics Library No. 1: Adventures Into Terror Vol. 1’ GN (review)

Written and Iliustrated by Various
Restored by Allan Harvey
Edited by Dr. Michael J. Vassallo
Published by Fantagraphics Books

 

I find myself truly disappointed in Fantagraphics’ new reprint collection of the early Atlas title, Adventures into Terror.

On the one hand, it’s nice to see the Atlas material start to come back into print as there’s some truly choice art in many of those 1950s issues. It’s also nice that the pages are being reprinted as only slightly cleaned up scans of the originals. You may recall, I’m not at all a fan of newly colored reprints.

On the other three hands though, I’ve got issues. My first issue is with the choice to reprint facsimiles of the first eight issues of the Adventures into Terror title, complete with ads. As a completist, I’m glad the ads are there but they aren’t particularly interesting ads and they do seem a waste of pages.

But my real problem is that those first eight issues overall aren’t that good in either stories or artwork. Oh, it’s kind of fun to see early Chic Stone, Gene Colan, Joe Sinnott, Mike Sekowsky, and Paul Reinman work but I feel like a “Best of” collection would have been a better choice, including stories from later issues drawn by the likes of Gil Kane, Jim Mooney, Dick Ayers, and more by the remarkable Joe Maneely.

As it is, the art hero of this volume is clearly Russ Heath, with five stories and a couple covers. A lackluster story by the eclectic Basil Wolverton introduces a title Marvel would come back to in the 1970s—Where Monsters Dwell!

The stories themselves are a mixed bag, with many of the best offering twist endings in the EC Comics tradition. But that’s another part of the problem. These are NOT EC comics stories. While one can argue that even the ECs have been overscrutinized and overanalyzed, it’s impossible to deny that they were consistently well-done and set the standard for the band-jumpers like Martin Goodman. Do Goodman’s comics really need to be analyzed to the same degree as the ECs?

Dr. Michael Vassalo is widely recognized as THE expert on the Atlas years and his lengthy introduction here offers a concise history of Goodman’s early years in comics, illustrated by some of the anti-comics-articles of the day. Even the always knowledgeable and informative doctor, though, points to one story, “Murder at Midnight,” that he refers to as “amateurish,” saying he’s surprised that editor Stan Lee even accepted it. So why is it included in a classy volume like this that costs the reader $34.99?

To be fair, I don’t see that particular story as any more amateurish than some of the other stories. With only a few exceptions, all of the stories in this Atlas collection are mediocre at best. To historians, they’re interesting, downright fascinating in some cases, but are fans really going to want to pay for mediocrity?

The Atlas horror and sci-fi titles were mainly EC wannabes but they have enough gems that a truly enjoyable “Best of” volume would belong in any fan’s collection. The idea of a complete reprint series, though? Not for me.

 

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