Quick reviews: Turok 10, Archie 4, Young Allies 2

Turok, Son of Stone Archives Vol. 10 (Dark Horse, $59.99

Reprinting Turok, Son of Stone #60-67 (Jan 68-Oct 69)

Featuring Paul S. Newman, Alberto Giolitti and Rex Mason

In reviews of earlier Turok Archives editions, I mentioned how Andar seemed to get younger. By the late 1960s, he seems to have gotten stupider. A great many of these stories begin with Turok warning Andar, "Don't do X, it's dangerous," resulting in Andar chiding Turok for essentially being an old woman, then doing X -- and, of course, discovering it's dangerous. Turok then must save Andar, and in the next story, the cycle repeats itself.

For the most part I enjoy these stories, despite being formulaic. Clearly Newman and his artists -- primarily Giolitti -- have found their groove and are pumping out adequate, benign adventure stories.

However, what makes them work for me is that Newman rarely strays from the plausible; once you accept the premise (dinosaurs, cavemen, quest for escape) not much overtly impossible happens. So when Newman does make those occasional forays into the fantastic, it ruins the illusion, Such occasions include Turok's ability to start a fire with flint and tinder faster than animals or men can run to his side and stop him, or one story where Turok and Andar discover a plant that shrinks them (and some cavemen and dinosaurs) to about six inches, but after it wears off they grow back to their original size. The Atom and Ant-Man aside, that's not remotely possible as depicted.

But those missteps are pretty rare, and I can see why Turok ran for so many years. These stories aren't terribly exciting, but they do include dinosaurs and the unchanging premise is vaguely comforting, especially for kids, which were the main audience. I even enjoy the text pieces, even though some of the science is no longer valid. Hey, I like learning things.

Archie Archives Volume Five (Dark Horse, $49.99)

Reprinting Archie Comics #15-18 (Jul/Aug 45-Jan/Feb 46), Pep Comics #54-56 (Sep 45-Mar 46)

Featuring Ray Cohan, Al Fagaly, George Kapitan, Al McLean, Bill Vigoda, Eleanor Woik

I was really excited by the early Archie Archives, which reprinted stories that were inventive, genuinely funny and sometimes downright naughty. This book, though, makes one wonder how Archie lasted so long.

The stories here -- mostly uncredited -- are predictable and formulaic. On several occasions, gags are repeated word for word and panel for panel. Betty and Veronica are still pretty, but less sexual. And Archie's woes aren't at all inventive. 

But I suppose the cast remains a big draw -- it really is one of the best ever invented -- and Vigoda, whose art carries this volume, has improved since Volume Four. Still, I'm looking forward to the next volume and the postwar boom, with presumably a greater variety of stories and art. 

Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Young Allies Volume 2 (Marvel Comics, $64.99)

Reprinting Young Allies #5-8 (Fall 42-Jul 43)

Featuring Stan Lee, Don Rico and Al Avison

The Golden Age was noted more for enthusiasm than ability, and this book falls right in line with that.

Written and drawn by diverse hands -- the foreword says even Mike Sekowsky is in here somewhere -- these stories are over-the-top, preposterous adventures that usually span huge amounts of geography. The plots are barely there, but the action is frenetic and headlong. And, of course, we have Bucky and Toro, which lifts this book above the other kid-gang books of the time.

I was pleased to see that no effort is made to make Bucky and Toro equals -- clearly, Toro is the team's big gun, and when his flame is out (which is often), they are in trouble. But Bucky is clearly the more level-headed of the two, and is the obvious leader, which results in some friction with Toro about who's boss. That's unusual for the time, which some appreciate (but I found annoying). Good or bad, it disappears altogether when Lee goes into the service after issue #6. 

What doesn't go away is Whitewash Jones, the African-American member who embodies all the hideous cliches, stereotypes and vile racism of the time. I recognize that this was standard procedure in the pop culture of the 1940s, and I would never suggest that it be modified for modern audiences -- we need to see our past accurately, so we may learn its lessons. But for some reason the big-lipped, watermelon-seed-spittin', zoot-suited Whitewash bothered me more this volume than last. I couldn't read his dialogue without feeling vaguely nauseous. Fortunately, despite the implied cowardice of that dialogue, Whitewash is at least as courageous and resourceful as the other Allies, even though he is often played for comedy relief (as is the white tubby kid). 

Aside from that, Young Allies remains an unusual title from the era and interesting for a variety of historical reasons. If you can swallow the Whitewash guff, which is not always possible.

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