And Then I Read: FANTASTIC FOUR FULL CIRCLE by Alex Ross

Published by Abrams ComicArts 2022, © Marvel

Abrams’ Charlie Kochman was kind enough to send me a copy of this book, and it’s an impressive package. Sized at 8.5 by 11 inches, the dust jacket includes a fold-out origin of the Fantastic Four in Ross’s painted style, but the art for the rest of the book combines several other techniques. Much of the art seems to be reproduced from Alex’s pencils, though some black areas might be inked.

The coloring, by Ross and Josh Johnson, varies a lot, from limited color ranges, to color holds, to flat colors on some pages, as here…

…and when the story enters the Negative Zone (as it was bound to do), the colors get wilder, suggesting black-light posters to me. The drawing skills and page design are excellent, I found the colors sometimes distracting, but generally I liked them. As for the story, this seems like one that begins with where Alex wants to go visually and tries to wrap a story around that. It works okay, the dialogue and drama are fine, but as a whole it doesn’t quite add up to a memorable story. Still, well worth your time, and clearly the result of lots of hard work from Alex. Recommended.

Fantastic Four Full Circle

Rereading: THE FLOOD AT REEDSMERE by Hester Burton

Hester Burton was the author of many historical fiction works for young readers. This is the American version of her first book, a fictional account of a small coastal town in the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk based on the actual 1953 North Sea flood that devastated the area. (The British title was “The Great Gale” published in 1960.) The illustrations by Robin Jacques are wonderful, I always pick up his work when I see it.

The town of Norfolk is small, clustered on the west side of Reedsmere Broad. Just east of the Broad is a line of dunes, and beyond it the North Sea. At the north end of town is Reedsmere Hall, the manor house, the parish church, and the Pickerel Inn. At the southern end of the Broad is the home of the Dr. Vaughn and his family, with children Mark and Mary Vaughan, who will lead the narrative, but many of the townsfolk will have important roles to play in the coming storm and flood. Mark and Mary love boating on the Broad, and with the wind rising and the storm approaching, they worry about their friends, the elderly couple Jim and Hepzie Foulger, who are the only ones living on the east side of the Broad in a small cottage next to the dunes. On the night of the flood, no one yet knows how bad things will get. Dr. and Mrs. Vaughan drive off to a dinner in another town, leaving Mark and Mary home alone in their living room. The wind is fierce, and they watch the water rise around their house. Suddenly it’s seeping through the windows and inside! The children carry what they can upstairs away from the water, but some things are too big to move.

Now they’re even more worried about Jim and Hepzie, whose house must surely be flooded. They decide to take the risk of going out in their rowboat to try to bring the old couple to safety. The wind and weather are horrible, and Mark and Mary can see the ocean waves breaking over the dunes into the Broad. They struggle with their boat, and finally reach the Foulger cottage, where Jim has cut a hole in the thatch roof to let them out. Mark and Mary are able to get the couple into their boat, and with Jim’s help, they row to the church, where other flood victims are already gathering. This is just the beginning of a seemingly endless night of danger and disaster that the people of the town must struggle through, with some help from American soldiers stationed nearby.

Exciting, a fine read with wonderful characters and surprising turns in the story. Recommended.

The Flood at Reedsmere by Hester Burton

Incoming: FABLES COMPLETE 20th ANNIVERSARY BOX SET

Images © DC Comics, second image via Rick Taylor

Three large, heavy boxes arrived yesterday, each containing one of these unusual box sets of the complete FABLES saga (issues 1-150 plus specials and spinoffs). Inside the wraparound panorama art by Mark Buckingham and lift-off lid are the four large trade paperback collections issued last year. If you don’t have the FABLES series yet (I do), this is a handsome way to get them. Not cheap, list price is $240, but I see Amazon is already offering pre-orders at $216, link below. Should be available Feb 28th.

Fables Complete Box Set

Saladino (and Schnapp) Lettering on DONDI

All images © Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. From the first DONDI Sunday strip, Oct 2, 1955

Last week I received this question from Patrick Daniel O’Neill: “I recently saw the very first Sunday page of Edson and Hasen’s “Dondi”, and the logo looked to me like Ira Schnapp’s work. Would you know if he did it?” Irwin Hasen had been an artist for National (DC) comics and its sister company All-American Comics since the early 1940s, and in the 1950s, he was working on one-page humor and longer stories for many DC titles in many genres, including romance, western, science fiction, and war, where his stories were sometimes lettered by Ira Schnapp. I think Hasen visited the DC offices frequently, and the idea that he would have asked Schnapp to design the logo for his first comic strip, DONDI, in 1955, was an intriguing one. I located a large scan of the original art for the first Sunday strip, above, including that logo, and found something that surprised me. The strip was lettered by Gaspar Saladino! When I finished my overview of Gaspar’s career, I said there was bound to be more work by him out there not yet identified, and here was some!

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