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Return to the Amalgam Age of Comics: The DC Comics Collection. Written and illustrated by various. New York: DC Comics, 1997. 1v. (unpaged). $12.95. ISBN 1-56389-382-7.


Adults, teens, kids; the usual

This book, the second of two (I haven't seen the first), collects various "Amalgam Universe" comics published as semi-jokey (or entirely jokey) one-offs. Joint products of DC and Marvel (but published by DC), the stories combine two or more character/story concepts from DC and Marvel. Thus we have:

  • "Bat-Thing," combining Batman, Swamp Thing, and Man-Bat. The Bat-Thing has been offing people, and a portly black detective is trying to protect the Bat-Thing's wife and daughter from the monster.
  • "The Dark Claw Adventures," combining the animated version of Batman with Wolverine. Lady Talia (combining Talia and Lady Deathstrike) is hunting for the Dark Claw, who killed her father, Ra's A-pocalypse.
  • "Generation Hex," combining Jonah Hex with Generation X and a bit of Alpha Flight (forgive me if I screwed this one up; I'm out of touch). In the Wild West, normal humans are terrified of "Malforms." Jono Hex and his small band of outlaw Malforms content themselves with robbing trains and the like, until Marshal "Bat" Trask unleashes his robotic Razormen in an effort to destroy all Malforms.
  • "JLX Unleashed," combining the JLA with the X-Men. The "Hellfire League of Injustice" summons up the dragon Fin Fang Flame to destroy all "metamutants." The dragon calmly incinerates the baddies and then proceeds to work on the entire world, since "All humanity, after all, is mutated to some extent." Only the combined might of the Judgment League Avengers and the JLX can defeat it.
  • "Lobo the Duck," combining Lobo with Howard the Duck. I think you can guess the general feel of this story!
  • "Super-Solider, Man of War," combining a plethora of WWII-era heroes, most obviously Superman and Captain America. Clark Kent, "frontline artist for the Daily Planet," is sent with Jimmy Olsen to England to follow a mysterious crate of stolen equipment that the Nazis want very badly.

Depending on how beloved the "base" characters and situations are to you, you'll either like or be indifferent to this book. It also helps to know enough about Marvel/DC history to understand the jokes being played. For me, what this book did was play up the numbing similarities between superheroes' personalities, and how generic everything feels when you don't have "big names" in the main roles. Still, some of the stories were entertaining. Certainly these stories take themselves less seriously than the average "save-the-world" superhero titles. My favorite was probably "Generation Hex," because the art appealed to me and because the characters were villains rather than good guys, and I also liked the double resolution of "Jono Hex's" personal problems and the Razormen.

Some impressions: The Lobo/Howard the Duck story is just chaos from beginning to end, and there have been tons of these "Lobo persona" stories--who the hell needs another one? On the other hand, "JLX Unleashed" has some sly digs against the Chris Claremont style of writing and plotting. After one character is attacked in the middle of a mental solioquy about how the "fate of the world is hanging in the balance," another thinks, "Damn--so freakin' self-absorbed--th' whole deal's goin' down th' drain!" This story also has some of the best amalgams, including a Creeper/Nightcrawler cross and a "Mr. X" that combines Professor X, a Skrull, and the Martian Manhunter. However, the story wasn't all that interesting--it's been told thousands of times. And "Super-Soldier, Man of War" had the appropriate air of silliness of 1940s superhero titles, with "Sgt. Rock's Howlers" rushing around yelling, "WAHOOOO!" every time they appear, and photographers crying "Great shots!" when the Super-Soldier destroys an iceberg that threatens their ship.

This is one of those DC "insider" books that requires the reader to bring along a goodly amount of knowledge about matters superhero, though not so much as in their dreadful collections of ultra-multi-issue stories in which three-quarters of the story simply isn't collected at all. Recommended for comprehensive superhero collections and readers who have the knowledge required or interest in the superheroes amalgamated.

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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