Images © Dave Stevens estate.
In my last two reviews I talked about reprints of previously released material where the results were mixed. This one knocks it out of the park in every respect. It probably helps that the material is a lot newer, that the creator Dave Stevens was class A perfectionist whose friends all pitched in to get the best quality for this edition, and it most certainly helped that all or nearly all the art was rescanned from the originals. Then they were recolored by Laura Martin, one of the best in the business.
Here’s a panel from the 1985 Eclipse Comics trade paperback collection of the first five chapters. You can immediately see the wonderful qualities of the art, but the blacks are washed out and the colors are heavy and dull. They appear to be painted over photostats of the art, or possibly blue-line prints. There is some modeling, but it’s only really effective on the helmet.
Here’s the same panel from the new printing. The blacks are crisp and dark, and the colors are SO much better it’s like seeing the scene for the first time, or with rose-colored glasses removed. Martin’s modeling is subtle but adds depth and realistic lighting to every element. It’s a revelation.
The entire package is an art and comic lover’s delight: excellent quality materials and printing, great design work, a joy to have and read. Oh, and if your only knowledge of the story is from the movie, this is much better. Miles better. Dave was passionate about his work, and he put that passion into every panel. Great action, wonderful characters, handsome hero, stunning love interest, and at the center a rocket backpack that allows Cliff to fly like a superhero — if he can keep it away from the villains! A terrific period piece that recalls the best of the movie serials of the 1930s and 40s.
This one busts out the top of my RECOMMENDED meter — even if you already own the material in previous printings you simply must get this new edition. It’s a gem!