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Legion of Monsters! A Review

October 08, 2009 | | Comments 0

legionofmonstersBack in the first half of the 1970s, Marvel Comics took advantage of loosening Comic Code Authority restrictions and jumped on to the paranormal craze sweeping the country. This was the age of The Exorcist and Marvel made their own deal with the devil (and the mummy and the werewolf and the vampire). It was a golden age for the occult and the unexplained. Doctor Strange was no longer alone on the shelves as he was joined by books starring the Son of Satan, his sister Satana, the swampy Man-Thing, former Spider-Man baddie Morbius the Living Vampire and Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night. (Seriously. They named him Jack Russell.)
Now, Marvel is dusting off these characters and giving them a fresh coat of paint in their Legion of Monsters hardcover. This book collects a series of one-shots with more sophisticated stories and richer art than comic fans saw in the 1970s. Some of the highlights include a Man-Thing tale by Charlie Huston (“Caught Stealing: A Novel”) with art by Klaus Janson, and a smart, gripping Living Mummy yarn. I was thrilled to see the return of personal favorite: the beautiful and seductive daughter of the devil, Satana. Today, it seems hard to believe that a major comics publisher would dare to explore Satanism, but explore it they did. Now they’re testing the waters to see if audiences are still interested.
Just as fun as these shiny new stories are, the most interesting parts of this collection are the “classic” reprints from the second half of the book. Sure they’re clunky, but there’s an undeniable sense of nostalgia in these feisty classic tales. Reading these oldies (featuring the Manphibian, the Frankenstein Monster and the Scarecrow) will leave you asking “What the hell were they thinking?” while enjoying the sheer audacity and scrappiness of the stories. For instance, The Scarecrow tells the story of a demonic cult that worships a haunted painting. Great premise, but it never finds its voice or defines its premise well enough to make it a success. Still, it’s a cool concept and a fun read.
In fact, all of the stories in this LEGION OF MONSTERS handsome hardcover are a treat to read. Take a stroll through comic’s supernatural side and give it a try. If you are still craving the taste of classic Marvel monsters check out Essential Marvel Horror featuring Satana and her big brother Damon Hellstrom and the Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, a massive collection of the greatest and longest running horror drama in comics.

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