Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fair Trade: Tor V.3

Having been introduced to Tor only very recently (pretty much when I stumbled upon that same Dial B For Blog post about the DC Explosion which introduced me to the awesomeness that is Beowulf, Dragon Slayer), I was unaware of the rich history Joe Kubert's hero from the time of "one million years ago."  I just thought it was a short-lived DC series about a caveman.  Boy, was I wrong!  And, while this is the third volume of three hardcovers collecting Kubert's body of work on the character, this book (checked out from my local library) does a lot to expand upon the mythos of the character and my knowledge therein.

This volume begins with the first issue of the DC Explosion series, which itself was a reworking of Kubert's comicstrip proposal.  But this is not some simple panel swapping: Kubert created full page tableaus for his strip panels, formatting the story with not only a comic book design sense but also adding plenty of new art and information to digest.  The story, involving a young Tor running into a strong youth from another tribe, is incomplete here, but is a tempting introduction to the lush world Kubert created.  (I have all six issues of the DC series, so I am not concerned about the story being "incomplete" at the moment.)  The light and somewhat washed-out coloring, clearly a product of the mid-70s, helps the overall look of the issue, even if its on substantially better paper.

The bulk of the volume is Kubert's four issue Tor series from Marvel's "Heavy Hitters" line from the early 90s (a choice I applaud, since DC could have easily just reprinted their own series and left the Marvel work out).  This story is a very important one in the history of Tor in that it was the first to introduce really fantastical elements.  Sure, Kubert had bent the truth a little bit by having some dinosaurs appear previously, but it clearly was meant to be the last remnants of the thunder lizards -- well past their heyday and trying to hold on in the face of Man.  But this story introduces a tribe of scaly, lizard-like Men, whom Tor encounters when he witnesses them sacrificing a young woman to their gods of thunder and fire deep within a volcano.  The girl survives, thanks to Tor's help, and the two are soon embroiled with both the lizard Men and their strange reptilian god, as well as fighting the Hairy Men who murdered Tor's father and took over his tribe.  This series originally appeared on glossy paper, so the deep colors and moody inks Kubert employed are transferred perfectly.  The story is exciting and visceral -- the kind of stuff one would consider for a Tor screenplay, if such a thought wasn't too outlandish to consider.

Also included are some short backup stories, as well as sketches and thumbnails from Kubert's roughs on the Marvel series, with notes from the artist.  There's also a great foreword by Roy Thomas, and an introduction by Kubert.  The book itself is oversized, which really lets the reader study the detail work which Kubert pours into each page.  The fact that the entire book is Kubert's work makes for a consistantly beautiful primitive world, filled with creatures both familiar and alien, but all believably so.

If you are interested in trying some heroic stuff which isn't your typical Superhero or S&S fare, then definitely see if you can pick up a copy of this volume, or one of the two previous ones.  I know I am hunting them down, much as I sought out the original DC series, and am eagerly awaiting the next two issues of the current DC series.  Tor is a classic of the 4 Color world which should appeal to most comic book fans, and this volume, despite being the last in it's line, makes for a good introduction.

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